A gentle knock at the door woke up Ramji. ‘ It must be Gowri’ he thought.
“Come in” he called out.
“How do you feel now uncle?” asked Gowri as she entered. “Has your fever subsided?”
“I’m better now Gowri” replied Ramji, “What are you doing here? Don’t you have classes today?”
“I’ll leave shortly uncle” Said Gowri, “Papa will drop me at college. I’ve brought some food for you. Have your lunch before it turns cold. I’ll come again in the evening. There is something important that I wish to tell you. Bye!”
Gowri sped off like a reindeer. Ramji wondered what it was that she wished to tell him.
Gowri was Ramji’s friend Govind’s daughter. She was bright and intelligent. He had known her as a child. Govind had been a pillar of strength when Ramji lost his wife at the age of twenty-six. Gowri was just two years old then. She would play on her own while the two friends chatted over coffee. The conversation invariably hovered around the need for Ramji to marry again at least for the sake of his children who were being looked after by their maternal grandmother as a temporary arrangement. There were plenty of good offers but Ramji refused to relent. He felt that his children would not be well looked after by a step mother and the risk involved outweighed the benefits of having a wife to attend to their needs. Govind finally gave up. The two friends had been transferred to different places but had continued to remain in touch over the years. Ramji had single-handedly brought up his children and now with his daughter married and his son employed as a chartered accountant he could sit back and relax. After twenty years they had been posted in the same town again and Gowri had now grown into a pretty young lady - self assured and confident. Since they lived close by Gowri would often drop in and chat with him on a wide range of subjects ranging from fashion trends to social issues. They would argue about the government’s policies, national and international events generally agreeing to disagree.
Sunder wondered again about Gowri’s intention to talk to him about something important. Gowri was doing her Masters at a reputed college in town. She had plans to join the administrative services and considering her perseverance and intelligence it did not appear impossible.
‘Gowri perhaps wants to talk to me about her choice of career’ he thought ‘I’ll advice her to take a course on public speaking. It will help her to face the interview and group discussion that were supposed to be tougher than the written exam. I hope she makes it to the top.’
He wondered if Gowri was in love and wanted him to talk to her father about it. He had hoped to ask for her hand for his son Srikant but if the girl had someone in mind he would stand by her choice. He was sure that, being a balanced young girl she would make the right choice.
The suspense was becoming unbearable. He could hardly wait for the evening to come. When Gowri brought him some snacks and tea in the evening she was in a pensive mood as if she was rehearsing an important dialogue.
“What is bothering you Gowri?” he asked “ You don’t seem normal. Is there anything that I can do?”
“It is something that only you can do uncle. Please don’t laugh it off since it is something serious. I’ve decided to marry.” Said Gowri.
“Good, that was not unexpected. Tell me who’s the lucky young man? Have you told your father? Do you want me to talk to him?” Ramji was keen to play the role of a matchmaker.
“Uncle” Gowri looked at him with pleading eyes. “ I wish to marry you. Please do not say no to me.”
Ramji was too shocked to respond. This silly girl must have lost her mind! He couldn’t have heard right. Oh God! What would Govind say on hearing this!
‘ My children would never agree,’ he thought. ‘At a time when I should be talking of my son’s marriage I cannot marry a girl younger than him.’
“Leave me alone child,” he almost screamed, “you do not know what you say. I’ll ask your father to get you married to the most eligible bachelor in town. Leave me alone I say! I did not consider marriage when my children were young and needed a mother to look after them. You are like a daughter to me. How could you even harbor such an idea?”
“I’ll go away uncle,” said Gowri in a voice that betrayed no emotions. “But I stand by what I said. Your children are now settling down in life. You are not yet fifty. Don’t you need a soul mate to look after you? I wish to be your companion for life. I see nothing wrong in it.”
“Gowri! Please listen to me. With your charming personality and intelligent mind you will never lack suitors. I am twenty-four years older than you. Almost like a father. Your father’s association means a lot to me and I cannot do this to him. You may also regret your decision later. Concentrate on your studies. Marriage can wait.” Ramji almost pleaded with her.
Years went by, and Gowri joined the Administrative Services. She continued to visit Ramji but made no mention of the conversation that took place between them. It appeared as though she had gotten over her passing fancy. Govind started looking out for a suitable match for her and Ramji heaved a sigh of relief.
On a Sunday morning Govind stormed into Ramji’s room.
“This foolish girl of mine seems to have lost her mind. Do something about it Ram. I don’t understand a word of what she says. I asked her what she thought of your son Srikant and she says that he is like a son to her and refuses to consider the proposal. What on earth does she mean?”
Govind continued to fume and fret while Ramji tried in vain to pacify him. Just then Gowri entered the room.
“Papa” she said, “I’ve always wanted to tell you. However, I did not know how to bring up the subject. I do not feel inclined to marry the young and eligible bachelors of your choice. They seem light headed and frivolous. I’d like to marry uncle with your blessings. Love transcends caste, creed, physical appearance and also age. Should you both have any objection, just leave me alone. I have a job to support myself and I’ll concentrate on my career.”
The two men listened to her in a stunned silence. Such things happened to others or perhaps in romantic novels and movies. They could not take place in the lives of simple, ordinary people like them. Ultimately they had to relent and Gowri married Ramji proving that Love was both blind and deaf. Or was it?
This is a real life story that did the rounds in the early 70’s when I was newly married. I was very eager to meet the girl who, according to my source of information, was a very smart young lady, about the same age as me. I got to meet or rather seeher once at a common relative’s wedding. She was very much the person that I expected her to be and seemed quite at ease catering to her husband who was then nearing retirement. I had my own hectic schedule to cope with and I soon forgot about them.
Years later, I met a young man at my daughter’s place and the conversation hovered around strange marriages and when he started narrating the above story I had to stop him midway to check if he was talking about the person known to me by hearsay and of course he was!! The world was indeed growing small. I was glad that I could set right a misunderstanding he had about the couple. He had grown up believing that Ramji had ended up marrying Gowri having gone to Govind’s place with a marriage proposal for his son Srikant. He was happy to know that this was not so and was surprised that it was Gowri who had insisted on the marriage. I was glad to hear that their marriage was a success story and as far as Gowri was concerned LOVE was neither blind nor deaf!!