I was cutting vegetables in the kitchen when my daughter came running to me. She looked happy, and she had a paper in her hand. She kept her arm around me and sat in my lap. “Maa, I passed the exam. Now I will go to 6th class.” She said in excitement and handed over her report card to me. It took me nearly 1 minute to just read her school’s name, which was written in bold letters on top of the card.
I used to go to a school in my village in Rajasthan, where I studied till 3rd class. At the age of 11 I got married to a man who was 12 years older them me, and had a kid of half of my age. Before I can understand the meaning of marriage I was pregnant with my first child. By the time I turned 21, I was mother of 3 boys. Though I conceived more than 3 times, once my kid died just after the delivery and other times I suffered miscarriage because of several reasons. Having kids at young age and not getting proper medical care, took toll on my health. I was in my thirties, but I looked much older than that. Eyesight was getting weaker and so was my body. “Maa, I want to have kheer today.” Gudia’s words brought me out of my thoughts. “Sure! I will make sweet-sweet kheer for my Gudia.” I kissed on her forehead.
My oldest son (my step Son) entered the kitchen and said “So Gudia, you passed 5th class right.” Gudia ran in joy, and gave her report card in his hand. He looked at the card and said “Hmmm, now it’s time I should start finding alliance for you.” Gudia looked confused, she came and stood near me. “She is a kid now, what is the hurry for marriage.”I said. My son Rakesh rolled his eyes “She is a kid? At her age you became my mother. Don’t you remember that?”. I held Gudia close to me and said “That was old time, now things are different. Her teacher ji says that girls should not be married before 18 years of age.”. Rakesh drank water and said “That madam is from city, she has no idea how things work in villages. We know what is best for our girl.”. I raised my voice “But in TV also they show that child marriage is illegal.”. Rakesh shouted back “looks like TV is making you very smart. Don’t forget Baba is coming back tomorrow, and if I tell him about your protest, just think what he will do to you.”
He left the kitchen and I asked Gudia to go to her room, I sat there only, lost in my thoughts. My husband does not drink alcohol and abuse me, because he doesn’t need to be out of his senses to do that. He points finger on me for each and everything. I am not supposes to have my own wish or word in this house, I just have to follow what he and his sons decide.
No one gave ear to what I said and they fixed my Gudia’s marriage. Gudia is sad, because she won’t be going to school anymore. And I am so restless; I don’t want to see my girl leading the same life which I lived. I was having sleepless nights, as I was afraid for my daughter’s future. Next morning Gudia’s school teacher came home to see her. She wanted to speak to my husband and make him understand that child marriage is not right, but he didn’t listen to her at all. She asked me, why I am not stopping my family from doing this. Why am I silently seeing my daughter’s life getting ruined? I said nothing and stood there with my head down. Before leaving teacher ji said to me “The person, who silently witnesses the sin, is equally responsible for the outcomes.”
I spent the whole night with my eyes open; Gudia was sleeping by my side. I looked at her innocent face, she had no idea how her own father was busy ruining her future. Tears rolled down from side of my eyes.
Gudia was dressed in her wedding dress and my sons were standing near the main gate with their father, to welcome to groom and his family. Barat came, everyone looked very happy. Ladies were dancing and guests were congratulating my husband for following the tradition and getting her daughter married at a young age. I was standing in a corner and was silently praying to god with my eyes closed. I opened my eyes when I heard the jeep’s sound. Yes, the police was there. They held my husband and scolded him for arranging his minor daughter’s marriage. The senior inspector asked “Who called and informed us about this marriage, please come forward.” Everyone in the guest was clue less and was looking at each other. I came in front and said “I called you Sir.” My husband yelled at me for calling the police.
Today morning when everyone was busy in the marriage preparations, I dialed the emergency number from the landline and informed them about this marriage. I have seen that number flashing on TV many times before, in different awareness program ads given by government. If I would have been caught calling them, my husband would have killed me. But to me, that time my Gudia’s future was more important than anything else.
Police caught all the males of my family and also the groom’s parents. Some villagers where rolling their eyes on me, for informing the police about this marriage. But I was not feeling guilty, I was relieved. I knew that now I have bigger challenges to face and harsher questions to answer. Still I was happy, because I acted against a bad practice. Someone rightly said “If something irritates us so much, we only need to change it.” And today I became the change, to change my daughter’s future.