Protecting the girl child is one of my pet causes, especially since so many girls die in this country with alarming regularity.
But as I grow older, I have moments when I feel it would have been better to have been a statistic rather than be a single woman in this decidedly un-modern society that I am unwittingly a part of. It’s as if I am not actually allowed to control my life (at least after a point).
[Yes I realise it’s a dramatic comparison but perceived privilege is worse than actually not having that privilege.]
I consider it a big crime when I read of mothers, mothers-in-law and other sundry women of a household who encourage their pregnant daughters and daughters-in-law to kill their babies. Despite all the expected troubles in the distant future for that daughter who is yet to come into this world, how can a woman actually do that?
But now when I see my mother and see how helpless she feels with a daughter who is supposedly independent, educated and reasonably self-sufficient, and not in the bracket where the reasons for actually killing the daughter arise, I wonder if this independence has any meaning at all.
I have the education, the ability and the capability to run my life. But when strange people call my parents and consolingly ask, if they (my parents) still have an unmarried daughter, I want to push them out the nearest window.
Yes, the independence is mine while all this angst is conditioning-driven but how does one go about disassociating one from the other? Every time? More than one person has told me that all this will affect me only to the degree I let it affect me. But I am still grappling with developing a thick skin, which no one really seems to know how to do.
I hate this peddling of my parents’ unmarried daughter. I hate what it does to them, and me. I hate that they would willingly let me marry any man (which can be looked at a positive as “anyone will do, any religion too,” my mother says.. which again dumbfounds me) just so that I, and them more importantly, rid themselves of the stigma of an old, unmarried daughter.
I hate that, in this so-called progressive and modern and urban India, there is no place for single women. Progression implies you are ‘allowed’ to have a love marriage but also to snidely hear “but you haven’t found anyone, have you?” That’s exactly what I want — my parents picking this argument to fling in my face my failed relationship(s).
My mother does not have any answer to all my whys and that always brings us to a cusp where she has not even considered challenging conventionally held norms. I respect that but since this one involves my life, I can’t help but vociferously protest. “Why can’t you just get married before it gets too late..” is one refrain she never tires off.
She doesn’t realise why I get upset when strange women call and ask if I would be willing to marry men only because I am taller than the average girl or older than the average girl. Needless to say, we don’t gel is an argument my mother doesn’t understand.
I hate the fact that my married friends (well some, not most) turn around and demand to know why I am “not doing enough to get married.” Or “why I am not willing to compromise since now am in my 30s”. Or since it worked for them (the Russian roulette known as the arranged marriage market), why can’t I believe it will work for me?
These are people I grew up with and turns out we evolved and became people we don’t recognise anymore. It’s scary. It’s upsetting. It’s futile. Especially not having people who don’t even understand what you are saying, forget believing in what you believe.
Nothing today is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ so why is this situation any different?
I have a friend who comes from a relatively conservative background (only as reference since her mother and mine are identical when it comes to some demands). Some years ago there was a tremendous pressure on her married. Demands came in all forms including emotional blackmail of a parent admitted in the hospital. But she didn’t succumb. At that point I was ambiguous since I could see her worry and her parents’ suffering.
But today I am glad she stuck it out. Not that she is my moral comfort now, but I know despite intense degrees of emotional blackmail, she survived. It takes strength and conviction that being alone won’t completely derail you – something a lot of people would have you believe and is used as frequent initiator into marriage. “What will you do when you are 50?” is a favourite question when you say you aren’t sure you cut out for marriage, or at least marriage of this kind.
Like in most areas of my life, the pressure here too exceeds everything else. I should know what I want – whether it’s my job, my life or my marriage. I should actively seek it – clamour, fight, run and do what it takes to get it, grabbing every opportunity that comes my way.
Most of my interesting experiences and relationships have been because of one chance I took. A turn I made. It has almost always been unplanned and certainly not charted. I don’t have a rose-tinted vision of life and would like to believe when the turn comes, I will take it. It will be my decision and one I will live with, positively or negatively.
But till then, this argument which often becomes a battle of wills, is becoming intolerable. With most people I can give it back but somehow not able to get through my parents. It’s a futile, recurrent argument which only leads to cold sulks, tears, hoarse throats and me making crazy declarations.
Would it have been better if I had just not been born?