My dear mother,
I hope you are in good health. I am fine as well and fervently looking forward to visit you soon. It’s been fifteen years to my marriage and in this letter to you; I would like to convey some of my feelings about my marriage and it's next world. I never let you know how the whole thing was working and hence…for you I was a gleefully wedded girl. I was contented… indubitably…but there had always been my biggest share of disillusionments and adjustments with MY LIFE and MY DREAMS…
Mummy, when I was married, I was barely twenty two and for every girl at that age, marriage is fun, clothes, jewelry, shopping, honeymoon and enjoyment. Not only was I thrilled for the wedding ceremony, I was envisaging the life afterward. I dreamt of a house of my own which I would embellish and beautify in the style I fancy; I dreamt of a life where I would feel liberated and uncontrolled and where I would actually work as a grown up; I dreamt of a life where I would take my own decisions and to be honest, I dreamt of a life which would be MY LIFE.
Prior to my marriage, I was your and papa’s princess whose each demand was fulfilled earlier than raised. I was bestowed an open ambiance and I was free to do whatsoever I wanted…and you had confidence in me that I won’t do anything immoral. But why…then one day…I was married and you separated me from yourself to let me enter a new world.
I went into that world with joy, happiness and oodles of dreams in my eyes. I appreciate how tricky it would have been on your part to part your most valuable part from you. You would have missed me a lot and I too pined for you so much that regardless of a smile over my lips, my heart ached for you. I was in the world of strangers where the lone connecting link was my husband. He was truly a very humble and gentle being. He took care of me in the same way as you did for me. He loved me a lot. He respected and treasured me from the bottom of his heart. But I had always seen a husband as a stout support in a relationship…just like my father. And so…somewhere…I was seeking my father in my husband.
On the contrary, he was different…he was not playing the role of a husband as my father did. I never noticed my father as a vacillating and easily led personality…I at all times saw him as a decision taker in the family whose decisions were unchangeable and definite. However when I understood my husband, I realized that he wasn’t like my father. He doesn’t take a firm decision of his own. He has to discuss with each person at home first…even if he wishes to take his wife out for dinner. His decisions were not his personal but influenced by his family…and formerly I found it sickening…but slowly…I learnt to accept it…only to pay regards to the elders as you have taught me.
Though I always wondered, will my children be able to see him as a strong self dependent father as we have seen ours. Patience was my heart’s response.
Then I gradually made efforts to devise ideas to adorn the home in my way…I assumed this was my house and I can do what I wish to…but I was barred. My suggestions never mattered. Not only the house and the kitchen but my own room was not mine. Everything was under my mother-in-law’s check. Whatsoever modifications required in either the house or the kitchen, it was to be determined by her. What all new stuff to be purchased for the house, she will decide. What has to be cooked, she will decide. How the things were to be kept, she will decide. No matter what change I feel like in my room were also to be first permitted by her. Slowly and steadily I grasped that this is not my house…it’s theirs…I was merely a medium to cook for them and give them an heir.
My status was nothing more than a servant to cook all day and then please the son at night. Eventually I realized I was simply brought to give birth to a son…and they don’t value me more than that. What I think of, what I believe for, what I wish for, was not at all significant to anybody.
From time to time, I felt like moving out of the house and making friends…roaming around in the market…shop a few things to alter my mood. But how was I expected to do so when I wasn’t even allowed to unbolt the gate if the door-bell rings; I wasn't allowed to chat with the neighbours and to make friends. In the name of safety and protection, they enslaved me between those four walls where my lone world was the folks of that house. Their overprotective nature made me feel suffocated. I silently shed tears time and again in solitude…but who would value those tears. So, I subsequently made up my mind to resume my education further…however once more, in the name of family honour, I was stopped from that as well.
Every now and then my heart questioned me…is it truly MY LIFE? They were trying to shape me the way they wanted me to be. What I was before marriage was nowhere to be found…and what I aspired to be in MY LIFE, was all shattered.
Despite all this, I didn’t raise my voice against anyone…ever. I agreed and went along with them every time to whatever they said. I considered best to be polite all the while. My heart accepted that the whole deal was wrong; still I bowed down to everything…in the anticipation that one day this will change and I will be a free woman again. No doubt they were all nice to me, loved me, appreciated me, helped and cared about me…but intentionally or unintentionally they pushed me away from them… so much that nothing was melting my heart.
I turned rigid. I developed silence…it appeared to be the best remedy…and they inquired many a times…but I turned quieter.
I attempted to look for you in my mother-in-law…but every time I did, I realized that she cannot be you. She is the mother of my husband and she will always love him, yet she cannot feel the affection for me like my mother because she had not experienced my kicks in her womb…it was you who did. She was not the one who suffered the pain of bringing me into this world…it was you. She had not ruined her sleep when I fell sick …it was you. She had not seen me grow up…but it was you. She did all this for her son, not for me…then how can she identify with what I am feeling?
She had not given me a thought process but I picked it up from you…and then they were trying to revolutionize my thoughts, my beliefs, my viewpoints, my way of life, that I learnt from you in twenty two years of MY LIFE to be just one of them…why? At times it seemed that whatever I had learnt from you was a waste if I have to begin all over again. So at that moment I simply pondered why I squandered twenty two years of MY LIFE in learning the views and beliefs which were nowhere to be valued now. And the new person that they were seeking to craft in me was NOT me…it was their daughter-in-law!
Sometimes I loathed the custom of a daughter parting her family to be a part of another family, to take its name and traditions, and abandon everything that was her identity and individuality for almost twenty to twenty five years. Ask if a mother can send her son to do all this? If she cannot, then why does she expect someone to send their daughter? Why there are so many biased notions…a son is intended to be with his mother for his entire life and a girl cries for the need of the lap of her mother? Why can’t the son leave his family as well and together they start a new family?
Aren’t girls human beings? Are they not individuals who have dreams and ambitions or are they not supposed to have any aspirations? Are they a marionette that doesn't sense any twinge of ruined dreams and whom every person can make dance in their own manner? Are their lives not theirs?
I posed all of these questions at countless occasions to myself. I wept on several instances. In due course I uncovered one reality that marriage is not all roses. It’s a mirage…an illusion…a fantasy…and what we perceive from a distance vanishes as we approach it. What we all witness marriage in our imaginations, in actuality, it is absolutely different.
It’s not fun, clothes, jewelry, shopping, honeymoon, enjoyment…but it's patience, fortitude, serenity, perseverance and time…and when the real time comes to live our life on our terms, our age that was for living on our terms is gone…and then new liabilities take over…
I know it’s not just me but many Indian women who endure these feelings every day. And it was not only me but you too have coped with all that. You kept your patience alive these many years and that gave me a strong mother and father. You both endowed me with strength to struggle these fifteen years of MY LIFE…that silent battle inside me for my rights, my thoughts, my freedom, my liberty and MY LIFE. I might have lost the extremely valuable fifteen years of MY LIFE and I grieve over them too…but after being a mother of two, I understood the value of those fifteen years. Now when I feel weak, my daughter supports me the way I did you. My kids are more to me like friends…the only friends I've had after marriage. I despise all these years yet I relish some exquisite moments that I have experienced with my children.
I now have only one world…that is my children.
Though at times I miss those fifteen years of MY LIFE and I know they won’t come back ever…but ‘someday things will change’ attitude, which you taught me, made it easier for me to survive patiently. Time varies, be patient…and I teach this to my children as well. I hope I could bring some optimistic changes in the next generation and when my son grows up…I won’t burden him and his wife with my decisions and beliefs. It would be THEIR LIFE and they have the right to live the way they feel like.
I must believe that when I am marrying him, it means he is already mature enough to take his own decisions...and from my part I will strive to actually convert that mirage of marriage to a real ‘dream come true’ type wedding for my children.
I miss you Mummy…and would like to thank you for giving me this life…and enduring everything in your times that imparted patience and perseverance in me…to cherish the fifteen years of motherhood and looking forward for many more upcoming ones…things have changed a bit in these fifteen years and I patiently look forward for that day when I could truly call this life MY LIFE.
Love from your daughter…
This open letter was submitted by Varsha Bhardwaj Gaur.