Five bricks of gold in dowry?

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This inspiring anecdote offers a pragmatic definition of modernity, shows that progressive thinking has always been in progression, and gives a glimpse of the character displayed by women in previous generations.

To go forward, sometimes it pays to turn back time and bring back some stories and lessons from the past. | Pixabay

Long ago, when infanticide was in vogue; long before anyone thought of empowerment and only subjugation was understood; long before education, equality, and economic independence became buzzwords, when only deprivation, illiteracy and inequality were the norm; there lived a woman far ahead of her times. An only child, married to a feudal lord, she dutifully bore five children — five daughters, the oldest and youngest 20 years apart.

It was unheard of in those ‘good old days’ to move from your husband’s house to a house in the city to educate your girls; but that’s what she did. She moved to a bigger city so that the girls not only received formal education but also learned to live independently. The girls went to schools near their home, and thereafter to colleges of their choice — one went to CMC, Ludhiana, another went to Home Science College, Chandigarh, and another went to Sports College, Kurukshetra (undivided Punjab), and the other two to Government College for Women, Ludhiana.

The woman never skimped on her responsibility of bringing up five daughters all by herself, in an era of discrimination. She donned various roles for the girls, from best friend to counselor; the girls never felt the need for any friend from outside. After school, the mother would play with them that one can imagine with them and also gave them reasonable responsibilities to learn from. It was a happy little world, where the father provided for the basic necessities of life and the mother everything else. If she ever felt sad about not having a son, nobody had any idea.

Years sped by, and it was time to find a suitable match for the daughters. One fine evening, the youngest daughter, perplexed by the idea of dowry and its repercussions on their family, approached the mother with her incessant questions. Finally, when all else failed to satisfy the daughter, the mother disclosed a secret: “I have five bricks of gold — one for each of you.” The youngest one was reassured for she was now beginning to understand the meaning and importance of wealth. In due course, all the daughters were married.

 

In this grand narrative of womanhood, I suspect that our mothers and grandmothers have the greater stories to tell.

 

The woman was now old and ailing, but happy and contented at the way things had worked out. One evening the youngest came to visit her. She seemed a little uneasy. When the woman asked her, the youngest one reminded her of the promised brick. The old woman looked at her with a twinkle in her eye and said, “I thought you must have figured it out by now.” The daughter, the most pampered one, did not answer and her expression revealed that she had not understood.

The woman chuckled, “You are my bricks of gold, darling. My daughters are no less than their weight in gold. Beautiful, educated, balanced, forward-looking, responsible, astute and open-minded. Only when a woman of the family has these qualities can a family think of and plan progress. When I gave my daughters to five families, I gave them pure gold.” The daughter was left speechless and could do nothing but embrace her mother tightly.

That old woman was my grandmother-in-law (my husband’s nani). Every time I think of her wisdom and sagacity I cannot but wonder whether our generation will ever be able to understand the strength of character possessed by those women who preceded us; if we will be able to teach our daughters that modernity of thought and vicissitudes of culture can go hand in hand, if our education will ever become the true symbol of empowerment. In this grand narrative of womanhood, I suspect our mothers and grandmothers have the greater stories to tell.

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