YES! A 3 letter word yet with largest impacts. We are always taught to be obedient and say YES to everything our parents ask us to do. There is nothing wrong it as they are the ones who got us into this beautiful world. They are our first teachers. We eat the way they eat, we speak the language they teach us and also we inherit some behavioral traits from them – Good or Bad. As we grow, we step out of our house and are introduced to the little world of neighbors, school, friends, relatives and society around us. We all learn from the same books, same environment and same people around us.
I was born in a small town in the state of Haryana, India. Like everybody else, my brain was also shaped by these external factors. At a very young age, I could see my girlfriends were dropping out of school/College. Few of them dropped out in mid school or never went to a college. Some Fortunate ones made it to college. From the Day I reached puberty, perspective of people around me suddenly changed ONLY towards me. Anyways, I tried to figure out and understand what’s happening but how? There was neither internet during those days or girls who would talk to you openly about anything. I had no other option but to stay lost. The beginning was from refraining me to play with boys anymore. I said YES! I won’t play because I wanted to be an obedient girl. This YES followed me like a ghost everywhere every day. It’s not that they forced me to say YES. But that’s how we are raised to be the Best version of ourselves – Say YES to everything and you are the BEST- Simple. But, is it really as Simple as it sounds. My Soul never agreed with me. I would suppress my soul’s voice every time and just nod my head to YES every time. Well, I did try to gather courage to say NO. I would slip my very low sounded NO under every discussion which was always rewarded back with labels - stubborn and disobedient girl. Well, my environment had the best examples of all the girls who were all saying YES and were so happily living their lives. The only rebels I remembered who said NO to their parents were outcaste by our society, friends and even their families. I wanted to be the BEST Girl and be an example. Eventually, I became the YES Girl.
Days turned into months and years and my Soul kept battling with me internally with that YES. Lastly, I started to listen to my soul and say NO .NO rewarded me with better things in life. Like my graduation, my job and my independence to live miles away from home. But all this had one Rule – Do not Fall in Love with somebody that does not belongs to our caste. Else – I was prepared very well by my environment:
A State where Honor Killing was originated and widespread. A State where everyday newspaper was filled with news that parents would kill their own children to protect their honor. A State where Ratio of Girls to Boys is 873 Females per 1000 Males. Relatives who would never forget to remind me that you cannot even think of LOVE Marriage. Relatives who would advise my parents to lock me inside the house and show me my RIGHT place in the Kitchen. Family Friends who would advise me and them to quickly get rid of me so that I am not their responsibility anymore as I was young and open for all kind of dangers. Last but not the least I belonged to a caste where since ages – it’s more about protecting community/caste, traditions than protecting Family member’s feelings, emotions and decisions.
The more you Fear something, the bigger it appears. My parents, my relatives and even my worst nightmare came true – I Fell in Love. The man of my dreams was right in front of my eyes with so much love in his heart and support for my Dreams that I couldn’t have even imagined in my Best of my Dreams. But, my mind would never fail to remind me of all the bad consequences that can happen even if I think of us together. But, when you want something, the entire universe conspiresin helping you to achieve it. You might wonder do I want chaos, breaking my parent’s heart and fear of death. Of course not, but if I want him that’s what I DESERVED to get from the environment I belonged to. Well, all I wanted was the most beautiful feeling on this planet – Love. It’s not that my parents didn’t love me. But, somewhere I think they loved that YES Girl. My Love was the first person who asked me – What is your Dream and I was shut. I had nothing to answer. First, am I allowed to have a DREAM? Secondly, Let’s say I have a Dream but am I allowed to even openly talk about it forget about achieving it. That one question shook my soul and my inner soul just cried tears of joy and was yelling out loud. Say YES to him – first time- that my soul also said YES. After long battle of 2 years between my soul and my head I finally said YES to him and that day I knew that this YES means a first NO to my family and its associated baggage environment. After collecting all my strength, I somehow broke the news to my Family and I still remember that same minute the lights of that room started flickering. I was scared to death because now I can’t even look at their reactions. That day I realized value of a nano second because after a second that light would flick just for a second again making visible to me whereabouts of everybody. I was prepared to be hit and smacked left and right and what not. It still races my heart to think of those fearful flickering minutes of my life.
To my surprise, my parents didn’t hit me even once. Yes, they warned me that they would go and kill him. And I answered “You need to kill me first”. Also, I was house arrested and was not allowed to go back to work. Every day I would wake up to the words that their biggest mistake in life was to educate me. It would deeply hurt me. Every day every hour I would negotiate to please let me go back to my job. My professional life has nothing to do with my personal life. And one day they allowed me to leave because I promised them that I love them and would never do anything to bring them shame in the society. Off I was back to my work with so many fearful thoughts. I was thankful to God that I am going as a single piece opposite to what I thought.
This battle to get one YES from my parents went on for 4 more years and lived through so many stages. They stopped talking to me. They warned me that they will disown me if I marry him. Every time they would threaten me or warn me- this is what I did. I would leave everything and travel 2 days by train just to hug them and tell them I Love you. They fired me with every warning, threat they could and yes I was deeply hurt every single time and felt like giving up on them. But, even then I would send them gifts or cards to bring out that hidden love behind this upper layer of anger. I strongly believed that they Love me because I am their own blood. They just had to believe that they will be OKAY and the society will also be OKAY if I marry the man I Love. My Love also joined me in this Love showering to my parents and he also started sending them flowers and cards with hand written notes.
Today, my one NO to marry the man I don’t love have flipped my life completely. My parents finally said YES. Because my parents supported me, Society also joined and everybody accepted US. In fact, our wedding was the most fun wedding in our family ever. Not only that, everybody Loved the Man I Loved and they mentioned that they have never met such an outstanding person before. This also opened the doors for all my sisters and friends because now they know that it’s OKAY to get married to the one you love.
There are Laws now against Honor Killing in our state but do you think those laws stopped them to kill me? NO. It’s Love and support of people around us that made them take such a bold step and be an example for others as well.
The whole story flipped because of one simple NO. The Day I Said NO to the environment I was introduced to. The Day I said NO to all my worst fears. The Day I said NO to Arranged Life partner and YES to my Life. All it takes is a simple NO to the societal laws and YES to implement the governmental laws in real life. If every single girl starts to stand up for herself and say NO to what she doesn’t feel is right for her future – the whole dynamics of her future will change.
I have started a campaign for all the girls and women to come forward and share their stories on when they said NO to that YES GIRL inside you. Please share your story/picture with hashtag #SayNOtoYESGIRLS to encourage and empower girls to take a stand for themselves.