When Mother could not conceive again, she grew worried, and sought to assure my father. She said,
‘I remain of child-bearing age and the gods might yet bless us with a son.’
‘You dream, woman, of an age long gone.’
A male child was important to conduct the final rites for the father and carry the family line. A wife who did not produce a son risked having to share her husband with a second wife.
Father was a wealthy man, and he had a ready excuse acceptable to society. Mother grew distraught. But my dear father was an honourable man. There was no second wife to dethrone Mother, or step-mother to ill-treat me. Then, on another day, when discussing my future, he said,
‘My daughter will not master the veena, she will not learn to sing, and she will not dance.’ Not receiving a response, he turned harsh. ‘Do you hear me, woman?’
‘Why do you treat your swaddling daughter so? She needs talents in music and dance to complete her maturity, to keep her future husband entertained, and to gain approval from those whose home she enters as their family light.’
‘My mind is set, woman, and I will not be moved.’
More silence followed, for Father always went quiet when deep in thought. After a long hush, he said,
‘I will betroth her to my friend Masattuvan’s son, the boy Kovalan. We will seal the union in the prescribed manner before esteemed witnesses, with the exchange of promissory trays laden with gold, precious stones, flowers, and auspicious things.’
‘Kovalan is a fine boy,’ said Mother, ‘and at two years the elder, a good match for our Kannagi.’
And so it was, as a wet nurse suckled me, my parents decided my future and fate.
Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018
Song of the Ankle Rings, an adaptation of Silappatikaram
Continued on Friday: Poom-Puhar
You just knew I’d immerse myself in your story didn’t you Eric. Love the history and culture of Southern Asia. The picture at the masthead is a winner too. 🙂
I know that you hold fond memories spent in Southern Asia. I plan to write several novels based on South Indian history.
BTW, when published, I plan to offer free downloads of Song of the Ankle Rings. Look out for it, as I trust you might enjoy the full story.
The blog header picture – took me some time to track down and purchase the rights. I’m using it for my book cover. Glad that you see it as a winner.
All good wishes and thank you for your kind presence,
This is quite interesting to me. My daughter-in-law Rama was born in New Deli where many of her family still live. Her parents were united in an arranged marriage. I got to know her mother well. She was a lovely person and happy in her marriage.
Even in arranged marriages the couple have to agree. Horror stories of parents forcing their children into unwelcome marriages get more than their deserved prominence, I reckon. Media and movies perpetuate these anomalies as normal, as they are so much more dramatic.
Here is a romanticized version of what goes on behind the scenes:
Boy meets girl in the temple or river bank. They fell in love. Boy tells his mother who arranges for a marriage broker. The broker comes up with all the requisite horoscopes and the marriage takes place. Broker gets his commission, boy gets his girl. Parents are happy as their children “heeded” their selection.
In the movies, enter the villain—another suitor, a disgruntled uncle, or a jealous neighbour, or any number of other prospective marriage-spoilers—and the drama starts. LOL.
Among other things, you touched on two prevalent beliefs and practices typical of Asian families: wife must bear a son to carry on the family line and conduct final rites for the father and the pre-arranged marriage by the family. It’s interesting to look back and recall what our pre-decessors were subject to.
Yes, it is somewhat the practice in ancient China too. Interesting how two independent societies came up with similar social norms.
Parental approval and extended families under the same roof. Looks conducive from the outside. But as in all other forms of family structures, each has its own challenges, I reckon.
Merry Christmas 🙂