Looking forward to the annual budget? Here’s our wishlist for Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman!
I was prepared for anything. She just looked at me and asked, “Why? Tell me, why do all mothers feel that their daughters should marry?”
My daughter is a firm believer of women’s liberation and women’s empowerment.
When she turned 25, I told her she should get married soon. Of course, knowing her, I had prepared myself to answer all her questions.
“You should start thinking of marriage,” I said.
“Have you been talking to Aji?” she asked.
“Because Aji has been saying the same thing to me.”
“I never listen to what Aji says.” Then as her eyes began to twinkle I added, “Only when she speaks about certain things. Of course you should always obey your elders, but this is what I feel. Not because of what anyone says.”
“But I don’t understand why anyone wants to get married! How can you live with the same person for so many years?” she asked.
“You have been living with us for 25 years. Did you find it boring? You want to change your parents now? Well, get married! Your in-laws will be your new parents,” I said triumphantly.
“But why can’t I live with you?”
“We will not be there for ever. One day we will leave this world. Then you will be alone. So you must get married.”
“I won’t be alone. I have friends.”
“But if they marry? You need someone of your own. Have you chosen your life partner? Do you have a boy friend? Or a girl friend?” (I must show how liberated I am!) “Would you like a love marriage or an arranged marriage?”
I sat up straight. Here was my chance. “Firstly,” I said “Everyone should marry. It is good. It gives you security. It gives you prestige in society.”
“That is so wrong Mom. Such old fashioned views!”
“Secondly, you are a living being. And it is the property of every living being to breathe, eat, digest, excrete and procreate. If you had taken Science like I told you to, you would have known this.”
“Let us not go there Mom!”
“Thirdly, I know you will say that you need not marry to create children, but legally and socially these things matter. At least in India. At least in our society.”
“This is what we are fighting for. It should be our choice whether to marry or not, have children or not. Who is this society…”
“And,” I interrupted her. “Medically speaking you should marry. The incidence of breast cancer is more in unmarried women.”
“And incidence of cervical cancer is more if you have multiple partners. Or so we were taught,” I added hurriedly. By this time I had forgotten on which point I was speaking. Then I recovered.
“Emotionally speaking, it is nice to have a husband with whom you can share everything and who will be with you till the end. On whom you can depend. With whom you can share your thoughts. Who will love you and take care of you, and cherish you and admire you.”
“But I can do this with you too.”
“But everyone doesn’t have a mum like me. And your husband is the one who will grow old with you, and be your companion when your parents and friends leave.”
“You are not going anywhere. And my friends and cousins will be there with me.”
“Yes. But they will have their own life and family and relationships. The relationship between a husband and wife is a unique one. See – you share your parents, uncles and aunties, and cousins, with your brothers and sisters. When you become a parent, you share your child with your spouse. But you are your husband’s only wife and he is only your husband. He may be a son, a brother, an uncle etc, but he is only your husband.”
“And we are talking about our religion only. And don’t tell me you are willing to share your husband with another wife!! Here you don’t even share your charger with your sister!”
“Mom, I am not even married, and you are talking about sharing.”
“Physiologically speaking this is the right age to get married,” I continued. “You get married, live together, get to know each other, understand each other, enjoy togetherness, and then plan for children.”
Her eyes were starting to glaze so I said hurriedly, “Then you can enjoy children and be young enough to play with them and be healthy in their youth! It will be nice if you have children till we are healthy enough to take care of them.”
“Any more points?” she asked.
“Oh yes!! I am not yet finished.” And she sat there with her chin in her hands and a stupid expression on her face. The same she used to have when I would be trying to drum Science into her head.
“And emotionally blackmailing, you should get married because I say so.”
“Why did you marry, Mom? For which of the reasons you mentioned?”
“All of them.”
“But why? Why is marriage the ultimate goal in everyone’s eyes? You can have everything, companionship, friends, family, everything without getting married. Why does society look in a different way at a woman who is married? They don’t mind it if a man is not married. But when you reach mid twenties, people who have no connection with us ask, when is your daughter getting married?”
“You know after a baby is born, everyone asks – did it turn over, did it sit, now that it is one year old, can it walk? These are the normal milestones in a baby’s life. In some they occur earlier, in some later. But if they are not happening, there must be some problem.”
“So you mean marriage is like a milestone?”
“So okay. I will think about it.”
“Thank you!” I said.
3 years, 5 boyfriends and 4 break ups later, she is still thinking about it.
“And lastly,” I told her, “If you believe in women’s liberation, you should get married.”
“See, every time you have told women to protest against unfair behaviour. But you should also teach men not to be unfair. And getting married is one way of doing it. You teach your husband to respect you and treat you equally. You teach your sons to respect women and help in the house. It may be difficult for you, but think of the future girls. They will thank you for producing a generation of boys who believe in equality. You will be a pioneer.”
I could see her eyes dreaming about it.
The marriage is next week. Do come!
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