She had walked into office in a white top with a flower pattern, jeans, healthy, shampooed hair styled into a blunt, very smart and spunky. You could almost hear the laddoos exploding in the bosoms of the young males present, the alpha types among them hanging around near her desk discussing cricket scores, and sliding glances sideways to see if her pupils were dilating.
But she of the luminous skin patiently tolerated all the baboon-in-mating-season acts for a couple of weeks before homing in and locking on the object of her affections. He was a bookish older man with a smidgen of maturity because of a string of broken romances trailing behind him and mostly remained immersed in work at his corner desk. It was a good choice. He used to sing in a band on weekends – and so had our approval.
Love bloomed as he reciprocated her emotions. He had no other choice, because, apart from her good looks, she was a natural caregiver who brought him rajma, chawal, dal, raita, even bharva bhindi (stuffed okra) for lunch every day.
Soon the affair took serious overtones and within months of loving bites (ahem, the meals they shared), they got married in an elaborate ceremony and took off on their honeymoon.
However, some weeks later when she rejoined, we were surprised to see her quietly wiping away a tear. First lover’s tiff, we thought indulgently, nodding sagely at each other. He must not have unpacked her stuff from the suitcase or maybe their razors got mixed up.
We were wrong. Rajma is fine when you are wooing someone, but it’s a crime to shake someone out of their post-honeymoon torpor with tedious tasks such as making a million paranthas. Yes, you heard right. The mother-in-law had early that morning ordered her to make breakfast for the entire household!
The poor girl had spent an hour slaving in the kitchen before getting ready for office. How on earth was she supposed to work when she was tired already?
Most of us avoid looking at the big picture because reality is a bi**h that often punches us on the chin. Unreasonableness is a common ailment. No one in the new family thought the new bahu could do with some assistance. The young woman on her part had simply overlooked the need for a vital pre-wedding psychoanalysis of the matriarch, or she would have known that the old lady was in the habit of conducting regular tests to assess the skills of women newly married into the family.The rude early morning surprise would have been avoided.
It’s at moments like this when one wonders why marriage management is not taught in colleges or universities. A joyful couple, with contented children and ecstatic in-laws are an asset for any nation because happy families make sensible decisions like paying income tax on time. It’s also so much better than a business management degree that can only go so far as to help people fine-tune the art of selling cans of garbanzo beans or launch apps that aggregate cabs or deliver fresh prawns at your doorstep.
Many marriages hit road bumps from the word go because the dopamine rush of the first romantic flush clouds the brain and makes folks prioritise the non-essentials of a relationship, like matching the upholstery of the wedding wala sofa with the lehenga and sherwani. People forget that they need to first assess their tolerance levels for co-passenger(s) on this long haul flight if they want to weather the bad moods, unkempt beards, vagaries of PMS or ogres lurking in the family tree without flinching.
If a lifetime of togetherness could be planned as meticulously as the shaadi with the Bollywood naach-gaana choreographed by bhabhi, the caterers and the wedding venue that cost an arm and a leg and a little bit of the backside too, then divorces perhaps would not be so common.
It does not take rocket science to be aware of one’s own mental constructs and ask oneself questions (no, not the ones about the makeup artist who can best highlight the cheekbones, or the pre-wedding spa treatment with the Dead Sea clay wraps). Give yourself a quick quiz: Can I smile through a holiday with my better half and his/her family without imploding like the primeval atom? Will my life end if my partner confesses he hates puppies? Would I be willing to start hunting afresh for a lover if she is unable to render a raga bhimpalasi like Kishori Amonkar?
It’s very well to discover a common interest in Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, but making ties work despite the differences requires another level of greatness – an inner core of tungsten perhaps.
The alliance should be treated like a very important job. Before the actual wedding, ask to be interviewed by key members of the new family. Try not to blubber if they enquire about former lovers. Or dead pets like squirrels. Take some time off from shoe or false eyelash shopping and go visit your in-laws-to-be. Share a meal, spend the weekend with them or play them your flute if things get heated.
Run like a hare if you get evil vibes and never look back.
Remember, love is beautiful and it restores your faith in the marvels of the human heart that has conjured up something so fabulous out of our basic mating instincts. But sometimes, the best thing to do is to give it time to ferment, let it develop body and sparkling bubbles to sustain it for a lifetime.
Or trust yourself and let it go.
Actor Antonio Banderas recalls a nurse once saying to him during a hospital stay: “I wonder why people say I love you with all of my heart. Why can’t they say they love you with all of their brain?”
About the Writer: Ayesha Banerjee
Ayesha Banerjee is a Chandigarh-based freelance writer who reads Hafez, believes in multiverses and looks for wormholes in her spare time to escape from here.