My Nani-Nanu, got married in a love marriage, a next-to-impossible occurrence in those days in India. Only Bollywood people did that. And my Nanu-Nani did. My Nanu was from a well-to-do family. His father was a doctor in the Navy, and him and his siblings played badminton with their British friends on the weekends. His father was also a National Level Football player. All their 6 children were exceptionally good looking, including my Nanu. They had rich tastes, and a flair for art, music and literature. They had long shifted to Kolkata from Bangladesh, sensing the tensions of Partition. On the other hand, my Nani belonged to a poor refugee family from Bangladesh. Her father was an obstinate businessman, who refused to move out of his village and leave his thriving business behind.
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6 months before the actual the Partition, the family realised how serious the matter was, and so him and all his 12 children, and his wife, shifted to Kolkata, with whatever they could manage to grab with them. They came in installments, sending their 3 elder sons on one train, and the rest of the kids in another. When they arrived in Kolkata, they found shelter at the home of a certain Mr. Datta, who lived right next door to my Nanu’s place. My grandparents were barely 5 at that time.
Slowly, my Nani’s father began building his business again. He hated losing, and hated the Britishers even more, for what they had done. So in a way, he disliked my Nanu’s family for their British ties. Slowly, he built back his business, though not completely, and managed a house in that very area.
As my Nani was the third of 12 children, she was one of the elder siblings to assume to responsibility of the family and contribute to the income of the family. For this, she went to university (again, a rarity for Indian women at that time), and got a job with the Indian Govt. She had become a very independent woman, and lived life on her own terms mostly. Not that she ever disobeyed her father or elder brothers, or made her family a second priority. She had little traditional ties, and was rarely ever attending any religious function that took place. And all this while, my Nanu was falling in love with her, watching from the window of his grand house next door.
Soon the two started going out ( I am yet to understand how the two of them got the guts. I haven’t yet told MY mum I have a guy), and they began falling for each other more deeply every time. My Nanu finally popped the question to her, when she was returning from office one day. And without even thinking of the objections either family would offer, my Nani said yes.
What followed was a typical Bollywood movie romance. Nanu’s family was more accepting of this turn of events due to the more modern outlook. They did point out the fact that my Nani wasn’t as good looking as my Nanu, and he’d get a prettier girl, but he was least interested in bimbos.
My Nani’s family now, was a different story. Apart from one elder brother, and one of her 5 younger sisters, NO ONE supported her decision to marry ‘that Brit-lover’. However, she told them very plainly (and I’ll always remember her face when she told me these lines years later) :
“I’ll marry that guy. I love him. You may have realised by now that I think for myself, and marrying me off to a guy of your choice will just spoil 3 lives. ONLY because you think their family is too pretentious, and you feel I can get a guy with a better job. What good Father, will this do? I am pretty sure no other guy will accept such an independent girl. And IF someone does, they won’t be looking at me the same way as him.”Another month or two later, my Nani’s dad agreed to the wedding.And then they were married.
After the wedding, they faced several hardships, family politics, division of the house my Nanu’s father had built, financial crisis etc. But when I see the kind of love they always had for each other, I smile to myself.
My Nani was the eldest daughter of her family, and had a strong sense of responsibility thrust on her from a young age. But around my Nanu, she was always the demanding kid she never got to be earlier. My Nanu, himself the youngest son of the family, and the 5 of 6 siblings, got HIS chance to show responsibility, which he never got to show otherwise. They were so perfect for each other, that it hurt me to see my Nanu when Nani died. It was like he was suddenly empty.
And that’s when I realised that losing some body you love is the biggest pain in the world, and when you are as well-matched as Nanu-Nani, it hurts more.
But inside, I am SO proud of them that my heart swells up a little every time I talk of them. 🙂
I have realised I am a carbon copy of my Nani, right down to the fact that I have been shouldering a sense of responsibility ( I have a younger bro) since a young age. I can only wait for a guy that’s like my Nanu.
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