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Why do we, as a society still think that a woman’s biggest achievement is getting married? It is time we changed this mindset, and gave our girls their due.
The house was all decked up for the wedding. Bright lights shone in the verandah, loud music and laughter could be heard. Children dressed in varied shades ran around in the well lit garden. The aroma of delicious food and mithai (sweets) filled the air. Today was Roma’s big day- her wedding.
As I entered her house looking forward to being a part of the celebrations, I looked around for her younger sister Riya. She was nowhere to be found. Roma and Riya are sisters, 2 years apart.
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While Roma is the more fun loving type, who bunked college, enjoyed shopping and spending time with her friends, she was never really interested in making a career. Knowing well that she belonged to a well do to business family and would marry into an equally well to do family, she preferred enjoying her life. Riya on the other hand was studious and had set her goals on becoming a doctor. She went to the US for her higher studies and the last FB update I had seen was that she successfully completed her MD with a gold medal and she was flying back to India for her sister’s wedding.
I wondered where she was. Wasn’t this a big day for her too? Not just because it was her sister’s wedding but because she had achieved something really great for herself academically. I expected the family would be thrilled as they had 2 reasons to celebrate today. I was expecting a poster and a congratulatory message for Riya put up on the walls or played on the PPT which they had displayed, but all it had was “Roma weds Abhishek” and the some pics of Roma as a child and as she grew up, pictures with her family and friends were shown. Not a single mention of Riya and her degree. I found it weird.
I finally found her, forlorn as she sat in a beautiful lehenga, but her face had lost its charm. I congratulated her with all the enthusiasm and hugged her. I saw her face glow but it only lasted for a brief moment and she was back to her gloomy self. On further prodding she revealed that her family did not really consider this as a big achievement, in fact they were all the more worried now about finding a groom for such a highly educated lady. Her parents were furious when she told them that she did not want to get married for the next 3-4 years as she wanted to start her practice.
I patted her shoulder and told her to trust her instincts and make her decision about what she wanted in her life, stay strong and don’t bow down to pressure.
This incident got me thinking on why we obsess over marriage so much and why do we consider that getting married is the biggest achievement of a woman? Without that, the highest degree with the best marks, a lucrative job at a top notch company, a sports medal that she clinches – everything loses its luster. Unless the woman in question ties the knot as the so called ‘right age’ only then is she someone who has achieved something and this achievement calls for a big celebration.
Why can’t we celebrate the successes of our girls just like we do for our boys? If it was a boy in place of Riya who would have bagged a gold medal or secured a coveted job wouldn’t that be an occasion to celebrate? Then why is this not the case with our girls?
I recall a particularly brilliant young lady aged 28 who is pursuing her PhD. Her Mom and my mom are good friends and Aunty is always worried that her daughter would soon pass the marriageable age and then finding a good groom would be difficult.
Her daughter staunchly refuses to even think of marriage at this stage. Her point is, “Mumma I have worked a lot to reach this far, and I am still studying to complete my PhD. As long as I live with you and Daddy or alone, I don’t need to care a damn about anything like cooking, cleaning, etc. I can focus on my studies. Even if I lived alone I could have done that but if I get married at this point, there would be certain responsibilities and expectations of me as a wife, as a daughter in law. My in laws may not live with me but I cannot really have a carefree attitude like I have now. I would be expected to take care of the house, at least manage the maid and other stuff and at this point all I want to think of is my degree. After toiling all these years, reaching this stage if I get married and I can’t devote enough time to this, all my efforts and sacrifices of the past so many years would be futile. No I will not do this to myself. I will marry when I am ready.” Aunty knew she couldn’t coerce her daughter so she decided to let the matter rest and wait for her daughter to turn around.
There’s another good friend of mine, a school friend who is 30 and not married. As we live in different cities, our talks are usually limited to phone calls on birthdays. This is a topic I consciously chose to avoid as I do not want to cause her any discomfort and there’s so much to discuss other than “so any news about your marriage”. We usually end up talking about our jobs, our old school days and she tells me of a school mate’s wedding that she attended and how everyone met and they spoke about the good old school days. We end up on a pleasant note.
When I called her on her birthday a few days back, she told me that she is getting married and I was really happy for her. Happy that she took her time. But when I usually converse with other friends and her name pops up, the first question people ask is “is she married? Why not? Any issues? She’s 30; doesn’t she want to get married?”
I usually shrug and give a tepid response but it makes me wonder yet again about the our mindset in general- why don’t people ask about her job or praise her for being that dutiful daughter who supports her parents and takes care of her younger sister’s education? There is so much more to a woman that her status or single/married.
Our girls who are no less than boys and have a zest and passion to conquer the world, chase their dreams and make them come true – all they need is encouragement and support from all of us – yes your dreams are valid my dear, you can be anything you wish to be. That prize you just won at the inter college debate, the gold medal that you received in Economics, a job at the top Investment Bank – is a great achievement and we are proud of you, let’s celebrate this great moment. Your marriage would be a day to rejoice no doubt, as you step into a new chapter of life and we welcome a new member to our family, but your achievements are not limited to getting married.
There’s so much more to life and when we start recognizing these small and big achievements of our girls, being genuinely happy for them and celebrating them with as much vigor as we would celebrate their wedding, we would have truly opened our doors to being more inclusive and gender neutral.
Published here earlier.
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An avid reader, a shopaholic, head over heels in love with my little bundle of
Sociologically speaking, patriarchal societies prefer that the status quo remains in society, so that the dominant group continues to enjoy the privileges they have had so far. As long as women remain in positions of dependence on the male this may well be the norm too. However when this changes, and the female is less dependent on the male for sustenance and livelihood, the equation changes and must change- marriage and motherhood can well become a matter of choice for the female. On the one hand those unwilling to play the roles of spouse and mother can choose not to do so. On the other hand those willing to play those roles (of mother and wife) will perhaps demand and secure a high price in status, rights and privileges for their services. A great whirl wind is coming… Marriage and motherhood might well be treated as far bigger achievements (than they now are) in the decades to come, but the difference will be, that it will finally get the due respect and value it deserves. After all, the provider of eggs, a safe nourishing womb, nurturer of new life and the continuation of the species, definitely does deserve a far bigger reward than she has been receiving all these centuries.
Sonia, Well Said! Actually Marriage as an Institution has been all male centered and made it very convenient to men.
The fact that we women think twice now to be married or to have children,is because it so heavily burdening the new bridge to over night change her attitude, meet the expectations of in-laws, soon become a mom.
On an other note, I never wanted to be a housewife.The problem is care taking role is not remunerated.
I am a futurist or at-least like to believe it.Someone has to do it.There is inequality in care taking role primarily falling onto the woman’s lap….right…What if it were compensated financially?
One would no longer view it as a burden but one is getting recognized for the nurturing capabilities.
It can still remain a preference.Some of us have it naturally and for some of us it is a cultivated virtue.
But all of it boils down the conditioning at home.How the men and women are brought up.
If men continue to think, women are born only to fulfill nurturing capabilities, then they are living in Ice Age!
Champaka you have made some very valid points too. Just as the role of sustenance and earning a livelihood is a tough burden that has been adequately compensated and begun to be shared, the role of motherhood is a tough burden that must be adequately compensated too and some of the load has to be shared by the man too. The change has already begun- the countless 5 star fertility clinics and safe, comfortable birthing facilities are proof enough that the world has begun to understand that bringing offspring into this world is no simple trick!! Contrast this with our unfortunate grandmother ancestors, who had little or no special treatment while pregnant and had to deliver their babies in random places with little or no comfort or scientific/medical procedure to assist them!! Even if men want to continue to believe they live in the Ice Age, they are now forced to pay heed to the excessive demands of parenting and will have to pitch in to compensate and share the effort it takes!!!
I have a classmate who is now almost 34 yrs and has chosen not to get married on anything less than as per her conditions. Though not very close to her, I secretly feel very proud of her to be able to take this stand and dare to be independent. I only wish that our society would transit from “what will people say if you do not get married soon?” to “what will you do if you get married too soon and to a wrong person?”
Thanks Anupriya for sharing this real story which is of women who are unbroken about their choices.
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