How to (NOT) Get a Good Husband as a 9-Year Old

Posted on April 16, 2012

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Growing up in a Gujarati Jain-Saraswat Brahmin household, my sister and I were exposed to a minimal amount of traditions and festivals. While this practice led us to become broadminded and less religion-governed, it used to be a great source of distress when we were younger.

Living in Gujarat, a lot of my classmates were Gujarati. And I went to a girls convent school. Most of my friends were Gujarati girls. My earliest memory of feeling out-of-place is owing to the fact that my mother did not make/let me observe the Gauri Vrat. I was in class 3, all of 9-years, and I felt completely cheated by my mother, who insisted (without explaining why) that I did not need to do this vrat.

So, all my little Gujju girlfriends would do this fast during June/July – or Ashadh according to the Hindu calendar. This vrat/fast began on the 11th day of Ashadh. A week before this, these young (like 6,7,8,9 years old) girls would sow the seeds of 7 different plants called Jwara. These are supposed to represent the Goddess Parvati. The entire vrat is observed for 5 days for 5 years. During this time, these little girls eat just once a day and the food they eat should be without salt.

So this one week would always be torture for me. My friends would bring dry fruits to school as a snack to eat during the 10.30AM break. And they would want to share their dry fruits with me, but the rule was I couldn’t dip my hand into their boxes, or their fast would be considered broken. So they would leave little bits for me on a paper, on the desk. My lunch would be drab. Sandwich! I remember feeling like a pariah for years during this Gauri Vrat season. I would beg my mother to at least give me dry fruits for snacks so that I could pretend that I was one of them. I don’t remember her relenting very often though.

At the end of the 5-days, there would be a big party, where all these girls would congregate and stay up the whole night. They would watch movies, play games, etc. to avoid falling asleep. I don’t exactly know the significance of this jagran (all-night party). All I know is I was not invited as I did not do the vrat. On the morning of the sixth day, the girls would bathe and then take their little Jwara saplings and immerse them in the river. If the sixth day was a weekday, they would get to stay at home, while I would be in school doing Math!

You may ask, “Pray, what is the purpose of this vrat?” The answer is simple. They do all this TO GET A GOOD HUSBAND. I now realize why my mother didn’t think it necessary for my sister and me to do this vrat. I understand that my mother belonged to the Jain religion, which doesn’t have this tradition. But I also think that she understood why the whole thing was very preposterous.

The sad part is, out of the whole group of friends I had during those times, a few of them have been through painful divorces. One of them is  gay. I admit, that a few of them ARE married to great guys, but I am going to go ahead and say, that it was less because of the vrat and more because they are wonderful women.

You should take a look at this video. The little girl in this video is saying, “…I have been doing this vrat for the last 2 years. During this vrat, we worship the Goddess Parvati. By doing this vrat, I will be blessed with a good husband, and that’s why I am observing it.” She cannot be more than 7-years old. She is being prepared to be a wife, even before she is old enough to understand what it means to be a wife. Before she understands what it means to be a child, she has internalized that her destiny is going to be in the hand of a man. I can see how this totally screws up the psyche of young girls. When they get married, they would be more inclined to think that they are lucky to be married to their husbands, even if the husbands are scumbags.

All I can say is, I cannot thank my mother enough for letting me dream…at 7, I wanted to become a veterinarian. I think l am still getting used to the fact that I AM a wife. Ha!

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