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To be or not to be a working woman remains a dilemma for many women in India. Is it worth giving up your hard earned degree, asks this author.
It was by sheer accident that I met her. She was walking her baby in the stroller and I was just walking for exercise. She stopped me and addressed me by name. I was surprised, but I stopped and looked at her. She looked very familiar and I could remember her name too. But, I couldn’t place her, it happens sometimes I suppose. She said that she was in my hostel in the engineering wing while I was doing my Masters. We talked for a while, but I came back home disappointed.
When I sat down to think about it, I realized that a lot of women in India still do the same thing that this woman did – they give up on having a career after their marriage. Well, this friend of mine actually told me, “I did engineering otherwise I wouldn’t get an IT guy as a husband. But my husband told me that he didn’t want a working wife, so I didn’t take up a job after engineering.”
India is changing, or rather has changed quite a lot from the ages gone by. From girls who bent their heads when they walked to college, to girls who walk to the office with their heads held high. From girls who would wrap the pallu or chunni around their shoulders to girls who wear shoulder-less or backless dresses. India has changed and changed for the convenience of the girls. But, I still come across a lot of young women, who have done their engineering, teacher’s training, law or medicine, and are staying at home. Not because they are not getting jobs, but because they are not encouraged by either their parents or their in-laws to take up a career.
When you study intensively for entrance exams, just about get a paid seat, struggle with the professional course for 4 years and then just give it up for the sake of marriage, is definitely not right.
When you study intensively for entrance exams, just about get a paid seat, struggle with the professional course for four years and then just give it up for the sake of marriage, it is definitely not right. A qualified engineer, a capable lawyer, a caring teacher or a sound physician sitting at home, is hiding away talents that could have made a difference to society. The families of such educated women should realize that they are doing an injustice to the society in general and the woman in particular. Young women’s parents need to realize this before searching for a groom, and the groom should realize this before tying the knot. If a woman wants to work after marriage, then it should be her decision.
When I was in the second year of my bachelor’s degree, my parents came across a ‘suitable’ match for me through some relatives. Apparently, the boy and his parents saw me at some wedding. My mom came and told me that they were ready to wait until I graduate, and that “a Bachelor’s degree is enough and that is what the boy wants”. I was furious; how could some stranger decide about my education, and say what was “enough” for me?
I said that I would never ‘complete’ my graduation, and asked him to come and marry me now. I stopped going to the college for a week as a protest. Ultimately, my parents gave up. Do you think I could have ever thought of doing Ph.D if I had got married that day to that random boy? It was good for me that I had the guts that day to tell my parents that my education and my life was my decision, or at the most my parents’ decision, not a stranger’s!
I have friends and cousins too, who do take up a job after their education, because ‘a working lady is in demand’ for marriage.
I have friends and cousins too, who do take up a job after their education, because ‘a working lady is in demand’ for marriage (according to their parents). And then, once they are married, they are asked to just fold up their degrees and shove them in some corner. “Well, my husband said that he earns enough for the two of us” is what you get to hear.
Is working or having a career just about money? Is there no dignity, no ambition or no satisfaction in it? Would a man in India ever sit at home and not do a job if his wife was earning enough for the two of them? He wouldn’t, because it is belittling himself, he would say. Why doesn’t he think that of his wife too? Why does he curb her wish to work and be independent?
In all walks of life, from movies to fashion, we emulate the west, especially the USA. We are forever standing on one foot, ever ready to go to the USA for future opportunities. But, we don’t want our girls to be like the American women. Whether they are highly educated or not is irrelevant, but most of the women in the US work. Not just for financial security, they take up a job for the mere satisfaction of being a working woman. They have a dignity of labour and take up any job that comes their way.
I am not against any woman being a stay-at-home mom, or a housewife, taking care of the family. All I want to convey is that do not give up your self-esteem, your ambitions for the sake of others.
I am not against any woman being a stay-at-home mom, or a housewife, taking care of the family. All I want to convey is that do not give up your self-esteem, your ambitions for the sake of others. If you wish to stay at home and not work, by all means do that, but do it on your terms. And only because you want to do that. Don’t think like the girls of yesteryears who were afraid of going out of the house, leave alone think of studying or working.
Tell your parents your aims and ambitions in life. Let them know the kind of man you would like to marry, a man who would support all your decisions. If you want to work even after marriage, it is your right to do so. If the person you are about to marry doesn’t support that, try and convince him. If he still doesn’t agree, give him up and search for another ‘suitable boy’!
Working Indian woman image via Shutterstock
She is an English teacher, and a Math tutor by profession, and a writer with
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