A Poem Of An Arranged Marriage At Thirteen
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A Poem—And A Generational Story—Of An Arranged Marriage At Thirteen: What I Wish I Could Say

A generational story of the hidden voices in an arranged marriage.

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1949- గొప్ప అమ్మమ్మ "Goppa Am'mam'ma"

A girl.

Dancing feet gambol from room to room;

a pace so magnificent and exuberant- the product of youth.

Slender ankles, adorned with tinkling bells, warble brightly;

they weave the tale of a bijou sprite careening headfirst into her future.


Her entire world the breadth of a walnut:

a strand of trees, a lowing cow, a family of thronging children.

A world so small in the eyes of the Earth, and yet, so large in the eyes of a child.


She twirls, and jumps, and leap, and flies.

A grin, broad and sweet, with a little gap between her teeth.

A divine naivety.


The music splinters in a silent weep.

So soon, too soon.

Her story is barely written, her song yet unsung.


- The market is opened, the bidding begins, and the transaction is made and-


Her capering feet, they stutter and scrape, delicate bells give way to leaden, twisted fetter.


-Nowhere to spring and take wing-


So she walks; seven steps, seven lifetimes.

Her body signed by Agni's sacred flame and,

a garland of flowers placed like a noose around her neck.

A wife.

This story is the story of my great- grandmother who was married at the age of thirteen in a rural part of India. At thirteen, a child, she was unable to make decisions for herself and her self- sovereignty was obliterated. For her, her young age, the poverty of her family, and the societal traditions in place, all served as barriers to her free will and choice and yet, her story is not unique.

For countless centuries, the practice of arranged marriage has commodified women and they have been used as bartering tokens by the male figures in their lives, with little to no say in the direction their futures will take. This system utilizes oppression in the name of family, duty, and tradition and is still very much alive and well. So alive and well, in fact, that both my grandmother and mother also had arranged marriages.

But to these women, I would like to say thank you. Through them, this cycle shackled to us by tradition has been consciously broken, emboldening me with the power of choice and endowing me with both autonomy and the deliciously ever-changing path that is my own future.

This generational story is not just the voice of one individual, but rather the silent voice of a generation that has birthed the loud cry of mine; a loud, raucous, bellow I intend to be heard.

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