Have you ever heard stories about how someone “eloped” and got married? I always had this image of a girl jumping out of her balcony with a bag full of things hurriedly packed into her bag and escaping with her beloved.
In my entire forty odd years I have only come across four such real life cases- one being that of a cousin , the second a maid who used to work for us and the other two being a former colleague and a friend. While the first two happened around me ( so to say) the third and fourth were narrated to me post facto by the main actors- the men involved ! Of course, when they narrated their respective stories it was very difficult to believe that it had happened to THEM because both of them were such quiet individuals who can be called “respectable pillars of society”. One of these “heroes” Mr S was working with me and my husband. We were not married then. It was a post retirement job for him and he usually kept to himself not preferring to mingle with “youngsters” like us. However, when he came to know about our “romance” , he volunteered his story to me one day near the water cooler over a budget discussion. He told me about how he had followed his wife to Kerala where her family had locked her up in their ancestral home, to prevent her from marrying a Tamil man. He told me about how he scaled the wall to enter her house , found the room she was imprisoned in and then climbed up a drainage pipe to enter it. My husband to this day refuses to believe that Mr. S had told me his story. He thinks I made it up as part of my mad imagination!
About my cousin ,I can say that I was accused by my aunt for abetting it ( though I was completely innocent and far away in my college hostel writing a semester exam while she was in action). And as far as the maid was concerned, both me and my husband were branded culprits when she went missing from our house. It was a horrible experience (with us having to file an FIR) until we found her and her muslim boyfriend and helped them through a Nikah! My husband and I laugh sometimes about how we drove them late in the night in a rickety old Maruti 800 for the ceremony as they sat crouched, hidden in the back seat. We feel like we had eloped!
So, what is this romance about eloping and getting married? Guess, it is an adventure that is fueled by all the love stories and poems that we read. It is an act of rebellion in the face of parental authority-something that seems very exciting when we are young! There are three stories that come to my mind, from literature, history and mythology respectively which I used to find very romantic as a teen and in my twenties
The first is the ballad “Lochinvar” by Sir Walter Scott where the hero Lochinvar kidnaps the “fair Ellen” from her wedding. “ I long wooed your daughter, my suit you denied” he tells the bride’s father when asked “ Come ere in peace or you come ere in war or to dance at our bridal young Lord Lochinvar?” . We teens felt terrible that “ a laggard in love and a dastard in war was to wed the fair Ellen of the brave Lochinvar”. We empathized with Ellen as “she looked down to blush and looked up to sigh with a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye” when she sees her beloved at her wedding. We almost clapped out in glee when Lochinvar lifts her up on his horse and rides away as “ Fosters, Fenwicks, Musgraves” rode and ran behind the couple.
The second instance is a similar one – of Prithviraj Chauhan and Samyukta as he kidnaps her from her Swayamvar. Her father Jaichand was his enemy and he had deliberately erected a statue of the royal Prithvi and placed it at the door like a guard as an insult. But ofcourse his daughter who had set her heart on marrying this chap ( I am not sure how they had met) placed the garland on the statue by the door which was a signal to the disguised king and his men to charge forward, engage in a duel and ride away with her!
And finally there is the story about our own dear Sri Krishna as he takes Rukmini away from a temple where she had gone to worship before her wedding to a man she did not want to marry. I kind of like Rukmini’s spirit because not only did she tell her father and her brother that she was not a pawn to be given away in marriage to someone for political gains, she also wrote a letter to the man she secretly loved – Sri Krishna and asked him to marry her! Ofcourse, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Sri Krishna had told her by return post that he was not interested ? But I brush that thought aside because it interferes with my idea of a happy ending! And anyway, my grand mother had assured me that he would not have said “No” because in those days if a lady proposed marriage to a man, he was honor bound to accept!
There were movies of a certain genre during the time we were growing up that had complete story lines around a couple running away and living in scenic surroundings. Kumar Gaurav and Vijeta in "Love Story" live in a lovely cottage that they build up in the hills complete with a hammock and bath tub inside ( though how they managed to do the construction all by themselves baffles me!) and then there were Amir and Juhi who turn an abandoned temple into home after they run away. Stupid star eyed teenagers that we were, it never occurred to us as to how they would sustain a life like that. We probably thought that KG in Love Story earned well enough through his wood cutting job to finance all the lovely clothes that Vijeta wore and Juhi anyway had eloped with a lot of clothes in her back pack so there were enough costume changes for the song sequence that made us sigh !
But coming back to reality- do runaway relationships work? What happens when the excitement wears off? Do couples tire of each other? The four couples I wrote about , fortunately had happy endings to their tales. Mrs S lives with her children today as Mr S left her and this world some years ago after five decades of togetherness. My friend has a college going daughter and is what I would call a progressive father. I don’t think his daughter would need to run away like him if she falls in love. She would have his blessings. My cousin has built her bridges with her parents and my aunt cannot stop talking about her grandson ! My maid, is today a devout Muslim. She works in a leather unit and her husband has a transport business. They do not have children which worries her because someone has told her that her husband being a Muslim might remarry if she does not produce one soon!
Runaway marriages are like any other adventure- good to read about or watch on screen but when it happens to you or someone who is close to you, there is no telling what might be the survival rate. There are thousands of couples who break up after a few weeks of togetherness and return home when the passion and the cash have run out. Sometimes, the parents track them down and force them to come back home. That often does not solve the problem because they still have feelings for each other on which they try to act, failing which they do something drastic like trying to kill themselves.
A relationship is often sustained by a stress situation and when that has eased the person with whom one eloped does not seem that exciting. I mean, Lochinvar might seem exciting when he gallops across forests and rivers. But would that aggression show itself on the fair Ellen later on when he gets angry or jealous? Sometimes, the same trait that one finds so appealing at one point in time becomes difficult to tolerate later one. However if one has thought through clearly before taking the step, then it works. But if it is just to prove a point to one’s parents and those opposing that they would marry no matter what then the relationship has the risk of falling apart later on. Rebellion is a part of youth. All of us have done it at some point or the other. But cutting one’s nose to spite the face serves no purpose.
So my dear youngsters, run away if you wish, as long as you are sure that is the only way out and also that you are running away because you want to be with someone desperately. And for elders, the best way to deal with an unsuitable relationship is to let it run its course (within boundaries of course). Some times like fever, the bad relationships “sweat” themselves out.
But of course, the romance of being the runaway couple continues to charm. Some smart ones get secretly married and continue to live with their parents until they are ready to start life together. I find that an interesting innovation of modern living..!
Runaway marriages, self arranged- parental consent obtained marriages or parent arranged marriages, whatever be the category that one’s relationship is all about, the thing in common is the fact that all relationships require effort to sustain. When that is missing then it is the end! At that point, it is meaningless to do a post mortem to see whether there was a cause –effect relationship between the type of marriage and the outcome!