My youngest daughter fell in love with a man from a different caste - not something that was at all acceptable in our conservative household. Everyone, from society to her father, my husband, objected strenuously to the match. However, I supported her. To me the most important thing in a marriage is not the same caste but something much more vital - love.
I was married to a widower - a handsome and affluent Bengali babu zamindar. We had completely different life experiences - he was a graduate of Presidency College, Calcutta, while I could barely sign my own name. Not only were we from different states, but we didn’t even have a common language that we could use to converse. Despite these differences, we were married for 47 years and have raised three lovely daughters.
I wasn’t my husband’s love - that was given to my predecessor, his first wife. Shyamli, my sauten had been a lovely dusky Bengali beauty and a style icon. When she died of encephalitis, my husband lost not only his best friend but the love of his life. She cast a long shadow, however, and I was expected to live in that shadow and even worship her. A huge portrait of her still hangs in our bedroom.
I was under a lot of pressure to be just like her. I think I was a bit of a disappointment to my husband though. In the early years of our marriage, he would gift me the kind of perfumes and cosmetics that she had used. Since I had no experience with them and moreover, felt that I had my own identity, I would pick only what I like and return the rest. This didn’t exactly help matters between us. Also, I gave birth to three daughters but no sons - something that was almost unacceptable and for which I was made to feel very guilty.
When my youngest daughter declared her choice, I couldn’t stand by and let her be bullied out of a relationship that truly made her happy. I had lived without love for a very long time and that was not the fate I wanted for her. Despite people’s questions and fights with my husband, I went to bat for her. Today I no longer feel any guilt about not having borne a son. My son-in-law is my chosen son and I proudly live with him and my youngest daughter.