Updated: June 29, 2018 4:33:58 pm
For years, probably since I first started to read the newspaper some 50 years ago, there has been one kind of article that has perturbed and confused me. Because nothing seems to change. Not for the better, anyway. A couple of days ago, again there was an article about a young woman who had been tortured and beaten and burnt.
We know this happens. And this is not what my frustration is about. At least, not the only thing. What becomes unbearable for me is when the parents and family of the young woman cry even though they knew there was torture. They lament, “They used to starve her, beat her for more dowry. We tried our best, we bought another car, we gave more cash, but the beatings continued.” You really want sympathy because you bought a car to appease your daughter’s torturers? You knew your daughter’s life was hell. Worse, you knew her life was in danger and you still did nothing more to protect her than buy a car? And you want my sympathy? And you have no shame in saying to all who will listen that you knew she was in deep trouble? Your own daughter?
No matter how much we try and understand the plight of a parent whose daughter is in a difficult marriage, there is a crime of culpability here. No matter how much we empathise with the family about the impending shame of having a married daughter come back to live in her parent’s home, we cannot absolve that parent. Surely the family is as culpable. They have abetted the crime. Would it not have made more sense for them to first rescue their daughter and then make whatever efforts they thought were right?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been putting myself in the shoes of the young woman who goes into her marital home, all red and gold with romantic ideals. Sometimes it turns out that from the very first day, the beatings and rejection started — as soon as the groom had de-virginized the woman — therefore taking her off the viable market. And then threatening to return the broken goods and blackmailing the parents with dire consequences if their greed was not satiated. The threat seems to be, “Pay us to stop torturing your daughter. Don’t pay up and she will be killed. Or worse, she will be returned.”
Surely there is a deep malaise in a society that encourages a father and mother to think that it’s better to appease your daughter’s oppressors rather than rescue her out of a horrible situation. Do they truly believe that she is going to be happy once the car has been bought? Do they believe that their daughter’s safety lies within a new car? Of course, it doesn’t. Even if the demand is met, we know the kind of situation that girl is living in. Her place in a household that would do that to her. We know that we are condemning her to misery. Even if she is not killed.
And let’s please not fool ourselves. This is not a situation found only in rural, uneducated families living on the periphery. If it was, we wouldn’t hear about it. Period. The fact is that this a crime being committed at every level. In fact, perhaps it more the middle-class morality that has taught fathers to barter their daughters for the sake of their own ‘izzat’.
For shame that a married daughter should come home from a broken marriage. Better that we cry crocodile tears as we cremate or bury her and say that we knew all along.
Sorry, papa, you are culpable too.
Paro Anand runs Literature In Action, a program using literature as a constructive, creative outlet. She was awarded by former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam and The Russian Centre for Science and Culture. In 2017, she received the Sahitya Akademi Bal Sahitya Puruskar for her book Wild Child, now published as Like Smoke. Anand was the former editor of the National Centre for Children’s Literature.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.