“So when is your sister getting married?”" A distant relative prodded me, while all I could do was to restrain my nervous system and not roll my eyes. The sibling concerned is an independent young woman, minting her own money, with an impressive degree on her back. She is living away from both I and our parents, in an alien city, where she had to adapt to everything from language to food and even culture. But I guess that isn’t an achievement she or her peers can be proud of. In our society, unless a woman can display the glitzy trophy of marriage in the cabinet of her life, her other feats rarely matter. Just when will we stop belittling young single women’s achievements, and making matrimony the only parameter judge how relevant their existence is?
- “When are you getting married?” is an inevitable question every unmarried woman in India has to endure.
- Why is matrimony the only parameter to judge if women are living relevant lives?
- Is it not enough or worth appreciating if a woman is financially independent or doing well in her career?
- Must women make compromises which will last a lifetime to acquire the coveted trophy of matrimony?
My sister isn’t alone, there are many young twenty, thirty, forty and above-something women in our country who have to always be on guard about the question of “When will you get married?” being posed to them.
It springs from the most unexpected of directions. From the parlourwali to your neighbouring uncle to even that long lost aunt or uncle who only seems to pop up in family WhatsApp groups or your timeline to ask this question or to spike the minds of one’s usually chilled out parents with the “shaadi” mania. Get your daughter married, because what use are her many degrees and achievements, if she is single and past her prime? What about the biological clock? Shouldn’t family life be a priority for every woman over her career? Ask her to tone down her expectations and settle for a reasonable guy before it is too late.
The coveted trophy of marriage gives women social relevance and acceptance. Ask any woman who is separated from her husband, how hard it is to navigate her social circles. Since the patriarchal setup of our society is equally unkind to the opposite gender, it is high time that we stopped revering marriage as the be-all and end-all of our lives. A woman can choose to marry as and when and to whom she wants. It shouldn’t be a compromise to appease parents or society. It shouldn’t just be that one thing you have to cross off your check list to live in peace. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, and if doesn’t bring you happiness, or meets all your terms and conditions, is it even worth it? Why must they have to compromise on their likes, dislikes, choices and future plans for it?
The coveted trophy of marriage gives women social relevance and acceptance. Ask any woman who is separated from her husband, how hard it is to navigate her social circles
However, due to conditioning, women seem to have internalised this need to get married. They look at those who choose to remain single with disdain. We wear our relationship like a badge of honour, as if it makes us superior in some way. Perhaps this has something to do with how girls are brought up to think of marriage as their ultimate fate. The upbringing of daughters still centres on making them into good prospective brides in many Indian households. It is not surprise then, that these women see unmarried ladies as some kind of social misfits, or doomed to have a lonely and sorry life.
This thinking needs to change, both among women and our society. There's more to a woman's life than marriage. Don't look past the many qualities, talents and achievements they possess simply because you don't approve of their marital status.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.