Edited to add a photo at the bottom of the post
The OA doesn’t usually bother to argue with me. It’s either below his dignity or he’d much rather be doing something else. But a few days ago he caught me giving someone unsolicited advice and was most vehement in his disagreement.
I was telling my cousin, who is dating a girl whose parents are against their relationship, that this kind of relationship is not worth pursuing. No doubt it broke his heart, but I love him too much to not warn him of the heart ache and sorrow he is setting himself up for.
‘What?’ the OA exclaimed. You think it wasn’t worth it to marry me? I sighed. There is no easy way to say this to the person you love but sometimes you are too weary to prevaricate or pacify.
You are worth it, I tell him… worth every tear, every sleepless night. And yet, did I need to suffer so much for love? Must I pay for my love with being dragged through the streets in the dust? Did I have to go through that torment, the abuse, the heartache, the insecurity, the rejection, the pain, the self doubt, the humiliation? As a man who loved me – did he think it necessary for me to go through all that to prove my love for him?
It’s not easy to be the one whose parents are objecting – you have to deal with your own feelings of being torn. But there is some value to it because they’re your own parents. For every harsh thing they say, you have a lifetime of their love and memories to fall back on and forgive.
For the other – its a bit of a slap in the face. There you are, tripping down life’s path, whistling merrily. You meet someone, the heart does a flip, you fall in love, you go home to your family’s welcoming arms and take home said person to be welcomed with much fanfare. And then when your turn comes you are treated with such extreme disgust and disdain that you can’t handle it. Aren’t you lovable? And bright? And isn’t your nose tiptilted just the cutest way possible? Was mamma wrong after all to bring you up feeling so secure and loved and worthy of love?
It’s been 32 years since my parents eloped. Literally. My father came to marry my mother, in only the clothes he wore. When he reached my mom’s house he had to wear my grandfather’s lungi and wait for his clothes to be washed and dried and returned to him and then new clothes were purchased for him. Really. And since it was all really sudden, the magistrate was accosted on his morning walk to sign the papers, an family friend’s house was commandeered for the reception and my mom wore a simple bengali laal paad saree. I look at the pictures and as I look at my young parents smile briliantly out of the sepia toned picture, I feel tears rush to my eyes. Not just because it’s an beautiful moment, but because a 24 year old boy and a 20 year old girl shouldn’t have to go through what they did to do this.
The adrenaline rush shouldn’t come partly from the feeling of sheer relief, that you finally have the one you love. It should be pure, unadulterated joy. Period. Untouched by any other emotion.
I look at pictures of my own wedding and I see myself frowning in almost every second picture. Because my mind was not on the ceremony or the fanfare. I was terrified. Shitting-bricks-terrified that the OA’s parents would come with either police or goons or just themselves to take back their errant 27 year old by force or simply embarass us with a scene.
I wish it were different. I wish I could smile dewily out of a picture and be the blushing bride. But I wasn’t. I was shit-scared-bride. The one who broke out in a nervous rash days before the wedding because she was so scared of something else going wrong, of her engagement being broken.
It’s been 31 years for my mother and 6 for me and we’re still fighting perceptions that our inlaws have. Still doing the regressive saas bahu dramas that keep TRPs high – except that this is really our life. We’re still hoping that our children will be loved and accepted and treated right by their father’s families. The hope is fast fading. More so for my mother who is now a grandmother and still not given the respect she deserves as the eldest daughter in law of a family.
And frankly, I am sick of this shit. There is really no glory in fighting anybody’s family anymore. You don’t want me to marry your damn son – take him home and tie him to your apron strings. There are enough men out there, still queuing up to have me, mother though I might be. There are enough men out there who will bend backwards to have my mom in their life, graciously ageing as she is, brilliant businesswoman and someone whose warmth floods the room as she enters.
But this isn’t about us wanting out really. It’s just a realisation that it’s high time we stopped fighting these silly caste, creed and religion battles. Six years ago I fought to marry the man I wanted. I put up with ill treatment. I bowed, I was submissive, I was meek and then I snapped.
Today as my cousin extends himself and bends his youthful self backwards to accomodate a girl whose family is against him, I seethe. It makes me so mad to see an intelligent young man, who is gentle, kind, goodnatured and lovable, being rejected. Being made to feel less of a person. Being told he is not good enough.
I’ll support you, I said, but I’d do it with a heavy heart. Because I want my cousin to be appreciated by whichever family he becomes a part of. For all his wonderful qualities, for his quick wit, his ready smile and his helpful ways.
I hate that he has to sneak around, that he has to lie, that he has to do anything that goes against his nature because we were not brought up to be deceitful or to hide love.
If even 30 years after my parents eloped, people younger than them are still holding on to regressive notions, I wish them and their sons and daughters luck and I grab hold of my loved ones and draw them away from such negative people. WE deserve to be married and related to better families. That is all there is to it. We deserve a much better life than to have dementors sucking the joy out of our homes.
Our times are different. Our struggles so many more. Nuclear families, long distance relationships, money issues, lifestyle related health problems, ambitious careers that tear us apart and office environments that make it easy to stray. Do we really want to add toxic in-laws to this pot pourri? Do we need them?
At the very moment that you are called upon to make a choice, you can’t imagine life without that person. Your heart breaks and you are willing to convert, to compromise, to accept, to bow, to hide, to lie, to bend, to lose yourself – just to be with that special person.
But it’s not the end. You don’t have to lose yourself to love another. If he or she cannot cut off their toxic family like a limb ridden with gangrene and move on, don’t get into it at all. You haven’t missed the bus. Another will be along soon enough. If you don’t the poison will spread and soon destroy the entire body.
I was watching Love Aaj Kal (God, Deepika is lovely but its hard to move past the lack of expressions!) and as usual sniffling by the end of it. A young couple torn apart not by warring, feuding families but by choices and circumstances. Similar to Jab We Met or even Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Even the damn film industry is sick of feuding families. Laila and Majnu, Romeo and Juliet – they’re good for entertainment value. In our own lives, as we forge our own paths, either wait and get into an arranged marriage or have the sense to pick a partner whose family doesn’t store their brains and heart at the bottom of a scum filled pond.
No doubt, half our country still lives and functions by caste, creed and religion, but today I choose to opt out of it. To stop caring. To stop wasting my love, my time and my energy on those who don’t deserve it. Who don’t deserve a minute of my time, my children’s time or my brother’s time.
Those who want us will come and get us and if not, there is a world out there that loves, wants and needs us – and if not – we’re still here for each other. A tight knit family, the warmth of which carries us through dark days.
My dear little baby brother…
You’re a wonderful person. And any family that doesn’t see that and allows their backwardness, their uneducated ways and their prejudices to colour their vision of you, doesn’t deserve you. They deserve what they are asking for – a man who treats them like shit because they’re the girl’s people, demands dowry and kicks them in the face when they walk in the door (Well why not?! Apparently the Supreme Court has ruled that kicking a daughter in law is not cruelty so I’m guessing this should be okay too! I need to move out of this country.). Seriously. Move on. Your heart will break and I know it will and all I can offer is to pick up the pieces and help you put your life back together. I’m the last person to dismiss young love. But I am the first to tell you that fighting awful inlaws is JUST NOT WORTH IT.
It’s erosive; it eats into your life, into your happiness, into your Kodak moments and makes everything shine just that teeny little bit less.
I love you so much that I will not stand by and watch you ache,
Your youngest mamma…
Phew!! Breathe MM, breathe… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
Yes, that is a picture of the young man, sitting in my lap, sandwiched behind the other little baby cousin.
PS: This post is dedicated to someone who knows I am talking to her. Move on, babe. Neither he nor his family is worth it. You’ve made the best decision of your life, even if it was made for you. Turn your face to the sun, to hope, to light and to more happiness than you’ve ever known. I see it coming. Will you trust me on this one?