“He doesn’t work at all, and is living off his ancestral property, is it?” Rashmi questioned apprehensively.
“Why does one earn? Tell me?” Pandit Ji questioned back, giving Rashmi and everyone around a deathly stare from behind his glasses.
His question put everyone in that room in a fix. Before anyone could answer Pandit ji’s question, he spoke “Look, Siddharth was orphaned 2 decades ago. One of his relatives staying close by, raised him with the help of a reliable babysitter. Had the boy not inherited money, you think anyone would come forward to help?” Pandit Ji paused, sipped in some water, and continued “The boy doesn’t have parents. I must say your girl is lucky. At least she will never have issues about In-laws!!”
With that Pandit ji broke into a superfluous laughter, one that only he was enjoying. The joke made Rashmi uncomfortable. Her parents smiled hesitantly.
But Pandit ji wasn’t done yet. He continued “Coming back to your question about working. Why does he need to work for anyone? We work all our lives so that we can live a good life filled with luxuries. He already leads a fancy lifestyle. He has a huge estate and the help who raised him now looks after that estate. He just wants a woman who can look after the Bungalow and turn it into a home. That’s all he has asked. Not a single penny was sought in dowry. On the contrary, Siddharth has asked me to inform you that if Rashmi wants to do some teaching work, he will allow that. Don’t worry. RAAJ KAREGI AAPKI BETI!”
Rashmi’s parents heaved a sigh of relief hearing the last part of Pandit Ji’s monologue. What else could they have asked for their docile, comely, and educated daughter?
Rashmi couldn’t sleep that night. Her eyes were wrought with silent tears. She wasn’t happy. Since the time Panditji had made the statement – RAAJ KAREGI AAPKI BETI, Siddharth and the thought of marrying him looked repulsive to her. She kept telling herself that she would not marry him, that she would succeed in convincing her parents against their decision. She couldn’t.
After a short and sweet 1-month courtship period, the wedding took place. It was quite a lavish affair. Siddharth ensured the marriage had enough bling and zing. Rashmi’s parents were overwhelmed and blinded by the great pomp and show. They had never imagined even in their wildest dreams that they could marry her off to someone with so much grandiosity and fanfare. As the time to bid her farewell drew close, her mother whispered into a teary-eyed Rashmi’s ears “Don’t cry, my child. We are just 2 hours’ drive away. You can visit us anytime. Cheer up. Meri Rani beti raaj karegi”
For some strange reason, those words sent a shiver down Rashmi’s entire being. A thick fog of impending doom was fast spreading within her. She wasn’t wrong.
Siddharth was unyielding and dogmatic about his beliefs. There were rules that he expected Rashmi to live by, like gospel truths. For instance, she wasn’t allowed to visit her parents. They however were most welcome to visit Rashmi, of course with prior intimation of at least a week in advance. Rashmi was expected to be not just good but a perfect homemaker. She was expected to be dressed well all the time even though she had to cook meals three times a day and keep the large imposing mansion spic and span. The household chores did not give her even a few moments of rest. And in the evenings when she did have some time to herself, she was expected to play the trophy wife part with finesse at various parties. Nights were grotesque. She was expected to be a passionate lover. She had to make him happy, always. That was the scary part of her marriage. Their marriage was only about Siddharth and his idea of happiness. Rashmi did not exist in that relationship. From the crack of dawn to late night, Rashmi performed her duties as a wife, like clockwork.
Within a year Rashmi had lost her appetite and zest towards life. She was now a mother of a cherubic girl child. This was contrary to Siddharth’s expectations of a boy. That is when the violent side of Siddharth surfaced. The beatings began immediately after Rashmi arrived with their daughter at his mansion. They started with a slap at first and later he would beat her black and blue.
Rashmi’s spirit had given up hope, in the first year of their marriage. But now her body was about to give up too.
One night, in an inebriated state Siddharth wreaked havoc. Rashmi fell to the ground, unconscious and tired of the thrashing and abuse. Siddharth froze. Affrighted by the thought of her being dead he called her parents and cried seeking forgiveness. Rashmi’s parents rushed to their daughter immediately. When they saw her in that battered state they broke down. That’s when they realized that it wasn’t all their son-in-law’s fault. They were guilty too!
It was they who fell for the RAAJ KAREGI AAPKI BETI trap. It was they who had advised their daughter to shove her compatibility issues under the carpet. It was they who had told her to be happy in her marriage despite Siddharth’s abominable behavior. It was they who had condoned the episode of the very first slap. Would they condone this barbarism as well?
This is not a real story. But this is the reality for a lot of women! I know a lot of Rashmi’s who have met with a similar fate. Close your eyes and think. How many do you know? So many are fighting cases in court. Some win some don’t. So many continue to face this abuse and trauma throughout their life. Because that is what they are told. To continue despite all the wounds, on their body and their soul.
Can we change this narrative?
Can you tell the other person- it is not your daughter’s dream to be the queen of somebody’s kingdom?
Can you tell the matchmaker to not hunt for a treasure island?
Can you accept that it is perfectly okay, for two people to work hard as a team, as partners to run their household, and that one of them will be your daughter?
Can you understand that marriage thrives on companionship and respect?
And can you say NO if that is not what the other person is offering?
Can we flash a bigger NO to RAAJ KAREGI AAPKI BETI?
PICTURE COURTESY: PIXABAY