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When people are fine with a couple in which the woman is much younger, why do they have an issue when the man might be younger?
But what got me to write this post, is the trending couple of tinsel town, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. Their age difference has created quite a furore in the country and everyone is happily calling her a cradel snatcher. The same people would be perfectly OK if the roles were reversed, if the woman is much younger than the man, like it was for this relationship I’m going to talk about.
Reema disconnected the call with an exasperated expression on her face. This was the umpteenth call from a supposedly well meaning relative she had attended to. Now she was really irritated; when two mature adults had made a decision, why couldn’t the flurry of relatives simply accept it, specially when it was not going to affect them in any way?
But as she looked resignedly out of the window, she realized she had been like them in the past, it was life which helped her clear her thought process, rather change it for the better. As she gazed at the setting sun from her window, she was drawn back in time when these same flurry of relatives had convinced her, what was going to happen was the best for her. Rather they smartly convinced her to follow what they desired.
Almost three decades ago, a barely 20 year old Reema was told about the marriage proposal from Vikram’s family. Reema was not very happy about it, though raised like any other girl during those times with the adequate amounts of ‘homely traits‘ inculcated in her, she was still a girl who dared to dream and wanted to make them come true.
She had just finished her graduation and was contemplating her next academic move. Her biggest worry however was Vikram was close to 29, was already an established architect with a leading construction firm in the city. He had experienced life far more independently than her. On the couple of occasions they had interacted, he did not seem to consider her views with much importance. In fact he seemed amused listening to what she spoke. His expressions made her feel he considered her immature. She tried communicating her fears to her family, but all she got to hear was, “You’re getting such a mature well settled groom, you should feel lucky. For a strong marriage the age difference is essential!”
She couldn’t agree with these views, but she had seen a lot of couples around her who had massive age differences but seemed perfectly happy. She went ahead with the desires of her family and tied the knot with Vikram.
Soon after their wedding Vikram went on to start his own architecture consulting firm. When Reema spoke to him about her dreams of pursuing a career, he suggested an Interior designing course. She had always been inclined to aesthetics and this seemed like a good move. She was happy that her fears were unfounded and Vikram had indeed proved to be the supporting partner she had wanted. But time would tell her, that she had rejoiced too soon.
As soon as she completed her course, Vikram asked her to join his firm. This again seemed to be a very progressive step by him, but was it really? She proved to be good at her job, clients were happy with her work, but soon she realised she did not have any real power at the work place. Vikram ensured that the final decisions were always his. He ensured that no client really praised her much. When a client would say, she was immensly talented, he would be quick to retort, “women are always interested in beautifying homes.” This made Reema feel trivial, but the next moment she would think, how many husbands are this supportive?
He slowly started taking control in the other aspects of her life as well. He was very particular about keeping his image of the progressive man intact, so he ensured that Reema dressed a certain way; whether she agreed with the choice was not of much consequence.
Two years into their marriage Rupali was born. Though he was occasionally around to help her with parental duties, she was the primary care giver. But still the important decisions concerning their daughter were all his: from choosing the pediatrician to the school she would attend. Whenever Reema put forth an opinion all she got to hear from him was, “I have seen far more than you in life, I know what I am doing, you have a lot left to learn.” Repeated lectures on this line of thinking made her realise it was futile to put forth anything across.
As the years passed by Vikram’s business flourished. Reema had a major contribution to it, but he ensured she never felt very important. She also made peace with the situation and didn’t protest. But she ensured her daughter always put forth her voice where it was required, and never learnt to live life with compromises.
After her school finals, Rupali was determined on choosing Journalism as a career. Vikram wasn’t happy with the choice, but Reema stood by her. Vikram also knew that making his daughter change her mind was going to be futile. He had to relent. He always felt slightly annoyed that his daughter was the only lady in his life who got him to follow her call. But as a parent the determined streak in her made him proud. Reema was happy that a quality which he had determinedly suppressed in her was acceptable to him in his daughter, but it also made her smirk at his double standards.
As the years passed, Rupali completed her education and joined a leading media house. That is where she met Manav. A couple of years after their first meeting they decided to announce to their families that they intended to tie the knot and all hell broke loose. Everyone was aghast, and Reema was blamed for giving her daughter way too much independence. “Look what it had come to, she had chosen a guy all by herself and that too almost two years younger to her.” But the one person who was very happy for Rupali was Reema. She clearly did not understand what was the fuss for.
Her daughter was 27 and Manav was a year and a half younger to her. Neither of them was a 21 year old fresh out of college. They both had worked hard to reach a decent point in their careers, taken their time at knowing each other, and then arrived at a decision. But everyone around her, including Vikram, were only giving futile arguments.
Someone said “this marriage will be doomed from the first day, ‘coz how can there be a logical relationship where the wife is older.” Somebody even said, “it’s a love marriage and they hardly ever last!”
But Reema couldn’t find any sense in these arguments. The same people had been elated when she married a man almost a decade older than her, then why this ruckus now? Wasn’t the ideal marriage supposed to be a union of love? Then why this stand about it definitely going to be doomed? By that logic was she totally happy because she had abided by the rules of society? Not really. She did not have a violent or abusive spouse but nonetheless, he did not care for her wishes; the respect was one sided in her marriage. But it was the ‘ideal marriage’ to society, because she played the role of the subservient better half which was exactly how society pictured it.
The idea of the ideal marriage in Indian society has always baffled me. Sometimes I wonder, why is the whole society concerned about, and thinks it’s OK to comment upon a marriage, when couple to be married are not even asked for their opinion? I am not against arranged marriages, but the traditional system where the decisions are taken by the families alone, is quite beyond comprehension.
What baffles me even more is the eternal scorn for love marriages. The same people who are predicting doomsday scenarios about the Priyanka-Nick marriage are perfectly ok with the Shahid-Meera jodi. Why this double standards?
These are celebrities; common women in such scenarios are judged even more brutally. Before people tell me that the ideal jodi is where the women is much younger: NO, the ideal jodi is where there is mutual respect and love, it’s not about the older partner (in Indian context mostly the man) being the boss of the house. That definitely is the sign of a toxic relationship.
Images source: YouTube
A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and curious little princess. I long to see the day when Gender equality is a reality in the world. read more...
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I recommend reading Manjiri Indurkar's Origami Aai alongside her memoir to have a fulfilling and enriching experience of telling one's story with grace.
It’s All In Your Head, M famed author Manjiri Indurkar’s debut poetry collection, Origami Aai, is independent and yet an extension of her memoir in which she speaks with utmost grace about all forms of abuses that she has survived. In this book of intriguing and evocative poems, the poet weaves words to form images of the everyday life of her middle-class family, love found and lost, trauma, and healing.
The collection is divided into four segments, beginning with the family, slowly moving towards the world, and finally colliding them together.
We aren’t in mourning, but we are creatures of habit.
So we talk of each one who died of drowning,
and I listen to her stories with the patience
of a chronicler.
– Funereal Stories
Homemakers or as we often call them, 'housewives' are IMO the most underestimated and disrespected of women. Time this changed.
I am so glad to write about this as homemakers were and till are the most undervalued and underestimated.
Having grown up in Indian society, I have witnessed people disrespecting homemakers by delivering various comments like, “saara din ghar par to hoti ho karti kya ho” (being at home what do you do full day), “housewives ke pass to bahut time hota hai” (housewives have a lot of time), “subah kaam hota hai fir to free hi free saara din” (you have work in the morning and then you are free the whole day).
I am a working woman and I confess that I can go to work because earlier my mother and now my mother-in-law share responsibilities with me. People feel the work of a homemaker is easy but honestly, it’s not. I see my mother-in-law waking up at 6 am and working non-stop till night. In fact, I would say the life of some working individuals are much more sorted and simple than that of a homemaker.
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