Biyer Khaat, The Wedding Bed For A Feminist

There is a thing in Bengali, ‘Biyer Khaat’ meaning wedding bed. Usually, how it works is when a girl gets married, it is customary for her parents to provide the matrimonial bed, bedding, dressing table, almirah as gifts/dowry and in that bed the couple start a new life, make love, have babies. As children grow up, they get their own rooms, own beds usually small kids bed in shape of cars or bunk beds for both siblings. Once children become adults, finish their education, find jobs etc, if they are girls, they are married off and become the proud possessor of their own Biyer Khaat, a big fancy bed with mattress and pillows. If they are son, they marry in a woman and she brings a biyer khat and that’s how the cycle of beds in patriarchal joint family goes. Usually, nobody goes out shopping and buys a bed. Bed and weddings are strongly associated with each other. At least that’s what I saw in my Bengali culture.

I grew up with my younger sister, in a nuclear middle class family in New Delhi’s government colonies. Things were slightly different for us. We didn’t have those colourful kid’s room with Disney motifs and stars on the ceiling. Until my sister arrived, I slept with my parents. With her arrival, I was moved to a folding cot in the same room. Many of you 80s people would remember these folding iron cots weaved with synthetic ribbons. There used to come a man who would tie up the cot with fresh ribbons as old one’s would tear away. Such strange days, seems like another life already. How fast things changed in my generation.

Coming back to the beds, within 3 years of my sister’s birth we moved to a bigger house as father was now entitled Type III quarter. Two big bed rooms, one drawing cum dining hall. Now for first time I had my own room and a divan. A divan bed. Do not Google for it, because the images now Google shows are too fancy and nothing like what we had. Our divan was just a plain wooden plank, no box, no back support. And once my sister was old enough to sleep on her own, like when she was around 6, she joined me on the divan.

I guess that’s how we’d have continued living until we both were adults because as I said before, buying a bed never occurs to middle class parents until children are getting married. But one of our neighbour, a young couple both college professors were moving away and wanted to sell their detachable double box beds. This double bed or these two single beds would later become part of our lives for the longest time, almost a historical association. Two of us would decorate our bed side with postcards of Aamir Khan, Boyzone, Backstreet Boys and various other stickers. Some times we’d keep the bed attached sleeping together as sisters (though we never cuddled, like never ever), then when we’d have a fight, we’d separate our beds and pretend we are merely room mates in a college hostel.

For my sister the bonding with the bed broke the day she left for Dehradun with a new job, where first few years she stayed in furnished guest rooms. It wasn’t until her wedding that she got a new queen size bed. And the story goes on for her.

While I sort of break the pattern. I still continue to sleep in the same second hand bed, our association now running into 27th year, but of late I have started complaining a lot about it to my parents, “Just because I would never get married, you guys won’t ever gift me a new fancy bed?”

This Valentine’s Day, I am going to get myself married to myself and my parents are gifting me my biyer khaat, I bring home a brand new bed in my new room in our Mahavir Enclave house.

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