Subodh uncle was my uncle’s friend. They worked in the same bank. I knew Subodh uncle and his daughters pretty well. They were almost a certain part of most of my uncle’s parties. I also knew that Subodh uncle was a widower and had lost his wife to cancer when both his daughters were very young. When Subodh uncle called my uncle to tell him that he was getting married, my uncle was really taken aback. He certainly wasn’t very happy. When I went to visit him soon after that he mentioned Subodh uncle’s marriage announcement. “That man has lost it. Why does he need to do all this tamasha, now? His daughter is getting married at the end of this year. He is going to ruin his daughters lives. What is he thinking? The whole society is going to laugh at him! Yahaan pe ek bar bhi shaddi kyon ki, yahi sochkar mein pareshan hoon.” I started laughing. “See! Here we go.”, he said picking up his Old Monk. ” I dont see what is the problem? It’s the 21st century after all. If two adults want to get married, who are we to disapprove of it?” I said, casually. “You young kids have no bloody sense. Anything is acceptable. ” “You should be relieved he is marrying a woman by the way. Even a man would be acceptable to us. ” I said laughing. He rolled his eyes, and poured himself some more Old Monk.
After a few days I bumped into Subodh uncle’s elder daughter Meera in the market. We were in the same school, but had lost touch eventually. She greeted me instantly and I congratulated her on her father’s wedding. When I did ,there was a sense of awkwardness on my side. I was surprised by my awkwardness. I was supposed to be ok with this. She asked me if I had time for coffee. I obliged and we found ourselves a small coffee shop. We spoke about things, but it was impossible to not speak about her father’s marriage, and the story behind it.
“It’s been a while since I have seen my father so happy. Our father has been so great at being both our mother and father. He didnt even realise how years just passed by. He was constantly providing first for our mother when she was fighting cancer and then us. Shailaja came into his life three years back. They developed a great friendship. Slowly she started coming home a lot more. Whenever I saw my father with her. I just saw him really happy. His eyes lit up, every single time. I think slowly it was clear to me and my sister that dad loved her. We were really the ones to push him to make it official. Both he and Shailaja revolted and called us crazy. ” “What will the society say, Meera?” I interrupted sarcastically. Meera laughed.”Exactly!! Also there was an added dimension of my fiancee, Gaurav and my in-laws. “
The next part of her narration amazed me. When Meera told Gaurav about her dad’s and Shailaja’s relationship, Gaurav chose to support it. Infact Gaurav was the one who persuaded Subodh uncle to go ahead and get married. Gaurav’s parents though miffed at first did finally accept. In the court, he signed as the witness for Subodh uncle, not Meera.
A lot of people including, relatives and friends of both Subodh and Shailaja disapprove of their decision, till date. I pity them, because they cant see beyond rituals and customs which are basically made to keep us unhappy and suffer. After all the years of self-sacrificing and putting everyone’s happiness above him, if Subodh chooses to be happy and not lonely what is so wrong with it? If a 46 year old woman who was divorced after just two years of marriage is tired of coming back to a empty house, isn’t that natural? Doesn’t she have a right to a family, to happiness just because she is 46? Love, passion, romance, beauty, fights, arguments all of these can vary in intensity through the years . Having that one person with whom you can experience all of that and grow, and to know that person is always going to stand firmly with you, that is companionship. Marriage is about finding that companion. For Shailaja and Subodh it just came a little late. All we need to do as a society is to look above our closed mindsets. Support and accept them, whole-heartedly without inhibitions.
I got a picture of Shailaja holding her granddaughter today, in a mail that Meera sent. Shailaja’s tears were easy to spot. She looked happy and scared at the same time. Just like a grand mother would! I was just really happy for her.