Monday, November 11, 2013

You are invited!

This volume will be launched at the TATA LITERATURE LIVE! on 15th November at 4 30pm. I will be In Conversation with the multi-talented Gauri Shinde, director of English Vinglish!
                                                                    **********
 This appeared in Mumbai Mirror....
                       Caste-ing Couch….it still exists!
She had mehendi on her hands. But no joy in her eyes. It was the first time we were meeting. It was none of my business, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “ Newly married?” She jumped out of her skin, like someone had just tripped her. “No…… I mean…. yes! But how did you guess?” Well… the mehendi?  “That was applied during Diwali…” she fibbed. And nearly burst into tears. Okay. So, there was a story happening here. And not a happy one. I waited for her to compose herself. She didn’t require much prompting after that point. Here’s her seven year old saga, pretty much like she narrated it. For reasons of protecting her privacy and identity, I have switched a few details. But those are irrelevant…not important. Her life is!
She is a Mumbai girl all the way – a smart, educated, self- made professional, who lives with her nuclear family and works ten hours a day. He is also a Mumbai guy – like her, a smart, educated, self made professional. He also lives with his nuclear family and works the same long hours as she does. They have been dating for seven years. Both families expressed certain reservations about their relationship. Her mother was more concerned about their well being, if they were to stay with the boy’s family . His father had precisely one issue : caste! That’s it. CASTE!! The boy’s family falls into the OBC category. The girl is a Brahmin. Her folks have no problem with that aspect . His do. Especially his father (retired professional with a college degree). In fact, he feels so strongly about it, he has frequently threatened the girl and tried to force his son to break off with her. Clearly, his threats didn’t work. A few weeks ago, these two wonderful young people, did what any couple in love would – they got married. Not in a temple. Not ‘privately’. But in court. With all the documentation in place.
Then why the secrecy?
Here comes a typical Mumbai crisis : they have no place to stay other than their respective family homes. They have saved enough to rent a modest place and hope to move in soon. Till such time, they have to pretend to be single and continue like nothing has changed in their lives. She put on a brave smile and shrugged, “ I know we’ll find a small place eventually…. till then, we have to keep it quiet.” I was alarmed when I heard her story. More so, because she genuinely believes once they announce their marriage, all will be well. If only! In my head, I am thinking – what if her father-in-law sees red? What if he decides to teach them both a lesson? What if… what if….
I kept quiet.
But not for too long. Without wanting to scare her, I asked a few basic questions. Given that she and her family had been threatened by her husband’s father earlier, had she taken the precaution of going to the nearest police station and informing the cops? No, she hadn’t. Most people don’t. BIG mistake. She has already taken a huge step by getting married to the man she loves. Great. The next step is equally critical… crucial. There are enough horror stories out there revolving around vengeful fathers and murderous community members ready to take law into their own hands and ‘punish’ those who refuse to play by their rules. There was not a minute to lose, I warned her. She had to seek police intervention . The young girl bit her lip, as her eyes filled with tears. “ My parents were willing to do anything…. everything…. even pay an unreasonable dowry. But that man refused to listen. He just kept issuing threats.”
I fear for the young couple. Their love for and commitment to one another are rock solid. Seven years of consistency and faith count for something. But what does one do with narrow mindedness on this scale? Too many couples  are losing their lives in the name of ‘following traditions’. What sort of a culture is this that accepts / condones/ overlooks these crimes?

 Caste! Our country’s single biggest curse. We are obliged to fight it with all our collective might. Or…. stay doomed.

16 comments:

Anita Jeyan Sandeep said...

Caste is a state of mind. And for most people belonging to a generation other than the current one, it is as important as life itself. It is impossible to fathom the mentality of people, who cannot in any possibility be happy for their children, for the fact that they found love, or the happiness that came with it. Does this man believe, that issuing threats to a woman who is his son's wife, does justice to the norms and tradition of his mighty caste? Is it really difficult to let people live? I mean how tough can it be to mind his own business. This man is obviously jobless and has such a low life. Hope this couple stays strong forever like they are now, and overcome cultural barriers. In the long run in this institution of marriage, what role does caste play! I am married five years,my spouse and myself belong to different castes, and only after reading this article I got reminded of it... I mean, what is caste in marriage, is what is Viswanathan Anand for Cricket.

Latha said...

If you accept a girl from OBC as your daughter in law, I'd really appreciate it.

Abhirami Muthu said...

For once I am left speechless by a comment rather than the article itself..

PARVATHY CHANDRAN said...

What matters in a marriage is the better understanding of the two individuals and their unconditional love...if the couple are ok with their marrige even if they are from different communities then the society should mind their own business..

Pooja Rathore said...

Mumbai chii bai nice column,i liked it.i like the fact that you see things as it is yet remain positive ...well that's the way it should be!Fear is negative faith.
I am not surprised by the caste issue ,But whats shocking is when educated people(the guys father being an educated man) give caste so much of importance(deny the couple their happiness), then their education is waste,it has failed its purpose...informing the police is definitely a smart advice...you never know better to be safe than sorry!

Truthsayer said...

Well Mumbaichi bai look what Captain Crunch has to say about you.
http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.com/2013/10/karva-chauth-synchronising-fertility.html

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Nandini Dwivedi said...

Mindset of our society needs a change, why not start from ourselves and our families?? On our part, this will be enough I guess.

Marloor said...

Truly sad. In India, caste is the biggest hurdle.

Marloor said...

Truly sad. In India, caste is the biggest hurdle.

V said...

Heart touching post! May God Bless this couple and save all others from such fathers/dictators/so called culture protectors! On the name of saving culture, such people are in reality behaving like vultures of our culture!

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Narendra Yadav said...

i always hate cast system, i also belong to an OBC family but i never care about my cast. i am unable to understand the benefit of being a Hindu or any other religious person if we can not understand what is humanity,,,stop doing satsang and bhajan and prayers if you can not accept a girl or boy from other cast....

Amit Mishra said...

really one of most educated, strong, aware class of people in this war of words. It is a matter of fact that the victim is nearly half the age and holds negligible power in financial terms, and position she holds. At the same time this is one of the cases where her education ,awareness especially regarding her rights is no less than accused. I don,t understand why it is a matter of debate there exist people who feel powerful and untouched by law and judiciary ,no faith on judiciary will lead no where.We have started looking towards media as a substitute of pillars of democracy. how correct we are ,atleast we should leave this to law enforcement agencies, Yes I too am worried of their autonomy and influence of power lobby .What I strongly feel is working of media should no way interfere the exising system ,else in coming days we are going to first hang people in place of fir. I know our policing and law bodies are becoming puppets but who says media will justify? just switch on ur tv and tune between news u will find why they are shouting and for whom they are there.Yes the victim must be provided security and all support by law bodies and media at same time cover reports must not create as creating report will one or another in power lobbies looking for opportunities drawing undue attention and bias factor.

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