If you have grown up as a daughter in an Indian household, chances are, your parents have peddled to you the perspective that marriage is a ticket to wonderland. Tell them of the passions and goals that drive you forward in life, and they strike it down with a simple – “Do it after marriage if your husband allows, not right now.” Indian parents, let me pose three simple questions to you. Firstly, what if marriage is not on our agendas at all? Secondly, what gives our hypothetical husbands the authority to “allow” us for anything? And thirdly, if you don’t support our dreams, who’s to say anyone else in the world will?
This argument that Indian parents give is not exclusive to professional dreams and life goals. They take the liberty, and creativity, to apply it to every single thing – from deciding what clothes to wear to taking a holiday or going on a trip. This latter situation should be familiar to most girls. If you tell your parents about a trip you want to take with your friends, they retort “Go with your husband when you’re married.” Why? So he can foot the expenses of the trip? Or so that he can police my actions? Or is it because parents don’t trust their daughters to take care of themselves?
Why Should I Rely On A Man To Fulfil My Dreams?
Strangely enough (or is it even strange anymore?), such terms and conditions never apply to sons. They are given full agency over the decisions they take in life – the way they want to dress, passions they want to follow, money they want to spend. From a woman’s gaze, all this seems like a privilege she doesn’t have, despite it being the most basic right of every individual – the control over one’s own life. That’s how unprivileged we women are, with our broken desires and crumpled bucket lists.
Why do we need to pass the security check of marriage before accomplishing our goals? Why do we have to be at the behest of a man who will stamp our dreams with his seal of approval? If I am an independent, earning woman, why do I ever have to rely on a man to fulfil my dreams? Am I not capable of taking the reins of my own life into my own hands? Why do I need a husband-boss to tell me what to do and what not to do?
Can A Woman Really Do What She Wants After Marriage?
Marriage is a life-altering checkpoint, a full-time job, a responsibility that comes with a long list of compromises for both partners. Not to mention, it also brings along a new set of parents into a woman’s life, who exercise their own checks and rules on the bahu.
In such a setting, will a woman ever be able to do what she wants? How many married women in India are able to take off on a friends’ trip at a short notice? If a woman earns, is she able to buy all those dresses she wants without first budgeting her finances for the household, or consulting her partner? Even after she budgets, can she buy those dresses without the fear of “in-laws kya kahenge?” And if/when she becomes a mother, will she really be able to “do what she wants” with that burden of parenting on her shoulders?
Parents Should Support Their Daughters, Regardless Of Marriage
The “do it after marriage” line of reasoning, consciously or unconsciously, reinforces and justifies the cultural belief that daughters are “paraaya dhan”and menat to be “safeguarded” till their groom comes and takes them away. So god knows what a daughter might end up doing if she is given “too much” freedom. This a problematic notion that checks all the wrong boxes of objectification, misogyny, and oppression of women.
If parents raise their children, irrespective of gender, to have an identity of their own, then why should the ropes of their identity be handed over to their spouse? If parents have taught us to stand on our own two feet, then why should we wait until after marriage to fulfill our dreams? Shouldn’t parents have trust in their own upbringing?
The support a daughter can get from her parents remains unparalleled in the world. If a parent doesn’t agree with something his/her daughter wants to do, they can sit her down and talk to her about it. Advice will be better received by her than a demoralising “do it after marriage” solution. And even if she does decide to get married, parents must understand that they are not “handing her over” to a husband who can make decisions for her now. The agency, rights, and control over her life remain with her.
Views expressed are the author’s own.