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The Dysfunctional Indian Family

BY: Priya | Category: India | Post Date: 2009-07-25

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Latha was a well-read, intelligent, out-spoken, vibrant 27 year old Indian woman. She belonged to a fairly good family with loving parents and siblings. She married a software engineer when she was 23; bid adieu to her beloved home and headed for greener pastures in the US. With time , slowly she got to know her husband. It was a rocky start to a relationship; he was not the knight in shining armor as in her dreams, but an ordinary man with many shortcomings. But when he stood by her through all the rough patches, loved her in spite of her misgivings, she saw more in him than what appeared, she learned to respect him as he did and there blossomed a deep love between them born purely through mutual respect . Today, it was their 4th wedding anniversary. As Latha made his favorite breakfast, she smiled to herself, 'has it been 4 years already?' She looked around at her small suburban home proudly. Her whole life until that moment flashed before her eyes.

Her's had been an arranged marriage. She had just graduated and had been working at a software firm in Chennai. She visited her parents frequently and on one such occasion her dad had remarked, 'Latha, I still remember the day when you decided to run away from home because I refused to buy you a guitar. Do you remember that? I really don't know how many times I must come and apologize for you when you are married?' he joked.Adding to the tease , her sister had said, 'Appa,better be ready anytime day or night, you never know when the call might come'. She still remembered how her parents had convinced her into arranged marriage when every bone in her body had refused. She still remembered her mother's advice,' you are so immature, how will you survive with your in-laws?' She also remembered how naïve she had been while barking back at her poor mother,'Amma, do you really think I will let some stranger just walk all over me? Do you really think I am person without any self-respect? Do you want to just auction me off to the highest bidder here? Have you no shred of dignity?' Her parents had looked at her wide-eyed, unable to convince her. It was her grandmother with whom she shared a special bond, who was able to convince her. She had said,' Darling, these days arranged marriages are not really arranged, we are facilitators, we look at the background and try to bring together two people. Modern in her thinking, she had even mentioned, ‘we are a modern dating service, you know. You don't have to marry anyone you don't want to. But for your parents' sake, oblige'. Latha had agreed. Little did she know that that first nod was only the beginning. Ridiculous as the entire process was, she would spend the remaining days leading up to her D-day, trying to convince her shrinking logical mind that she was doing the right thing.

Photos were exchanged and charts were consulted. As formalities required, the families met. She had caught a glance at her future husband while he hid behind his mother. On her insistence though, they had spoken for a little while. It had been a pathetic attempt to pacify the fire within, to convince her burning logical mind that she was not like one of those girls who married strangers. She had spoken to him, you see. His mother had remarked, ‘You know, my son is in America. He is a gem of a boy. He owns a house here in India. He has no bad habits at all. People should be lucky to get a husband like this'. Latha had wondered, ‘What does this lady know about me? Does she realize how pompous she sounds? How am I going to tolerate this non-stop nonsense?'

As custom required, she had paraded in front of a host of people. As demeaning as she felt it was, she had tolerated it. She had barked at her mother later,' who are these people, why did you make me do all the things I did? I felt like a cow, ripe and ready for slaughter.' Her mother had tried to reason with her,'it is the way the world is Latha. A girl needs to pass through this phase. Don't you want good things to happen to you?'

Things had moved well between the families and a muhurtham was decided. Lo and Behold, she was now married to an unknown stranger and had unwittingly promised in front of the sacred fire that she would stand by him through thick and thin.

Within a few days, all the necessary documentation was completed. She was ready to walk hand in hand to the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey, with a person whom she had met just a few months back. As she sat down to pack her luggages for the arduous journey into an unknown territory among more strangers, her strange mother- in- law now remarked, ‘You need to iron Paresh's clothes. He does not like wrinkles. He is an innocent boy. You need to take care of him. Make sure you cook the food properly. He loves carrots and cucumber.' Latha had wondered, 'who is this lady? Does she realize her son is now almost 26 and all things considered be quite capable of handling himself? Am I going to be an unpaid maid here or am I his wife?'

She had held Paresh's hand throughout the journey, glancing at him every now and then, somehow trying to understand who he was. She had been worried and anxious. As days moved on, she realized she had been indeed lucky. She had feared that he would be like one of those guys in the newspapers, who would trick a girl into marriage, promising happiness and once the dowry was delivered, kill her or worse, torture her in god-forsaken far away America. He turned out to be a calm and nurturing person. They spent most of their first few months talking and sharing. Slowly, they discovered each others strengths and weakness. She was happy, he was happy, Love blossomed.

Within two years, they had Aarthi. She was their jewel, a symbol of their commitment to each other and their unwavering love. Paresh had stood by her throughout the journey, came with her to every doctor's appointment, even went to those Lamaze classes preparing himself for what lay ahead. She knew how tensed he got when the nurse at her classes enacted the labor scenario. But he was always strong for her, he was her inner strength.

They had returned as a family to India, willing to share their happiness with everyone they considered beloved. The new family stayed at Paresh's place. But the mental agony had also begun. Her mother-in-law complained, ‘We thought it was a son. If the first born is a son, we could have had ‘kanagabishegam'. Paresh's father had so many dreams.' Latha had wondered,' will these people never be satisfied and happy? Isn't it enough that Aarthi be healthy?' The torture continued. She would manipulate Paresh, telling him,' In our custom, the husband should never hold the child.',as if a father bonding with his child was such a sin. Latha vividly remembered her comments when she was pregnant with Aarthi. She had said,' If it is a normal delivery, god is great, otherwise, I don't know. Cesareans are very difficult'. She had cited a relative's case as an example. She would often negatively remark on the well-being of the child. Latha bore it with patience. Her delivery had been difficult. Aarthi was born premature through cesarean. Even then, Latha noticed that Paresh's mom never ceased to comment. When she realized Latha was healing well, she would remark,' you know your delivery was easy, someone just cut you open and took her out. Our case was very different. We underwent so much of pain and delivered our kids. I did a special prayer to Lord Ganesh so that the baby will be born early. I was very tired and bored'. This had caught Latha by surprise. She was overwhelmed with grief. She really could not imagine how anyone, even if they were sworn enemies, could wish that upon an unborn child, wasn't Aarthi Paresh's daughter? Latha noticed how she had held the baby only once, so that she can announce to the world how she loved her grand daughter, while no one can deny that she never held the baby really. She also noticed how subtly she would disappear every time Aarthi cried, so she never had to comfort her or how she would purposely buy boy's clothes for Aarthi, just out of sheer spite. Latha would pour out to Paresh everyday.Paresh was becoming helpless, caught between his mother and his beloved. Paresh had consoled her, ‘Latha, you know, my mom suffered a lot under the hands of her in-laws. Forgive her. She does not realize what she is saying'. Latha retorted,'you are right, but isn't that reason enough not to do the same thing to us? Isn't she your daughter, her granddaughter? How can she wish that upon such a tender soul?' Paresh had been silent. The mental agony was becoming unbearable and they had decided to return sooner than planned.

Latha had sincerely hoped that Paresh's parents would be good grandparents, sharing in their joy. Instead she was shocked and amazed at how selfish and cruel-minded they were. It dawned on her as to how vulnerable her daughter was. She now realized she had to do everything within her power to shield and protect her darling till atleast she was capable of distinguishing right from wrong. Latha had been very worried about the kind of influence they would be on her daughter. She did not want Aarthi to feel helpless because she was a girl or lose confidence in herself.

Latha began to lose sleep, she spent most of her days worried about the world and looking at her daughter, wondering if she was strong enough to guide her darling and protect her. She would ask Paresh,' If our own family behaves this way, how will others behave?' Paresh realized this and shared her agony. They decided to do their best for Aarthi, to shower her with love and affection as much as they can and hope God will guide them through the tough decisions and protect their darling.

Now, after nearly 2 years , it still haunted her. Paresh ran downstairs, shouting,' Hey Latha, Aarthi is up. Can you get her ready? I will take care of this.'. He had forgotten their anniversary. Upstairs, Aarthi shouted,'Amma!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!' At that instance, even she forgot about the anniversary. Something more important was beckoning her. She looked at Paresh lovingly and kissed his forehead contentedly wishing him on their anniversary. Before he could answer, she was upstairs. She knew, with Paresh by her side, every bridge can be crossed; every ebb and flow can be managed. No eclipse is ever permanent.

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Comments on this article: (2 comments so far)

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Comment Comment By Comment Date
Awesome ..
Beautiful article .. !!
Bharat 2009-07-26
Is this for real?
It is real or your fiction .. interesting anyways.
Arroyo 2009-07-26

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