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October 29, 2016

Why Should I Give My Daughter Away?

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

An unconventional take on a traditional ritual…

This thought came unbidden into my mind half-way through the preparations for my daughter’s December nuptials.  As we – the groom’s mother and I – were discussing the ceremonies, I burst out, rather forcefully for a bride’s mother (I had slipped unconsciously into traditional role-play and thinking), and said, “I am not going to do kanyadaan!” My husband looked at me a bit askance, but realising where I was coming from held his counsel. The groom’s mother – a very, very understanding person – joked about ‘giving’ her son to me. And we left it at that, concluding with a great deal of sentiment that we had each gained a son and a daughter respectively. This conversation willy-nilly hurtled me back in time to my own wedding. We had a registered one – simply because at that time, my father refused to give me away!

I am not denying that kanyadaan is a significant, integral part of Hindu weddings – I have seen the ritual being performed in almost all of my own family nuptials. According to ancient Vedic diktats, the bride is regarded as Goddess Lakshmi and the groom as Lord Vishnu on the wedding day. The ritual revolves around the brides’ parents giving away their most precious possession – the daughter – to the groom. This daan (donation) is traditionally said to bring fortune and prosperity to the family.

Some may call me and mine ‘rebels’, but honestly, I feel very strongly that my daughter is not a thing to be given away. She is not my possession. (If I did think of her as one, she would definitely sue me!) And, in this context, I recall with great clarity what Khalil Gibran said on the subject of children:

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

So, I would like to say that just because a daughter is getting married, her home is still her home. (I have already been informed by the bride that I cannot invade or re-do her room in any way; it has to remain the way it is when she steps out.)

And, something that I am confident of – knowing the way she is. A strongest pillar of support. For as another saying goes, a son is a son till he gets himself a wife, a daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life.

The gen-next of the Saxena family have warned me soundly and on many occasions – not to turn into a raging waterfall as she begins to take the pheras. And to control my spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings at the bidaai…. And I know for sure that the six of them (if I count the bride) will be keeping a stern eye on me.

But, knowing that my eyes turned moist at the first sight of the invitation (which I got on WhatsApp), when the copies reached my hands, and at a mere glimpse of her lehenga material, I am going to plead guilty in advance – of turning into a water body. I am sure to morph into a Reema Lagoo-like mom (Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!)

So what if I am not giving my daughter away!

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