It happened one afternoon. By a journalist’s standards, I was leading a rather mundane – some would say boring – life in the ’90s. Till, one autumn evening, my pre-Wi-Fi love story took an astounding turn.
The girlfriend of three years was no longer content with lofty promises of cruises in the Caribbean and romantic Dev Anand songs sung in autorickshaws.
So, after a rather intense late-night conversation over a landline phone, she gave me the ultimatum: Either we walk down the (elusive) aisle or she’d walk out of my life. The romantic in me promised to stand by her, in case she decided to take the plunge!
I don’t know whether it was the earnestness in my voice or the effect of too many Bollywood movies (October 1998, after all, was the third anniversary of the release of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge) that she took my words too seriously and landed – clothes, tears and textbooks – at my place.
One look at her tearful (but angelic) face was enough to realise it wasn’t just another visit where we would discuss Indian politics post VP Singh or watch Chitrahaar together. It was time to invoke the Raj in me for my Simran.
No, there were no drumbeats in the background, nor was the setting an airbrushed railway station when I realised my prospective wife had decided to desert her family and become my family instead. And that I had only a few hours to figure the logistics of a quickie shaadi.
Should we take our courtship to a court of law? How long would it be before her parents got to know? And would the brother-in-law actually use a hockey stick on me?
Nuts and bolts
Some frantic calls to confidants and confidantes later, my dented confidence was back. One need not paste a notice outside a court for one month. That would be bad strategy! What we needed was instant matrimony. So, a journalist known to be conversant with all matters elopement was located and spoken to. “I don’t know you. But didn’t you elope and get married?” I asked. The phone line went silent for a few excruciating seconds and then came a warm: “Of course! You too seem to be in a tearing hurry. If you want a quickie shaadi, head to the Arya Samaj Mandir,” was the seasoned scribe’s advice. “All you will need is evidence of age, three witnesses and affidavits from the groom and the bride saying there is no coercion involved,” he added.
Now there was the small matter of locating a pliant panditji and a registered Arya Samaj Mandir. Here the enterprising administrative manager of my former newspaper office came in handy and directed us to one close to Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, Delhi’s Fleet Street.
Ours was the T20 equivalent of a shaadi. Only it took slightly less time than a T20 match. The wedding photographer was a friend of my first cousin. The mangalsutra and rings were bought from the neighbourhood jeweller, hair salons were barged into and frantic calls made to friends and colleagues. The boss was incredulous. "Weren’t you recovering from a bike crash? Is this your idea of a joke? What do you mean you are getting married this evening? I am not even dressed for a shaadi!" But once I narrated the sequence of events, she began to see the romance in it all. "This is really adventurous! I never knew you had a wild side. Don’t worry, the entire department will sign as witnesses at your wedding."
As promised, my rag-tag group of friends and colleagues showed up and my younger sister cheered on as they saw my life’s soundtrack change from Ek Ladki Bhagi Bhagi Si to Suhaag Raat Hai Ghoonghat Utha Raha Hoon Main. All in a matter of hours.
Fourteen years later, when we look back, my wife and I can see the lighter side of the shaadi. But whenever a friend brings up the mention of these few frantic, maddening, exhilarating hours, she gives me a look that says: "Really, was this the man I became a runaway bride for?"
Timeline of a runaway wedding
2.45pm: We decide to take the plunge. The wedding has to happen THIS evening.
3-5pm: Frantic calls made to figure out the nitty-gritties, Arya Samaj venue finalised.
5pm: I rush to a barber to get a trim. The bride makes a stopover at a boutique for her trousseau before checking into the nearest salon.
6.15pm: Wedding rings and mangalsutra are picked up from the neighbourhood jeweller.
7pm: The wedding party reaches the Arya Samaj Mandir.
7.30pm: The marriage ceremony begins with a yajna.
8.30pm: The seven pheras are done and dusted.
9pm: Panditji issues the marriage certificate.
9.30pm: Sweets and snacks do the rounds. We’re finally wed!
From HT Brunch, December 2
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