Updated: Mar 2
The generation of 50s and 60s firmly believed in the maxim that marriages are made in heaven and performed on this earth.
A good son or daughter were expected to obey their parents and never question any of their decisions. My father expired early and every major decision was taken by our mother. One fine evening, my mother came home and announced, I have selected a girl for your elder brother (Sant) and given my word.
In those days, if you gave your word to some one, it became a matter of pride and honour and you never backed off. Another thing was when a friend or a person well-known to you places his headgear, Pagdi, on your feet and says, please accept proposal of my daughter for your son and make her daughter-in-law of your house, in most cases you said yes.
My brother was posted in Nangal near Bhakra Dam project at that time. When he came home on a short visit, he was informed about it. Sant bhai, as we called him, protested that he had not even seen the girl. My mother got annoyed and asked bhai, pray tell me how will you know her qualities by just looking at her? Have faith in your mother. Whatever I decide will be in your best interest. I know the family and girl is niece of my good friend. She's a respectable girl from a Brahmin family. What more you want?
Ultimately, it was decided that our sisters could go and meet, Saroj, name of girl. Next day, they went and met Saroj. When they came back, none of them uttered a single word before our mother but told Sant bhai separately that girl is no match for you. No one had guts to say so before our mother.
At last, Sant bhai confided in me. I said, bhai, going back on this proposal will be unfair to the girl, her family and our mother. If you trust me, I will go and meet Saroj. But give me your word, you will abide by it. Bhai hugged me and said Harish, I give you my word. Next day, I went to girl’s house in Malviya Nagar in Delhi. Saroj opened the door. I introduced myself and said sorry, I came uninformed.
Saroj smiled and said, Please come in, I was getting ready for school. Saroj was teaching in Greenfield school in same area. I apologized and said I will come some other time. She smiled and said no problem, I will adjust. I will go to school a little late.
Her next question was, did you have your breakfast? No, I said. I eat breakfast late. Saroj said, nothing doing, give me five minutes. Smiling, she went to kitchen and came back with steaming hot aloo parathas, mango pickles and tea. Believe me, they were really tasty.
We discussed several topics for about half an hour.
After that she went to school and I came back home saying good bye to Saroj. Sant bhai was waiting anxiously. I gave him a big thumps up and said, go ahead bhai, you will never regret it.
The marriage was performed and Sant Bhai and Saroj Bhabhi left for Nangal to set up their own home. Nangal has a special place in my heart. I loved spending vacations with Sant bhai and Saroj Bhabhi. I was just back from army and had some spare time, so I decided to give a surprise to bhai and Bhabhi.
I boarded day bus and reached Nangal by evening. Saroj Bhabhi opened the door and told me that bhai has gone to Delhi for some office work.
Next morning, I got a telegram informing that bhai was down with typhoid in Delhi and I should stay back in Nangal till bhai recovers and comes back. This was first time I was staying with Saroj and that too without bhai. I stayed in Nangal for more than a month and it was a wonderful stay. Saroj Bhabhi took care of my every need, fed me with best of foods and we had best of times.
She was more like a sister to me than Bhabhi. Both of us were of the same age. All her friends invited us for lunch or dinner. Every time we went to her friend’s house, she would warn me to be careful as she has a younger sister and may be interested in you. Sant bhai came back after more than a month. I stayed in Nangal for another week before returning to Delhi.
My mother went to Nangal on a short trip. When she came back, she was little sad. I asked if all was well at bhai’s place. She said Sant was very unhappy that they did not have a scooter.
Bhai was just promoted to gazetted scale and had shifted to officer's block. Almost every one there had a scooter or motor cycle. Some even possessed a car. What do you want me to do, I asked? Can not you give your Lamby scooter to bhai. In any case, you will soon have a new Vespa scooter. I said OK ma, it will be done.
Next day, I left for Nangal in night train with my scooter booked in luggage compartment. I drove scooter from railway station to bhai’s place.
I called every one out and pointing at scooter, I said this is for you all. Every one was beaming with happiness. Bhai and Bhabhi hugged me and blessed me. Bhai had a big house with a garden in front. I said wow, what a nice garden, perfect for a beer party with chicken.
Saroj was a pure vegetarian and did not allow any non vegetarian cooking in her house. Sant bhai teased her, what will you do now. Any thing for Harish, she said, but on one condition. She told Bhai. I will give you separate utensils and stove.
You will cook chicken outside my kitchen. We all said in one voice, three cheers for Saroj. We had a real good garden party in the evening with beer, chicken and some lovely music.
Sant bhai retired from service and came to Faridabad to settle where he had a flat of his own. Me and my wife Uma visited Sant Saroj often . Saroj Bhabhi treated us with sumptuous meals. They were blessed with two kids, Sumit and Bhavna,, nicknamed Sonu and Cheenu.
Sant bhai was a chronic heart patient. He often told me Harish, I am worried about Cheenu. I would like to see her settled in marriage. Do not worry bhai, it would be done at right time, I would always say to him.
Sant bhai was admitted in All India Institute of Medical sciences for heart surgery. World renowned cardiologist Dr Venu Gopal was his surgeon. But fate planned otherwise and sometimes even the best is not good enough. Bhai breathed his last on operation table itself.
Saroj bhabi was now alone with her children. One day, she came to my house to meet us. She had grown very weak. She sat next to me and said with tears in her eyes, Harish, Sant had advised me before his operation, that if you are ever in trouble or need any help, go to Uma and Harish.
I have come to tell you that Bhavna is your responsibility now. Do not Worry Saroj, I said, we will do our best.
Within days, one of Uma’s best friends, Bimla khetery rang up to say that that there was a very good proposal for Chinu. Her best friend Kiran Mohindra was on the look out for a good eligible girl for her son. Meeting was arranged and both sides were happy with family background. After that, the boy and girl met each other and went on a day’s outing. Both liked each other.
I told Mohindras that we are ok with this proposal. Mohindra sahib said that we also want to hear from your bhabi that she is fine with proposal. Do not worry, we are one family. My bhabi has given me full authority. Strange, never seen such a thing before, said Mohindra ji.
One day, Saroj Bhabhi arrived at our house without any information. After some time, she brought out a bundle of notes from her bag and said, I just have these two and half lakh rupees for marriage. Please manage expenses within this money. There were tears in her eyes. I gave her a big hug and said Bhabhi , leave every thing to me. It is my responsibility now.
All the initial functions were held and Saroj Bhabhi did not attend any of these. She met her in laws only at engagement ceremony for the first time. Bhawna’s in laws did not even see Bhabhi's house in Faridabad till marriage time. Such was trust they had in Uma and me.
Bhawana is well settled and happy in her house. God has blessed her and Shiv, our son in law with a son. Sonu is also married and well settled with Renu. They have two lovely daughters.
Both bhai and Bhabhi are no more. Both their children treat us as their parents. We feel blessed that god gave us strength to fulfill our commitment made to bhai and bhabi
Sant and Saroj had never seen each other before marriage but still had a happy married life. On the other hand, I am witness to several love marriages which crashed within months. Arranged marriages are also not surviving very long. Is marriage like a lottery where you may be lucky some time?
I feel compromise and patience may be name of the game. Every couple that has been married for a significant amount of time is always asked the same question. What is secret of happy married life. There’s the traditional advice like “never go to bed angry,” and the classic reminder that marriage requires compromise.
But in order to live happily ever after, your marriage must be a happy one, filled with the kind of deep passion and radical acceptance that cultivates a blissful bond between two people.
Of course, no marriage is happy all the time, but by focusing on your partner’s strengths and expressing your love and appreciation every day may act like a catalyst. Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife. If you ask me, marriage is like watching the colour of leaves in the fall, ever changing and more beautiful with each passing day.
Sant bhai, was a lucky go happy man . He was more like a coconut, hard from outside and soft from inside. Whenever money was short at home, Sant bhai, who was real good at mathematics, would pick up some tuitions and help the family to tide over the crises. He took care of small expenses of all brothers and sisters. He was posted at Nangal for for most part of his service. He was known in whole of township for his kindness.
Whenever any death took place, he would always volunteer to give last bath to body and prepare it for last journey. He would be one of the pal bearers to carry the body to cremation ground and help in performing last rites.
I loved spending my vacations with Sant bhai. Entire township invited me for lunch and dinner, and his friends treated me like a younger brother. Bhai was a good cricket player and had formed a team. Every Sunday, there were cricket matches and I formed part of the team. It was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed those moments.
Bhai and Bhabhi were very close to me. I have many happy memories of time spent with them. Nangal was my second home. I was really lucky to have such people in my life. Thank god , I could fulfil promises made to them.