Aabir – What is Love?

holi

What is love?

Despite threats and warnings, Binodini was determined to fight. It was an uphill battle against agelong traditions, and she was just an insignificant individual. Nevertheless, she saw a ray of hope in Somnath Pandit. Gradually, an inexplicable bond grew between Binodini and Mr Pandit. She admired and respected his dedication. He adored her courage and honesty. 

Somnath Pandit came from a humble family in Uttar Pradesh. He had grown up in the town of Barabanki. His grandfather had been a freedom fighter, while his father was in government service, and his mother taught schoolchildren. They had raised Somnath to have strong values and a sensitive outlook towards the underprivileged in society. After completing his studies, he could have taken up any lucrative profession, but he chose to set up his own NGO. He started with a meagre sum of money, but his dedication and conviction attracted help from the government and led to his NGO’s growth. He decided to remain a bachelor and dedicated his life to helping the helpless of society.

One evening Binodini and Somnath were on a boat ride on the Yamuna, when they began talking about their lives with each other. Empathy and respect blossomed between them. They shared love and admiration, even though neither of them spelt it out in words. Against the setting sun in the western horizon, Binodini sang a beautiful bhajan of Krishna as the boat sailed towards the ghat. Somnath Pandit listened to the song, mesmerized by the melody of Binodini’s soothing voice. He wanted the ride to go on and on, but Somnath Pandit was a responsible gentleman, well-aware of conservative social mores. So, he dropped Binodini at the ashram before dark. Binodini was a widow and he did not want any orthodox mind to think that she led a life that was improper for a religious town like Vrindavan. 

In the meantime, rebellious Meera fell in love with the grocer’s son Madhav, who usually came monthly to deliver groceries to the ashram. With time, their love affair was known to everyone in the ashram and to some people outside of the ashram too. In time, Madhav wanted to marry Meera. Meera may have loved and lost once, but she was glad for Madhav’s proposal. Madhav, too, knew that his happiness was linked inextricably with Meera’s. However, they had the burden of tradition to surmount, and Meera consulted Binodini before accepting his proposal. 

One day, while Madhav had come to collect payments, Binodini called out to him. She grilled Madhav over his intentions for marrying Meera. He would be opposing rigid customs if he were to see it through: “Irada bhale hi nek ho, lekin mann mein bahut himmat chahiye, Madhav.” Madhav assured Binodini of his sincere love for Meera. Ultimately, he argued that if Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar could marry a widow, then why not he? He knew that his parents would oppose their union, yet he was determined to overcome all odds. 

In fact, soon, Madhav’s parents did come to know, and they were furious. Being traditional Baniyas, they were strongly against their son marrying a widow. Madhav was unflinching about his desire to marry Meera, and the matter escalated. A complaint was filed with the trustees of the ashram. Not only did the trustees chide Meera, but they also threatened Binodini with dire consequences. She was accused of inciting Meera into sin. 

However, Binodini did not budge. It was very human to love and love was above traditions. Binodini argued that a tradition could be broken for the sake of love, even more so if it involved consenting adults. The threats became harsher, but they could not scare Binodini, nor could they deter Meera and Madhav. When all reasoning failed, Binodini contacted Mr. Pandit, who, she knew, would willingly help the couple. With help from his NGO, Madhav and Meera’s marriage was solemnized in the Arya Samaj way. Their wedding irked the rich, influential family of Madhav, and they vowed to teach Meera and Binodini a lesson.

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