Renu Malhotra and David Patrick Reynolds, newlyweds separated by cultural differences, met and talked yesterday for the first time since Friday night, when Malhotra's family apparently reacted violently to news of the couple's elopement.
Malhotra, the 23-year-old daughter of a tradition-bound Indian diplomat who refused to acknowledge the marriage, and Reynolds, a Kensington man who had courted her secretly, last night would say only that their problems have been resolved. Both refused to discuss the situation further, calling it a private matter.
Still, Reynolds, 26, indicated he was happy with the results.
"All I can say is that I am ecstatic," Reynolds said in a telephone interview at the home of a friend. "We sat down and we talked. I talked with her family and let them get to know me."
Late yesterday, Renu Malhotra's family agreed to allow her husband to meet privately with her in the Malhotras' Silver Spring apartment, following the intervention of an Indian Embassy official. Reynolds had been powerless to meet with his wife previously, he said, because both the family and the apartment are covered by diplomatic immunity.
The incident began Friday night when the couple went to the Malhotra home to tell the family of the marriage earlier that day. P.K. Malhotra tore up his daughter's marriage certificate, Reynolds said, and the woman's mother and brother dragged her into a bedroom and locked her in. Reynolds said he and two friends were ejected from the apartment.
Police, called by Reynolds Friday night, declined to enter the apartment because the woman was not in any physical danger and because of the diplomatic immunity. Malhotra is an economic adviser at the Indian Embassy.
The couple's meeting yesterday was arranged after the bride's parents discussed the situation for several hours with Malhotra's boss, S.P. Bagla, the Indian Embassy's minister of economics. Protocol officers in the U.S. State Department had agreed that Indian officials should try to resolve the problem as an "internal matter" before they made any effort to intervene.
"This is my personal matter and all of us are talking to each other," Renu Malhotra said in a telephone interview with a reporter late yesterday. "I've just been trying to make them her parents understand."
Bagla went to the Malhotra apartment yesterday to discuss solutions in an effort to secure the woman's release and to prevent the incident from becoming a State Department matter.
The State Department said it was proper that Indian officials make the first effort to resolve the family dispute.
"That's the first step," said Richard J. Gookin, associate chief of protocol. "I don't want it to seem that we are disinterested because that's not the case."
While Bagla was visiting the home, Renu Malhotra, in a telephone conversation, said she was "free to walk out at any time" and that the events of the last several days were "just a misunderstanding" due to some family "differences."
In India, marriages traditionally are arranged for women. Reynolds said his wife's parents wanted her to marry an Indian of their choosing and had been concerned that their daughter was becoming too Americanized. Reynolds said he also feared that the Malhotra family might try to force his wife to return to India. Yesterday, Renu Malhotra said no one would force her to leave the United States.
Earlier yesterday, Gookin said if any attempt was made to force Renu Malhotra to return to India, the State Department would have to "sort out" the legal issues.
"The State Department would indicate it wanted to talk to the Indian Embassy if she were being coerced . . . ," Gookin said.
In 1983, before Andrei Berezhkov, the teen-age son of a Soviet diplomat, left the United States, the State Department insisted on determining whether he was leaving voluntarily. Berezhkov had reportedly written letters indicating that he wanted to defect. Later, Berezhkov denied writing any letters and told reporters that he wanted to return to the Soviet Union.