Five minutes after typing in the title of this note and I’m still struggling to write the first statement, because I still have a hangover of the incident.
I have been working from home for the last two years and a Monday morning is no different from a Sunday morning to me; I was still half asleep when I was told that we were expecting guests in about half an hour. I love people and conversations; but relatives are a species that I avoid any kind of communication with (No offense to all the relatives on my friendlist). After almost three years of staying out of home, I am still expected to answer questions like “So, are you able to walk independently?” “Can you travel by rickshaw on your own?”
And the most epic of them all “Are you able to bathe on your own?” Sigh!
So, I told my mother that I am not keen on interacting with the guests who were coming home and went to my room to start working. The guests arrived and I could hear them talk in the living room. After ten minutes, my father came to my room and asked me to come and meet them. I declined and explained to him how I was not keen on meeting anybody and being the subject of their curiosity. My father insisted that I be a good host and interact with them. I was left with no choice.
I was in my nightdress and had not worn the calliper (braces) on my leg. I went to the living room and exchanged greetings. As a custom, I had to touch the feet of the elderly lady who my father addressed as Jiji. My father was watching CNBC TV 18. I am least interested in the stock market usually, but yesterday, I was all ears for Udayan Mukherjee’s analysis after the Opening Bell. I avoided talking to the three new people in my living room; the man in the checked shirt, who was my cousin, sat on the couch in front of me and looked at me at regular intervals. It seemed that he wanted to start a conversation with me but his attempts went in vain. Sitting next to me on the couch, was the lady whom my father addressed as Jiji who was as old as my grandmother. She observed me very closely and scanned me as I kept fidgeting with the TV remote to control the volume. The third new member was a kid, who thought I would probably hit her with my crutches and hence didn’t talk much to me. The man on the couch asked my father a few questions about me. I chipped in between, to correct my father with regards to my work profile. The guests were probably aware that my parents were looking out for a guy for me for marriage and hence observed me a little more than usual.
Because I was continuously watching TV, the guests didn’t talk much to me. It was all okay and I wanted to give my self an imaginary pat on the shoulder for mastering the art of avoiding conversation with relatives. Just when, I was giving myself that imaginary pat on the shoulder, the man on the couch asked me something only to lose the little respect that I had for him.
“Shraddha, show me how you walk!” I was appalled beyond explanation. I was amused at how he couldn’t even get my name right.
My father explained to him that I was not wearing my calliper. After that, I was even asked to wear my calliper and come to demonstrate how I walked. “I am yet to bathe and will take time. I am not wearing my braces before that,” I responded and came to my room. I am sure the man got the message.
The man apparently had a prospective groom in mind and wanted to know how I walked only to explain to ladka walas how I walked!!!
Getting me married, has been the most controversial subject in my family and extended family as well; because, in India, the disabled are type casted more than required. You’re considered a good for nothing if you have some physical disability. For heavens’ sake! It’s a physical and not a mental deformity. Here are some of the suggestions and opinions that my parents have got from our acquaintances (read relatives):
You will have to financially settle the guy for marrying your disabled daughter. Who will marry a disabled girl without any motive? What has he to gain out of the marriage?
Or may be, why don’t you get yourself a Ghar Jamai. You can provide for their living and he won’t feel the pressure of marrying a physically challenged!
Another epic moment was when somebody whom we met at a social gathering asked my parents to consider getting me married to somebody who was mentally unstable.
All of you, who’ve got your sons married to non disabled girls – only because they’re tall, can cook decently well and can do a catwalk – can you vouch that your non-disabled daughter in law will take care of you as her own parents when you’re old? I am not saying that a disabled will do so either; but all I am saying is that physical ability is not a synonym for great character. If marriages were to sustain only on physical ability, then divorces wouldn’t happen, no?And to all you men to give in to societal pressure, may your *manhood* rest in peace.
I feel sorry (for the state of the society) when somebody wants to know more of my style of walking before wanting to know me. I feel like laughing out loud, when somebody rejects me only because I would take a little more time to cook than my abled counterpart.
I see no difference between me and you – who’s reading this post right now. I laugh it off when someone gives my parents all the expert advice. But here’s my message to all of those who come up with these ideas – If this is how a disabled girl gets married in your society, then I do not want to get married in your society. If my parents will have to go more than an extra mile to secure my husband and me – only because he’s getting married to someone who’s disabled, then, I prefer being single for the rest of my life. I’d want a man who would marry me for what I am at face value and not because my family is promising him a better future. I’d rather stay happily single for the rest of my life and accomplish all my goals. I’d rather invest my energies in writing a book, cooking for myself and travelling alone; Yes, I can travel alone. And may be, someday I’d adopt a child too.
My life is full and I am ok and I refuse to be turned into a cliché. Yes, I am 25. Yes, I am of marriageable age; And yes, I want to get married but I refuse to get married at the cost of my self respect.
And the next time someone asks me to demonstrate how I walk, I’d dance on Sheila ki Jawaani for them. Hell yeah, I can dance too
Title credits: Aishwarya Subramanian