Destiny is strong and swift. Even if you do not seek it today, in time it will find you.
My name is Sagar, as in ocean. It is said that when a river flows into the ocean it loses its name. When I married Piyali, we reversed that story. I immersed myself fully in her, without hesitation. At the end I did not lose my name.
There was much to gain from the match. Mostly everyone said I won a princess and half the kingdom. It suited all our purposes. I did sweep Piyali off her feet; and she, likewise, mine. By most standards we were both older and mature. I was. Living in a crowded household of seven siblings, sisters-in-laws, nephews and nieces. Providing for elderly and aging parents. I did not see any chance for remedy or redemption. My ocean was drying up. Until a new river flowed in.
The circumstances of our wedding came awkwardly from a listing I ran in the matrimonial section of a popular daily newspaper. It lay buried in small print crowded with several others, squeezed in under other half and quarter page ads of promising matches that made you reach for the moon and stars. The first phone call from an aunt came at a time when the whole household was in an epic uproar over all the report cards that had come home that afternoon with all of the school age nephews and nieces. Though I was spared my battle being single, I was dragged into it by loud brothers and sisters-in-laws on one side, and whimpering nephews and nieces on the other. Being Sagar I could weather the storm that was raging that night. I was not all prepared for the matrimonial inquiry.
“Yes,” I said hurriedly, “I am Sagar, but can I call you back tomorrow.” I noted her number and the match making ended there. My hopes were dashed. Besides, what could I offer a girl, more a lady, that married into this household. I decided to drop the matter. Two days later she called again.
“Sagar, are things more favorable today,” she inquired politely. I caught the sympathy and concern in her voice. I slipped out into the small balcony of the room I shared with my two nephews and quietly closed the shutters behind me. The balcony overlooked an ally that separated our house from the neighbors. As usual in the receding light of the pale setting sun my nephews and other neighborhood boys were playing a game of cricket. It was the most quiet and privacy I could wish for.
In between loud appeals for outs and roars for sixes, I heard the beginnings of a marriage invitation. The aunt was straightforward and forth coming. Would I be interested in marrying her niece who was somewhat immature? She said she was being honest from the start. That Ratna was slow. That she had stopped going to school in the tenth grade after her family concluded to put the academic challenges behind them. That she more than made up for her slowness with an unforgiving love and devotion to her parents, sister and family. That she was beautiful and wholesome, quiet charming, when you could hold your patience with her in a conversation. Would I be interested in meeting her?
That was it. She never asked a word about me. I wondered if she had used other means to check up on me before the phone calls. Probably. Even though we lived in a city of millions, acquaintances were not difficult to discover if you made a few subtle inquiries. I would on the other hand not use such devices. I gave her my word I would meet Piyali at a time and place convenient to them. No questions asked. I was not surprised when she asked if the next afternoon would be ok. Nor, when she asked me to come to her home. I have known that many arranged marriages begin with a first meeting at a relatives place. Why would anything appear contrived?
Kolkata is not only a very big city. It is also very difficult to navigate even for the diehards who lived there all their lives. I had a few challenges finding the right address and arrived about an half hour late. I could tell from the crest fallen look of the maid who greeted me at the door that there had been a lot of disappointment in the mind of other household members, especially Piyali. She sat on the edge of a velvet upholstered couch between two of her aunts. Even though the home was very large you couldn’t tell how much wealth it held from the outside. Older homes were rapidly becoming a non entity in Kolkata, crushed between the rising demand for real estate and the high rise flats that sprouted everywhere. Still the very rich held on to their affluence often camouflaged by the neighborhood. That I was seating in one such wealthy drawing room was evident from the array of richly dressed sofas and divans before me and the ornate ceiling fan cooling the room.