An Indian Obsession

By Indira Laisram
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Photo by Christopher Brown on Unsplash

What is it with Indians and their intrusive obsession about marriage? My sister recently paid her girlfriend a visit. The girlfriend lives in another city with her parents and the in laws too in close vicinity. My sister stayed the weekend but could not wait to get back home. She said, “I can’t relate to my friend anymore, she has reached the mental age of 50.” Later, in the course of the conversation, I found out that while my sister was looking forward to some fun and chatter but she was surrounded by a gaggle of people who wanted to know why she had not married and why she had become so fat.  Next, they kept giving her food, food and more food to the point of offence if one refused.

I was talking to a close friend of mine in India, same age as my sister and going through relationship woes. After being with this person for more than five years, marriage looked like the natural path, so a date was fixed and plans made when the man developed cold feet. It had taken a while for my friend’s parents to accept her man as he was already married and had kids. And just when they had gotten round to accepting everything, they got another shocker.

Now the marriage preparations were already on and friends and relatives told about the marriage. Obviously, her parents do not know how to handle this ‘public shame’ and are desperately scouting all matrimonial ads to find a groom for her.

Every Saturday, my friend has to meet a prospective spouse. The more men she meets, the more she is put off marriage. Not only does my friend abhor arranged marriages but the men she meets, no matter how educated, want to get married in a week’s time. My friend says she wants time to know the person she is getting married to but in the arranged marriage business, everyone is in a hurry.

Last night my friend said, “My parents look for boys every week, it is like a form of therapy for them but they don’t know the damage it is doing to me.” With her refusal rate so high, she is getting scared that she might end up spending the rest of her life with her parents as they don’t want her to move out.

Sadly, our society straddles women so much especially when they are hitting their 30s. They put so much emphasis on when to marry, whom to marry that it can drive a normal person insane. I can imagine my sister’s idea of a good holiday screwed up and I can imagine my friend’s idea of a normal everyday life screwed up being surrounded by people who think marriage is the most important event in a woman’s life. Whether she has a good job or is independent is not important, if she has not been able to trap any decent man, that is a failure.

I remember when I got married my neighbours told me I should also arrange something really quick for my sister! Little did they realise I got married because I fell in love with the man and not due to any societal pressure. When I told my neighbours that my sister would find someone herself and get married in her own time if she wanted to, I can imagine them thinking I am shirking my biggest responsibility in life: finding a husband for a 40-year old. I suspect that is next to impossible.

Why can’t people let single women live alone without questioning their unmarried status? Even friends do it. They would say, “I agree they must be left alone”, but at the next instance won’t stop from reminding how “it is high time now’ for so and so ‘to settle down”.

Happiness does not end with finding a husband. Happiness begins with being happy about oneself and if people go on reminding someone how incomplete her life is because she has not found a man, they are doing very little to make her happy. One can be happy being single, one can be happy being married. The priority just shifts from ‘me’ to ‘us’ in a marriage. Of course, there will always be a reason to keep looking for that lasting happiness in life, because it does not end with finding a job, a house, a husband or a child.


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