Author’s Note: Every one of my women with spunk stories are true stories, narrated to me by the women who went through these challenges in life, and overcame them with sheer grit and determination. Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
At any given point in time, millions of girls in their twenties in India are going through the recursive and emotionally wringing process of “boy meets girl”. It is their family’s hope that one of these meetings will result in “boy likes girl” and “girl likes boy” which leads to an engagement and a marriage. Secretly, they then leave it to God to ensure that the couple do live happily ever after, in the hope that if marriages are made in heaven then we probably have the heavenly combination of people right!
I don’t know what is the average success rate with respect to the arranged marriage process. Neither is this story intended to go in that direction. The story I want to share with you today is one that has to do with the heart, the mind and the soul of a woman. This is Abhilasha’s story.
Abhilasha. Bubbly, sweet, vivacious, loving, creative. Like all other girls in their early twenties, she too dreamt of finding “the one”, and getting settled with him. The inevitable and on-going search, the awkwardness of rejecting and getting rejected. The number of times some men and women go back to the drawing board in search of the perfect match would try the patience of a saint.
The arranged marriage concept may have remained the same since centuries but like many things, the tools employed to arrive at a successful outcome have been upgraded ever so often.
Today, you have online match-making portals, that take your likes and dislikes into account, and generate a list of possible suitors for your perusal and possible approval. Abhilasha too had an account on one of these. It was on this portal that Abhilasha met Aditya. After a few conversations via the portal, they informed both sets of parents that they would like to meet each other and explore a possible future.
During this time Abhilasha’s best friend who had been her companion since childhood was also going through a similar process of groom hunting. And it so happened that in a matter of days, both of them found their life partners. Her friend was getting married first so Abhilasha threw herself into the wedding preparations and had the time of her life shopping, planning and helping her friend with all the preparations. Aditya went silent during those days, the furtive phone calls, romantic gestures, surprise visits – everything that forms part of that magical time in one’s life, the courtship – was completely missing. Abhilasha did not let this alarm or upset her. She was always a positive thinker and she put this down to his good nature, his way of giving her some space while her best friend’s wedding preparations were on.
Aditya and his family were invited to her friend’s wedding too. That’s how close they were as friends. And Abhilasha’s parents took the opportunity to meet Aditya’s family with the intent to take the arranged marriage process a little further. They agreed to meet in a couple of days and set up some dates around the engagement and wedding ceremonies.
Growing up, Abhilasha was closest to one person in her life. Her grandmother. Even her parents came second. And her grandmother also had to admit, out of all her grandchildren, her sweet Abhilasha was a special child and held a special place in the old woman’s heart. In fact until Abhilasha was born, her grandmother lived in their village. It was only after Abhilasha’s birth that her grandmother moved to the city and assumed care of her newest grandchild. The bond between them was something neither of them could explain. They got along wonderfully and everything good about Abhilasha could be traced back to her grandmother’s upbringing.
When news of Aditya reached her grandmother’s ears, her joy knew no bounds. Even at her advanced age, she wanted to get involved in all aspects of the preparation, even make the sweets and savory wedding items herself. She had never been happier. Her eyes were filled with joy and she would tell anyone who listened how eager she was to attend Abhilasha’s wedding and dance!
But life doesn’t always take the direction we expect. Just days after Abhilasha’s engagement, her grandmother fell down in the bath and passed away, her body too old to recover from the injuries.
For Abhilasha, it was not only her first encounter with death, it was the death of a very special person in her life. She felt like a part of her had gone missing. Her sorrow was directly proportional to her closeness and emotional attachment. She took her grandmother’s death badly and grieved day and night for the wonderful woman who had been her friend, confidante and guide.
She was so badly affected by the death that she wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t take care of herself. Soon, she was running a high fever and had to be hospitalised. The doctors worked hard to bring her raging fever under control. It took a few days for things to come back to normal, but the unnaturally high fever had taken a toll on her health. She had to be given many shots and supplements to help her weak body get some strength to recover from this grief-induced physical illness.
Aditya visited her in those days but seemed unnaturally silent and aloof. He would quietly observe the multiple medical treatments Abhilasha was put through in order to restore her strength. He never questioned or commented on the medications or treatments. But inwardly, he began to have serious doubts.
Medical ignorance coupled with fear of commitment can turn even the most educated and rational person into an ignoramus. He neither consulted her doctors or spoke to her family to understand what exactly was wrong with her and why she was undergoing these treatments. Instead he decided to become a self-proclaimed expert via internet research. He gathered half-baked knowledge about the type of fever she had suffered.
Neither set of parents had a clue about the thoughts forming in Aditya’s mind. Abhilasha herself had no idea that Aditya had decided he wasn’t ready for marriage or a commitment to her. He had chartered a very inflexible plan of sorts for his life with Abhilasha, and it had no room for unexpected events like sickness and death. Some plan this was!
The wedding date was already fixed and wedding preparations were in full swing in both households. A couple of months before the wedding, Aditya met Abhilasha and said he wanted to postpone the wedding date. He gave several reasons, none of which held any substance or made any sense to Abhilasha.
She tried to meet him halfway, to understand and address the concerns. But this conversation was probably the best thing that happened. Abhilasha finally saw how inflexible Aditya was, and was given a glimpse of what kind of life she could expect if she married him. His behaviour of the past few months was beginning to make sense to her and she saw him for what he was. A coward and a self-centred person who had no room in his life for her.
She thought back to her grandmother and the principles she had lived by. Those same principles had been passed on to Abhilasha and she had no doubt in her mind what her grandmother would have done if she were alive. She decided to do for him what he couldn’t find the courage to do. She broke off the engagement, wished him the best of luck in life and walked out, head held high. She could feel her grandmother’s spirit lending her strength to not make a scene or cry in front of him or her family.
She went back home and told her parents her decision. She had thought of everything. When her aunts and uncles muttered among themselves about how this would affect their children and when the elders discussed the disgrace and shame the family would have to endure, she calmly told them she was prepared to move out of the house and separate herself from the family if that’s what it took for her cousins and extended family to be happy and untouched by what they clearly saw as a scandal.
Slowly, reluctantly, her family came around and accepted her decision.
A couple of years have gone by since that day. Abhilasha is gainfully employed in a multinational company and is an asset to her organisation. She lives life freely and on her terms. She recognises that she has been through an extremely stressful experience and has learnt yoga, meditation and other techniques to maintain a healthy inner balance and peace. She is extremely creative and dabbles with poems, sketches, songs, musical instruments and such other pursuits.
She has not given up on or lost faith with the institution of marriage. Our darling girl is mature enough to realise all men are not the same, and that the right man is out there somewhere. And someday, she too will find her soul mate. Someone who deserves her, and who will love her for who she is.
But until then, she chooses to live her life fully and enjoy every minute of it.
Illustrated by Dr. Anisha Kumar ( Visit https://ignitingmypassion.wordpress.com/)