This is a tale of simpler times and limited choices. A reminder that life existed before the advent of online shopping and express delivery. It was two days before my wedding. Dad’s friend, a rich poultry farmer had dropped by. When I went in to serve tea he casually remarked that I should stop using spectacles so that people get accustomed to seeing me without them. He was shocked when I told him, that I intended to wear them to my wedding. In the interrogation that ensued, I gave him the two reasons, I had till then, given to anyone who had dared to ask. The first was that I couldn’t see without them and the second I wanted to look like myself on my wedding, something I didn’t, sans specs. He airily dismissed my explanation and asked me if I had ever seen a bespectacled bride. Standing my ground I replied that although I hadn’t, I didn’t mind becoming the first.
Exasperated, he ignored me and addressed my father instead, asking how he was allowing such a travesty to happen. My father matter of factly said that the bride had the power to decide. By now uncle had inferred that the problem was bigger than he had initially thought. Imbecility ran in the family ! He wasn’t going to give up so easily though. Not wasting another moment he told me to get in his car so that we could go buy contact lenses. Enroute, I tried to explain that there was no way we could get them this fast . The year was 1985 and fresh out of medical school, I knew the drill. After the ophthalmologist did a detailed eye examination, the lenses were ordered from Aligarh. The whole process took at least a week.
Uncle, as we fondly called him, ignored all I said. With the confidence money brings, he barged into the Eye Doctor’s office and declared, “ She has to get married in two days. She can’t see without glasses and I won’t let her get married with them. Give her contact lenses.” And then to strengthen his case he invoked the fraternal bond,“ She is a doctor too”. The doctor looked at me, unimpressed, and commented that I should know how much time the procedure took. Unruffled, uncle used his most powerful weapon yet. He invoked the paternal bond, “ Son, have you forgotten me? I am your father’s friend.”
The doctor replied that although he had recognised him there was still nothing he could do. Unfazed, uncle parked himself opposite the doctor and asked him to think hard, saying that a solution would emerge. “Don’t you have a pair lying around somewhere.“ he suggested helpfully. The doctor opened his mouth to explain the concept of ‘lens power’ and then sensing its futility decided against it. He sat contemplating under uncle’s watchful eye, and eventually said that he had one lens which was almost of the same power I needed. Uncle jumped, and with a winning grin exclaimed, “ That will do. She can garland the groom with one eye.”
So everything ended perfectly. Uncle had another feather in his cap and a story to tell, so did the eye doctor and I. The tradition of the flawless, demure, Indian bride was preserved. I skilfully put the noose around my husband with my under corrected single eye. This was contrary to what my textbooks said about binocular vision being necessary for perception of depth. But then, perhaps, the fact that marriages are made in heaven guided me to my destiny.
( published as ‘Spice of life’ in the Hindustan Times on 30/4/18)