The Girl with Almond Eyes 29

Last week my mother-in-law and I went for an impromptu “picnic”. This wasn’t a British picnic, we didn’t bring sandwiches, find a patch of grass, sit down on a blanket and drink lemonade. This was a Nagpurian picnic, which I have come to realise is a little trip out of the city. I am always ready for a chance to get out of the city so we travelled about 40 km to a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh (Ganpati Bappa), Adasa.

Asada was absolutely beautiful with its peaceful incense infused atmosphere. As the sun started to dip below the horizon, standing outside the mountainside temple we could see for miles, a huge blanket of rural Maharashtra under an orange and pink sky.

gorgeous sky india

A sunset in Nagpur, a photo I took last year

To our surprise, our impromptu picnic to a Lord Ganesh temple coincided with a festival celebrating the God himself, so the temple was full of worshippers. Don’t you just love coincidences like that? Most of the women were dressed in a style associated with North India, their pallu (loose end of the saree) pulled over their heads and heavy jewellery balancing on their brow. I absolutely love this style and it’s so different from the way Maharashtrian women dress so we guessed this festival must originate from the North.

A girl caught my eye, she looked about the same age as my youngest sister, Sophie. She had large, dark almond shaped eyes and round cheeks, I smiled at how adorable she was, my smile faded I realised something was different. She was wearing a navy blue embellished saree, the pleats were neat and the pallu perfectly placed over her head, but she was shuffling uncomfortably towards the temple. It was so strange to see a young girl, who looked to me between twelve and fourteen years old, wearing a saree.

The idol inside this temple was the biggest I’ve ever seen, the priest had to climb the twelve foot tall statue of the elephant headed God to place the garlands across his neck. This idol of Lord Ganesh had been created from a huge piece of carved rock painted bright orange, it was a spectacular sight.

As we left the temple and made our way back to the car, the girl with the almond eyes caught my eye again. I noticed she was trailing behind an elderly couple and a tall man with deep acne scars, her almond eyes to the ground, trying not to trip over the neat pleats she had been dressed in. Then I noticed the small mangalsutra around her neck and the faded mehendi on her hands. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach and my mother-in-law looked at me, also noticing the mangalsutra, as shocked as I was.

That night I could not get that innocent face out of my mind, I still can’t. Yes, she may have looked much younger than she is but I cannot forget the way she was struggling to walk in her saree and those child like almond eyes, bringing tears to my own eyes. 

About Lauren Mokasdar

Lauren fell in love on the internet, took a one way flight from England, got married & started a new life & bicultural family in India. She writes about finding happiness & balance between two very different worlds, when her baby takes a nap.

29 thoughts on “The Girl with Almond Eyes

  • divya

    Child marriage :'( or even if its not, its a forced marriage by the looks of it. This is so heart breaking, it saddens me that despite being illegal this practice continues.. it’s like being implemented by Hindu extremists who are holding on the impractical parts of Indian culture. This is an ancient practice that originates from 1000’s of year ago and 1000’s of years ago society was dramatically different(in terms of ideals and lifestyle) to what it is today….furthermore the most important pre-requiste to all these practices(like wearing sindoor and doing house wife duties) was that the husband deeply loves and respecs his wife. These marriage rituals were a result of his love. This is however completely over-looked and instead of loving his wife the husband loathes her.. he often abuses her all her life and makes her his maid…
    What do you think are the factors contributing to the existence of these practices Lauren?
    When it comes to child marriage I think its a combination of holding on to incorrectly implemented practices in the name of ‘culture’ (although you are hardly a cultured person if you are giving your daughter away for child marriage) and another huge demon, poverty. Many families are so poor they are forced to marry their daughters off as they cannot afford to look after them. Often the mother of these children has come as a result of child marriage as well and she’s been abused so that’s why she has so many children. Sigh its like a never ending cycle of abuse 🙁
    I feel the best way to combat this is by education, these girls in the village really need to be empowered by education. I want to help out with this in any way I can ! But for now I will pray to Ganesh to keep this girl safe….

    • arijit bose

      Come to west bengal and visit malda ,murshidabad, nadiya .you will find muslim child brides numbering in tens of thousands there getting married with grooms much elder than them.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Divya,
      After living in India for two years, this was the first time I had seen such a thing. I knew about it and the efforts to reduce such practices. It’s so heartbreaking when you consider the possibilities of her life and girls like her.
      I feel so many people around the world carry on traditions just for the sake of traditions, without assessing whether of not the tradition is outdated or wrong. Therefore, I feel you are correct, empowerment through education is the only way!

      I hope and pray that this practice stops soon, I know it is happening in many places in the world, not just India. Sending love xx

    • Ellen

      Sometimes child marriage is done as a way to “protect” the girl. For example, in Gujarat there is a prostitution village. There they held a mass ceremony of child marriages. These marriages would stop the girls from being forced in to prostitution. (I’d share the link but not sure if I’m able to here, you can google “village prostitution Gujarat”)

      Other times it’s done so the girl will be a virgin when she marries. Another reason is poverty. Some families can not afford their girl children. By sending them off to their in laws they are no longer financially responsible for them. Also the price of dowry is less for child brides. (In most areas of India it’s the girl’s family who is responsible for the dowry.)

      Don’t let anyone fool you, it’s not just “village” people paying dowries. It’s the rich, middle class, educated family paying them as well. I was informed that some men expect a foreign woman to pay for their stuff and bring them to their home country because they lose their dowries. While not all believe this, many many do.

      I see a lot of child brides with children of their own here in Gujarat and Rajasthan. One in particular was about 14, with baby in hand, running a store.

  • Bianca Lemos

    In Brazil most of people would think that a girl at her age (by the way you describe her) shouldn’t get married so soon. They would talk over and over about how India is an awful place with an horrible culture. On the other hand here is very normal for men to say that a teenager is sexy and to date girls at this age. Tell me about hypocrisy!
    I had a boyfriend that dated (and had sex with) a twelve year old girl when he was 26 and he said that to me without blinking an eye! People love him, he is always described like the cool guy, super nice with everyone and well educated. He would never be considered the typical abuser, like the ones we usually see on the mugshots. I felt so disgusted that I broke up with him and he told me that I was crazy because “she wanted, I didn’t rape her”.
    I think cases like this are so sad. I’m thankful for the people who think this is outrageous and fight against it. We need to educate people about it.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Oh Bianca, I am so sorry you had to go through that!
      Sadly, there are many cases of paedophillia across the world, you will read about it in any newspaper 🙁
      I’m so sorry again, thank you for sharing such an important point! xx

  • Anshuman Mishra

    She could be a young adult bride with a short height something not very uncommon in India.
    Also could be a young school girl visiting temple on a festive day in a special attire.

  • vkjoshi

    In Eastern UP and Bihar, marriages in villages take place early, but the bride stays with her natal family and entry into husbands home takes place later (‘gauna’).

      • vkjoshi

        This song meaning ‘God! don’t make me a girl in my next birth’ from Umrao Jaan, though in a slightly different story line, shows the plight of girl child in India in the past and even now in poor families, esp. in rural areas, where families are forced to marry girl child early in life. This is really a poignant song in Avadhi Hindi, written by a Muslim (Javed Akhtar), of one such woman (real or fictitious), who became a famous poetess cum courtesan, shunned by her family in the nineteenth century. Played by Aishwarya Rai.

  • Mons Gupta

    Fortunately i didnt see that almond eyes girl but the way u let us know about it got me just stunned.
    Definetely heart breaking 🙁

  • ango

    Child marriage is wrong.. But I also believe that it’s fading.. Few decades back people like us who believe that this particular custom is wrong, didn’t even exist.. But time is changing and fast.. In couple of decades I believe that this will become extinct.. And this change will b brought by girls like almond eyes and we just need to support them

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Ango,
      Let’s hope and pray!! I have also read how the custom is fading thanks to inspiring men and women educating the families who practice this!
      Hoping you are well! 🙂

  • magic

    I have been reading your post for a while and i just saw your instagram photos.I have told you my story with my indian boyfriend once. i wanted to say,since i have a feeling that you are very sensitive,and i can imagine how much you miss your family and friends.I felt how difficult it can be sometimes to live in a total different environment,maybe sometimes feel so lonely,but really how lucky you are to have the chance to live another life in this life.I wish you all the best!!!

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Thank you, Magic.
      Sensitive has it’s plus sides too 🙂
      I am lucky to have found some friends here and we live close by to family so never lonely, but I do miss my family and friends in England a lot. Thank God for modern technology like Skype!
      I hope you are well, thank you so much for reading! Take care 😀 xx

  • vipin

    I spent 10 most memorable years of my life (till year 2000) in Nagpur as I did my high school and MBBS from Nagpur. Never been to Nagpur again. Your blog makes me very nostalgic and I really look forward to read your blogs and revisit nagpur through your experiences.
    Now I am in UK for last 10 yrs and can very well understand ypur state of mind living as an expats. Please keep posting few pics frpm Nagpur

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