It’s a typically Indian scenario, no matter what caste or creed it is.
Young daughter is in the house. She has attained “marriageable” age. Worried parents go around town, frantically seeking a suitable match.
“You’re already 23”, they wail. “Who will marry you?”, they cry. “Look at your cousin. She already has a brood of three children”. And on and on, ad nauseum.
“But I have plans of my own. I want to have my own life, my own career”, screams the daughter. “Tell that to your husband”, retort the parents.
And so, as it has happened in millions of homes across India, and to millions of hapless Indian women, parents win, daughter capitulates, marriage is enforced, children are born, children need to be raised “properly” by the hapless wife, children grow up, get married, children leave home.
And caught in between her husband’s bodily needs and her children’s chronic demands, the daughter’s life is finished.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again. And I will continue to see it happen over and over again. Either the daughter accepts her fate, and leads a bitter and unfulfilled life till her death. Or she tries to fight for her life, opts for a messy divorce, and still leads a bitter and unfulfilled life.
In the process, everybody loses – especially the parents who forced their daughter into a marriage she did not want.
All because we think that there is such a thing as a “marriageable” age for Indian women. In many parts of our country, girls still get married off at puberty. And if you think that child marriages occur in some remote parts of India, you’re dead wrong. They happen right here in the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore. Every single day.
So. What is the right age for an Indian woman to get married?
Answer: There isn’t one.
Arguably, there is, in general, a right time in a woman’s life to bear children. But that’s a wide time period, ranging across two decades of a healthy woman’s life span.
Obviously, the age of fifteen is far too young, and perhaps forty-five is too old in biological terms. That doesn’t mean that the age of twenty two is the only correct age, and that a woman should be willy-nilly impregnated as soon as possible.
Since she is the one who alone has to bear the consequences (quite literally), I’d say it is solely a woman’s right to decide when she gets a husband and thence, when and how many children she has.
And it’s not as if Indian men have a picnic either. We get screwed too.
I became a husband and a father at too young an age. Mind you, I was the right biological age, but I just wasn’t ready. No stable job, no money, no firm roof on my head. Ironically, I was the one who was forced into fatherhood by my wife at that time, who in turn felt, at the age of 23, she was getting too “old”.
And her parents in turn, started loudly wondering if I was really a “man” – and if I was physically incapable of impregnating their fecund daughter.
The net result was a total disaster. I lost the daughter who was born from that reluctant union, to a vicious divorce twenty years ago. I will never see her again.
You see? Indian men get screwed too, because of this foolish notion of the “right” age.
So. When does an Indian woman (or any other woman, for that matter) get married?
When her time is right.
And when is her time right? When her career priorities are right, when her mind is right, when her finances are right – and when her heart is right.
And of course, when the right man comes along – assuming one such exists.
My point of view – first studies, then career, then money, and then marriage.
If you don’t want to have kids, that’s just fine. Be clear about it, focus on your work and your self, and don’t bother about what the world thinks. Let tongues wag, even if those tongues belong to your own parents and relatives. It’s your life.
If you do want to have kids, then be even more clear about it. First get your finances in order. At today’s prices, you will need at least Rs. ONE CRORE to bring a child into this world and bring up that child to adulthood, in a reasonably comfortable lifestyle and with a reasonably good education.
Don’t believe me? Do that math yourself. Starting from conception, to maternity, to childbirth, growing pains, medical issues, school, college, smartphone, laptop, two-wheeler, internet, graduation.
Rs. One crore it is. Per child. Not counting marriage expenses.
Or, keep that one crore to yourself, and have a royal, worry-free life for yourself. Your choice.
Call me old-fashioned. But the institution of marriage is the cornerstone of Indian culture. Call me medieval. But a happy wife is the bedrock of a happy marriage.
An unhappy wife will be an unhappy mother. An unhappy mother will bring unhappy children into this world.
It’s just that simple.
Think twice, think thrice, and then think again, before you make an unhappy mother of your own daughter.
Daughters are not meant to be married “off”.