Here’s a case study of Maya (name changed), her trials and tribulations, in office and at her in-law’s place. Hemashri takes a hard look at the life of this girl and reflects on the plight of her ilk, in the weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.
The sweet young girl is very simple without any trace of makeup! A refreshing change from the usual well-kohl eyes and with lips painted in hues of pink or red. She seems lost in her thoughts! She is Maya (name changed), the new computer operator girl of my office.
My protocol is to observe everyone I work with and read them to know them. One day, I called this girl to my chamber to have a cup of tea with me. She was standing awkwardly in spite of being told to take a seat. I was a bit annoyed and finally told her in a firm tone to be seated comfortably, maybe I sounded harsh.
After having a cup of tea, as she was about to leave my chamber, she told me that she had been planning to resign and felt relieved to be able to talk to me. I came to know that she is a qualified junior engineer of Computer Sciences. She was being offered a salary of Rs. 6,000 /-.
She is married and her husband has a small printing business where they have kept a lady employee, who is paid Rs 6000/-. She lamented that there is no economic rationale for working in this office.
A few days back I had seen the minimum wage fixed by the government and I had seen that rate for a skilled labour was Rs 470/- per day, which meant Rs, 14,100/- for the entire month. So I realised this girl, a diploma engineer is being paid far less than a skilled labour.
Gradually this sweet girl became friendlier like my most lady staff. One day over a cup of tea, during a not so busy day in office she told me her story. They are three sisters. The eldest one is an architect and working in a private sector company. She is the middle and the youngest one is doing her graduation with mathematics as the major subject. Maya loved mathematics besides writing poems. She was planning to study mathematics after her engineering diploma. Suddenly, their father died. Family members would come to console the grieving family and then say what would happen to the helpless family without a male member. Their mother became worried and depressed. Maya was working in a private sector organisation where a nice boy proposed to her. Finally, the boy wrote a poem to win her heart. Maya’s elder sister, an architect was rejected by several suitors on the ground that she is not very beautiful or very fair. So Maya thought that if she gets married their family will get a son-in-law, a male member. So at 23, instead of pursuing her dream to study mathematics, she decided to get married.
Maya said after marriage when she stepped into her in-law’s house, she realised marriage is not as rosy as depicted in the movies. Her mother-in-law made her realise why in Assamese it is said, “Son-in-law taking away the daughter and Jomraj (Lord of Death) taking way is the same thing” (Jowai nileu nia, Jome nileu nia). The lady made it a point to narrate how much her able brother-in-law, an engineer earns or that even her gold jewellery was made from his earning. Also, the mother-in-law would make sure to make her work like a maid when she was home, leaving her with no time to rest or relax. One day Maya heard her mother-in-law telling a neighbour that her daughter-in-law is a hopeless engineer. She has no money.
Another day, Maya was late in arriving office. I asked her why she was late. She told me that during the two days break she went to her in-law’s place and that day she was coming back all the way from their house. She said during these two days she could not eat a single meal peacefully. Her mother-in-law invited a lot of people and she spent her two holidays cooking for the guests. Suddenly, beaming a smile, she said, “Today I feel so happy because for a few days I will not have to go there. Every time, I come back from there I feel like celebrating. Today, I will eat fuska, singara…” Like a small girl, she was excited and lost in her world.
I felt sharp pain thinking why the girls have to endure so much of hardships and ill-treatment in the homes of their in-laws? Tried my best not to show my emotion to her.
During a Friday, preceding a weekend, as I was about to leave the office, Maya told me, “Madam, these two days I will work day and night to complete a few assignments. I have to design wedding cards. I have started receiving orders.” Then, in a very thoughtful tone, she asked me something which kind of silenced me. “Madam, after marriage, a girl’s life becomes blank, colourless, so black and white. I do not understand why still the girls want such colourful wedding cards?”
That day as I came back home I was thinking have things changed within our families or in our homes? In spite of qualifications, why marriage is still the greatest security of a girl? Why in the largest democracy, a family without a male member has to feel unsafe? Is it because we have failed to create a safe atmosphere for women? Why after marriage, a mother-in-law says that she has raised her son with great sacrifice? Does not bringing up a daughter also involve the same sacrifices? Is every marriageable boy, very handsome and fair? How dare these men to demean a girl with such distasteful comments?
My daughter is now fifteen! Will things change when she grows up? Finally, I ask myself, will I change not to fall back on this all-pervading syndrome, “Marry by an age just because her friends are married? Is the human civilisation facing a threat of extinction that every girl must marry by a certain age? Should marriage have a particular season or age or should it have only a reason –meeting the right person to spend the rest of the life together?”
Will things change or shall I be the change!
@Hemashri Hazarika Bora
Pictures from the Internet
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Hemashri Hazarika is an Officer of the Assam Civil Service since 1997. Her research on Assam Civil Service brought reforms in 2015. A first-class Postgraduate in Economics from Gauhati University, she was awarded JRF/NET by UGC in 1997. Her experience as a bureaucrat has sensitised her to human sufferings. A solutionist by passion, she takes an active interest in issues related to Governance, Development, Women, Children, etc. Reading, Writing, Speaking and Painting are her hobbies.