Who knew loving someone would be so
challenging? Who knew the journey towards a new start together would be so
Sneha sat on the rocking chair of
her study, lights dimmed and windows open.
She held a wooden frame with a photograph of Ashish, so tight as though
hanging on for life. As the breeze made the curtains do a slow waltz across the
window, Sneha sat there with her gaze fixed on the moonlit sky outside. She
looked more like a shadow than a real person. With her curly long tresses
reaching her waist and her beautiful dark eyes sunken in an endless pit of
anguish, she sat there swaying with the chair and trying to make sense of her
life so far and probably even thereafter. It was the eve of her wedding and
instead of taking part in the revelries; she chose to stay in the study all by
Ashish was the man she had fallen
in love with while still in college and the man she had pictured herself with
ten to twenty years down the line. But the journey to the beginning of their
happily ever after seemed never-ending!
Ashish was a boy from a
conventional family from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh and she was a girl born and
brought up in a liberal Bengali household in Guwahati, Assam. Their worlds met
while they were pursuing their engineering degree and they had been inseparable
ever since. Different yet so much alike, they were truly in love. And no it
wasn’t the mushy love of pretence. Theirs was a love which had evolved while
working on their disagreements; on moving ahead in life together and on
standing by each other in times when everyone else stepped back. It wouldn’t be
wrong to say that Sneha was the Bonnie to Ashish’s Clyde; the Marie to Ashish’s
Pierre and the Hadley to Ashish’s Hemmingway!
Ashish was a tall, broad shouldered
and fairly handsome chap who inspite of his orthodox background had a
contemporary and open-minded outlook towards life. It was his liberal attitude
that attracted Sneha towards him. Sneha on the other hand was an average
looking chubby cheeked girl from Guwahati. She was from a well-read Bengali
family which believed in the merits of education rather than rallying in the
dark abysses of false pride due to caste and creed. A firebrand feminist at
heart believing in the virtues of equality between man and woman in society,
Sneha never in her wildest of dreams expected being besieged for being a
female. But all that changed with the entry of Ashish’s family in her life.
Are we really getting married
Ashish? Is it really worth it?
Sneha was at that point in her life
when everything was about to change forever. She knew she would have to face
ludicrous biases of this great Indian society in the form of his family forever
after. She was confused and worn-out as she slowly fell asleep contemplating
the various aspects of this conundrum in her life!
It was about a year back that Sneha
and Ashish had decided to take their relationship past the sacred threshold of
marriage. But little did they know what they had signed up for. Yes Ashish and
Sneha could very well have imposed their decisions on their parents, however they
decided against it. It was the right thing to do they thought.
Sneha’s parents had already
approved Ashish as they chose to trust their daughter’s judgment. They knew
that they had brought up Sneha in a manner which made her perfectly capable to
make important choices in life. And they
were right, for Ashish was educated, well-mannered and well settled which was
sufficient to keep their daughter happy. That was all that was supposed to
matter, wasn’t it? But things were entirely different on Ashish’s side of the
fence. There was stern opposition from Ashish’s father, a deterrent and
obstacle that seemed impossible to overcome.
On the morning of the fateful day
when Sneha’s family was supposed to meet Ashish’s father, she nervously dressed
as per the ‘acceptable’ norms in his father’s eyes. Ofcourse, she didn’t like
it for she was being asked to change; being asked to be someone else. A girl
who was habituated with living life on her own terms, Sneha was being asked to
transform into this permission seeking coy machine. She wasn’t happy about it.
“I don’t like this Ashish. If today
I meet him this way he would expect the same every day. It’s not fair to him or
to me. I feel suffocated” Sneha messaged Ashish as she drove with her parents
to his house.
“Hey..Remember one day at a time.
And no you don’t have to live your life according to his terms. But just for
now, for him to accept you. Please I know it’s tough but I am there.. Always
there!” replied Ashish. He knew it well in his heart that Sneha was not at all
happy. He wasn’t too but to get his father past the first step he had to
present Sneha in a manner that perhaps he would approve of.
Ashish was a good man with a
sensible head on his shoulders. He wasn’t impulsive like Sneha. He knew it well
that getting the go-ahead from his family would be tricky. It would be a
gradual and long process and he would have to work his way through the various
layers of objections. So for that if for a few days he would have to say things
his father wanted to hear he was prepared to do that without batting an eyelid.
His aim was to marry Sneha and to win that war he was ready to concede certain
battles to his father.
When Sneha and her parents reached
Ashish’s house he greeted Sneha’s parents, touched their feet and took them
upstairs to where his father was. With the initial round of pleasantries from
both sides, they were all finally seated. They sat facing each other, with
Sneha’s parents on one side and Ashish’s father on their opposite. Ashish’s
father sat with one leg above the other like a war-lord in his court. That was
odd for it wasn’t polite with Sneha’s mother sitting just opposite to him.
Why is he sitting like that? Sneha
Sneha sat fidgeting with her mobile
as Ashish’s father scrutinized her as though she was an alien from a distant
planet! The ‘prospective bride’ being all coy and never looking directly
towards her ‘potential in-laws’ might have been a norm in Meerut but not where
Sneha had come from. Being apologetic for being a female was never asked of her
till that very moment in life! What she grew up believing was the complete
antithesis of what she had to be for him to accept her into their family! Well
little did she know that falling in love with Ashish would also entail
smothering the gutsy feminist inside her at every step of the way!
What is happening? Why is he
looking at me like this? Am I some animal in a zoo?
It was a bitter pill to swallow for
she had never imagined herself in a situation where she would be put on display
to be ‘approved’ for marriage! Questions or rather diktats were fired which she
and her parents dodged with maximum possible restraint! With each passing
moment the suffocation intensified but she had to bear it all for love, for
Ashish; didn’t she?
“Mr Goswami I understand that your
daughter is in a relationship with my son but marriages don’t work this way in
our society” said Ashish’s father.
Which society the one’s where women
have no voice uncle? was what Sneha sat
“I think our children are educated
and capable to decide their future on their own Mr. Gupta and if they are happy
we should be happy too; shouldn’t we?” replied Sneha’s father. Sneha looked
towards her parents who were patiently talking to Ashish’s father and they were
doing it all for her.
“See my son is very eligible and
there are people willing to pay as much as I ask for him. It’s not dowry but
it’s a tradition you see. I have a long list of eligible girls at home from our
caste and community lining up to marry my son” said his father. He further went
on to add “How can you approve of this? Aren’t there boys in your society Mr.
Here comes the talk of dowry! And
oh yes that’s not dowry, really uncle are you so naive? And yes there are boys
in our society too Uncle and you know what they have parents who behave better!
But what can I do, of all the guys in the world I had to fall in love with your
son. I guess I deserve it!
Sneha shot a disparaging look at
Ashish at this question from his father. She perhaps wouldn’t even mind if her
father would give a befitting answer to Mr. Gupta at that point.
“Well that is not the point is it
Mr. Gupta. Since we have all come together today and since our children have
made up our mind, we should just facilitate and ensure they have a great
Ashish’s father however continued
shooting one question after the other to Sneha.
She was asked if she knew how to
drive. Sneha couldn’t understand the relevance of the question though.
Is he interviewing for a driver or
a daughter-in-law! Phew!
“No uncle I don’t but I can always
learn!” she said.
“Girls in our side know how to
drive you know dear” said Ashish’s father.
Really when do they learn? Where is
the time after all the household chores? Are they allowed to go out alone?
“How much do you earn for I know
many girls in our caste who earn more than you? Why should I choose you?” he
asked this time.
You should choose me because your
son loves me you see uncle!
“Enough to look after myself and my
family uncle” she replied again.
“I cannot happily allow you in our
house dear but since my son is adamant I have no choice!”
Ahhh well what can I say!
It was as if he was sugar coating
insults towards her and her family. She wanted to give answers but then Ashish
had pleaded her not to.
Sneha wanted to cry at that instant
and it was by a whisker that she was holding on to a brave face. She was angry,
hurt and disappointed by the things she and her family were made to hear. At
one point she wanted to even rebuke Ashish in front of his father for putting
her through all these.
“Do you know how to cook?” he asked
“No Uncle but I am learning” she
“Girls in our side are great cooks.
Why didn’t you learn it?” he asked.
“I never got the time uncle. I was
busy with my studies” she replied as politely as she could.
Your son eats food right? Does he
know how to cook? If not then why the expectation from me!
Sneha never believed that being a
girl she had to learn cooking. Infact she hated being in the kitchen. Ashish
too never expected her to be a cook. He was well above all these so called
“We are a very cultured family
Sneha. For example we offer water to visitors when they come home. You are from
the north-east right. It will be very difficult for you to fit in our culture”
said his father.
What does he mean from the north
east and what does he mean by offering water? So does he mean we don’t treat
our guests well or that we are a bunch of nomads living on trees? Please get
your facts right uncle and yes we give our guests snacks and even food accompanied
with beverages not just water!
Sneha was trying hard to suppress
her anger. But it was beyond the point of control, the ludicrous statements by
Ashish’s father hurt her and the fact that she wasn’t at liberty to retort
further aggravated the insult. She gave up and finally tears rolled down her
eyes and before she knew it she was sobbing uncontrollably. These were the
tears of anger and frustration!
At that moment the questions
stopped. Seeing his daughter cry, Mr. Goswami who had so far held his nerve
looked at Ashish’s father and told him “Mr. Gupta we have brought our daughter
up with lot of love and care. She is educated and capable. We have agreed to
give our daughter into your family perfectly knowing that the part of India you
belong to in infamous for dowry deaths and other mal practices directed against
women. My daughter doesn’t know how to cook but she is perfectly capable to
employ a cook. We trust your son and hence we are placing our trust on you too.
Please don’t treat her like an unpaid servant, treat her like a daughter and
let our children be happy.”
Ashish’s father didn’t reply but
just nodded. It was as if he had understood and was willing to leave the
shackles of ancient norms behind. Infact, Sneha thought the same too. After few
minutes of silence, Ashish’s father looked at Ashish and then turned towards
Sneha’s father and said “Don’t worry I will treat her like a daughter.
Everything will be fine”.
That statement seemed to be in a
tone which was the complete opposite of what he had so far been speaking in.
Did he really have a change of heart? Was that it, the end of all hard feelings
and obstacles? The wedding dates were finalised and the preparations began.
But then began the next arduous
round of petty demands from Ashish’s side. Yes, Ashish’s father was true to his
word he would keep Sneha as a daughter but the way daughters or in fact
daughter-in-laws were looked at in his part of the world. The
pseudo-superiority complex seemed never ending.
Ashish’s father was doing right by the books he knew, the only books he
knew. But that was not relevant in the current context but it was too late in
his lifetime to teach him that. Sneha’s family went about the preparations,
sometimes annoyed, sometimes times angry. Ashish and Sneha too weren’t exactly
elated at the prospect of a wedding. They just wanted to get it over with. The
perfect wedding turned into an affair of satiating Ashish’s father; into an
affair of manoeuvring Sneha’s parents tactfully
through all the things which in their eyes weren’t worthy of a sensible and
Sneha and Ashish had fights each
trying to explain the perspective of their sides to each other. Ashish didn’t
understand why Sneha couldn’t bend a little and tolerate his father’s wishes till
their wedding. Sneha on the other hand hated it that Ashish never stood up to
his father when the latter’s demands were unpleasant and uncalled for. The days
leading up to their wedding were filled with bitterness and ill-feelings. It
was hard for Sneha’s parents started having doubts about how their daughter
would be treated by Ashish’s father. There were moments and days when they
wanted to call off the wedding. This on and off battle till the last day
drained out the romance from their wedding.
“My father agreed to the wedding
inspite of being taunted in his circle. Why are you behaving this way Sneha? So
what you have to wear a certain dress or cover your head for a few days is it
that hard? said Ashish irritated with
Sneha’s constant complaints.
“Ashish he agreed because you also
wanted to marry me remember. It’s not like he did a favour? And why should I do
things I don’t believe in? All the time he keeps telling me that my family
needs to give this and that? You know very well I do not like such things?”
Sneha tried to reason.
“Please Sneha, as it is this
journey has been hard. We have had to battle everyone. I cannot change my
father over night. It is not really his fault you see. This is where he has
spent his life and that is how he thinks” he reasoned too.
“But why am I being asked to pay
for it? Every day I get to hear that there are far more deserving girls for
you. Does he have to make me listen to all that?”
“He is alone; if my mother was
there he would still have handled it better. Give him a chance please”
“Fine I am willing to give him but
how many chances. He hurts me; he makes me reconsider the decision of being
with you every moment of the day. Is that fair”
“Listen to me, this is a phase.
Everyone is a little off their game. Give time and trust me. We have been
together for over five years what makes you think we can’t weather this storm?”
“I don’t know. What if I am all
alone there and you don’t stand by me? While I know you can’t be rude to your
father but then what about me? Where will you draw the line?
“Trust me please. Just trust me. I
can’t say anything more than that!”
Sneha looked at Ashish and hugged
him tight. His arms were where she felt the safest outside of her home. She
knew if there was anyone apart from her family who loved her as much as they
did, it was Ashish. They were both apprehensive and frustrated but then at the
end of the day they did love each other.
It was the night of their wedding
finally when the sacred fire burnt in the centre as though Lord Agni himself
bore witness to the everlasting alliance; the priest chanted verses out of
religious and sacred texts; lights twinkled; sweet scent emanated from the
flowers and the incense sticks that adorned the entire setting; Sneha looked
like an angel descended from the heavens above in all her finery and sparking
red attire while Ashish looked like a prince waiting to carry his beloved away
unto the land of happily ever after; the whole ambiance was nothing short of
mysticism personified. Or, was it?
Ashish’s family sat all snot nosed
on one side with condescending faces. Sneha’s family sat alongside the couple
performing rituals trying to be perfect hosts but equally annoyed at the
sneering and disrespectful attitude of the visiting party. Yes this was the
‘divine’ setting of their love marriage.
As the holy fire grew stronger and
the night grew younger; Sneha, the bride in red fumed at her future in-laws
giving a thundering peace of her mind to Ashish in between the chants. Ashish
meanwhile annoyed with the commotion gave her a livid reply. They looked at
each other with fury and resentment instead of gazes full of love and
affection. At the dinner hall, they refused to eat from the same dish but at
the same time maintained the perfect smiles for the guests and relatives. They
hated every moment of this mockery of a marriage function. Neither liked the
music or even the decoration; all they wanted was for the drama to be over!
The wedding night and they were
finally alone in the room where they were supposed to unite in the presence of
the moon and the stars along with the soft yet sweet smell of the roses that
decorated their bed. But did they? Well they looked at each other and suddenly
without saying a word hugged each other tight. Ashish shivered while the heart
beat of Sneha grew louder by the second. No it wasn’t due to each other’s touch
or warmth; it was due to the anxiety and pressure they had been subjected to.
They sat that way the whole night; Ashish pondered on what havoc must have
raked at his side while Sneha felt really low realizing she had to go to the
family whose members had so far only put down people close to her heart.
Yes, it wasn’t a typical fairy tale
marriage. Yes, neither of them was excited about the D-Day. Yes, she didn’t
choose her wedding outfit just to give a chance to her family to feel good at
choosing it for her. Yes, he worked at his wedding as though it was his
relative’s. Yes, he never got pampered at home before the ceremony. Yes, she
did not receive romantic messages from him on the eve of their wedding. Yes,
there was no exchange of mischievous glances or silent messages between them.
But they had something that very few couples do. Their love was rock solid
inspite of all the bitterness and the not so perfect atmosphere! They conquered
the impossible and got what they desired; a life with each other; a life
together. Of-course, they had to fight and undergo unpleasant experiences for
it but that sole hug on their wedding night said it all. They were in love and
it was a marriage all worth the strife!
It was the same study where Sneha
and Ashish sat together looking at the pictures of their wedding for the first
time in ten years. Yes, it had been a decade since that fateful night where
they united infront of the holy fire. The experience of it all was so sour that
they had till that very day, ten years down the line, never looked through the
pictures or the wedding videos. But there was always a first time, and this was
“I never thought that I would be
able to look through these pictures and manage to smile” said Sneha who has
aged a bit but still looked happier and far more contented than she did on the
eve of her wedding.
“I told you Sneha that we would
have a good life together, it was just a matter of time!” said Ashish. Time had
been kind to him and he looked even more dapper today than he did ten years
They had built a life together. The
strife, the struggle was all worth it. Love did conquer all and they did reach
their happily ever after!
Suddenly a small arm wrapped around
Ashish’s neck from behind his chair. He looked behind and it was their
daughter; their life, Palki. He pulled her infront and took her on his lap
while Sneha placed a kiss on her cheeks.
“Were you going to start without me
Daddy?” asked Palki.
“How could I?” he said and they sat
together, a happy family, ready to relive in good spirits the period of discord
that led to everlasting bliss.
Love, the most beautiful of all emotions;
Love; the elixir of life;
are certainly the most charming notion;
are you, love, a worthy strife?
am the true devotion;
perpetual companion of life;
I may not always be the happiness potion;
certainly am worth the strife!