Friday, June 22, 2007

The girl-child-wife

On Sunday, a junior of mine from college Ritu, gets married. She is barely 21. While I am happy for her, I do feel sad that she would never get an opportunity to grow as an individual. She like many girls who have got married at her age, will never get to enjoy the freedom of being a single working woman. It is only when a girl starts working and become independent that her real personality emerges. The work atmosphere, responsibility and people who treat you like an adult unlike college and home, liberates the real you that is subdued and pruned by a sheltered upbringing an Indian girl undergoes.

Since I have been working for a couple of years now, I can see the changes in me. What I thought was bad feels good today, what I thought was good doesn’t feel so good anymore. What I thought was cool feels uncool today and a lot of other changes in the way I look at life and deal with people. If I had got married soon after college I would never have discovered the real me or completed my growth process.

Ritu’s parents like most Indian parents are worried that a girl if left unmarried too long will become too independent and will hence be unsuitable for marriage. And I suspect this is the reason she is being married off so early. A girl with individuality will not be a subservient wife which portends bad tidings for the marriage. Every effort is made so that the girl does not get to taste freedom and that she is transferred from the guardianship of her parents to the safekeeping of the husband. There is also the fear that the girl may not want to marry after being independent for some time.

While it was imperative for girls to marry a few years back due to the security blanket it provided, nowadays it is totally unnecessary to push a girl into marriage; especially since she will anyway grow as an individual and may soon find that her husband and she think in different directions. By getting a girl married early, parents are only increasing the risk of divorce as ‘divorce’ is not a dirty word anymore.

Indian guys on the other hand don’t face this problem and more or less retain their individuality while growing up while girls are taught to conform and willy nilly bought up in a "certain way". It is all about conforming, personal happiness be damned. When will parents learn? After the society is strewn with the carcasses of marriages? Why do we learn lessons the hard way? Why don’t we change with the times?

I wish Ritu a happy married life. She will need my wishes and a lot more in the coming years.


MC said...

couldnt agree with you more..its so true that parents are worried with girls gaining individuality..and thats one thing lacking in malayalis..especially girls..we are forced to follow things in the name of "tradition"..otherwise "what will society say?". its worst in kerala i guess. i find most of the malayali women outside kerala having lot more individuality.

this is a topic that really really disappoints me..

shruti said...

Hey lovely post ..this is the topic very very close to my herat dear ... In my father's family all my cousin got married at 18. I was brought up till the age of 16 when i wasnt even allowed to play or itneract with my male cousins . Circumstances , my parents health ..our will power and the love for studying and reading and gaining knowledge gave us the myraid opportunities that helped us evolve and grow and i completely agree that it brings about a tremendous transformation . One that stays with you because it comes from inner awareness . Today my father is much more proud of me and the warmth we share is so unique tht I guess he can always say he did a good job because I have learnt my lesson my way and ultimately arrived at the truth and became a much better person in the bargain .

Dhanya said...

You stole my words dear.. I was about to write about the same.. Now will link to yours :)

Fleiger said...

Oh well, I don't agree with the tone of your post, it is a bit negative for me.

I agree with you that forcing a girl to marry is a bad thing. But I have seen many girls (and consequently boys) getting married just after they get out of college. How the girl evolves after that depends on her and her husband, as mostly both live away from family.

silverine said...

MC: You have picture right. This "what will people say" is getting a little out of hand. it is always other people, never your own happiness.

shruti: You are right. Our Indian society is a human farm...I know that is a strong statement, but all we do is make sure that girls marry at the right age so that she can bear children when young and raise them while she has the energy and health and of course she as a person does not matter. When you talk to older married ladies, you can hear the bitterness in their voices for a life they lost due to societal compulsions.

dhanya: Thanks :)

silverine said...

fleiger: "How the girl evolves after that depends on her and her husband That is exactly what I am trying to point out. A girl has a very small window to evolve as a person in between being a daughter and a wife. And this time is crucial. She has to evolve as a person first then as a wife.

The so called "success" of Indian marriages depends on making sure that this window is shut forever for girls. While we sit here and say nice things in our blogs, the reality out there is very harsh let me tell you. I have jet setting colleagues who get up at 4:30 am to cook and clean the house single handedly and then come to office or face the hubbies and in-laws wrath. Believe me when I say that the reality of the Indian woman is much more harsher than portrayed by me or anyone else. I see it first hand at work every day :)

Neihal said...

hmm..I had an arranged marriage at 24, I did not and still do not work, but more out of choice (now how good that choice is , is debatable :P)...

I guess Silv since you know Ritu, you are looking at things from that point of view .

But I do support you in what you are trying to convey, though I dont think getting married after you have worked or at any particular age or in any manner (love/arranged) makes a huge difference as long as the girl and the boy know what they getting into.

And there is no way to judge when a person is mature enough to understand all that.

Annie said...

100% in agreement with you!!! Wish people realise that to save the institution of marriage one must not take the Indian woman for granted anymore.

alex said...


As long as the girl wants to get married at 21, it is fine. But if she is forced into it, then it becomes an issue. And parents should learn to treat their children with respct too. After all marriage is only a part of life, not LIFE.

Neihal said...

ha, I like the way Alex has said it, I guess as big and important the marriage is, I think we give it way too much weightage most of the time. :P

mathew said...

this reminds me of my cousin..she got married when she was 22..and she aint makes me sad coz is she well educated and talented..but what makes me sadder is she aint interested in working and is pretty happy to be the housewife lookin after the is each girl for herself..some people like to be comfy under the husbands "shelter" and others fly coz they have wings...very much agree with your concerns..

Jiby said...

i came to know of a family friend who married right out of college to this nri guy, she had just started looking for a job in the new place, she got pregnant, put her job search on hold, now sits at home with all the associated sickness, soon the baby will arrive and for a few years till it is old enough to go to school she will have to stay at home...i wonder how she will adapt to a work environment then especially a techie one with no professional experience to back her up.

i think almost all mallu girls and a majority of educated gals in today's urban india have more choice and freedom to say they want to work before marriage...its all a question of that individual standing up for herself and saying she wants to become a woman before she is ready to marry.

good job...issues like these which we all think about, you have the wonderful ability to translate into articles on this wonderful blog!

nasia said...

Wow! i think on the same lines.. but how long will ur family let u enjoy ur freedom..

nasia said...

one more doubt.. so are u saying, once independent we never want to get married!!!... Nahin!! Ye nahi ho sakta..

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

i'm a let-the-girl-marry-whenever-she-wants activist too.
i'm waiting so i can marry, and then we'll have a 6 digit monthly cash inflow and then we can buy that swanky flat and change the car.

gosh, now i cant wait!!

Vidhya said...


I dont think I agree with you completely. While forcing a girl to get married is definetely to be condemned, it is not always that women become maids doing washing, cooking and caring for kids once they are married. I got married as soon as I was out of college... by choice.. and I must say that I have evolved into a successful, independent woman during the course of my married life. Come on.. I dont think woman are still the plundered lot.. havent we begun to speak for ourselves... not all of us, but at least most of us?

wanderlust said...

Agree with you absolutely, especially the girls with individuality part. Once you are independent and are used to doing your own thing, it really needs lot of adjustments to make your marriage happy. But there is nothing to beat those carefree days when you have money and time freely in your hands.
Have to say I am really lucky to have a pair of very practical parents who,when I said I didn't want to get married at 23 and for a long time after that, decided to get my homely 22 year old sister married off ( Something unthinkable in a Syrian Christian family from the hearts of Kuttanad). Now, both of us are happily married :-)

nish said...

I mostly agree with vidya.. i got married to an nri at 22, rite after college.. after coming to US, i did my masters and 'm working here... I was ok with getting married at 22 as I have always felt that marriage should not be the end of your growth as an individual... My husband helped me a lot with my evolution as this independent, confident, working woman that I am.. He supported me in OUR decision that we have kids only after I get a job and we buy a house.. and argued with his parents when they pushed us to have kids.. Ofcourse there has be great deal of adjustments to be made on your individuality and your independence when you get married... At whatever age you get married that has to happen to have a successful married life... And just like we know that modern women have a say in their life, I think the guys are also more open now-a days... or that's what I'm seeing around me here... :)... great post btw..

silverine said...

neihal: You are right but in majority of the marraiges the boy or girl has no clue what they are getting into.

annie: Thanks girl!

Alex: I think raising a daughter believing that she is to be married off is aslo a kind of using force.

neihal: I wouldnt know that :))

mathew: I was actually talking about girls getting a chance to grow and find their true selves before getting married :)

Jiby: Thanks :) Actually I was getting lax at Think Pad recently and the comments calling me a "marraige basher" etc just reinforced the fact that I got to write the truth how much ever it may hurt the traditional mindsets :p

nasia: Independence is heady :)

toothless wonder: lol hope you find your match soon!

vidhya: The issue is not how a girl is treated after marraige, but that she should not be rushed into marraige. And majority of marriages do have the women working like maids, only a very few admit it though.

wanderlust: Wow your parents are tops!! Wish their were more like them :)

Scribbles said...

Exactly !!!
I became the "me" I am now coz I got the opportunity to be single and still working.. My parents were supportive of it and I think its one of the best phases in life..

alex said...


You are tagged.

silverine said...

nish: You are a lucky girl :)

scribbles: It is so nice to hear that!! :)

Alex: I was tagged by Mathew too. Will take it up soon :)

Jeseem said...

so true..
it takes time to gain individuality.
and yes, the process starts only after you get your first job. so never marry early, parent pressure or boy friend pressure or any other way.
well marrying late is harder also, since you already have an individuality and a way of thinking and you have to adjust to someone who has a different one. but I guess its like say, do I want to be equal or do I want to be blind and led around. for the parents, the question is , do I find my innocent child a safe place or do I teach her the world and let her find her place

Rockus said...

Great post! Just an year out of college and I have already seen more than one marriage of my classmates. That too of ladies who are quite talented. Now they are just sitting at home idling around and bitching about it. But though they complain I don't think they really wish to leave the comfort of the home anymore...

silverine said...

Jeseem: Hats off to that observation. You got it dude!! That is exactly the question parents should asking themselves.

rockus: Sadly some girls acquire qualifications to get a good groom. Cant blame them actually as our system requires qualification for everything, even to be a 'wife'.

MaYtH!! said...

I completely agree with you... women to tend to gain loads of confidence working out there amidst different kinds of ppl...but there will be another section of people who say that nothing prevents you from being independent when married to a person you love/a person who supports you all the way...
I belong to the former so I really wouldnt know.
Nice blog though :)