Arranged marriages in India are mainstream. A friend of the family has been extremely worried about me turning 28 and still single. Her worry can be felt in her questions every time we happen to chat such as:
“Poor you, why did you go for a PhD, now how are you ever going to find a man who doesn’t feel intimidated?”
“I can understand your pains how difficult it is to be without a man.”
“You must be sleepless at nights! How are you ever going to stop your biological clock until you find the perfect husband?”
“Send me your bio data, I will find you a rich family guy, I promise.”
Since, she insisted on the last one ad infinitum, I decided to make my matrimonial bio data at last and send it to her so she can find me a guy. Not to mention she blissfully ignores that there is an option of ‘voluntary singlehood’ that women can choose too, other than marriage. Anyways, here it goes…
On a serious note:
I am a feminist, yes. No, I don’t hate men. Yes, I might get married someday but not until I feel like it. You see, it’s just that I believe partnership needs time and attention. Currently, I am busy building myself and my passions. I don’t think it would be fair for me to marry someone only to ignore the person and spend time with my personal projects. Besides, what’s the rush?
Since the last 7 years of my life, I get asked this question a lot “when are you getting married?” I understand that people who care for me and want to see me happy are worried for me. But they don’t ask this question to me because I seem somehow unhappy (cause the truth is quite the opposite, I love being single to bits). They ask because this is the norm.
Embedded deep in the patriarchal society, most of us (Indian Muslims specifically) don’t even think that women are not just wives and mothers, they are humans first. They can have a life of their own. They can think and dream and work hard to accomplish things in life.
Marriage itself isn’t bad. But getting married due to age, honor, neighbor’s marriage, your ex’s marriage and/or the availability of a wealthy guy is horrendous.
I speak with men who are unhappy in their marriages because they went for the homely, educated but indoor living, soap watching women so that she could remain at home and take care of the family. They complain when they realize that these women do not share their goals and ambitions and can barely laugh or argue about a book they read or a movie they saw. It’s not the women’s fault; they have been grown up to believe that they are only good for laundry, cooking and child bearing. Hence their limited outlook on life.
Men get trapped in their own double standards. They ask for a homely, disciplined, head-down-complacent-yes-sir attitude kind of a wife and later regret because she is absolutely dependent on the husband for every single thing in her life. She doesn’t earn (isn’t allowed to step out of the house on her own) so the husband has to be rich or she is in deep shit. She would never go to a bank or run errands in case the husband is busy. She wouldn’t share the enthusiasm and charm of working on an exciting project (you cannot expect Rock or Jazz singer to enjoy Ghazals, can you?) neither would she understand most things about his work and colleagues. (This of course is not what happens with everyone but with most people).
Women who choose for themselves are the best spectacle to watch.
That’s because they do make mistakes, they fall down, get hurt, drag on the ground, learn to stand up, slowly and gradually they take their first step and one day their start to run (their life) and ultimately take a flight to the world of their dreams.
It is like watching a child learn how to walk or a baby bird learn how to fly.
Women must not be reduced to their body parts. Just because I have ovaries doesn’t mean I am my ovaries. I can use them as and when I like. In India (at least in my community), women’s lives are spent preparing for married life. We are grown up to learn how to cook and clean and serve so one day we can impress the husband’s family. I am sure every Indian has heard the ages old phrase:
Sasural jaaegi, badnaami karegi hamari.. Seekh le kuch ghar ke kaam…
In English, it means “when you go to your husband’s abode, you will bring us a bad impression and shame. Learn household chores.
This is such a narrow, shallow and orthodox view of women. It is a waste of being a woman. Women can choose to be single and independent and instead of wasting themselves in the kitchen, do much more with their lives.
As our beloved Shakira said:
The worst mistake of a woman is to go to the kitchen, because then she never gets out of there.
An independent woman who can support herself financially, emotionally and mentally is the best combination of God and man’s work (usually her Dad in this case but could be anyone). Because we live in a patriarchal society, men hold much more power than women and hence it is crucial for fathers to raise their daughters this way. Fathers play a prominent role in the building a woman. And I am glad my father did.
I want to point out another double standard here that we barely notice. Why an educated, accomplished woman has to find a husband who is more accomplished than her? Why can’t we accept men as partners instead of competitors? Why is there so much pressure on me to find a guy who is in some way ‘more’ than me? Why can’t his care be a reason good enough?
Some might say that it’s because men get intimidated and this would create problems in the marriage. Well, in that case if I am marrying a ‘man child’ who has issues with his own masculinity and needs to compete with me, I don’t think he needs me, I think he needs counseling and a rational upbringing.
Asking women to underachieve in life to cheer up the male ego is like… sorry I couldn’t find anything synonymous that is dumber than this.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night puts it precisely, “The rule seemed to be that a great woman must either die unwed … or find a still greater man to marry her. … The great man, on the other hand, could marry where he liked, not being restricted to great women; indeed, it was often found sweet and commendable in him to choose a woman of no sort of greatness at all.”
So all you girls out there; marry when you feel like it, not when you are rushed into it because your ovaries might expire or your neighbors birthing their 7th child and you are still single.
And all you guys out there; think twice multiplied by 10, before you pick your wife. A homely wife may be good in home but you will be stepping out of the house too and might need a companion for life not just for the home. And when you do become the father of a girl, raise her to choose her own way in life.
And those offering to find me a husband….thanks and good luck 😉