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Prospective grooms and in-laws getting spooked by a possible bride’s educational qualifications – now that is a new and unreasonable glass ceiling to overcome!
“Hi Ria! Come, let’s go for lunch.” I waved at Ria and picked up my lunch box.
Ria was my best friend at work. She had joined my team 5 years back. She was a bright young girl, dedicated and efficient, and had quickly moved up to become an Asst Manager. Over the last few years, from being mere colleagues we had become good friends.
I had noticed since the morning that Ria was not looking her normal self today. She had just returned from a weekend visit to her hometown, and seemed to be unusually quiet, and I wondered what was up.
“Come, let’s sit in that corner!” Ria’s called out, pointing to our favorite seat in the office cafeteria, and that pulled me out of my thoughts, into the present!
“So, Ria, how was your vacation? Everything fine at home?”
“Well…everything is fine, but you know …..” After a long pause, she shared with me that this time again her marriage had been the hot topic of discussion at home.
Her parents lived in a small town and for the last year or so had been trying to find her a suitable match. But surprisingly with the growth in her career, her marriage prospects had dwindled, rather dried up. And this was obviously bothering her parents a lot. Friends and relatives back in town had already started passing comments, saying that it was the result of ‘educating girls too much’. Some well-wishers went to the extent of blaming her job for this — “Which mother will want to marry her to son to a manager and bring home a boss for herself? ”
Ria had really worked hard at school, college, and at work in the hope of making her parents proud one day and was really distressed and confused with the present circumstances.
Soon our conversation veered towards other topics. It helped cheer her up, and we returned back to our desks and got engrossed in the work. But later, on my way back home, I just couldn’t help thinking about what Ria shared today.
As I thought about it, I recalled an instance from my college days. A distant cousin of my mother had arrived with her husband. She had got married recently, and just before her marriage she had got a job in a public sector bank. She had very proudly proclaimed that getting this job had not only given her financial independence, but, had also opened up her marriage prospects in the marriage market!
She was right. The long list of matrimonial ads looking for professionals girls was the testimonial!
So why then did we have girls like Ria (bright young women who have either reached or crossed the mid management level) go through this turmoil? Was it because they were too successful for the comfort and security of our patriarchal society? So, in other words, a professional bride was welcome, only until her success was not big enough to threaten the balance of patriarchy or the domain of her future mom in law.
Isn’t this a case of ‘diminishing utility’ of the professional capability of a prospective bride? Everyone wants a professionally qualified bride with a decent job, only as long as the status of that job is not high enough to pose a threat to the security of the prospective groom and his family!
But then it was not just an issue girls faced before marriage – in some cases it cropped up much later…
I could recall the case of a colleague of mine who got married a few years back to her long term boy-friend, who a few days post marriage sheepishly admitted that his mother was always insecure about his wife’s professional profile. So they may have put in some extra effort (played down her profession capability and appeared homely) to calm her anxious nerves!
Just recently, I got another shocker from my team member Ananya, who hesitatingly shared with me her worries about growing up the ladder faster than her husband. She feared it would disrupt the harmony at home! So up goes up another invisible glass ceiling!
PS: Today 6 months post that conversation with Ria, I am walking back from Ria’s wedding. She finally found her soul mate right here in the city. An open minded young man who was proud of all her accomplishments. I am so glad that her story ended on a happy note. But I also know there are many more Ria’s and many more Ananya’s around us being penalized for being too successful!
Girls! It’s time to break another glass ceiling!
Header image is a still from the movie Ki and Ka.