13th November 2014
Akshara stared at the beautiful gold necklace with distaste and hatred. Its intricate zig zag carving suddenly looked like the ill formed fangs of a cavernous animal, and the rubies studded in them, like drips of blood drawn from its previous victim. It had played havoc with the lives of many innocent girls, plundering their future, with its absence. That substantial, arrogant, elegant bitch called gold.
Today it was trying to extend its vicious claws to hold her sister. Akshara saw her father struggle for the extra five sovereigns that the Groom’s family demanded. He fought the battle and somehow managed to survive it. But like every war, this left a deep mark in her father’s heart. His second daughter was now five racks below, in the marriage market. Akshara started hating the metal there. It was her Arch enemy and she wanted to cause destruction of this particular metal. She started analyzing the metals around her, a metal that would become the ideal weapon to screw gold. Platinum was way too posh and bitchier than Gold, and Iron was way too rustic. Stones and pearls were complimentary items and they all seemed incapable of surviving without the yellow lady. She fidgeted with her ring staring at its glowing surface and alluring intricacy. Silver. The answer was so obvious. Why the hell didn’t it hit her so long? She hurled herself up with determination and walked to her father’s room.
“Akshara “His father called and made her sit near him on the cot.
“Saradha aunty has an alliance for you ma. It’s a good place, the boy is a Civil Engineer, earns around 1.5 L rupees per month. But…” His father stopped, unable to complete his sentence, his eyes portraying his pain.
“But..?” asked Akshara.
“They want 50 sovereigns from our side” Her father said, “I would have arranged it somehow, under different circumstances, but now, am still recovering from the debts that I had pay for your sister’s marriage.” Her father sounded apologetic.
“This is a stupid system Appa” Akshara said. “I don’t want a marriage now. Am just not ready for it. There was steel in her voice.
“But this is a good life Akshara “His father protested, “We may never come across another such Groom in the future”
Akshara held her father’s hand in hers. “Instead of investing so much money on such jealous group of mongrels for the sake of your daughter’s life, will you trust her and invest 20 percent of that amount on her wish and passion?”
Her father looked at her with pride and tears. “What is it that you want to do teddy bear?” Her father asked. “I’ll invest my entire life trusting my daughter”
“I want to learn jewellery designing Appa “
That was the short prelude of Akshara’s venture in to the world of Jewellery design. She rocked and rolled the institution with her imagination and astute skill and soon everyone started chasing her for her designs. She was kind of a mini celebrity in her institution and soon enough her designs started getting recognition from fashion industry. Strangely she never sold any of her designs, but wanted to exhibit them all in her show, before she made profit out of it. The day of her big show was near and her friends sat around with her making endless discussions and predictions.
“Just imagine that floral vine pattern she designed. That would be such a beautiful thing see, when it comes alive. Gold delicate leaves, with nice amethyst stones for the flower patterns” Sneha drooled. “That thing will look perfect, draped around Kajal’s delicate throat” Akshara sat with a silent smile through all of these, her face a perfect mask of mysticism.
The day of her debut exhibition, blossomed with a beautiful climate and there was an amazing amount of crowd that had gathered to see her designs that had come to life. Her father unveiled the banner of her show and to increase everyone’s anticipation, it read ‘Pride of Bride’. Women in bridal costumes started parading on the ramps and everyone watched the magic in stunned silence.
There was not single gold jewellery in sight. Everything that they had imagined in gold smiled back at them in silver, and all of it was beautified by the women who wore it. They were common women. The normal women with realistic beauty, none of them spoiled by the tenacious and vicious clutch of artificial personas called Makeup. Most of the stones embedded on the jewellery were mere glass replicas, but there were some exquisite pieces that had the complement of the real gems. The beautiful women walked the ramp with confidence draping themselves only with their clothes, smile and silver. All around it was silver, be it chuttis, neckwear, jhumkas or vankis. People cheered for this freshness and the press raved about its beauty and brilliance.
Akshara was thrust with mikes and questions and she faced them all with a serene smile.
“Ms.Akshara”, the reporters asked, “Why did you go for silver instead of gold jewellery?”
This was the question she had waited for, and she grabbed the mike, held it steady and launched into her answer.
“My father here struggled to get my sister married because there was too much demand for gold from the groom side. The women, who paraded here, were all victims of such mishaps. The demand for more and more jewellery, made them settle for something less than what they actually deserved. I wanted to make a statement to the world through this jewellery show and here is my statement”
She made her stance a bit more rigid. “It’s a message to all my fellow women out there. We are not tomatoes, brought from the market to be weighed with the value and amount of gold we bring. We bring education, knowledge, traits to make money, skill to run a family and ability to make a sustainable future as gifts for our men. It is a mutual consent, and that is the way it should remain. If gold can reproduce let them all marry 60 Kgs of gold and lead a family. Jewellery is something that we wear for our satisfaction and comforts and it can never be made a standard scale to measure our values. Wear Iron, plastic or clay and you would still look beautiful. Make it a point to your parents, boyfriends, would be s and whoever it may be s. We are a 100 times more worth than our weight in platinum and we will wear Gold, silver, Iron or plastic anything that we want to wear.” She raised her two fingers in the style of peace among the jubilant crowd and shouted,
“Now that World, Is My Silver Statement”
10th November 2014
He looked at his daughter, who entered his house, after five long years. She entered with all the dignity of a brave woman, who has seen horrible things in life and fought it with every ounce of strength. All because of the one decision he made for her. He looked into her eyes which were full of questions and a drop of unshed tear. He turned back unable to face the question that filled her eyes.
The single question that was blurred by her tears.
“Why?” he asked himself and closed his eyes, trying to rewind the 5 years that had passed. His eyes riveted back to the day, where her daughter stood livid, with her hands clutching her cheek, tears running down her cheek.
“Do you understand the situation Menaka?”
“What is the situation Appa?” she had asked, her voice trembling with her tears.
“We are not rich Menaka. To get away with a love marriage. What will our relations talk about us?”
“The relations who we meet only during the marriages and other purposeless functions? “
His daughter’s question had angered him.
“How dare you question your father’s judgement?”
“You don’t want to believe your daughter’s judgement Appa?” she had asked, her composure never slipping. “Santhosh is a software engineer from a well-educated family and he is in US now. More than those mundane qualifications, he loves me. He loves me with all heart and he is such a good man. What more do you want Appa?” She had asked in her usual silent tone.
“His Caste? What about his Caste? He does not belong to our caste. How the hell am I supposed to tell that to people? How would the people of our caste agree to that?”
“You are ready to think about the 10,000 strange faces that belong to our caste, but you cannot consider the heart of your own daughter Appa?”
His daughter’s question had sent him to the heights of reckless rage and he had slapped her again.
“I got Rs. 20,000 as loan from Shailaja aunty for your studies. She helped us in that situation. Now, she has brought this Groom. How could I say no to her now? You owe her your education. If not for her, you wouldn’t have studied and you wouldn’t have got this job. It’s only right that you marry this Doctor Groom she recommends for you.”
“I paid her back double the amount with interest Appa. She helped me for my education. Does that mean she owns me?”Menaka’s voice had raised a notch.
“We are middle class people. People who gives us money, owns us you idiot girl. We have to be afraid of all of us around.” He had shouted in desperation.
His daughter stood looking at him, with defiance in her eyes. He had applied his last weapon, with desperation.
“If you really had any love on me, If you really have any respect towards your father, If you don’t want to see him hanging in a photo with a garland around him , you’ll marry this doctor. “
That had been his final statement five years back, and even back then, his daughter had stood with the same expression of betrayal and question.
Her silent question, echoed around him and haunted him.
Five years back, his daughter had beauty, liveliness and sweetness. Today she was just a shadow, her body bearing the marks of ill-usage, her heart bearing scars of the past. Her father looked at the regal, broken woman walking into his house.
He searched reasons for her daughter’s plight. Society? The curse called Middle Class? The ever judging crew of relations? Unnecessary fear of meaningless talks? Or his own lack of bravery? He could ask only questions, because there were no answers that could solve this equation. The miscalculated and reversed equation, called his daughter’s life.