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The Patronage

“Look at your daughter’s situation before rejecting the proposal. She neither has the looks nor any extraordinary talent. If you both keep rejecting alliances like this, your daughters will never get married.Bhavani  you need to understand your responsibility and think like a mother; not as their friend.”, an angry Madhav, bellowed at Bhavani and left their house.

Bhavani, who was widowed young, when Mini was barely ten years old and Usha five, had undergone immense struggles and challenges, to raise her family and meet the children’s basic needs.

Married off at an early age, she had fast understood its drawbacks; few significant ones being, loss of education and disempowerment, early motherhood and resultant responsibilities, monetary and understanding issues with spouse, ignorance of fundamental rights, limited freedom, family pressures in their conjugal life that they were too naïve to handle  and the list went endless. Besides, she had witnessed her young husband slowly turning alcoholic, violent and with his addiction difficult to control, she saw him eventually succumbing to liver failure.

Having seen it all, she was determined that her daughters would face none of this. She made sure that they completed their basic education, even though they were not a graduate. At times, she had no alternative but to accept her brother, Madhav’s support.

Madhav was of a temperamental disposition and would often get insolent with his words, to the extent of insulting her, though he would never flinch in his support. Uncomfortable situations often arose for Bhavani, in front of his family because of which she would hesitate to approach him. However, with patience, time flew and the children were grown up now.

Mini, now at 25, was an excellent painter while Usha, 20, was a talented photographer. Mini secretly aspired to commence painting classes, besides having a business of her own. Now that it was time to find a groom for Mini, Madhav kept routinely butting into the affairs of the house.

Mini’s problem was that she had a huge black mark on the left side of her face, which put off suitors. Some families felt, it portended ill-luck and given the fact that she had already lost her father at an early age, she often got rejected for this reason.

A bold Mini never bothered about the rejections she faced. She was confident that god willing, she’d find her Mr. Right one day. Madhav, however would get angrier, vocalising more and more about his fear of the marriage expense burden, that was likely to percolate upon his family, because of all these rejections. They realised Mini’s marriage was not going to be an easy journey.

One person who felt most helpless at the situation was Bhavani. On one hand, she did not want to force her daughter, while on the other, a part of her knew Madhav’s anger was not totally unjustified.

Recently, Madhav’s wife had brought a proposal from one of her relatives who neither wanted a dowry nor a big wedding. They just desired for a good girl, who could take care of their son, while keeping the family together. Financially they were extremely well off than Bhavani was.

Bhavani, quite tempted to go ahead, quickly agreed to a private meeting between Mini and the boy, Akash. After they met, while Akash agreed to proceed further, Mini straightaway rejected him. She mentioned to Bhavani that his eyes looked blood-shot, just like the way their father’s had been.

Bhavani, now, was in a dilemma, on how to communicate this reason to Madhav. If they did, it could be implied as insulting her sister-in-law’s (Madhav’s wife) family, since they had no evidence that Akash was indeed an alcoholic. Bhavani feared that this could even result in an estrangement with her own brother, for it was a sensitive matter.

She tried to counter-question Mini.

“How can you be so sure he drinks? Eyes being red is not sufficient to indicate he drinks. They could be red for other reasons too.”

“His looks like a typical alcoholic ma.”, Mini persisted.

“If that would be the case, why would your uncle get this alliance in the first place? Does he not know what happened to my life?”

“Don’t trust anyone Ma. Today his considerations are different.”, saying thus Mini switched off, refusing to discuss the topic any further.

An irate Madhav would daily arrive and throw unjust insinuations upon the mother and daughters, thus indirectly pressuring them to accept the proposal. Bhavani’s tension began reaching its zenith, so much so that she could no longer tolerate it.

Usha was keenly observing all of this, in absolute silence. Of late, her uncle’s behaviour looked out of place. Finally, mustering enough courage, she was almost deciding at addressing it but before that something very odd happened. She bumped into Akash the next day, who was chatting with one of her batchmates from school.

A few days later, when Usha won a new photography project, she hosted a treat to her family members, including her uncle, at a restaurant in the town, which was close to a bar.

After dinner, as they waited outside, someone came out of the bar swaying. When they turned around, they could see it was Akash. He reeked of alcohol and seemed to sway under its influence.  They called him out multiple times but never once, did he seem to hear them. Everyone stood shell-shocked.

“So, what have you got to say now Bhai?” questioned Bhavani, in an annoyed tone.A shocked Madhav who did not initially respond, now, raised his voice:

“Have a look at your daughter first.”

“Would you do the same, if Mini had been your daughter?”

At this, Madhav, seethed with rage and started shouting:

“You people who cannot handle anything without my help, dare to question my decisions? Do you have the capacity to bear the wedding expenses? Am I your bank?”

Bhavani turned and looking squarely at her brother, with folded hands, declared in a no-nonsense tone.

“Bhai, my daughters will get married whenever and to whoever they are destined. But we have had enough of your patronage. I can’t deal with this anymore. Spare us of your mercies, henceforth.”

And with that, she marched off with her daughters, leaving Madhav behind, who looked on dumbstruck.

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