I want women to wipe their tears and laugh on their wedding day. I want them to laugh like Deepika Padukone, says Taslima Nasreen.
The photographs of Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh laughing on their wedding day make me tremendously happy. In the Indian subcontinent, we rarely get to see the bride laugh. For this, Deepika Padukone must be celebrated. The popular cultural motif of Indian weddings is one where the bride leaves her parental home in tears.
Since my childhood, I have been witnessing brides looking sad and demure, but the grooms looking happy. No matter how rich, beautiful, educated or political she is, the image of a tearful bride is central to how we imagine weddings in this part of the world. Literature, movies and music reinforce this motif.
Brides are sad because they are moving to uncertainty. This also has to do with the fact that in South Asia, most marriages are unfortunately arranged by families. And almost all men, irrespective of their religion, demand or expect dowry. Though Muslim men need to pay ‘mehr’ or money to the bride, it is common to ask her family for dowry. We know how women are tortured, even killed by their in-laws if they are not capable of paying dowry.
Misogynistic patriarchal culture is so deep-rooted in South Asia that it is almost impossible to expect people to treat women as equal human beings.
As a part of Bengali marriage rituals, the groom had to tell his mother while going to a bride’s house that ‘I am going to bring a slave for you’. Bengali men may not say it nowadays, but many still hold on to that tradition – they marry so that their wives can serve them and their parents and siblings. Men do not go to live with his in-laws, women also should not go to live with her in-laws. Women do not need to be submissive only because society wants them to be submissive. A bride moves to a groom’s house, and she is forced to adapt with a bunch of strangers and accept everyone as her closest relatives and start cooking and doing all the household chores. She is expected to prioritise them over her own family. They are just unpaid homemakers.
No wonder then that grooms look happier at weddings – they get dowry money, as well as a slave for the house, a free cook, a free cleaning lady, a free caretaker, a free gardener, a free nurse, a sex slave, and a free child-bearing machine. If they are beaten, most women still accept it as their fate. That is what makes a ‘good woman’.
The truth is that marriage cannot make her life secure. It is financial independence that makes her secure. Patriarchy has been telling women to be dependent on fathers when young, on husbands when grown up, on sons when old.
Deepika Padukone is an independent woman. Deepika and Ranveer are in love. They are not victims of arranged marriage. Deepika doesn’t need to be dependent on her father or husband. She is neither a slave of her husband nor a slave of her in-laws. She has her own house.
By releasing photographs of herself laughing heartily on her wedding day, Deepika Padukone has broken an age-old, entrenched cultural trope in the Indian subcontinent – that of the tearful bride. After her, Priyanka Chopra may do the same. I want women to wipe their tears and laugh on their wedding day. I want them to laugh like Deepika Padukone.
I want them to say NO to arranged marriages, NO to financial dependency, NO to dowry, NO to domestic violence, NO to marital rape, NO to patriarchy, NO to misogyny, NO to traditional joint families, NO to giving up her own surnames. I want women to become active and articulate sexual beings and not be subservient to their husbands’ desires.
I hope Deepika would not turn into Deepika Singh. I hope she would remain Deepika Padukone – just the way Ranveer would remain Ranveer Singh.
Taslima Nasreen is a celebrated author and commentator.