Modern Draupadi

Aaliya twitched her nose and yelled -‘Ammi I don’t like this color, use pink color‘. Her ammi gave her half hearted smile and got back to the pillow cover she was embroidering for the last four hours. The order was too tiring for her and she feared Usman will never give her another order in future. Usman was great help in Rabina’s tough times as she struggled with Zohar’s job loss when his pottery business declined.

Aaliya was seeing her mother struggle daily and her father getting frustrated with life and yet not doing any thing. Zohar’s friend from Palwal suggested him to come there and try his luck in nearby factories. Rabina prayed for her husband’s success this time. Aaliya requested her abba to get her a pink salwar suit from Delhi if he managed to go there too. Zohar left the house only to return in five days with bright beam on his face. Rabina saw him at the door and knew her hardships were coming to an end. Zohar told Rabina he has good news for the family. Rabina cut snapped him asking how much he is going to get from the new job. Zohar said he is about to get thirty five thousand rupees in lumpsum and he will start a small shop with the money. Rabina was shocked and asked him how he managed to dig gold in just single visit. He told Rabina to have patience and trust him and tidy the house as he was expecting some people from Palwal in few days.

Rabina tidied the house and even changed the bedsheets with her own embroidered ones. She was excited as her husband’s new shop will cure all her sadness and they will prosper again. Aaliya was asked by Zohar to get new clothes. Zohar got a confirmation that the guests will come in two days and he knew it was time for him to tell Rabina about his gold hunt. He went to Rabina when she was busy thinking what shop should they start. He told her that he had fixed Aaliya’s marriage to a family in Palwal who is willing to pay thirty five thousand rupees. Rabina was horrified at the thought. She asked him how he could do this. He calmed her down and said the money is good and they should accept it. She asked him about the groom. He snapped and said they should better sleep now as it was very late. She repeatedly asked him knowing something was wrong.

In the morning five men came to their house while Aaliya set their hookahs. The oldest man about fifty years asked her name. She smiled and replied Aaliya. The other men gave an affirmative nod in synchronization as if they were pleased the girl could speak. Rabina was still confused as to who was the prospective groom while she convinced her mind to get her girl married off and fearing what if they knew she is just 13. She concluded the family was well off and probably its for Aaliya’s best to escape from the poverty and lead a happy life with a loving husband as Rabina’s grandmother always said -‘older husbands always pamper their young wives’.

Aaliya heard a voice from the road and went out to see who it was. She told her ammi it was Usman chacha who had come to give final payment for the last order. Rabina’s mom introduced Usman to the family when Zohar was quick enough to show off that his guests own five major pieces of land in Palwal and ten cattle.  Usman asked him to introduce him to them formally. Rabina mom couldn’t hide her happiness and said- Our Aaliya is getting married in the family to……….; she stopped as she herself wasn’t aware of the groom. Aaliya went to another room and wondered whatever she heard was right or not?

Before Zohar could satiate any of Rabina’s questions the old man was leader enough to declare he is buying Aaliya for him and his four sons as their shared wife and paying good price for her. Rabina was shocked and yelled – ‘Haaye Allah‘. The old man fully aware of upcoming reactions was quick enough to say – he has calculated the market price in Palwal and nearby areas of Punjab and the price was fair enough for Aaliya when shared with five men.

Rabina was crying and didn’t know what led Zohar to take such barbaric decision for his daughter. Zohar took Rabina tightly from her arm and took her to Aaliya whose face was already swollen crying. Aaliya kept crying louder and louder which irritated him a lot and he slapped her hard across the face and poor little girl fell on the floor. He held Rabina closer and said in her ears they both are young and there is no harm now in trying having another child and luckily a boy. He told its not that he doesn’t loves Aaliya, he told her to feel proud that Aaliya was getting married to such a well to do family and it doesn’t matters if she has four or five or six husbands as long as they are getting good money for her. Rabina was lost in Zohar’s kohl rimmed eyes and felt hypnotized at the prospect of ending her sufferings she had endured all her life. Here she saw a chance of being free and lead a life she always wanted to. She saw Aaliya as a medium for her independence and remembered her own share of sacrifices for her parent’s sake. The vision of thirty five thousand was intoxicating her and so were Zohar’s eyes. She looked at her daughter’s tiny frame lying on the frame and for first time she saw her as useful.

They went out and she ate the sweets from Zohar’s hand still being intoxicated. Usman had by far heard all the commotion and knew what was happening. He looked sheepishly at Zohar and smirked if any such thing was known to him earlier he would have offered forty thousand for Aaliya. Zohar was about to smile at his sudden pot of luck when the old man and his sons got up and one of the boys took Usman’s collar and asked him to leave. Usman kept yelling forty-five forty-five forty-five. Zohar was trying to listen to the new deal being offered. Usman and Zohar kept fighting with the five men and Rabina stood their intoxicated by the sound of thirty five forty five and how they sounded as they were new hymns being sung in her ignorant ears.

Epilogue – This post is written courtesy the disturbing vibes I had after looking at my marriage certificate. It glamorously shows a column for guardian’s name if the bride is lower than age of 18 at the time of marriage.

Shocked?????  I was too. My immediate question to my hubby was- doesn’t Indian constitution says legal age for a girls wedding is 18??? He was as blank as I was. Then somewhere inside I realized its not a big thing remembering the politicians in Rajasthan who openly endorse mass child marriages and proudly donate funds for the feast. I remembered the numerous tiny pieces of reports lost amidst the big news about how a girl was married to the father and the sons courtesy the low skewed ratio of females in the states. Why are we offering young girls for sake of money? Are we going back to early man age or are we such big fans of Mahabharatha that we feel our daughters qualify to be modern Draupadis? I am shocked and feeling disgusted.

A Nation Without Women

Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women