“Beta, my heart is aching. I am getting old. I can’t bear all this pain for long. What will happen to you after I am gone?”, says my mother over the phone. “Just marry and I will be okay,” she adds. Before I could even use an excuse to hang up, my father goes on to explain how I could end all their sorrows by just marrying someone. Preferably, someone they choose.
This is a normal conversation in my home, rather the only conversation. I am 29, financially independent, living independently, and paving my way towards life and things I really care about. However, all of this is insignificant. According to my parents, my marriage is the only thing that has substantial worth and that defines your life. A good husband is a necessity and I need to have one before I turn 30. Or what? Well, no one will marry me as I will be old, can’t bear kids, and obviously, too independent for a man. My mother takes it a step forward and starts with a motivational speech. She says, “Beta, say yes to life! Say yes to new experiences! Say yes to marriage!” I mean, she is right, we should all be open to new experiences but marriage, I am still confused. It is a lifelong decision for which I believe one needs to be mentally prepared and able to find a guy or girl (if you prefer) with whom you think you can spend your life with. I do understand my parents, the societal pressure they face, and their genuine concerns about me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in companionship and loyalty and having a partner but not at the cost of myself.
I ask my friends, my girlfriends, and sadly, many of them are going through similar experiences.
There is a constant, nagging pressure on all of us to get married as we have reached the ‘marriageable age’. But, this constant pressure, day after day, has only resulted in anxiety, sleep disorders, and lack of self-worth. All my achievements are easily overlooked and now, my worth is solely determined on having by a husband.
My friends suggest that I ignore it or not pay any heed. Some say we have to marry anyway, so how does it matter if we do it today or tomorrow. But, mostly, what shatters me is the emotional blackmail by parents which results in daughters including myself to feel guilty for choosing a life I want to live.
The thing is this cycle of emotional torture with diminishing self-worth can’t be tolerated anymore, not by me. The constant nagging by my parents and relatives has taken a toll on me to the point where I have forgotten my voice. There are times when I believe I won’t find a partner once I turn 30 and I would be alone forever. Well, thankfully, that can be sorted by therapy or shifting to Europe. Surprisingly, I am not the only one who is planning to do so.
As a social science student and journalist, I don’t blame my parents for their demands. They are living in a society where a girl is a ‘paraya dhaan’ and needs to go to her home, which translates to her husband’s home. They have been taught that since childhood, their parents were taught the same and the cycle continues. I also understand my parents’ worry about not having anyone to fall back upon once they are no more there (irritating me from heaven, in their words). I understand it’s not easy to leave your kid alone in this scary world. I won’t even deny they make some good points like having a partner to beat loneliness and share life’s mess (well, life ain’t easy), sexually helps too (agreed), you’d be more successful later in life, lesser the chances to finding a good boy (because we have not trained our men to be okay with women’s success without feeling less worthy). However, I still can’t put it logically. How can a marriage or a man guarantee forever companionship or guarantee that I will be okay? What if this man leaves me someday after my parents’ death or abuses me?
I can still bear with some of this but when my career, my success, and my mental illness are invalidated, it stings like thousands of bees are attacking me. According to the popular belief amongst Indian parents, mental illness can be cured by marriage or maybe it’s because my generation is too stubborn, don’t know how to adjust, and create problems for themselves.
If this is true, then God helps psychiatrists because they will be out of jobs soon. I am nobody without a husband and my achievements are a hobby. My parents even offered to pay monthly pocket money if I marry and decide not to work. Basically anything for marriage. I tried to explain that if I am independent, confident and self-reliant (emotionally, mentally and financially), I have better chances of being happy and surviving till long. But, Nah, this is not sensible. Because there is no damn husband in the picture to rescue me!
In order to separate myself from this cyclic emotional abuse, I have decided to work and live in another city. Whenever I speak to my parents for long or regularly, my mental health deteriorates. I get anxiety attacks and feel so powerless and useless. I keep on asking myself and them: why do I need to justify living my life as I want? What haven’t I done to be a good daughter? Does not marrying take away the years of hardships I bore to bring happiness to my parents? As a single child, I am even more upset, because in my case, there is no ‘son’ who will look after them after I get married. I believe it’s my responsibility but again, it’s not what daughters do. They have to look at their in-laws. Maybe, I can look after them both or the best, my partner and I can share the responsibility of looking after both of our parents. With such radical demand, where will I find a husband in India who agrees with me? Extremely hard!
And I am not settling for anyone. So, yea, I am a bad daughter who is living her life as she wants, waiting for the right partner without the huge pressure, plans to look at her parents when they are old and not compromise on my rights. And if I have to preserve myself by maintaining some boundaries, I will happily do it.