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The Altar Ego

A story of love come lately and marriage at mid-age

The Altar Ego
Illustration by Sorit
The Altar Ego
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

Our marriage, just about a few weeks old, under a kitschy canopy on one tony, pothole-filled south Delhi lane, was not so fat and not so lean. Middle age be damned. We felt none the worse for it as the pheras were taken late in night with a glee that would fail the Johars of the world (though a few pheras less than the mandatory seven may have been gladder for the heart).

My staying single had been inexplicable to all who know me as I’m quite the marrying type. In fact, I would go around in my early teens with the ditty about how a good wife can ensure a good life. I stumbled around enough but the fact is that only once did I have the temerity to ask a woman’s hand in marriage. I got trumped and had moved on, not so desolate. I was cruising along fine. Still, not a day went by when I would not be asked by at least one person when I was going to get married. I would always wriggle out of it, with some temperance. Once Das, the amiable waiter at the UNI canteen in central Delhi, even went so far to ask what use my instrument was of then—the actual word he used was more colourful, of course.

The instrument works fine but as you know a marriage takes two to tango. I could not find the woman who suited my idea of me, the especially virulent idea of Bhojpuri hipness I have of myself. Worse than the hippest harlem boogie kid. Truth is that, having understood this, I wanted to wait as long as a woman would find me fit enough to walk the aisle, tie the knot, slide the ring. Whatever. It was a commitment to myself that I will never enter a classified, digitify my identity on shaadi.com or ask the community pandit to find me a match. I had to marry for love. Period.

I’d vowed I’d never enter a classified nor digitify my identity on shaadi.com. I’d marry only for love. Period.

I found the woman framed by my home’s door four years back. Dolly aka Shambhavi arrived with Sarah Bancroft, our friend from the old blighty, on my dear sister Bitti’s birthday. She cut a fine figure and I tried hard to steer clear of her through the duration of her stay. After that we met occasionally till the gears got shifted, almost inexplicably, a year ago. The theory of six degrees of separation is true. Shambhavi and I are from Patna and it turns out I had never lived more than a stone’s throw from her all my youthhood. She is a fine artist with a respectable body of work. She speaks English with a strange Italian-Spanish accent and I often think of General Alcazar as I go about luxuriating in her cadences full of “how ees thees”.

Marriage has been easy. When I got married is really immaterial and at the risk of sounding mushy I think it is for keeps. But strangely, leading up to our marriage, the same friends who would goad me towards it started weaving cautionary tales. Marriage, it seems, in the end makes everyone suffer enough. Most of them have been married for an average of 25 years. If it takes that long for me to question the institution, it really would not matter by then.

Right now I am on cloud nine and not waiting for the seventeenth emotional nervous breakdown. So far so good, and anyway father time is going to run faster for us from here on. And we have enough shared interests to propel us on along with him. In a later issue, I would like to solve the case of the missing ring and the mysteries of the double bed. Till then I would go about being married. Middle-aged and happy and forever young.


(Sanjog Sharan is a Delhi-based graphic designer.)

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