Having the last laugh

– 3rd Prize Winning Entry at Women’s Web–

Marriage Garland

Her family was revelling in celebration. Ma was baking sweets with a haste even the roadside mithai-wala lacked. Baba had started calling up relatives. In their extended household, twenty-four was the farthest marriage-milestone. If you crossed it unwedded, there would be an avalanche of pesky people on the other side, waiting to ruin your life.

It had happened to Pooja di – the once friendly neighbourhood girl who had been her senior in school. After a boyfriend walked out on her and news spread of her (largely imagined) escapades, one boy after another refused marriage. “Who marries a tainted girl?” said gossiping women over afternoon tea. “Who wants an old bride?” said exercising men during their evening walks. Pooja was now ‘old’ – a full thirty years of age – and stayed mostly cooped up in her room. The parents were still sending proposals.

“Why is it so important to marry Pooja di off?” she had once started over dinner. “It’s ruining all her happiness-

Ma had screamed and hushed her up mid-sentence. “Who puts such ideas into your head? Of course marriage is important! Who will fend for her when the parents are dead?”

“Oh come on Ma, what century are you from? She can very well take up a job.”

Ma snickered. “Newfangled aren’t you? No job nonsense is entertained in our family. And stay away from that God forsaken wretch lest you too intend to develop a string of boyfriends.” The argument was sealed.

A shiver went up her spine as Ma’s shrill tone reverberated in her mind. Looking for a pair of earrings, she thought back to the boy-meeting-ceremony the day before.

**

He was a little pot-bellied, that man. His breath distinctly reeked of alcohol. Sent off to her room for some breaking-the-ice conversation, she found his mannerism strange.

“So why are you wearing this pink sari?” his first retort to her sounded.

She found that queer. “Ma selected it for me” she managed.

“It’s too closed up.” Shifting places, he sat himself down right next to her. “The pallu, for instance,” he said as he felt her skin through the fabric, “should be a little lower by today’s standards.”

She jerked his hand off on an angry impulse. But to her astonishment, the man merely smirked and walked out of the door.

“I say a yes.” he announced to much fanfare. She looked on stupefied as Ma and Baba didn’t find time or value for her opinion all through the night and much of the next morning.

**

The memory made her shudder, temporarily marring the exuberance of a phone call that she had received that morning.

She wondered if Ma would throw in a slap. If Baba would turn silent on her.  But they were her parents after all…

Would the neighbours get luscious fodder for gossip, twisting the tale around as per taste? But she couldn’t be another Pooja.

Adjusting her dupatta, she walked down the stairs to the living room. Everyone there was enthusiastically discussing the marriage preparations – the date, the venue, the clothes. The boy’s father was talking through the loud crumble of snacks. His mother was explaining her acquisition of  a new set of  expensive pearls. The lecherous husband-to-be looked up at her as she sat down on a chair.

“What’s going on oh family of lecher? she called out brightly, crossing her legs.

The chatter instantly ceased. Ma stared open-mouthed.

“What, what?” his mother stammered, gasping.

She looked at the woman intently. Surely she knew of her son’s true colours? Didn’t she feel remotely guilty for trying to tag her on to him? Mothers were probably blind in child-love, she reflected.

“I say a capital NO to this marriage.” she articulated slowly. “Sorry for the trouble.”

Ma raised a hand in protest, her eyes red with rage. “Do you know what you’re doing you fool?” her throat rumbled. “What will become of you?”

“I will be fine Ma.” she smiled.”There’s no dearth of good men.”

She observed the boy’s father had stopped munching.

“And besides,” she went on, “I have got a job.”

The trio got up angrily and stamped out of the room. She called out a goodbye before proceeding to tell Ma and Baba about her acceptance as a secondary school teacher at Greenfields International.

**

This was from the life and times of one of my friends, whom I refrain from naming.

A college topper in her B. Ed, she was always bitter about the backward behavioural clauses her family put up. We would often tease her with ghunghats (head covers) around our heads. But when things transcended to her marriage, she decided she had had enough. Sneaking up to a job interview one fine morning, (which, given her brilliance, was nailed  down without a wrinkle) she sealed her independence and said a firm no to the lecherous lawyer with whose family marriage-talks were then ripe.

Today, she is a happily married woman, settled and working at a school in Bangalore. Her husband (who works as a software professional) and I have popularized the lecher incident in her friend circle. Though her Ma and Baba still cringe a bit when it’s brought up, they subsequently manage to join in the laughter. Her children, she says, will not have to sit through such marry-me-sessions nor bribe an auto wala to take them to an interview venue.

Here’s to you darling. And to every woman who dares to say no and do as her heart says. Happy Woman’s Day! :D

Written as a part of the Feminspiration contest at Women’s Web.

Feminspiration

Picture Courtesy: Indiamart

45 thoughts on “Having the last laugh”

  1. A very inspiring story. Wish there are more people like her. Who needs bullies to ruin your life when you have them at home and they don’t even know it. A little harsh but true. India needs to change…

  2. Thanks for sharing this inspiring tale ! Saying NO to a prospective groom is a really tough task – one that i have been through ! And best wishes to you and your friend :)

    Lovely blog you got !!
    :)

  3. So true Deboshree..and what surprises me is that it still very much exists..this attitude in most middle class families across India..its just so irritating.

    1. Good to find another who calls this irritating. I can never tire of brandishing this entire depiction of women as weaklings who need to be married and dare not reject a proposal.
      Thanks for dropping by Maitreyee! :D

  4. What a beautiful story. Three cheers to your friend for standing up to her parents and for her choices. And a happy women’s day to you, albeit a belated one.

  5. This is a wonderful story, which should be told over and over again and that it actually happened carries so much more weight.

    Bravo to her :)

    1. Yes…. there are times when I find myself analyzing and re-analyzing what will happen if I say no. Even to something I want to. Then, thinking of her, I am reminded of the relief that comes with keeping courage. :D

  6. Thank you for sharing this empowering story of your friend :razz:
    Wonderfully narrated that it brought the whole series of incidents live in front of my eyes :D

  7. Very well written Deboshree, this is the story of 90% women(married / unmarried)in the country. I still wonder why marriage is important, even though she has a fantastic career to support her. If education doesnt empower women to take their decision then what?
    why should we celebrate even women’s day?

    1. I am in total accordance Saffron. We talk so much about women empowerment and how education is the route to independence, but when it comes to taking life decisions, marriage is still considered the heart and soul of a woman’s life by umpteen families.

      In the hope for a better future, here’s a happy women’s day wish for you. :D

    1. Thanks a lot! :D
      It felt good reminiscing, for she is a very cheerful young lady. (and will most likely tell me I should have dwelt more on the design of her earrings)

  8. Happy Women’s Day Debo!
    A great story.. some inspiration…

    It is still difficult for a woman to make a difference to her own life, without being accused of “SELFISHNESS”.
    Several stories in the common woman’s life..

    As long as we can’t cross the small hurdles like these, the bigger ambitions of women’s liberation seem like a bit too much to expect even in this day :(

    1. A very happy women’s day to you too Shuba! :D

      Bingo. I can never understand how and why women are called ‘selfish’ if they sometimes put their own interests ahead of others. Why aren’t men, so many of whom repeatedly do just that, labelled selfish?

      Yep, women face so many ifs and buts an what ifs every day and its only their right to answer them as they feel is correct. I hope we have more and more strong women in the future. :)

  9. well, good that she found the guts to speak up against her parents and not force herself into a marriage she doesn’t want. it’s the tale of so many, yet that happy ending isn’t there for all such tales. good that your friend had one, Deboshree, and may she continue to lead a happy life in the future :)

    Leo @ I Rhyme Without Reason

    1. Yes indeed, there are so many women who are forced to marry against their will and are doomed to a lifetime of unhappiness. More women need to garner the strength to speak up for their good and prevent their lives from getting spoiled.

      Thanks Leo, I hope so too. :D

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s