Sep 24, 2013

"The Barren Betrothal" from Sermons in the Stroms

Unless they are in absolute conformity with God's scheme which we can't know except under special conditions, all our plans plus programs—howsoever meticulously chalked out, simply go to winds.
Here's an odd but true and complex incident proving the above axiomatic truth.
In the year 1952, one Rasikbhai, a son of Surendranagar Lawyer was betrothed to one Ranjanaben of Amreli and the marriage was fixed for 25th of May that year.
One Kumari Hamsaben daughter of a Surendranagar grocer was engaged to one Harendrabhai, son of a growing businessman of Rajkot. This marriage was also to take place on the same day.
On 22nd May, the father of Rasikbhai approached Kumari Ranjana's father; with just few days’ time left for the marriage, that day appeared opportune to him to press for increment in dowry through indirect threats of cancellation of the marriage. When faced with the prospects of detrimental consequences, springing from non-compliance, the brides' parties generally concede to the depressing demands at such times. For, rejection of a bride at the eleventh hour creates all sorts of doubts in the minds of the society and the chances of her absorption through marriage in a class family diminishes.

Due to this type of trampling tactics of the many, the domestic lot of numerous women become unbearable.
It is too well-known a fact that in a society where dowry occupies the principal place in marriages, the household happiness of its members can only be compared to imaginary dreams.
The ravages of the dowry system prevalent in Gujarat—more particularly in the Patel community of Charoatar, isn't unknown and therefore needs no elaboration.
The saying that ‘a son is a son only till he gets a wife—but a daughter is a daughter all her life', when applied to the Patel community would aptly mean the marriage, a son eases to be a burden to the family. Whereas, in the case of daughters, however, even after their marriage they remain a recur-ring burden on their parents right till their march either to pyre or poverty.
Fearful of the likely throttling liabilities, therefore, the Patels of Gujarat consider female issues as a dreadful curse to the family.
Ranjana's father didn't accede and Ranjana herself expressed her disinterest to enter into a family which wanted to make money through the marriage. The betrothal was nullified.
When Rasikbhai learnt about it, he braved to point out to his father the cheapness of the dowry system and boldly told him that his ruse was dirty and condemnable. The situation hottened and the turn of the arguments forced Rasik to desert his house.
On the evening of 23rd May, Kumari Hamsa who was to marry one Harendrabhai had to fill few pails of water from the tap at the back of her house. She was there all alone. It was about 5 p.m. then. Some three persons of Muslim looks neared the water tap, stood there for a while and walked away. Hamsaben followed them. Evidently, she was subjugated by some magical spell. They reached the station and boarded a train which was bound for Rajkot. The train left.
At little past 8 p.m., as the train was entering the platform of Wankaner Junction, Hamsaben regained self-awareness and finding herself in a moving train, terrifiedly raised cries of 'save me’s’. The sorcerers who scented trouble made themselves scarce. Hamsaben's cries attracted the attention of the passengers and amongst others, an old man who was to alight at Wankaner station went up to her and enquired as to what was the matter.
In non-plussed tones, Hamsaben informed the old man how that evening when she was filling water from the tap near the back yard of her house, three persons came near the tap and stood a while with their gaze fixed at her. She thought, said she, that they might be wanting to drink water and so she said nothing to them. After that, she said, she could only recall that she followed them and was then presently in the train. Thereafter, she gave her identity and completed her whole saying by making known that her marriage was to take place on 25th of that month.
The old gentleman of Wankaner had heard about her father. So, he said to the girl that he knew her father impersonally and that he would inform him about her safety through an immediate telegram. He asked her to accompany him to his house and stay there till her dad came. The girl agreed to do so. On the way home, that gentleman sent an express telegram summoning her father.
The female members in the house of that old man, kept on soothing her with encouraging talks. When till midnight none came, the old man promised the girl that he would send her to Surendranagar in the company of his wife; by the first train after sunrise the next day. All of them went to bed.
Hamsaben who couldn't sleep began to ruminate over the possible after-effects of her missing from home and thought that the news might have by then travelled far and fast and reached even her prospective in-laws.
Assuming that nothing happened immediately, yet, the chances of this news erupting at a later stage to mar her married-life can't be ruled out—she felt. 'Would the society believe her story? She asked herself.
After all those inner queries, she could only infer that she wouldn't be accepted; and as such, that she should put an end to her life by jumping from a running train.
Having braced up her mind that way, she got out of the house and took to the road leading to the station. That being the train time, there were tongas plying to take people from the town to the far off Railway Station. Hamsaben had some cash with her and part payment took her and 3 other passengers to the station.
She had nowhere to go—she only "wanted to kill herself by jumping from a fast-moving train. Yet, she thought fit to possess a ticket and so, she bought one for Rajkot. There was still another' half an hour for the train to come. In order that she may not be spotted by anyone who might be searching for her, she went to the dark end of the platform and sat on a bench there. Only after seating herself did she notice someone lying asleep not far from the bench. About ten minutes later, that person rose and up rubbing his eyes and presuming peoples' presence asked as to when the train for Rajkot was likely to come.
Hamsaben freely told him that in about 20 minutes or so the train was expected to arrive. Somehow, both of them got to talking and Hamsaben laid bare before that stranger— who was none other than Shri. Rasikbhai—her problem, Shri. Rasikbhai gave out his tale to her. Though they both belonged to Surendranagar and had heard about each other's parents, yet, they themselves had never met. That was their first meeting and it culminated in their jointly deciding to become life partners through Civil Marriage with the permission plus patronage of Rasik's uncle who was in Porebunder, the birth-place of Mahatma Gandhi.
The train came, they reached Porebunder and with the blessings of Rasik's paternal uncle their wedding was registered.
Ranjana's father had been to Rajkot City on some work and per chance met Harendrabhai's father in a park there. They knew each before. Ranjana's father informed his friend how the bridegroom's party tried to squeeze out more money from him at the last moment and how on that score he was obliged to cancel the marriage of his daughter.
Because of the sudden disappearance of Hamsaben with whom his son was to marry, Harendrabhai's father informed in turn the fate of his son's proposed wedding. Simultaneously it struck both of them that Harendrabhai and Ranjana could be married. They agreed to each other's proposal.
So it came that the strange and unexpected circumstance which propped up, made Rasikbhai who was to marry Rajanaben to wed Hamsaben and Harendrabhai who was engaged to Hamsaben, to be united in wedlock with Rajanaben on 25th of May that very year.
Experiences compel us to indubitably believe that there are higher powers which steer the course of our lives.

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