Marriages are made in Heaven but they have to pass multiple tests on Earth

Mohammed Wajihuddin

It seems anachronistic to talk about a wedding anniversary in the devastating times of deaths and funerals. But life must go on. Negativity must not chain us, so much so that we forget to celebrate little joys of life.

It is in that hope of spreading some happiness, cheering you up a bit amidst the enveloping gloom that I go down memory lane. That I share my sheer joy at completing twenty years of married life. May 19, 2021 is our 20th wedding anniversary and I must tell you what happened on that “momentous” day 20 years ago.

Thanks to the crazy Corona, we can’t go out to celebrate the day in a big way since hotels, parks, clubs and farmhouses are shut. So are multiplexes, malls and theatres. But the irrepressible ‘Sardar’ Khushwant Singh somewhere writes that no one has discovered a condom for the pen. Since we hardly use a pen to write anything these days, this metaphor applies to computers too.

You satanic, sadistic cruel Coronavirus, you may have deprived us of moments of joy and celebrations, but you cannot stop us from pouring out our hearts and penning down our feelings and emotions. Can you? Cakes and cookies, biryani and burfies can wait. Not words. Words which give wings to thoughts and life to experiences.

Time flies. Twenty summers ago, when I was much younger and amateurish about many things in life, my parents decided it was time for me to get down to ghar grahasti (home-making). Despite having lived, studied and worked at different places—in Hindi and Urdu they call it ghat ghat ka paani peena—I chose to remain tradition-bound when it came to choosing my match. It will be dishonesty on my part to say I never fell in love. Well, there were adolescent crushes too.

I have seen many ‘love marriages’ going to the rocks because the couples exhaust all their love for each other before they get married. Of course, there are exceptions too and I know some couples who were in love before marriage and remain in love years after marriage.

So, mine was an arranged marriage. It so happened that my only sister saw a girl, a cousin of her husband, and liked her. My sister described the girl on the telephone like this: Her name is Heena and she is tall, slim, beautiful, neither highly educated nor undereducated. In the ‘marriage market’ of Bihar, there were not many takers for journalists then, not now. In the entrenched class and caste system, rich daddies of suitable girls beeline the homes of IAS, IPS, MBBS, B.Tech but hardly anyone turns up at the house of a reporter. “Arey jhola chchap hoga (Must be a poorly-paid, struggling fellow),” they dismiss journos disdainfully.

Both the girl and I agreed to the marriage proposal without seeing each other. Does it happen even today? I can’t say.

After much anticipation, the D-day arrived. It was a stiflingly hot May day and my dream of donning a sherwani on the wedding day crashed as even wearing simple kurta-pyjama appeared like a punishment. And we had to travel to around 60 kilometers or so to reach the bride groom’s village.

Braving heat and humidity, the baraat party left in a convoy comprising cars, jeeps and one mini-bus. I was made to sit in the front of the only SUV which was part of the fleet. Our vehicles moved from bumper to bumper. The pockmarked roads accentuated the misery that the burning sun had brought us in, leaving us perspiring profusely. Though the baraat had left in the afternoon, it reached the bridegroom’s house by midnight. Hungry and bone-tired, I wanted the nikah ceremony to remain brief and get over soon so that I could hit the dining table. But it was not to be.

Providence had another plan. Destiny threw a spanner in my plan to gorge on fabulous food that the dulha is offered on wedding day or night, depending on what time he is at his sasural on maiden visit. Since the baraat had reached quite late, many guests of my would-be father-in-law were fed and these guests had very cleverly and clinically finished off all the nicest dishes, including mutton korma. It left a bitter taste in my mouth too but, as I was dulha (groom), I was not expected to speak up.

My father and an uncle protested at this rude “reception.” Since it was past-midnight, there was no other way that we could have had our dinner anywhere else. After some heated arguments, the atmosphere quietened even as fresh dishes were prepared and offered to the baraat party. By the time we ate our dinner, the muezzin in the village’s mosque called out fajr or morning azaan. However, the sumptuous breakfast later compensated for the serious shortcoming at the previous night’s dinner. We returned happily.

Twenty years later, a lot has changed. The road to my sasural is much better, connected as it is to a highway. The food at my in-laws’ place tastes nicer. Is it also because I have never been fussy about food? And I don’t throw tantrums either. What I like most about my sasural is that it owns a huge mango orchard with a dozen varieties of mangoes. Come mango season, and I am there. Now, don’t ask me how I eat mangoes? “Kaat ke khate hain ki choos ke khate hain (whether I eat them in slices or suck them)?” Like Mirza Ghalib, I think mangoes should be sweet and plentiful. That is it.

While we are talking about sweetness, I think a marriage encounters sweet-bitter experiences. A marriage works if you don’t expect perfection in your spouse. No one is perfect in the world. Trouble starts when people begin looking for heavenly pleasure in a marriage solemnized on this earth. It sounds good to say marriages are made in heaven but they have to pass multiple tests and face challenges here. Turbulence hits a relationship when expectations become unrealistic. A marriage is more about acceptance than tolerance.

If I accepted her (Heena) and she accepted me wholeheartedly, it doesn’t matter how many hurdles we have faced since we began our journey together that hot, humid May day.

Mohammed Wajihuddin, a senior journalist, is associated with The Times of India, Mumbai. This piece has been picked up from his blog