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‘After Eight Years of Marriage’ a poem by Mamta Kalia, shows how women get trapped in the golden cage of matrimony, even if they want out.
Confessional poems are straight from the heart and talks mainly about the issues that encircles the poet’s life or state of mind. Here the poet willfully speak out their conflicts and demons, with or without the help of a figment of fiction.
Mamta Kalia is a poet from Mathura and writes in both English and Hindi. Her poems revolve around relationship, complexities of her own life, and personal experiences. Her poems portray her life and gives a context to her relationship with other people in her life.
This poem by Mamta Kalia vividly essays the discontent state of a married woman. The married woman acts like the poet’s prop in enlightening the details of poet’s life to the reader.
After eight years of marriage
The first time I visited my parents,
They asked, “Are you happy, tell us”.
It was an absurd question
And I should have laughed at it
Instead, I cried,
And in between sobs, nodded yes.
I wanted to tell them
That I was happy on Tuesday
I was unhappy on Wednesday.
I was happy one day at 8 o’clock
I was most unhappy by 8.15.
I wanted to tell them how one day
We all ate a watermelon and laughed.
I wanted to tell them how I wept in bed all night once
And struggled hard from hurting myself.
That it wasn’t easy to be happy in a family of twelve,
But they were looking at my two sons,
Hopping around like young goats.
Their wrinkled hands, beaten faces and grey eyelashes
Were all too much too real.
SO I swallowed everything,
And smiled a smile of great content.
Just the first couple of lines – “After eight years of marriage, the first time I visited my parents” – says how that woman is caged and cultured to be in her marital home. Her wings are clipped and her movement is restricted. Nevertheless, she visits and the first question that crops up is very emotional.
The woman is certainly not happy with this question and tries to bring humour by saying “And I should have laughed at it.” But again, the question doesn’t sit comfortably in her mind, leading her to breakdown with tears.
The tears stay in the corner of her soulful eyes, however. Like her, they have grown a steely spine over the years, not to stream down her cheeks, but only standing and watching the world from distance. But her thoughts gather, and she wants to tell her parents, share her life stories with them.
She skillfully atomizes her state of mind one day at a time. The following lines in the poem will tell you that.
“I was happy one day at 8 o clock.
I was most unhappy by 8.15”
The truth about human mind and its tendency to change according to the environment and external aspects is made clear.
And sometimes, the sorrows were so deep and so damaging that she wept all night. Now this shows how lofty hearted woman are. However unhappy they are, they will not breakdown in front of their loved ones. Only the pillows stand as witness. “I wanted to tell them how I wept in bed all night once,” says Mamta Kalia.
The married woman is in a joint family where there are cultural distinctions, disparity in world views and values. They are overwhelming for her but she is expected to adapt to this situation and move on with this kind of life.
The first time in her parent’s house makes her want to pour out her feelings, the bottled up emotions, but she purses her lips, swallows them like a bitter medicine, and smiles to avoid springing distress at her parents.
The parents look at the woman’s children who were full of life and rhythm. Like two young goats. The reality dawns on her. She swallows the clouds and pictures a bright, clear sky in front of parents. Seeing her contented smile and her two cherubs, they heave a sigh of relief.
The poem pictures a balance of grief and joy, felt in the depth of the woman’s heart. The fluctuating feelings of anxiety, pain, happiness and satisfaction, is what human feels be it in a joint family or a nuclear family. We can hardly say a person is bereft of happiness completely or that they are bereft of sorrows in life.
Extreme happiness is only in a utopian world and, in a way, extreme distress or pain can mean a dystopian view. They both are a state of mind and cannot always, make a home in a person’s mind. So, this married woman in the poem also feels the same thing in her marital life, with spouse, children and her extended family.
However, if we see those last few mines in different light, the poem can mean a disillusioned sense of a society. A poem can also determine a stereotypical frame of mind which existed in distant past and is still in existence, maybe in not a better-ordered world around you, but in hinterlands or a conservative family setup.
Taking that cue ahead, let’s delve further into this poem by Mamta Kalia. The last few lines give us a picture of parents of the woman smiling in satisfaction after looking at her sons. The parents endorse the stereotype which is the science between happy marriage and children. The bun in the oven signals a happy marriage. And a balm to withering marriage is always a child. Child will rescue two souls and bring life to the dead equation.
Somehow society buys this concept, and generations have inherited this thought blindly.
In reality, a child in an unhappy marriage will never mend the agony but will put an enormous pressure on an already burdened woman’s life. And the thought developing in a woman’s mind to escape out of this unhappy marriage will not be welcomed by the society.
Questions and opinions like “How can a mother leave her marriage and break down the family? She should have at least thought about her child” will always cloud her decisions, obstruct her way, pushing her into an abyss where no hands can reach her to pull her up.
This is just a way of gaslighting a woman. A tale woven by a society that doesn’t really care about the relationship, and the mental state of a woman, as long as one more foot soldier to patriarchy is in place.
A relationship that is unsalvageable cannot be salvaged by a child. We need to grow out of this distorted worldview and change the narrative. Resolve and mend the relationship before you even think of bringing another human into your marriage. Do not put a burden on a child to do that for you.
Image source: a still from the Hindi short film Juice
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