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Sunday Editorial:Cruelty and kindness in love and marriage: two tales from Mumbai and Bihar!


By Ratnakar Tripathy 

hanging by a thread: important life decisions!

hanging by a thread: important life decisions!

This week two incidents made a great impression on me. That usually means one is unable to stop thinking about them. I know I will not be able to stop thinking about them for some time to come.

First, in Mumbai, where a young married woman hanged herself by the ceiling fan in the middle of an online conversation with her estranged husband, whose family was asking for dowry. The camera was on through all this.

Yes, he saw her kill herself!

Second, near Bhagalpur in Bihar, where a young man and his girlfriend were waylaid by strangers they trusted. The girl was raped in front of the man by three men. When the news first came, it was in the manner of the gang rape news crowding our news space for the past several months and I didn’t bother about the details, except the word ‘another…’ that formed part of the headline. You may wonder if ‘another’ is an adjective or some other part of speech or simply redundant rhetoric from the world of TRP voyeurism. The suggestion is there will be one more if you don’t switch off the TV.

This morning I see the news the boy got married to the girl barely four days after the incident – the usual ceremonies were held without any celebration. I think as males we owe it to celebrate it for both the boy and the girl on their behalf, not to mention the families and the communities on both sides. I loved the boy’s haste!

Imagine the agony and the shame of having to watch one’s spouse being raped. As for the indignity and the hurt of rape, don’t even try to try. It belongs to the world of the unimaginable and the unspeakable – the language to express it has not been invented and I am not waiting for one to be invented, either. So much so, even the victim mostly doesn’t fully know what it does to her for a long time to come. But even this perception of mine is second hand at best and idle speculation at worst.

But the beauty of human life is how we heal – a painful cut on the finger seems barely visible the next morning, a hurt child begins to giggle hopelessly after being held by a parent, and a deep trauma takes just a tight embrace to  wither away, if it comes promptly enough. On the other hand, quite against intuition, a fat compensatory check may condemn a family to eternal mourning – I have in mind a family in my village that lost a son and was drowned in unspeakable suffering till the employer sent a big cheque. This happened five years ago – the family is still fighting among themselves for the money and fighting with the company for more. The family’s morality and sentiment is reduced to a single proposition – who was the closest to the son? Mother? Father? Wife? Brother? To lay their hairy paws on the money, rightfully, that is! Even nephews are part of the row now is the latest!

As for the Mumbai incident, it made me feel weak-hearted. It is difficult to think about it over and over again and accept the fact that you continue to live, from the man’s point of view, that is. It was a love marriage. But the man decided to pacify his noisy parents with dowry. In such cases, parents may often be an excuse and in any case no one knows who insisted, how far and how insistently. These are what we may call opaque family tales.

Why am I going on and on about these incidents involving people I don’t know? May be, because our daily lives are made of such stuff and such stories. They don’t have to happen at our own homes or the doorstep.

Truly, we heal easily, but we also hurt easily and perhaps hopelessly when a husband at the other end seems to be saying oh how much I love you, but some money from somewhere will do us no harm, and how the money will  shut my parents up, and how apartments in Mumbai are too expensive for a young couple, and how I don’t agree with my parents, but they are my parents, and how they will get over their disapproval of our love marriage and will accept you with great warmth if your parents paid up…!

And so on and so forth, endlessly!

Even the most stretchable elastic band of lies will snap at some point. Love and marriage like, cricket, business and politics, they all run on trust. Life decisions, especially the most important ones are gambles, not just ‘like gamble’ used as an approximation or a comic metaphor, and you may lose anyway despite trust, affection and support.

The girl from Bihar won the trust of a lifetime. The girl from Mumbai lost eternal love in a few minutes. We know the consequences.



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