This had taken my memory to my aunts’ place in the remote town that I used to visit at every break of my college. My aunt was very happy to see me as she lives alone after my uncle left her. Nevertheless, she was wanted in entire neighbourhood for her friendliness and the help she renders. I get along with her all through my stay. Above all, the next door neighbours consider her to be part of their family. During one of my visits, I heard the happenings in their family. Among many family matters, it was a marriage proposal for Meenu, next door neighbours’ daughter.

Meenu, the bride to be, was quiet an innocent girl with less exposure to the outside world. She was always my best companion during my visits to my aunt and she loves to spend her time with us discussing things about the ways of living in the city, current affairs, etc  as she was very interested to know things and was a bright girl in the town too.

Well, in most orthodox families, elders are the deciding factors of the overall issues and the value of their word too carries much weight. Though educated, the tradition does not count education as an eligibility to have a say in the proceedings of the marriage. Hence the complete responsibility was that of the elders from the proposal to the farewell. The rest of the family agrees and abides by the decisions of the elders based on their experiences.

She once confided to me, “I am just not able to get hold of the situation and the thought of marriage was far too much for me now”. I could see the thought of the boarding school, which I once told her in one of my earlier visits, occupied her mind at that moment. As the time ticked away, I dint find courage to discuss the truth with her.

As the neighbours are close family friends of my aunt, our involvement was as much obvious. But as and when I saw meenu and the rituals together, I got uneasy. I could sense what meenu was going through but the family’s enjoyment made me not to think otherwise all that time.

Soon things were in place and the big day arrived. With each one having their role to play, the bride was only thought of by everyone when her turn for her role arrives. The anxious guests were attended to and all the stage was set for the GRAND WEDDING OF THE TOWN. My aunt as being the brides’ in charge came to check on her. And to her shock she found that unusual had happened! She was not able to believe what she saw for a second.

My aunt could not handle the shock alone of not finding the bride in her room. Soon everyone came to know about the “Missing bride” and the search began. Her parents froze with embarrassment, as they consider it a shame for the community too. The auspicious time set to be wed has crossed and the grooms’ parents are in a tizzy with the happenings. But everybody wondered how a thirteen year old bride could possibly go missing on the day of her marriage. This shock had superseded the news of her wedding to the audience. None were able to interpret what might have happened to a secondary school going girl on her wedding night.

The analysis too started along with the lookout with possibilities coming out. ‘The age was not a runaway age, a kidnap may not be possible with the crowd around, and she was very well involved in the events till the day before’. As each one looked at each other for answer I felt its time for me to speak the truth, as at that moment it was the right thing to do. But its not so easy …. I wondered for a second if these people would ever understand me even if I explained, and before long I picked up some courage and finally said “Marriage can wait, education cannot” and the truth is Meenu has gone for it.With this I broke the ice. When all ended well, I then believed “Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice”.

****Written for the Indiblogger happy hours topic****