Deep in my heart I have buried a secret, one that I sealed shut hoping that it will never resurface. But the truth always comes out right? Well here is my truth: At 18, I was married to a STRANGER.
Since I was 15, Baba always received marriage proposals. Every wedding we went to someone would call and ask if he was interested in getting his daughter married. But I was still his little girl and he would always laugh it off and say I was too little.
Some say turning 18 is an important milestone for a girl – the ‘coming of age.’ I guess, my father believed this to be true, because not long after my 18th birthday I found myself sitting in my living room dressed like a piñata.
The first proposal that came, I was still a rebel and able to speak my mind. My mother came into my room and casually put a saree on my bed and instructed that I wear it - a potential suitor was coming to see me. It was the first I had heard of it. But I was still an innocent adolescent, I ranted and raved and mum simply explained how I was growing up and this was dad’s idea, so I just had to go with it, it was that simple.
I was furious, but wrapped this cloth around me because the reality was, I felt like I had no choice and I was scared of denying my father. As I entered the living room full of strangers, I was still reeling at what I was being made to do and subtly acted out. I unconventionally plonked myself down on the sofa and glared at the strangers looking at me. Now I laugh at my attitude, I remember my father introducing me as “This is my loving daughter” – all I could do was glare, I was not in the mood to be showing any love at all! I sat silently and only gave one worded answers, but my father clearly was unaware of my glares and dirty looks because as I left he excitedly asked me, “Well, what do you think?” I was a rebel and simply answered “NO WAY”. He was disappointed, but I didn’t care, until the next proposal.
The Reluctant Bride
A month passed and for some reason, I couldn’t get my fathers disappointed face out of my mind. It was a difficult month; my father and I were both wounded from the previous events and barely spoke to each other. I was hurt, maybe more so because I thought Baba didn’t see me as his little girl anymore. This realisation had a bigger impact on me, my anger had turned into guilt because this was the first time that I had ever left him down. So, when the next proposal came, I didn't even look at the man - I just said “He’s alright”. A month later I found wedding invitations on the coffee table with my name proudly embossed on the front. It was official - I was getting married. It was that simple.
The Wedding Day
I remember being in tears the night before the wedding, telling mum I couldn't do it, but she was a classic Bengali woman back then and all she said was "honour and shame". I wish I had the courage to speak to my father, because even though he was a difficult man, he was still my Baba, and if he had seen my pain he would have called it off for my sake. But disappointing my father, was not an option, so I hid my pain and went through the biggest day of my life – dejected.
I woke up on my wedding day feeling like I had just died. I look back and remember that little girl who did not take her eyes off the ground and clenched onto her best friend’s hand throughout the entire day. I remember wishing it were a nightmare, I remember praying for this day to end. I even remember hoping that this man sat beside me would die.
It was a big wedding, but it was clear that many people, even my closest relatives came to the wedding to find out why my father was getting me married – they probably thought he was getting rid of me because I had gone off the rails or worse- was pregnant. But they were met with a surprise, because there was only one memory that everyone took away, a daughter begging her father:
"Please don't let me go!”
How strange that it was only in the car, when I actually properly looked at this man’s face and suddenly it dawned on me – this man was my husband. This man that I was not attracted to. That night could not have been any longer, as I got into my pajamas, my legs were shaking at the thought of sharing a bed with a stranger. I got into bed praying he would come nowhere near me – when he entered the room I let out a silent sigh of relief, as he said he was tired. I spent most of that night messaging my best friend, who was concerned for my safety. We even made a pact – If I call her she will come and rescue me.
All I did was cry. I just wanted to come home and be me again. And the reality was that I was not ready for marriage, everything I did or said was wrong – to go from wearing joggers around the house to be told to dress like a bride and adorn myself everyday was a psychological shock to the system.
Very quickly, the ‘Dads’ stopped talking over commotion about my further education and lack of knowledge on “how to be a wife/daughter in law”. There were differences from the get go - they were more traditional and we weren’t. It was a recipe for disaster and when this argument broke out, I was back home and again my dad called the shots, this time I was getting divorced.