Marriage and Divorce in India is the business of every single person the parties involved have ever known. It is annoyingly astonishing how match making continues to be the numero uno occupation of the senior citizens. It is a source of immense perverted pleasure for them to “fix” marriages and the reason most marriages are stifling is because they are “fixed” … It is like, the term “match fixing” can be used more often for marriages than cricket! Anyhow, this post is not about the merits and demerits of an arranged marriage. Instead, it is about a girl I know who gave all that she could to make her marriage work and despite being a perfect Indian submissive bahu received nothing but rejection from her in laws and disloyalty from her husband.
What I am now going to pen down is her story and her story needs to be told while she battles for her dignity and her rights before the Indian courts!! She lives in every woman who has ever been subjected to oppression and has never raised her voice for the sake of her family … She lives next door to every man who has ever imagined having a wife as “sanskari” as she is … She lives in every girl who has ever been told that the respect and repute of the family lies upon her ability to make things work with her husband and his family … She lives in every city; every village; every house … And her story thus becomes relevant to every single person, gender notwithstanding.
I met her few years back and by then she was already 4 years into her marriage. When I met her I was 28 and she was 26 … so now it is easy to calculate the age at which she was married … Most of us finish college by then!! Her husband had a job which required him to stay away from her for at least 8 months in a year and while he was away, she was expected to look after his family comprising of his parents and three younger siblings … Needless to say, she had to work from dawn to dusk in order to fit into the description of a “perfect bahu” … She was not allowed to have an identity apart from being a daughter-in-law and her life was understandably expected to revolve around her husband’s family … The only money she ever received was from her parents and despite being educated, she wasn’t allowed to work … To have dreams, desires and aspirations of her own was considered to be sacrilegious. While she endured it all with a smile “fixed” (there goes that word again) on her face, she secretly nurtured the ambition of studying further. She wanted to attend college, live in a hostel and be truly free. After facing the reality like a dead woman, she used to come to life in her reverie. She dreamt … But she dreamt secretly after absquatulating the harshness her life offered!! Not once did she confide her dreams into her “family in law” (No wonder most women aren’t as close to their husband’s family … For they are family “in law” and family “of love” … Not to say real families are any better … They can be horrid too) … But she waited for her husband. Patiently. At last her husband arrived and after serving him in every possible way for a week, she approached the subject of further studies with much trepidation. She expressed her desire to study further in another city … Short of imploring before him, she practically tried everything she knew. Her husband (given the man he is) approached her parents and asked them for money so that their daughter could study further. Since she comes from a well to do family, her parents readily agreed to fund their daughter’s education. Her husband’s family did put up a tough resistance but after learning that the funds for her education will come from her family, they finally relented.
Hailing from a small town she was nervous about studying in different city … She knew her drawbacks but she was determined to succeed. She knew she couldn’t afford to let herself or anyone else down, most of all, her husband who had displayed such magnanimity by letting her study and live alone in a city miles away from his parents. Her innocence and simplicity made her popular with her classmates. Classically good looking, soft spoken and typical Indian demeanour won many a heart. She was an average performer but not for the lack of hard work or sincerity. She worked hard to secure good grades, she worked on herself. The way she dressed, the way she spoke, her command over English … All of it improved exponentially. She grew from strength to strength … Living alone, mixing with students from different cultures, group studies, debates, class assignments – added to her confidence levels. Her new found confidence suited her and she couldn’t wait to welcome her husband in her new avatar. However, as luck would have had it, her husband resented her confidence. He saw it as a sign of defiance … For him it was a challenge to his manhood!! A woman who is not just beautiful but confident and who is capable of earning her own bread … The woman who now stood in front of him was someone who could question; someone who could speak for herself and did not hesitate in being candid with her opinions. He could not bear the transformation and given his patriarchal and misogynistic mindset he expressed his displeasure in ways more than one.
During the last semester of her course, she was offered a position with one of the best law firms in the country. For her it was glorifying acknowledgement of her talent and her ability to go beyond her identity of being a wife and a daughter-in-law. She didn’t want the opportunity to slip out of her hands and hence without confiding in her in laws and despite her husband’s disapproval she accepted the offer. Her acceptance of financial independence was looked upon as a rejection of her role as a wife … Her refusal to sit at home and vegetate was seen as an act of transgression and an attack on the sensibilities of her husband’s family!! But my friend did not relent. She FOUGHT … AND FIGHT SHE DID!!
The constant strife over her work further constrained her marriage and her husband found solace in the arms of another woman. Her independence became a justification for her husband to cheat on her. His persistent refusal to spend time with her on his leave and his attempts to stall her arrival to his place during hers made her dwell deep into his surreptitious behaviour only to unearth his betrayal. Her husband had committed the offence of adultery which received tacit approval from his parents. Her attempts at trying to save her marriage were met with opposition and often ended up in her husband demanding her to give up her work … Something which was disagreeable to her.
Finally … She gave up … ON HER MARRIAGE!! Despite being at the receiving end from her family, she stood up for herself and fought for her dignity. Her pain sprouted into a fountain of love for herself; love which everyone else around her denied and deprived her off. She dropped all her weight to look million dollar bucks. She is studying further and continues to work in order to support herself. She didn’t seek refuge in her parents’ home and neither did she ask for help. She helps herself … She is fighting for justice in the court of law and not once has she broken down during the agonizing moments of facing the judge and the societal jury. She walks with her head held high and doesn’t bat an eyelid when people probe into her affairs. She improves with each passing day and this ugly episode has lit in her the fire to succeed. She is no longer the doll she was when she first stepped out of her house. The walls which once held her pictures and confined her now have imprints of frames she broke both literally and figuratively.
The paroxysm of tears, I waited for never came the last I met her. Instead … I saw a young, confident, independent woman who refused to give in … She welcomes divorce with open arms and continues to nurture the hope of finding a befitting partner. Her experience hasn’t embittered her towards marriage. She knows when the time is right and so is the man, she will happily embrace marriage once again … But this time, it will be a marriage of equality. She says she will never give up being who she is …
Most women can’t wait to get married … This one can’t wait to get divorced!!
With love … Sugarsatchet