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Right from our childhood, we are taught the idea of love and its intersection with marriage. But why can’t they be two different entities?
My mother was on the phone and continued giving her anecdotes on lehengas and why Sarojini Nagar was the best for all the purchasing. By the looks of it, I knew she was talking to her best friend, who I fondly refer to as ‘Chachi.’
Amused, I asked her, “Has Chachi decided to get married again?”
“Oh no! Her niece is getting married,” she replied casually before putting a hand on my mouth while I let out a squeal. I was also awarded a death stare at the squeal from my mother.
Chachi’s niece, who coincidentally has the same name as me, was someone I knew. We’d see each other at various functions and sometimes hung out during the monotonous family events Chachi hosted. She was only two years older than I am and is currently 20. Just 20.
For some reason, I just couldn’t digest this. She was as old as my cousins and clearly, my cousins weren’t ready to be married. Hell! They hadn’t even decided what career to pursue. I am 18 and 20 was just two sets of 365 days away. Clearly, two years wasn’t going to make me ‘mature enough to get married!’
“Big deal, beta. Your paternal grandmom got married at 16!” My mother reasoned as we jogged along our daily path in the park.
“Well, Nani got married at 20 and you got married at 25!” I argued.
“Okay, dear, I think you’re being really judgmental about this. Why do ou assume that she is being forced or that she is unwilling to do it? Maybe she wants to get married!” My mother countered as she slowed down on the path, holding her waist.
“She is 20! Most people don’t even have a boyfriend by then and I know for a fact that she’s never had a boyfriend and now she’s directly going to have a husband?” I said as I stretched my arms in the air while furitively smiling in acknowledgement at the cute guy who came to the park everyday.
My mother may have noticed as she replied, “Well, some people have eyes only for one person for their entire life – like a forever thing.” Or maybe she was hinting at the four or five relationships I had as a teenager that she may have known about.
Ignoring her, I continued my rant, “What about her parents? Even if she wants it, don’t you think they would have an idea about the complexity of marriage and should advice her against it?”
“It is an arranged marriage, clearly, she didn’t arrange it on her own! Her parents must have suggested it!” My mum said as she stretched her ankles. “And a few girls like her, are taught to be wives from the very beginning. The idea of marriage is drilled into their heads at a very young age. It’s something they accept as children thus, their aspirations as adults die down. The grandeur of a wedding, honeymoon, the idea of having someone’s attention, love and care, getting out of the parental zone! All this is like a fairytale to them.” She added as she jogged back to where we began.
This made me realise what the Indian society has tried to reinforce time and again – that the goal of every girl’s life is to be married. Though I’ve seen the marriages of people around me, I can tell none of it was a bed of roses.
Maybe my mother was right, maybe I was being judgemental and there is a lot I still need to explore to understand people. However, no one can deny the fact that the idea of a marriage and its intersection with love is imposed on young girls since a very young age. Whether it is through family, popular media, or society as a while, all of this is fed to the girls who grow up watching the celebration of marriage.
I remember, once as a child, I dressed up, using my mother’s make-up and her saree and used talcum powder as the holy ‘sindoor‘ to be a ‘bahu’ All I wanted was to be the bahu from the serial my grandmother watched every day. When my mother found me in that state, I was given some rather tight slaps for wanting to get married and watching the preposterus serials (a breach of my TV time). I sometimes, think this anger of hers originated from the frustrations of her own marriage.
While, I do not want to endorse in any kind of physical abuse, I think it is necessary for me to mention that the fear of my mother never let me consider marriage a prospect. In fact, to this day, I close my eyes if I am in front of the TV that is playing a Hindi TV serial.
This may not be a huge factor but I did notice that my friend who grew up watching daily soaps idolises the concept of a grand wedding. The idea of marriage is sold to young girls through extravagant wedding ceremonies. And the implications of such a patriarchal system are never explained.
Due to my mother’s outburst when I was a kid, I completely loathed the idea of marriage. In fact, I still do in a number of ways. However, when I turned 18, I got the ‘talk’ from my dad. He clearly stated that them allowing me to pursue a five-year course meant I shouldn’t say no to getting married. And that at the completion of my course, I should marry a man of his choice and of course, uphold the family honour.
I was taken aback at this, it was almost as if, something snapped inside me. My father had asked me to be grateful that I was being ‘allowed’ to complete a course that long. The talk only got me futher anxious about my future. I did promise my dad that I would do what he wanted me to do after completing my education. But I didn’t see which level of education – that’s a loophole I could use.
Apparently, my friends received this talk at the tender age of 14. When I spoke to my cousin about this, she asked me why was I surprised at this, wasn’t this something we all knew since the very beginning? My argument that I was never explicitly told of this being the outcome of the ‘progressiveness’ of my parents was met with another question. ‘Well, you weren’t explicitly told that you can’t walk naked on the streets, were you?’
“You’ll get lonely after a point, it’s good to have companionship,” my aunt once told me.
Do men get this talk? I don’t think my brother or any of my guy friends receive this talk from their parents when they declare they want to get married.
Bollywood movies can be very different and unique but the element of finding the ‘forever love’ remains constant in every film. These films show marriage to be the ultimate happily ever after. Rarely are the patriarchal structure and the implications of it explained or even considered.
Why must marriage be the goal of a woman’s life? And why is she completed only by a man? More importantly, why is ‘love’ associated to marriage, anyway? On the contrary, why are young girls not taught to be more self-sufficient, to love themselves and not to depend on anyone for their own happiness? Why must companionship only come in the form of opposite sex who might might help you procreate?
As an 18-year-old who is legally allowed to wed (and doesn’t quite intend to), I do believe that women should be allowed to lead their own narrative. Thus, their decision on marriage shouldn’t invite any judgement (though this conflicts with my absolute resentment of marriage).
I still don’t understand why society advocates it and makes it so necessary for young girls to get married and get a husband to fit into the ideal ‘standard of living.’
Another observation – without marriages, aunties would just disappear into thin air.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Veere Di Wedding
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