‘Tu meri beti nahi beta hai’ (You are not my daughter, rather you are my son), her father’s words resounded in Uttara’s ears. Living in a patriarchal society, Uttara had felt proud whenever Kishan and Radha used to say this to her, as if she had won a Nobel prize. Contrary to that, she could not believe what her father had just said and that too before her in-laws, ‘You need to abide by your husband’s and in-law’s wishes’. This rejection by her own parent stung her painfully, as she wiped off the tears from her face.
Kishan and Radha had brought up Uttara like a son. With a lower middle-class background, having faced many ups and downs in life, Uttara, being their only daughter, had been their sole hope. They wanted her to be decently educated and married before they became her responsibility during their old age. So they kept pushing her into being an independent, responsible child, besides their determination to educate her to the best of their capacity.
Uttara was an intelligent child. She was aware of her parents’ situation and concerns and had accordingly moulded herself in everyway they wished. She worked hard to make sure her grades were good and thereby earned the merit of being one of the few top students in her school. But over the years, Kishan and Radha’s financial burdens only kept increasing and they kept struggling hard to fulfil even their daily necessities. So Kishan wanted Uttara to finish her graduation and become a simple teacher whereas Uttara, outstanding as she was, aspired to do her P.H.D. Uttara decided to strike out a balance between the two, by joining the teaching profession and continuing her P.H.D alongside.
However, on his part, Kishan was unsure of whether he could handle her higher qualifications since that entailed searching for an equally educated groom, preparing himself for a bigger dowry and higher wedding expenses. But as luck would have it, as soon as she completed her B.A., Akshat’s proposal came along. His family did not want any big wedding or dowry and Akshat was well qualified. Moreover, Akshat and his family were agreeable to take care of Kishan and Radha’s needs in the future. ‘We just want a girl who would adjust into the family.’, was what they had informed. All this made the match appear ideal, and the two were married off.
Akshat now wanted her to give up her teaching job and also her P.H.D studies. He wanted Uttara to take full charge of the domestic affairs, besides taking care of his parents. Since a sense of independence was ingrained into Uttara right from childhood, the idea of giving up her job and studies meant compromising on the values with which she had been brought up, something that she could not reconcile to. Differences escalated inside her marriage and her parents were called. ‘You must abide by whatever your husband and his family wants. Why do you want to work when your husband is willing to take care of the financial necessities?’, her father scolded her before everyone.
‘But baba (father), was it not you who brought me up saying that I am your son and not your daughter? If that was not the case, why did you raise me with those ideas? You have been very selfish baba. At a time when you needed someone to take care of your financial responsibilities and old age care, you were clinging on to me as your future security and preparing me towards it. But now that you have got Akshat, you are asking me to unwind and throw off my years of efforts and preparation to the wind. Did you ever realise, what a scapegoat you have made of me? You instilled the mindset of a man into me, while knowing fully well that I am a girl and these situations in marital life are foreseeable. Today when a confrontation has arisen, you don’t have any guts to face it. I am not against domestic responsibilities, since irresponsibility is something that is not known to me. But when it was I who took the trouble of reaching this far, because you wanted it that way, at a time when you had nobody, it is me with whom you should be standing by and needless to mention, also the lessons you have given me throughout. It’s impossible to turn back the wheel now. Above everything, I am a human being too who has feelings and my mental make-up cannot be changed to suit your conveniences. I refuse to be treated like an “option”. You should have sorted out these issues when you had fixed up my marriage with Akshat. If not then, do it now.’
Her father stood agape while Akshat now understood where she came from and was immediately contrite.