Koi mil gaya…

Hindu mythology romance… a secular marriage for Lord Shiva and Parvati? Saint Valentine… helped early Christians to get married secretely against backdrop of Roman paganism in the 3rd century. Both are everygreen stories of courage in troubled-times!

Come February-March springtime is in the air and so are the softer emotions of love and romance. Say it is that time of the year again and in Goa the African tulip trees are in full bloom with their large chalice-like orange flowers, along with the copperpods, their crinkly maroon-tinged yellow blossoms sweeping down in the wind in cascades and creating haloes on the roadsides…a heavy musky fragrance in the air along with the bees, birds, butterflies if you spy them forever going tizzy around flowers here and there in gardens and even in an urban landscape.
Hey, it may be Valentine’s Day on February 14 when we remember the priest in Rome who helped the early Christians to marry, an interesting story. But out here in Bharatdesh and modern India we also remember the seasonal springtime rites of Basant Panchami (or Vasant Panchami) when there is a Vasant Mahotsov all around in the air and many of us may remember the enchanting stories of Hindu mythology which have our very own Cupid, Kamadev and his gang of friends scurrying merrily around the countryside, targeting those in need of love in their lives! Remember Kamadev with wife Rati and his bow made of sugarcane and line of humming bees, arrows all ornamented with the early flowers of springtime and especially mango blossoms?
Zip, zip, zip and through the air fly Kamadev’s flower-bedecked arrows to wake up his targets! Remember one of them targeted a meditating mahadeo or Lord Shiva in the forest (while Parvati was busy dancing nearby)? The rites of springtime I do believe come to a climax with the marriage of Shiv-Parvati on Shivratri night. (Sigh) Increasingly the seasons are arriving earlier or is it my imagination? But by the Hindu calendar Vasant Panchami is the first day of springtime (February 16 this year) and so on it goes through March-April when the maximum springtime festivals take place in state after state…be it Gudi Padwa, Ugadi, Gangaur, Bai Sakhi, Bohag Bihu, then Holi (March first week) which we all are familiar with.
But cut to February and Vasant Panchami and can you imagine a more charming seasonal romance being sparked off in the air in Mother Earth’s gardens and in the world…real or unreal or lost in the mists of time, as the one to do with Kamadev and mahadeo – worth recounting anyway!
St Valentine’s story is fine and I sympathize with the early Christians seeking secret marriages at a time when the pagan Romans had their own gods and goddesses to celebrate…and were persecuting the Christians. Well, you go do some homework and read up about the stories of Christianity or Hinduism, all have a lesson to teach somewhere in between the lines; where but be sure to take them in the spirit in which one is expected to take them – amusement and maybe a pinch of holistic salt!

True or half-true I think our stories of Hindu mythology are secular folklore stories, and so this St Valentine’s Day at the www.goanobserver.in
we decided to ask a few couples how their inter-cultural or inter-religious marriages work out? Some responses can be so refreshing and inspiring for the times we’re currently living in! (Compiled By Tara Narayan)

Vineeta Gothoskar & Amit Parashar are architects married and settled in Goa for the last 15 years, Vineeta likes to retain her maiden name….
(Vineeta’s voice) Thirty years is an achievement being together in marriage these days when relationships are so short. Amit and I had met and fell in love while studying architecture at the CEPT or Centre for Environment Planning & Technology in Ahmedabad in 1981. You can say we had similar interests or common grounds of interest and were meeting one another and visiting one another’s home in Bombay or Delhi; I’m a GSB from Maharashtra while he is a Delhi Punjabi but all this has never mattered to us. What I remember warmly is that when I was working in Bombay in 1984, Amit would come visit me every Saturday-Sunday from Ahmedabad — and he came by night train standing! Those days I was really working hard. We were actually together for about ten years before we eventually married in January 29, 1991, at Amit’s home in Delhi. We were married by Amit’s brother-in-law Vasudeva Acharya who is an Australian Vedanta teacher and while performing the marriage for us and he was chanting in Sanskrit he would explain every sentence to us! Earlier we had explained to Amit’s father that we would like to have a marriage which we could afford with our own money; so there were three friends from Ahmedabad and our families, that’s all. Later we registered our marriage. Did I tell you we were already together for so long that our families had already accepted us before we got married? We’ve worked in Europe, Switzerland, Paris and in Canada and eventually decided to settle in Goa. I have a daughter who’s 17 years old but I was almost 40 years before I was able to have her; relationships are something we have to constantly work on. Even with children we have to explain to them why something they have done is bad, but it does not mean they are bad! I think I have been blessed because everyone in both our families have been very good to us. Some things I remember: my father would always tell me to be economically independent before I got married. As for Amit he has been very supportive, his thing is that in a marriage we have two sets of parents, `If you feel like doing something for my parents do it because you really want to and not because you think you must do it…whatever it is my parents will accept it.’ I’m great friends with my three sisters-in-law who accepted me totally. Let me say life for Amit and me has some values and our marriage is very profound and simple too. I may be GSB and he Punjabi Brahmin but I attend Punjabi marriages and can sing Punjabi songs too!
Golda & Vikrant Sharma are a Goan and Punjabi couple come to settle in Goa…
(Golda’s voice) Well, he was here in Goa playing football first for Sesa Goa and then Dempo’s some time in 1997 and we had met through common friends, love happened! We dated for a year-and-a-half and our parents were very supportive, his parents were not orthodox or any such thing, and we got married in September 2000. I shifted to Delhi and at first it was a cultural difference and I was timid and friendly, Delhi you know is such an unsafe, chalu city and can’t be trusted! But I embraced everything with some adjustments, both are families are progressive. He has been with RBI all along and I had a job at the Mozambique High Commission in Delhi. Vikrant has been very supportive of my career and helped me a lot to adjust and even when my son was born when I was apprehensive about leaving my job or not to stay at home, he said you go to work and helped me…he too had a job but he was both father and mother for our Adi who is 15 years old today. One great thing we have in common is food! We love Goan and Punjabi food which can be similar…over time we have kept one basic rule and that is pyar ke liye kabhi bhi marriage ko granted nahi lena! Ooper ooper se we may fight and say jo marzi karo, but inside we know we have a strong marriage and together we bring a lot to the table. Thanks to him I feel I can take on the world now! (Golda Sharma speaks super fluent Hindi and both shifted residence to Goa recently for want of a better environment for their son).
Sheela & Vashu Sumaya, a Gujarati-Sindhi marriage in Mumbai that was Bombay…
(Sheela’s voice) Our marriage was most dramatic and melodramatic 45 years ago! It was in 1973, I was 25 going on 26 years and everyone in the family was getting worried, my parents were looking for someone for me to marry in this six and nine gaam (six and nine village communities within one could or could not marry!) nonsense we Gujarati Patels have and couldn’t find anyone suitable for me. A Patel boy came from USA to meet me and my uncle said let them go have tea at the Taj Mahal Hotel and the boy greeted me, “Hello beautiful!” He was nervous and I lost interest in him. I told papaji I didn’t like him, I’m not marrying him. So there was a first proposal… In the meantime with my friends while on a picnic I’d met Vashu and we liked each other and decided to marry. Papaji was furious and said nothing doing, he had quite a temper which everyone in the family was scared of except my uncle Navin-kaka. Papaji insisted I must marry a Patel, only Patel. But for me all this about being Gujarati or Sindhi didn’t mean much at all, things became pretty cold at home with mummy (mother)and ba (grandmother) caught in papaji’s fury. Finally, I had to just make up my mind to walk out. We eloped on Vashu’s bike! We got our marriage registered and lived with my in-laws for a few years until our business of car rentals did well. Of course in the beginning I couldn’t go home for some time and my uncle Navin teased me that the house was barred to me! He had a sense of humor unlike my father who in thought it was his influence that had spoilt us all (for my uncle had married a Jewish divorcee late in life and was more of a mover and shaker or so to speak with his Marxist leanings). Anyway, for some time my maika was barred for me but later when my son Kunal was born in 1983, I had started sneaking into the old home through the back door to meet mummy and ba were fine with me. One day while visiting I’d put baby Kunal to sleep on Papaji’s bed in his room and he came in. Mummy and me held our breathe but he didn’t say anything, he just went out of the room. But after that Papaji came around and later he and Kunal became quite infatuated with each other! A lot of water as they say has rolled under the bridge…now my son and twin daughters are adults and well settled. We’ve been married for 45 years, had our ups and downs but on the whole it’s all good news. Now as senior citizens we pursue our goals of fitness and hobbies together or separately…absolutely no regrets at all! It’s been a very secular marriage I’d say and even then all this jath-path, language, religion, poor or rich, didn’t mean anything to me. Maybe that’s because I’m a Bombay woman! I wanted to get married to someone I thought would be good to me and I did it. Chalo avajo for now!
Nandita Haksar & Sebastian Hongray divide their life between Panaji, Delhi and their home in the north-east….
(Nandita’s voice) Ours has been a love across borders. Sebastian and I are from two very different backgrounds. He is a Catholic Naga from Manipur and I am a socialist feminist from Delhi of Kashmiri Pundit heritage. We live in Goa. We do not share a common class background, we belong to two different races, different religious backgrounds, but we do share a common concern and love for humanity. Together we have fought human rights cases, travelled 35,000 km on a bike and many thousands across the length and breadth of the country and before the pandemic we even went to East Africa and to Latin America. And everywhere we have ben we have been able to make meaningful connections with our fellow human beings. Now we are retired and no longer political activists but our relationship, our marriage itself challenges people around us to rethink the meaning of what it means to be human in a country so deeply divided by race, caste, class and patriarchy. And that makes me smile.

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