Marriageable age norms & the pressures on Indian youth! A brief on all that you go through & sacrifice to please the society…
Dad: It’s time for you to get married…
Mom: At your age, I had two kids…
Relatives: Have you started searching? You know time is running out right!
Got the feeling of Deja Vu?
Of course you did if you are a young unmarried Indian boy or girl. Being a 27-year-old bachelor myself, I have heard it several times. As soon as you finish your studies and start earning, not just your parents but everybody in your family & in the social circle who never even bothered to say a sweet hello to you is concerned about your marital status. Aunties, uncles, elder married cousins, bhabhis, your married sibling’s in-laws, parents’ friends and maybe even your maid someday would. I agree marriage is a wonderful institution and everyone should fall in love once in life but what is the right age for your marriage and who should be deciding it? Imagine the sort of sacrifice you do for this…
What it is like being an Indian Girl!
Firstly, I totally feel pity for the girls because I started facing it at the age of 25 while a girl would start facing the same at 21 or 22 itself. So a boy completing post-graduation and a girl completing graduation becomes the new marriageable age. And a girl has to go through it double the times we’ve been told all these ‘Shaadi karlo’ talks. The only logic is ‘You’ve grown up’ (Ab tum bade ho gaye ho) and ‘We won’t get good prospects later’ (Ache rishte nahi milenge baadme) and for poor obedient Indian girls one added line is ‘You are an adult now, you shouldn’t stay unmarried and how do we justify your bachelorhood’ (Jawaan ladki kab tak kuwari baithi rahegi, log kya kahenge?). Like seriously?? A girl should get married because we won’t be able to justify why she is unmarried despite crossing a certain age like 21 or 22?
What if she wants to explore life after studies? Maybe she wishes to travel or further study or pursue a course abroad and live alone to become more independent… what if she wishes to aspire her career goals? And the simplest is… What if she is just not ready for it? It’s a big decision & a lifetime responsibility, isn’t it?
Career vs. Marriage
And then come those girls who completed their Post-graduation! You asked her to study and study more to acquire as many degrees as possible, she studied for a professional course and before even trying her first job you want her to get married! I do not say she might not get a chance to work after marriage but working and earning yourself makes you more self-confident & helps to judge people in a better way. You never say it to a guy to first get married and then find a job so why this discrimination? Let her be herself, let her try new things and meet several people before she meets the man for her. Maybe that would help her choose the right one, wouldn’t it? Several girls have to go through even emotional blackmails and agree to get married despite being unprepared for it. Well, everybody wants to settle down but at their own pace and will! We all have a set timeline for certain things to do in life and we hate it when things don’t go accordingly.
And we haven’t even discussed those girls who aspire to become a sportsperson, an athlete or someone working in the film or fashion industry yet… Imagine the pressure such girls face from people by being hammered with the thoughts claiming that their aspiration is not right & it’s all a waste of time. Also, when they are judged as girls with a bad lifestyle and perhaps a bad character all because they are associated with that industry. Well, my personal experience says good and bad people even exist in the corporates and also in educational institutions (even if the lifestyle is to be considered as the criteria to judge morals). Yet we have stars like Mary Kom, the Phogat girls, P. V. Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and many more. We also have so many women scientists, actors, supermodels and women politicians too. Totally respect them for not just fighting for the achievements but primarily with the society’s mindset to reach that stage. Well, we have very few examples though and many more capable women can’t contribute to making India proud thanks to the social norms for women. If you are a girl whose aspirations were suppressed cause of marriage, I pity you, lady! But here comes the catch… Even boys have to sacrifice a lot & let me tell you how…
A Guy’s dilemma!
A guy in India is actually trained to get very good marks and study further from a young age. Sports, music, singing, etc. are all just taken as a hobby. This happens in most places. You have the freedom to pursue your hobbies but aspiring it to make your career isn’t promoted as it’s something different you’re aiming for in life and if we do that, we might lose the race with that ‘Sharmaji ka beta’ who is preparing for engineering, CA, MBA or medical. The simple funda is, at the age 24 or maximum 25, you have to earn a certain minimum amount of package and the safest option is to pursue a professional academic course and take a job because entrepreneurship, sports, arts, film and media, etc. are riskier options and has fewer chances of earning money so soon. Even though eventually people who pursued it turn out to be millionaires but we are not ready to sacrifice the initial stable income and why so? Cause at the age of 25 if he doesn’t have a minimum 6 digits earning, who will marry him?
Conditioned to do it!
Well, just like you feel in dowry, we feel it when we are compared merely on the basis of our earnings. Indeed, it is important to check the financial stability but that should not be the only important criteria. Maybe the prospect girl would understand this as she herself earns less in her initial career phase but her family (the relatives) won’t be convinced. That reminds me of R Madhavan’s dialogue from the movie 3 Idiots stating, “Hum padhte the kyuki degree nahi mili to koi baap apni beti nahi dega, bank credit card nahi degi… Duniya respect nahi degi!” We guys actually have this somewhere in our mind. So a guy is been conditioned to take up a career option which he isn’t much interested into but provides a stable income in his initial years to become the right prospect for marriage at an early age. Yes, you heard it right… ‘Conditioned’ not forced, which is equally worse though for a confused teenager who needs the right mentoring. Hence you hear at your homes ‘He is studious, hence a good boy vs. He is playing all day and doesn’t study, his friends have spoilt him’ (Padhai nahi karta, bigad gaya hai yeh). So morality is defined through his marks, if he scores less… he is a brat, duh!
I am not against studies or formal education and indeed it is necessary but we can promote a boy with potential in other fields too if we stop worrying about his stable income for becoming a good marriage prospect. Sooner or later he would find a good source of income in his choice of industry. Imagine we lost so many potential sportsmen and athletes, actors, writers, singers, filmmakers, etc. because they opted for engineering or MBA to please the society. The guy has to get a corporate job because it sounds good to the relatives and as per them, every girl wants to marry such a guy (a stable boy in their definitions). And we face the same ‘Shaadi ki umar ho gayi’ dialogues like you do as soon as we get a job. What if the person aspires to be at a senior position and is not ready to settle down? (It’s a big responsibility and decision for him too, right!)
The core of that societal pressure
I do not say that parents are responsible for all this but it is our society’s mindset which needs a change. Parents are the biggest well-wishers we can have and they love us a lot but are concerned for us and want us to settle down at the right time. Unfortunately, the definition of ‘settling down’ and ‘right time’ is wrongly set & that too by people who play no role in our lives. Well, both the genders face the pressures of getting married at an early age and have to let go their deepest of aspirations for the same. Somewhere even we are responsible, cause boys prefer a homely girl than a working woman. Even if they do support a working woman, they wouldn’t for someone aspiring in sports, arts, films, business, dance, etc. A teacher or a manager in a company is preferred in most cases (even though that wouldn’t be the dream job). Also, many girls prefer a well-settled corporate going guy and not a risk-taker with a start-up or a talented one struggling to make it big in his choice of industry. Support and appreciate when you see potential in someone, it makes a huge difference!
A Hopeful tomorrow
That young age of life is precious, it is when you can experiment and try various options which are riskier yet interesting for you… You might also succeed but for the societal pressures and pre-decided timelines of life. Fortunately, there is a positive change in the mindset of a certain section of society. We hope for a complete change and that the future generations never have to do something against their own will!!