Rakesh Weds Megha

Rakesh Weds Megha

“Amma, I need to talk to you,“ Rakesh said to his mother, Devyani.

Devyani, who at that time was chopping vegetables, muttered, “Hmm, bolo lalla,“ before pointing her finger towards Lata, the maid, saying, “Look at that girl, washing dishes so slowly. If she will take one hour to do the dishes, when will she finish the rest of the work!”

Rakesh and Lata flushed at Devyani’s tone, one with embarrassment and the other with anger over the constant taunts. Lata banged the pot she was washing harder in retaliation.

“Amma, let Lata do her work. Listen to me, please. I need to tell you something important,” Rakesh said, trying to get back Devyani’s attention.

 Devyani was notorious for having an attention span that jumped from topic to topic faster than Usain Bolt. But today, he had been given an ultimatum by his lady love. And having found his mother alone in the menagerie that was his joint family, Rakesh decided to take the plunge.

To bolo! You are the one who is not speaking,“ Devyani countered, her knife not pausing for a moment.

Rakesh looked at the potato being murdered on the chopping board and said, “Amma, do you remember Megha, the girl who was with me in tuitions?”

“Haan, the girl who beat you in boards, right? That girl used to beat you in studies all the time,” Devyani said, chuckling at the memories.

Rakesh cleared his throat to hide his irritation at being reminded of the one sore point of his life.

“Yes, well, that was many years back. Megha joined my company a couple of years back, and we became good friends.”

“Very good beta. We are very broad-minded people. We don’t mind you having girls as friends,” Devyani said as she picked up a tomato.

“So you see, our friendship became deeper. We fell in love, and now we want to get married,” Rakesh said, his words tripping over one another in a hurry.

Devyani’s knife paused for the first time in ten minutes that Rakesh had been in the kitchen. She turned her kohl-lined eyes towards Rakesh. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows came together, threatening to unglue the dark red bindi adorning her forehead.

“You want to marry Megha? The one who beat you in the board exams?” Devyani asked the knife pointed towards Rakesh.

Looking warily at the sharp knife, Rakesh nodded.

The knife swung in the direction of the sink, where Lata was still washing the dishes while eavesdropping on the conversation between mother and son.

“What is the hurry? You just want to finish the work and have fun. No dedication towards work,” Devyani shouted.

Lata stared at Devyani, her mouth agape. In ten minutes, she had been shouted at twice, once for doing the work too slowly, and the other for doing the work too fast.

Rakesh threw her a sympathetic glance before drawing Devyani’s attention back to him.

“Amma will you please talk to baba and convince him?”

Devyani turned back to the chopping board, cutting the tomato with more force than necessary. ”What to say lalla, you have given a big shock.”

“Megha’s parents are in a hurry to get her married. She can’t hold them off for too long,” Rakesh pleaded.

Devyani’s lips pursed in displeasure, ”They already know? Before us?”

“They were forcing Megha to see prospective matches, so we had to tell them,” Rakesh hedged.

“Everyone in the family will not agree. We will need to discuss this,” Devyani said.

“But amma, you and baba can first meet Megha. We can tell the family later,” Rakesh said.

The knife once again swung towards Rakesh. 

“You might be modern enough to fall in love and choose your life partner, but we are still old-fashioned. This match will happen only if the whole family agrees.”

The knife swung again towards Lata, “Go call everyone and put the pot on for tea.”

Half an hour later, the courtyard of the Tripathi house was occupied by its members. Rakesh’s father, Umesh, and Ratan, Umesh’s elder brother, sat side by side on the sofa conferring in soft tones. Ratan’s wife, Seema, stood behind them, her head covered with her cotton saree’s pallu, trying to overhear the conversation. Umesh’s sister, Mira, and her husband, Vijay sat on the chairs across them. Vijay had a wad of tobacco stuffed in his mouth and a sour expression on his face. Soft-spoken Mira was hoping the tobacco would keep him from uttering words that would raise everyone’s hackles.

On the diwan was perched, Rakesh’s petite grandmother, Badi amma. There was a time when she had ruled the household with an iron fist, making her two daughter-in-laws quake in their boots. But over the years, age had caught up with her. Now she was a little hard of hearing, but she made sure she attended all the family meetings even though she slept through them. Today didn’t seem to be any different. As soon as everyone was seated, soft snores emitted from her corner. 

Savita mausi and her husband, Ramesh, had also been called from across the town by Devyani despite objections from Seema who had pointed out that Rakesh’s marriage was the family’s internal matter. Devyani had retorted that since Savita was her sister, she was also family. In truth, Devyani was conflicted. She wanted sensible Savita’s moral support. As she confessed to Savita while they were alone in the kitchen, on one hand, she wanted to support Rakesh, but on the other, she felt hurt by his actions. Rakesh was the apple of her eye. By choosing his life partner without taking Devyani into confidence, he had dashed all her dreams of choosing her daughter-in-law. 

Lata placed the tray with the tea and snacks on the coffee table before going to stand by the door. This gossip is too good to be missed while doing the household chores, she mused. She would message Bakshi madam that she would be late to reach their house as there was too much work at Tripathi’s.

Picking up the cup, Ratan fired the first shot, “Haan bhai Rakesh, what is this I am hearing about a love marriage?”

Rakesh swallowed nervously. He knew that after Badi amma, Ratan’s word was the law in the house and Umesh would never oppose his elder brother’s wishes. If he convinced Ratan, the rest of the family would fall like dominoes.

“Bade papa, I am in love with a girl called Megha,’ he started.

“The same girl who was with him in tuitions,” Devyani added helpfully.

“The one who beat him and bagged the toppers position?” Seema piped up from behind the sofa.

“That was a long time back,” Devyani retorted, ready to defend her cub.

“Enough!” said Ratan, waving his hand at both of them, knowing how soon the two women could get embroiled in an argument at the drop of a hat. ”Don’t interrupt, let Rakesh speak.”

Rakesh continued his tale. “Megha joined the company where I work a couple of years back. Our friendship soon grew into love. We would like to get married. With permission from all of you, of course.” He added meekly turning his puppy brown eyes around the room. 

“All these youngsters these days falling in this love-shuv nonsense,” Vijay said, his face looking as if he had swallowed a sour lemon. “In our days, boys and girls of good families didn’t even meet. We got married to whomsoever our parents picked for us.”

“That’s why our beautiful jiji got married to a langur like you,” Devyani whispered to Savita who snorted, making Ratan look at her in displeasure.

She hastily covered her slip by offering the long-suffering Mira the plate of samosas.

“Take a samosa jiji, Ramesh got them on the way from Gokul.”

“Gokul ke samose?”Badi amma said from the diwan, startling the family who had assumed she was snoozing. 

“Bahu, give me one and put extra chutney”, she ordered, looking at Devyani.

“Amma, the doctor has said you are not allowed to eat samosas,” Ratan objected.

“Who is the doctor to dictate what I can or cannot eat?” Badi amma argued.

Bhaiya, let amma have one if she wants,“ mild-mannered Umesh said.

“Keep quiet, Chhote, “Ratan scolded, “You don’t know all her reports are haywire.”

“But it is just one,” Umesh reasoned.

“Enough! This is how you will take care of amma when I am dead?” Ratan said, using the same argument that had been recycled for the past ten years to browbeat Umesh into following Ratan.

Ratan’s rude tone against Umesh raised Devyani’s hackles. Jumping into the fray, she said, “Bhaiya, we know amma’s reports are not good. After all, we are the ones who always take her to the doctor. But today is special. We are discussing her only grandson’s wedding.”

The sly barb against Seema having borne three daughters did not go unnoticed, Seema opened her mouth to retaliate, but Savita, ever the peacemaker, pointed towards Badi amma who, having lost interest in both the samosa and the argument, was dozing again. 

As Devyani and Seema glowered at each other, Savita said, “Shall we go back to what we have gathered here for? Rakesh’s choice of bahu?”

Renewing the interrogation, Ratan asked, “So Rakesh, what does Megha’s father do?”

“He works for Indian Railways,” replied Rakesh.

“Railways!” squealed Seema. “Devyani, I have heard Railway people get free tickets for travelling!”

“Yes bhabhi, even I heard that they get free tickets. Maybe then we will finally go for a holiday that these brothers have been promising us for the past twenty-five years,” Devyani replied. 

The two co-sisters smiled at each other, forgetting their previous altercation. The two brothers looked at each other in consternation. The holiday was an issue that was raked from time to time. If Rakesh fulfilled this desire, the two brothers would never hear the end of it.

“I have always wanted to go to Kanyakumari and see the sea. Or else Bombay!” said Seema almost hoping in her place. 

Lalla, what type of tickets will we get? Sharmaji, who lives in the next lane, also works for the Railways. He gets second AC tickets.” Devyani asked.

Rakesh looked at his mother with a pained expression. “Tickets are only for immediate family, not everyone,” he replied.

Devyani and Seema gave an outraged gasp at his reply. 

“See Bhabhi, what he is saying. Not yet married, and he is already calling us everyone,” Devyani’s voice wavered as tears brimmed in her eyes.

Rakesh looked towards the heavens looking for divine intervention. These people have not even said yes to Megha, but their castles in the air are ready, he thought. 

“Enough nonsense about holidays!” roared Ratan. “We are still finding out more about this girl.”

The room once again fell silent save for the injured sniffles from Devyani as Ratan continued his interrogation.

“Rakesh, how much does Megha earn?” Ratan asked, mentally calculating how much dowry could be reasonably asked if the girl also brought in a salary.

“Megha is on a higher post, so her salary is more than mine,” Rakesh replied.

“ So not only did she pip you in the exams, she even piped you into the job market,” Seema tittered. 

The smirk on her face grew wider as Devyani’s face flushed with embarrassment. The boy earning less than the girl in a marriage was unheard of. The barb about Rakesh being the only grandson had been avenged.

Ratan gave a look of displeasure towards Seema. “You do realise that if the bahu also earns then two salaries come into the house? It will be easier to raise dowries for our daughters.”

At this point, Rakesh wisely refrained from telling Ratan that he and Megha had decided that half of Megha’s salary would be going to her parents. Having lived in a joint family he knew which battles to pick and fight. And at that moment, he was fighting to marry the love of his life. The rest could come later.

“Rakesh what is Megha’s caste?” the normally silent Mira asked, biting a cookie.

“I am not sure of the caste, but Megha is Bengali,” Rakesh replied.

“Bengali!” Mira yelped, “Bhabhi, Bengalis are non-vegetarians. They eat fish! Our pure vegetarian household will be polluted!”

Devyani’s brows furrowed. “Is it true lalla? Does she eat non-veg?” she asked.

Rakesh nodded in affirmative, his heart sinking at the thought of the argument that would follow.

Like one of the characters in a Hindi TV series, Seema slapped her hand dramatically against her forehead. “Hey, Bhagwan! What has the world come to? A bahu who eats fish in our Tripathi household.”

Vijay, who had been occupied in silently chewing tobacco, decided to jump into the conversation.

Shifting the wad of tobacco from the left to the right in his mouth, he mumbled, “I told you, all this love-shuv nonsense is dangerous.”

Turning to Ratan, he continued, “My friend Chaturvedi has a daughter. She is sweet, biddable and pure vegetarian. She will make an ideal bahu for the Tripathi household. Plus, Chaturvedi told me in confidence that he will give fifty lakhs cash during the wedding. Nip this Megha nonsense right now and get Rakesh married to Chaturvedi’s daughter. “

Rakesh felt his temper rising hearing Vijay’s words. Vijay had done nothing but cause trouble in their family from the moment he married Mira. He was the one who had convinced the family to not let Rakesh go abroad for higher studies or his younger cousin from pursuing medicine. And now, he was opposing Megha just because his pocket would be lined if Vijay got his friend’s daughter matched with Rakesh. Vijay needed to be put in his proper place. Rakesh opened his mouth to retort, but Savita kept a restraining hand on his arm. 

“Didn’t Chaturvedi’s daughter run away once with her boyfriend and he had to drag her back?“ she asked her tone mild.

Everyone’s eyes turned towards Vijay who blustered, “Yes well, she was brought back before any harm was done, and Chaturvedi has kept her under house arrest after that.“

Ratan whose eyes had lit up at the mention of fifty lakhs shook his head. “Vijay ji, even if I wanted to, I cannot force Rakesh to marry anyone I want.”

“You never give any importance to my advice. This is the way the son-in-law of the house is treated. Without any respect! Come, Mira, let’s go. We are not needed here,” Vijay got up, preparing to leave.

Devyani gave a mental sigh looking at Vijay’s pretend blustering. She wondered why Vijay was even invited to family meetings. All the man does is demand that everyone bends backwards to follow his orders, even if they are unreasonable. And now, so that he doesn’t take his temper out on jiji, I will have to placate him. Already I am so upset with this Rakesh’s Megha.

Jijaji, please don’t get upset. We are not pointing out the faults of Chaturvedi’s daughter, but society had changed. If Rakesh wants to marry Megha, then we have to consider it,” she reasoned. 

“Yes, Jijaji. Please don’t think we don’t value your advice, but nowadays children want to take their own decisions. Please have some of this kheer. See I have added raisins to it, just the way you like,” Seema added, ladling kheer into a bowl. 

The two co-sisters shared a look that seemed to commiserate the effort they needed to do to keep the son-in-law of the family happy. 

Placated Vijay was soon scraping the bowl with the spoon, as the rest of the family worriedly discussed the possibility of getting a daughter-in-law whose dietary habits differed from theirs.

“Maybe we can ask Megha to undergo a purification ceremony and stop eating non-veg after marriage?” Savita suggested.

Rakesh mentally doubted that his fiery Bengali beauty would agree or even take the well-intended suggestion politely, but for the sake of peace, he nodded.

“But still non-veg…,” Meera said.

Looking at the grave expressions on his family’s faces, Rakesh felt his heart sink. He couldn’t believe that his love life would have a premature demise due to differences in dietary habits.

“Pish-posh,” a thin voice rang through the courtyard. 

They all jumped in surprise as Badi amma sat up on the diwan, the expression on her face stern.

“You are getting an educated daughter-in-law, who belongs to a good family and earns well. You are going to ask her to give up an integral part of her life because it offends you? As if you all are pure as the driven snow. Don’t I know that you boys have been eating non-vegetarian at chowk behind your wives’ backs all these years!“ she said, pointing a bony finger at her sons. 

Seema and Devyani gaped as Ratan and Umesh turned red at their mother’s accusations.

“And you,” she said, pointing towards Vijay, who was ladling more kheer into his bowl. “My husband was a fool to marry my darling Mira to a narrow-minded man like you. Ratan and Umesh invited you today as a mark of respect for you being the son-in-law of the family. It is not a validation for the empty box on top of your head that you call a brain. So shut up, eat kheer and stop pointing out faults when there aren’t any.”

Badi amma then beckoned Rakesh closer. Placing her hands on his head, she said, “Well done boy in choosing your life partner yourself. If you had left it to these buffoons, it would have taken years to find you a wife. Like they have wasted the better part of three hours discussing a girl whom they have never met. Go, tell your girl she has my blessings.” 

Rakesh felt his heart jump with joy. After touching his grandmother’s feet, he rushed to his room to call Megha and give her the good news.

Badi amma looked at the rest of the family who was staring at her, surprised that she had slipped back into her dominating ways. 

“Where is the samosa I said I wanted three hours ago?” she demanded. 

Three months later

Megha and Rakesh stood on the decorated stage, accepting wishes from friends and relatives. Ratan stood nearby, mentally calculating the cost of each gift being given to the newly married couple. Umesh was standing nearby beaming at his son with pride. Vijay was by the food stalls, trying out one dish after the other and finding faults. 

“They should have listened to me and got Rakesh married to Chaturvedi’s daughter. He would have flown in the chef from Bombay!” he was overheard telling whosoever would listen to him. 

Mira, tired of pandering to her husband’s irrational whims, was rocking the dance floor with Savita. Seated in the front row, Badi amma looking regal in the dull gold saree Rakesh had brought specially for her, kept waiters hopping her demands for food. When Ratan objected after seeing her plate piled high with sweetmeats, she retorted, that it was her only grandson’s wedding, and she would eat to her heart’s content. 

Devyani and Seema were busy showing off  Megha’s trousseau to distant relatives. 

“ We are very modern people. See how we have accepted a non-veg-eating bahu!” Devyani was overheard telling everyone. 



Lalla : A term of endearment for son
Bolo : speak
Mausi: Mother’s Sister
Chhote: Younger brother
Jiji: didi, sister
Jijaji: Husband of the sister



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Harshita Nanda
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