Posted by Kalpana
“ I don’t care too much for money,
For money can’t buy me love…” The Beatles
Marriage isn’t a business! The sad thing is that I keep meeting people whose marriages have flopped because of this attitude that getting married is a shortcut to wealth.
Meeting the incredibly brave Neelanjana I couldn’t help wondering how things unfold for some of us and the irony of life.
Neelanjana is a capable woman with a rebellious streak that was a formidable ally in her fight against her family’s traditional view of life. When she wanted to do an MBA her father’s condition was,
“Provided you don’t need any extra coaching to handle the entrance exams.”
When she got into college despite this stricture – he refused to let her go.
She went on a three day hunger strike. He finally agreed but didn’t concede defeat, saying,
“She’ll be back home in a couple of weeks having breathed some different air and will then remain quietly at home, as a woman should.”
Neelanjana finished the course of study and was offered a wonderful job during campus placements. Her father phoned her boss and said,
“ I won’t allow her to work.” She did so anyway.
Neelanjana refused her parents’ suggestions about an arranged marriage and watched as siblings, cousins and friends streaked past her in the marriage race.
Finally she fell in love. And married her sweetheart.
It soon became clear that he had married her because of her earning power and her excellent job. Getting a wife was a feather in his cap that lead to respect from a family that had earlier looked down on him. Neelanjana got pregnant and gave up her job after the baby was born. He, realizing that the golden goose wasn’t going to be laying anymore golden eggs for a while made the best of a loophole in the law at that time that made it possible to get divorced in a day. He divorced her, leaving her with the baby. There was no question of him paying child support or alimony – he didn’t earn anything. The gold digger married again, a much richer woman, and Neelanjana continued with her struggle. Back to a job, this time with the added responsibility of raising a daughter. The father who wanted to protect her from the world by preventing her from studying doesn’t believe she needs support now when she’s a single mother bringing up her child and bringing home the bacon.
Where is the integrity of these men? First her father. Second – her husband. What kind of a man marries for money? Where is the sacred nature of the marriage bond? From where do these ideas enter the heads of men. The idea that a wife is a meal ticket. Dowry. If a man grows up thinking his bride will come with enough money to set up home, he’s never going to make the effort to develop his own earning capacity.
In this case, she didn’t bring dowry. Neelanjana is much too fiercely independent for that. But education and jobs are the new dowry for urban women, aren’t they? If Neelanjana had paid attention to his lack of a job she may have questioned his reasons for wanting to marry. If she had waited a year to get to know him better before yoking herself to him she would have had a better idea of the kind of person he was. If she had dated a little, she would have understood men better, learnt to hone her antennae. Bud she didn’t.
Dating? In India?? Unheard of except for the urban elite.
Long engagements?? Also not the norm – that’s like dating and gives people( whom it doesn’t concern) the chance to wag their tongues.
The option is – say a prayer and throw in your lot with a stranger ( yes, a stranger – even if she fell in love with him) who turns out to be a trickster without any sense of responsibility. Neither his family nor his friends feel the need to pressurise him to help in the upkeep of his child.
And what of Neelanjana’s family? Instead of fighting on her behalf, they wash their hands off the whole thing. She has fallen somewhere between the cracks of ancient Indian tradition and a modern India that’s still inventing itself. A modern India that has all the superficial trappings of progress – women who earn, who study – but none of the depths of real progress – women who are supported by society while they rear their young. They are cast out, pitied, ignored and held up as an example for those who would go against the old ways.
It’s a good thing Neelanjana studied (against the family’s wishes) because I dread to think what life would have been like for her, the way things turned out in her marriage, with a father like that.
Let’s hope things change.
About KalpanaTrying to change the world one blog post at a time. I write. It's the best thing I can do. I am the Hanged Man, the Fool, the sometime Magician. Whether I travel in my imagination or in real life I write about it and show you pictures either through my photography or through the pictures I paint with my words. I read books and write fiction. During working hours I teach English as an Additional Language. I edit.
Posted on June 9, 2013, in bad marriage, dating, Dowry, Feminist, integrity, tradition and tagged confused desi types, culture related bullshit, dowry, family, feminist, in-laws, love, marrying for money, parampara, single mother, university education. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.