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A mother decides to stake her first claim on the son born to her in an interfaith marriage; with her in laws wanting to claim their ‘heir’ through religious ceremonies.
It had just been a couple of months since you had arrived. Your cooing and babbling had filled every void in the house. You had everyone at home, from my grey haired grandma, to my burly father, who has always been awkward with kids, wrapped around your tiny finger.
After the initial months of disturbed nights, the colic in your tummy not letting us sleep at night, we finally settled into an easy routine.
Then came the first phone call. The call that came in the guise of enquiring about your well being. An unsuspecting me was initially alarmed but then lapsed into an elaborate description of your day to day activities out of sheer habit.
A new mom could after all go on and on about her baby. From the milestones you had achieved to all your antics, I blabbered it all.
However, my conversation was interrupted curtly by a list of instructions to be followed for the baby. Your hair shouldn’t be cut, came the command. There is a ceremony called Mundan that needs to be done at any cost, until then your hair must be allowed to grow. Their voices were forceful, building up to a feverish pitch as they dictated their terms.
A cute pony tailed version of you quickly flashed through my mind. But then I paused and was dumbfounded at the sheer audacity of it all.
The tears I had shed when you were in my womb, were enough for a lifetime. No day went by when I was not reminded about committing the grave mistake of marrying the man I fell in love with.
It is said that a pregnant woman must be happy at all times, otherwise the baby would be affected. But all I can recall was the feeling of a wet pillow case against my face. I don’t know whether you felt anything in that cocoon of yours. Did you cry when I did? Did your little heart beat faster when mine did?
But since you came along, the phone calls had begun. They became more frequent and fervent.
A curse is what they had referred to you as once upon a time, when you were just the size of a seed, yet had already made your presence felt.
Your pink lips, your fair skin and your gender suddenly seemed to have made you ‘worthy enough’ to be the heir of their family.
So what if the blood coursing through your body was laced with that of a woman belonging to a different religion? They will ensure that there is no vestige of me in you. The society had armed them with that clout or so they thought, after all they were the ladke waley, the propagators of patriarchy.
You being a child, it was an easy task to realize. A Mundan done now, followed by more rituals and customs to imprint their family name on you. As you grow up, the sacred thread you would flaunt and finally be one of them without a shred of doubt.
But what about that lady who is sadly your mom. Making her one of us, is something that will be rather difficult. But it needs to be done or else how will we hold our heads high up in the society?
A Brahmin from Uttar Pradesh married to a Syrian Christian from Kerala, nothing less than blasphemy. But then some red vermilion along the parting of her hair, a veil to cover her forehead, our surname fused with her name, her folding her hands in devotion before our Gods and performing poojas like a daughter in law of the house ought to do, might just do the trick after all.
No one would know the difference. She will be deemed one of us, if every hint of her original self was wiped off.
Because being a good human being is never the criteria in a marriage. How much she will relinquish will determine how good she will be for the household. She must possess the three virtues- obedience, subservience, compliance. Someone who will blend in with the family in such a way that her presence is not even felt. To be only seen and not heard.
But then I realized that as your mother I yielded the ultimate power. It was from me you came and it will be only us, your parents, who will decide how you will be brought up.
The sultry clammy weather had you struggling with your hair. Out came out a pair of new scissors and chop chop, scattered your locks of hair, here and there and just like that, your first haircut was done, without much fanfare.
Without the Mundan, your hair would not grow well, I was warned. But now seeing your thick hair, I wonder otherwise.
If not a Mundan, at least a baptism, doesn’t the child need a religious beginning was an advice I chose to turn a deaf ear to.
My child was not going to be a sacrificial lamb in this game of life. It is not for me or his father to give him a religious identity. When he is old enough, his heart will let him know and help him decide which path to tread upon.
And this was how you had your first haircut. A story that was intertwined with many other stories.
#IChooseToChallenge blogathon: Each one of us can choose to challenge what we see as wrong around us. And here’s a small beginning we propose.
In this IWD 2021 blogathon, we called for your stories of how you would choose to challenge the regressive mindsets around, the injustice you see or are a survivor of, and call out sexism and gender bias. Of how you would take steps towards celebrating women (under this generic ‘women’, we include cis women, trans women, and non-binary persons) and their achievements more. Of how you would choose to challenge the oppression of those marginalised, or the violence you as a survivor, face.
Anjali Paul‘s is the second of the best 3 entries, and wins an Amazon voucher worth Rs 500.
Image source: AdinaVoicu on pixabay
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I am a mom who works from home and dabbles with writing when time permits.
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