Looking for a groom online is a hellish process. For those like me, who never believed in the process and had to push themselves into it, may swear that the idea is as pretentious as our beloved Indian society. I had always been a scared cat and didn’t have the inclination to go on dates or even say “Hi” to my friend’s male cousin who had come to pick her up on a tired evening. However, many like us still want to try the safer option of getting into a relationship through what we call ‘arranged dating’ in today’s times. This system has evolved from arranged marriages, where the bride and the groom have a free hand in choosing their life partners, all thanks to the matrimonial Apps. The irony is that the young, educated, independent India still selects a probable match based on the old parameters which got our grandparents or parents married. Still it seems to be a safer option since we get to know each other before committing to a lifetime together.
One look through a typical profile of a probable groom will tell you that alliance through technology is just old wine in a new bottle.
Before writing this article, I was surfing through the internet and I chanced upon a Kerala Muslim Leader’s thoughts on gender equality. The gentleman considers equality of sexes as un-islamic and thinks that women are only fit to produce children.
This is something that resonates in most Indian households where procreation is sadly a commitment, with very few women especially those like us who belong to a socio-economic privileged group having a say in what we want to do with our bodies.
After trying to convince myself that arranged marriage was not as black and white as its painted to be, I decided to take the plunge like most Indian women who have no options but to give in to the fatality of seeking out a life partner. My profiles were made and posted on most Indian matrimonial websites with the choicest of words adorning the “about me” section. A few months later I took the reigns in my own hands and decided to invest my time, energy and emotions in selecting likely men. Factors like common interests were used to zero in on matches, but in the later stages I realized that even arranged dating relies on fundamental falsehoods that keep the Indian marriages going.
A few months later, as I started observing the ideas and objectives that drive the Indian arranged marriage industry, I realized that I wasn’t getting any requests to connect because I had forgotten to boast about the one important quality that every Indian woman should have without fail, the desire to build a family. To maintain all honesty and uprightness in my profile I decided to not use the word “family-oriented” or any of its synonyms to please the matches that were thrown at me, after performing random permutations and combinations. Even then, as my profile started growing older, it gained some attention and I heaved a sigh of relief. Frankly to get married or even be in a relationship, one needs to be a risk taker which I was not. After persuading myself to accept this truth, I decided to meet a few guys. Most of those one time dates taught me a lot about the motherhood goals that exist in our society and why it won’t be easy to get rid of it.
Many of them pretended to be cool and accustomed with the need for gender equality, but by the time the boring discussions about long-term plans happened I realized what most Indian men really look for. They were looking to raise families with a woman. My educational qualifications, looks, shared interests and even family background were just the icing on the cake. Since I wasn’t happy with the proposition of marrying someone to fulfill the grand idea of plopping babies out of my womb, I decided to bare the truth; that I do not want children. I could see disappointment, disgust, regret and even compassion for me on their faces. A few decided to talk it out with me, since they thought that they had the right to police my body or choices because they had done the favour of considering me to be a candidate in their hunt for a spouse. It seemed that for most of these people parenting was a compulsory duty that they were willing to accept as an indelible challenge of adulthood.
Some of the men considered my choice to not be a mother to be a temporary phase in my life. Others went on to say that it was because of this selfish attitude of mine that I was struggling to get married. I wonder why this deeply personal choice was branded as selfish. That is how most of us are conditioned; especially men who think that giving birth to a child is the unfailing responsibility of a woman and that women’s bodies are laboratories of procreation, and any other choice should be dealt with an iron hand.
This exercise of looking for a groom was an eye opener for the worst best kept secrets of the Indian society. It seemed that procreation is every woman’s duty after marriage and she doesn’t have much of a say about her body. That is exactly why the decision of who you end up with and why you decide to spend the rest of your life with that person, is vital. In a world that sees motherhood as a mark of respect and acceptance, the commitment to remain child-free maybe dealt with violence. The truth is no matter who you are and what you are doing, adulthood is not easy , particularly in a country like ours which is obsessed with relationship and procreation goals. It’s saddening to know that in twenty first century India, motherhood is still seen as an essential life goal that should be embraced with open arms, and with not a word of protest. I am reminded of a meme that glorified motherhood and called it a phase that is imperative to make a woman feel complete. Notions like these make it all the more difficult for women to say no to motherhood and take control of their bodies.
After the frustration of not been able to have an open discussion about a woman’s reproductive goals before marriage, I decided to write this post. In my opinion every woman, whether married or single should have a say about her uterus and what she decides to do with it. Talking about reproductive rights will educate people about women’s bodies and their rights. Some women are born without maternal instincts and it is not abnormal to say no to something that maybe a burdensome obligation, for those who do not want it.
As I haplessly stare at the matches on one of my matrimonial accounts, I wonder how long will it be, before I bump into a guy who is willing to accept a woman with autonomy to her body and refuses to let it be a battle ground for patriarchal norms.
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