A colleague strolled around my desk the other day and I didn’t look up.
(He does it fairly often when he has nothing do, which is very often these days)
He and I share a Tom & Jerry kinda relationship. We can get extremely chatty and personal at times, and on other occasions we get so mad at each other, that we make no effort to veil our irritation and frustration. He pulls up a chair and shares everything about his family and life with me if I give him the slightest bhao (maybe he finds a good listener and confidant in me! I’m quite skilled at fishing out info – call it the “counselor” or “detective” impulse in me... Even info I don’t need or have the slightest interest in.)
So, the conversation went like this...
He : (offhandedly) I’m on leave tomorrow.
Me : OK
(He was still sauntering and sighing, so I found it binding to say something more)
Me : So, where you going?
He : Just...
(Ideally the dialogue would’ve ended there, but I had this nagging feeling that he wanted to talk, and me, ever the helper-listener-psychologist...)
Me : Where to?
He : Life has become so weird, so sad... Have to do something... (still pacing the room)
Me : Going alone?
He : Ya...
Me : OK
(Now I was determined not to pull the topic too further, and I think he got the hint, and not being one to lose an opportunity...)
He : Will get sweets for you on Monday...
(NOW I get it. It had been playing on my mind for ages, call it woman’s instinct and now I was to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth)
Me : OHHH... So there’s a wedding, eh?!!
He : (sheepishly) He he he...
Me : (still staring at him)...
He : I’ll show you a photo of her, and look at the gold ring my in-laws gave me despite my refusing... They said they giving me their daughter only coz of my good nature and my parents...
(And on and on and on.)
So, the deal is that this guy is going to get married soon. His first wife expired a couple of months ago owing to some health condition, and he has two young kids. I was expecting something of this sort for quite a while now. According to Indian society, a man cannot live alone without a wife, but a wife on no accounts should have any male around her in any capacity other than a brother / father if her first (and last) husband is no more.
Mercifully, this soon-to-be-a-groom-again colleague himself rebuffed and censured this norm. But I wonder where his wits and sense of virtue had disappeared when he chose to marry a distant relative 20 years his junior.
(Let me add, it is quite common in their caste and community. So, don’t hate him for it. He is not the butt of my vexation and disapproval.)
Anyway, I can’t change the way persons and cultures think. I’m not even attempting to. Everyone seems to nod in disgust when such practices occur, but only once in a blue moon do chaps like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Mahatma Phule surface to actually do something about it. Ain’t tough to cluck your tongues when you see the depressing state of widows, but it certainly is easier said than done when one wonders why these folks don’t, in their own small ways, stop the silly customs and traditions that surround helpless women.
I can be blunt. And fearless. So, I asked Mr. Marrying-Soon, “Don’t you feel awkward, wedding a girl half your age?” At which the guy plunged into a story where someone he knew reached the age of retirement and needed someone to cook for him, so he married a girl of 25.
I wish him a happy married life, and I pray that his new bride is content and fine in her new home. Fate has weird things in store for us, but these certainly are more bearable if we have strength, hope and faith.
God save the world.