When Yogi Met MoNíka
January 15th, 1994 the divine knot was tied! My husband Yogesh or Yogi, as most folks address him and me, Mona successfully completed 25 years of our marriage this year, Silver Bells, 2019! Unbelievable journey for us and we continue to look forward to adding more years to our being together! Was it a smooth or a rough ride? Too many questions, so let me backtrack and press the rewind button of the memories of our personally painted canvas!
Having graduated from AIIMS, New Delhi, being an ambitious young girl, I always wanted to come to the US for further studies and be called Dr. Monika Ahuja ( my maiden name )! Doctors always enamored me with their deep humanitarian approach towards life and the blessings coupled with gratitude always touched my soul. Being a hard-ball, eager beaver, and a very goal-oriented girl I knew right off the bat, that this was it, I had to get to work! So my inner gray cells knocked hard and said, ” Mona please apply to various medical schools and see where life takes you”! Why not, after all, the US is a land of opportunities! I still remember vividly one sunny afternoon sitting on the stairs of our duplex house, my parents questioned me, “So Mona, what are your future plans? Honestly, the toughest question of my life, the doctor in the making or marriage? I was perplexed and had no direct answer! Really, but I am not even 22 years old, that early, why the rush? Hey, but why not combine ” my Shaadi with studies” and kill two birds with one stone, this thought came as lightning strikes before a thunderstorm. After all, so many girls get married and venture off “ABROAD”, remember this was the word we used those days, and it was a monomaniacal thought stuck with all! After all the Shivji fasting that I had done for a while needs to show me some fruitful results, so why not go for the powerful combination! I consented with a YES, lo and behold my parents face beamed with a smile, and the hunt for the best groom started.
Who remembers the matrimonial advertisements of the newspapers with all the descriptive adjectives used? Well, of course, I do very indubitably as that’s how I got married! How can I ever forget “The Hindustan Times” bride wanted column as that’s what brought two completely divergent individuals together from different parts of the globe together in unison!
December 16th, 1993- The matrimonial ad was cut from the paper, a simple call was made and the time was set for the families to meet. Disclaimer: This is what I gave my heart to: (Really Mona! ), in this age, so hard to fathom the thought! Oh my, I was scratching my head, this was a bit too quick for things to happen, at a fleeting speed and I had to present myself as the most acquiescent woman and potential bride! I still remember mom’s words, “Mona, make sure to wear a gracious suit, be pleasant, and maintain your decorum”! I never even got to see a picture of the boy, just a direct meetup, can you believe that? Ok, mom, I think that’s a no brainer, will do, anything else, why did I get so irked by her comments, I still have no answer. After all, she was only being my mom so why this oversensitiveness? Well, the bell rings, my heart skipped a beat as I had to present myself to an unknown family being totally simpatico! I am sitting in my room in chagrin, make my entry to the living room and see a full house of people, from my future inlaws, future husband, daadaji, future sister in law, buaji, chaachaji, chaachiji and paternal cousin with his wife. The table is laid out with all delectable goodies, mithai and chai is served. Conversations get initiated and an honest confession, I have never felt so awkward talking to strangers in my life as I felt that day! To add icing on the cake we both are made to sit in a separate room to get to know each other on a more personal level. Well, guess what, who was doing the talking, of course not me! I was dumbfounded, the chatterbox in me suddenly died, only answering questions and impatiently waiting for the “INTERVIEW” to be over! That one hour of my life never seemed to end and I thought in my mind, man this guys talks so much!! Well, all ended on a very exultant note with no expectations from either of us and we parted ways!
December 18th, 1993- Two days passed, and no contact from the prospective party! I still remember the ” tring tring “at 2 pm and mom receiving the call in her most harmonious manner. Yay! I got approved and another meeting was set for the two of us. Was I ready for this? My emotions bounced back and forth, but why was I feeling so discombobulated and perturbed by the turn of events? Maurya Sheraton, Bukhara restaurant is where all the magic happened. I was completely taken aback by the poise, wisdom, and acumen this young man had in his charismatic personality. I felt his savoir-faire, his energy rendered him to be an indispensable guy in every aspect. Another confession, I fell for him right there and knew it was “HIM”, who could be my knight in shining armor! Was I rushing in making my decision or was I getting mesmerized, I still do not know till date, but knew that I had found my man!
December 18th – December 22nd, 1993- Lots of phone calls, tons of chatting, meeting for dinner only ONCE, sharing our goals, expectations, and finally the “ROKA” date gets decided. Was this really happening, too good and dreamy to be true! Are we made for each other, compatible with each other, or just consenting because our families shared an amicable equation? Was this a fair and equitable decision to unite two families? Do we need more time to spend with each other to get a better understanding of our future life? All these questions flustered my mind but I agreed as I saw the perfect gentleman standing in front of my eyes!
December 24th, 1993- Roka ceremony takes place, meaning no more looking around for a bride or groom, the hunt is over.
I was super ecstatic and will never forget that I saw the Shah Rukh Khan movie Darr that day and was only visualizing my prince in my thoughts all through! Kind of cheesy, my heart beating like a million drums but this was reality now! Was I in love so soon, No! But yes, I thought about this quote: “Colpo di fulmine. The thunderbolt, as Italians call it. When love strikes someone like lightning, so powerful and intense it can’t be denied. It’s beautiful and messy, cracking a chest open and spilling their soul out for the world to see. It turns a person inside out, and there’s no going back from it. Once the thunderbolt hits, your life is irrevocably changed.” ~ J.M. Darhower, Sempre
Excitement builds up, there is hubbub all over. Love is in the air. Phone calls day and night. Sleepless nights. Dreams take a hike. So much to plan and such less time! The ironic part of all these events was that everything was handled by mom and my younger brother. Dad was in Seychelles for a very important United Nations project which was being handled solely by him. All the dates get finalized and I was spending my whole day with my future family. Shopping for my bridal lehenga, jewelry, shoes, sandals, purses in the most lavish stores of New Delhi. Money spent in the most extravagant manner on their “only bahu” and I kept wishing that this time would never end, after all, I loved SHOPPING!
January 13th, 1994- My dad came back from Seychelles, and we both went to receive him at the airport. What a day it was! I totally cracked up looking at the future “damaad” as he was all groomed up, maybe first impression on dad! Total gentleman look with the anxious yet calm look on his face. After all, it was his interview time, face to face with his father in law! All went as expected and there were no hiccups! He got approved instantly!
January 13th, 1994- I still remember my long flowing electrifying blue outfit for the cocktail dinner. I got a chance to meet all my inlaws which put me at ease and were placed in a comfortable zone!
January 14th, 1994- Sagan and Engagement ceremony in the morning, with me receiving all the prized gifts, from my inlaws adorned in beautiful baskets and thaalis followed by “tilak” on our foreheads! Wearing the hot pink saree, gold neckpiece, and exchange of the diamond rings I was already feeling like a queen! However, why our mouth is stuffed with all the ghee ladoos and the cute prick on our cheeks is still a mystery! Mehndi ki Raat and Sangeet have always been my most treasured moments of the marriage ceremonies. Henna is a mark of a good omen and the most romanticized part was when Yogesh was written in a secret corner of my hand! I just wanted my mehndi color to be super dark, obviously believing in the old age myth, darker the color, more love from mom in law, and husband! Now, who would not want that? All my family, uncles, aunts, and cousins were busy dancing on all Hindi Bollywood songs coupled with their Punjabi moves. What a visual treat it was, me sitting on the gadda ( mattress ), henna on my hands and feet with music echoing all over the house! The house was lit with scintillating colorful lights inside and outside adding on to the ambiance! Another sleepless night with a sneaky phone call to my future husband narrating him the entire scenario of the house!
January 15th, 1994 Early Morning- One of the most emotional and soul touching events for any bride is when the maama and mammi put the special chooda with kalire dipped in milk and rose petals on the girl’s wrists along with the Haldi ceremony! My eyes were moist all throughout as there was so much love and aashirwaad ( blessings ) all around. The first chapter of my new life began with the 21 red and white bangles in my hands!
The Big Day, January 15th, 1994- Me dressed in red gold studded lehenga and the groom in a black suit all set to take the vows. A sneak peek of the baraat, baraatis dancing to the dhol and the “ghodi embellished with jewels with Yogesh sitting on it, wow what a sight! “Milni” takes place with all the relatives followed by the most fun part, the “varmala”! Obviously, there was lots of teasing where Yogesh was egged on by his friends not to bow his head but gave up soon! I can still reminisce the moment when mom came and told me, ” Mona, smile a bit less, NAZAR lag jaati hai”! The stage got flocked by everybody, all showering us with blessings and the picture session was in full swing!
How can one forget about the “Joota Chupai ” rasam ( hiding of the groom’s shoes). My sisters, cousins, and saalis targeted very secretively to steal the jootas, while some friends tried their betwitched tactics on the rest of the dulhe walas to distract them. It’s was a fun-filled chaotic drama that happened with all chasing each other. Finally, the dulha ( Yogesh ) had to fish out money and the mission was accomplished! Have to admit that he was the best sport ever who didn’t flinch at all! After all, Girls RULE!
Dinner was followed by the most austere part of any Indian wedding, the “saat pheras” in the lavishly adorned mandap with fresh flowers! The havan with the ruling fire, its glow embodies the awakening of the spiritual energy and helps in getting rid of all the negativities around us. The mantras chanted by the pundit ushers all the positive forces needed to embark on a new relationship. Mangalsutra and sindoor signify a long revered and pious relationship between the couple, followed by “kanyadaan”, a highly sentimental laden ritual done by my dad. I caught a teardrop roll down his eyes, his emotions well inferred by me, ” My beti is all grown up and ready to embark on her own journey”!
‘Was I really married now? It all happened in a few hours and my life was changed forever! I was no longer an AHUJA but gracefully added CHUGH to my name! Vidaii happened with throwing a handful of coins and rice, and I looked back with mixed emotions. Was I happy or sad? Both, leaving my family made me somber but holding my husband’s hands gave me the prowess to conquer the world with his unseen love!
It was a fairy tale wedding that got commenced in approximately a month with no hindrances! As they say, ‘ Treat her like a queen, she will treat you like a king’ ! I got it all more than I could possibly handle!
I have had lots of folks ask me ” So you guys had an arranged marriage”? How do you feel about it? My simple answer is, “Yes, it has been amazing, our love has grown, keeps magnifying each day. My husband has always given me my space and room to amplify my personality. Sure, we have had our share of differences, but the end of the day what matters most is that we are there for each other!
In this age the thought of an arranged marriage is very difficult to comprehend however, life is like gambling! No risk, no reward! I married simply on faith and where there are understanding and compromise, the foundation of any relationship will naturally become tenacious and blossom!
Marriages are made in heaven for sure, I strongly believe in it and it is up to us to solemnize it with tenderness, devotion, and undying respect for each other!
Love, peace, and blessings!