"Wear those new earrings we bought from Colaba last week Smita and please put on some makeup. We want the boy to like you at first sight” -- my mother gave me clear instructions that Saturday afternoon. Yet another weekend is here and my parents have asked me to meet another “rishta” guy. All of a sudden I am expected to look pretty, act shy and behave "like a lady".
I think it's common thing in our society that as a girl crosses the age of 22, her marriage suddenly becomes the most important issue of her life. So yes, I too am a 24-year-old girl who has been proclaimed as ready for marriage by my family and relatives. It all started a week after my 23rd birthday. I had started working soon after graduation and had been a working woman for almost two years by my that time.
"Smita, I think it is now time for you to think about your future," my dad told me. While for me future meant going places in my professional life and achieving great success, my parents had a different idea.
"We have started to look for a boy for you. It is the right age for you to settle down and take your life seriously. Two years were enough for you to live your life the way you wanted, now you should focus on how getting married and starting a family," my dad clearly explained his vision of my future.
"But dad, I still want to study further. Probably go abroad for Masters degree. I've worked so hard in the last two years, I am sure I can get a scholarship," I protested, horrified at the idea of settling down this early. "But what's the point of your education after marriage? Your husband will be educated enough for the both of you. And don't worry, we'll find you a rich husband and you will never have to earn again.”
My father’s words got me thinking... Is it only necessary for a man to study and become the breadwinner of the family? Do I really need a man to validate my existence or to know who I truly am? When I asked these questions to my dad, he simply replied, "We have paid for your education, didn't we? You did study in one of the best schools and a very well reputed college. Now, it's time for us to start saving money for your marriage and not spend it on some course you want to pursue. If you're lucky your husband may ALLOW you to study."
After a couple of months, I gave in to their demands and agreed to meet a guy they had recommended. This guy was good looking, smart and well-educated, so I thought he would understand my ambitions. After talking for about 45 minutes, just when things started to get a bit less awkward, he suddenly asked, "So do you want to continue working after marriage?"
"Of course I do, I love my job," was my instant response.
"Are you even considering studying post marriage?"
"Yes, I would want to complete my education. It will help me in my career."
He didn’t say anything there but he made his view clear in another way. He rejected me because of the answers I gave him. Like any other typical Indian man, he wanted me to stay home and give his mother "company" and be a good homemaker.
When my mother found out about my conversation with the guy she took me to a corner at a family function and said, "You just can't give up on your wish, can you? Don’t you realise how good this guy is... he lives in Juhu, has his own business and is extremely 'well settled'. Was it really necessary for you to tell him about your plans for studies and work?" I was so shocked to hear my own mother say all this.
Is this what my life is going to be like? To plan my future as per the likes and dislikes my husband? I am not saying that I am against marriage. Yes, I do want to get married and even dream of a fairytale wedding and a happily ever after... but not at the cost of my ambition and my life. I cannot give up a part of myself which defines who I am just to be someone’s wife. If that is the price I have to pay for my happily ever after then I would rather stay single.
I do hope that someday I will find a partner who understands me and my passion towards my work. And when I do find him that will be my happily ever after. :)
* Names changed to protect privacy.
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