By Spoorthi Pema:
Brilliant music, an amazing drive and a wonderful friend to have an engaging chat with. Just a few minutes before this drive home with my friend, he happened to introduce me to this girl he had a crush on. A very sweet and homely girl, who would obviously make a wonderful Indian wife. We were discussing his future with this girl, if they were to start a relationship together. What could possibly be wrong in this setting of two friends having a normal conversation? A friend of mine always tells me that I think in ‘two layers’. I see what most people don’t see (maybe choose not to see) or rather, I read between the lines. I assume this is not acceptable to most, but it is this ‘two-layered’ thinking that helps me write my blog.
I could already see her making his family happy with her cooking, and her treatment of her in-laws. She would make a good Indian wife and a good Indian bride. However, the idea of the role of wife that my country holds may not be in agreement with what idea I hold. I could see why my friend has a liking for her, and he seconded that idea too. A perfect match was about to happen. But wait, my ‘two-layered’ thinking is yet to come to play here.
In spite of her perfect representation of the ‘bharatiya naari‘(Indian Woman), that our tradition, culture and our history teaches us day-in and day-out, we both noticed and agreed that they had nothing in common at all. Two months of talking and they would run out of engaging conversations for the rest of their happily married life. My friend might be looking for a gun to shoot me right now for writing this blog post, but I’m a risk taker.
So, I inconspicuously asked, “She might make your family happy, but it is you who has to spend the rest of your life with her. Shouldn’t you marry a girl you would really want to spend that life with?”
I got an explanation as to why that would be close to impossible for my friend and I wasn’t really surprised. He went on to say that if he were to ever introduce a girl like me, with whom he had more in common, to his mother and say that he wanted to marry me, his family would be devastated. That his mother would eventually make him choose between me and her. There is a slight level of exaggeration, but you should get the idea that I would not be accepted as a bride in his family.
That was obvious. Let me take the effort of explaining to you why marrying me is such a taboo.
1. I do not know how to cook, and I will not put in the extra effort to learn cooking just because all my aunties and mother’s friends tell me that I need it to please my husband and in-laws. They are grown people, they should either feed themselves or hire a cook. I am not going to be their servant.
2. I will not give up my education, my career or my dreams for the family that I marry into, only because they believe that a woman has to take care of the family while the man and the elders make all the major decisions in the house. I have always been and will always be an independent woman who makes her own decisions.
3. I am spiritual, which means that I am not religious. So, a typical Indian wedding with rituals which do not really mean anything to anyone, is not something that I will be a part of.
4. I will not change my second name to my husband’s second name or submit to the patriarchal setup of our society.
5. I will not, I repeat, I will not jump into a fire like Sita did to prove how good a wife she was to Lord Rama. If my husband can’t trust me, he has some issues.
Now that I started listing out the reasons, I realize that there are so many more that make me a horrible Indian bride. However, I think I will run the risk of never finding an Indian husband if it means that I get to be independent, make my own decisions, live my dreams and most importantly, be treated equally despite my gender.
The concept of gender bias is so deeply rooted in our culture and society that this almost entirely goes unnoticed. Most people do not even see how wrong and discriminating this practice of defining a perfect Indian bride is! A ‘Good cook, good looking, fair, does not have male friends, is chaste, is good at following orders, does not drink or smoke, possibly gives a good massage’ -I feel like Indian women are up for sale. If you do not fit that description, or fight against the existence of such descriptions, you are flawed and not worth getting married to.
Education hasn’t helped this scenario either. The only difference it has made is that the Indian wife is now expected to cook, clean, please her husband and her in-laws, and in addition earn a part of the income. How has the society really changed if independent women find it so hard to be accepted into Indian families?
Being a sweet and homely wife is not something that I am undermining. I know how hard and wonderful a job it is to be a wife and a mother. But shouldn’t this choice be entirely left to the woman and not anybody else? If a woman like me chooses a life that our tradition and culture does not preach, do I make a horrible wife?
If an Indian family rejects me only because I wish to be treated equally and with respect and want to exercise my rights and freedom, then I am happy. In fact, I am proud of standing up for myself. I, in turn, reject them, reject them all from our society. My friendship is something that I will always cherish. I respect my friend with all my heart and truly believe in his talent and worth. Hence, I wish none of my opinions are taken personally. I am an Indian woman who is fighting for a society that treats us equally and gives us the status and respect that we deserve. I know that we have a long way to go, but the fight has to start somewhere, right?