Tuesday, September 29, 2009

White Tigress

Punjab may be the land of milk and honey but it is not the land of airports. So I found myself in a shatabdi (no complaints, excellent train!), on the way to Ludhiana, a couple of days ago.

The seat next to me is occupied by a 'typical Punjaban'. Pink suit, pink lipstick, pink cheeks, armful of red and white bangles. Add a sarson ka khet and a tall glass of lassi and I'd be on the set of a Yashraj film...

Of course there is no lassi; instead I make tea from an Indian Railways thermos. And just as I attempt to get some 'work' done (hurrah for railways - modem bhi chalega!), she strikes up a conversation.

I am a bit surprised to learn that "Pretty in Pink" - let me call her Ruby henceforth - is actually an MTech in Computer Science.

"I was teaching at ABCD (well known engineering college in Punjab) but then I got married. Now I am looking for a job again..."

Ruby's husband is in the software industry and has just joined a company in Mohali. Arranged marriage. In the general spirit of chattiness I ask impolite Indian questions: "How did you decide.. how did you know he was the *one*?"

And she replies,"I left it to my 'payerents'. I said you know what's best for me... you decide".

In fact, Ruby did not even 'meet' her husband separately before marriage. Ladka ladki ne ek doosre ko sirf dekha, with a hundred relatives hovering around with chai and barfis. As is the Great Indian Dekhne ka Tradition.

But don't boys and girls usually meet separately a couple of times these days... before making a final decision?

Yes, but in her mind, it was a 'foregone' conclusion.

They did speak about a few things. Like she would work after marriage - as a lecturer.

"Actually my husband is less qualified than me. He is only MCA, that too distance. But he was in a good job, good family, earning well... "

Isliye pitaji ko theek laga.

It's tough to find a job right now as the semester has started, she added. Perhaps she should also look for something in industry.

"No, my father told me long back ki beta you join academic line. If both husband and wife are in industry then there will be no time for family..."

Of course she has no plans of having an 'issue' for next 2 years. "I want to enjoy married life", she adds.

Great, but she does not seem too happy to me.. just one month after. I wonder, if marriage has been this compromise, a duty to be fulfilled, what happens if one fine day she meets someone who makes her heart flutter?

"You mean someone who I can really connect with."


"No it can't happen."

Why not?

"Because I cannot think that way.. feel that way. I am not an expressive girl..."

Us tarah se kabhi kisi ladke ko dekha nahin... Aur agar kisi ne dekha to I won't give him a chance to get close to me.

Fresh from reading the White Tiger, the words Rooster Coop flash in my mind. There is one coop which keeps the have nots in their places. And another which does much the same for women - The 'Hen Coop'.

You bring up girls in this society *knowing* and *believing* it is dangerous to dare. And of course, to dream.

Abort your unborn ambitions at the altar of family. Ensure the heart is like banjar zameen where 'love' cannot and will not take root! In return we offer izzat, motherhood, lots of jewellery and the tag of Mrs to use on Indian Airlines...

The Hen Coop is what keeps the Great Indian Family going, even as the rest of the world hurtles towards chaos. Not that 'all is well' behind the closed doors of a courtyard where one SUV, one Honda city and one Alto (best for going to sabzi mandi!) stand proudly.

And then Ruby blurts,"Actually if I had met my husband properly before marriage.. I would not have married him!"

Bhai kyun?

"The other day he told me.. he had many girlfriends before marriage.. he was working in IT and BPO you know wahan to yeh sab hota hi hai."

Better before marriage, than after marriage, no? I venture.

Her eyes flash,"What guarantee is there that he will not be tempted after marriage also? So many families, so many, I have seen like that...!"

And suddenly I get a glimpse of a completely different person.

"I told him clearly one thing. If you ever have any hanky panky with anyone.. that day, that moment I will walk out and NEVER come back."

Under the pink salwar suit, I see stripes.

I see a 'white tigress'.


  1. Well said Rashmi.. The more people become conscious of it, I think there will be more people who will be trying to come out of it.. Very touching post..

  2. your typical post. you are trying to connect two unrelated stories.
    in one case (the while tiger one), only have-nots are compromising life and that too a large extent.

    in another case (Panjabi), both of them are compromising. do you think that boy is also happy marrying a girl who does not love him. they both are aware that once they pass right age they will neither get love nor spouse. boy might have girlfriends but he too did not get love, thats why he married her.
    in this case, both of them do not know what they want and hence this situation.

  3. Observing personality traits of people comes naturally to all authors??

  4. Three Cheers for that babe!!

    Actually, i have always maintained that the pain of being a Punjaban can only be understood from the inside.

    To all other cultures, you are this aggressive, loud woman who can do everything alone and is not scared of anything. To your father, brothers and husband, you have to be this docile, head low, mouth shut woman who accepts their decisions quietly without saying a word.

    How does one live both these worlds?

  5. Anonymous3:33 PM

    The connect isn't lucid enough. Sorry Rashmi!!

  6. Well nice post...
    Though u tend to bring is some judgemental aspect but any way nice post....
    Though I am not a person who is even in a position to say or comment anything but all i know in my few years of lifetime is ....
    life can be much simpler at times than taking a breath and life can be much more comfusing at times than trying to breath underwater (without any mask or oxygen tank)

    but thing is u r both scenario are quite facinating......i can only say u make me wonder for a long long time

  7. Rashmi,

    Nice attempt to connect but falls short a long way.

    "I have never met a person who does as spoken"

    There are so many parameters and variables for a choice taken, conscious and sub-conscious.

    "The White Tiger" is the "Slumdog millionaire" in a book, I could not connect to both.

    This Girl has already compromised with 'Past' of her husband, so it will be tough for her to walk out if she has a kid to take care of. See the 'Issue'.

    Anyways, Keep posting. Always good to read.

  8. You dont need to be in an arranged marriage to realize that there is no connect or that you could have been happier. you can go right ahead and do what you want and feel empty - with not just your relationships..with your career, with life.

  9. Agreed!!

    Just one question in my mind.How is Mtech in Computer Science a better qualification than MCA??
    Both belongs to the same category..same number of years...even professional.
    The only difference I see is its not belonging to the super cool engineering band.
    Aint it a hypocricy in your blog??

  10. Why do we always seek a failed love ( marriage)? Why don't we go for successful love - ie. separation?

  11. guess what, rashmi - if you just plonked a dish in front of the indian male without asking his preference, he will be livid. "poochna to tha"! but women like mrs ruby are supposed to quietly accept what life dishes out to them. for a nation that proudly claims Eternal Love Stories as its heritage, surprisingly few ever know what it means.

  12. Beautifully written post... but the fact is even the stripes will fade after a few years of matrimony so if he does try some 'hanky panky' then the same parents and family and brothers will ask her to 'please adjust and sacrifice' for the sake of the 'issues' and family's position is the society.

  13. Lovely...I can see her live.. in our GREAT indian society, trains especially shatabdi and rajdhani are the real source of indian culture..

    A few days back while coming Bombay from Delhi, even I met with a fellow passenger who was well established, was earning well but had a very poor and cheap mentality smtimes we call that as 'male chauvinism'.. will write someday about that..

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  15. Good to observe that even though pink colours had you almost biased, they didn't mesmerize you enough to see a white tigress.

    Can we not be more open minded next time like you have been in your book when comparing Reliance vs Subhiksha? We can start by thinking that almost everyone is White Tigress, and it is only our inability to not being able to see the stripes in between pinks & saffrons...

  16. Hello rashmi...I read this post "white tigress". ANd this is not the story few gals. this the story of many girls around us. It does matter that you are illitrate or literate. BUt somewhere you family wants to maintain their status. And you also become the part of that because you don't wanna hurt your parents. And even don't wanna regret whole life of any mistake.

  17. Hmm, yes, sadly gender differentials in Indian society are very partial to men.
    Well written post. Enjoyable read.

  18. It happens in india..and tat too in Punjab suppose to be a rich state but yet conservative..where gals marry in order to save their father izzat, and i am sure this boy may have hanky panky around the corner , but this pinky or white tigress wont do any thing...its only in the words not in the actions...

  19. Regarding that comment, that some day one guy will come and create flutter in her heart.....i would say that if such a guy exists(they do) then he would create flutter in somebody else's heart as well...which leads me to conclude that other girls will be attracted to him as well. You see some sort of potential difference existing here driving people towards/away from each other. And that person causing flutter will eventually chose someone who will make him feel the same way...meaning equilibrium in place. So if u see it this way, both of them should be happy that they are together because a lot of factors balance in and they are together, but sadly this is just a point of view, things do not work out like this in real world and people look at other couples who are these flutter types and try to compare themselves with them while forgetting other factors that decided the situation they are in.

  20. nice post, very interesting one..
    i'll be waiting to read another of your artickle..


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