The invisible burden
Each morning that I wake up to starts with a coffee,
followed by a session with the wardrobe and shoe rack, then finally, as I hit my door, I am always too busy to notice anything else but wrongly parked buses, honking cars, and crazy motorcycle drivers trying to find a window to escape the terrifying traffic lying ahead. However, today
something else caught my eye.
With all the nuisance and noise wandering around like a hurricane, I suddenly saw two tiny palms holding a couple of rosebuds slipping through a curtain of dust and reaching out to me.
"Golaper Moto Apu, Ekta Golap Niben?" asked a voice piercing though the sounds of screeching brakes, roaring horns, and belling rickshaws. It was a tiny little girl wearing a blue floral printed frock which had pink cherry blossoms with brown and white leaves. It seems the dress has been overused and was torn around the waist belts and sleeve ends.
Her hair reminded me of jute ropes or threads, reddened by the extreme heat and had split ends. Her skinny limbs and a waist that I could hold with my fingers were crying out for food. When I asked what her name was she said, "I am Kona."
A leap further into a conversation with her, I got to know that Kona has two other sisters and an elder brother. They all live with their parents at Rayer Chor, Bosila. Her father and brother send her in every day to the bus stop along with her two sisters to sell flowers, water bottles, and other petty things. When I asked what her father did, she replied, "He and my brother drops us off at different points in the city and in the evening they pick us up from work. That's all he does. We work all day and he takes our money in the evening."
With a bit more into the conversation, Kona said how her father always says, "Girls are Lokkhi. They should be the ones who bring in money into the house. A boy would never earn as much as Kona does as no one will sympathise with him. On the other hand, Kona is like the golden duck."
When I asked what Kona liked, she said that she liked to draw and sing. She also had done some schooling. However, she eventually had to drop out as her family said that singing and drawing are very bad things and if she is seen singing or drawing again they will send her off to her aunt's house.
For me, Kona seemed to be a part of a big cycle, a cycle that oppresses systematically. When Kona mentioned how she had always seen her sisters doing the same thing and when she was asked to follow in her footsteps she did not even bother to think otherwise, it seemed how her father had trapped them in a hegemonic mindset.
They barely revolted. Forget revolting, I was shocked to see how Kona did not even know she had the right to her choice.
I see her often every now and then, running around with her mini rose bucket. While she looks at me and smiles, I feel really helpless. I feel as if even I am being suppressed along with Kona as she is ignorant and I cannot alert her either. This is just the way things are for her and any newness is far beyond acceptance from her side as well as the society's side.
With these thoughts drooling over my mind, one fine evening while the moon was rejoicing its light with the night birds, my session with the moon rays was disturbed with a phone call.
It was my friend Sheila but somehow she did not seem to be the same Sheila I had known for the last seven years. Generally, when she called me, her opening phrase of the conversation would be, "Are you still alive? I thought you have passed away as you are not online since the last three hours." However, today she began with, "Ashley," followed by a long pause.
I could sense something was wrong but I did not feel like asking as I knew forcing her to share would only make things worse. After a while of casual words, she finally said that she was getting married.
I congratulated her not knowing why she was so low while breaking this news to me. She said, "It's not a marriage Ash, it's more like a business deal where everyone is looking out for their losses and profits and paying for it with my life."
After hearing all this I could not restrain myself from asking why she was so unhappy. After exerting a bit of a pressure she finally stopped resisting and shared what her issue was. Sheila is a doctor and her fiancé was heir to a very established business empire which his father had built. However, he was not half as educated as Sheila.
The worse thing that was bothering Sheila was how the to-be groom wanted Sheila to lose her weight as he did not find her attractive. "I have a wardrobe-sized waist he said," said Sheila while she broke into tears. He also said if Sheila is unable to tone her body into his desired shape he will not marry her.
The most shocking part was unveiled as Sheila said her parents were not against it. In fact, her mother said, "You are a very lucky girl to have found someone like him. You should do your best so that he can have you at your best shape. You must also inform your hospital authorities about leaving your job as soon as you get married. Leave the clinic as well. With so much wealth, your future in-laws would not want their daughter-in-law to go out for a couple of thousands."
After hearing her story only one question crossed my mind, "Is there really any difference between Sheila and Kona? Is there any difference between Sheila, Kona and me?"