Published on October 12th, 20151
My father loves me for my money
This woman’s father has been abusive, biased towards her older brother and refuses to let her get married. A personal account.
As told to Reyna Mathur
Every child loves his parents. I grew up loving my mother and father, listening to their every instruction, sometimes getting admonished when I got into scrapes. But I have been told that I was an unusually obedient child, in sharp contrast to my naughty older brother.
But very early in life, I began to see signs of biased behaviour of my parents towards my brother and I. As the older child, he got all the new things – school books, school bag, toys, pens and pencils, art materials, the list goes on. While I always contended with hand-me-downs. I remember being envious of my classmates even at a very young age: their new books and shiny compass boxes would make me really jealous. I remember hating the tattered school textbooks and stationery passed on to me after my brother was done with them. “You can use your brother’s things, why should we waste more money?” my parents would say. Any time I asked for anything new, I got it after much pleading and only after my parents were certain that my brother didn’t already have it.
But they would quickly give in when he demanded anything. I realised early on that they viewed buying new things for me as a “waste of money”.
As I grew up, I began to see that my father was more biased towards me than my mother was. My grades were never good enough, I was “a burden” on him, I was too dull witted to ever make a good marriage, I was nothing compared to my smart, A-Grade student brother. It later turned out that my mother’s second pregnancy had been an accident, and that my parents had been bitterly disappointed that I had been born a girl. I was crushed when I learnt this. It was an important lesson in how parents can view their own children – being a girl, my parents were worried about the future expenses of marrying me off. Though that prospect was years away, my father kept reminding me of it whenever he got the chance. When I was selecting courses for college, I was told to apply for Arts because that was a cheaper option. I had wanted to pursue the Commerce stream, but my father said that he would have to enrol me for tuition classes that were very expensive.
Let me put it this way: I am not a good-looking woman. I have always been slightly overweight, I suffer from bad skin and I had persistent digestive problems as a child. To this day, my father totals up the money spent on my treatment. There was a point when my Std 7 class teacher sent me to the school psychologist because she realised I was battling low self esteem. The sessions helped a little, but my father refused to come meet the doctor.
I channeled my energies into writing and dramatics. In college, I was part of a drama group and we even toured other cities once as part of our college’s theatre initiative for youth. After college, I chanced upon a job for a teacher at a private school. I have been a teacher for almost 10 years now. The work is fulfilling and I make very good money from private tuitions.
That should have been my happy ending – but it was not. My parents’ laadla son now works in Gurgaon and parts with only a tiny amount of his salary. Whereas I, still living with my parents, have taken up the burden of my home. Ever since I started earning, my father’s attitude towards me changed. He became more friendly, more open to discussing the house problems. He is very direct when it comes to asking for money, and I don’t grudge him. He has come up from a very humble background so money is important to him. He is also retired so he is worried about his financial future.
But he refuses to let me marry. Every time there is a marriage proposal, he fobs off the match with some silly excuse. “The boy is too dark…he is settled abroad, we don’t want you to go far away…the boy is not earning too much money…” At first I was perplexed. Most of these matches were perfectly good ones, they were prospects suggested by friends and relatives. So when I pestered my mother for an explanation, she finally burst out, “What will happen to us when you get married?”
She regretted opening her mouth the moment she said the words. My father didn’t say anything but the fact that he would not meet my eyes was proof enough of what my mother said. My parents expect me to be single because they are worried about their future. God knows they cannot depend on their son. I have assured them both that I will continue supporting the house wherever I may be, but my father says, “What if your husband does not allow it?”
After years of relegating second status to me, why are they still forcing me to stay single? I am currently in a relationship but my father refuses to let me get married, saying “You cannot have a love marriage, I will not allow it.”
It is a matter of minutes for me to step out of the house forever and get settled, but then I worry: What about my parents once I leave the house? Will it make me a bad daughter?
‘Grey Space’ is a weekly column on senior citizen issues. If you have an anecdote or legal information, or anything you feel is useful to senior citizens, caregives and the society at large, feel free to get it published in this space. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Themetrognome.in and we will publish your account.
(Picture courtesy www.katherinebdobson.com. Image is used for representational purpose only)