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Why look for a bride with a ‘professional degree’, if you know she is to kowtow to your patriarchal norms, toe the line, and change herself completely to adapt to your ideas of an ideal bahu?
“Aloka! What a beautiful name!” That was the first sentence that Shanti had spoken, after sitting for over two hours. The only talking was done by her husband, Shivendra.
The family had come to see Aloka for a prospective match for their son, Vishal. He had a professional degree and so did she. This was one more tick mark in their rather largish list. Aloka and Vishal had been given ten minutes to talk to each other and immediately after, he had said, “Yes.” Aloka hadn’t gotten any time to think and within four months, she had become his wife.
The house was a sprawling one in the outskirts of the city. The neighborhood seemed to be out of one of the movies, which depicted the small towns of Punjab. People would sit on the terraces and have tea, chat and most importantly, take out lice from each other’s head.
For Aloka, this had been impossible to relate to. Soon, she understood the disparity in the household systems. The only good part was that Vishal doted on her. However, this did not exclude her from doing the purdah or the innumerable household chores.
Right from four in the morning till the wee hours of the night, Aloka was supposed to help Shanti. She often told Vishal that she wanted to work and make use of her degree, but her voice fell on deaf ears. It seemed that they had just wanted a qualified daughter-in-law as a trophy.
Six months into the marriage and Aloka was in for a surprise, and a back breaking one at that.
More than fifty kilos of grain found its way into the house. Large sacks filled up the small storeroom, leaving no space to walk. The next few days were absolutely challenging for Aloka. Pristine white sheets were put in the backyard. All the grain was then washed in big tubs and put on these sheets to dry.
This process was repeated at least three times and every day, the grain would be carried inside at night and put out in the sun to dry the next day again.
This whole process took about twenty days and Aloka was a wreck. Her back hurt and she wondered at the futility of it all. She had come from a house where her mother had been working, so she had never witnessed this kind of work.
After the grain had dried, it was put into huge drums for storing. Everyday ten days, a few kilos would be taken out and made into flour.
Aloka was flabbergasted at the sheer volume of work and had no interest in doing this. But those were the days when one could not speak anything.
After this ritual was over, she decided to talk to Vishal and tell him that this was something that she will not do in the future.
The same Vishal who doted on her, now had changed his colours like a chameleon. She was told in no uncertain terms that she will not be allowed to work and this was how the rest of her life be.
Aloka was shocked and decided to reason out with him. When nothing worked, Aloka made her decision and called her father. This was not what she had bargained for and she was ready to pay the price for the choice that she was about to make.
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