I read about Manjula Divak’s suicide the day before yesterday.
Excerpts from the article:
Manjula’s father said, “She was a brilliant girl. She was going to complete her thesis next month, but her husband and parents-in-law wanted her to come back to Bhopal and do household work.”
Mr. Devak told The Hindu that he had already made it clear to the family before the marriage in 2013 that Ms. Manjula would pursue her Ph.D. “They had agreed then but later started torturing her,” he said.
Her husband had allegedly asked Manjula to arrange ₹20 lakh from her father so he could start his own business. “Was my daughter going to wash dishes and sweep the floor after completing her doctorate,” asked the father.
My first reaction was why would such a brilliant woman, a PhD student at IIT Delhi who is capable of being financially independent not opt for divorce but tolerate dowry demands by her husband and in-laws?
Until I read another article which had screenshots of her whatsapp conversation with her sister. It suggested that she did want a divorce. The talk had been initiated with her father-in-law who was supposed to send a ‘rough document’. Her father-in-law had said that if she has to tolerate a couple of beatings to sustain her relationship, then what is the problem?
Manjula had said to her sister that she does not want a second marriage. These people were too horrible. She is happy alone. Her sister said that not everybody is bad, and that life is too big. Sister had said ‘love you’.
I could not hold back my tears. I was in a similar situation few years back. I could relate to Manjula.
How much pain her parents and sister would be feeling now? And how hopeless she must have felt to take such a step?
Manjula got into an arranged marriage at 24 because the ‘horoscopes had matched’. Her story sounds much too familiar. An academically inclined young girl is married to an unknown man because her family feels this is the best thing for her. The boy wants a qualified girl who should wash the dishes, sweep the floor, whose family should provide him dowry for starting his business.
I hate the idea of arranged marriages, that too at 23-24 when girls have just finished their education. But love marriages prove no different either with spineless husbands siding with their parents. Unfortunately, most Indian men’s families are like Manjula’s husband’s. The state of women remains the same.
Manjula was brave enough to consider divorce. But she got scared of her uncertain future. She lost her faith in goodness. She hung herself.
When will things change? What do these men and their families think, that they have hired a life-long slave? The parents of girls in India have pathetically low standards. Their sense of ‘normal’ has been skewed for generations. They feel that all girls have to ‘adjust’. Their daughter is no exception. And what can be worse than having a 35 year old unmarried daughter?
Let me tell you what can be worse:
A bruised daughter.
A daughter broken in spirits.
A dead daughter.
I agree that marriage is important. Being single for a girl has its own challenges. Whether the woman has been divorced, or remains unmarried, she would probably be seeking companionship. Every new relationship that would not end up in marriage would break her heart, reminding her that she is single while her friends are having babies. But here is the thing:
She would be going ahead in her career, without having to sweep the floor before going to work. She would probably have discovered new interests by now, which she would not have at 21-22 when she was busy studying for exams. She would not be hearing taunts all day about how inadequate she is. There would also be hope of finding a better man. A hope that is lost when she remains married to a loser.
It is still a much more dignified life than a life dedicated to serving an abusive, inconsiderate, man who happens to be your husband and a bunch of entitled, manipulative, greedy in-laws who are the by-products of this disastrous mistake that should not have happened in the first place.
To all the girls reading this and stuck in horrible marriages, I understand that the happy family Hallmark card may be every woman’s dream. But if yours is not, you have to get out, and find your dream elsewhere. It may or may not involve a man immediately. But by leaving cruel people and standing up for yourself you are not just doing a favour to yourself, but a favour to society at large.
The future generations of women would be grateful you did not pass on the legacy of ‘adjustment’.