The Ultimate Adhesive
“Actually I liked the three bedroom one better, how I wish I had gone for it”. I couldn’t but help overhear the lady with her husband in tow, complaining patronizingly to the Real Estate dealer after moving into a 4-bhk house worth approximately 4 Crore Rupees. To which, the dealer, fully cognizant of the fact that the deal was now irreversible, cheekily replied, “ Madam, what if Sir was to have similar thoughts after marrying you?” Embarrassed with the response, she shrugged of the moment with a forced chuckle.
The conversation took me back to a happening in the 1970s which an elderly uncle had related to me. The protagonist of the story was his friend, Dr Gopal hailing from a village in Tamil Nadu. Dr Gopal was not a medical doctor but a rather young doctorate. He was teaching English Literature in the same college as my uncle. Busy with his studies and waiting for his sisters to get married first, Gopal had avoided matrimony for quite some time. With his parents breathing down his neck to take the plunge, Gopal had finally run out of excuses and given his consent to them to search for a suitable girl.
In the midst of these dynamics, Gopal got a pleasant surprise when he was selected to go to London for a month-long training capsule as part of a cultural exchange program. Quite a few academicians from all over the world had come to participate in the training and everyone had enjoyed the ‘business cum pleasure’ schedule very much. The month had passed off in a jiffy and the ‘passing out day’ had arrived.
As part of the session before the Certificate Distribution, the Faculty Head decided to engage the course participants in small talk. The question he posed to the audience was actually quite elementary,” What will you do after going back to your respective countries?” Answers varied from anything to anything–formulating novel instructional techniques, planning holidays, seeking adventures, changing jobs and what have you?
When Gopal’s turn came, he announced in a very gentle, nonchalant way, “Well, I am going back to my village home and get married to a girl that my parents have chosen for me.”
Someone asked, “ You mean to say, your parents have selected her and you had nothing to do with it? Gopal nodded in affirmation.
“ Have you have ever met her before?” another query from the assembly. “ No, I haven’t” was Gopal response in a simple matter-of-fact way.
The entire class including the Faculty Head, Dr John gasped in disbelief, “Incredulous! Never heard of! You gotta be joking! Are you serious? How can you?” They had heard of arranged marriages but just could not fathom how such an extreme version of the union was possible and that a highly-educated man like Gopal was pretty cool about the whole thing.
Now that Gopal had become the centre of conversation of the class and the rest was forgotten, the Faculty Head asked him, “ Gopi, please tell us how can such a marriage ever last? Can you be happy in such an arrangement? How can you love someone you have never met before and spend a lifetime with her?”
Gopal was actually quite amused with the controversy and curiosity being generated as a result of his unpretentious utterance. So to put matters to rest, he addressed the Faculty Head, “ Do you mind John if I ask you a few questions?”
“ Yeah, sure Gopi, please shoot, I will be delighted to answer.”
“ John, I suppose your parents are alive and in fine fettle. Out of them, do you love your mother?
“ Yeah, they are fine, I sure do love my mum very much. She is a fantastic person and a real darling. Couldn’t have asked for a different mother ever.”
“That’s very nice to hear, now how about your father? Do you love him?” asked Gopal.
“Well, honestly he was always a rather strict parent when I was young. But yes, I love him. He worked real hard to bring us up.”
Probing further, Gopal asked, “ How about your siblings? Do you have any?”
“Yeah, I have a younger sister and a brother.”
“Do you love them?” asked Gopal, repeating the same question.
“Yes, I do. They are both adorable although my brother has moved over to Sydney. Not in regular touch, but of course, I love them.”
Once again Gopal asked becoming a tad irritating, “How about your children? Do you love them?”
John replied, “Well, I have a son and a daughter, Going through their teens, can get a bit handful at times. But yes, I love them very much. Undoubtedly, bringing them up has been the biggest joy in our lives.”
“Now my humble question to you is, did you get to choose or select any one of these folks to become a part of your lives?” Gopal asked.
“No”, admitted John realizing where this was leading to.
“ Then, why do you love all these near and dear ones that we talked about?
The idea sinking in a bit, John said,“ Well, I guess I do so because they are my family”
“Absolutely, you do so because they are yours.” Gopal rephrased John and added, “Well, John, exactly the same thing will happen when I go and marry Radha. She will be mine, irrespective of all her virtues and imperfections. I will have no choice but to love her and the same goes for her. In our culture, love is a verb and not a noun. And when the two of us will take it upon to love and accept each other for good, even the Gods will have no choice but to contribute to our happiness. In fact, it is there in all wedding vows but we prefer to ignore the fine print”
With the entire group nodding and cheering for Gopal by now, John declared smilingly, “Thanks very much Gopi for that nugget. I will go and love my wife today.”
Epilogue: Come to think of it, the Kurkure brand of irregular-shaped popular snacks came up with the same theme in their tagline almost 40 years later, ‘Teda hai par mera hai’, meaning it may be imperfect but it is still mine. And of course, Kurkure are known to have a mix of sweet, salty and spicy taste, just like married life!
First published at seekmediation.com on 05/07/21
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