Though Though this piece is written in first person it is based on events that took place in two different families. I write in first person to save my own skin as also because the combination of events has given rise to an entirely different story that cannot be solely attributed to either one or the other family.
“I plan to marry Pammi,” Announced my twenty five year old son Manu. “We plan to have a civil marriage next week.”
May we know who Pammi happens to be?” I asked speaking for my husband as well. “ I don’t think I’ve met her.”
“Pammi is a colleague of mine. She joined our company last week.” My son was kind enough to inform me. But this piece of enlightenment was a little too much for me to handle.
“ Don’t you think you’re rushing things.” I ventured to ask in as mild a tone as possible for fear of annoying him. “I mean you hardly know each other. Moreover, I thought you were interested in Vidya.”
“I still am but her mom does not approve of me.” Said Manu “ I want to show her that Vidya isn’t the only girl in the world. I therefore proposed to Pamela Singh, Pammi for short. Moreover you too hardly knew daddy before marriage. If your marriage worked so will ours.”
“But how can you be interested in Vidya and marry Pammi? And why doesn’t Vidya’s mom approve of you?” I was confused.
“ How does Vidya feel about it?”
Manu was beginning to get impatient.
“The problem with your generation is that you ask too many questions. If Vidya’s mom doesn’t approve of me that’s her problem not mine. As for Vidya, she does not have a problem with my marrying Pammi. She was rather nice about it. In fact the very idea was hers. Leave it mummy you won’t understand. After marriage we’ll be moving into a flat of our own. It is closer to our office. It is getting late so let me go. I can’t stand and talk to you all day. By the way I won’t be repeating all this to daddy. Pass on the information to him.”
My head started reeling. My son seemed to be speaking an alien language. In our times people had arranged marriages and the entire family including a whole lot of uncles and aunts joined together to make the function a success. Grandparents supervised the arrangements and one dared not go against their suggestions. Of course there were a few who married a person of their choice but these marriages were not well received.
Later there came a time when children chose their partners and parents got them married, grudgingly or otherwise. Unlike love marriages of the previous generation these were calculated ventures where the head ruled over the heart. I could not categorize my son’s marriage to a girl whom he hardly knew. If it was not arranged by either set of parents, it was also not a marriage that could be called love marriage. My son wanted to settle scores with his girl friend’s mother and the girl was also game to it. I wondered how my son’s fiancée felt about it. I was kind of sure that she would back out on hearing about Vidya’s interest in Manu. I decided to talk to her.
“Oh yes aunty.” Pammi seemed to be quite at ease on being told about Vidya. “ I know about Vidya and Manish. He also knows about Peter and me.”
“Peter!” I could take no more of it “ Now who is this Peter?”
“ My ex husband” replied the girl “ We’re divorced now”
I tried to be patient.
“Listen child, I have no problem with your divorce.” I said in as sweet a voice as I could manage. “ But don’t you think that both of you are rushing things. Where is the need to marry within a week?”
“ Manish may have forgotten to tell you but let me clarify.” She said. “ Vidya is marrying Diwakar in a fortnight. We want to marry before that.”
“I presume Diwakar has been properly briefed and hopefully plans to attend your wedding along with Vidya.” I was glad to be able to understand the mindset of the next generation. Better late than never!
“I’m glad you get the point. Now if you don’t mind I have to leave for a meeting. Bye! See you at our wedding.” The girl waved a hasty goodbye and sped off in her car.
I went home and conveyed the information to my parents in law. They were somehow able to take the news in their stride.
“ We hear of children living together before marriage,” said my mother in law “ Manu at least plans to marry the girl. All we can do is to put on a brave front and wish them well.”
‘Very practical.’ I thought ‘ Will it work?’ I wondered.
To be frank it didn’t.
The problem was not the usual mother in law/daughter in law struggle to prove their monopoly or adjustment hurdles in a joint family. In fact Pammi got on rather well not only with us but also with a host of relatives including my parents in law. She’d take my father in law to the doctor and drop my mother in law at the temple and they were all praise for her. She visited us regularly and was warm and affectionate. In fact I regretted my earlier error in judgment. Two years had gone by and their marriage seemed to work well enough or so I thought.
One fine day Pammi walked out of our lives very much the way she walked in! Again it was Manu who broke the news.
“ Pammi has left for Mumbai” he announced, “ We are applying for a divorce.”
“But why?” I asked, “You both seemed so happy. What went wrong?”
“Nothing went wrong mummy,” explained my son. “It’s only that we are both very busy and have no time for each other. Though in the same office we hardly meet. Our schedule is erratic and weekends hectic. Rather than live as strangers in the same house we decided to part ways. She’s getting a transfer with promotion and I decided to let go. No ill feelings at all.”
Suddenly the telephone rang and I picked it up. It was Pammi calling from Mumbai.
“Sorry aunty I had to join immediately. So I could not say goodbye in person. Could you please ask Manish to arrange for a nurse to attend to my mother? She is not keeping well and I don’t want her to stay alone. Also ask him to call on her whenever possible. I am rather worried.”
Manu took the phone from me.
“ Hi Pammi! Settling down in Bombay?” he did not sound upset in the least. “ Don’t worry about your mom. I’ll be visiting her as often as possible and as for the nurse I’ve spoken to an agent and he’ll arrange for one. I’ll let you know in a day or two. Take care and be in touch.”
I stood by his side staring into his face with a Zombie like expression.
‘What went wrong?’ I wondered aloud.
“Nothing went wrong,” said my husband who had been listening to our conversation from his room, “ its time we retired gracefully from our duties as parents and let our children lead their lives. They’re under immense pressure and are better off without our interference. They have problems but are equipped to handle them. Have you not heard of Vanaprasthashram mentioned in our scriptures? It is now time to let go.”
And of course he was right!