“How did you decide to marry Papa?” My daughters have asked me this question so many times and they never seem to tire of the story. I had an arranged marriage and to them it has always seemed completely unfathomable and bizarre that you can marry someone you don’t know at all!
Now when I look back on my more than 30 years of married life, it feels like I have known my husband forever. But then taking the plunge when I was just 23 years old and marrying someone I didn’t know, it now seems so unreal, taking a huge leap of faith like that. How did I do it? I mean, I met my husband through the matrimonial columns of a newspaper!!
It is not that I came from a conservative background, quite contrary actually. I went to America to get my MBA in the 1980’s. It was a time when people didn’t spend so much on a girl’s education. But my father believed in empowering us girls by investing in an education.
My husband also came from a fairly liberal family. He had studied in a boarding school, had also got his Masters from the US, and then to top it off, he was a nonvegetarian Gujarati. He was very upset with his parents and quite embarrassed actually, for putting in the matrimonial advert. So this whole thing was totally out of character for both of us. And both our parents had also expected and hoped we would meet someone on our own.
Well, people were more typical those days. Maharashtrians were more Maharashtrians, Gujaratis were more Gujaratis, in terms of their professions, lifestyles, food habits, and more important than anything else, the thought processes/ mindsets. Both, my husband and I were atypical in every way, and kind of misfits in our own communities. That explains marrying outside our communities and instead, concentrating on some sort of similarities between both of us and and our families. Education and progressive mindsets in our case.
At the time, even for someone so young, I knew it was going to be difficult to find all the qualities I wanted in one perfect partner. I mean I am not perfect. So I decided to simply prioritize. For me it was accomplishments and education at the very top, and a similar lifestyle and backround would really help. Hey, its an arranged marriage, I am allowed my tickmarks!
I think my mother had started setting the expectations right when I was quite young. Not with pep talks, but talking of experiences, observations, giving examples. Very clever I think. She was slowly influencing me. Mom had strategized for sure!
So one fine day my husband did come to ‘see me’ , with his parents in tow. And no, I did not carry a tray of refreshments when I walked out. Well, his mom did kind of look formidable, but don’t most quintessential mothers in law! Then ‘himself’ walks in, with the widest smile ever and twinkling, laughing eyes! People always ask me, ‘did you know right away’? Well you know what, I kind of did!!
I was engaged for 6 months. We kind of dated in that period, but could not meet often since we lived in different cities. I think we met maybe a dozen times in all. We only had land line telephones and I do remembertelephone bills were huge. I didn’t hear the end of it from my dad everytime the bill came!
Arranged marriage or love marriage, I don’t think there is a set formula. Maybe just more head than heart in the beginning. But love happens. A slow and steady kind of love, butterflies in the stomach do happen, discovering new things about each other keeps the relationship fresh and alive. The rules stay the same. Find someone who shares your values, is emotionally compatible, is a good provider, is hardworking, someone who is kind, someone who respects you, cares for you. And then,trust your instincts and go with the flow. Finally, look at the bottomline and make it work.