Chapter 1- India 1959 –The Heartbreaking Proposal that would change her life forever.
She heard a rumor that she was to be married off to someone from Malaysia.
Walking back home from school one day, Aruna was teased by her schoolmates about this bit of news they had heard.
A relative who attended the same school had mentioned it to a friend, who in turn told another friend, and soon, it became a hot topic of conversation and had spread like wildfire to the whole housing colony where they lived.
The news surprised Aruna tremendously. Were they talking about her? If they were, she hadn’t heard of it till then. How was it that the relative was more informed about the proposal than she was?
It is a life-changing matter and didn’t amuse her one bit, not to mention how everyone else knew about it before she did. Who is this person she is supposed to get married to?
According to Aruna’s relative, the boy’s mother had spoken to her elder brother, asking for her hand in marriage.
Her brother had agreed without hesitation. Aruna was puzzled that he kept it a secret from her.
Did he think it best in her interest to marry her off to a family of wealth and good reputation, and have her migrate to a land of opportunity? Well, did he think that her stars were aligned with his and that the boy she was to wed was the best partner in life for her? Did he stop to consider if she, first and foremost would be happy?
Moreover, their elder sister is married to a Malaysian and she lived a happy, luxurious life there, which is another thing that her brother stressed upon.
Malaysia - held in great esteem, renowned as a favorite destination for migrants because of its economic progress and ideal landscape, was famed as a land of job opportunities and trade.
Immigrants from India were flocking there to create better lives for themselves.
“It is an honor to have someone ask for your hand in marriage, especially, someone from a promising land like Malaysia,” her brother said when he finally spoke to her at length about the proposal.
“Think about it Aruna, you will live close to our elder sister who has a wonderful man for a husband and is rich and prosperous. I am sure the boy you are going to marry is the same,” her brother had consoled when he saw the stark fear of getting into an arranged marriage reflect in her eyes.
He had a good job in the government sector, she was told, and so, was assured of a good secure life, were his parting words to her before he left for work that day.
Aruna didn’t quite listen to what her brother said. She only listened to bits and pieces of his conversation, and even then, vaguely. She was still trying to come to terms with the proposal from a total stranger, and couldn’t understand the audacity of everyone around her.
She was not in any way interested to know anything about the man she was to be betrothed to, although common sense prevailed.
She knew that it was in her best interest that she had a little knowledge about what “the boy” does, or get to know something about his background, however, she simply couldn’t bring herself to hear what her brother had to say about the whole thing. It was too hurtful that he agreed to the union.
She cried bitterly after he left to work, deciding to speak to him when he got back that evening about her reservations, not to mention, the thought of uprooting to a new place, leaving behind India, and quite shockingly, giving up her education in favor of a ”good” proposal.
Aruna was sure that there would be other suitors in India, at the right time, when she was ready to get married.
She really couldn’t believe what was happening to her.
It had been someone else that she had always heard about, some other girl from another family whose marriage was arranged, so she was at a loss that this was happening to her. How can she accept a proposal when she wasn’t ready to get married! She was too young to be wed! The whole thing had turned into a total nightmare for her!
After dinner that night, she approached her brother a little warily.
“Cheta, I don’t want to get married now. I don’t think it is the right time for me because I have not finished my degree yet.
Not only that, I think I am a little too young to get married in the first place, and I don’t want to leave all of you here or leave India for that matter, to move so far away or make a foreign land my home, that too, by marrying a total stranger. I am really scared about the whole thing.”
As she laboriously finished her sentence, she felt tears sting her eyes. Her throat felt constricted and she put her face in her hands, her tears spilling over as she sobbed softly.
Her brother listened while turning the pages of the newspaper he was reading, totally disinterested at her point of view in the matter. He looked away from the paper for an instant and saw her fidgeting a little while waiting for him to say something to her, so he put the papers down before continuing in a coaxing manner.
“I have already agreed to the proposal Aruna. As you know when I give my word, I don’t like to go back on it. This is a chance of a lifetime for you. You must understand that I had your best interest at heart when I agreed to the proposal.”
He saw the tears that Aruna tried hard to hold back, spill at that moment. Telling her gently not to cry, he continued,
“Don’t cry, Aruna. Your sister and brother-in-law in Malaysia find the boy a very good match for you.
They were approached by the boy’s mother first before she came down to India to ask for your hand. I know you haven’t finished your studies, but then, you can always continue after you get married, can’t you, if it means so much to you? Not only that, in India girls are married off to good suitors at your age, so this is the right time for you.
Age shouldn’t be an issue. How do you know that you will not like the boy or like to live in a country like Malaysia if you haven’t met him or experienced living there?
God has blessed you with a chance of a lifetime, Aruna. You should be grateful. Accept it in good faith. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can say or do to change my decision. All the arrangements have been made for you to leave for Malaysia the soonest.”
Aruna ran to her room sobbing, after hearing what her brother had to say.
She tried pleading again with him not to send her away. She was only sixteen. She wanted to stay in India - her birthplace. She wanted to continue her studies. How could she leave her studies halfway? How could she be separated from the rest of her family members in India? She would miss them terribly, plus wouldn’t they miss her in return? She would especially miss her best friend Nila! They were supposed to graduate together, maybe even get married someday and live next to each other!
Even though she had an elder sister living in Malaysia, who was married and enjoyed a flourishing life, the thought of leaving India was, nonetheless, heartbreaking.
She didn’t want to go to Malaysia, no matter how appealing it was to the rest of her family members. She didn’t think herself lucky at all. It was just the opposite. She thought herself the unluckiest person in the world!