Peter Havholm May 20th, 2008
Mrs. Sukhwar, on the train from Delhi to Haridwar, was pleased that she had recently married her daughter, in her 20s, who is now living in Australia with her husband. Mrs. Sukhwar found the husband through an ad in the newspaper. Later, I looked through the Hindustan Times (“the HT,” as Mrs. Sukhwar refers to it) to the marriage ad pages which appear every Thursday, and here are samples:
Main head: Grooms Wanted For; Sub-head “Brahmin.”
Match 4 Fair/Slim b’ful MBBS Bhardwaj girl, 158cm/1981 born/Veg. preparing for MD/MS Looking for IIT/IIM/PG-Medico match.
Suitable match professionally qualified for Masters (UK), 29/5’3″, simple, convent educated, very good in communication skills, good looking wheatish, fair working girl, caste no bar.
Sub-head: “Khatri.” [a caste]
SM [suitable match] for NM [non-manglikh: an unflawed horoscope] slim b’ful Pb [Punjabi] Kh [Khatri] Kukhrain [sub-caste of the Khatri caste] conv. ed. MA Eng. . . . .
Mrs. Sukhwar is now at work on marrying her son in the same way. “Now I have to get him married.” One wants to find a similar station and educational level, she said.
I met her son a little later when he came from another car on the train to check on his mother. She was sitting in a seat that was “not confirmed,” she had told me, but her son had arranged with the ticket master to make it all right. But the train service is “not corrupt,” she told me. Their procedures are fair. “Very honest, very good.” She wanted me to know that no bribery had been involved. She had talked with her son about it on her cell phone, and when the ticket master came by, she was apparently approved. And when another man arrived later to claim her seat, she sent him away pretty handily (but without any asperity that I could hear), by pointing out that the “ticket master” (the way it is said in Hindi) had not questioned her seat.
She raised a subject that our academic speakers have addressed repeatedly: India’s happy diversity. There are sixteen official languages (this number seems to change from speaker to speaker; we must post the official numbers when we’ve found them), but all the communities are wonderfully generous and helpful to one another, she said, though there were some difficulties with immigrants, principally from Bangladesh and Nepal, who come to India because things are so bad in their country and India is moving up so quickly. When I asked about the killings in Gujarat, she said they were the result of politicians using religious difference to incite the poor people. And the treatment of women was quite good in India except, perhaps, in the villages. But, for example, when the Doctor asked her, as her daughter was born, if she was happy, she had said she was because her family was now complete. She had then provided her daughter with the same education and other advantages as she had given her son. The British? No, there is no bad feeling now. It was so long ago. The children do not know about the British. They don’t even know about Gandhi.
Her son has given her a Dell computer on which she does e-mail and plays games. It is several years old, but it works fine. Some older people complain they do not have enough to do, but she loves to keep learning. If you have the will power, you can learn to do anything.
I made some video of Mrs. Sukhwar as she talked, and she enjoyed seeing it when I played a segment on the camera’s view screen. She gave me her e-mail address so that I could send her a clip. But she also requested that I never show it to anyone else. She is a very simple person, honest and direct, she said. She wants no involvement in politics, and I have changed her name in these posts.
As we pulled into Haridwar station, the son arrived again, and I shook hands and told him how much I had enjoyed talking with his mother. I could not read him at all, though he was very polite.
I thought of Mrs. Sukhwar later, during both of my “dips” or “holy baths” (as she variously called her immersions) in Mother Ganga, and I remembered her travel across India to holy sites she found to be sources of deep pleasure and spiritual nourishment.