Tag Archives: Love marriage

A 55 Year Love Story

A Short Introduction 

This is the love story of Yatindra and Sadhana Bhatnagar – nearly 55 years of sharing cheers and tears, facing odds and overcoming them, together.

It’s a story of reaching great heights – he in journalism and she in painting and sketching.

Yatindra wrote books, Sadhana contributed to some. They collaborated on some more.

Both traveled widely. From New Delhi to Indore, mingling with Presidents and Prime Ministers, top diplomats, artists and business people.

Sadhana raised their two lovely daughters and wrote poems for Yatindra; he wrote them for her as well.

She was an excellent cook, expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, singing, embroidery, hospitality, making life-long friends and helping others. They gave love to their daughters, their daughter’s husbands, and strangers. In return, they got love from far and wide.

They were always on the same page; two bodies and one soul.

Both remained love-birds, till her last day. He would sit by her side, hold her hand, look into her eyes, and whisper sweet nothings in her ears.

This is their Fairytale Love Story.

Start of a 55 year old love story

Talking about pairs, arranged or love marriage, meant marrying in our own community (caste) and region, with similar customs and language and habits, family background – and of course matching horoscopes. None of these figured into our marriage at all. 

Ours was a beautiful combination of love and arranged. 

We had only one ‘date’ on April 21, Milan Divas – The Day We Met, and got to know each other. That was enough for us. 

In the six-months of waiting, dozens of letters were exchanged. Phone facility was not easy; it was also expensive. So we had the mailmen helping us. In this case ‘the middlemen’ were welcomed. Letters were a big consolation. 

It started with my four-year-old friendship with Indrajit, Ved’s (Sadhana’s) brother, that led to our marriage and 55-years of courtship.

Destiny had played a significant role. 

Ved was born in Nowshera, now in Pakistan, before her family moved to Abbottabad.

I was born in Indore, over 800 miles from Ved’s birthplace. She moved to Abbottabad and I to New Delhi – the distance cut by 90 miles. When we married she lived in Dehradun and I in Delhi, only 150 miles away. 

We were surely destined to move closer and closer till we became one. 

The rest is history, as they say.

We married on a ‘bad’ day but made a good life

October 8, 1961! The day, I believe, no marriages took place in orthodox Hindu families. 

That is because it is part of the Shraddh season when orthodox Hindus remember their dead, pay respects to their souls, feed the Brahmins and the poor, and pray for the eternal peace for the dead.

Our marriage on a Shraddh day!

Indrajit and I consulted ‘Mr. Calendar’ and decided on the convenient Sunday.

Everything happily fell right into place. Virtually, the entire city came to witness this ‘unique’ marriage. We got the best hotel to stay, had one of the best bands available, and the caterers were happy to get business during a slow season.

It was no “Big Fat Indian Wedding” yet lovely and pleasant; a good family event where two families became close.

Mataji (my widow mother-in-law) gave away the bride, another break from the orthodoxy. 

I gave Ved a new name – Sadhana, the desired one, my prayer. 

On the bus heading home – and to new dreams – a non-stop singing session started. Sadhana obliged by singing what became one of our favorite songs:  

Nayee manzil nayee rahein, naya hai meherbaan apna, na jane ja ke theharega kahaan yeh karvaan apna. (New destination and new path, new partner-friend, I don’t know where this caravan will end up.) 

How appropriate was her choice!  

Making of a Home 

Back home well past midnight, everyone was tired and retired to bed early. No ‘first night’ ritual. We looked forward to the future. 

The next day my errands took a long time and it was a late evening when I returned. I was stunned – my beautiful wife was waiting for me in her elegant dress, simple yet lovely jewelry, hardly any make-up, and the apartment had transformed into our “home.” 

Homes are made with love, vision, respect, commitment and a desire to become and grow as one. Sadhana arranged the furniture and other things to make the small rooms look larger and bare walls were adorned with photos and paintings. The home looked inviting; it bore the stamp of a lady with good taste and creativity.  She did everything with love and care to make it her home, our home.

Wonderstruck, I could only say: “Tumne to ise swarg bana diya (you have turned this into a heaven.) She had a lovely smile on her face as we exchanged glances that said more than we expressed. 

I was apologetic for being away for hours but she put me at ease with a phir kya hua (no problem, that’s okay).

I was stunned and could only look at her full of admiration and joy.

I fell in love with Sadhana, again. And that love continued for about 55 years. 

Our Honeymoon and More

We didn’t have a honeymoon in the traditional sense. We had made no plans and we kept everything limited and simple. As part of our wedding, just a couple days after our marriage, we were off to Dehradun for Phera (return).  

The Phera tradition serves two purposes: one, to know first-hand from the girl how she was welcomed at the groom’s place and how she feels about the groom (Mataji could tell from Sadhana’s glow); two, to know the son-in-law better without his entourage (Baraat). 

After spending a couple days in Dehradun, meeting Sadhana’s family and a host of her friends, we went to Mussoorie for a day to have time exclusively for the two of us. Unexpectedly one day became two.

Our lives had become the ultimate union of two hearts and two minds to reach the divine state of one.

That was the relation between Sadhana and I, from the beginning to the last. 

We did have a delayed honeymoon after 11 years where we went to Europe and Egypt for 40 days. It will remain a cherished memory.

Life, of course, is not a bed of roses. 

We encountered problems. We faced hardships and challenges. We had our disagreements. We argued. But they were few and far between. 

The ‘ceasefire’ was quick. Tears shared and sweet smiles exchanged happily. 

The arguments did not last long.

The ‘silent treatment’ could not go beyond a couple hours. 

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

In early 1940s in India, Brooke Bond Tea widely displayed an ad proclaiming: “Two leaves and a bud, the standard plucking method of the high grade tea.”

When we would patch up – and I loved that job happily – it was “two tight hugs and a kiss, the standard patch-up method of the highest grade of love.” 

Peace will be inevitably restored in no time to be followed by more tight hugs and more shower of kisses, enough to drown us in love and loud laughter.

Sadhana was an incredible human being!  

Yatindra Bhatnagar, a journalist, author and poet has been writing for more than seven decades.  He was chief editor of daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines in India and the United States. He has done more than three thousand radio and TV programs and written 20 books, in English and Hindi.  He has extensively traveled in India and abroad. At nearly 91, he is still writing books, contributing to papers, doing radio programs and has his own website: www.internationalopinion.com

Edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.

Love Ya Arranged?

Of the questions  that Americans ask that can annoy me, one of the most irritating is likely to be “Is yours an arranged marriage?” which trails only the legendary “Are there really elephants on the road?”
I still clearly remember hearing that question for the first time.

Soon after arriving in America for my masters program, I visited a beauty salon. Although, I truly couldn’t afford a visit to a salon as a fresh off-the-boater with a meager RA salary, I scraped off a few pennies here and there to look more presentable during a close relative’s wedding and my own engagement.

After learning about my upcoming trip to the East Coast and my engagement, the beautician, with her eyes filled with apprehension, asked me “Is your engagement an arranged one? By your parents?” Blushing, with a smile and beaming with pride, I answered with an emphatic “No way! I would NEVER go through an arranged marriage. Ours is a love marriage!”

I still remember the sigh of relief on her face before she moved on to “So exciting! How did you guys meet?”

Two decades of experience have now taught me that the beautician’s concern over arranged marriages was unwarranted. Now I understand that the success of a marriage doesn’t solely rely on the moment and circumstances of how one meets one’s spouse.

I am still thankful to my parents who allowed me to wait for the right person. While I am happy that I arrived at a “love” marriage that is still filled with love, I have also come to respect any strong, stable, and symbiotic marriage or long term relationship.

To be fair, I find that the question “Love Ya Arranged?” is quite prevalent within Indian social circles too.

The question is somewhat inaccurate since it implies that you can have only one or the other!

Looking back I realize that, while I had rejected a “suitable boy” here and there on grounds of “chemistry” and “connection” or lack thereof, my strong desire for love marriage was not romanticism inspired by cheesy Mills and Boon fictions or by Disney styled princess fairy tales. I opposed arranged marriages because it seemed like an impersonal and elaborate system of choosing the most important person in our lives. It also seemed like a cookie cutter approach to match making.

I remember one wise uncle lecturing me, “There should be 10 points on the checklist for any boy and if you can check off six or seven off them, he is good enough!” He implied that connection and chemistry were baseless ideas and would leave me a spinster for the rest of my life! I am confident that my two lovely children will have a good laugh when they hear that story at an  appropriate age.

Just by the fact that the practice of arranged marriages is still around gives validity to the functions and outcomes of the system. But, at the same it time, it must be acknowledged that the system has huge holes.

The checklists for consideration of prospects don’t account for individual characteristics, personalities and sensitivities. A well educated girl may not score high on those checklists if she were dusky. A wealthy boy with bad habits or substance dependency could easily score higher than a hardworking middle class boy. Let’s not even get started on the caste factor, let alone religion or astrology.

The issue with arranged marriages is that it doesn’t always guarantee a thorough examination of a candidate. Some factors trump others when it comes to the desirability of the match.

One case in point is the attractiveness of access to America. If there is a green card or H1 or F1 or even an illegal chance of emigration to America then, many a time even the checklists are abandoned.

I know of a case where parents happily gave away their girl to the family of a boy with H1/F1 despite the fact that the families met for the first time just a week prior. What happened to the usual insistence on families getting to know each other because “marriage is between two families?” So it seems that rules are easily shaken by a whiff of a green card or buck.

That makes me wonder about matchmaking in the United States.

Dating in the west is an elaborate system with its own rules and protocols. There are many dos and don’ts, how tos, and columns offered by “experts” that guide the naïve through a veritable “jungle.” Expert advice ranges from “what to wear on a first date” and “how to converse to making a lasting impact” and “the right amount of eye contact during the date” to “who should pay.”

Just like the way a well-meaning aunt advises the young girl on how best to roast a papad without a single blemish, the dating expert advises on colors, necklines, and styles to wear on dates.

The barrage of protocols follows through the afterlife of the first date. If you call too soon, you are desperate, and if you take your time the other person has moved on. In essence, we conform to many preexisting norms in order to be successful.

The process of evaluating a dating prospect is similar to the checklist analysis of arranged marriages, except that there is no support system of parents and aunts to help do the homework.

In the case of arranged marriages, there is at least a clear verdict on the success of the match, transmitted through the friendly neighborhood aunt. Daters, on the other hand, simply have to keep looking at their phones obsessively for that “Gr8 fun. Wanna hang out L8R?” text to arrive.

Then there is the virtual world of matchmaking through the likes of Match.com, eHarmony.com, Zoosk.com or OkCupid.com, Dil Mil and more.

Among these services, eHarmony.com is responsible for a whopping one million marriages and an additional million long term relationships within just 15 years of its existence. The company claims that the divorce rates amongst its users (customers) is very low compared to the average. A meager 3.8%—roughly a tenth of the normal divorce rate in America, which ranges between 30% to 50%. While the success of a marriage in any society should not be measured by the divorce rate, yet  it offers a significant insight on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to long term relationships.

So how does eHarmony do it? They have an exhaustive questionnaire with up to two to three hundred questions, based on psychological and clinical research and data, that the user needs to fill out. Based on information provided by the user, it’s complex algorithm matches users based on the compatibility factor rather than what the user thinks she or he prefers. Sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it?

That lengthy questionnaire in essence is merely a weeding out list.

I’ve learned that whether one gets to know one’s partner through a friend or complex lines of code, it still is only a starting point.

How long and how strong you run that marathon is still going to be up to you. The key is to remain true to yourself.

I intend to give that advice to my elementary school going children a few decades from now so when someone asks them, “Is yours a love or a digitally initiated empirically aided algorithmic compatibility matched marriage?” they won’t be annoyed.

Shachi Patel is an engineer by training and a program manager by profession. A lifelong volunteer, she was one of the original voices on Bay Area’s first South Asian radio station. She explores the outdoors with her family and writes from her abode in Silicon Valley.

First published in April 2016.