A Qualified Wife: An English Short Story by Nirendra Dev (WBRi Online Magazine)

A Qualified Wife

By Nirendra Dev

A Short Story


Nirendra Narayan DevEditor's Note: Nirendra Narayan Dev (nirendev1 [at] gmail [dot] com), an acclaimed political journalist, is a special correspondent of The Statesman, New Delhi and author of the books Ayodhya : Battle For Peace, The Talking Guns North East India and Godhra A Journey To Mayhem. Nirendra was born and brought up in India's northeast and his father served with paramilitary force Assam Rifles. His blog is at bestofindiarestofindia.blogspot.com.

We have previously had an opportunity of talking to the author and have posted the audio recording of the interview.

His earlier short stories published on Washington Bangla Radio are The Pawns, Arms of Comfort, The Guiding Sun, Soothing Moon, Patrons of a Letter Box and Anniversary Night.


A professional photographer on the first wedding night spends entire time taking photographs of the bride, a computer system operator would waste time trying to find some faults and correct it and at the end sum up the story: it’s system failure. The bedtime joke made fascinating reading to Amalendu Dutta. Leaving aside the tiny joke book, he walked towards the window. It rained heavily all evening and the sky was still overcast and black rain-laden clouds drifted across the sky. He could feel the smell of mango wafted up in the air. Another summer has come; sultry summer. There is no running away from Kolkata’s summer, he wondered. “Diney machchi, ratey masha … ei niye Kolkata (Kolkata in summer time is never complete without flies in day time and mosquitoes in the night)

But he knew, some poor people would probably rejoice it more than the winter. Last winter was unexpectedly chilly killing scores of people in the city. People are born, grow up, marry and slowly die to get another birth, may be; may be not! Mere thought of the words ‘marriage’ and ‘marry’ some how has left Amalendu slightly puzzled more than disturbed. What’s this institution of marriage after all, he wondered staring outside towards the sky as if he was looking for a heavenly answer.

To Amalendu, however, the marriage essentially meant some adjustments here, some compromises there. Human life is most of the time a puppet whose strings are held in society’s mangled hands. The wedding knot is a proof of that. But still, wedding is essential part of one’s life. His bachelorhood is a proof in itself that things are not yet organized. His life is still directionless unlike most of his ‘married’ friends and colleagues – who have routine to follow; - time to move out of home, time to return. Time for their weekends, family picnics. It was not only Amalendu’s personal choice, even his parents have been insisting on him to settle for the wed lock.

Unknowingly, having thought these, he glanced at himself in the mirror. The problem was not about the need for the marriage. He has well reached that stage. The thought of marriage; and an imagination of a fair lady coming out from his bathroom in night gown would cast a magical aura around the room. The mood would turn festive.

The bigger problem was on what kind of girl he should look for the prospective life partner. All sorts of advice, mostly voluntary have piled up over the months. But Amalendu was to draw his own conclusion about the choice of a wife. She should be fair, slim and beautiful. Well, everyone desires that, he thought rather assertively. What are the other qualities of would be wife? Height, he seemed to tell himself. In today’s fashion, fairly good height and slim are prerequisites of a beauty or rather a presentable bride. Today’s world has transformed from a typical feudal structure to so called modernity – where women were expected to be treated on equal footing. But the transitions have come very fast resulting in throwing up of uncertain values. The greed of the male class from wedding institution has remained all the same nevertheless. This he could understand well as his parents, supposedly very progressive with their two daughters, were expecting a ‘gharelu’ (homely) wife.

When his mother said, “jey jai bolo (whatever you all say), the wife should dutiful to her husband”, Amalendu was grinning to himself. He knew how his grandmother used to complain against his mother. But Amalendu could not complain that his mother was not dutiful to his father.

In fact, when he grew up, he used to feel strongly for his mother and always regarded his father as an autocrat head of the family. An indifferent! Someone, who would dismiss the world, with his half-a-sentence remark, ‘tomader kicchu hobey na (nothing good can happen to you all worthless fellows). On the contrary, as a dutiful wife his mother would be working entire day. Keeping the house neat and clean. Book shelves and the tables arranged properly and dusted. She would cook --- vegetarians and later a dish or two of non-veg because without ‘macch (fish)’ Bengali bhadralok family did not quite look like a family. To top all that, mother would have her dinner last. Her chores done, she would come to the bed and for few years as he could remember – she would be crooning lullabies: ‘ghum parani mashi pishi moder bari esho (little wonder … all the aunts of sleeping beauty always rested on the eyes of the children)’.

Unmindful, Amelendu started imagining himself in place of his father. Lying down on the bed – bespectacled – lost in a book. And smilingly, he could imagine his would-be wife chewing pan trying to put the children to sleep. The scene looked loveable to him, though funny.

The next morning the topic of wedding was raised by his mother again. This is almost her daily job these days. Amalendu tried to calm her down saying, “I am for it Maa, I am all for it, but give me sometime”.

“I am not talking about you. What about others in the house. As if he never cares for what all I utter,” his mother screamed at the breakfast table, albeit in reference to his father. The old man was still lost in the newspaper. The death of children in a mofusil hospital in south Bengal has demanded considerable space in the vernacular daily.

Keeping down his specs, Amalendu’s father took his time: “arey baba, I am also serious about. But it is a son’s marriage. We have to see all pros and cons. Tomorrow, one should not regret”.

“What regrets… its months but there is no response from the matrimonial ads, nor the dotcom companies,” said Amalendu’s mother.

“They take their time. But I have told a few friends. But you are also being funny, you do not want my relatives to be approached. They all are your enemies,” his father reasoned and tried to tease his wife too.

Amalendu remained silent, though puzzled but tried to concentrate more on the breakfast. He was nevertheless staring towards a news paper ad – where a young damsel was displaying a daily accessory product. The face was pretty.

Unknowingly, he knows that ever since this ‘look for bride and wedding’ mission started in his family, he is feeling attracted towards good looks --- especially the ones in family dress – saris, night dresses etc.

But at the same time, he was unsure of one thing – whether his parents would ever ask him categorically – what about his choices and preferences for a girl. Parents like his want to retain their control over their son – lifelong. They have been deciding everything for him and about him till date and would continue to do so.

§§§

After few days, he was scanning through some of the responses to the matrimonial ads and others which came though informal channels through his mother. He could shortlist a few. Some snaps left their mark; others had very attractive resume.

A wave of excitement swept over him. This was followed by a devastating silence. As he shuffled some of the snaps from the shortlist, he knew he was in a serious business. Definitely, it was a matter of urgency; but Amalendu knew if he acted hastily he might put himself in some quandary.

He had to strike a right balance between his choice of a partner and his parents’ choice of their ‘putra-vadhu (daughter-in-law)’.

That was easier said than done. He knew his parents pretty well. They would have their likes and dislikes and these to be guided by prejudices. Yet, he had to bow down to their wishes. And why not?

Whatever the limitations, he knew at the back of his mind that his parents loved him badly. Probably, all parents are obsessive of their off-springs.

So, Amalendu made up his mind. The surest way to get happiness in these murky affairs of marriage and the right balance between parents on one side and his personal life and choice would be to - accept the inevitable.

He walked to his parents’ room in the evening with few resume and snaps, handed over to them and left them to announce their verdict.

But his father was still reasonable and asked him: “that won’t be fair. You must share your opinion. After all you have to run the family. We won’t be here for long”.

“No, papa, do not say all these.”

“But tell us at least your first two or three choices”.

Amalendu took back the papers and snaps sat on the cot by his mother and said, “I don’t know about you people. This should be okay with our kind of requirement. She is a simple graduate and from a sober background”.

His mother was visibly delighted. The photograph her son was showing her was of Snidgha. She knew this girl but was not sure whether her well-educated son would end up accepting a simple ‘arts graduate’.

Amalendu’s father also nodded his head approving the girl. The matter seemed to have settled. Now only task left was to start talking to the girl’s parents, which Amalendu’s mother said would not take time as “we know that family’.

Amalendu walked back to his room.

He switched on the laptop and thought of surfing on the net. As the screen was blinking slowly, rising up inside him was a sensation.

He has just rejected the marriage proposals of half a dozen girls, he thought.

In the ultimate, he has settled for a simple arts graduate. Why did he reject the rest? Was it fair on his part to do so? Why the ads detailing his profession and educational qualification was given?

But when it came to making the final choice, he had rejected number of them with higher qualifications.

The only argument he had to defend his decision was: it will be difficult to keep control on highly qualified girls.

Moreover, those with careers in law and jobs like in public relation firms and even in medicine were also rejected. Well, his argument on these was, these women would not be homely!

He walked towards the window. The clear night sky was bathed in mild white moonlight. Amalendu was wondering about his decision. This is how families are made, he tried to reason himself. The families and way men look at it, he was sure now, has never smiled nor would ever smile on the aspirations of the females, especially if they are highly educated. It’s still a man’s world.


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