Abhilasha is 18 years old. She is one of the oldest “kids” we interact with at the skatepark. Abhilasha hardly skateboards but once in a while she is hanging out with us watching what is going on at the park. And she loves it. She and her two younger sister aren’t really allowed to come because this “is not what girls are supposed to do!” This is what their mother says.
The family also runs a homestay – and through the homestay we got to know Abhilasha’s people better. We learnt that Abhilasha has fallen in love with the sewing machine she got from Gurneet (he visited Janwaar once) and that she started to stich and make dresses. She showed us various samples of our tiger logo she had stiched. Trish Bygott, a friend from Australia and very well-known embroidery artist had sent us samples how to do the tiger right. So Abhilasha followed her advise and she did well. When I was in Europe I bought her better needles, thread and materials – and she was so happy and immediately started to stich new things. She is really passionate about her work. She even makes her own dresses – showing a beautiful sense for colours and style.
So we thought we aks her if she wants to come with Deepa and Priyanka when we take them to Australia by the end of the year. Abhilasha immediately said yes. The idea was that she would stay with Trish and learn even better stitching and sewing. We were all up to it and really excited. Trish and her family were flying high and started to make plans …
But then reality set in and forced us to realize what the daily life of the young females face in the area we work in.
Mannan and I went to Abhilasha’s parents to ask for permission to take her to Australia.
And what we experienced was pure patriarchal ancient village culture. The father and eldest brother of Abhilasha are in final negotiations with her future husband’s family. She is going to get married early next year and neither her father nor her elder brother will allow her to go. Her brother said: ” I won’t send a girl who is going to get married abroad!” The future husband won’t take her any more. The family also told us that the husband’s family doesn’t want to let Abhilasha go. “For what reason?” they asked. The guys family is considered a good family, because they have four cars and two good rooms – Abhilasha’s mother told us. Abhilasha herself has no say in this – she is simply the “object” the men surrounding her negotiate about. She doesn’t even know her future family! And she doesn’t even know if she will be allowed to take her sewing machine. Her life is determined by the guys surrounding her.
I even cannot say if Abhilasha is happy to get married or not.
I really don’t know.
What I can say – is that she wants to go to Australia.
And that she wants to sew and stich.
Especially after she had received a beautiful invitation letter from Trish and her family.
This was a tough experience for me.
And currently it looks as if Abhilasha’s passion finds an undeserved end.
We are not sure how to move on.
Should we continue to talk … ?
Should we talk to the husband’s family?
Or shall we simply stop and take it as a reality.
I really don’t know.
I was never so close to such narrow minded family structures and decisions.
It’s hard to accept and NOT to fight …
Why shouldn’t Abhilasha have the chance to get better in stiching and sewing?
Does this make her a bad wife?
Why isn’t she entitled to live her own life?
Or at least follow her passion?
It’s a long way to go … just think about that 6-700 million Indian people live in surroundings like this!