Double Standards

By Shobha Diwakar   

Basanti, I’ll call her by that name, hailed from a very, very modest middle class family. Her father was by no means a hard working man yet, pulled along his family by whatever he earned out of his political associations. Many a times he had also been locked up because of ulterior motives by the party he leaned to so that times were hard for the family, which consisted of his wife and five children. Three boys and two girls, for whom schooling was a difficult phase of life but with skill and devotion, they finally graduated.

Time flew and the eldest daughter, Basanti was ready for marriage. The problem was where and how to arrange a marriage without a dowry. In India specially, no father can dream of getting his daughter married without first hoarding money for a dowry. The hunt began high and low; everywhere the father turned the talks fizzled out because he could not fulfill the exorbitant demands of the boy’s family until one fine day, ‘dame fortune’ herself knocked not once but thrice at the desperate father’s door.

A long time family friend Gopal happened to visit Bhopal on an official errand. He knew the family well as his father and Basanti’s, had studied together. The topic sprang up about the girl’s marriage and sagaciously a groom was readily made available. It was none other than Gopal’s age old friend Jaggu  who was nominated as a suitable boy for the girl.

It was a few days later that the girl’s family began negotiations through Gopal acting as the mediator. The eve drew close and the proposal arrived. Jaggu was made well prepared from before about the family. There was no question discussed about the dowry because Jaggu himself had some problems. Having lost his mother early and father treated more or less as a nincompoop, the boy decided his own fate.

The girl arrived in full bloom. Decently and modestly dressed, which impressed the boy’s father although he had no choice in the matter. The would-be –groom all of a sudden lost his previous poise and rattled off he had no interest in getting married so this ‘sight- seeing’ should be put to an end. Gopal rushed to the rescue. After much evading the topic Jaggu relented adding, “I want to see the girl walking because she drags one foot. I don’t want to get married to a lame girl.”

Gopal understood. He shrewdly asked the girl to come and sit by Jaggu and have a little talk with him. Obediently the girl got up to fulfill the wish. “Oh, pick up your sari a bit there’s water there. Your hem will get wet,” said Gopal. Unhesitantantly, the girl obeyed and walked ahead. Jaggu took the hint watched the girl walk and finally settled with a yes. The girl was not lame.

Merrily the two parties parted after discussing the date, which happened to suit them tremendously.

“What about the dowry?” The boy’s father asked.

“No, we don’t need any,” said Jaggu. They have nothing to give and I have promised them; we will make all the arrangements.

“What! Exclaimed he frowning but the matter ended there. He had no right to interfere. He was father in name, not in practice. The poor old man had stupidly surrendered all his rights to the young man and now there was no turning back. The tables were turned. Jaggu was the ruling king of the small family and his word was law. Yet, he faced disaster after disaster in his ‘wee’ business as he called it although whatever he earned was slyly tucked elsewhere, without anyone getting the wiser.

Well the marriage drew near. He silently cried over his brother Rajju’s shoulders. Rajju was a govt. employee and had a regular income, moreover had recently married into a well- settled family. He had a dowry and so Jaggu, as usual laid an emotional trap. “What will I do?” He whimpered. “I have no money how much can you give me? Rajju solemnly stood by his side, “Don’t worry, I will provide everything, don’t get tensed.”

A crafty grin spread across Jaggu’s face, which Rajju ignored as usual. The wedding day came. There was the familiar hubbub. Relatives gathered to share the showy hospitality. The situation had changed. It was not the girl’s family, receiving the groom’s family as it always happens, but vice versa. Little did Rajju’s wife realize that she was taken for a ride. Too late she became aware of the fact that she had been hoodwinked. Her entire dowry simply disappeared, her furniture, her jewelry, her household items, in fact everything her father had lovingly bestowed upon her had vanished.

When she arrived at the marriage ceremony, she found her complete dowry displayed for the social eyes. “Wah, wah, what lovely stuff!’ People inspected and stated much to the relief of the girl’s family. On seeing the bride the exclamations were no less.”What jewelry, simply beautiful.” Rajju’s wife was dumbstruck at the public reactions and even though she itched to blurt out the truth, she silently sealed her lips.

Jaggu soon turned out to be a very successful businessman yet, never stopped to blackmail Rajju. Every month it was either his shop that was robbed or he ran short of cash for household purchases. Now there was an extra mouth to feed. Rajju not only faithfully obliged with a grand check, but  by pledging his FD’s for his ‘honest’ brother who never stopped swindling him even though over the years Rajju had to take care of his own increasing family.  The farsighted Jaggu kept prospering and kept looting while Rajju continued to live in deception and ignoring those who endeavored to warn him of Jaggu’s expanding business and that he was blindly ignoring his own family to gratify a cheat. Mostly the advice acted no less than pouring oil on troubled waters. The more Rajju was advised the more adamant he became in the hope that one day Jaggu would help his children to settle down in the empire he was building. Rajju forgot Jaggu himself was blessed with half a dozen kids and that he would finally be settling his own children and not Rajju’s.

The two had, by now settled comfortably in life although Rajju struggled later on to settle his children…  Jaggu distanced himself. It so happened that occasionally Jaggu entertained Rajju at home for dinner or lunch, but which Rajju did not enjoy so he was promised Tiffin, which never arrived until sundown. That day no lunch or dinner was ordered to be cooked so Rajju had to do without a proper meal.

The next day Rajju called Jaggu and gave him a piece of his mind for making a fool of him, albeit the fooling biz had never stopped. Surprisingly the blame was at once laid on Rajju’s child, Vicky who happened to be there for the so- called lunch party. The answer was quick to come, “Your son said you got lunch ready at home and so there was no need for the Tiffin so I did not send it.”

On way home Rajju’s son called, “Their food ran short I am bringing packed lunch from restaurant.” Obviously, the answer was “Don’t bring anything.”

The same eve they met at a wedding. Jaggu’s wife called Vicky (Rajju’s son), aside and said, “You see everything finished so I could not pack the Tiffin. I told your father you had said not to send anything because your lunch was already over. Keep this to yourself. Don’t make an issue out of it.”

Rajju later realized that anything that went against Jaggu or his family soon became an issue if it affected any of them or their family. They always seemed to have an upper hand over all life’s issues, which gave them no chance to spill it into Rajju’s system. In fact, the word issue soon became so much an obsession that Rajju’s children  got entangled in it for better or worse because Basanti made it a point to assert to Rajju’s children that “No family could survive if every little incident became or was converted into an issue.

Double standards?

About the Author: Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. Dr Diwakar  servers on the Advisory Board of www.writerslifeline.ca. 

 

 

One Comment

  1. There are many such leeches & parasites who have no scruples whatsoever. They save & hoard their own earnings & fleece their own brother/ sister and even parents. They are so very selfish that they think only about themselves & their family & no one else. They are staunch believers of emotional blackmailing. They are expert actors!

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