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When Mr. Sharma enquired what the family was like? Educated? Cultured, good? The relative had said that he couldn't know for sure. He thought so too, but who could know, really?
It was a few days ago that Mr. Sharma’s only daughter, Swati, turned 23. As the celebration took place, among the hustle and bustle, nonsensical chatter, warm smiles, and a spread of simple yet scrumptious food, as Mr. Sharma looked at his only child.
Though still childlike in many ways yet now a picture of beauty; it was as if for the first time he realized that his little girl wasn’t a little girl any more. And though he still didn’t want to, the truth was that it was time to start looking for alliances for her.
No, he didn’t intend to get her married yet, not for at least a good 2-3 years, but he was well aware of the fact that sometimes just finding the right match could take a good 2-3 years.
Though Mr. Sharma finally accepted the truth that day, one thing that had been eating at him was that though a few relatives had inquired about his intentions related to his daughter’s marriage like when he was going to start looking for a match for her etc., nobody had really brought her any proposals.
Not that Mr. Sharma wanted them to, but that’s what usually happens in our society as soon as a girl steps into adulthood.
He and Mrs. Sharma had been very confident since the birth of their daughter that once she turned 20+ something, they wouldn’t have to really put any effort into finding a suitable match for her, but the relatives will be more than happy to do the job, and for all you know one of them might just work out.
‘Click’ as today’s youth says.
In fact, the day Swati was born, not one but two very sentimental and over-enthusiastic relatives had promised (with tears in their eyes) the new parents that once the child was of suitable age, they would find her the best match in the world.
But surprisingly, most surprisingly, in the last 2-3 years, other than a neighbour’s friend’s distant relative, no one had come forward or brought a proposal. Not even the relatives who had promised to find their daughter the best match.
Mr. and Mrs. Sharma couldn’t help but wonder if something was wrong with them or worse, their beloved daughter. But it couldn’t be! Swati, their love, life, their pride, was nothing less than what her name meant.
A pearl, the brightest star not just in their otherwise mundane lives but anyone who became a part of her life too.
Someone who cared for everyone and was loved by one and all for her inherent qualities. She was educated, mannered, modern yet cultured, free-spirited yet God-fearing, and not that it mattered to them but fair and slim too.
Basically, she met all the criteria that most people in our society usually look for in a bride. A few relatives had definitely mentioned that they knew someone or had heard of a boy with no less than 2-3 professional degrees and who was of marriageable age.
But when Mr. Sharma enquired what the family was like? Educated? Cultured, good? The relative had said that he couldn’t know for sure. He thought so, but who could know, really?
A family might look like one of the best to an outsider, but who could really tell what secrets it was hiding? Who could tell if they were really nice people until one actually lived with them? And more importantly, If they would make good in-laws?
That answer had left Mr. and Mrs. Sharma baffled. Whoever said a thing like this? Though what they said was true, nobody actually said that out loud. Definitely not a relative.
Whatever happened to the good old over-enthusiastic relatives who couldn’t help but bring proposals once your daughter/sister turned 18 and didn’t rest until you said yes to one of them?
Mr. Sharma clearly remembered (and now somewhat fondly) how 15 years ago when his youngest cousin sister had got married, the relatives could have wrestled among themselves to find her a match.
The proposals had poured from every side. Every relative (and neighbour) trying to outdo the others and hell-bent on getting her married to the prospect they had brought.
Mr. Sharma couldn’t believe he would ever say this, but he now kind of missed those relentless relatives and that never-dying enthusiasm for finding a match for an unmarried girl. Huh, the world was changing too fast for the simpletons like him.
Having given up hope on others, the benevolent couple decided to take the matter in their own rapidly-aging hands. Swati was only 23, there was no hurry, but they would keep an eye out and stay informed. Maybe check the matrimonial section of leading newspapers now and then.
The way the night gave way to the morning without any qualms about what it was bringing, the way the Sun rose in the east as silently and calmly as ever, and birds sang their morning songs as mellifluously as ever, Mr. and Mrs. Sharma could have never predicted how the day would unfold.
With a cup of freshly brewed tea in one hand and a smile playing on his lips, Mr. Sharma picked up the newspaper.
Pretty sure that he would come across some fantastic prospects, maybe someone in civil services, or a doctor or engineer settled abroad, or perhaps someone really nice in business in their own city so that he and the better half could see their beloved child whenever they wanted.
With hopes and dreams for his daughter’s future building up in his eyes, he turned over to the matrimonial page. But within minutes, the smile disappeared from his face, and suddenly he was breathing heavily as if something from the paper had sucked the life out of him.
When Mrs. Sharma looked at him worriedly, he simply handed her the newspaper. What Mrs. Sharma read then, to say that it gave her a bout of jitters, would be the understatement of the year.
Seeking a fair, slim, beautiful girl for so-and-so caste boy. The boy is a businessman. Income in lakhs/month, belongs to a fairly educated family (meaning some of us do have degrees).
Though the girl should be fair, slim, and beautiful, what we are actually looking for is a maid cum a puppet.
The boy’s family owns a big house, but to be clear, it will not be her home. Does a woman have a home? Hopefully, the parents have been cultured enough to instil this value in her. She should never think this will be her home.
She won’t have a holiday, and nothing she does will ever be enough. Likewise, she would be expected to keep her head low at all times and say sorry for no reason every time her mother-in-law fancies or is feeling low.
Furthermore, she might as well hang a board around her neck which says, “thank you for letting me marry in this house, and I am sorry forever.”
She could be humiliated in front of everybody and anybody at any point we (read, especially the mother-in-law) want. The house-help, even the kids. Her upbringing could be… actually would be questioned from time to time. No compromises there.
Because what’s a bigger kick than that for the boy’s family? So much so that if our son/her husband ever tries to speak for her, he too will be reprimanded and reminded of all the favours he has been done throughout his life, right from his studies until the day he decided to speak for her.
Dowry, hmm, a touchy subject (can’t understand why!). Let’s call them gifts for the sake of the modern world. Please do give your daughter as many gifts as you can. After all, it would be nothing less than a stroke of luck for you and her if we accept in our family.
If the girl ever speaks for herself, she will be quickly branded muhfant, non-sanskari, etc. You know, all the adjectives we use in our culture for women who try to speak or stand up for themselves.
You (the family) might be called upon too to be told and reminded how badly you have raised her because again what’s a bigger kick than that? Alcohol is simply overrated!
Needless to say, she will dress according to our wishes once she is married. All the jeans, sleeveless tops, etc. she likes to wear, now is the time to let her wear all that and get it out of her system.
The prospect’s mother has been prescribed a dose of taunts every day, as in she needs to taunt someone (read future daughter-in-law) every day for her failing health and otherwise weak heart. Though when she taunts and the way she taunts, you wouldn’t be able to tell that she has a weak heart.
From the length of this ad, you must have figured out that we are financially very sound (because pay per word).
Not that your daughter will be able to use much of it other than the saris and the jewellery we buy her occasionally, and not as much as for her sake but more for the family’s honour/image sake.
Interested parties, please contact: xyz420xyzz.
Mrs. Sharma could do nothing but stare at Mr. Sharma in disbelief. Who in their right mind would put up an ad like this? For something as holy as matrimony?
They could have very well believed that it was the 1st of April, and some kind of insensitive, unthoughtful person had put this up as a joke. But it was the month of August, and when they looked at the page again, there was not one but good 30-40% ads like that.
Different words, less or more intense, but on similar lines. Worse, even the families that claimed to be very educated and financially sound had some or the other elements like these.
What were the chances if good 30-40% of ads were like this? What were they to do? They, of course, very well understood that human relationships are complex and that despite their best efforts, something could always go wrong in their daughter’s marriage.
They hadn’t reached their mid-50s without learning anything about life, but how could they marry their daughter to someone after reading something like this? How could they even think about her marriage now?
It’s as if everybody had lost the ability to say nothing but the truth when it came to marriages. It’s as if they were in some kind of fiction. Is this why the relatives weren’t showing as much interest in bringing proposals because they, too, could say nothing but the truth?
That they couldn’t lie about knowing the family from inside and everything being alright with a family? Is this why Mr. Sharma had been seeing more and more marriageable age yet unmarried women and men lately?
Women, some of them, rather chirpy, even happy, and men, as if they were a little depressed.
They decided they wouldn’t get their daughter married, ever, unless someday she really wanted to marry someone herself and was sure he and his family would treat her the way she deserved to be treated.
Their daughter, their pearl, the brightest star in their lives. Didn’t matter which neighbour or relative said what. They would rather have an unmarried daughter who was living her life peacefully, freely than one married yet living in hell.
With that, Mr. Sharma put two things away for good: that newspaper and the thought of getting his daughter married.
Though this is clearly fiction, parts of this story are inspired by real life. Throughout my life and where I come from, I have seen many women immensely suffering in their marital homes (to be honest, their own homes too).
Even now, someone I know very closely has been fighting no short of a battle for a good 3-4 years now to get treated with basic human respect and dignity in what the world calls her home.
I took a trip back home recently and met her personally, and seeing her situation, I couldn’t help but think that she and her parents got cheated. Her parents had been told by the relatives (who brought this proposal) that it was the best family they would ever find.
That the family was nothing less than a catch. Though one good thing is her husband sees the injustice being done to her, but every time he tries to stand up for her, he too is snubbed in the name of all the favours the family has done for him.
Every time he is reminded of the sacrifices his family, especially his mother, has made for him (believe it or not, this happens more often than not in our culture).
It was after meeting her, that I wondered for days that if only her family had been told the truth about how she would be treated. If the guy’s family hadn’t been able to lie.
If the relative who had brought that proposal had told the truth that in reality, he didn’t know what the family was like or what kind of in-laws they would make, what would be the reality right now?
I couldn’t help but think that her parents would have never got her married, at least not in this family, and with that thought, this story came into existence.
If we couldn’t tell lies. If in our society, people could speak only the truth, especially when it was time to look for wives for their sons, what would happen? Imagine the chaos it would create.
How many men in our culture would actually get married? How many parents would get their daughters married?
Image Source: Still from the film Thappad’s trailer, edited on CanvaPro
A mother, a wife, a daughter. More than that, a human being like everybody else, full of faults yet her own beauty. read more...
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