In this personal essay, Akanksha Prakash takes a walk down the memory lane and analyses the marriage of her grandparents comparing it with her own decades later, to decipher the hidden lessons she learnt as a child.
My paternal grandparents lasted together for over six decades until Grandpa’s death in 2014. They never loved each other. I shouldn’t say never because I don’t know what transpired between them just after they got married and before their oldest son, my father, became old enough to register episodic memories of the family dynamics. But love, if it ever existed between them, had been buried under the bulk of their individual histories, and was no more perceptible to anyone outside their dyad. The apparent absence of love was not evinced in indifference, not by my grandparents. It was active hostility and frothy bitterness professed in front of an audience, mostly us – the family, comprising their children and grandchildren.
Theirs was an arranged marriage like almost all Indian marriages of their generation. No accurate records of their birthdates and wedding exist, but based on my estimates, they were married circa 1952. My grandfather, a Dalit, from the Chamar caste, grew up in poverty but managed to procure a high-school education and later, a stable job of the Chief Time Keeper at the Diesel Locomotives Workshop of the Indian Railways in Varanasi. My grandmother, also from the same caste, but from a relatively higher economic status, remained illiterate all her life. Both were the youngest in their families and were doted on by their older siblings, which is why Grandpa could go to school (becoming the first educated person in his family), and Grandma could be coddled at home. (She never learnt to read or write – had to stamp her thumb print wherever her signature was required.)