(A Wedding is a single essay that I chose to break down into 4 parts because of its length. This is the 1st part of the essay.)
“Difficult times have come,” Mom expresses her worry after getting an invitation of the wedding of my neighbour. “Brahmin priests have stopped getting Brahmin girls for their sons. I heard … is bringing a Chhetrini!”
“The line between Brahmins and Chhetris is dissolving,” I say.
“Are you planning to bring a lower caste (non-Upadhyaya Brahmin) girl? Do it if you want. Then don’t see my face again!”
The calmness with which she says this baffles me. Dad says, “You shouldn’t be obstinate. Don’t you need your son.”
“I don’t need anybody who don’t respect my thoughts and rituals. A lower caste girl can’t participate in Pooja and can’t get involved in Shraaddha. I don’t want to be hungry after my death.”
“What will you do if you are hungry while you are still alive?”
I had that question too. Mom does not give a straight answer. She has a notion that she does not agree to quit. And no one can change her.
While my Mom warns me not to be in relationship with a girl of “lower caste” or a foreigner, she actually wants me to fall in love with an “upper” Brahmin girl. “How do we choose who we fall in love with?” I ask, the answer to which my parents do not know.
Much later, just as I am writing this essay, I have a revelation, “I can choose someone of a particular caste, religion or nationality to be my girlfriend. I don’t have to randomly fall in love with anyone.”
“How?” You might be asking.
Well, in societies like the one I am in living, there are said and unsaid rules that guide me. I am told repeatedly, even before I understand the dynamics of love, that being in love with a girl out of my caste is bad. Her beauty and character won’t have any effect upon me. I might say she is beautiful but I’ll never have a desire to be with her.
But a beautiful girl of my caste might attract me in no time and without even knowing her enough, I might “fall” in love with her.
A socio-psychological wiring can make me choose the one I have to be in love with.
However, even without such sociological barriers, you can choose who you want to be in a relationship with. You see thousands of beautiful girls everyday but you don’t have to fall for everyone. Neither of the girls may attract you. You have your preferences which determine who is the most suitable for you.
I have not been able to choose to be in a relationship. It’s hard for an introverted guy who questions everything. Even when I am in love with someone, I’ll question myself, “Is this love? Or is it just an infatuation?” millions of times before I accept that I’m in love with her. Then a gazillion times, I’ll ask myself, “Should I tell her? Will she accept me?”
By the time I decide to ask her, she’ll be gone off as someone else’s bride. Even if she does not, I will never have the courage to say, “I love you”–the simplest three letters that carry the biggest weight of a relationship.
Whenever I’ll be in a relationship with a girl of my caste, Mom will be the happiest. No, I’m not saying this. She says it herself. She will not have to worry about match-making which is the most difficult task these days before a wedding.
If you’re not in a relationship, your parents will start looking up girls for you. They make contacts with the families of girls who are the “most suitable” for their sons. Often a third person (Lhami/Lami– match-maker) who knows both sides is involved. After a lot of rejections, in many cases, and sometimes after immediate acceptance, wedding ceremony between a girl and a boy is fixed.
This “type” of wedding known as the “Maagi Bihe (arranged marriage)” is still the most prevalent. The most worrisome of all the weddings is “Bhaagi Bihe (running marriage)” because a couple in love runs away from their families to get married. The family does not accept most of the times. There have been many tragedies because of Bhaagi Bihe.
Another type of wedding is getting popular though. It’s the “love cum arranged marriage”. A couple fall in love, parents accept and then the couple gets married. There may be conditions like the ones set by my Mom but some of intercaste weddings have been accepted by parents.
By now, you have known that my Mom has some rules that I must follow to choose a suitable girl. She is not alone in this matter. She is a typical Brahmin woman who wants to secure her “life” after death. I don’t blame her for her thoughts. I don’t know if I should blame our culture but I think I must accept that most of the Hindus are worried about the “life after death” and another life than the one they are living.
Hindus believe in the existence of Atman that is unfaltering and indestructible. Atman is the source of consciousness or life. It resides on bodies that are alive. Once someone is dead, the Atman leaves him and goes to the Paramatma, the highest consciousness or Bhagawan.
There is a twist though. Atman is not incorruptible. It also carries desire. The Atman that carries desire to remain in the material world (Earth, Heaven, etc.) falls in an endless cycle of births and deaths. However, the Atman that chooses to be with Paramatma does not have to go to the endless cycle. However, it has to come to the material world whenever Paramatma wants.
Confused? It’s indeed confusing. No lecture on Veds and Geeta can clear up the confusion. No dead has come back to life and said what life after death actually is. Is it absolute darkness? Is it brighter than our world? Do we go to Heaven or Hell after our death? Will someone reward us for the good we have done and punish us for our evils? Nobody knows.
But these have been etched in our minds through scriptures and Gurus and priests. We choose not to deny our scriptures and we don’t question our Gurus. That’s why, “life after death” has become more important than the life we are now living.
And I can’t change my Mom’s mind. She has heard stories of Heaven and Hell. She desires to be in Heaven. One wrong move from her son might be consequential in God denying her the paradise she dreams of. Her daughter-in-law must prepare Pinda, the food of the dead, in an annual ceremony known as Shraaddha after her death. If her daughter-in-law cannot be involved in Shraaddha, she believes she will be hungry in Heaven.
When a Brahman gets married to someone of a lower caste or a foreigner, he/she “falls” from her caste. A Upadhyaya Brahman might turn into Jaisi Brahman, Chhetri or Shudra.
I propose a solution, “If I bring a “lower caste” girl as my bride why not elevate her caste instead? If she takes my Gotra (clan based on Rishis) and my surname, why not my caste? Elevate her, get her involved in rituals, propagate culture. You don’t need to worry about your afterlife.”
My parents look at me with a shock. We all know the society does not work that way. But I just hope it worked like that. Nobody would have to worry about anything then.
Meanwhile, my neighbour’s home has just begun buzzing with activity. His brothers, sisters and relatives have come up to help them. His wedding is going to be the one that will be remembered for years to come. Even if we forget, the groom and his bride will not!