Mulgi kunala dili

“Mulgi kunala dili” or “Whom did you give your daughter to?

is an expression in Marathi language that most people, even highly educated and so called progressive people, use without flinching. It’s used in the context of asking or telling people about whom a girl is married to.  But it implies a family she marries, not the guy, mind you.

I find this extremely insulting, like the girl has no right to make her own decision (which in majority of cases she doesn’t) and the decision rests on the elders in her family. I can barely control my temper when this phrase is used routinely by my grandfather or maternal uncle. I love both of them and they are undisputedly amongst the sweetest people I’d ever meet. My grandfather is extremely well read and still it hasn’t even occurred to him how completely disrespectful this phrase is, strange given that since he has two daughters and several grand-daughters. I can still excuse my grandfather this because he comes from an older generation and it just wouldn’t occur to him that there is even anything wrong with the statement. But I simply cannot look past anyone from my parents generation or any generation thereafter using this phrase.

To most people it’s just a linguistic legacy and my angst is met with amusement where people try to explain to me that I am overreacting and they don’t mean to imply that their daughter has no rights. A lot of the times, they are right, they really don’t. And if their daughter was ever to be in a troubled or abusive marriage, they would stand by her. But still, I think we shouldn’t take language so lightly. It’s very reflective of social trends and the fact that this term is still so popular speaks volumes of the status of women. What I can’t stand ever further is women themselves using this phrase to talk about daughters. I agree that people don’t really analyze every word they say unless they are language fanatics. But isn’t it odd then that these people don’t ever say it the other way round to mean whom did you give your son to, even by mistake? How then is it just a linguistic legacy? Shouldn’t our language evolve with our thoughts if we claim that our thoughts have indeed evolved over a period of time?

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2 comments

  1. Even I find that phrase so maddening… as if the woman is a ‘thing’ to be given..

    and you are right about language not being ‘just saying’ but carried loaded meaning with it. and in case of this sentence, the meaning is very clear. so you wouldn’t be yourself if you don’t get incensed with it!!!

    and with older generation, maybe can be excused, maybe. but with not to old people, it is annoying!!

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    1. I know!! I just want to walk out of a room when I see this being said by so many people in my own family. I don’t even want to get into what others say or think. And there’s a certain way in which this is asked you know, with caution, like you have to be respectful of “the family”. My blood just boils up when I hear that. And at least know your audience, right? I have these people around me asking dumb questions like that. I hate the further implication that for a girl, a marriage should by default mean accepting an entire set of family. why?

      I still cant get over the fact that somebody from my family actually asked my grand father how he was okay with me marrying out of caste. The nerve! I don’t know who that person is. Grandfather wouldn’t tell. But I have a fairly good idea of who that jobless mean man might be!

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