*Chandrika works for in FMCG company in Ahmedabad.
All good things
As I was packing my bags to leave Mumbai for good, a strong nostalgia engulfed me. The city was my home these five years. I thought of all the things I will miss about Mumbai – time with friends, the endless trips in the Mumbai local, the Ganesh visarjan and the pav bhaji at Chaupati.
Will my life in Delhi be the same with Mumma and Papa, I thought? Their only aim was to find a suitable match for me but I wanted a good job, and maybe a boyfriend too? But Mumma said I need to lose weight as men don’t fall for girls who are overweight.
Two months in Delhi, I found a good job and life was different from what I had envisaged. I had a newfound confidence and my parents were treating me as a mature, independent girl. Papa also cajoled me into learning to drive!
But they had not forgotten about the marriage part. I was under constant pressure to lose weight, look good as my parents began inviting proposals from men of our caste.
Without even waiting for my approval, ‘would-be-grooms and his parents’ would drop by on weekends and alliances were discussed in the evening. I had to get dressed, carry a tray of chai nashta and smile.
I tried reasoning with my parents saying I feel embarrassed with this ladki dikhana thing, but they won’t budge. ‘You are at a marriageable age. Either you find a groom or we do,’ said Mumma.
Matrimonial ad to the rescue
A year passed by and I was tired of my parent’s desperation to get me married. Papa even tried to hook me up with Shashank, our neighbour’s son, who was just not my type. That set something off in me. I decided to take control of the situation and went to the Times of India with the following ad,
‘Independent, working girl looking for a soulmate, caste/ community no bar, men believing in an equal relationship with trust and love need reply’.
I got an overwhelming response to my ad and my parents couldn’t have been happier. Out of a whopping 400 letters I received, I decided to just randomly pick 100 letters to read. After going through them all, I chose to reply to eight letters to start a dialogue.
Roka without bride or groom
Siva was the one who corresponded often, mostly replying the same day. He lived and worked in Ahmedabad. Our letter-writing frenzy continued and we came close to each other. I would often wait desperately for his letter and so did he. Yes, we were soon in love with each other and confessed it too.
We had never met and only seen each other in photos. Siva told me in a letter that he was going to Lagos for a year-long assignment. My parents knew I was writing letters to Siva but they did not know about our affair.
Mumma felt Siva was just fooling around with me. She even recounted numerous anecdotes of impostors who did same with girls. My parents insisted we do a ‘roka’ ceremony if Siva was serious. But Siva was unusual, the clamour didn’t affect him. He flew as planned, keeping me in the know.
We decided that the parents could go ahead with the ceremony without both of us being present. So, a ‘roka’ was performed without the bride or the groom!
After reaching Lagos, Siva stayed in touch and we continued writing letters the same way. He was sure about his love for me but was clear that he can get married only after a year and a half. Some thousand letters later that day finally came. Our families met and we decided to get married the day Siva lands in India.
At my home, the plans were on but there was a cloud of suspicion whether the groom would actually arrive. I had never seen Siva in person but I had that trust in him. So, cards were printed, halls and caterers were booked and a day before the wedding Siva arrived at my house. That was the first time I actually saw Siva and we got married the next day!
Today and forever
It has been twenty years since and we now have two kids. We are planning to renew our vows on our 25th wedding anniversary this weekend.
*To protect the identity, names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models. This article was first published on October 22, 2018.