This was me. I was clad in a red bordered yellow sari, the ‘atpoure’ (read Bengali) style. My forehead glistened with a small red vermilion bindi. My neck looked dazzling in that ‘rani haar’ and my earrings matched its counterpart. Bangles adorned my feminine wrists and anklets tinkled as I walked. My eyes were lined with kohl and feet with alta. I was 9-years-old.
It wasn’t my wedding day. This was the occasion where the groom side were visiting us and especially me, ma had said. They were here sharp on time. A young gentleman accompanied by three elderly men had arrived at our abode and looked prim and proper from head to toe. I was told that my groom was 21-years-old and a teacher. My aunt told me he was wearing dhoti-kurta and looked fittingly handsome. I was just hoping to see the charm that could make my world swirl. My heart was pounding.
My elder sister had dressed me up. She was 11-years-old. She was also married an year and half ago and looked more alluring than me with the vermillion streak in her forehead. I always wished to be like her and today was the day where I could find my distinguished half. I could see myself turning into her, having someone along my side loving me with all his life, desiring me in all his fantasies and protecting me in his entire guise. I was called and she was the one who took me to them.
I didn’t raise my head but I could see him. I liked him. They asked my name. Ma had instructed not to speak unless asked three times, so I kept mum. I was called Giribala, my father said. My sister loosened my hair which was tightly held up in a bun. They admired the length of my tresses. They asked me to walk. Ma had taught me the walk. I was then asked to turn round around. I turned twice. They asked me to sit; I took the weight off my feet. They asked me to sing, I hummed a hymn. They asked me to write my name. I wrote it instantly.
And then he raised his voice, I don’t know why but he said stop. He was not happy. I was enjoying every bit of it but I guess he didn’t like my voice or even worse, me. I didn’t know what it meant but I could sense the restlessness of my people. Even his people were baffled with the turn of the events. I thought I was rejected, but from the corner of my eyes I saw my ma smiling. Why? I wondered.
Later after a week or so, a letter arrived. They approved me. He too would have liked me, I hoped. It was a blissful moment for my family but to me…finally, I was going to be sent to my home.
This is an account of what might have had happened if I had been born 90years ago. But the feeling still remains the same. It doesn’t sink in- why people get married when there is no acceptance of self. Is it a favor or fervour? Why do they settle down, only to have a dismantled life later on? Our parents bring us up only to give us up, I suppose…