Shubasya Sheegram12 mins 214 12 mins 214
It was already well past 8.30 PM when she realised she would need at least half an hour to reach “Dakshin”. Swara who was always a pro at word games and pun, later thought “What rush I was in that I never saw the figurative meaning of flying south to Hyderabad from Maximum city, then driving south to reach a restaurant whose name also translates to ‘South’ that too to meet an almost South Indian couple”! What was to follow her southern sojourn was a love story crisp as popcorn and sweet as caramel! Let me lead you all to the kernels of this delicious tale!
A blue blooded Maharashtrian Brahmin, ‘Punekar’ , Science graduate from Fergusson College, MBA from a premier institute , working in a large multinational bank at Mumbai, earning a six digit salary, well read , well-travelled, interested in arts and music ,adventurous, smart and witty! Swara was all that and more. The icing on the cake was that she was a bachelorette! But to Swara’s mother, her talent and spirit were issues of serious concern! Whenever Swara drove on a random weekend, no not in her car, but on her 500 cc Bullet, to Pune and back to Mumbai, Mrs Joshi’s head exploded with her picturesque imagination coloured by her concern. She feared that before the family would be able to find a suitable groom for the free spirited Swara, she would decide not to marry at all. Her fears were not ill founded, after all she was the mother and knew her daughters spirit and need of freedom very well!
Being Swara’s mother, Mrs Joshi also was a very spirited and talented woman. Her organising skills were excellent. She quickly convinced Mr Joshi that it was time they look for an alliance of marriage for Swara and that it was essential to match the attitudes and backgrounds of the bride and groom and not the caste or creed . But she was convinced herself that she would definitely look for a Brahmin groom! The geographical margins were quickly set in Mrs Joshi’s mind and other criterion were also meticulously chosen. Brahmin, banker, working in and belonging to Mumbai/Pune/Hyderabad/Bangalore in order of preference: so that Swara could relocate in her existing job. Chennai was appended as a last choice, if and only all other criterion match; after all it was Deep South and learning Tamil would be tough. Both parents of the prospective groom must be working, only a working mother-in-law would understand and co-conspire with an educated working daughter-in-law. Having set the parameters for the search, she just had to tap into a few old friends and within a couple of days she had a list of the most eligible bachelors ready.
All the while when Mrs Joshi was deeply involved in her secret little conspiracy, Swara was allowed to live her own spirited banker’s life! Working her brains off on weekdays and partying hard on weekends! As was her habit since her hostel days, Swara chatted to her mother regularly and particularly on weekends they would chat for more than an hour, discussing topics ranging from the Sensex to the neighbour’s dog or the rift with the maid to the latest on theatre. On every such occasion Mrs Joshi never failed to lead the conversation to hint about possible boyfriends and always stated her agreeability to Swara’s choice irrespective of caste or creed and always tried to propose arranged marriage. Swara batted off all those hints with “Aai, you would definitely know if I was into someone”. On one such long casual weekend chats Mrs Joshi got leads which led to the hyperactivity of her already super active brain. Swara told her Aai that she might have to travel to Hyderabad the week after, for work and will have to put up a couple of days over there.
You already guessed where this is going, right! Mrs Joshi was already talking to the parents of a prospective groom who was working in Bangalore but based out of Hyderabad. Mr & Mrs Chitale were working with a large IT firm in Hyderabad and Mrs Joshi connected with them through a friend of a friend. The Chitale’s were originally Punekars but settled in Hyderabad for two generations and Mrs Joshi quickly made her sales pitch. Playing on the advantages of marriage and the right age etc. she thought that she had managed to sell the idea of meeting the elder Chitale’s to Swara. She sent two photographs of Samanvay for Swara to use as screening pictures and if she thought the boy appeared ok, she could check out the elderly Chitale’s in person. Mrs Joshi also clarified that since the boy was not going to be there, it would not qualify as the matchmaking date and Swara should not be embarrassed about it. Swara had a clear mind " Marriage? No way! ". But she wanted Aai to be happy and didn't want to confront her in the near future regarding the topic. So she glared at the two pictures one in which Samanvay had a grim something of the sort of smile and other in which he had two sausage dogs almost licking him. Swara decided to meet Chitale's for the two interesting dogs, the lively garden, the well travelled profile of the couple and most important because Samanvay would not be there. She thought " this is cool, food and some chat and no pressure on the brain to cook up a reason to say ' No'! I am just going to get too busy from next week to be meeting anyone."
So there she was today rushing to meet the couple after her work, that was her first day at Hyderabad and she was flying back to Mumbai the next evening. In her Black formal trousers and pale blue shirt a matching scarf around her neck and her crisp boy-cut hair, she was definitely not the typical Indian bride who was dressed to impress the prospective in-laws. Being conscious of time, she almost leaped out of the cab and in her usual swift gait reached for the restaurants main door. As she nodded to the Namaste of the door man, her eyes quickly scanned to find a smart and not so old couple enjoying their drink. She still stood there scanning when the couple noticed her and the lady called out her name “Swara?” Swara reached the table and wished them by joining their hands in a Namaste.
Swara was an introvert who learnt to handle people transactions well. While she preferred to wander on her own or read a book in a quiet place, she did not mind being around with people of her choice. She was not particularly eager to open up to strangers and scanned their behaviours and evaluated her observations against her standards. As they ordered food, Swara who was preferably a vegetarian checked with them if they would mind her having a dish of chicken. The couple travelled extensively both on work and otherwise and food preferences were not an issue. Swara scored them plus on her scale on this, the points being added to those scored for the garden and the two Daschunds. As they started talking Swara could not have enough of the exploits of the travels of the couple and they too enjoyed talking to her and appreciated her interest in travel and intelligence. It was as though some old friends were catching up, the good humoured Chitale’s laughed out loud at Swara’s jokes as she warmed up to them. Many topics, places, events and people popped in their conversations and all three of them later realised none of them had even mentioned Samanvay. A small lamp of friendship was lighted and as they left “Dakshin” their faces glowed reflecting the warmth of the evening.
Swara went back to her hotel room and somehow had the urge to look at Samanvay's pictures. She wouldn't admit even years after that , the evening in ' Dakshin' warmed her heart to the idea of marriage. That interaction with the senior couple, quelled her hidden fears of loss of freedom with marriage and adapting to a new family. She looked at the pictures again and said to herself " It's a grim smile but he looks cool with the dogs, may be u can just meet him and see Swara, afterall the parents are awesome!" The next day the mothers spoke with each other and with their wards and they decided that Swara and Samanvay should meet and “Shubasya Sheegram”
A week later Swara and Samanvay flew to Hyderabad. It was again work time for Swara followed by just one Sunday and Samanvay was to reach on the Saturday. Swara studied in coeducation schools and colleges and was used to working with men in teams and never felt any awkwardness with men. But as she thought of meeting Samanvay, with an idea of marriage on mind, she suddenly felt some creatures larger than butterflies in her belly and tension in her muscles. She knew nothing about the man except his name and telephone number and of course, his parents and his Daschunds. It was finally Sunday morning and she was meeting Samanvay for breakfast. She put on her regular blue Jeans and an Indian printed Kurta and particularly looked in the mirror for more than a minute, which was very rare for her. Then she decided on adding some lipstick to her lips and kohl to her sea green eyes! Her face flushed and her fair cheeks went red as she blushed at the prospect of meeting someone for a sort of a date. Samanvay was picking her from the hotel at 10 AM and so she came down to the lobby. She thought of calling her best friend and speaking about this awkward feeling and settled down in a sofa and pulled out her cell phone. She realised she hadn’t charged her phone the night before and the battery would not last long. An SMS from Samanvay popped on the screen, “I am leaving home, will be there in 20 minutes at your hotel lobby”. No sooner did she finish reading the message and lifted her head to look around that she found Samanvay approaching her. He was wearing jeans and a pale Yellow t-shirt and looked composed and friendly. “He looks so much better than the pictures” she thought! He said “Hi Swara, I am Samanvay” and extended his hand for a hand shake. Swara said a ‘Hi’ and shook hands and they walked out towards the car. Something about Samanvay made Swara feel very comfortable and relieved her of all her anxiety. Later , while talking of the day, Samanvay liked to call it his charisma and teased Swara that she fell in love with him at the first sight. As they drove towards the restaurant, they talked of work, their schools, colleges and hobbies and could also find common friends. They talked of dogs and music and travel, of living in Mumbai and Bangalore, of cricket and tennis and riding. They did not seem to notice when they reached the restaurant, what was served and what they ate and how the time passed until a waiter came to announce politely that they would be closing the restaurant to prepare it for the evening. It was well past 2.00 PM. It seemed as though they had always known each other and enjoyed the long chat. Samanvay then asked her, “Hey what have you seen in Hyderabad? “. Swara shrugged and said “nothing”. He asked “would you like to go to Shilparam? It’s an art village”, Swara said ‘Why not’ and they just drove. March ends in Hyderabad are scorching and Shilparam is an open art and craft exhibition of sorts and it seemed almost endless, you can go around it for the entire day and if you are a craft lover then u can keep coming back any number of times. Hours passed as they talked about their infatuations and their weaknesses and before they knew, they were holding hands and enjoying this new found friendship, which was a little more than friendship. Swara thought, it was such a joy to be with someone who is like you and likes you and that too with the consent of all those who love and care for us! The two S’s did not realise that it was dinner time. A set of parents in Hyderabad and another in Pune were now worried, to put it mildly. “Where are these kids” , Mrs Chitale said for the umpteenth time while pacing the length of the drawing room and looking at Samanvay’s cell phone which he forgot to take along while leaving home. None of Mr Chitale’s efforts to calm her worked until she saw Samanvay walking in through the door. The next day both Swara and Samanvay were back to their same old working lives, but they were not the same any more. Being in love is a different state and both of them were individually enjoying being there.
Since Mr Joshi, the ‘captain cool’ was off on an international official trip, two days after the S’s met, Mrs Joshi flew all alone to meet the Chitale’s. While speaking of the day Swara and Samanvay met , Mr Chitale told Mrs Joshi, “see , we thought there were two possibilities; either the two of them had eloped, in which case we had nothing to worry or the other was they might have met with a mishap, in which case we were very concerned”. Even though the Chitale’s were sure they wanted to take this proposal ahead, Mrs Joshi invited the couple and Samanvay to Pune, to see their place and meet their kin before they go ahead.
So there they were at Pune and it was now Swara’s turn to show Samanvay around Pune and introduce him to her dear cousins. Mrs Joshi had met Samanvay for the first time and took an instant liking to the young man. The Chitales were a hit with the Joshi’s family. Now it was time to plan the big event! There was more time spent on telephone by Mrs Joshi and Mrs Chitale discussing the event than that spent by Swara and Samanvay on their sweet nothings. And then arrived our captain cool! The proposal of Swara’s marriage alliance with Chitale’s was presented to him and just like the President of India agrees to a bill passed in both the houses, he agreed gracefully. Finally all the four parents met . The pundit considered the stars of Swara and Samanvay and said “Shubasya Sheegram” and finalised the nearest “Shubha Muhurtam” . As Swara and Samanvay walked the 'Saptapadi', the seven symbolic steps,midst the holy chantings and the sacred fire,they were united by the nuptial knot for seven life times.
With the ceremony, even the two families were bound in this beautifully delicate but also intricate bond woven with love, affection and respect. Reflecting on her journey from 'Dakshin' to 'Mantra' , the banquet where the marriage ceremony was solemnised, Swara thought " What could be more liberating than being bound in a marriage, backed by love and blessed by the families? ". As the newly wed couple bowed to the feet of the elders in the banquet, the sound of Swara's Green glass bangles and the rustle of her nauvari paithani Saree seemed to be providing music to the tune of blessings that poured out " Ayushman bhava, Sada sukhee bhava and Sada sumangali bhava" !