Firstly, I’d like to eliminate the possibilities of being called names by the ever well-meaning keepers of our beloved tradition. I am not against marriage. In fact, I wish to marry someday, share a happy life with my future partner and raise kids who can choose for themselves whether they’d like the same or not. I am not so averse to marriage as much as I am to the ever so enraging tradition of weddings. I have always found weddings to be a tedious, pompous and obscene affair whose vainness and at the same time unfair prominence in society has baffled me time and again (and this, coming from a die-hard foodie!). I am soon touching 24—the magical age where one is scared of taking a date to a wedding more out of fear of positive comments. Nothing scares me more than the paranormal ability of ‘well-meaning’ relatives to be inquisitive about my marital status at the slightest hint of my ominous age. Their concerns aren’t so much about marital status as much as it is about my long-term plans, which should have a nice cushy place for marriage in it.
I don’t have concerns about what place it could have in my life. I am more concerned and nearly fearful about how things would pan out if I am constantly badgered and forced-fed the idea of how important it is to become a wife before anything else that I actually aspire to become. Maybe it’s just me, but a hasty decision is something I am always wary of. And when it comes to the whys, whens and who’s of marriage I would like to tread that path with utmost caution. There have been array of weddings in my overtly Punjabi paternal family. My generation is being made to go through a chronological elimination of singles on either side of 25. I for one have resorted to a non-conformist attitude. I have stopped going to weddings as a policy, especially the closer ones because the pressure to be politically correct all the time is far more in those. There are various reasons for my decision, and here some of the precious gems that have rolled out at various family weddings over the years by the very ‘well-meaning’ relatives and ‘concerned’ acquaintances and the reasons that strengthened my resolve to boycott weddings and generally conversing with those involved in them.
1. If you aren’t married, how will you be happy?
So, how does marriage guarantee happiness? As per my observation, most Indian marriages are unfulfilled, frustrating and alarmingly unequal. Women and men are under pressure for the most trivial things that aren’t necessarily to do with their marriage itself. While women are under pressure to be a good wife, a good bahu, dress traditionally, cook well, be a good mother and give birth to a son; men are under pressure to work long hours, earn enough, be a good husband (only as much as the mother approves), be a good father (but not a primary caregiver) and so on. In what language does that make anyone happier than someone who can live on their own terms? How is that better than anyone who can make rational decisions and choices on their own (for themselves)?
2. Wedding ceremonies are so much fun.
In India, not only are weddings an ordeal for the couple in question, but are also insufferable for the insomnia-induced relatives who have to stay on for pheras, the crew involved in the ceremony (including the light boys and horse caretaker, not-to-mention the horse/s), immediate family who has to painstakingly attend to the guests and give them more attention than the bride and groom, and last, but not least those (including me) who’ve spent hours on end waiting for the baraat to pass by and traffic to clear out on the road. Wedding ceremonies are not fun! They’re a trivial affair, which are only meant to be a parade of how much wealth one’s family has gathered over the years. And if you ask the bride and groom, a very small fraction would actually come out and say they enjoyed their own wedding. The wedding is their special day not uncle’s third cousin’s chacha’s sister’s daughter’s husband’s brother’s special day.
3. How will you be accepted in society?
Now let me get this straight. Any society that demands of one’s marital status to be affirmative to be ‘accepted’ in is not worth being a part of. If a woman or man is doing well for herself/himself (and even if she/he isn’t yet and is trying to), is a good human being, independent, a rational person who knows right from wrong, treats people with respect and equality and so on, she/he already leaps and bounds ahead in the societal acceptance game. And if society isn’t ready to ‘accept’ them because they’re over 30 and not married, then well, it is that very society’s loss.
4. You should get married for your security.
To all those who believe this to be true, lets jog through some not so happy facts. Marital rape is very real and a problem that our courts have conveniently gagged. Not for long one can only hope. Marriage is never a deterrent for any sort of offender to step down. Most abusive marriages have had a woman fall victim to exploitation by the family in the name of dowry, childbirth (for a male child) and so on. Wife beating and domestic violence are, again, very real and issues one can’t overlook. A woman can be far more secure, happy and stable staying away from these.
5. You’ll be in a better place financially.
In most Indian marriages, women are discouraged from working or having a life that is different from what is supposedly prescribed by elders. Financial stability and equality can be better established when both partners are breadwinners and one doesn’t rely on the other for support. Moreover, if I don’t have liabilities that need my financial support and earn enough to have a disposable income, I am in a better financial position than I will be having to account for every penny I intend on spending.
6. Indian marriages are more solid than those in the West. Have you seen their divorce rate?
This is a tricky one. Marriages in India are not long-lasting because everything is fairy-tale like and rosy within it. The only reason (bad) marriages in India last long no matter what is because of the social stigma that divorces go through in India. I’m not saying it’s always a good thing, but a bad marriage in the West is nipped at the bud and there isn’t a painful and frustrating need to go through the ordeal just because ‘people will talk’. If divorce wasn’t that big a deal in India, we would’ve had two happier people for every unhappy couple.
7. You’ll be a burden on your family.
That statement is just wrong on so many levels. If people in India stopped seeing their daughters as paraya dhan, future brides, and burdens, most problems in this country regarding gender would miraculously disappear. If people raise daughters to be financially independent and successful human beings and not future daughters-in-law, then half the population of this country would be living a more fulfilling life without having to depend on anyone for giving them support or stability.
So, to all those well-meaning folk at weddings out there, I’m not a burden, and getting and staying married is not the only goal in my life. I will (or will not) get married in my own time—a time that my partner and I feel comfortable with. And to my relatives who’d like to address their concerns about my life goals, wedding season is nearing again. I hope you’re prepared for the next time I give you my well-reasoned and logical ‘arguments’ if I do come.
Image Credit: Visit Florida