Dispossesion and the daughter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is a piece of Creative non-fiction, which was submitted to the Family Narrative Project. It is based on a true episodes when the author was under life threat. Judges submitted favourable feedback on this piece.


“You were dispossessed,” I said to my aunt across a lunch table on the lawns during a winter meeting at our favorite colonial club, as we shared an Italian pizza.

I had completed a case in a Delhi District Court recently. The lawyers were on strike and I found my way through the Court libraries of Bare Acts, to present my own case in a legible system as far as was possible from a complainant in person. The beautiful Lady Justice, threw the file back on me much to my dismay, and ordered a free counsel from State Legal Services, stating in her Order, that I was a complainant fearing dispossession.

In a daze, with very little support and guidance I moved my matter further, connecting with all possible friends and networks from whom I could seek advice. There was a disturbance in the air, and life was in transition beyond control. The State, the family, the neighborhood, the police, almost everyone seemed to have turned predator. Even the world seemed to move with daggers drawn. In an earlier meeting at a conference with the Law Minister, I heard him say that women in India were only safe in courts. I followed all advice, yet my matter could not move.

I located a connection through a school friend in the High Court. Entering it was impressive as I maneuvered my car through the highly advanced technical parking system of car automated elevators. The supremacy and skill of court loomed ahead of me in its physical apparatus. My meeting was brief. I was followed in by others, and the consulting lawyer threw in a quick tip to me to save my own residence before seeking my legal rights to inheritance as daughter in succession. I concealed my surprise and adapted to the new style of work. It seemed that some preparation had been made to circumvent women from meeting with lawyers much further.

The new Indian government of 2015, brought in a reign of terror to me, a reign of predefined strategies that manifested as a game of roulette. A dense maze surrounded the game and many watched to witness the end. As though I was someone marked to the galley of lion’s after the game. As someone with skills of perception and interception, I witnessed the show, reported and waited.
Perhaps it is not known that Indian laws do not provide or arrange for women at work. The laws of Hindu family secure women financially through marriage or through parent. In recent times social factors had oriented the Indian women’s role towards the workforce where economic independence was possible, yet nothing was protected by law.
There was emotional bondage with family, yet in my personal and professional life work was more important. My family experienced financial and health problems mid age, and urged me away. Circumstances did not favor financial dependence on parents. My brother had the same debate. That I should explore a career that would sustain me for life. Brothers being rascals on the roulette table is typical for sisters to manage. I ignored the snide jibes at my career in China, as a writer and as a spa therapist. My family, evidently, was more ready to sustain racehorses and golf lifelong, than me.

The watch on women must have existed as a deep black mark that Indian men carried on their brow. No family can accept financial independence in a daughter. The bad spell casted towards disaster for her is worse. An agreement most foul, that has repeated itself many times in history, was written again. My entire family, even relatives from maternal uncles and aunts, had maintained a written consensus to dispossess me of my self-acquired flat, my work, my bank, my integrity and more.
The matter moved towards the Supreme Law and Court of Delhi, where I was directed to by an attorney cousin in Punjab. The supporting attorney of law also read the suit of dispossession that was filed on me by my immediate family fifteen years after my father had passed away. He said the case looked too serious and immediately arranged a complaint to the Police Commissioner, for certified security. The case before me reflected a threat of political, social, economic nature. It came with a big bang and daily threats for many months.

My discussion with my Aunt, who was my beloved late father’s sister, continued. I told her she had been moved violently from her habitat, security, wealth, inheritance and home for life, for no cause. She was a victim of Partition, having lost her father from cancer at the age of tender four, and having left her immense landed, titled wealth behind in Pakistan. She came into India with nothing, but a compromise agreement and insurance papers for a small home in Delhi , in the woods, along with others leaving Pakistan. Her brother, my father, was eight years old. There was no income, society, comfort or provision for the granddaughter of the richest Nawab in Pakistan. This grandfather was titled in return for his colossal financial backing to the British during the Second World War. I often wondered if their wealth was taken by force. It is unlikely that any Indian could have been left with wealth before the Crown during their hours of need in War.

She again repeated a story of her past. She only remembered the night in the train beneath the bunks with her mother and brother, to hide and travel to India somehow alive. The open doors of the train at the stations, and the dead bodies stacked in heaps outside, dimmed the recall of a paradise lost.

Of late, the compensated property they built over hard and labored years, again, seemed to be the cause for another fight and need for dispossession through warring business groups, directed from the changing UK Crown to sustain development and satellite wars for a new era. In school history class I was taught that the British had a ‘Divide and Rule’ policy. There was an urban politick of controls that caused partitions, weakened communities and created gaps or entry points through which the British could control our native land. Perhaps this was the precursor of ‘Dispossession,’ which caused the deep neurosis in Indian women and sense of social insecurity. The challenge for Indian women always was to find solace in religion, sacred systems, priests, temples and purgatory rituals. Recent times and data of the Supreme Courts managed to alter the status.

The neurosis of India in ancient times was Sati, or burning of the widow. Society, and particularly family, had no place for women without means, marriage, security, home or husbands’ maintenance. Girls were associated with issues that cut into personal space, food, livelihood and means of the family in torturous circumstances. The girl child was a liability from birth, increasing hardship of the parents. Sacred laws taught men in families that the dharma required them simply to marry the daughter well.
The Crown managed effective measures to convert dangerous practices and save them from evil Hindu traditions. Colonial clubs, sports, places of worship, schools and systems were actively

arranged to locate support and cover for lone women, daughters and widows. Dispossession could be averted in the social system if the channels of support could be located. In the system those in need also were located. Social security in the form of male friends, working colleagues, teachers, priests, charity centers, ashrams could be contacted. Foul murders and beatings could be avoided in the degenerate culture of the Hindu home.

Dispossession for the daughter no longer remained a painful and neglected issue. The police issued me a certificate of Internal Security when I reported threat, as I found the situation and national stability altered. The police after granting certificate, could be sued in case they failed to protect me, and have to face financial penalties. Yet the scramble for ownership of India, its lands, deeds, titles, markets and most of all its men, caused a return of the evil creed that ‘ burnt the bride.’ Courts were brought to a halt in moving women’s issues in the new environment where nations signed deals to grab the best of Indian men. This repositioned the men to become power heads, and reverse the laws of the land which had persevered to restore the lost dignity of the weaker gender.

The crisis of Dispossession and the daughter had returned to stay. The final war that it needed to be was the dispossessed daughter versus the world. This war could produce better outcomes than arranging the girl child to prostitution and trafficking touts for self-sustained livelihood and income that had become a mandate. Courts have been dislocated in the game in which rough edges are trimmed and operations under cover prevail. Systems have become weak. Politics and tactics of the foreign past showed tragic new beginnings.

Submitted: October 13, 2018

© Copyright 2020 Malini Chaudhri. All rights reserved.

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