Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Long years of sacrifice in an unfair society

My maid came to me the other day, a worried look on her normally cheerful face. “Madam, yesterday a boy had come to ‘see’ my daughter. He liked her but his family has made the following demands.” She rattled off the list — 12 sovereigns of gold, a refrigerator, a television, a grinder, an induction cooker, a bed and mattress and a cupboard. Plus she had to conduct the engagement ceremony and give her daughter the requisite jewellery and saris that would showcase her as a bride. She was talking about her daughter, a girl whom she had scraped and scrounged for over years of slaving at people’s homes, and whom she had moulded into an engineer. She now works for a reputed company. There was a second daughter who had finished her graduation in commerce. It was an amazing tale of fortitude and struggle on the part of a mother, whose drunkard of a husband had abandoned her for another woman. He could share none of the credit as he had never been around for his daughters, nor paid a penny towards their upkeep or education. He had escaped lightly as no one ever asked him why he had absconded. On the other hand, it was his poor abandoned wife who was constantly probed about how she had managed to educate her two girls! Unfair, but true! The said ‘boy’ was a graduate in commerce, working as a supervisor. His to-be bride was an engineer with a fatter paycheck than the ‘boy’. Yet, the fact that he was the man pushed his price up to a level where his family expected the bride’s family to pay for the honour of ‘acquiring’ him. We cajoled our maid into putting her foot down. She listened with a woeful look, but had the sense to take along with her a crowd — her estranged husband, his mother and sisters, a talkative niece and a few other wallflowers to make up an impressive contingent. The next day she came back, grinning all over her face. “Everything has been fixed!” she announced. The boy’s family had taken back the demands of much of the household goods, all except for the bed, the mattress and the cupboard. The sovereigns had gone down to nine and the girl’s side had to conduct the engagement ceremony. The wedding after three months would be conducted by the boy’s side. Now there was a smile on her face, as she recounted what the boy’s mother had said to her. “The reason why we are insistent that your daughter should come into our family is because she is an educated girl.” In that one sentence lay years of sacrifice, hard work and tribulations undergone by the poor mother who had never given up on her daughters. Other mountains lay before her — jewellery, silk saris, suit for the groom, the feast and the invitations, but for today, the smile in her eyes spoke volumes. All those long years had been finally worth it! 03rd October 2012 12:00 AM New Indian Express

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