I am not against arranged marriages, If you ask me. In fact, having been brought up in a conservative Rajput family I cannot dare think otherwise. But what leads to them gives me jitters. The hunt for a groom is a buzz with family and relatives once they are convinced that you have reached the ‘right age’. Well! tolerable to that extent, fine when every next relative suddenly is so concerned about your birthday or should I say ‘the year of your birth’?, When they literally look at you with ‘ b’ful enough!’ eyes. When they ask you sweetly enough ‘chai roti-sabzi to bana leti ho na?’, When they start telling you when, how and how much to talk, where should your sleeves and jeans end or shouldn’t end.
You don’t believe me? No I am not talking about my grandmom’s pre-marriage days. This is a story of every Indian girl living in the 21st century. Your parents might be liberal, you say, but your relatives won’t let you. Their T.V sets are buzzing with K serials.
It was no more fine with me when I was informed one morning about the arrival of some special (read Especial) guests. I was to be in the best of my clothes, behavior, looks. A family was coming to see me over.
There was I, under scrutiny, head to toe. Inspite of so many do’s and dont’s i was burdened with I couldn’t resist being myself. So there I was, just like I’d be with anyone else, just the way I am. I was asked questions and I was frank answering them. I laid down my list of questions when I was asked if had any. It led to discussions on everything from tradition to career to politics to personal experiences. So apparently it was a good evening with, so i felt, like-minded people.
But what came of it was to my utter surprise their calling an end to the talks. Not that i was gaga over it, but i genuinely wanted the reason behind it. What I was then told startled me.
The guy thought I was “advanced”. He accused me of “taking his interview”. Little wonder what advancement meant to him. I, who belong to a conservative family; having settled to teaching not because I was meant to but because I was expected to, as teaching is considered the ‘most respectable job for women’, if only taking up a job is a dire neccessity; who lives in a place that hardly tolerates modernization, advancement, forget empowerment; who comes from a set up where studying in co-ed schools, affairs, love marriages are still a taboo; who was conditioned to be what is expected of her, of all people if someone calls me ‘advanced’, I know for sure what they are talking about. I was accused of having an identity, an opinion.
The episode made me come to terms with the latent ways of women subjection.When men come to look for their better halves they want their woman to be in a stereotypical role, never asking but recieving what is given; never being what she is, but what is expected of her. I was startled to see the present generation resorting to it. To my horror I discovered that when they are looking for brides, they are looking for good looking robots. They want them to look smart but not be smart. They want them to think, emotionally not intellectually. They want them to look after their laundry, food, home, children but brains? They better never use it.
I was saddened to think that there is still a long way to go before men see their women as thinking individuals having an identity, which if time and circumstances demand can overtake them.