I was never a M&B or a Jackie Collins fan in my growing up years and the books that adorned my shelf were Perry Mason, Robin Cook, Irving Wallace and not to forget Stephen King! Romantic movies hardly called for viewing and the only TV series that I regret having watched was Santa Barbara way back in 1985! Naturally, the unromantic me got married to a total stranger in the traditional horoscope matching alliance way and whether love blossomed after that is a debatable topic and I reserve that for another day!
So why the hullabaloo on flings and flirtations, of arranged and love marriages, my dear readers may be wondering! The prelude is important and crucial to the drama that is set to unfold here. The real love stories with flesh and blood characters do enchant me – the affairs and courtship culminating in a fairy tale marriage, a la Chetan Bhagat two states style! The surprise affairs of the heart, both prior to the www era and now, with chance meet ups, the clandestine meetings and secret rendezvous, the awesome gifts – even the gift of the Magi type, the love messages and the proposals – who went down on the knees first, was it with a red rose or a platinum ring in crystal clear champagne, the dissents from families, the excommunication from the khandhans, the passionate love letters, the sweet promises to take care for life, from friendships to courtships, are all exhilarating to hear especially when they come from a close friend!
All such love marriages are undoubtedly emotional roller coaster rides for a few participants in Indian families with rigid caste, community, language and religious overtures. Convincing the members in a wedding, that is not with just two individuals, but with two families and everybody around them is an onerous task! The impregnable fortress surrounding an orthodox family and, in all probability, a liberal thinker in the midst adds more troublesome potions in the boiling cauldron of family drama and thamasha. Ask somebody madly in love, about family and society’s reactions, the starry-eyed individual is bound to say that a steeplechase runner would have it easier than getting married to your beloved, with the insurmountable obstacles and hurdles that come your way! Breaking the convention and the stereotype to the absolute freedom of choosing your life partner may have its fair share of romance, fantasy and mushiness but to survive and thrive with the odds stacked against the couple is a grand slam and mission accomplished!
Spring and magic in the air, the year 2005, not ‘leaping’ though, and Aalia’s life was bustling with activity. Her work at American Express was engaging and her personal life was hunky dory and uncluttered with doting parents and sibling, splendid and bosom friends. Rahul, one such childhood bosom pal visited their home mostly during weekends and these friendly gatherings with light hearted banter made her Delhi life simple and elementary. The Nadella household, like the quintessential Telugu brahmin family, had started scouting for a prospective groom for their daughter. Carefree and ambitious, Aalia hoodwinked all the proposals that came her way by citing an assortment of reasons.
Life was serene and mundane until the time Rahul was on a new assignment and his stint in the new role, brought about new friends and tidings and then…..
The Saturday dawned with an extra dose of sunshine and the Nadella clan with Rahul were on a weekend getaway to Shimla. The travel saw two new additions to the gang in the form of Rahul’s new-found bachelor boys’ friends who were his colleagues. What would have been yet another family outing in the familiar company of Rahul, turned out to be serendipity, the beginning of a new chapter in Aalia’s life! The predetermined set of events that are inevitable, unpredictable and ready to unfold in picturesque Shimla, the location for many a celebrity honeymoon and romance.
The conversation during the trip with Rahul’s friends Prithvi and Abhay was limited as both were the calm and quiet type especially Prithvi. He was the unassuming, modest person with no pretensions and on the rare occasions that Aalia stole a glance at him, she noticed him to be on calls and speaking in chaste Kannada or with witty sarcastic jokes that only Aalia could decipher. The likelihood of Prithvi being a south Indian was high, not that it bothered their blossoming relationship, Aalia was drawn to him like bees to a flower or was it the other way around? Love was in the air and a slow sedate start for a whirlwind romance in the offing!
The casual conversation with Prithvi turned into frequent meetings on some pretext and though poles apart, Aalia the perennial chatter box and Prithvi, the undemonstrative guy, took to each other with utmost affection and endearment. The hush hush sneaky meetings away from the prying eyes of family and friends turned more commonplace. They got to know each other intimately and her judgement of Prithvi being a south Indian went woefully wrong as he turned out to be a Rajasthani Brahmin! Nothing could stop them now and their love knew no fears, with distant dreams to become realities, the two in each other’s arms madly in love!
I recall my friend Aalia reliving one of those surreptitious moments when both had gone on a late-night movie date and was caught by police, who smelt a rat and was only too eager to turn them into her parents. They got away by greasing the palms of the officer and reached home unscathed and for more adventurous confabulations. Well, one bursts with excitement or gets carried away, but in the case of my buddy, here, smitten by love, sprinting to meet her beau in the alluring mist, broke her leg and had to lie through her teeth or to use a pun the lie she told had no legs, only broken legs!! The scene was recreated and what are friends for, who can do that in style and become knights in shining armour.
While they managed to cover their tracks, the pressure of matrimonial alliances was gathering momentum in Aalia’s house and she had to let the cat out of the bag – her mom instinctively felt deceived and let down. But dad became her savior and convinced his wife to meet Prithvi first before coming to any hasty verdict! And the stars were lined up as she saw the perfect son in law in Prithvi – brahmin, good family, modest, caring, educated and well placed, all the necessary ingredients for a prospective groom. Prithvi’s dad echoed the Nadella sentiments and was cool about the relationship and did not have any objection as the girl was from a brahmin family. The final hurdle, like the rock of Gibraltar was Prithvi’s mom who was averse, hesitant and unwilling due to the parochial thoughts and the girl looking plump! But she had to give in to her son’s adamant and intense wish of marrying his sweetheart.
Transcending state borders, customs, language and cultures, the stage was set for Aalia to tie the knot with Prithvi, the partnership sealed for life and they live happily ever after, with the trademark sarcastic punch dialogues of P and the non-stop babbles of A and the twain did meet. Albeit with the usual tantrums and melodrama, kiss and make ups, saas bahu bickerings, the haveli grand stand, spectacles of love and hate, the wave lengths and the vibrations that match, the chalk and cheese pair still sticking around like the first day madly in love, the love story goes full steam. Now, with the addition of two adorable boys, this is one true romantic tale that I love to see, watch, play and replay and wish them eternal years of togetherness and partnership!