Love is not having to say ‘I love you’     

They couple went together to the boy’s maternal uncle who worked in district court. With his help the marriage was registered in the court and is said to be Patna’s first registered (love) marriage

Kanhaiya Lal Shrivastav and wife Ahilya
Kanhaiya Lal Shrivastav and wife Ahilya

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

This was the 1930s and he was 18 years old. He would visit the home of Patna Collegiate School’s principal for tuition in English literature. At some point the principal’s daughter would come into the room, serve them cups of tea and go back. For five years they did not say a word to each other except a courteous namaste.

Well-known theatre critic K. Manjari Shrivastav recalls that the day her grandfather Kanhaiya Lal Shrivastav completed his education, he decided to propose to the Principal’s daughter. "Main aapko bohot pasand kartahoon. Kya aap bhi mujhe pasand karti hain?” (I like you very much. Do you also like me?) he is said to have asked—the first words he had addressed her in five years.

She barely nodded in affirmation but did not utter a word. "Kya aap mujhse shadi karengi" (Will you marry me?), he asked again. She nodded – without saying a word. But that was enough.

Kanhaiya, by then 24, asked her to meet him the next day. They met and went together to Kanhaiya Lal’s maternal uncle, who worked in the district court. With his help the marriage was registered in the court and is said to be Patna’s first registered (love) marriage.

Both the boy and the girl had decided not to tell their parents before the marriage because both the families were conservative zamindar (landowning) families. They were not expected to take kindly to a ‘love marriage’ in the family.

The boy’s maternal uncle however was persuasive enough to ensure that Ahilya stepped into her husband’s parental home after six months. The runaway bride had a tougher time from her family but over time they too accepted the fait accompli. Both hailing from the same caste and from similar economic backgrounds also helped.

The bold groom went into banking and retired as a manager from the State Bank of India. The bride, who had been taught at home, was a homemaker but an avid reader of literature. In those days they were among the very few couples who would go out together to watch theatre, attend music concerts and visit the circus.

“They taught me the real meaning of love,” recalls Manjari, “I once asked my grandfather if he had ever said ‘I love you’ to his wife. This is what he told me and it has remained," she says. “Love is not saying I love you. It is making the other feel it and exclaim, ‘how can you love me so much’."

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