On Shaadi

Personal blogs are, more often than not, just rants. So here I am ranting about my personal life.

Context is that as a single woman, I do get asked the marriage question, by everyone. Something so personal, as choosing a living breathing thinking functioning human person to spend the whole of my personal space with, for probably the whole of the rest of my life, is a social concern. I mean it puzzles me as to why this has been normalized, others prying into whether or not I have chosen someone to cohabitate with and maybe create progeny with. But I do completely understand that these people are my well-wishers, and completely appreciate that they ask me, instead of some others who are too awkward with the topic and may keep their questions to themselves and (sadly sometimes) discuss it with others who are not me.

I am not opposed to men (or women), I’m not even opposed to marriage, I’m opposed to the traditional social institution of marriage. Following may be the reasons:

1. There’s a social clock. We do not marry when we feel like it, we marry when others feel we are the right age. Right age for what? Depending on your cultural and socioeconomic background:

a. You’ve attained menarche and can now bear children (and have developed secondary sexual characteristics). Thus, any family (and man) will find you desirable enough, so your parents can get rid of their burden by making a sensible exchange with another family.

b. Or that you have attained menarche and can bear children (and have developed secondary sexual characters), so you have become tantalizing to the general criminal-minded male population (not just pedophiles). Thus, in order to avoid any ­­­anhoni­, better to make you the property of another man and put you in his protection. It’s his headache now, and maybe he will be able to protect you from those like himself (unlikely).

c. You’ve attained the best age for reproduction, so you must follow the biological clock and get married quickly so that you can bear healthy children for the community, I mean family, I mean yourself.

d. You’ve attained the right age in which girls from respectable families from so & so community get married off, otherwise it will be a question-mark on the competence of your parents. And yes, your marriage is not about your life, it’s just another task that proves that your parents are competent, it’s about them.

2. The second thing that really puzzles me, and it’s not the case in all the marriages, but for at least 95%, is how it feeds into the very thing you grow up condemning. Women will go to the best schools, read the most modern texts, follow the coolest orators and influencers. These young women don’t want to be second-class citizens any more, they are rebellious, they are the change-makers. Only on Facebook and Instagram. Only from ages 13 to 25. We hate being second-class citizens. In fact, even in our own homes we may ask our fathers to contribute more, to treat our mothers right. We say we can open our jars and put our own lightbulbs. But for how many years? surely this self-dependence is tiring. So, we take up even greater life-altering responsibilities, not just for ourselves, but for the husband, his parents, our children (poor fellows). To have someone to open the jars, we put ourselves in many many boxes. And who bears the consequences of this? We. And everyone who is connected, namely, parents, friends (if you will have any left), siblings, children, husband, his family, etc. We want to feel protected. You know there’s this beautiful scene in the Hindi film Queen (2013), wherein she’s there in Paris, alone on her honeymoon, and she’s looking for some guy to hold her hand to help her cross the road. You know how long this feeling of protection will last? Probably till the honeymoon only. And have you ever thought whether men want this feeling of protection? Do you think that you might also have to give this? Thus, this protection is Not a one-way street. If you believe in gender-as-a-social-construct, and also look for protection from men, without actually thinking that both of you should provide it to each other, well, guess what, hypocritical. And also, who do you need this protection from? From other men, from that mindset that you are choosing to feed into.

3. Here I’m just continuing with the second point, but with a break for ease of reading. So, all your life, you’ve been aware that women are second-class citizens, and you have advocated redefining the social construct of gender and et voila, here you are, willing to feed into the very thing by going into a traditional marriage. You will feed into that certain privilege (and certain loss also) that men carry. The privilege of women playing a supporting role in the hero of a man, and the loss of a chance to seek that someone who will change the lightbulbs for them, who will let him nurture his children while she goes to earn a living, someone who will open the jar, because despite his big muscles, he might want to be treated as a softie for a day or two.

4. I understand that marriages today are changing, and I appreciate that. Again, I’m not opposed to marriage. I’ll be glad to find a marriage where:

a. The man earns less than a woman

b. The man is asked to change jobs to move where the wife works

c. The man is asked to quit his career to nurture his relations (with in-laws or children)

d. The man and woman make equal number of meals and divide all the household chores equally

e. The man cooks and serves the guests, instead of calling out to her for tea for the guests

f. The woman is not blamed for not prioritizing her children (because it’s the woman’s duty, not the man’s)

g. A woman is not asked the height, weight, power of the glasses she wears, whether she’s a virgin, whether she is a vegetarian (but can cook non-veg), etc. in a marriage proposal

The truth is that these traditions are so deeply ingrained in our mind, that even when I sit and imagine a life where my husband might earn less than me, I’m sure this will come up as a taunt from me in many of our arguments. And even if the husband may decide to prioritize the children for some time at least, he will take the chance to call me a cold mother if the next argument gets out of hand.

Change is uncomfortable. It takes a lot to question everything and a lot of discomfort to truly stand true to the values you preach. Who knows whether I’ll be able to keep doing the same… But it must be done, because if we all keep making minor adjustments for love and tradition and security and whatever, the cumulative effect will be that nothing will change.

For those who think of themselves as the righteous sacrificers, it’s not just you sacrificing you, it’s you sacrificing so many other women, and probably your own daughter(s). Someone close to me once said, no personal decision is apolitical. And it has taken a while for me to understand this, but now I somewhat do. However, if you don’t understand all that politics and stuff (just like me), think of this, if your mother had sacrificed to the extent your grandmother did, you will still be where your grandmother was. It’s only fair that you take the next step.

So this is my rant, to all my well-wishers.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been blessed to have like-minded and inspirational women around me, which makes this tough journey a little less rocky.

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