Why she felt so alone in her arranged marriage
“Companionship is something different…something that holds you…something that binds you. Being alongside each other, caring for one another without any reason, being able to speak your mind without any apprehension, understanding the unsaid words… It’s… it’s all about respecting each other and sharing a life.”
A long pause. I was clueless how to fill it.
“My marriage is more about fear… fear of being ridiculed at every innocent mistake for being the daughter of a rich father, fear of failing to meet everyone’s expectations, fear of rejection, fear of not getting the love and respect I deserve or simply the fear of just being myself…Being born to a rich father was not my choice and I didn’t choose to get married to a boy from a poor family, but it’s me who is being punished for the crime I didn’t commit.”
Their marriage was arranged by elders. Shikha was the daughter of a wealthy business family from Bokaro and Mohit a probationer IAS. I don’t know about the groom, but the bride was not asked about her wish or what qualities she was looking in her life partner. She was not even asked whether she wanted to marry or not!
She was not even asked whether she wanted to marry or not!
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We wanted to study further and become independent
I still remember her opposition when she was ‘informed’ about her marriage. She was my bestie and we talked a lot about our future and future plans. And in our future there was no place for marriage ‘till we are financially independent.’ It was too big a dream in our small town where girls went to the college only till the family finds a groom. After school, Shikha and I moved to Patna and joined the reputed women’s college there. For us it was a step towards our dreams. But for many, it was a ticket to get ‘the most eligible bachelor’ and by that I mean the IAS, IPS, IFS, Army officers…
So basically the girls were married to the job of the boy and not to the boy or his family. What kind of job she will be married to was decided by the purchasing power of her family and the tag fixed by the groom’s family. It is sort of an auction. The highest bidder got the boy. The family or the boy’s background are hardly taken seriously or even considered.
In the final year of our graduation, Shikha’s family fixed her marriage. All her pleas to study further fell on deaf ears. “This is the right age to get married. You are young and beautiful; as you age it will really become difficult to find a groom in our caste.”
“I’m just twenty-one. I want to study further; I want to do post-graduation and then will appear for the Civil Service examination. Who knows, someday I will become a bureaucrat. Then you all will feel proud of your IAS daughter and not be flaunting your IAS son-in-law.”
Shikha’s argument was laughed at and set aside as a naïve dream.
Why struggle for a job when you can marry it, instead?
“What about her studies and her dream, Aunty?” I stood in Shikha’s support.
“People work so hard to qualify for this job and enjoy the perks and privileges attached to it. She will enjoy it without going through all the hard work. If her family allows, she will continue with her studies or else why take all the trouble.” With those words being said, I knew that Shikha’s future has been decided.
Her marriage was celebrated. When Shikha reached her marital home there was not enough space to keep the ‘gifts’ she had brought with her. It took two hours for her to cover the 40 km journey on unpaved village roads to reach her marital home. “But the journey from the posh mansion which I called my home to a small village home made of mud and thatched roof which was made my home was very fast. From day zero I was expected to make it my home and start living the way they wanted me to live,” Shikha said with a smile.
Even I have heard that her marital family was ‘not so rich’ farmers. It was really commendable for Mohit to aspire and then qualify to become an IAS. He deserved respect for it.
“You know, if they were not my husband’s family then I don’t think I would have ever bothered to look at them twice. And here they were, making me realise by their words and deeds that they have obliged me by marrying off their son to me and accepting me into their family.” There was anger and sarcasm in her voice.
I married the man, but the extended family came free
“What about your relationship with your husband?” I asked. Seven years was a long time to develop a relationship that was more than physical with the partner of your life.
“Initially it was beautiful. When he was under training, it was an extended honeymoon for us. There is something magical about marriage. Even if you meet as a stranger, a delightfully strange bond connects you immediately. You won’t understand, because yours was a love marriage. It is said that it is because of the power of the mantras. In the early days of marriage the physical attraction brings the two bodies closer and then the souls fall in love. But when he got his posting, his family moved with us and the family interference increased. His parents I can understand, but his siblings and extended family…our marriage became overcrowded.”
From her eyes I could see that my childhood friend was unhappy. Buying the choicest dolls for their beloved daughter is completely different from buying the best ‘groom’ in the market. While doing so, society and the family in particular fail to realise that maybe their daughter’s future will be secured because of the government job, their social status will get a boost, but what about the girl who will have to adjust in a completely different scenario? Does the society or family really understand the agony of the girl and the amount of sacrifices and adjustment she will have to go through in this mismatched marriage?
I’m not even on the list of priorities
“Once someone is successful, the whole army of relatives and village community rushes to place a claim on him. Mohit is the first IAS from his family and village. I know that his family has made immense sacrifices for him. I understand that he has certain responsibilities towards his parents, family and community. But then what about me? Am I not a part of his life? Am I here only to bear his child?” She was panting in anger.
“I can only say that if they had given birth to Mohit, invested in his upbringing and education, then they had also put a price tag on their son and sold him in the marriage market.”
I laughed at her comment. It reminded me of our college days and our debate on the dowry system.
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Why should only the woman have to adjust?
“I have completely changed my personality in order to get accepted in this family. But after his busy days and evenings with his family, when finally we are alone in the nights, he comes with the list of my ‘failures’ handed over to him by his family. The man who comes to me is a judgmental son, brother, uncle… and not my husband. He doesn’t feel the cold treatment I get from his family. But senses the warmth I lack.”
It’s not only the girl’s responsibility to adjust and accept her marital family and home. It’s mutual, or rather, it should be equal. Adjustment should be from both sides. If it is expected from her to accept the customs of the family, then some traditions should be changed for her, too. In this adjustment and acceptance process, the role played by the husband is vital. After all, he had gone with the band, baja, baraat to bring his bride home. The bride gets only that much love and respect in her sasural as her husband wants her to get.
The bride gets only that much love and respect in her sasural as her husband wants her to get.
If he loves and respect her, his family will do it too. If he doesn’t, even the dog of the family won’t respect the bride.
Men have self-respect, but women only have ego
“Remember…you used to say that in our society what is considered to be a man’s self-respect, in woman it becomes her ego.”
I felt proud at being quoted. So people do listen to me.
“Instigated by his family, what he crushes is my self-respect and not my ego. My mother says that I have to work to make a marriage work. With time he will become more of my husband and less of their son or brother. But maybe when that time comes I won’t be able to respect this relationship anymore. What will be left, will just be the carcass of a life lived to please the family and society.”
I was struggling to find the carefree, bubbly bestie in those blank eyes.
“Slowly we are drifting apart. I don’t know about him, but now I feel that we only share a house and occasionally a bed!”
How could a life I envy be so depressing? I was numb.