While reading the book “I thought it was just me but it isn’t” by brene brown I was reminded of how for women the standards of how to be and how to act are quite different even unrealistic at times. We are supposed to have perfect bodies, perfect jobs, manage the house well, excel at culinary skills, be good mothers ,sisters and daughters the list goes on. What’s more failing to live upto any of these standards has more guilt and shame for women compared to men(this is a strong statement but backed by research in the book).

I was born and raised in a very conservative village in Haryana. Most girls had the set path, pursue BA get married or become a teacher and get married.There were numerous child marriages in my neighbourhood where the girls were 16 or 17. While studying to my CAT exam I used to go to my uncle’s house on weekends to avoid the distractions at my house. Mainly I started going because of the warm and welcoming nature of their family. They are a family of six, two sisters two brothers , my uncle and aunt. Another cousin didi who was a teacher lived with them. she was the eldest among siblings and stayed for some time to help the children with their studies.

Younger girl, Sonakshi was the quiet one while elder one Poonam was always chirping about something or other. I was closer to sonakshi due to her exuding innocence , she was going through the board exam stress for class 10th. I formed a bond with both sisters and tried to inculcate the habit of reading into them but never succeeded.  Poonam wasn’t interested in reading anything other than fashion blogs and magazines and Sonakshi always said she just doesn’t wanna come anywhere near books. For some naive reason I was convinced that they would get maturity by reading some quality literature, not realising what works for one may not work for another and that this is just my opinion, I may be wrong. Both the sisters were very pretty and were the centre of attraction at all family functions. There were strict rules as to what they can and cannot wear though, cut sleeves, dresses, anything that reveals any skin was a big no no in their house. Sonakshi didn’t care much for these things but poonam was visibly distressed with these things, she used design clothes and was fond of fancy dresses and makeup.

Fast forward 4 months, one day poonam was coming back from a nearby kirana shop and behind her a guy from a neighbourhood followed her into the house. The moment he stepped into the house he was flushed with anger and started speaking on the top of his voice. ye bahar gulchare udda ke aa rahi hain, koi ladka aaya tha isse milne , dono kiss kar rahe gaav ke beech mein ,sharam nahi h isko zara bhi(she was having fun with some guy who came to meet her and is completely shameless). 

This went on for a while where she tried to denied it and 2 more guys came to back up the first one in this moral policing. Eventually her family got to know she did meet some boy and it is true. Her cousin di Meenakshi sent those boys back but started yelling at her afterwards. To them it was unthinkable that someone could do such a thing, their honour was at stake . Her elder brother and father weren’t home at the time , her mother starting crying and cursing her for bringing dishonour to the family. They first locked her in a room then Her didi and mother started beating her badly for more than half an hour. Later at night her brother came home and went into rage the moment he heard the news, he picked up a broom lying nearby and hit her 3-4 times. How do I know all this? Poonam told me in details as she too went into shock from extreme reaction of her family.

This boy was her classmate in 10th standard in DPS RK puram. Her family was sending the children all the way to RK puram with the idea that they will get better education there compared to nearby schools. From the very next day they stopped sending her to school and decided to stop her education altogether. Meenakshi di said to me “isko bahar nahi bhej sakte , ispe bharosa nahi kar sakte aab” (we can’t send her out, we can’t trust her now). I was not able to believe that something this small could have such extreme consequence for her , when the guy was left unaffected (at least socially). I tried to convince them but later my mother said “don’t do to their house now, study here only, people will talk about you as well.”

Its been around 5 years and that girl is still having house arrest, she completed schooling via distance and is taking BA degree from nearby mediocre Govt. college with correspondence. Now her family wants to marry the two girls off in a “good family”. They stopped till now because some astrologer predicted that elder girl, poonam is having some dosha and should only marry after 26. We as girls have been receiving these silent messages since childhood , don’t do this don’t do that or else consequences will be rough.

 

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Sonia Kataria

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