Married in absentia
Every evening, officers would cheer the groom-to-be by hoping that weather would clear to permit him to proceed home. The roads were badly affected by landslides. Yet the officer was confident of getting married on the scheduled date. Brig VK Sharma (retd) writeschandigarh Updated: Aug 13, 2012 10:33 IST
Marriages are made in heaven. I believe they can also be made in 'absentia' and the bride and groom don't have to be together at the wedding.
Authorised leave is not a problem in the army, be it on passionate (marriage) or compassionate grounds. Yet, at times, the place where one is located and the weather play their part in prolonging the agony of two pining hearts.
About two decades ago, I was commanding an infantry battalion in Arunachal Pradesh. I had my companies deployed in areas accessible by foot tracks, involving marching on foot for three to six days. The nearest company connected by road was located 45 km from my headquarters. The area was subjected to heavy downpour throughout the year, except from November to January. At times it rained for 20 days at a stretch.
One dripping morning, one of the Muslim officers from Jammu and Kashmir came to my office with two applications, one for a 14-day casual leave and the other for permission to get married. The latter, being a legacy from the British days, is followed as a convention in old infantry units. In lighter vein, I remarked on the application, "Put up photo of the bride for approval". He did put up the photo; it was circulated among officers and women and was unanimously "approved". I cheerfully approved his application for leave and marriage.
The approval was but a minor obstacle to be crossed by the excited groom-to-be on his road to matrimony. The weather gods played spoilsport and were in no mood to relent. Every evening at the officers' mess, officers would cheer the groom-to-be by hoping that weather would clear the next morning to permit him to proceed home. All roads were badly affected by landslides as a result of continuous heavy rain. Despite this, the officer was confident of getting married on the scheduled date. It rained for 15 days at a stretch.
On the 15th day, when he came to my office, I wanted to sympathise with him. To my utter dismay, he gave me the papers saying he was married for my signature. Apprehending a psychological disorder in him, I ordered tea for him and advised him to ask his parents to fix a fresh date for his wedding. He gave me a puzzled look saying he was already married. He explained to me that the marriage in Islam was permissible over the telephone.
Still I wanted to be sure before signing the papers. I, along with my second-in-command and other officers, drove over the slushy road to the nearest STD booth in the blinding rain. I was lucky to get the call through to Srinagar, and having talked to the father of the bride and the groom besides to the bride, I was convinced of the marriage having taken place.
In the STD booth itself, I ordered sweets and tea and signed the order of marriage. The same evening all officers and women assembled in the officers' mess to celebrate the marriage in the absence of the bride. But a formal reception was held when she joined the unit family.