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The pampered daughter can have whatever she wants. So long as those are things that don’t impact the ‘family honour’. After all, a girl can’t ask for too much!
“Mother, Isha’s parents are checking out prospective grooms for her. She told them about us and now they want to meet my parents”, Abhay said. Mother retorted, “But you are not ready for marriage yet! You are still studying and yet to make a career”.
“Isha told them that! But they still want to meet you and Father. They are willing to wait for a few years, given the assurance that their daughter is engaged to me”, Abhay replied. Mother calmed down a bit and replied, “Let me talk to your father”. “Love you, Ma!” Abhay chirped excitedly.
She was listening to the conversation between Mother and Abhay from her room. Abhay, the older of her two younger brothers, was in the second year of his graduation and Vijay, the youngest of the siblings, was studying in the twelfth standard. She had just completed her graduation and was still contemplating what to do next. Her older brother, Rohit, was working at an MNC and stayed in another city with his wife. Father is a government servant and Mother, a homemaker.
She had always been the pampered child. Being the only sister and daughter, she had everybody’s attention. Sometimes, a little too much she felt. But being pampered had its perks! She would get new dresses every month while the brothers got them only on the major festivals. Unlike her brothers, she just had to name it, and she would get it. She even got more pocket-money than her brothers. She could sprawl on her bed anytime and for as long as she desired. She wasn’t expected to help her Mother with the household chores until specifically asked to. She had the power to get her brothers spanked and punished by her parents at will. But a slight scolding in her direction would trigger her tear glands instantly and ferociously. And then someone or the other would always be ready to wipe her tears. Oh, how her brothers envied her! But her parents exclaimed, “Let her relax and be pampered for now. After all, she will have take up responsibilities once she is married. Let her be till she is in her father’s home.”
She was never expected to make a career after completing her studies. The only motive for getting her educated was to ensure that she could make a living in case her married life went awry in the future. You never know what life throws at you, right! But of course, her family would choose her future husband.
She had known Vikram since her childhood. His father and hers were colleagues, though not on the best of terms. They went to the same school and often met outside school at family gatherings. They had become good friends over the years, even though Vikram was a year senior to her. As they became young adults, they realized that they were both harbouring romantic feelings for each other. Once they professed their love for each other, they felt like the happiest people on earth. Late night phone calls and secret rendezvous followed. Vikram was determined to make a stable career so that they could get their parents’ approval and he could show her parents that he was worthy of her. After a couple of years, it was time for Vikram to move to another city to pursue higher studies at an elite university. Thanks to technology, they could keep their long-distance relationship going and they felt their love growing day by day.
Then, on a fateful day, Rohit chanced upon her chats and photographs with Vikram on her cell-phone. He was furious. Mother and Father were told. Mother became hysterical and Father simply turned silent on her. The two people, who loved her more than anything, were devastated. It was their honour, their reputation in the family and social circles which was on the line, they said. She was lectured, was kept an eye upon at all times, and looked at suspiciously when she got a little late in reaching home from college. Her friends were spoken to and advised not to encourage her in this relationship. Vikram was called and asked to keep away from her. It felt as if doom had descended on their lively home. “This is what she repays us with, after all the love we showered on her!” they exclaimed sadly.
Three years had passed since her family had found out about her and Vikram. She had broken all ties with Vikram since then. She had explained to him that she wouldn’t be able to bear the burden of guilt of hurting her family, that he had to let her go. With time, normalcy resumed in her family. She was back to being the pampered daughter. She had earned back her parents’ affection with the sacrifice of her love.
Two years back Rohit got married. A love marriage, that too an inter-caste one. They had dated for five years before tying the knot. Abhay had been seeing Isha for four years now. Even little Vijay had a girlfriend. Mother had always known about her brothers’ girlfriends. Sometimes, she even sent gifts for them! Even Father had an inkling about them and was secretly amused. Guys having girlfriends is the sign of growing up after all. “Oh really?” she thought bitterly. As if she was responsible for shouldering the family’s honour alone. “And what about the family honour of those girlfriends? Or did they become honourable by virtue of being dated by their sons?” she questioned herself. She felt so bitter at times. But she had also resigned herself to the fact that her husband would be chosen by her parents. Even if she still missed Vikram, she knew that she didn’t have the strength to face the hostility of her family, particularly that of Mother and Father. In her lonely moments, she imagined that Vikram would rage back into her life, to fight for his love. And that her parents relented. But that is only wishful thinking, isn’t it?
For the moment, she is busy fulfilling her own superficial desires. Shopping has become her new hobby. She spends most Sundays with her BFFs having lunches, window-shopping and going for movies. Of course, she has to be home by sun down. Mother and Father are letting her be again. In her mind, they are compensating for the loss of her love with material love and a little freedom. And she is indulging herself and having fun before she is married off to a stranger. She understands that being born a girl in a society like ours, she can’t have it all. She can only make the most of whatever she gets.
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