The Bride Who Would not Burn


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Young and smart Delhi girl Poonam Bajaj takes a chance at connubial bliss with Ravinder Arora, a small businessman from Delhi. The match is arranged by their families and the friendly neighborhood panditji, the marriage broker who is more interested in lining his own pockets rather than ensuring the compatibility of the individuals he sets up for a lifetime of togetherness.

An arranged marriage in India which celebrates the union of two families rather than individuals, is a potpourri of human expectations and this story is filled with the most ambitious ones, depending on which person you ask! The mound of expectations that make up this story are those of:

  1. Poonam, who dreams of a cozy future with her husband,
  2. Mrs. Bajaj, Poonam’s mother, who is in a hurry to get her daughter married and is also kind of broke but nevertheless promises a fat dowry to the family of a possible match for her daughter
  3. Mrs, Arora, who dreams of nothing but a big fat dowry, a daughter-in-law that would also act like a live in maid  and a never-ending sponsorship for her son that would help him meet his business goals
  4. Ravinder, the easily manipulative son who wants the excitement that comes with a pretty wife and a big fat dowry
  5. Papaji, the senior Mr.Arora, a truepenny and Ravinder’s father who genuinely wants his son and daughter-in-law to be happy
  6. Panditji, the marriage broker who pulls of the ultimate coup by bringing all the above parties who have nothing in common together

As a  result, we have a  wonderful book that takes a look at the compelling issue of dowry practices prevalent in modern India in the form of a plot that is filled with humor doused with a heavy dose of reality.

The chapters about Poonam pressing her mother-in-law’s feet while churning out of innumerable cups of tea and dusting most of  time reminds the reader of the umpteen saas-bahu serials that seem to run on cable all day. Then there is a dawn of realization that this is the kind of life that many woman face on a day-to-day basis in India.

The book is written in the format of a play, complete with notes on stage setups, props and costumes. The entire story is a conversation between a judge who would be presiding over the dowry case of Poonam Bajaj who thwarted an attempt to burn her alive by delivering karate kicks to her husband and mother-in-law, a public defender representing Poonam and a litigator representing the groom and his mother.

The author brings the reader’s attention to the double standards in our society as it applies to women very cleverly through the arguments between the judge and the two lawyers. What starts as a conversation of the usage of Section 498 A of the India Penal Code moves on to sensitive issues about how women and men are judged differently based on the way they behave or the various traits that they exhibit as a person . For e.g. A man who is well versed in martial arts would be viewed as strong and brave whereas a woman would be deemed aggressive! A woman with an extraordinary sexual appetite is judged to have a low morals whereas a man with the same desires is supposed to be normal and virile.

The book goes on to depict how weddings these days are more like business deals, ritualistic and a cheap display of wealth and one-upmanship rather than the spiritualistic celebration of love and harmony that they should be. If weddings are about the display of wealth and power, the marriages resulting from such weddings seem to be all about expecting the world of the new bride and her family. Nobody is happy if a bride enters her new home with jewellery and gifts for her new family because when compared to another bride in the neighborhood who probably got more jewellery and bigger, better gifts for her new home.

What started as a practice of a bride’s family giving her a wedding gift based on the capacity of the family during the days when the Indian law only entitled sons to inherit family property has now morphed into an ugly practice that makes it mandatory for parents  to send their daughters to their marital homes with fat wads of cash, gold and diamonds, silks and expensive gifts for her new husband and her in-laws. It seems like an entire country missed or rather chose to ignore the memo that clearly states that daughters can inherit family property too and that there is no need to unnecessarily compensate them in the form of a fat dowry!

The author describes this beautifully through the words of one of the characters that states the following: “only when this age old practice o dowry combines with modern day consumerism that the resulting concoction makes for a deadly cocktail

So what does a family who is not happy with their new daughter-in-law’s dowry do? They turn abusive and in many cases they do away with her for good! In India, women are still burnt to death when they don’t satisfy the dowry demands of their new marital homes and most of their deaths are made to look like kitchen accidents.

What’s worse is the fact  that even the courts of law investigate such cases from the point of view of the abuser rather than the victim especially when the victim does not conform to societal norms of being a woman. And that is precisely what happens in the case of Poonam. The puritan judge that listens to the arguments of the two lawyers believes that on some level that Poonam probably instigated her husband and mother-in-law to set her on fire and that she is probably the one at fault rather than those setting her on fire.

All these issues and more are brought to the forefront by the simple words of the author, Rajesh Talwar. The play manages to keep the reader’s attention throughout and even manages to raise a lot of relevant questions in the reader’s mind. By doing this Mr.Talwar has managed to educate the readers about a very serious issue plaguing the country and has also initiated a thought process on what we could do rid away with this ugly practice still practiced in all echelons of the society.

Since I am someone who feels very strongly about such issues, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend this to anyone interested in reading about some of the cultural practices that plague India. At 223 pages it is a quick and easy read about a sensitive issueIn fact, it would be a great idea to have a student friendly edition of this play to made available at schools all over India to educate our young minds about the practice of dowry and its effects on the lives of the people involved.What better way could there be to nip this process other than making the next generation of young people to seriously think about such issues?

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities

The Amma and her Maid! It’s Complicated!


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Maids – those powerful women who can get away with pretty much everything! You can’t live with them, their attitudes, their non-existent leave plans, their tardiness, their sorry tales and all their drama! Yet, you can’t live without them! A slice of Indian life from the town of Chennai 🙂

Sunita looked visibly annoyed as she listened to the yarn trailing out of the her maid Anu’s mouth. The woman had disappeared for 3 days in a row without any prior notification, leaving Sunita to handle a house full of guests, the resulting loads of laundry and the never ending piles of dishes along with a full time job!

This was not the first time that Anu, who had received several warnings from Sunita  in the past about being fired  had gone AWOL*.  And yet, here they were again, listening to the tall tales that Anu spun about how her daughter had eloped to get married, while her son was ill from an infection on his foot!

Sunita was exhausted and Anu’s high pitched voice with dramatic undertones irritated her more than usual. She cut Anu off mid way…

“So, is your daughter married now?”

“No amma, she has run away with that useless boyfriend of hers and we are still looking for her!”, responded Anu

“Who is we?”, questioned Sunita

“My son and me, amma!”

” I thought your son was ill when all this happened! You said he cut his leg on some pieces of stray glass and his feet have been bandaged! How exactly is he helping you? I am getting sick of your lies…why can’t you just let me know before you take off? What good is your phone if you don’t answer it?”

“He hurt his feet while we were looking for her!”

Anu was trying hard to patch the gaps in her story. Pushing her luck she continued, “Please don’t fire me amma, I need to take my son to the doctor again and I need more money. Would you consider giving me an advance?”

“What?? You still owe me thousands of rupees in back loans! I am not giving you any more money!”

“But, I need to buy my daughter a new saree and some jewellery….”

“I thought you were angry with her because she ran away with a man you did not approve of! Now, you want to buy her gifts?”, exclaimed a confused Sunita

“I still need to give her dowry…what will my son-in-law’s parents think of me?”

Mindful of being dragged into Anu’s family drama, Sunita raised her voice and ended the conversation “Just get back to work and next time you do this, I WILL fire you!”

Anu scampered away as fast as she could while flipping out her cell phone to call her son and remind him not to show up around “amma’s” house as his feet were supposed to be bandaged!

Sunita heard her and sighed! This would happen again, maybe when Anu’s daughter returned (if had she  run off in the first place) and she would still not fire Anu.  She would probably loan Anu more money to throw a feast for her daughter and new son-in-law.

Finding a maid was the hardest thing to do in the city of Chennai! Yes, the relationship between the lady of the house and her maid could be best described as complicated!

*AWOLAbsent without leave.

How to find a Husband!


“Finding a husband is not a joke, you know!! You simply cannot take the process lightly!”, chided my cousin, Urmi.

“You are 27. Why is it so hard for your parents to find a guy for you? Don’t you know somebody in your circle of friends? You should find a guy, get married and have your first child before you turn 30. Only then, can you have baby number 2 by 32,  leaving a perfect age gap between the kids”

I was still reeling from this unexpected barrage of questions and wisdom while Urmi continued…

“Take a cue from my daughter, Anita – she is in college now, but she has it all sorted out. She wants to be married by the time she is your age and plans to have her first kid before she turns 30!”

Now, I  was berating my choice to spend the weekend with Urmi. But, I was in a new place and had no immediate family around me. My closest connection to home was my aunt’s daughter Urmi. My aunt was a “Ms. Know It All herself”, but I had not expected Urmi to be worse! She had been the cool older cousin when I was growing up. It seemed like things had changed and nobody had sent me the memo!

“Why are Indians so obsessed with getting married?”, I retorted bravely, surprised at the tone of my own voice. I had never been accosted about my single status before and did not have a strategy to handle such confrontations. Yes, I was taking my time to “settle down” but I had never felt the need to explain my choices to anyone.

“Now, you are just being naive!”, she responded. “Tell me, what do you expect in a husband?”

“Excuse me?”, I responded, not sure about response she expected.

“I mean, do you want someone from India or abroad? What are the acceptable locations in India? What are the educational qualifications you expect? Caste? etc., We should draw up a chart with the various qualities that you expect in a husband and then group these based on the priority of these qualities and attack them accordingly”

“Huh?”, was all I could say.

“For example, if location and qualification are important and you are interested in men within the age group of 27-30, we should look for contacts in that location and then check with them if they know of any potential grooms with that particular qualification within the age group we are looking for… and that’s just scratching the surface.We should treat this as a project!”, she finished and looked pleased with herself.

“Well, I don’t exactly have the luxury of time for this project!”, I retorted wondering how her brain had worked this fast in coming up with a plan like that. “In case you didn’t notice I have a full-time job that consumes a major chunk of my time”

“How else do you expect to find a guy?”, she demanded.

“Well, maybe I will go with my heart!”, I declared, putting a temporary end to our conversation that night.

 

 

Also linking to  Writing Wednesdays hosted by Write Tribe

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Image Courtesy: Write Tribe

The Blogathon


It has been an incredible first week of August! For once, I managed to participate in a blogging marathon and complete it. In fact, I was pretty sure that this might turn out much like other writing marathons that I attempted in the past, meaning that  I would not be able to do much after a day or two. Why, I even abstained from displaying the blogathon badge on my blog! But that changed yesterday when I completed the BlogAThon hosted by Blog-A-Rhythm.  The experience of creating and publishing posts on a daily basis was my equivalent of painting the town red. Painting it with words!! 🙂

The following is the list of posts I created for the Blogathon, listed in order of popularity based on WordPress Stats. Each of these was an experiment to understand what kind of genres I would enjoy writing.

  1. Justice – An experiment in writing paranormal genres
  2. Truant – An experiment to write something short and light that even the most busiest person who stumbles onto my blog wouldn’t mind reading
  3. The Strange Case of Mrs.V – An experiment to see if I could write from life.
  4. Freedom, to Be – An experiment on alternate points of view
  5. Promise – Fiction
  6. Moira and Dreams – Again experiments on fictionalizing some real life experiences.

Here are somethings that I learnt about myself in the past week:

  • That I enjoyed telling stories and  that for some reason I am obsessed  about the triumph of good over bad and the fact that villains in any story should enjoy their “just deserts”!
  • I am not the types to preach with my writing. Nope! I love fiction and I think I will stick to that.
  • I was convinced  that there is an undocumented Murphy’s law that states that the moment one sits down with an idea and putting them into words, they will be disturbed to abandon their thoughts half way! Though I am no wonder when it comes to writing I understood why some writers are referred to as tetchy people!
  • I loved doing research on new words, places and ideas!
  • There is some wonderful writing on the internet and I thoroughly enjoyed reading poems and stories by talented folks
  • I think I might actually enjoy writing more often compared to the hermit crab attempts that I am known for 🙂

thankyouI just want to sign-off shouting out a big “Thanks” to those that took the time to read my posts, comment on the blog or Facebook links or actually share their opinions in person and those lovely people who re-tweeted my story links.

For those of who you who have just stopped by, please take the time to read the posts (if you have some time  that is) and let me know what you think.

Looking forward to more fruitful writing in the future

Moira


barathon“She will never find out!”, smiled Maitri to herself as she hid the family heirloom diamonds deep inside her personal locker at home. She was supposed to deliver the the precious stones to her younger sister Deeta.

Their older sister Lakhi, had taken on the onus of distributing the diamonds from their mother’s traditional nose ring between the siblings and she had entrusted Maitri to deliver the diamonds that were intended for Deeta. Never in a million years did Lakhi think that the diamonds would not be delivered or  that her own scatterbrained nature would work against her when Maitri declared that she had never been given any diamonds to pass on to their younger sister…

Maitri had always been jealous of the smarter and better looking younger sister. It also didn’t help that Deeta never bent to Maitri’s bullying when they were kids. Maitri had finally found a way to own something intended for Deeta.  In fact, she had plans to convert the diamond stones into earrings for her own daughter before suspicions could be raised within the family.

Life works in funny ways and late one evening, Maitri walked into her home that had been broken into.

“You have some wishful thinking!”, smiled an invisible Moira, as Maitri rushed into her bedroom and fainted on discovering that the thieves had  broken into her locker and had made away with everything in it.

Notes:

Moirai – The word origin for Moira per Dictionary.com is as follows:

“fem. proper name, one of the Fates, from Greek Moira, literally “share,fate,” related to moros “fate, destiny, doom,” meros “part, lot,” meiresthai “to receive one’s share”

I have used the meaning “to receive one’s share” for my fictional attempt above.

Per Wiki, “Moira may mean portion or share in the distribution of booty (“equal booty”), portion in life, lot, destiny, (“the immortals fixed the destiny”) death (“destiny of death”), portion of the distributed land., The word is also used for something which is meet and right (“according to fate, in order, rightly”)

Today’s Prompt: Wishful Thinking

 

Truant


barathonDid you hear about Sam, who was caught red-handed while he was at the movies during office hours?

Turned out that the director of the organization he worked for, had promised to take his son to the latest animated blockbuster currently showing in the city. He had taken a day off to fulfill his promise to his son and had run into Sam who was in his work attire complete with his office ID card along with his girlfriend buying tickets for the same movie!

The director was also a man who always did his homework and apparently Sam’s time sheets indicated that he had been working that day!

That was the end of Mr.Truant’s association with the organization!

Today’s prompt: Caught Red Handed

Dreams


barathonSamira was married  the moment she completed her graduation. She was 21. Her mother had  married her off to the first eligible bachelor that she could find. It helped that her”find” was an only son with no siblings or a male parent.

“Nobody to bother my Samira or compete for her husband’s wealth and affections. She can live on her own terms”, dreamed her mother.

What Samira’s mother did not bargain for was the fact that her son-in-law would always put his mother first or the fact that she was a woman who was insecure about her son’s affections. She controlled the decisions about the daily menu,  the clothes he wore and her son’s bank accounts. She made sure that she had a ticket for every vacation that the couple planned and it never bothered her to be the third wheel.

A mothers dreams of her daughter living life on her own terms remained just that – dreams! It didn’t help that she had not had the gift of hindsight when she had treated her own in-laws and her husband’s siblings quite poorly. At least, none of them had run her life.

Sometimes, what you don’t know can hurt you and your own!

 

Today’s Prompt: What you don’t know