Posted by Mudita Sonawane
I was travelling through my usual ladies’ compartment in Mumbai local train. Two middle aged typical working women were sitting besides me. I had only three more stations to wait for, so out of curiosity I started listening to their conversation.
They were talking about some other common friend, whom they weren’t in contact with for a long time. One of them asked, “What are her kids doing now, do you have any idea?” The other lady answered, “I heard the elder son has gone abroad, and the younger son is working in a software company.” It came across that they belong to a privileged family. She continued, “Younger one had gone to Dubai for two years and now he has returned. Her daughter got married a year ago.”
I waited for more, but no other information seeped about the daughter, they shifted to a completely different topic. Train announced the next station and I had to get up. But I started thinking, how is it possible that two seemingly economically independent ‘working women’ who could do research on the complete history-geography of another woman, and who can present this complete research in the form of gossips, don’t have the data about the other woman’s daughter apart from the fact that she is married? Does this imply that ‘getting married’ is the highest possible goal that a girl can achieve?
Is ‘getting married’ the highest possible goal that a girl can achieve?
While shuffling through channels on TV, I came across a patriotism driven Sunny Deol movie The Hero: Love Story of a Spy. The scene showed the conversation between Sunny Deol (shown as a military officer) and a Kashmiri resident about his daughter Reshma’s (Preity Zinta) desire for education and their inability to pay the fees. The officer, since he is a generous hero, gives him the fees for six months and asks him to enroll her in the school.
I was happy to see this, thought this is a good message given through the movie, like Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao. But then the immediate scene showed the father being skeptical, and the hero saying, “Dekhiye aap ki achchi beti hai, padh likh jayegi to achcha ladka mil jayega” (You have a nice daughter. If she is educated she’ll get a nice groom).
Basically, according to a film from mainstream Bollywood, all the facade for a girl’s education, is ultimately aimed towards marrying her to a ‘good boy’. Actually, according to the Young Achiever’s Matrimony (which is actually Arya Vysya Elite Matrimony) for girls, even education is not a criteria to get married if they are beautiful.
We often see posts which have collage of girls in different uniforms in different fields-medical, military, science & technology, corporate sector, and many more. That portrays a very ideal society having empowered women. We can’t disagree to the fact that the number of women is rising in every field, but it’s a very deceptive illusion.
The number of female professors is high, but the number of female heads, vice chancellors or scientists is low. There is a huge difference in the number of female doctors with bachelor’s degree and specialists with MD/MS and above. We hear a lot of complains about the discrepancy in the income of female and male actors. For how many years are we going to talk about the same female CEO’s like Chanda Kocchar and Indra Nooyi? It’s clear that very few are actually at a significant or ruling position.
An unmarried man at a higher position is looked at like a saint whereas an unmarried woman with the same status would always be the topic of gossip.
Those few, again, are mostly from an already well established, well educated family. The girls from other less privileged communities/castes don’t always get a favorable environment for doing what they like because there are no/less boys having equivalent qualification/professional temperament.
It is a harsh reality that those who try to fight this have to be prepared to live a life full of enormous amount of mental and even physical torture. An unmarried man at a higher position is looked at like a saint whereas an unmarried woman with the same status would always be the topic of gossip, and no parents want such a life for their daughters.
Even in urban areas, 80% of the few girls who are pursuing higher education are forced to marry before they even complete the education or immediately after completion of it. This doesn’t give them any chance to explore the field or get ‘settled’ in the profession of their choice. Getting in-laws who are supportive towards their education or career is completely uncertain. In most cases, they aren’t. There are a lot of women who opt to become a housewife or go for a less demanding job.
So if a girl is capable of being a CA, she is forced to work at a minor position in a bank and cook for the in-laws. Her parents don’t think that if she waits for a year to prepare for the exam and cracks it, her standard of life would be much better that what it is now. They don’t imagine such a future because their imagination is shrunk by the patriarchal mindset gifted by Manusmriti.
Girls are always told that whatever education or hobbies they want to pursue, they must get it while they are still in their parent’s home; after marriage there is no chance to get to do it. The institution of marriage and the facade of forced obligatory ‘joy of motherhood’ forces women to ‘adjust’ their career and eventually the entire schedule according to what her in-laws and childcare-needs demand. This also affects heavily when the children have their exams (mostly boards), where if she doesn’t take leave her motherhood is questioned.
Marriage and so called family values, make a woman’s resume look not-so-professional in the rising capitalistic environment. The private corporate organizations, or off-beat career options are thus, preferably rejected by the girl’s family because they don’t provide necessary leaves, facilities or security. Even now, the most secure jobs for women are considered to be the ones in banks, or in academic field (teaching).
People often complain that Hinduism is criticised the most, when it comes to liberal debates. But it’s the only religion where it is a sin to be unmarried – even for men, but this affects women the most. So we really need to think rationally about the need to update the ‘genre’ of religion – but in the era of declining even the Supreme Court’s decision to allow all women to enter Sabarimala, only time has the answer.
Mudita Sonawane has done her masters in Physics and is doing Sangeet Visharad (Indian classical vocal). She has represented her university of Mumbai in the 9th South Asian Universities Festival in 2016. She is also an amateur photographer, and has recently started writing. You can follow her writing on her blog or follow her on Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Marriage