There was an air of suppressed excitement in my maternal grandmother’s house. My grandfather’s 82-year-old brother was arriving with his wife from Bangladesh. There was nothing extraordinary about it but for the fact that the wife was his third and she was 28 years old.
My grandmother had mixed feelings about meeting her new sister-in-law. She had not met her brother-in-law’s first wife who had passed away before she had married. But his second wife, Prabha, had welcomed my grandmother into the household. They were inseparable, like peas in a pod. She recalled the happy times spent with Prabha playing truant from the prying eyes of the, the matriarch, their fierce mother-in-law. Prabha was anxious of her husband’s multiple marriages. My grandmother would accompany Prabha on her secret visits to astrologers who always predicted a long life for Prabha and her husband. However, there was something that always perplexed the astrologers. They could never explain her husband’s two marriages. But one thing they were certain of — Prabha’s husband would never be tied in wedlock again. They were wrong. Prabha passed away and her husband of 81 howled like a child, but not for long. Cupid struck at 82 and draped in wedding finery, he tied the knot again!
Astrology governed my paternal grandmother’s life as well. Her astrologers predicted that her elder son would enter sainthood. As if to make up for the numbers, they predicted that her second son, my father would marry twice. My mother, a rationalist, never believed a word. My grandmother did not live long enough to see that her elder son proved the astrologer s wrong. Cupid struck my saint-like uncle and he dropped the bombshell on us one fine morning. The shehnais played for the groom of 60 and his soulmate, whom he had himself found.
My uncle soon dropped his second bombshell. The woman had vanished not only with the jewellery but also with my grandmother’s period furniture. A case was registered and time and money spent to trace the woman. Uncle found her when he had nearly given up hope. We lost many a prized possession but uncle lost his most precious one, his heart. Everyone believed it would be vanaprastha for my uncle after the rude shock. And then uncle dropped the third bombshell. The shehnais played again as he was bonded in holy matrimony to a lady who he said was more reliable. My uncle proved the astrologers wrong, not once but thrice!