MY wife and I recently attended a get-together of veterans in Jaisalmer, where retired officers — with/without their spouses — enjoyed quality time. It was great fun doing sightseeing, shopping, etc. Flights to Jaisalmer usually start in the tourist season, i.e. the winter. Otherwise, one has to reach there by road or rail.
On our return trip, we shared a taxi with a couple. As the journey was long, we got to know each other quite well. Both husband and wife are Punjabis settled in Bhopal. The retired officer had a few postings in Bhopal; he liked the place and settled there. His married daughter is also settled in the capital of Madhya Pradesh.
Out of curiosity, my wife asked the officer’s better half: ‘How did you first meet each other?’ The husband replied: ‘Ours is an unbelievable story. She was virtually married to me even before she was born!’ Now that made me sit up.
The parents of the officer and his wife are distant relatives. Before the woman’s birth, her mother bore children, but unfortunately they didn’t survive. All kinds of treatments were tried out, but none worked. One day, a soothsayer suggested: ‘Pledge your unborn child to be betrothed to someone’s son/daughter. It will survive.’ It so happened that the officer in question, about four years old then, and his father visited the childless parents around this time. They told the boy’s father that in case a girl was born, she would be married to him when he grew up. The father agreed to the proposal.
As luck would have it, a girl was born in the family. She survived. So did her younger siblings. The officer was told about the match only after he entered college. The woman, too, came to know about it when she was in college. Both were staying in different cities and could not meet each other. She recalled that at times her siblings would tease her by saying that she was already married. Subsequently, they met, with the permission — and in the presence — of their parents. He was in the Army, and was allowed to write letters to his would-be wife by her parents. On getting commissioned as an officer, his in-laws came to the ceremony without her as the wedding was to be held soon. And finally they got married, and it had been 45 years since then.
When asked whether he or she or their parents thought about getting them married to someone else, he replied: ‘Yes, her mother wanted a better match for her daughter, but she and her father stood their ground.’
Those were the days when young people did not have many demands from each other and learned to accept each other despite being from Mars and Venus. Ask parents today how difficult it is to make their young sons/daughters say yes to a marriage proposal. Indeed, those were the days!
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