You know you’ve found true love when you catch yourself falling in love with the same person over and over.
When Ms. Chalk read the quote a few decades ago, she smirked evilly. Of course, Mills and Boons wanted people to live in illusions. Her logic was pretty good, how can you love a person, a male in this case, again and again. She was a practical independent woman, living in a working women’s hostel. She thought it’s a waste of time and energy when all men are you know what. Men can be a great brother, friend, son and a wonderful father. But as a lover/boyfriend/husband they never communicate or look for equals. She was never in any relationship. Yet coming from a male-dominated family and her best friend’s past taught her that. Why even search for love when you know within a year she would be married off to a so-called-perfect boy. Arranged marriage. Then she would be forced to mold as per him and his family. Even she has to “ask permission” to continue the job. Maybe she would even need to change the city, much to her displeasure.
Months later when Ms. Chalk visited her family during Diwali. She knew, now she would parade with tray full teacups and samosas, head bowed. And if she turns unlucky chosen one, then a ring in her finger with wedding date finalized. She was praying badly to the million Gods existing to kill all prospective grooms on Earth. As if, they were going to listen.
The day she landed her mother kissed her temple admiring her only daughter. The lady fought on her behalf for 22 years now. She pleaded to her husband to allow Ms. Chalk study and work a year before getting married. Ms. Chalk knew her mother was a dreamer, she dreams her daughter working in a corporate house climbing ladder and is married to a supportive gentleman. Ms. Chalk never tried to blur her dream, however foolish they seemed to her.
That evening when her loving yet strict father asked her to be at her best for the arrival of a prospective boy and his family the next day. She knew nothing can be done. Though after the guests leave her father would ask her formally if she liked the boy. As if, she has the power to decode the boy in a 10 minutes tea break with her youngest 4-year cousin sucking thumb sitting next to her. After dinner that night her mother came to her room to do their customary night hair oil massage. It was a custom for her mother to do it whenever she wants to talk, share moments of the day or just advice. That day it was the turn of a story. Story on how she met her lost childhood friend recently in a Satsang. Apparently, they were neighbors and studied in the same class for years. Later her friend’s parent shifted to another town. Initially, both used to exchange letters. Slowly, they got busier in respective lives and lost connection. She went on sharing how her friend has changed. She was no longer that docile girl she was. Ms. Chalk’s mother was proud enough to boast how her friend joined her husband’s business, earn well and was grounded, blah blah. While Ms. Chalk was enjoying her mother’s talk, her mother dropped the bomb. Her friend was the mother of likely groom. Ms. Chalk’s good mood evaporated in a second while her mother kept saying words to her deaf ears. Arranged marriage, of course!
Frustrated Ms. Chalk acted like a good Sanskari girl passed teacups and samosa to guests. Frustrated, not because she had to do the infamous parade. Rather because, her guests comprised of a sweet looking lady, possibly her mother’s friend, an old gentleman and a college-going girl, sane any boy. She was not dying away to meet the boy. But then it meant the parade would be conducted again. Her anger leaped like a rocket when the old lady declared that the boy wants to meet Ms. Chalk alone. Her anger was justified, she was forced to groom in a silk saree just to hear that boy wants to meet her later, alone. Then Ms. Chalk’s logical brain acted like water on a fire, her conservative grandfather would never agree for that. Smirking mentally, she waited for a drama to unfold, holding this would turn off the boy’s family from the very idea of arranged marriage.
Sadly, again luck betrayed her. And to her horror, her family bade her bye in a taxi, immediately after she changed into a comfortable kurta and a pair of jeans. She felt her family were in a rush to get her married. They didn’t even ask any of her cousins to join her or drop her till café. What if the boy turned out a pervert and harass her? She can surely hurt his family jewels but this kind of reaction from her family was unexpected.
20 minutes later she entered the café. To her surprise, it wasn’t a seedy one. Rather it was gorgeous. An attendant showed her way to a reserved table and mentioned how her host would join in a while. She looked around, smiled lazily to smell of the intoxicating aroma of fresh coffee. Her seat was just beside the window, she enjoyed basking in the sunshine. Soon, the attendant brought her a cup of coffee. One sip and she was sold. While she was enjoying her view and coffee, someone cleared his throat. Ms. Chalk knew who that was. Dressed smartly in a polo tee and denim, the way was grinning. Ms. Chalk’s guards were up.
“Hey! Sorry I was nervous and was out for a smoke. Hope you didn’t wait long”
Ms. Cheese could only nod. She wasn’t afraid of men’s company. But the eyes of this stranger were making her feel weird. He wasn’t even staring her directly. Damn, he was sweating profusely in a pleasant evening. It took time before he smiled and shared how he chooses to work in a metro city leaving behind his father’s humble business. When Ms. Chalk asked his view on women, he surprised her with his high opinions. But it wasn’t easy to meet her, she tried her luck again, a third time in the evening. She expressed her desire to continue her job.
Related - I dare you, again!
Later, while laying on her bed Ms. Cheese was confused with the turn of events. It was an evening of surprises. When Mr. Chalk disclosed how he would want her to grow in her job, she knew he was acting cheesy. All male looking for the wife first ask her to continue the job and later burden her with household chores too. He went a step ahead boasting his culinary and housekeeping skills as if they really existed. Before they stepped out of the café, he passed on his number telling her to call if she has any query. He didn’t even ask her number. Heights of all, he had the audacity to say “yes” to his family. And the excited humans immediately called her mother to inform the apparent good news. Ms. Chalk was sure something was fishy when her mother told her the cheesy boy asked her to take time and reply. Her family was expecting an answer, instead of deciding one for her. Things were not exactly, how they were portrayed. And Ms. Chalk knew that. But she couldn’t point over what that was. Neither she had any reason to turn the cheesy boy’s arranged marriage proposal down.
She was dumbfounded when none asked her reply next morning or the days later. She tried continuing her days as if nothing happened, and that was true. A day before her departure, when her mother visited her room for hair oil massage again. Before her mother could speak, Ms. Chalk gave her a “yes”.
Fast forward next morning, the boy, let’s call him, Mr. Cheese forwarded another proposal. He wanted to date Ms. Cheese for a few months before the wedding, no engagement.
“And then you fell in love with him” excited 10- years old Drishti asked.
“No dear, that way Ms. Chalk met Mr. Cheese. Unknown to me then, he was also posted in the same city. It took months for Ms. Cheese, me, to fall for your grandfather, Mr. Cheese. He worked hard to show me that he truly respects and values me. That I could trust him, that we could walk together instead of thumbing. I wasn’t wooed by those flowers he brought rather I fell for him when he would ask for my view before taking any decision. I felt loved by his simple actions of cooking a meal during the weekend when I visited his apartments. But we were in love by the time we were engaged and married. Later keep falling for him when he cooked breakfasts regularly and helped during dinner. Now, off to sleep.”
“So, arranged marriage isn’t boring. Right?”
I could just smile at her question. The little girl always demands a bedtime story. As I enter my room, I see my husband of 50 years waiting for me before calling it a day. When we met for the first time, there was no violin playing in the background, time didn’t pause or no spark flew, at least from my side. While this cheesy old man declares unabashedly, it was love at first sight for him. An arranged marriage with love.