‘Paraya dhan‘ is deep-rooted in the Indian family’s psyche, even in this day and age of nuclear families and the few-but-definite number of househusbands. We talk about getting a woman ‘married off‘. Is it still not possible to visualise a world where the woman is not required to sever all relationships to her past, after marriage? Why is matrimony a prison sentence for women?
How about this practice of changing a woman’s name? I think that has its basis in starting a ‘new life’ too. You can take away a person’s name, identity, relationships…but you can’t take away their memories. I think it’s a barbaric practice to force a person to cut out their entire past life as if it were a gangrenous limb.
A friend of mine is getting married. This engineer-MBA, employed in one of the top companies in the country is going to throw up her job and a life that has taken 26 years to build, to move across the world with a person she’s met a few times. Her engagement had her all decked up and showered with jewellery and clothes. Is that supposed to be the consolation prize? Her parents flitted about nervously through the entire function. They were the ladki ke maa-baap, after all. What annoyed me the most was that her fiance was not present; he was not even expected to be. Of course, the ritual would have to be a religious thing built around the woman. And of course ‘Mr.Right’ took the time to wish her on the phone. With great effort, I managed to restrain myself from inquiring whether she was getting married to a photograph and an SMS.
It annoys me to no end, such questions as “Does she cook? Is she respectful to elders?” Cooking is an essential survival skill and while I’m glad I can manage for myself, I don’t profess an undying love for this activity. Is it a given then that to be a woman, one must love such ‘household’ tasks? And how about I turn around and ask the men if they can cook? That question doesn’t appear to go down well. The so-called eligible bachelors with their degrees, payslips and green cards are still waiting for Ms.Perfect HouseMaid.
I’m angry. An angry young woman. Perhaps I won’t change a single thing in the system in my lifetime. But damned if I’ll go down without a fight.