MOTHER’S BUNDLE OF STRAWS‎ > ‎B-2‎ > ‎B-3‎ > ‎


My mother’s main dream now was to quickly arrange the marriage of her fifteen year old daughter who had passed her eighth standard examination. She did not want to delay this any more. “What will the people say?” She was worried that her daughter was getting too old for marriage in Khatri families of their 'status' and standing. Her worry was about what others may say and not what she felt was right for the daughter or the family.

Offers for our only sister, Phoolan, were coming from the parents of bridegrooms of all types. Fed up with ups and downs of life with a businessman, my mother was in favour of a son-in-law who worked for the government or even the private sector but with a steady monthly salary. When the proposals came, negotiations usually involved trying to find the truth as both sides usually exaggerated their worth, the quantity of gold they had, and how well they treated their daughters and daughters-in-law. When discussing one proposal, my mother told us, “The boy gets Rs. 40 per month as a clerk in Indian Railways but his extra income is Rs. 80 per month.” The 'extra' income’ referred to the 'bribes' paid to the railway Babus. After protracted negotiations, my mother settled for a typist employed by a foreign company on a monthly salary of 50 rupees a month but with no 'extra income’. A tall and handsome Khanna young man was her choice. She got the son-in-law of her choice - she was very proud of him as he had a towering and distinguished personality. He was always immaculately dressed in western suits and looked impressive. He looks like an Englishman, my mother would boast.

Mother went out of the way to please the boy as well as his family and proudly announced that among other items in the dowry she was giving her daughter the latest imported English bicycle! The announcement made a good impression among the relatives. A brand new imported cycle in a dowry had the same status symbol as a car has today. The dowry included 11 or 21 gaudy suits for the girl, two stitched suits for the young man, several household goods including a radio set and a number of gold ornaments. These were all put on display for two days for all and sundry to come and admire.

Having married Phoolan off, my mother heaved a sigh of relief and declared to the Mohalla ladies, “I have no more worries now as the rest of my boys are my 'gems'. They can be encashed at any time. Those who know the value of 'gems' will come running to offer their daughters to the Seth clan.” However, my mother's worries were not over.

My sister soon found out that her in-laws had substituted a false horoscope of the bridegroom to seek our acceptance of the match. She found her husband’s original horoscope had a Saturn effect which was known to have an impact in shortening the life of either husband or wife. This knowledge plunged the entire family into grief for many months. We lived in the expectation of something terrible happening any day.1

1 In reality, my brother-in-law died at the age of 84 and my sister expired about a decade later. They had the usual normal life with its ups and downs. They had three sons and three daughters who are all doing extremely well.

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