It was a really random question I asked my mother. We were finishing dinner, she and I. The children had already eaten, I could hear a music based reality show on the TV in the other room.
“She’s back home, didn’t I tell you,” my mother said with alarm in her voice.
“Oh, she had a terrible experience. The man she was married to was already in a relationship with someone else. He even had a child with that woman.”
“Yes. He used to go out alone for long walks after dinner to talk to her on the phone. He would lock his new bride in the house, telling her that it was not safe for her. She didn’t even have a cell phone.”
My mother’s friend is a smart, rich, modern Indian woman. She has no children of her own. Her niece lost her father when she was a child. She has been raised by her mother, her grandmother, her aunt and her uncle (her mother’s brother)
One child among 4 adults. One young, pretty, educated, Delhi-born and raised working woman to be married. An arranged marriage is arranged. And botched.
How did they manage to do this? How did they meet and check out a young man and his family and not get a whiff that they were going to be cheated so badly? I want to know.
My mother tells me more. The in-laws had lied about their property and income. They had been greedy about the dowry they expected. There had been rudeness. Now the girl’s uncle has hired a detective who brought the news of his lover and their child.
No, no, no. Don’t tell me this happens all the time in India. Tell me HOW? Tell me how you guys do it. How and why do you betray your own children like this? Answer me.
What do you do with your brains? What do you do with your love? I know you felt love for your daughter when you were raising her. What did you DO WITH THAT LOVE?
Did you bury it in a shallow grave and pat in down with your shoe? Put it in the back of a drawer and let it die in the darkness? Leave it whimpering in the dark till it lost its voice?
My mother tries to calm me down. I ask her, “Mamma, when they could see that the in-laws were being greedy, that the groom was acting rude, then why didn’t they probe deeper then?”
“It’s not easy to tell these things,” she says.
“They hired a detective now, right? Why didn’t they hire one earlier? Oh I know that’s not how these things work.”
“People can’t tell these things,” she says.
“How can they NOT KNOW? People show so many signs, why do we overlook what is OBVIOUS. Or suspicious.I can SEE IT.“
“You were like this even when you were a child,” my mother says.
I know I am screaming for me. I am screaming for all daughters. I am screaming to release the muffled voice inside me. Inside my mother.
I also wanted to live, Neeta screams at the end of Megha Dhaka Tara. “Dada, ami baachte chai.”
Rescue me, she says. Let me live. Give me permission to live. To love.