In a society where marriage is seen as the ultimate gate-pass to a better life, some women – either for love, or simply better circumstances – run away from home to find serenity elsewhere. When push comes to shove, they muster the courage to break the chains of customs, choosing to take a stand for the life they may want to build. However, elopement is also a result of depriving these women of their right to get married to the person they desire or love. It happens in almost every socio-economic class. Some get away with it by being disowned and some get killed in the name of honor.
We reached out to a family who has been through the incident of elopement, thrice. We never pay attention to the other side of the story; mostly the family plays the victim and the girl receives all the bashing for infidelity
Ayesha and Chanda belong to a family where the father (Muhammad Arshad) is a very strict and egotistical man.
The fact that they could go to college was no small feat. He has 5 daughters – three of them accepted their arranged marriages which turned out be toxic and they have continued to suffer in their individual life.
Speaking to MangoBaaz about her life with her father, here’s what Chanda shared:
“My father never trusted us. He would always slut-shame us for going out without a veil. Our household was utterly patriarchal. My father controlled every aspect of our life. I always wanted to get married to escape this hell of a house. I loved my parents of course, but I hated the way they treated me.”
“During this harsh time, I fell in love with a guy named Rashid, he used to have a shop on the corner of my street. Soon someone told my family that I am having a love affair. My parents bashed the hell out of me, both physically and verbally. They started looking for a potential match for marriage so that they can get rid of me. But I didn’t want to end up as my sisters who were married.”
She shared that she tried everything in her capacity to convince them but her father’s ego was more important than her happiness. That’s when she decided to burn the bridges, despite all the consequences.
“I went to college and never returned. I eloped with Rashid and we got married in court. My father, with the help of male-dominated state machinery, hounded us for many days. After a few months, they came to know where I lived. My father came and asked me to come home with him, when I refused, he said something I will never forget;
‘You are dead for me and I will assume that you were never born. I should have killed you as soon as you came out of your mother’s womb.’
Chanda’s love marriage didn’t work out eventually. Rashid turned out to be an abusive husband. He would beat her because he never trusted her.
Rashid would say, “You betrayed your parents, you can betray me as well and elope with someone else”.
Chanda chose this life but she cannot even repent, because she has no one to go to. Her parents have abandoned her, so has her husband. It’s needless to mention that the person who sees elopement as the last refuge is actually the victim.
Despite all this, Chanda’s father didn’t learn his lesson. Ayesha, who is his youngest daughter, was also interested in someone and wanted to marry him but again, her father’s ego was too fragile.
This time he used another tool: emotional blackmailing. He threw his turban in Ayesha’s feet and begged her to save his entitled ass, unlike Chanda. He convinced her to get married to one of his friend’s sons. Ayesha accepted it, but it didn’t turn out to be successful. Her husband turned out to be a psychopath.
Right after one week, Ayesha was divorced and back to her father’s door. They were planning to find another guy for her to marry, but Ayesha took the reins in her hands. She fed her parents daal chawal inclusive of sleeping pills and eloped with the guy she was in love with.
Arshad disowned both of his daughters because they had brought ‘disgrace’ upon the family.
But circumstances got worse when one of his daughters, Nighat, became a widow. Her husband died in a car accident. Arshad wanted her to live as a widow for the rest of her life, but she was barely 32 years old and she didn’t just want to live like that. She knew her father made bad decisions for the rest of her sisters. She got a marriage proposal but her father refused. Nighat eloped as well.
This narrative is an example of how women are fighting against patriarchy and people like Arshad are not rare.
We can easily find them in our own families or social circles as well. Incidents of elopement are rising due to the awareness about women rights, increased education in women, and globalization. Moreover, there is a silver lining, if it can be believed. According to Punjab Police statistics report (2011-2017), a decline has been observed in the honor killing incidents.
Is it a sin to choose your life partner independent of your family’s choice? Isn’t it a basic human right?
Our traditionalist society coerces the idea of arranged marriage in the name of family values and culture. A gaggle of traditionalists would always ask this question: “Why would a girl abandon her parents for a guy who she met a few months/years ago?” Perhaps we need to stop pointing fingers at the girl and direct our question to the parents instead.
Cover image via Rida Shah Photography