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My Mother’s Marriage Proposal

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Subodh Mathur was born in Alwar, and educated in Jaipur, Delhi, and Cambridge, USA. He taught Economics for one year (1972-73) at Rajasthan University, Jaipur, and later (1981-88) at American University, Washington, D.C. He has been an independent consultant since 1988, occasionally teaching Economics at the American University, D.C. He lives with his wife, Anuradha Deolalikar in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In his spare time, he is an avid gardener, and the editor of this website.

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marriage photo

Dayawanti, my mother, 1937 wedding proposal photo


Chamber of Princes
New Delhi
4th March 1937

Dear Mr. Khem Chand,

Dr. Hari Kishor Mathur who is practicing in New Delhi gave me to understand that you were a bachelor & could be approached for a matrimonial alliance. My daughter's daughter is over 18 years of age & has passed the Matriculation Examination of the Agra University in the II Division.  In other aspects also she is an accomplished girl.

As for myself, one of my first cousins, Harish Chandra, is a member of the Indian Civil Service; another, Krishna Behari Lal, is Deputy Chief Engineer E. I. Ry; a third, B. Ananda Behari Lal, is a Govt Pleader. I served the Alwar State from 1905 to 1911 & am very well known to Mr. Chiranji Lal Jain who I believe is the Munsiff at Rajgarh.

My son-in-law, Raghunandan Behari, is a Doctor & is in charge of a Dispensary in the Bijnor District (U.P.). He holds the degrees of B.Sc., M.B.B.S., D.P.H. (London) & D. T. M. (Liverpool). He has two elder brothers - Ananda Behari Lal who is an Inspector, Co-operative Credit Societies in the U.P.; & Lall Bahadur C.E., who is an Assistant Engineer in the Irrigation Department in the U.P. Govt. The family holds a fairly good estate in the U.P., including a small jageer from the Mughal Emperor.

I am ready to send you a photograph of the girl, if you want it to help you in coming to a decision. I shall feel obliged if you will kindly consider the matter & let me know if you are prepared to accede to accept the girl in in marriage. I may add that I am related to Mr. Sheoraj Behari Lal,

____________written vertically________________________

Supdt. of Govt. offices, Alwar.

Yours truly,

Naunehal Singh

Rai Sahib

Comments and explanation

I think this letter was written directly to my father, and not to an older person in the family, because my grandfather had already passed away, and my father was the oldest son. My mother's name is not even mentioned in the letter.

The marriage proposal letter was written from the living accommodations of the Chamber of Princes, an organisation that represented India's maharajas and other nobles in their dealing with the British rulers. This was a prestigious address, and indicated that the writer has a high status in society.

The Indian Civil Service, mentioned in the letter, was India's most prestigious government job at that time.

The reference to working in Alwar State relates to my grandfather being employed by the Alwar State. My father was born in Alwar. Two of my older brothers and I were also born there.


My mother was born on 1 April 1918. She was the oldest of her parents' six children. She was  highly educated by the standards of those days for Indian women. She had passed her Matriculation examination, which was the final high school examination those days. This was at a time when the overwhelming majority of Indian women were illiterate.

My father was born on 10 April 1911. He was seven years older than her.  He had a Master's degree in  History from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, which was, and still is, one of India's leading colleges.

My father and mother got married on 15 April 1937, a short time after this letter was written. They had a ‘civil wedding', i.e., according to civil law, and not according to religious ceremonies. At the time of their wedding, my father had the job of Nazim, the administrative head, of Mundawar, which was a village in  the Princely State of Alwar (now part of Rajasthan.)

My mother passed away in April 1980 in Jaipur, leaving the family grief-stricken for years to come. I had just completed my Ph.D. in the U.S., and got the news by a telegram delivered over the phone. By then, it was too late for me to go to India to attend the funeral ceremonies.


"E. I. Ry" stands for East India Railway, which was the name of the Indian Railways at that time.

"Govt" - short form for Government.

"Pleader" - lawyer.

"Munsiff" - a local magistrate.

Rajgarh - a small city in Alwar State.

"U. P." - United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh.

"D.P.H" - probably Diploma in Public Health.

"D. T. M." - Diploma in Tropical Medicine.

"jageer" - land grant, which gave the land revenue due from the land to the owner of the jageer.

"Supdt." - short form of Superintendent.

"Rai Sahib" - title of honour, given by the British Government.

© Subodh Mathur 2016

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Neeraj Mathur   |2016-09-18
Amazing. Where did you unearth this from, Subodh mama? I recall a couple of my
mamas attended the wedding
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