Friday, October 26, 2007

Engagement Tag

I have been tagged by ITW and this time it is an engagement story tag and that too my own. Well, be prepared for a disappointing account-no thrills here just the routine ‘girl seeing’ story. It was however made a little interesting by my uncle who negotiated on my mother’s behalf.

The story begins with a rejection of our proposal by a gentleman in Kumbakonam. He was a diamond merchant from Sri Lanka whose son was employed in Jalpaiguri. He corresponded with my uncle to the extent of writing that his son would abide by his decision and there was no need to have a formal girl seeing session. He offered to drop in casually for a peep at the girl and if all went well the wedding could be held between the 1st and 15thof June of the same year because that was the only time that his son could avail leave. My uncle insisted on seeing the boy and refused to entertain his request to have a casual ‘peep’ at me. Finally the gentleman backed out for some silly reason but his rejection made my uncle adamant that he would see to it that I got engaged if not married by the 15th of June and he started negotiations on a war footing!

Likewise my husband’s family had negotiated with quite a few families in Calcutta and Jamshedpur and when nothing materialized my mother in law sent my father in law to Chennai to stay there and ‘look’ for a suitable girl. He thus landed in Chennai with the sole intention of hunting for a bride for his son. My uncle advertised and my father in law responded with suitable references of people, some of whom were known to our family. I later came to know that other aspects being satisfactory, neither of them matched horoscopes thinking that the other person would do it. Finally my uncle invited the family to come over to see me.

Since my uncle lived in another town in Tamilnadu, I was blissfully unaware of these developments and had applied for admission to a B. Ed. As well as B. Lib. Course and was awaiting an admission offer from either of the colleges or both. So when a telegram announced that a family from Jamshedpur was expected to arrive to 'see' me, I was totally unprepared. It so happened that I got an admission offer on the very day these people decided to come over and I was hoping that even if I was engaged the family would let me do my B. Ed. For me, more than the career prospects, the thought of being allowed to continue at my mother’s place was reassuring.

The actual ‘girl seeing’ formality was neither exciting nor an eventful occasion to recall or remember. I remember feeling hot and waited for permission to change into some casual attire hoping that the trio would go away soon. But that was not to be. My uncle had guessed that my father in law would have short-listed more than one girl to see before asking his wife and son to come over from Jamshedpur. He was certainly not going to let them off easily. It was already June 10th and he had a point to prove. He requested my husband’s parents to convey their opinion immediately. My father in law was also not prepared for this. They had plans to visit another family and decide on the better of the two. However, this could not be disclosed. He started giving some excuse and from an inner room I was trying to figure out what was going on. My mother looked equally confused and I was beginning to enjoy the situation. My younger brothers, brats that they were, came in to give me a minute by minute account of the developments.

“The boy and his parents have been shifted to grandfather’s office.” They’d announce. Peeping from behind a half closed window they tried to get a first hand view of my future husband’s expression.

“The boy’s mother is trying to convince the father to say that they needed time to decide but the father seems unimpressed.” Was the next report.


“What about the boy?” I whispered. In my excitement about my uncle having cornered the boy’s family, it did not even strike me that no one bothered to ask me anything.

“The boy hardly talks” said my brother. “It is his parents who seem to be arguing.”

Finally in about half an hour the trio emerged and my future mother in law expressed her approval and came in to give me a warm hug. There was one more formality to be fulfilled. A formal engagement! The family priest was called and a suitable date around 3 weeks after the ‘girl seeing’ was decided upon and a small engagement ceremony took place within 2 hours of their arrival.

I could believe what had happened. I ought to have felt thrilled but I was more into a shock mood. My brothers had marked my husband’s height on the wall and made me stand by the side to see how short I was in comparison. Every one was excited but me. I tried to recall the face of my future husband but try as much as I might I could not. All I could think of was that I would be leaving my carefree life and going off to an unknown place among unknown faces. I had hoped that I’d be allowed to stay back and finish my B. Ed. I desperately prayed that my marriage be put off till January. “But why?” my mother asked. In 6 months time you will still have to leave. We don’t have a reason to give them." Marriage is a big gamble and in my case as in most cases, it paid off.

Sorry about getting sentimental. It was not my intention. Today we are a happy couple with a good rapport and it hardly matters whether horoscope matched or not. My husband teases me saying that the height mentioned in the advertisement was wrong by 2 inches and that he ought to have taken my measurement before saying yes. I try asking him what transpired between his parents and him in my grandfather’s office. He says that he could have escaped in tact only by saying ‘yes’ so there was no question of saying NO. It was a type of house arrest!

I recently crossed Jalpaiguri on my way to Darjeeling. I remembered the man whose refusal enabled me to marry the man in my life and realized that perhaps all things work together for good.

18 comments:

hillgrandmom said...

Very interesting twist to the usual!Yes, HHG, as you say, in our time one almost never asked the 'girl' her opinion.

Sue said...

In a similar sort of way, some days I am almost grateful to the earlier boyfriends for not being the men I wanted to marry -- because they couldn't have given me the family I now have.

Usha said...

I could almost visualise the scene - the only place I was stuck was that I didn't know what colour sari you wore! :)
your story proves my stand on horoscopes - que sera sera!
I love the way your uncle cornered them - some negotiating skills!

Serendipity said...

*Hugs HHG*

HHG , u write such huggable posts :)
I loved your account and I think my Mother's story is very similar..maybe I'll ask her to post about it?
You were shocked... My mother remembers being bored...And Usha said she remembered caterpillars? What were you guys thinking!
:) Lovely account.

Hip Grandma said...

hillg'mom:Why don't you give us your version?yes, unless there was something seriously objectionable girls were not expected to express their opinion in the matter,isn't it?yet most marriages worked.I think elders saw to it that it worked and petty complaints and minor irritants were ignored.

sue:I agree totally.I try to get my husband to say something similar but being a man of few words he never says it in words.

Usha:I myself don't remember the colour of the saree I wore.After celebrating my silver wedding anniversary I happened to read some stuff on compatibility of stars and ours indicated a very poor degree of matching and any astrologer would have rejected it outright.My uncle hadn't discussed his plans with my aunt so it was a surprise move to all.We later came to know that it was his plan all along.

serendipity:yes why don't you ask her to share her story?In our days we were not expected to think.Elders took the responsibility and only after several cross checks, was the boy's family invited to see the girl.The twist in my story was that my husband's family was not given endless time to think.

Preethi said...

Very interesting and had me holding on to every word... the girl almost never had a say did she in those days? And yet more percentage marriages worked than today's!

The Visitor said...

Super account G'ma. I was ROFLing at the part where your uncle literally cornered them. LOL

Tys on Ice said...

:) that is the most sweetest post i hve read in some time...

cud u check if ur uncle needs a job in sales?...we cud use someone to run our business :)

rajk said...

That was such an interesting and well-written post. I could visualise it all....
Can't say the scene has changed much even today...as far as arranged marriages go...But good to know that it all turned out fine!
Keep writing!

Thinking aloud said...

***Marriage is a big gamble and in my case as in most cases, it paid off.*** How true!!!

i loved this post...as is with most of your posts, it's written with clarity , honesty and the wry sense of humor...i'm truly hooked :)

Itchingtowrite said...

very sweet and very filmy! thanks for sharing...
your uncle made the deal clinch!! tough negotiator and pursuador he must be
the boy's side sometimes can be very heartless/ rude not bothered abt the sentimenms of others

Hip Grandma said...

preethi:welcome here.In our days the entire family pitched in to see that nothing went wrong.These days letting parents handle things is considered a favor.May it is the most suited one.Times have definitely changed.I sometimes wonder 'What next'?

the visitor:Thanks.It was not always the boys side that had its way as you see.

tys on ice:Thanks for the offer,but my uncle is past 87 years of age and would want to take it up.

rajk:I think it has changed for the better.Many are doing away with the formal 'girl seeing' and letting the boy and girl meet on their own with neither parent present not only in the concerned venue but the town in question.Parents would do anything to ensure that the children opted for a desi partner,and not phirangi.Just joking.

thinking aloud:Isn't strange,the way we get connected through the net?I can't think of any otherway to write although my children advise a litt;e discretion.

ITW:Where do you think our script wriyers get their ideas from?My uncle was a thinking person and his guess was right too.He must have sensed a tilt in their attitude towards accepting the proposal.He only needed to prod them into saying yes.

Deepa said...

Very nice read.

Hip Grandma said...

deepa:Thanks

Just Like That said...

Love the way the groom was 'house arrested' into saying yes! That uncle is a man I would love to have on my side in any situation, LOL!

Alls well that ends well indeed :-)

Lekhni said...

Great post. You would think things would have improved in my generation. But as you show, in previous times, both the guy and the girl did not have much of a say. Now the guy does have a say and the girl, not much.

Visitor said...

Hi G'ma, how are you? Its long time since I visited. :)

I read a recent post on Seeing the girl - so I thought of linking you to that post, and likewise there too...

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