We have metaphorically and literally reached the moon, but somehow the concept of a single and happy woman still eludes us. My family is no different. Although they have been more liberal than the others by giving me the “permission” to choose my own partner, I still had to be grateful for that “permission.”
Not everyone finds love, and even if they do, there is no timeline to it. Some find it at 20 and some find it at 35. Well, I did not find it by the time I was 27, but by then my parents had decided to take matters into their own hands. The arranged marriage customs began and ended with them choosing a "well educated and decent" guy for me. When they asked me if I was happy, I said, “Dad, he seemed nice but how do you expect me to decide if I want to spend the rest of my life with him based on a 20 minute meeting?"
“But this is how it happens beta. And we did give you the option of finding a guy for yourself, but that didn’t happen and now you are 27” he said.
“But I haven't met someone I could spend the rest of my life with, abhi tak. I cannot simply pick some random person na, just because I am 27!” I argued, thoroughly disgusted by the whole situation.
“Okay. Talk to him once or twice again. If he feels okay we will do a roka ceremony. And if you don't get along, you can let us know,” said my dad.
I realized that it was only fair I made an effort to know him better. For all I know, he might be a great guy. So I did. And after 6 months and 20 days of our roka, I decided to call off my wedding. My parents were shocked.
No, he did not demand dowry or treat me badly or abuse me. But we just did not get along. We were both very different people. We were worlds apart and none of us had enough patience to understand the other person’s world well enough to coexist happily. We had been unable to develop basic levels of understanding with each other in 6 months. That’s a long time. How was I supposed to spend the rest of my life with this person?
The fact that I wanted to call off the wedding despite nothing scandalous happening proved to be a difficult thing for both families to digest, especially my own. They kept asking me if he had abused me in any way. When they were convinced he had not, they started blaming me for ruining the relationship. After all, if the guy didn’t abuse me, what other reason could I have for not marrying him?
For months my parents did not talk to me properly, and the few times that they did it was only to convince me to reconcile with him. I wasn’t spared anything, not the accusatory looks of my relatives at family functions, not behind-the-back gossip sessions and not even the lectures about "khaandaan ki izzat."
What had I done that was so wrong? Why was khaandaan ki izzat more important than my happiness? Just because I am a girl I SHOULD get married? Why? I do not understand why being a girl makes my opinions, choices, decisions and freedom any less important and significant to a man’s.
The most painful part is that my own parents agree with this mentality. They did not say anything when the aunties in our khaandaan were saying that it was probably all my fault and I must have done something wrong. They were mum when people said that I must be “lacking” in some way and they were quiet even when people said that all this was a result of giving me too much freedom. I was looked down upon and now I am told that even our own distant relatives do not want to marry their son to me. Well, I could not be more thankful.
I am a strong, independent woman, and yet apparently I am incomplete because I do not have a man by my side. I am 29 now and still unmarried. My parents have never again tried to fix me up for the fear that I might pull the same stunt again. I wish I do find true love, and till then if the world is going to force me to fight for the life and the happiness I deserve, I will.
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