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‘My Girl Isn’t A Commodity’: A Mother Who Refused To Do ‘Kanyadaan’

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Uma belonged to a small town in the Kumaon reigon of Uttarakhand. She led a simple life as a homemaker, taking care of her household duties and her in-laws. She was blessed with three beautiful daughters and as they reached their teens, everybody in her town exclaimed – “You have such pretty, well-mannered and dutiful daughters. Soon, there will be a flood of marriage proposals at your doorstep and you will have a tough time picking the best match for your daughters.”

Her eldest daughter had just graduated from an elite university in Ahmedabad and clinched a job in a leading consultancy firm. The younger daughter was preparing for the IAS and the youngest one had just started with her engineering studies. Uma’s daughters were not just academically-oriented but also equally inclined towards household duties. They had immense respect for the elders, and everybody would boast with pride that they are blessed to have such daughters in their town.

Varsha was Uma’s next door neighbour who had two daughters and a son. They were average in academics. Unlike Uma, Varsha’s daughters completed her graduation from the town itself, and after giving donations, she forcibly sent her son to the city for his graduation. Whenever people boasted about Uma, Varsha would either shrug them off or leave the place with an envious green face.

Today, Varsha got an opportunity to brag about her eldest daughter and without losing a second of the opportune moment, she knocked on Uma’s door.

Varsha: Have some sweets. My eldest daughter has received a very nice marriage proposal. The guy has a government job and a big house in the city.

Uma: Congratulations Varsha. Really happy for you.

Varsha (swanking about her daughter): Thank you. Now you will have to satiate yourself with my happiness only. I don’t think you have any plans of marrying your daughter. She is two years elder to my daughter and still unmarried.

Uma: Once I find a suitable match for her, I will marry her. She doesn’t have any lack of proposals. It’s just that I have my own conditions.

Varsha (stunned): Really?? Don’t forget that you are mother of a daughter and any kind of demands from you will never be accepted by this society. Being a mother of three daughters, you are only required to accept whatever is put in front of you.

Uma: But why should I be submissive? I have raised my daughters to be capable of everything and there is nothing for which either I or they should compromise. I am looking for a loving and caring family for them, not just masters who will own their lives.

After a long pause –

Varsha: I see. So what are your conditions, madam ji? You want to marry your daughter to an alien? (Varsha had a hearty laugh on Uma’s naïve and stupid thoughts)

Uma: I have just one condition. I want my daughters to support this family emotionally and financially even after marriage. I will await their arrival because it would be very difficult and painful for us to live without them in our old age. I don’t expect them to become our caretakers, but I definitely expect them to support us in our sustenance.

Varsha: Have you gone nuts? Our society stands by the fact that a girl should never look back into her maiden’s home after marriage. And how can you even think of surviving on your daughter’s earnings? Your job is to only give her and not take from her. And if you want them to support you, then don’t marry them at all!

Uma: I have not raised my daughters to marry them off and forget about them. Are parents the sole responsibility of a beta and bahu? Why can’t a girl take the responsibility of her parents too? I want them to take care of us and their in-laws equally. I am looking for a family which agrees to the fact that whenever I would need my daughter emotionally or financially, they would not stop her from doing the same. The daughters are equally responsible for their family’s well-being. The family they marry into should also corroborate the same.

Varsha: I guess you are absolutely unaware of the inevitable custom kanyadaan and its benefits?

Uma: I know that kanyadaan means to offer my daughter to the groom – and according to our culture, rituals and traditions, I cannot expect anything in return from something that has been donated already. However, I do not believe that my girl is a commodity which can be donated to anybody. And hence, I will not do her kanyadaan.

Varsha (her eyes almost popping out): Kanyadaan is an inexorable ritual of Indian marriages. Do you know that kanyadaan is the greatest form of offering? You can attain moksha and relief from all the earthly sins and the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Consider yourself to be blessed to be given this opportunity.

Uma: I don’t see any good in that unseen, dubious moksha achieved after the huge suffering and pain of a kanyadaan. I cannot even imagine abstaining from my daughters for a lifetime. I presume that we have just one life to live and living a happy, contented life on earth is far better than living in anticipation of the surmised happiness after death.

Varsha: This is not considered normal and nobody will accept such a demand of yours.

Uma: I have faith in my upbringing and in my daughters. I know and believe that they are so perfect that people will think twice before turning down my offer. And as far as normalcy is considered, then my demand is normal and any sane and rational person should consider this as normal. But alas, this society doesn’t understand because normal is so overrated.

A couple of years down the line, Uma found that perfect match she had been looking for – even though, in eyes of the society, her daughter got married pretty late because of her outlandish views. However, despite being termed abnormal by the society, deep down in her heart, she dreamt of a world where her ideology becomes normal and not so overrated.

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