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Dis-Arranged Marriage

Dis-arranged Marriage

It was Ratan's marriage. He was very excited. His mother had shown the girl's photograph to him and he had immediately accepted. The girl was beautiful. At least much better looking than what he had expected to get. His parents had insisted that he should go and see for himself, but he wasn't interested. He was actually not so social. He wasn't especially comfortable in front of unknown girls. He was afraid that if he had gone to see, the girl might have rejected him because of his shyness.

Ratan looked after his family business. This business was established by his father. Since Ratan was the only son, after his graduation, his father insisted that he start attending to the business along with him. Ratan didn't mind though. He was just an average student, and he didn't have any intention of studying further. Because the only course which would have benefitted him was an MBA qualification. But there was no good MBA institute in the small town where they lived. So he would have to leave his parents and live alone in the main city, which was quite far away. He wasn't interested to go so far and live alone in a hostel or as a Paying Guest. His father also said that to run his business, an MBA degree is not required. Obviously so, because they had a big sweet shop in the main market area of the town. It was very popular and was regarded as one of the best sweet shops of the whole district. Along with that they had a well decorated AC restaurant where they served popular fast foods also. In fact Ratan has now suggested to his father to open another outlet in the Court area, which is also a prominent business location of the town.

The fact of the matter is that Ratan's father was a relatively rich businessman in this small town. They had a big house with only four people living in it. Ratan's father, mother, Ratan himself and one unmarried aunt, his father's younger sister.

So even though Ratan did not go to see the girl with his parents and aunt, the girl's parents accepted the proposal just because of his father's wealth and theirs being a good respectable family. One other very practical point was that, Ratan's father, although he was not so educated in the academic sense, was quite progressive. He was totally against the dowry system, which in these sorts of small towns are still quite a normal practice. So for the girl's father, who already had to marry off two elder daughters, this was a dream proposal. A well to do family; very big house and landed property; established family business; only son; sober and gentle boy; groom is a graduate; and above all No dowry. What more can a bride's father and mother expect ?

The girl's parents had however come to see Ratan one day. Or rather, they had come to see their house, property and the business. They were very impressed with what they saw. Especially the big house; the big sweet shop bustling with customers and of course Ratan. They found the prospective groom to be very well mannered and well behaved. Not a very smart sort of a boy though, a little introvert, but they preferred this gentle, sober type only.

So without any hesitation, the marriage was finalized and even the date fixed. The girl's parents insisted on an early marriage, if possible within a month. So they decided on an auspicious date within a month and finalized it. They said that the gentleman's mother, that is the bride's grandmother, is old and sick. That is the reason they want to hasten up the marriage.

Actually the reason was not that. The girl, Lajwanti, who is the heroine of our story, was just opposite to what her name meant. She was not at all a shy girl. No, no, don't get me wrong. She was a good girl. She was educated; had done her graduation; well mannered; knew all household work and all. Meaning, in every way a good marriageable kind of a girl. Only problem was that she had lots of friends, both girls and boys. In a small town, all these boys as friends are still not liked by the parents and relatives. But it's not that she was having serious affairs with anybody. If that happened, even then, her parents might have agreed, if the boy and his family would have been good. Not that she had many boys as friends, only four or five. She was just a fun loving, jovial, outspoken sort of a girl. And that is where the boys with whom she mixed made a mistake. Almost all of them were trying to develop a relationship with her. But Lajwanti wasn't interested in having any serious relationships with any of them. She was not liking any of those boys in that boyfriend sort of a sense.

This is the reason Lajwanti's parents thought it best to get her married to a boy of their choice. They thought that once she was married, she would become mature and everything else would fall in place.

But Lajwanti was not happy with this match. Not that she had plans to marry any particular person, nothing like that. She also wasn't averse to an arranged marriage if the boy was good and the family was rich and prosperous. All she wanted was to know the boy well before marriage. To mix with him for a few months, just to understand the compatibility. She used to jokingly say to her sisters and friends, "I just want to take a test drive before marriage."

So, when her mother told her that the boy was gentle and sober and the family was good and small and well to do, ideally she should have been happy. But she wasn't. Her main contentions was that she wasn't even shown the boy before finalizing. Her mother came and showed her just the boy's photograph. She also failed to understand how the boy could have agreed to this marriage just seeing her photograph.

She got extremely agitated thinking about the absurdity of this marriage. She continuously cribbed with her mother, elder sisters and close friends, how a boy in today's age can be so callous as to not even meet the prospective bride even for once. At least even after the marriage date had been fixed, the boy should have tried to contact Lajwanti. He didn't even call her on the phone.

But since everything else was so good and especially since her father did not have to pay any dowry, nor was there any claim for expensive gifts, she couldn't say anything. Lajwanti had seen how her School teacher father had to deplete all his savings and also take loans to buy those expensive Scooter, Refrigerator, Washing Machine, Almirah, beds and similar items along with jewelry and cash for her two elder sisters' marriages. This time her father seemed a lot relaxed and happy. So she just couldn't say no to this marriage.

But even then she was not able to accept that she would have to marry such an idiot. A coward who didn't even have the guts to come to see her and decided by only seeing her photograph.

The marriage day arrived. The groom has come to the bride's house with all his relatives and friends as Baratis. Lajwanti's sisters were dressing her up and putting the final touches of make-up. But Lajwanti was restless. Even now she just couldn't make up her mind. She asked her sisters to go and leave her alone for some moments. She just wanted to run away, she was so worked up. Her brain was not working. She just didn't want to marry such a dumb fool. She felt like crying out loud.

There was a sudden knock on the door.

"Who's that ?" retorted an irritated Lajwanti. No answer, but a double tap again.

"The door is open, push and come in." This time it was more of an angry shout from Lajwanti. Must be some irritating, giggling aunt of hers, she thought.

The door opened slowly. There in front of the doorway stood Ratan, in his full attire of the groom. Lajwanti couldn't believe her eyes. She almost leaped up and rushed to close the door.

"You ?!! What are you doing in my room ?" Lajwanti stood in front of Ratan. It seemed, she was just a shade taller than him; or was it because of her heels ? Never mind, she thought.

Ratan stammered a reply, "I mean, I thought …actually I just thought that I should see you once before marriage."

"Why ? You have seen my photograph. Or what ? You wanted to check if I matched the photo shown to you ? So what did you find ? Am I the same girl ? Or am I darker than the photograph ?" Lajwanti rattled off all her pent up anger on Ratan.

Ratan's stammering continued, "Yes…I mean, No. I didn't come to check whether you are the same as the photo. I thought that since we didn't meet earlier, I'll just go and speak to you before marriage. To see if you are happy with this match or not."

"No, I'm not happy. Can't you understand ? So what will you do about it ? Will you go back ? Cancel the marriage?" Lajwanti sounded very aggressive.

Ratan was confused. This was not the reception he expected. "How can I go back now ? What will I say ? My father's prestige will be at stake. All my relatives are here already."

"So then why have you come here asking me whether I'm happy or not ?" Lajwanti was not letting up.

"If you did not want to marry me, why did you say yes ?" Ratan was getting back his confidence a little.

"I didn't even get a chance to say no. You didn't even come to see me. And now that you know, are you still interested in marrying me?" Lajwanti was now pushing for it.

Ratan didn't know what to say, "So you tell me what to do."

Lajwanti seized the opportunity, "Will you do what I say ? So, I'm telling you, that there's a back door to my room. If you go out of this door you will get out at the back of our house. Nobody will be able to see you. You just sneak out of this back door and return home."

"Have you gone mad or what ? My father will skin me alive if I run away like that. If you don't want to marry me, then why don't you go out of that back door and run away ? You know the routes in your locality also." Ratan was no longer stammering.

Lajwanti thought for a second and then said, "Okay then. Let's both get out of this door and run away. Then the blame will not come on any one of us."

Ratan was clearly amused now, "Do you always talk such nonsense or you are going mad now ? I'm not going to go anywhere. I'm going back to the mandap and waiting for you. If you don't come, I'll understand."

Lajwanti suddenly caught hold of Ratan's wrist, "No. Why should I take the blame because of your fault? All this happened because you agreed to marry just by seeing my photo. If I run away, you will have to run away too."

Ratan was at his wits end now. "Have you decided where you will go ? And how will you go ? In this bride's and groom's dress, people will be staring at us."

"We'll take an auto. Let's get out of here first and then I'll decide where to go. Somebody will be coming in anytime to call me." Lajwanti was just not thinking logically now.

Ratan was serious now. "Wait. If you really want to go, I'll take you wherever you want to go. But let me handle this. We can't go by auto. Just give me 5 minutes."

Ratan took out his mobile and dialled his friend's number. "Jatin, listen to me carefully. Bring your car to the back of this house. No no, not our car. Your car. I'll tell you later. Just get this car here quickly without wasting any time. And don't tell anybody. No nobody, not even your wife. I'm waiting here. Come in 2 minutes."

Lajwanti was listening with a tense face. She was feeling impressed by the way Ratan was taking charge. Ratan said to her, "Do you want to take anything with you ? And is there anywhere we can hide at the back of your house till such time the car comes ?"

Lajwanti had not thought about all this. This was not planned. She didn't know what had gotten into her suddenly that she wanted to run away. But now that she has committed herself to it, she can't go back on it. Otherwise what will Ratan think about her ?

She said, "There's an old shed there. But nobody will generally come this way now. Everybody's in the wedding area now."

Ratan said, "Okay then, let's get out now. The car will come anytime now."

By the time they had reached the road at the back, the car had arrived. Ratan's friend was surprised to see Lajwanti also with Ratan in her bridal dress. Ratan just took the car keys from his hands and said, "Don't ask any questions now. I don't have time. I'll tell you later. You just walk back to the wedding hall. Keep the phone in your hand and don't miss my call. Don't talk about this to anybody. If they ask about me, tell them that I've gone for a smoke."

Ratan hurriedly pushed Lajwanti on the front seat of the car and ran to the driver's seat. He started the car and off they went. His friend Jatin stood on the sidewalk just staring at the car. He didn't understand why the groom was eloping with the bride when they were supposed to be married in half an hour's time.

Meanwhile in the car, Ratan relaxed. He smiled at Lajwanti and asked, "Are you comfortable? Is the AC okay, or should I adjust the temperature?"

Lajwanti was impressed, mighty impressed. From what she heard from her parents and what she saw today when Ratan first came into the room, she had thought that this boy was a timid, docile character and basically a coward sort of a guy. But now there was a sudden transformation in Ratan's character since the time Lajwanti had pushed him to a corner and pressured him to run away with her. This Ratan seemed a different person, so confident of himself, making fast decisions, giving directions and taking a tight control of the situation. She couldn't say anything, just looked at Ratan in amazement.

In fact, Lajwanti didn't know what had gotten into her. Why she had suddenly decided to run away from it all. It was possibly an outburst of all her pent up anger and frustrations of all these days. But now she didn't know where to go. She hadn't thought of all this when she was urging Ratan to run away.

Ratan was driving at a very slow speed. He was giving time to Lajwanti to cool her nerves. He looked at her and said, "So tell me, where should I take you ? To any of your friend's house or any boyfriend perhaps ?"

Lajwanti didn't answer immediately. She was now looking straight ahead on the dark highway road. "My friends have all come to my marriage. And I don't have a boyfriend."

Ratan stopped the car. He parked the car carefully on the side of the road. He was about to say something, but his phone rang. He picked up his phone. His father was on the other side, very agitated. "Yes Papa, I'm coming. Actually I had a bad headache. I needed some fresh air. So I have come outside. I'll be back in 10 minutes. Don't worry."

He looked at Lajwanti, she looked much calmer now. Not as excited or hysterical like when he first met her in her room. He smiled and said, "That was my father. He is worried about where I have gone. I had to lie to him. Your parents must also be looking for you by now, seeing your room empty. They must have by now understood that you had actually run away. Before your relatives start panicking and creating a scene in front of all the guests, I think we should go back. Think of your father's prestige in front of all the guests and baratis. What do you say ?"

Lajwanti looked at him and smiled, for the first time this evening since they met. She nodded her head shyly and said, "Yes, let's go back."

Ratan smiled contentedly, took an u-turn and started driving back towards Lajwanti's house. He dialled his friend once again. "Jatin, come to the spot where you gave the car to me. Fast. I'll be waiting." He drove fast this time, back towards the wedding hall.

Ratan parked the car at the back of Lajwanti's house and came out. Lajwanti was already out of the car by that time. She just touched Ratan's hand and said, "Thank you. See you in the mandap."

She ran to the stairs at the back of her house leading to her room. Ratan watched her go. "Crazy girl!" He muttered to himself and smiled. He saw his friend hurrying towards him. They got into the car and drove fast to the wedding hall.