She’s very intriguing. Maybe not. I often find myself thinking about her. About how she found the courage to go through with something so massive and yet justify it. I openly don’t admit to have loved her guts, but I know somewhere I see a lot of myself in her. I could have pulled something of that magnitude once. But I lacked the will power to surrender to the society. I have more to me than that.
I met her the morning of my wedding. She entered the room as I sat in front of the mirror, dressed as a bride, waiting to be escorted to the venue for the big moment. It was my big day, but she sort of captured my mind for those few moments. She was just 20. She eloped. Got married to a man much much older to her. And yet, here she was, young and confident. Not an iota of doubt. How did she manage to take such a big decision on her own? And stick by it.
I was older, wiser and yet so doubtful about everything in life. I still am. I still regularly revisit important events in my life and wonder if I could have done it differently. Exams, failures, successes, people.. Could I have handled this in a different manner? Could I have been better off had this worked out for me? Is this right for me? Should I take the plunge? A constant ticking in my head. A major cause of my morning headaches.
And yet, here was a little girl, with absolutely no career prospects, zero independence, no money of her own. Her presence was overwhelming. As she walked in to the room that day, she carried a intricately woven garland made out of white flowers and a small golden idol. Both of which I had business with, before the wedding ceremony began. The garland was to be wrapped around my hair and I was to worship the idol for something that made no sense to me. I refused to do either. And I couldn’t stop myself from noticing her disappointment at this. She asked me the reason I didn’t want to do either of these things and I explained, “The garland spoils my look. It doesn’t compliment what I was wearing and it certainly looks very tacky. Secondly, why worship this idol? I don’t see how this inanimate object would do any good for me. Is she going to magically appear out of no where and make my morning headaches disappear?”
She looked puzzled. She asked, “So you don’t do anything without having understood its purpose?”
I said, “Not just that, without being totally convinced, I wouldn’t move an inch”.
She wondered out loud, “They make me do a million things at home that I don’t want to. But traditions demands it. I’m married to the oldest son in the house and that calls for a lot of responsibility. I’m not sure I like all of it”.
There. There it was. The regret I was looking for. Not that it made me happy. Well, maybe it did. But the reason she said it out loud was because she hadn’t met anyone who told her it was ok to not like something.
In our Indian culture, as I’ve mentioned before, questioning authority or traditions is frowned upon. Absurd customs that have been undertaken since ages have lost their purpose, but not their importance. But I’ve always tired to find sense in these practices. And questioned people who think they know better. Thats how I was brought up and I am extremely proud of it. And here was a little girl, all of 20, who had for the first time in her life realized that it was alright for her to say that she didn’t like something. And that she wasn’t disappointing or hurting anyone. She had the rebellious streak in her. It was evident enough when she decided to move to a completely new city with an older man just having met him a few weeks earlier.
Opinions are not valued in our society unless they come from someone with a loud voice or a strong presence.
I have no doubt that she has returned back to her life since then. A choice she made, which she might or might not stick with. Something that has set her back a million years. But at least now she knows that there’s more to life than just being the oldest son’s wife. There’s more to her.
She recently got in touch with me. Asking me to help her figure out ways to get a higher education. A means to an end. An end that would make her independent and truly confident. Unlike the illusion she was living in. I know, I was 20 once.