Decoding One ‘Lafda’ (Lafda = Affair)
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“I have to compromise, doc. It’s a sin in our culture to have a disease”.
Shama, an engineer from a higher socio-economic and cultural background, whose community followed strict religious dictums, was a dashing lady who would otherwise make most men kneel, and was arguing about her desire to commit suicide.
She was 27 years old, too old to marry according to the customs in her community.
“Looking at my picture, they come running (indeed, there was no exaggeration!). Talking to me, they start drooling and promising. The moment I speak of my illness, they run away.” She was straightforward in stating how most young men behave with beautiful girls.
“If I marry out of our community, they will never talk to me again, I will be outcast. I have a younger sister and her marriage will suffer if I do anything that the community does not approve of. If I marry in my own community, then I must compromise and marry someone uneducated, disabled or compromise somewhere as I don’t want to hide my disease ”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
She had suffered from epilepsy, but was completely fit now. In fact, she was smarter than many men her age.
“Having a relationship is also considered a crime in our family. There are restrictions on everything I do: a prison made by my own parents. At my age, I have dreams of love, of romance and of manly affection. Even to think of these, I am scared in front of my family”.
I talked to her semi-educated parents. Her mother was a tad bit forgiving, she said she understood the plight of her daughter, but her hands were tied by the “community”. Shama’s father said there were no other options. “She can stay unmarried at my home till I am alive, but I cannot allow her to marry out of our caste” he was firm. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I offered them that once she likes a good boy from her community, I can counsel him and reassure that her epilepsy will not affect their married life, her child bearing etc. But most of the ‘Good Boys’ only wanted ‘Best Looking Subdued Rich Girls’ without any problems, they did not care about education, nature or even love. Most gutless quoted their parents as the reason for refusal.
When one of them came over to discuss with his parents, the family asked many questions about her ability to have children, to have physical relations (of course they used the words ‘phyamilee liphe’) with their prince and whether I can guarantee that she will have no fits now onwards. The answers for all these questions are uncertain for anyone, no one in the world can ‘guarantee’ anything about all these questions. The same questions about their son could also have uncertain answers. But a doctor has a role of a healer here, he cannot insult the proposed match. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The family refused her,mannerlessly. In many communities, the “to be married / eligible bachelors” and their families behave worse than pigs when some girl’s family approaches them with proposals. “As a wife, they want an innocent healthy princess to show to the society , but she must turn into a porn star in their personal bed” Shama didn’t mince her words.
It was but natural that she was left with two options: hurt and sacrifice her parents or sacrifice her own life. Like most Indian daughters, she was trying to avoid hurting her parents.
About her community she said something most men won’t dare to hear. Then she added: “Wearing a shirt-pant and speaking accented English are the only two evolutions in our community over last two centuries. Women have been refused permission to even evolve” . © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
There is a sad and severe dearth of counsellors for the higher intelligence class in India. Fortunately, I knew of a good one, who held the patient’s morale high till she decided to quit the slavery world, and married a boy she fell in love with. They are, needless to say, happily settled, again needless to say, outside India where they can just be ‘Indians’.
Shama was at least courageous and frank to voice the truth in her heart. There are many many youth: boys and especially girls who cannot utter the grief and anger caused by their socio-cultural and community-based old-age rules which keep them chained to a forced celibacy.
Cultural, religious and social norms have no answers for those with even trivial medical conditions who cannot marry, who do not want to slave-marry, and those who are shamefully ‘dropped’ after marriage once they develop some illness.
Our society which dribbles at both ends while watching the celebrity affairs labels even the true love among two unmarried grown-ups as a “Lafda”, a term that’s almost always saturated with a hidden jealousy of its user. The word ‘relationship’ for a respectable and beautiful bond between a man and a woman is yet to be invented in the Indian law, culture, society and minds. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Extremely rarely we meet people who talk respectfully about two other souls who are in love, but not married.
So many women’s right forums, NGOs and platforms, but no one seems to take up the issue of “forced marriages within the community” of educated men and women who want to marry outside their community. No one seems to even recognise the physical-mental need of love among young patients who age away without ever knowing love, romance or having sex!
One of my relatives who was planning a remarriage at an age of 60, as his wife had passed away, was blasted by his own family. His answer was calm and simple; “Only those who have stayed away from their spouse for two years without touching him / her are eligible to advise me. Those who sleep with their spouse everyday must shut up, they will never know my situation”.
He was so true! In a country with one of the highest porn-viewer numbers, there also are probably highest advisors of carnal control under various banners. The phrase “Roti, Kapda aur Makkan” (Bread, Clothes and House) , is incomplete, as love is essential for most common people, but who will take the community flak for voicing it?
The answers are complicated, and many will shut up, criticise, give religious or ideal-impractical examples, turn away or advise something they wouldn’t have ever done themselves. Anything but acceptance. Other people’s illness and suffering is nobody’s genuine concern.
THAT is the disease I am talking about.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Please feel free to share, dedicated to the many who become suicidal as they cannot fight against their own.