Losing a Cousin to Society

So, I had a family night yesterday. Went to this marriage ceremony.

The thing with Indian (or at least North Indian) marriage ceremonies is that despite the tremendous efforts of a small army of forced volunteers and the tremendous expenditures, they can end up being so excruciatingly boring for everyone (bride and groom included). There are only three classes of people who seem to enjoy going to Big Fat Indian weddings: foodies, alcoholics and Aunties.

For biological and sociological reasons, I am not an Aunty. Also, while I enjoy Paneer Tikka and the occasional pint of beer, I am not sufficiently monomaniacal about either of those to jump for joy at the thought of the next wedding in town. Company is generally rare. I feel out of place at both the car-o-bar and the food stalls. So I can usually be found sitting around with others of my ilk in one of the numerous chairs scattered around the place, intensely absorbed in a game of Angry Birds or some such.

Maybe I’m too young, or maybe I’m too naïve, but I really don’t see the point of all the showbiz. I don’t see the point of Inviting Three Hundred and Fifty Seven people, not counting kids. I don’t see the point of giving out obscene amounts of food and alcohol, and spending obscene amounts on what’s basically a big party. It’s not just that, though. After all, many Indians are more than rich enough to afford obscenely expensive parties. I may see it as a waste of money, but who’s to say my definition of waste is better than theirs? That’s not what I really want to write about. Last night, I witnessed something much worse than just showbiz.

Last night, I went to a party thrown by parents who pressurized their daughter into marrying a misogynistic moron. These same parents then paid a pundit to chant Sanskrit verses in the background in the hopes of making her married life a happy one. Last night, I went to a party where these parents sold out to social conventions that unilaterally decided their daughter was ready to be married. I saw them surrender to the toxic brew of a fake morality, of a fake culture,of such an…intensely, incorrigibly fake country. I saw them leave someone they surely loved, to the mercy of the winds on the rough seas of life.

I knew this woman, one of my cousins. I say knew, because I no longer know her. She was ambitious and smart, spirited and cultured, happy and vivacious, confident and charming. They took half of her away. I can see only the smartness and the culture, the vivaciousness and the charm .The ambition is gone. The spirit is gone. The happiness is vanished. The confidence is non-existent. All the rest of her is gone, into some deep recess of her conscious mind, some black hole from which there is no possible escape. What’s left is a vast, overpowering, overwhelming darkness around the fake halo of a fake personality. They succeeded in fitting a square peg into a round hole, destroying the peg in the process. They’ve built this sickeningly beautiful porcelain doll that smiles and laughs and cries like a human, but has nothing truly human about it. They did it without turning a hair, in yellow-bellied deference to that cruel mass called society, that terrible force which spares none and takes no prisoners, that horrible agency which makes devils out of loving parents.

I felt nauseated last night. I felt sick. I felt angry. I felt sad. The sort of sadness one feels when looking at a hurt kid.  This cousin is older than me. She is no kid. I should not feel that way, but I do. It’s none of my business, but saying that over and over does not cure the nausea. She’s a grown woman who married a grown man who expects her, in this day and age, to simply give up her career because he says so.  Married a man who talks about treating her like a queen, but orders her around as though she might be a bonded slave.

I felt so completely sick of this nation last night. So sick of it’s perversions. So sick of it’s horrible conventions. Screw you, society.

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11 thoughts on “Losing a Cousin to Society

    • Exactly. It’s both bizarre and tragic that people apply 16th century logic to 21st century women who would be perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, if it weren’t for society trying to “protect” of them so much. Pathetic.

  1. Pingback: Losing a Cousin: The Sequel « cynically.engineered

  2. Could she not have said ‘no’ ? Changed cities, changed jobs? It’s true, the culture is sick and kills individuality but unless the people themselves take a stand and take measures to change things, how is change going to happen?

    Great writing! Your angst and pain came across quite palpably!

    • Well, she could’ve said no. COULD have. At the minor cost of living with constant guilt and harassment from well-meaning parents and relatives.

      It takes a VERY strong person to not bow to guilt. It doesn’t matter if the guilt is justified or not. As long as you can be made to feel guilty, made to feel as though you’re some kind of evil offspring who’s intent on killing the parents’ dreams, made to feel isolated in your opinions, made to feel like an utterly self-centered, unsympathetic person, the chances of ever gathering enough willpower to simply refuse are miniscule for most people. I’m not saying she’s entirely blameless, but I reserve my scorn for the people who actually DO the pressurizing, not the people who fail to resist it. Failing to resist pressure from your family is not a crime. Creating that pressure IS.

      • Well, to be honest, I too said ‘yes’ but fortunately I didn’t end up with a prick like your cousin seems to have done. But there have been occasions when I have wished I had said ‘no’, but I would inadvertently put myself in my mother’s shoes and see that she did what she thought best. Arguably, she was justified in pushing the panic-button and using fair means and foul to get me to toe the line. But that was not a crime. She was acting out of her conditioning and her fear that her daughter would end up alone and abandoned in old age. That is still a reality in India.

        If your cousin had to say yes, the least she could have done was check out the men for their ‘prick-quotient’ and settle with someone who would allow her to follow her dreams. Or was that not possible too?

        • No doubt it was possible, but she knew the guy beforehand and I suppose she just chose to go with the devil she knew rather than the devil she didn’t.

          I won’t attempt to dissect her actions because I simply don’t know enough about her thought process. Besides I think it’s almost irrelevant. There’s no way to check the “prick factor” in that short a time interval. It takes months of dating to even begin to get a feel of who your partner REALLY is, under the surface. Predicting what someone might be like after marriage is, I think, pretty much impossible without an extended period of getting to know every aspect of their personality.
          You can, of course weed out obvious idiots, and match up external factors (such as income) in an arranged marriage, but it’s still a shot in the dark, really.

      • Out of all your writings, this touched me the most.

        Very few people seem to get how ridiculously difficult, stressful, lonely and anxiety-ridden it is to not bow to the guilt/pressure, especially when induced by one’s supposedly well meaning parents. And an even smaller number of people seem to be willing to provide the right kind of support .

        • O, I don’t think anyone can truly get it until they go through it themselves.

          I’ve never gone through it and I freely admit that I can’t truly know how it feels, but I’ve seen too many people bend to those pressures to NOT realize how potent they can be.
          I wish I did know how to provide the right kind of support, because nothing I say really seems to work.

  3. I agree. By get it, I did not mean people getting how someone feels or getting the intricacies of why someone comes to that decision. What I mean is that there are very many people (with liberal parents/families, supremely strong personalities, good luck, ridiculously high levels of self awareness and emotional maturity at a fairly early age even without really having gone through much hardships, etc) who while having no idea how difficult the process is put across the view that it should be such an easy choice, something as simple as saying a no or a simple case of choosing personal freedom and happiness over obligations and familiarity.

    Been there, done that so I know it is a lot of things but it sure as hell is not easy. And I am no meek wallflower either.

    While I do not know why your cousin came to the decision she did, as someone that could have made that choice, I can understand why someone may bow – you feel stretched to the max (emotionally, mentally, heck even physically) and after a while fatigue sets in. Some of the “conversations” I have had with my well meaning parents left me feeling so bruised I would akin it to emotional boxing, complete with invisible scars [and the hardest thing is that those “conversations” are not one off either]. I did not punch back though – at times because of shock, at times because I expected more of them, at times because I felt I had nothing to defend, at times because I was simply tired.

    At least you seem willing. Most people just expect other people to make the decisions that they would. Decisions they would make hypothetically that is.

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