Friday, October 1, 2010

Time has told (Chicken Soup for the Indian Bride's Soul)

It was the 18th of May, 2009. No, it wasn’t our wedding anniversary. However, my husband would be quick to respond saying, “It was the day I married you in my mind a year ago.”

Our third and decisive meeting in the arranged marriage process took place on 18th May, 2008. This was preceded by two consecutive meetings a month before from then. I saw my husband for the first time when he came to my house as a marital prospect. I entered the guest lounge and there he was, sitting in the perfect straight-spine posture; giving me a warm, close-mouthed yet wide smile, the kind you wouldn’t expect from a stranger. He was not a Brad Pitt lookalike and it was definitely not the cliché love-at-first-sight. When I asked him, what is it that he is looking for in his would-be bride, he was clear about it. “A good heart,” he said unlike my list of 2,918 characteristics required in my prince-charming.

In the first two meetings, I subjected him to essay-type questions and he did justice to them by answering with vivid, thoughtful descriptions. On the contrary, I gave short and diplomatic answers to his questions, leaving them to his interpretation. This was not some evil strategy but my natural disposition towards inexpressiveness. At the end of two meetings, I was almost sure that he is a good human-being and that with him, life would be an interesting and evolving journey. I was still a sweet, harmless mystery to him.

We met a month later for the third time. Yes, on the 18th of May, 2008. We had not communicated by any means during the period between the second and third “date”. This gave both of us some time to retrospect- for him to do his consultant sort of research and analysis (He was a consultant with BCG) and for me to weigh costs against benefits (I had just completed my MBA, so I thought I might as well put theories into practice). All said and done, only a few issues needed to be clarified on both sides and if nothing went drastically wrong, it was probably going to be a yes-yes situation.

After half an hour of the ‘question and answer session’, there was silence. Impatient as I am about getting “work” finished; I blurted out, “I am ok, if you are ok.” Again there was silence, this time a more awkward one. He was looking at me in amazement coupled with a grin. It was then that I realized I had actually proposed to him. He looked at his watch. It was 5:45 PM. How rude, I thought to myself. Why on earth is he not saying anything? What is the grin about? Is he laughing at me? I was feeling stupid about my “brave” act. After 15 minutes he said he was “honored”. Is it a euphemism for saying no, I wondered. As the clock struck 6:15 PM, he took out a ring from his jacket, knelt down on his knees and slipped it onto my right hand finger (then, neither of us knew that the engagement ring is supposed to be worn on the left hand-mistake corrected later). I was expecting a ‘Will you marry me?’ on sight of the ring. But I realized I had already done the honors. He apologized for the wait and explained that his family believed in mahurat which only started at 6:15 PM.

Thus began our nine-month courtship. I was living in Ahmedabad and he was working in Mumbai. We were surviving on multiple phone conversations each day, in which I would do most of the talking, for a change. I think he had grasped by now that to get me talking , he would have to talk less and ask more questions. In the process of trying to fill the gap in communication, so as not to appear dumb-pun intended;  I felt I was filling the void in my life by sharing it with someone. We would usually meet every other weekend. I would unfailingly drag him to watch Bollywood movies because I love them. He had always dressed in formals, but he started wearing jeans because I like casuals. We would go shopping with me obviously because I love it. He would get me orchids and compose poems for me. He would ignore the newly sprouted zit on my face. He would tell me countless times that he loves me and the skeptic in me would romantically reply, “Time will tell.”

I liked him in our courtship for the irritatingly righteous person that he is; but began to love him after we got married for selfish reasons. He takes care of little things to make sure I’m comfortable. He listens to the chaos of my emotions and dons the avatar of panacea. He brings clarity to my decisions and direction in life. He pushes me to grow as a person. And he surprises me just to see my eyes sparkle.
Three months after our “official” wedding was our engagement anniversary. He had told me that he would have to go out of town for work. I was pissed at him. But I knew something was amiss when our car did not turn towards the airport. After a couple of hours, we reached a palace hotel in Rajasthan. I was indulging in royalty-swimming in the pool attached to our room, being gifted with Swarovski ear-rings, and being served with a seven-course dinner. And then he wished me, “Happy Anniversary, Darling.”

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

To my smartheart, from his sweetheart (Times Crest)

Whenever a female acquaintance sees my husband doting on me, she invariably says, " marriage?" When I reply in the negative, the next question usually is "Love- arranged?" I then offer, "arranged-cum- love," proud to have coined a new term in relationship studies.

My husband proposed to me over the third "date" set up by our families. I had successfully managed to maintain the 'mystery' about myself with my short and sweet answers, which he labelled "good heartedness" (honestly, I was just not as eloquent as the "big fan of communication" that he is). I felt as if I had known him for a lifetime and was ready for six more. At that time, I thought I was saying "I do" to a quirky US-returned guy who loved eating Thai food, visiting museums, and skiing. Being the small town girl that I am, I liked Indian-Chinese, felt drowsy in museums and preferred siesta over sport (I wasn't exactly sure what skiing was). "I'm okay if you're okay, " I said, accepting his deal romantically.

I don't know why I said yes, though. Maybe because he made my favourite part of the fairytale - of somebody going down on one knee with a ring - come true for me. Or maybe because, with him, I felt comfortable the very first time we met. So after his proposal and my acceptance began our not-so-comfortable courtship. I had to "report" to him every night on the phone what I did during the day. At first, I went blank on encountering the question I had never been subject to before and had seldom thought about: What did you do today? Well, I ate and slept and watched TV. But of course I wasn't going to tell him that.

Now I think I was probably attracted to him because he was so much the opposite of everything I was that we had to be together. I'm extremely impatient, while he talks and listens carefully, savours food and feels gratitude. While I am always anxious about the future, he relishes the present like no other tense exists. I am supersensitive and nothing and nobody can ruffle him. While I like to flaunt my greatness for no reason at all, he likes to "live in the shadows" (like the proverbial 'source' who wishes his identity be kept undisclosed). I need everything to go right in order to be happy and he feels he doesn't have any reason to be unhappy (He has me, after all).

Sometimes his many positives get on my nerves. Why does he have to be rational all the time? Why can't he take what I say at face value without doing a cost-benefit analysis? Why doesn't he pamper me? Why does he want me to become independent? Why is he so righteous that he cannot fight impulsively for me like Ghatak's Sunny Deol or swear like Sholay's Dharmendra? Why does he never show his possessiveness for me? Thankfully, knowing that he loves me above everything and everybody makes these trifles hardly worth bothering about.

Many things have changed over the last two years since we met, but some haven't. I still am inexpressive but he somehow comes to know what's on my mind. Even now, when the doorbell rings in the evening, I struggle to make a mental note of what I'm going to say when he asks me what I did during the day. I have realised, though, that whatever I do (and that includes doing nothing) doesn't matter to him as long as I am happy. I have come to love Pad Thai, I don't mind going to museums with my husband sporadically (with the exchange offer that he will take me to watch a romantic comedy the next day). And after trying skiing on bunny slopes last winter, I have told him to take me skiing to Colorado next. What has changed in him? Well, he now goes to Hindi movies with me (and almost always cries during the emotional scenes). And he wears jeans with a flashy yellow jacket just because I like it.

On our "proposal" anniversary, he surprised me with a day trip to a palace hotel in Rajasthan. It was perfect - there was a swimming pool attached to our room, we pretended to be royalty, he gifted me Swarovski earrings and after a seven-course dinner we had delicious chocolate cake. With that day as the benchmark, I was looking forward to our wedding anniversary, wondering how he would outdo his own surprise. We sat by the Charles river (we've been in the US for some time now) and munched pizza. When I dramatically asked my year-old husband why the "proposal anniversary" enjoyed superiority over the actual wedding anniversary, he gently said, "Because I married you in my mind on that day, darling." I guess it was a love marriage then.

Read article here on Times of India's Crest edition website

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