“You will never have a good future. In a few days, we will hear about how your body was found in some well or river. Your lover will kill you after he sells off all your jewellery.”
This is the vitriol that a young woman has been getting on social networking sites, all because she stood up for herself and refused to stay in a marriage she had never consented to.
We’re in the eighth month of 2017, the world is coming up with driverless cars, and who knows, we may soon be able to teleport from one part of the world to the other. But no amount of progress, it seems, seeps down to how we treat women in our society. The latest victim of this mindset is Geeta* who was forced to marry a man in Kerala’s Guruvayoor.
Right after the wedding, she found the courage to walk away from the forced marriage, and get back together with her boyfriend - and this act of standing up for herself has earned her the ire of social media.
On Sunday, Geeta* got married to Suresh* at Guruvayoor temple, against her wishes. But moments after the tying of the thaali, Geeta reportedly saw her boyfriend in the crowd. Immediately, she whispered in Suresh’s ear that she was going to leave him for her boyfriend, and walked away from the mandapam.
From that moment onwards, chaos reigned.
Suresh’s family, angered at the insult, even went on to assault Geeta’s relatives. Geeta’s family tried to strike a compromise, but the young woman refused to give up on what she wanted anymore.
The wedding party then moved to the police station, where Geeta declared that she was not interested in staying married to Suresh, and that she was forced into the wedding by her relatives.
That’s when things got even weirder: Suresh’s family decided to demand a ‘compensation’ of Rs 15 lakh from the bride’s family - and this ‘deal’ was negotiated inside the police station. They finally settled on an amount of Rs 8 lakh to let the issue rest. Geeta also returned the thaali, and a mobile phone and a sari given to her by Suresh.
"The young woman told us that her parents had forced her into the wedding. We brought them to the police station as a fight broke out between the families. They agreed on a compensation and left," a policeman told TNM.
But the issue didn’t rest there. Starting Monday morning, a photo of Geeta started doing the rounds on WhatsApp and Facebook, with armchair analysts discussing whether what Geeta did was right.
While the photos of the wedding showed how distressed the bride looked, the comments did not care for her at all.
“You will never have a good future. In a few days, we will hear about how your body was found in some well or river. Your lover will kill you after he sells off all your jewellery,” said one commenter.
“Did you not think about your parents, who brought you up for all these years?” asked another. “Their curse will fall on you and your children. You won’t have a peaceful death,” they added.
The great ‘escape’
By Tuesday morning, some new pictures started doing the rounds on these same networks. Suresh shared photos on his family group of him cutting a cake, with the message, “Celebrating the escape from a danger like Geeta.”
Screenshots of these photos and his message are now being forwarded on WhatsApp and Facebook, with comments cheering and congratulating Suresh.
“We would like to give you a huge treat, you are the real luckiest man, you escaped from a bad girl,” said one comment.
“Such girls will not even care about eloping with a lover after years of marriage. At least it happened earlier, you enjoy,” said another.
However, very few reactions in social media have discussed what the girl’s situation would have been.
“Look at her face, that itself proves that she was ready to burst out crying. She might not have got a chance earlier to escape, or to go out of her house. This might have been her only chance to go, and have a life with the one she loved,” one person said.
Many commenters also questioned Geeta for walking out after the tying of the thaali and not before. "If she had the courage to walk out after the wedding, why couldn't she have said no earlier?" one person asked.
To this, others pointed out that it isn't possible to judge her situation without knowing exactly what she was up against - perhaps a public place like the Guruvayur temple was the safest option for her to assert herself.
Besides, while we cannot fully understand either the bride's position or the groom's disappointment, the fact that social media commenters decided to shame Geeta and egg Suresh on is problematic, as some commenters have pointed out.
"Geeta said she and the young man were classmates. Since there was a confrontation between the two families, we quickly tried for a compromise. Her parents took her home after the altercation," a police officer told TNM.