My mother used to read A.R Khatoon and Fatima Surriya’s novels. Novels dealing in love, romance, home politics, mischief makers, misunderstandings. Then problems solved, wrinkles ironed out , shaadi, biyah and happy ever afters. She absolutely loved them all.
There were two times in twenty four hours when she was sure to be found on her huge four poster, reclining against two big bolsters, a plush throw in winter, a light, cotton chaador in summer covering her. A book in hand she be deeply engrossed. There was never a “do not disturb” sign outside her door but every one knew that if she was reading a book, then that was certainly not a good time to disturb her. Her hero and heroin might be entangled in some family web and suffering. Or some khudaaii foujdaar throwing his weight around making life miserable for these two love puppies.
A happy ending always brought a lovely smile on her face. Satisfied she would take a deep breath, like sending good vibes to all the dimensions of her inner world. Next day a new book would be sitting on her bedside table.
Romance was still alive and kicking when we grew up. Shaadi biyah mein we were allowed to have make up. bn-na sanwarna acha lgta tha. Cousins ka tarrna and shrarti seetiyan bjana was endearing. Their looking for any silly excuse to come and talk was also a feel good feeling. This was our romance. Innocent and silly !
We grew up, got married, raised families. Made new friends, many acquaintances. New places, new people. In my case, this ‘ new places, new people ‘ scenario was repeated many times. I always take it as a learning process – a gift from life itself.
In one of the places my next door neighbors were an older, Indian couple. Their daughter-in-law was a very quiet, reserved type young girl. Hardly ever made any friends. I was the exception. In fact she once confessed softly that she loved talking to me.
Once, she talked about a girl she knew in college who , when her time for marriage came, told her parents that she had some condition for her future husband. Like :
‘ he should not be the oldest or the youngest son. What ever I cook, he would eat without any objection, he would not force me to wear usski psnd ka color or clothes. If I wanted to see a movie and he did not. I will not force him to come with me. I will go alone or with a friend. He will not object to that. He should be either a doctor or an engineer and he would never leave India for any other country, no matter however much big a salary he would draw.’
There was no mention of love or romance or some measly flirtation in this list. We both agreed that that was just plain madness.
Years passed. We entered a new phase.
Now things seem to have moved in another direction. Recently I came across a young girl in a party. She was on our table and was friends with one of the people on this table, who I knew. During this small talk hour, I got another enlightening revelation. The girl was talking to her friend but speaking loud enough for all of us around the table to hear.
“ … oh who has time for romance? Friends get together in a restaurant or a movie theater and have fun. Enjoy the company. Now who wants to be tied down so early in life? Who likes commitments and duties and blah, blah, blah. No madam, no sirree – not me. Definitely not me. She laughed then with a serious face – continued,
Roses, and love letters or mushy poems? No, no, no. Actually if anyone did that to me, I would report him to the authorities that some psycho is stalking me.
No love? no shaadi? I asked. But please don’t think I am a match maker. I quickly added.
“No I will get married when I am ready to settle down.”
“Ready to settle down, how about love, romance?”
“Who said that for getting married you have to have a love affair first? Actually that is the worst time to get married because both the parties are going through a sickness – hormonal sickness. Their brains are mushy, their thinking is all wrong.
Marriage is a serious matter and a life partner should be decided with caution and care. A well placed, person, a well planned family. No one in his / her right mind would want to see their children deprived of anything. Heck no one would want the children to be the outcome of your personal, sexual gratification. Period.
There you go!! Mama are you listening? Romance just flew out the window!!