You don't marry one person; you marry three:
the person you think they are,
the person they are, and
the person they are going to become
as a result of being married to you.
-- Richard Needham
Nisha entered the college gates and straight away headed for the canteen. This was her usual routine everyday for the past 2 years. She had to spend the first 15 minutes of her day in college, sipping a hot cup of tea in canteen. Only then she would be ready to endure the day full of lectures.
She took her cup of tea and sat at a table which was already occupied by Nikitha. Nikitha was Nisha’s best friend, had been since a 5 year old Nisha moved next door to Nikitha. They went to the same school, sat together in classes, played together and when they had to choose a college after their schooling, they selected the same college so that they could be together.
Nisha took a samosa from Nikitha’s plate and said, ‘Hey Niks, did you hear the news. Shivani is getting married to a guy from Mumbai. Her parents selected the guy, apparently he is settled in US but his parents are from Mumbai. Shivani saw his photo in Facebook, talked to him a couple of times on Skype and agreed to the proposal. I can’t believe that Shivani agreed to marry so early. I am going to talk to her as soon as I get hold of her.’ By the time Nisha finished her monologue the samosa had also vanished.
Nikitha looked up from the novel that she was reading and gave Nisha a quizzical look. ‘What are you talking? What’s wrong if Shivani wants to marry? We have almost finished our college and she likes the guy, and from what I hear from you, the guy also likes her, so they agree to get married. What’s the problem?’
‘The problem is how she can think of sharing her life with a guy whom she has known for just a few days. It’s crazy. It’s the most important decision of her life. And she is playing a gamble. I mean the guy can be a pervert, an axe murderer, a terrorist for all you know. What if after getting married she comes to know that her husband is a wife abuser.’
Nikitha gave her a don’t-be-so-dramatic look and said ‘Marriage itself is a gamble. In arranged marriages families make sure that the guy is decent. I am sure Shivani’s parents would have made a thorough background check.’
Nisha took one more samosa and said, “That’s it, I am against arranged marriages because I don’t understand the concept. You meet the guy for few minutes, you talk to him a couple of times and then you are supposed to take the most important decision of your life. I mean I would like to know the guy for few years before I get married. I have to be in love with a guy before marrying him. If I ever get married then it will be a love marriage.’
Nikitha grabbed the remaining samosa before it could find its way into Nisha’s mouth and said, ‘Hah! So what is the guarantee that your love marriage will work. Nisha, my darling, you should be aware that marriages don’t come with a guarantee card. In fact the most number of divorces that are reported are love marriage failures. In love marriage you know the guy for so many years that after marriage life becomes a bore. When a guy and girl are courting everything looks and feels like a dream but after marriage, reality hits them and then they just have one line to say to each other-“You have changed so much”. In arranged marriage, you don’t know the guy, so there are no presumed expectations. You just accept each other as you are.’
Guddu, the waiter serving at the next table listened to their conversation and smiled. Another great debate on love marriage vs. arranged marriage between Nisha and Nikitha. By now the whole college knew that Nisha and Nikitha had similar opinions on all matters under earth but on the topic of marriage they had extremely opposite views.
Nisha and Nikitha finished their classes but their debate continued. Nikitha persisted in making Nisha see her point of view. ‘In arranged marriages since the matrimony is blessed by the elders, if anything goes wrong after marriage you have your family support to fall back on. In India, marriage is not between a guy and a girl, it’s between two families. And usually love marriages are not supported by families, so the husband and wife have to face all difficulties alone. This eventually breaks their relationship.’
But Nisha countered back and said ‘Yes, families matter but sooner or later they come around. But finally it’s your spouse that you have to live your whole life with. If your partner is not the one for you, then it doesn’t matter if his family is good or bad.’
No matter how much they argued they were not able to come to a conclusion. Nisha believed that people should marry for love and love alone where as Nikitha was of the conviction that parents approval and blessings are important in a marriage. Love can happen even after marriage but going against family wishes for own happiness is something that she would never do.
Finally they agreed to get a third person’s opinion. They unanimously agreed to seek Mrs.Bhargava’s counsel. Mrs. Veena Bhargava was their history teacher and their close confidante. She was the most loved lecturer in college, known for her kindness and her charm. Nisha and Nikitha were close to Mrs. Bhargava and on several occasions she guided them academically and advised them on personal issues as well. It was without a doubt that both the girls knew Mrs. Bhargava would put an end to their never ending debate.
Mrs. Bhargava listened patiently to both Nisha and Nikitha, laughed heartily and said, ‘You never know the taste of your dish until and unless you have tasted it. Similarly the answer to your query as to whether love marriage is better or arranged marriage will be realized by you after you are married’. Saying this Mrs. Bhargava quietly picked her bag and left the staff room. Nisha and Nikitha were confused and could only look at each other and shrug in perplexed manner.
*6 years later*
It was their college reunion and all around them long lost friends were hugging each other and crying endlessly. Emotions were running high as best friends were meeting each other after many years and telling each other how fabulous they looked. Nisha and Nikitha were seated at a separate table, holding hands over the table and looking around them with tears in their eyes. They were the first ones to arrive at the reunion party and having hugged each other to death, they sat to witness the same scene being repeated with their other friends.
It was then that they noticed Mrs. Bhargava approaching them with her hands outstretched. She enveloped them in a gigantic hug. All three sat at the table as Mrs. Bhargava looked at them fondly. The two girls had blossomed into beautiful, confident women and Mrs. Bhargava couldn’t have been more proud of her students.
‘I have been searching for the two of you. I met all my students and listened to their wonderful success stories but I have been waiting to hear how two of my favorite students have fared in their lives. I remember how the two of you had wonderful debates on love marriage vs. arrange marriage and one day you came to me wanting to know which one is better. Now, I want to know from you, from your own experiences tell me, has love marriage succeeded or has arranged marriage fared better. Tell me, I am all ears.’ Having said so, Mrs. Bhargava looked at Nisha.
Nisha wiped her tears and said ‘Nikitha, I remember how you used to tell me the importance of families in marriages and I used to dismiss your views but I now understand the relevance of what you used to say.
After college I joined a software company and it was there I met Amjad, a guy with whom I fell in love. Neither of our families approved of our marriage as we were from different castes. But that did not deter us. We went ahead and got married. Our families disowned us and broke all contact with us. Indian society doesn’t look too kindly on a Hindu-Muslim marriage, so we shifted base permanently to Seattle. We had everything there but still there was a void, we missed our elder’s guidance, their support, their love. I missed my parents like mad and I tried contacting them several times but each time I got the same reply that their daughter was dead.
Thinking that the arrival of a grandchild might turn them around we decided to have a kid; I gave birth to an adorable daughter. But our parents are made of sterner stuff. They just said that ‘when we don’t have a relationship with you, any child of yours also does not have a relationship with us’. It broke me completely. I bought up my kid single-handedly without any help from my mother or in-laws. I was so bogged down by all the responsibilities; it took a toll on my relationship with Amjad. From the fun-loving, cute couple we went to one of those couples who fought like dogs and couldn’t even sleep together on the same bed. My marriage with Amjad is on the verge of divorce, my parents still don’t talk to me and I am scared of being a single parent to my kid.’
By the end of her story Nisha was sobbing uncontrollably. Nikitha quickly shifted over to her side and comforted her.
‘Nisha, my life is no better, if it’s any consolation. As you know, after college I married Vikrant, a London based business man. His proposal came to me by my father and after talking to Vikrant several times over the phone, I thought he was a decent man who would care and love me after marriage. We quickly got married and I moved to London after marriage.
The first few months were bliss. But after a couple of months, I accidentally came across Vikrant’s personal diary and read pages and pages of his love story with Minal, his childhood sweetheart and his first love. And apparently his last love also, because it was then that I realized that although they had broken up long back, Vikrant had not been able to remove her memories from his heart. His heart still pined for Minal, even when he was with me. When I confronted him, he agreed that he had had a relationship with Minal but assured that Minal was his past and I was his future. But over the years I have understood that he would never love me as he loved Minal. He has built an emotional wall around his heart and no matter what I do, I will never be able to measure up to Minal. The ghost of his past love never allowed us to live happily in our present.
Then a year back I came to know that Vikrant had got in touch with Minal again and since she was on the lookout for a job, he offered her a high level position in his office. I am insecure that one day my husband will realize that he’s still in love with his past lover and break our marriage. I love him and I don’t think I can live without him ever. You remember Nisha, I always used to say that love can happen after marriage too, I was wrong. It dint happen in my marriage, I can never make Vikrant fall in love with me.’
Nikitha was staring dejectedly at Nisha. Mrs. Bhargava was sad that the two girls had to go through so much misery in their personal lives. ‘Can you tell me if you think that love marriage is better or arranged marriage’, said Mrs. Bhargava looking at Nisha and Nikitha. Pat came the replies; Nisha said arranged marriages and Nikitha replied, love marriages.
Mrs. Bhargava laughed and said, ‘The grass always looks greener on the other side. I will now reply to your question, that you girls had asked me years back. Neither love marriage nor arranged marriage, a marriage that’s based on love, trust and care is the best. When people get married it’s with the hope that their partner will love, trust and support them for lifetime. But for a marriage to sustain adjustments, compromises and sacrifices are must. In fact, if marriage was a coin, then the other side of the coin would read compromise. A perfect marriage is surreal, but what is real is the imperfectness in the marriage. And if a husband and wife are able to overcome this imperfectness and live in harmony, then there is no better heaven on earth.’
Mrs. Bhargava looked at Nisha and said, ‘Now that you are here, go and have a talk with your parents face to face. If they still don’t forgive you then it’s time for you to forget. You have a wonderful family with your daughter and husband. Don’t sacrifice it for something that you will never be able to regain. If your parents don’t accept you back, it’s completely their loss because you are an amazing daughter and any parent would be proud of you.’
She then looked over at Nikitha and said, ‘Nikitha, no matter how much you hold onto Vikrant, you won’t be able to make him love you back with the same intensity that you love him. If you think that Vikrant loves Minal and will never be able to banish her memories from his heart, then let go of him. I know you have tried all you can to make him love you back, but dear, if he still doesn’t love you then he’s just not worth your efforts. One day you will meet a man who will love you for what you are and not what you can be. ‘
Nisha and Nikitha looked at each other and smiled because they were at peace, they had got their answer finally.