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Short Stories
Shantinath Desai
       You know, I am not the one to get involved in such business. No, never. I have never fancied the idea of catching hold of a male and a female and herd them in the herd called marriage - I have never done that sort of thing. But my life is a great one for doing it. She has boundless enthusiasm for and keen interest in promoting matrimony. However, fortunately, our own marriage was achieved without any mediators, thank God! She was my student in the college, and there wasn't any significant difference in our sub castes. And her father entertained unusual respect and regard for teachers! Our love grew gradually. I had asked her the usual question, "Rohini, will you take me as your etc". Only after I had done enough romancing and only after the God of Love Manmatha had urged us, "Children, enough of your playing. Now be serious and fulfill Brahma's command to marry and multiply and of course, also let me rest for a while!" I don't know what happened to her, she suddenly fell at my feet. I lifted her and embraced her. The story ran smoothly from then on. And without any director or producer. You see, we had succeeded in herding ourselves in our own marriage, true, but it has been never my line to arrange other people's marriages. I never put my heart into such enterprise. Perhaps I - a history professor - could see too easily and clearly the deficiencies and warts of other individuals. I was perpetually assailed by such doubts as "How can this poor chap live with her for life or if this girl set up family with him, poor chap, his life will be a ruin, most certainly, etc." My tongue refused to praise him in her presence or praise her in his presence, and then give the green signal to them to start their bullock-cart of matrimony! My life is at the other pole from me in this matter. Subject to clearance on such items as caste, cultural level, educational qualification and age, she was convinced that any male can mate successfully with any female! She was sure they would make a go of their married life! Nothing would give her greater joy than bringing off a successful matrimonial relationship between a male and a female, even if this involved saying anything to promote the cause, or saying as much as necessary or concealing negative points or exaggerating positive ones. She usually rounded off her successful match-making with the optimistic note, "Well, they will somehow make adjustments later. Poor people, remember there is always a mediator between them called sex!" Then she would laugh the matter away!
       You see, the story I am about to narrate to you, concerns my colleague, Doctor S. Nirmala. She had a sharp intellect and was inclined to be over-logical and extreme in her arguments. Most recently she had become a bit of feminist. She was a teacher who propagated such ideas as that women should have equal rights with men, that women should take initiative and get the education of their own choice, and that women should choose their own husbands and carve out their own future. She held strongly the view that the husband should respect the independence and individuality of the wife, and women strive hard to see that their perspectives changed in such radical directions. Her father had been the first Vice-Chancellor of our University, and after retirement he had settled in Bangalore. It was he who fixed his daughter's doctoral studies in Toronto University. As soon as she returned from abroad she was appointed as a Lecturer in our department, thanks to him. Currently she was a Reader in the department like me. Given all this background she remained unmarried, and there seemed to be no hopeful signs that she would marry. And she was past forty and naturally the very desire for marriage had dried up in her heart. Most of us felt bad about it - a cultured, educated woman with an independent income of her own, shriveling up without marriage and motherhood. Mock-seriously we would propose to her names of eligible grooms from time to time. She would catch the spirit of the proposals and laugh them away. She would rationalize her personal predicament, saying "Well, that many women will have to remain single like me!" Rohini, my wife had more sympathy for Nirmala than I. When most of us praised Nirmala's scholarship and intellectual brilliance as demonstrated in her learned publications and her lectures, Rohini stuck to her refrain, "All right, all that is fine, but how nice if she had a husband and a child!"




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