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It may not be called ‘dowry’ any longer, but the tradition of living off your wife’s parents (and considering it your right) is well and alive, as this short story illustrates.
“Hi Kanchan, how are you?”
“Hi Vikas, I am fine. What happened? You called so late!”
“Yes Kanchan, I don’t know how to say this, but I think we will have to cancel our booking for that flat.”
“Oh, why? what happened? Wasn’t the broker suppose to get the paperwork done before our wedding? And now with just a week to go, what is the issue?”
“I don’t know! That broker just called and said, we need to give the remaining 20 lakhs within a week, or else the booking will be cancelled and we will lose our token money too.”
“Oh, but how can he do that now? With the wedding preparations and all, we already have a lot on our heads. How are we going to arrange 20 lakhs now?”
“That is what I was thinking. Maybe I should cancel the booking. Yes 10 lakh token money will be gone, but it’s impossible to arrange 20 lakhs in less than a week. I will call him first thing in the morning and cancel the flat. It’s just that, I did not wanted you to suffocate in our small flat, with a joint family, so I booked that flat to give you a comfortable life. But I guess, we will have to let it go and look for another one in a few years.”
“Vikas, 10 lakhs is a big amount. Can’t the broker refund it?”
“No, I asked him and he refused.”
“Vikas, wait for sometime. Let me call you back.”
“Vikas, I just spoke to Dad. He is ready to give 20 lakhs. He said he wanted to give us a nice gift for the wedding anyways and was thinking of buying a car. But a house sounds even better and he said he will pay for it. He wanted to give the entire 30 lakhs, but I refused and told him to give 20 lakhs only.”
“No Kanchan, I can’t accept the money from you. I wanted to buy the flat for us, with my own money and I would have easily paid the instalments, but this broker messed up the whole thing. No! I better cancel the flat. How can I take money from your father?”
“It is OK Vikas, remember, your parents are my parents and my parents are your parents. And what shame is there in taking help from parents? Dad is happy to help. Let him.”
“Ok Kanchan, I don’t want to, but if you are pushing so much, then I will let him help, but I will return the money soon.”
“Ok baba, whatever you want to.”
“I love you, Kanchan.”
“I love you too, Vikas.”
“Vikas, Can we buy a small car for me? It takes more than 2 hours to reach office by bus. If I have my own car, I can drive to the office and get there in less than an hour.”
“Ok, I will think about it Kanchan.”
“Kanchan, I have a better idea, Why don’t you bring over your old car from your house, the one that you used to drive before you got married? You can bring that car here and use it; meanwhile, I will book another, new one for you. This way you won’t have to wait for a new car.”
“Yes, I can, but Mom drives it now.”
“Oho, Mom uses it to go to kitty parties and buy vegetables. She can always book a cab. She doesn’t use that car much. It mostly stands covered in the parking. Moreover just talk to your Mom and see what she thinks about it? I am sure, if she knows that you need that car, they will not say no to you.”
“Yes, they will not say no, but it doesn’t feel right to keep asking them for something or the other. We still haven’t returned the money we took for this apartment.”
“That is because you said your father wanted to gift you a flat and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, or else, I would have returned the money long back.”
“Yes, but you only said you will return……”
Vikas was angry by now. “Kanchan, I gave you the option to live in our old house, with the family but you chose to live separately in an apartment. It was your choice and you asked your father for the money. I did not force you to take money from your parents and now you are making me feel as if I made you take money from your family. Plus you are the only daughter and your parents have many properties and so much money. What else will they do with it? Who else will they give it to? Whatever is theirs, finally you will get it. So what is the big deal about it?”
Kanchan felt those words cutting through her heart like a dagger. It was not the first time that Vikas had said all this. It had been two years since their wedding and she heard all this quite often and she always kept quiet because somehow, Vikas made it all seem right. Plus she also didn’t want to fight with Vikas over all these lame issues.
After all, he was right. Her parents were rich and buying her a flat or that diamond set that she liked didn’t cost them as much; Vikas had sent the pictures to her mother, without telling her and her mother transferred the money to Vikas’s account; he had bought that set for her on their first anniversary. She came to know about it much later that Vikas took the money from her mother and promised to return it but never did.
Or that trip to London. When Vikas was going to London for some office project for 10 days and Kanchan wanted to go too…what would she do here alone anyways and they were newly married and wanted to spend time with each other…so her father booked Kanchan’s ticket because Vikas couldn’t afford a return ticket on such short notice, but he wanted Kanchan to go with him, so he told her father. Her dad had happily booked the tickets and transferred money to Vikas’ account for shopping too.
Or that new furniture or fridge or down payment for a property in Delhi. Vikas always took money from her parents on a promise to return, but he never did and her parents never asked for the money because they wanted Kanchan to be happy.
But money can’t buy happiness. She looked around her house. Ninety percent of things in this house were given to her by her parents. She was not sure how long this would go on and she hated to take money from her parents. She was always an independent girl who made her own money, from a very young age and never took help from her parents. Her parents had always taught her to be financially independent and have self respect.
When she met Vikas at an office event, she thought he was a man with values and with the power to convince others; that is the reason he won all the awards in the Marketing and Sales department every year. He was a man of words. The way he presented himself, Kanchan was impressed and fell in his trap.
Vikas knew she was from a rich family, while Vikas’s father was a clerk in the Income Tax department. He lived with a joint family in a small government quarter, all his life and Kanchan’s big house and even bigger car, her carefree attitude, her lifestyle, her beauty and dressing sense, everything about her impressed him and he managed to get her to fall in love with him and finally marry him. He knew his life was going to change and it did.
First he bought the house and then he furnished the entire house in the most luxurious way. Then he bought a big car and took many foreign trips in just two years of marriage. He loved Kanchan very much. She was a very nice girl who respected his family and took genuine care of his parents. But all this was secondary to him. He was always ambitious and he felt suffocated in the house he had lived all his life. His dreams were big and he wanted to achieve much more and Kanchan was the key to all his dreams. He always kept her happy and pampered.
Kanchan understood now but she felt helpless. She touched her growing belly. It was just two more months and the baby would come. She wondered how much her parents would have to pay after the baby comes. A tear ran down her cheeks and fell on her belly. She knew what she had to do. She went inside the room and started to pack her bag. She didn’t want her baby to be like its father.
First published at author’s blog.
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