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I was young, only 23 and I had made the decision to get married. While it took me some time, I realised I did not have to sacrifice who I was, to be a wife.
I was so excited and nervous for my wedding day. As a North Indian, mine was a Big Fat Indian Wedding- with rituals and celebrations that went on for about a week. The days and weeks before the wedding went by in a beautiful blur. I felt closer to my family than ever before and got to experience all the love and appreciation in the world from everyone I knew.
And, I was marrying the man of my dreams, my world, my love with everyone’s blessings. That fact was dreamy and heady at the same time. Everything was perfect, more than perfect, in fact. And I had none of the wedding jitters or cold feet that people always talk about.
Of course, I had my bridezilla moments and breakdowns but those weren’t because I was moving away from my family. Those, actually, were because the flowers weren’t perfect enough. Yes, it sounds ridiculous now but in that moment, it mattered a lot.
I was young, only 23 and I had made the decision to get married. And it was okay. The days and the moments right upto the wedding were perfect. Everything was great until that moment when the man of my dreams applied a red streak of ‘sindoor‘ on my forehead.
Right until then, I had been tripping high on being a beautiful and radiant bride. The rituals before and after were mere activities we were doing.
But in those 10 seconds, something changed. I suddenly felt a little out of place but I sat there, doing my part. Meanwhile everyone else I knew stared at me as if I was replaced by a stranger.
After the rituals, I went to freshen up with my sister. Of course, everyone continued to stare at me awkwardly as I passed them I just didn’t know why. Until I did. I entered the luxurious women’s lounge and looked into the mirror to see my own reflection. Only, I couldn’t recognise the lady in front of me.
She was a bright, beautiful, and a blushing woman covered in red from head to toe. No more was the young girl who’d just graduated and was still figuring her life out. That girl, was now replaced by a woman who didn’t have the time to figure life out. Now, she was a woman who had a whole family to take care of.
That is exactly what had changed, what changes, when a girl gets married. In that moment, I felt the iron-clad shackles of the Indian society holding me tight, telling me that I was a woman with great responsibility. Every fibre in my being told me that my husband’s life now depended on that one red streak. That is the kind of power the society holds over us. Till that moment, I was a brave, modern feminist but then, I became just another wife and daughter-in-law.
I stood there for a few minutes, reeling in shock, while my sister looked at me, concerned and unable to understand the depth of this situation. So, I smiled at her reassuringly, and told her that I was fine, all the while feeling lost and ungrounded. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore.
As I walked back out, I realised that no one else knew who I was either. Each person who looked at me now, only saw a wife or a daughter-in-law or a married woman. None of us knew where the old ‘Haswata’ was or if she even existed anymore. And so, every person in that room mourned the loss of me – the loss of that lively girl, the crazy friend, the loving sibling or the innocent daughter.
If I am honest, I did lose myself for about six months after the wedding day. And it took me almost 2 years to be who I am fully, unapologetically, without fear. It was hard to own up to my mistakes, to love myself despite them and to accept myself unconditionally.
But the hardest part was realising that being a wife or a daughter-in-law was just a part of me, it wasn’t my whole identity. I was so much more and it wasn’t a bad thing to continue to have a great life beyond his family.
Now that I think back on it, I don’t believe that the bride’s family are ever really crying at her ‘bidaai‘ because she is moving away. People move away all the time for work, for travel, for studies. But a hundred people do not cry over it, do they? Yet, a ‘bidaai‘ is so difficult for every family.
The honest reason is that they know of the hardships their daughter will face in the future. They understand the responsibility she has just been burdened with, the pains that she will go through as a woman. And they cry because, no matter what, they cannot protect her from any of it and she will be left alone out there. Now, they can only pray that she is lucky enough to be stepping into a world filled with hope, love and joy.
If you are blessed like I was, you go into a loving family who treat you like their own daughter. But if you are unlucky, you end up facing the strife and struggles of being a woman that need us to speak up. But hear this:
Those chains are not yours to walk in.
Those burdens are not yours to carry.
That pain isn’t yours to hold on to.
Take charge, be yourself and own your identity. It will take some time but people will realise that marriage did not change who you were. Don’t let it. More tips on how to stay true to yourself while being happily married coming up in my next blog post!
Until then, love only.
Author’s Note: I am an internationally certified therapist, happily married for over 3 years now. I am looking to support women towards being true to themselves and building their own identity, while having a fulfilling family life.
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai
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