Marriage of Convenience
The family members gathered: father, mother, son, and two daughters. The married daughters arrived to their erstwhile home because their brother requested them to be at home, in case, if the conversation flared up between him and their father.
“Brother has loved a girl,” elder daughter introduced the matter to father lowering the sound of loved.
Father asked elder daughter but looking at his son, “Who is the girl?”
“She is also IAS officer like him,” daughter answered.
The whole temple town in Odisha talked about the success of the son in the poor Patnaiks’ family but not-so poor in Puri. He has passed the most competitive examination in the world, and got the most coveted job in the Indian Civil Service examination. And, the time arrived for his marriage.
“When did they love?” father asked.
The daughter had no answer. The son entered into the direct talk, to talk about that unseen and unheard girl in the family. He answered to his father, “We met in Mussoorie, in our training.”
“Love happened so quickly?” father asked son.
“Love happens at the first sight or grows between people over a long time,” son told father but looking at his mother.
“What is the girl’s religion and caste?”
“She is from Assam.”
“Could you not find any other girl somewhere here?”
“Love doesn’t happen that way.”
“Clever boy. You are going to marry a girl who doesn’t speak the language your mother and father speaks, ah?”
“But we can live in our state,” son said.
“What does that mean?”
“She got our state cadre,” son said, and briefly told how he and his would-be wife can live in Odisha if he marries her.
“You are expected to work anywhere in India. That is why the Government of India has chosen you.”
“I want to live and work in our state. That is why I chose the girl.”
“What is that?” the father did not know the nitty gritties of how cadre allocation took place for the IAS officers – how they are posted to the different states of India, and what basis.
Indian governance inserted humanism into cadre allocations: To post male and female officers in the same state if they happen to be in a relationship and the couple can chose he cadre or the state to work. A window of opportunity to milk the humanism to individual convenience.
“Dibya got our state cadre.”
“Divya? Is that her name?”
“Not Divya, Dibya.”
“Why not Divya?”
“Assamese language differs slightly from our Odia.”
“Divya sounds to be a clever girl. A girl from Assam coming all the way to our state.”
“That is why I want to marry her?”
“That is why means?”
“I got another state cadre.”
“Jammu and Kashmir.”
“You should feel proud of yourself for serving there.”
“Father, you know how life is there.”
“Are you afraid?”
“I want to be closer to you, mother, sisters, our culture, our language.”
“Kashmir is another culture?”
“Not really but Dibya got our state cadre. If I marry her, I can also work here.”
“You mean, you are marrying her to be here?”
“I also love her. We will be closer…”
“You do not want to marry the girl we have chosen for you…,” the father went on but the son interrupted.
“Father, it is not my choice. Love happens. It is better to be here.”
“What is better to be here, do you think your mother and I cannot travel? If you marry a girl according to our custom, our tradition, she will look after us, ah?”
“I want to have a good life.”
“You can create wherever you are.”
“You cannot create a life where there is trouble every day.”
“So you want to marry a girl to be here?”
“Love and convenience? No culture, no custom, no respect…”
“Some officers married like that.”
“Like what? Marriage of convenience, ah?” father barked. But his wife noticed the rising anger in her husband, hesitantly, lovingly, she said shifting her eyes between her husband and her son, “Let us talk about this later, relatives are coming, our sons-in-law will be here, soon. We have to celebrate now.”
Father told his family, “Tell them, our son is the first in our family not only to become a big officer but also invented a new form of marriage. Marriage of convenience, of, what is that?”
“Cadre,” the son said, and snapped at his father, “you need to realize…”
Father stressed to his family, “Realize, realize, realize…” and stomped out of the house to attend to his grocery shop, muttering, “Jai Jagannath. Jai Jagannath. Jai Jagannath. …”
-Kovuuri G. Reddy (This short story was first published on www.telugurajyam.com)