WEB EXCLUSIVE: The sweetest thing

Arranged marriage proven successful

The love story of Raj and Shammi Chowdhury has spanned three continents and 29 years. Raj, dean of the School of Technology, was raised in India and educated in the United States. He first met British-born Shammi, a fashion school instructor, when both their parents arranged their marriage.

Arranged marriages are a traditional part of Indian culture, Raj said.

“Today, in India 95 percent of marriages are arranged,” he said. “In our culture, the success and failure of a marriage is not just between a man and woman – it’s between the families.”

Raj said his first impression of his new bride was “Wow!”

“She’s so glamorous and creative, and I’m on the other end of the spectrum,” he said. “I’m very pragmatic. I’m a nerd.”

Although they have had rough times, the Chowdhurys say their marriage has remained strong because of shared values and friendship.

“I think people undervalue the need for friendship in a marriage,” Shammi said. “He’s always been my best friend.”

Amanda Garrett

Same material, new audience

Kathryn was 42 years old and disinterested in marriage. She was managing apartments and working on her master’s degree in composition and rhetoric at San Francisco State.

While talking with a friend about men, Kathryn asked, “Where is he?”

He was almost on the other side of the continent. “He’s in Ohio,” Pam told her.

“Forget it. It’ll never work.”

Pam didn’t. She called Michael and urged him to call Fifi. In California, Kathryn was known as Fifi.

“Forget it. It’ll never work,” Michael said. “I’m not calling someone named Fifi who lives 2,500 miles away.”

That happened during the summer. In the middle of December, Michael called Kathryn. He started off with a joke, and it must have been bawdy. It doubled her over.

After the New Year, he called again. They began talking constantly and decided that they would finally meet during her spring break. His sonorous voice, Kathryn could listen to that for the rest of her life, but in the lone photo she’d seen of him, he was only an inch high, his face obstructed by sunglasses.

He sent three more photographs and looked different in all three, handsome in none. Kathryn told Pam, “That’s not a guy I would kiss.” Pam said he was cute, that the photos were deceiving, but Pam’s taste in men was suspect.

Before he boarded his plane, they agreed that they would be upfront with each other. She told him, “If you don’t smell good, I’ll turn you away.” He said he’d do the same.

He was much higher than an inch when he deplaned. At 6’2,” he towered over her, and the first thing he did was lean down so she could smell his neck.

He passed the initial screenings, and they quickly found that Pam was right. A few days later, Kathryn was laughing again in the hills above San Francisco. This time it was cold, and the Golden Gate Bridge was running off behind Michael, in and out of a sea of clouds. He was on one knee, and a voice inside Kathryn’s head told her to shut-up.

“And just as this bridge is the gateway to the city,” Michael said. “I offer you the gateway to my heart.”

She began to sob.

First, they were married in Ohio, and then they were married in California. He didn’t have any dead cars or appliances in his yard, so she was willing to move to his side of the country. She took her cat, writings, pictures, clothes, and gave everything else away.

That was seven years ago. Kathryn is now a Teaching Fellow in Kent State’s English department. With Michael, her jokes don’t flop, and neither do his. They are happier than they ever thought possible, and their days together are like the Golden Gate Bridge wrapped in clouds.

Joe Gartrell

Love at first grade

While not everyone marries his or her first love, for Dan and Diane Hluch there were some early indications that this just might be a match that was meant to be. Like the time in first grade when Diane fell off a horse and broke her arm.

“All the classmates had to send an individual card,” Dan said. “I gave her a handmade note that said, ‘I love you.’ She still has it.”

This coming June, they will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, and Dan sounds like a love-struck teenager when he talks about his wife and their lives together. Among all the memories of his life with Diane, Dan still fondly recalls slipping special Valentines to her every year while they were in elementary school.

In high school they became a couple and exchanged class rings. As most girls would do, Diane wrapped a wool thread around Dan’s ring so it wouldn’t slip off her finger. Dan would wear her ring on his pinkie until too many stoved fingers resulted in him having the ring cut off, not once, but twice. After the second time he put the ring on a gold chain around his neck.

While they always hung around with a group of friends, they were a pair except for one time in their junior year when, as a result of an argument, they went to the May dance with different dates. However, their only breakup would last a weekend.

On Christmas Eve 1965, Dan and Diane were engaged – five months after they graduated from Rootstown High School.

“I hid the ring in the glove box of my car,” Dan said. “I made up some excuse for something and asked her to go into the glove box- I’m kind of theatrical like that.”

Dave Benson