My parents both belonged to the farmer caste -- Jat Sikh's from Punjab -- but he came from a military family, while her parents were from the "pind" (village). According to Indian culture, she should have been eternally thankful to be wed to someone with his education and solid family name. Today -- many years after her arranged wedding, 12 years after she moved out and 8 years after the divorce became final, my mom has risen from the ashes and is now a partner at one of the biggest labor law firms in California. A trip to Rajasthan will leave you in a daze of colours - When I visited Jodhpur, I wanted to capture this colour and there was no better way of doing that than a breath-taking panoramic shot of Jodhpur, the Blue City, from Mehrangarh fort.
Her new "single mom" status, coupled with her "focus on children," made her a "poor candidate" for partner at her law firm. Her family immigrated to America when she was seven, so when she was ready to be married off, her family's social rank within the caste had risen due to its green card status.
A good wife should show her appreciation by keeping her mouth shut and silencing any disagreeable thoughts. A good wife can manage her husband and police herself so as not to displease him or upset the balance.
Vengeance is a strong theme in my culture, and "maintaining honor" is of the utmost importance.


Then, one weekend, I came home from grad school and found my mom trying on some new clothes.
She had had terrible posture and wore ill-fitting clothes because she was overweight and depressed. Had she "done the right thing" and stayed married, she surely would have lost her mind by now. It just isn't something we do -- not in India, not in America and especially not initiated by a woman.
Someone like my dad, who was "higher" within the same caste, would traditionally only be willing to marry a village girl in exchange for something extremely valuable, like American residency. A good wife should honor her husband by pretending she is happy and ignoring any infidelities. Any physical or emotional violence is simply a byproduct of a woman not doing her part and knowing her place.
By standing up for her right to happiness, she opened up a world of possibility that I never knew existed.
For years, my mom was a dutiful Indian wife -- providing all domestic services, raising me and my two brothers and taking care of my dad's parents and brother, who all lived with us.


Everyone shunned her (and us) because only a "dishonorable" family couldn't keep its house in order. She had no identity, no voice and no confidence within the community or in her personal life. She stood tall and looked fantastic in a pair of Rock & Republic jeans that hugged every curve of her beautiful figure. Chastity is prized in our community, and a woman that has lain with a man can never be seen as a suitable bride again.
There we were, in our designer denim, and for the first time I saw my mom for who she really was. She had brought shame to herself and her family, and it seemed like we were doomed to be outcasts forever.
A kernel of confidence had grown within her heart, and from that point on, there was no stopping her.




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