Ten years ago today, I stood corseted in sumptuous silk, satin and brocade and consented to be sold to the man I now call my husband for a “token sum” of thirty pounds.
The anniversary of my Shaadi brings back memories viewed from a more experienced perspective. My lengha was studded with sequins and covered with ornate zardosi embroidery. My fingers, neck, ears, arms and forehead were bedecked with gold, my head bowed under the heavy folds of a vast duputta filligreed with fine gold chain and embellished with glittering zircon stones. The weight of my finery made movement difficult, its dazzling beauty a distraction from the nature of the transaction taking place.
I’m lucky. I married a man who finds the idea of paying for a woman’s hand in marriage laughable. We still joke about what a bargain I was, and I teasingly lament my lack of cultural nouse in not demanding more! But for many women, young and old, at home and abroad, this is the reality of their perceived status; something to be bought and sold, traded or passed around – a commodity in the hands of men.
It’s time we started examining our traditions, being realistic about the message they convey in our modern society and adjusting them accordingly. For every outdated custom we enshrine in ceremony and enact as a nod to the past, there’s someone, somewhere living it as a reality.
I will never forget my good fortune in finding a man who thinks for himself and refuses to bend to societal, cultural or religious expectations he doesn’t agree with – I was young and naive back then, things could have turned out very differently. One thing I was right about though, “Woh bohut achchaa aadmi hai” Happy anniversary K.