The telephone bell rang.
“Hello, this is Ratha. Is it Theresa?”
“Yes, Theresa speaking. It’s very long since I heard your voice.”
“I have an important matter; I am going to marry my cousin.”
Kannan was her cousin, Radha’s maternal uncle’s son.
“Congrats. At last you are going to marry your Kannan!”
As I was in a hurry to go to the office I cut short my talk in a few minutes.
Ratha has been my intimate friend from my high school studies. We stayed in the same hostel in Coimbatore city during our high school and college studies. My house was in Tiruppur, a nearby town and Radha came from a village at the foot of the Western Ghats. A very beautiful village full of lively natural sceneries. The people, as in any other Indian village, were simple and affectionate with inherent hospitality. It is really interesting to watch their traditional life filled with rituals!
I attended her “Puberty Ceremony” (a ritual celebration to announce the puberty of a girl) when we were studying in the eighth grade. It happened in the hostel and the warden sent me to accompany Radha to her house.
In India, puberty is an experience with so many rituals even among us, Christians in India. The maternal uncle has the primary role in the rituals. It is a kind of betrothal to the first cousin of the girl!
Radha and her cousin Kannan were growing together with her grandparents in a nearby village. Enjoying the stories of their grandma, they grew up playing together under the shady trees and running after the butterflies which were opening the blossoming flowers.
Kannan was everything to Radha and their childhood days were spent together in the affectionate nest of their grandma until Radha left to the hostel tearing herself away from her sweet grandma and loving Kannan. They were more for Radha than her own parents!
Even in the hostel grandma and Kannan were the breath of Radha. Everyday she shared their thoughts with me. Kannan was the hero of her dreams!
But after some years whenever the grandma opened the topic of marriage to Kannan, he was not so happy. Though he did not love any other girl particularly, he was not so much interested in marrying Radha. Of course he loved her more than any body else in the world!
In the later days of our college life Radha looked very sad to share with me her dejectedness of a future without Kannan.
In India it is quite common to find marriages preferred between cousins (especially cross-cousins, that is, the children of a brother and sister) and even between uncles and nieces (especially a man and his elder sister’s daughter). The effect of such marriages is nothing but to bind people together in relatively small, tight-knit kin groups. A bride moves to her in laws’ home, the home of her grandmother or aunt, and is often comfortable among these familiar faces. Her husband may well be the cousin she has known all her life that she would marry. This custom is followed even among Christians!
Even after our college life our sharing friendship continued. I tried my best to console and convince Radha. Even her aged grandma was much worried about this since most of Radha’s colleagues were married.
After the phone call from Radha, I was wondering how she could succeed in convincing Kannan to marry her.
It all happened as a turning point!
Radha’s grandma became seriously ill and all the relatives were around her death bed.
No food! No talk! Just opening the eyes and searching for somebody!
All were there calling her except Kannan who was in Chennai on duty.
After so many urgent calls, Kannan came to bid adieu to his grandma.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. Grandma took Radha’s hands and kept them in Kannan’s.
Without any word she looked into Kannan’s eyes as if begging him for something.
Kannan understood her request. And everybody present there understood!
Kannan looked into his grandma and promised to fulfill her last request!
Smiles and tears filled all faces.
Grandma closed her eyes.
Radha married her cousin Kannan!
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