Bride has a bindi applied
Shutterstock/Michael Zysman

Ma's secret: Married at 14

By Kiran Rai Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - 15:03
Richa always knew that there was something amiss about her parents’ marriage. But she wasn’t emotionally ready for her mother’s revelation.

Richa (name changed) is a 25-year old development sector professional.

I grew up in a small quiet household – just my parents, two elder siblings and me. It was a carefree uncomplicated childhood. There were hardly ever any fights or disagreements at our home. My family was my own small piece of heaven and so it remained throughout.

My mother was the most beautiful woman in the world for me. Although, every kid must feel like that about their mother, but Ma, she was really very beautiful. Curly hair, sharp features, dusky complexion and a permanent glow in her face, even after a long tiring day.

They never laughed together

Baba was quite the contrast, in looks as well as manners – an introvert and an extremely quiet person.

I had never seen my parents fight or even have a minor disagreement. Perhaps this was down to the fact that Baba never really discussed anything with Ma. Nor did Ma ever object to any of his decisions. Both managed a serene daily existence.

As I grew up, Ma and Baba’s relationship began to bother me a bit, especially as I compared them to my friend Rajni’s parents. Unlike them, my parents never went out to spend ‘quality’ time. They never laughed together nor did they ever have a lover’s tiff.

At your age, I was already married.

Ma loved listening to old romantic songs on the radio. She was also fond of watching movies - Rajesh Khanna and Jeetendra were her favourite. She also loved dressing up like Rekha and Sridevi. But Baba had no interest in movies, nor did he ever join in any of her simple pleasures. Ma also never seemed to expect anything from Baba.

I gradually began to realize that my parents were like chalk and cheese. They lived in the same house but they were never really together. One day, when I was in ninth class in school, Ma - who was slightly annoyed with me and my sister over some issue - said to us, ‘At your age, I was already married and had had my first child!’

This rare outburst from my mother really disturbed me. How was Ma married at my age? I was still at school and not even legally an adult! But I could never muster enough courage to ask Ma because, in our household, we did not discuss ‘futile’ issues. As time passed, my siblings and I moved on in life. I got married – a love marriage with my parent’s approval – and got busy with my career and setting up a new home.

I don't know what love is.

One recent evening, my sister and I had been visiting Ma. Randomly, my sister joked with Ma if she loved Baba or if she was she still hung up on Rajesh Khanna. My sister and I were in splits but Ma did not laugh. She looked serious.

‘I don’t know what love is,’ she said. ‘One day when I was fourteen, I was told that I was to be married the next day. And before long, I had my first child – I had just turned sixteen then. And then the two of you came along in quick succession, and life just carried on with your dad and the three of you. Now, when it comes to love, I really care a lot about your father. And probably he cares about us too. That is why he works hard to make ends meet. Whatever you choose to call this, but from my perspective, we get married, have children and life just rolls on. There is no occasion to fall in love.’

Fewer compromises, more smiles

Ma just went silent after that. My sister and I were shocked. At an age when we just thought about school, play and friends, my parents were married to each other. They were married as children, to strangers, and without their consent. And they spent their whole life with each other – speaking, but never really talking to each other.

What if my parents could have married after attaining a certain level of maturity and with their consent? Would they still spend their entire life without any excitement, constantly stifled and silent? Would their lives be any different? I do not have the answers to these questions, but there would probably have been fewer compromises and many more smiles. However, I am glad that my parents gave us the precious gift of a carefree childhood, informed choice and consent. Perhaps, it also helped Ma and Baba relive some of the moments that were so cruelly stolen from them.

The person in the picture is a model. The story was first published on June 7, 2017. 

Do you know of anyone who was married as a child? Is child marriage still an issue in India? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page. If you have a personal query, please visit our discussion forum.

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