On 25th January, 2010 I waited with bated breath for you. And I put the garland around your neck with every single one of my family members watching. I’ll never forget that day.
Why do girls get married?
In some countries, arranged marriages are the norm. Once a girl is of marriageable age (and sometimes even when she is not) the family decides whom she should marry and when.
India is one of those countries wherein many areas around this large mass of land, a girl can choose for herself. In many others areas, she can’t. Times change. People change. Sometimes for the better.
So, why do girls get married?
All a girl wants when she marries someone out of love is complete devotion and her man to put her first. To make her feel special and to make her feel loved. To not look at other pretty women and make her feel less of herself.
Times are changing…
We think we have it all…
At one point, Indians scoffed at how westerners had a higher-than-average divorce rate while in India, marriage still held so much value that couples didn’t just split up over ‘differences’. We prided ourselves in having a strong family system.
What we didn’t bother stressing on was the reality of how unhappy middle aged or even younger couples went on with a marriage because of family pressures. Because, the woman didn’t know how she would support herself, financially. Because, the woman was made to feel scared of the outside world. Because a woman had to stay.
This of course doesn’t constitute every marriage or married couple in India. But it does say a lot about several.
Today, we see a drastic rise in divorce cases among younger married couples.
Girls changed. Look around you. Walk around the cities of India. Watch the corporate world. Women are every where and they are rising in their careers. They are smarter, confident, groomed, ambitious. Women have turned entrepreneurs in and around the country and have done so, successfully. Moreover, some women are at the helm of very reputed companies internationally and nationally. A few examples – Chanda Kocchar, CEO, ICICI Bank, Naina Lal Kidwai, Chairperson of HSBC, India, Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook.
The list is endless.
But most of the men, remained the same. In India. Again, that’s not to speak on behalf of every man out there, but several few. Indian parents of boys still raise their sons instilling in most of them a sense of responsibility that involve old-age care. That involved their being part of the sons life day in and day out. These parents also want their daughters-in-law to adhere to what they feel is right and on par with society’s norms.
While girls to a large extent still had to be the ‘paraya’ in their own homes and serve the elders or in-laws in her marital home, boys stayed under the roof or influence of their parents, no natter where they were.
Many sons of Indians have managed to break out of the norm. They do understand that the wife’s place is somewhere and the family’s or parents place is somewhere else in the hierarchy of thought and love. Neither is less important. But this is what we largely fail to understand.
How can you merge the two? Why do we still want to integrate everything and act like one big happy family? I believe and always will that distance makes the heart grow fonder. That does not mean that one should stop caring for their parents, far from the fact. But it definitely doesn’t mean that you make your life partner adhere to their wishes, demands and traditions while ignoring hers.
Who laid down traditions?
Ask parents why they follow what they do and a majority of them wont even have the right answers. Google it and you may get why we follow what we follow.
Humans, people like you and me laid down traditions. And again, that doesn’t mean we get to break them as we go along. It just means that we need to integrate changing times to them.
Indian parents of boys still want the same old behaviour that they saw when they were younger. In most cases.
When I put the garland on you, I wanted you to put me first. To ask me what I wanted before you asked them what I should do. I wanted to be in control of my life because it was a gift given to me by my parents, not yours.
If I say this out loud, I’m termed as arrogant. If my husband were to go away on a business trip, I am supposed to move in with my in-laws. Did anyone consider asking me whether I would like to move in with my own parents during that time?
I don’t hate anyone. Not my in-laws. Not their family. But I do believe that if I can’t control my own life, I can’t be happy.
Let’s face facts. Some women are happier in their married homes. But several others miss their parents, their childhood homes and their pre-marital life. But life is all about growing and moving on. Still, when parents-in-law lay down terms because its ‘customary’, I fail to see how the hell that is justified? Is this what we call “balance”?
Yes, without traditions we wouldn’t have a base. But is it that important to enforce conditions on another human being? Indian parents and boys too should understand, you don’t own your wife / bahu.
I thought we would grow old together. I used to pray that God not take you away first. Still, if I were to leave you, it gives me the jitters.
But how can I go on when you want what your parents tell you to have? I’m not asking you to break away from your parents. But just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean you get to break me away from mine.
You say you don’t ask for anything out of the ordinary. What you do want is a wife who will put your family and you first. But do you put her first?
You want her to churn out delicious dishes in the kitchen, ones that taste like what your mother cooked you. You even want her to learn how to cook from your mother. Do you look after her the way her father did? Her father treated her like a princess and ensured she had nothing to worry about. Ever.
You on the other hand don’t know the meaning of a life ‘partner’. A partner. Someone who can share thoughts, equally. Like you. Who can make decisions, like you.
Dear Indian sons of those days, learn from those who treat their wife as their equal, those who even start businesses with them. A woman knows when to strike a balance between her married life and her other worldly desires. Men, sadly, do not.
Until the Indian boy of yesterday doesn’t open his eyes, couples of today will never be happy. And believe it or not, accept it or not, have a deep conversation with the elder women in your family and most will say that they were not happy after a point in time.
It takes two to tango. And three’s always said to be a crowd.
It’s about time you learn the real meaning and responsibility of a life ‘partner’ before you choose to point fingers.
By Paroma Sen