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Stranger Things Enola Holmes Star Trending As “She Is 19 And Engaged” For Very Indian Reasons

What Millie Bobby Brown did is unheard of in India. Indian parents would have a heart attack at such presumption from their kids!

Actor Millie Bobbie Brown announced her engagement on social media and the news promptly started to trend – for several reasons.

She is a hugely popular actor particularly on OTT platforms. She is the youngest person ever to be on a Times 100 List. She is someone audiences have watched on screen since she was a child, so the announcement seemed a wee bit incongruous.

While this is likely a global social media trend, in India this is trending for some very region and culture specific reasons.

  • Most people would consider 19 too young to marry if they are in any way “progressive”
  • (plus, child marriage is still very much a problem in our country)
  • Plus, she made the kind of announcement that most Indians do not get to make – well into adulthood – or at all.

Millie Bobby Brown announced her engagement

Millie Bobby Brown made this announcement on Instagram. This is big news so obviously it was soon trending. I first noticed this young actor in and as the delightful Enola Holmes, however the world has known her for much longer. Though she has been acting since 2013, she shot to fame with her role in the Netflix series Stranger Things.

Millie Bobby Brown has been dating Jake Bongiovi (son of Jon Bon Jovi, yesteryears rock star heartthrob) for two and a half years. “I’ve loved you three summers now, honey, I want ’em all” she said on Instagram. So, this doesn’t appear to be just spur of the moment decision she has rushed into. This seems to be a considered decision made of her own volition, using her own agency.

…And it’s been a little weird

This young woman is hugely talented and successful; no question… the accent being on young, however. For a lot of people who have been watching her as the kid with supernatural abilities on a TV show, this announcement seems a little weird.

Some on social media thought that 19 is just too young to be thinking about marriage… marriage this young sounded a little medieval to a lot of people. Others thought it was perfectly fine – if one can vote, drive, and serve in the army at this age, surely one can marry.

The India-specific ‘ick’ factor

On India social media pages, we saw a lot of this. A lot of people posted memes like this – about how child marriage is still rampant in a lot of places in India; particularly in some communities in Rajasthan.

Girls must be ‘married off’, the earlier the better. Even boys are married before the age of consent – because tradition (and a whole lot of other social, economic, cultural reasons but let’s talk about that some other time) of course!

That ick-factor is almost expected – we can’t very well think of ourselves as even remotely progressive if we think of 19 as a ‘marriageable’ age now, can we?

Can Indian kids make their own decisions, whatever their age?

Image source

And now let’s talk about the real elephant in the room – the real reason so many Indians on social media were amazed at the engagement announcement. Most Indians cannot dream of making such an announcement – these are simply not decisions they are permitted to make in their families.

It isn’t just that in India it is two families and not just two individuals that get married. It is also a fact that marriage is a major form of social control. The arranged marriage system keeps caste hierarchies intact. Parents having the power of deciding upon or vetoing the choice of spouse for a child means that young people don’t often get to choose the person they marry (and remain married to – often to regardless of their own wishes.)

Think about it – desi parents be like…


Most Indian parents decide what and where their child will study. They often coerce or outright bludgeon their child into making a career choice.

Fully grown adults still have curfew timings. This may be more relaxed for boys than girls, but the guilt-tripping by the aged mother staying awake for her middle-aged son returning from a movie or party is one we are all probably familiar with.

Making an announcement about an important life decision like marriage of one’s own volition? Why that would likely be met with shock, disapproval, extreme dismay and perhaps a suicide threat or a threat of violence!

There is always the assumption on part of the family that their “poor child was somehow led astray; lured into an unwise relationship by some scheming, underhand machinations.” Also there is the assumption that one’s own offspring has neither the sense nor the gumption nor the maturity to take a life decision on their own.

So while we may think 19 is too young to marry, even to become engaged, this is not germane to the issue. The fact that this is a decision she made, without coercion or pressure. To my mind, that is in fact empowerment – the sort that most Indian women cannot even dream of.

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About the Author

Reena Daruwalla

A former lawyer, now freelance writer, fauji wife, mother, singer, knitter and lover of my own cooking, I have altogether too many opinions and too few convictions. The more I learn the more I am read more...

36 Posts | 12,475 Views

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