It happened to my friend
Priyadarshini is a 45-year-old software engineer who works for a software company in Gurgaon. Born to a wealthy family from Kolkata, hers might have been a different story, had it not been for the pressure her parents imposed on her to marry. Today, on the verge of a bitter divorce, she is numb from pain as she talks about the bizarre fashion in which her life has unfolded over the past six years. With a degree in software engineering from one of the country’s premier institutes, Priyadarshini had extremely good career prospects, and was well-settled in her job with a great pay package, exotic holiday options, and a carefree life – before crisis descended.
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When I visited a 38-year-old, single Priyadarshini in 2007, I was a tad envious of her independence and ability to carve out a niche for herself in the cutthroat corporate world with relative ease. But somewhere around this juncture, her family started putting pressure on her for marriage. While Priyadarshini wasn’t averse to marriage, she wasn’t in a real hurry either, and seemed to lean toward the idea of an unmarried life. But the more she tried to stall her parents, the more they panicked. Their main concern was about what the relatives, neighbors and friends would say about her. Two years later, heavy parental pressure and her mother’s failing health led Priyadarshini to agree to an arranged marriage to a man her parents had chosen for her. Working in the US, her husband-to-be was a stock market broker who aimed to return to India once he had made enough money. A survey of Priyadarshini’s ancestral home and a two-hour conversation with her was enough to convince the groom and his parents that she was an ideal match.
And while the marriage and the subsequent setting up of a home in Gurgaon looked like a fairytale at first, things became drastically different two years down the line. The professional and economic independence that defined Priyadarshini became a bone of contention for her in-laws and her husband. She was expected to be the traditional wife who would cook, clean, and look after her parents-in-law, while also maintaining a high-profile job that demanded extra hours. In their minds, her successful career was only an accessory to her primary duties as a housewife. It was therefore just a matter of time before the relationship crumbled before unrealistic expectations from a woman with a mind of her own.
Regrets – being single or being married under pressure?
Any of us could name a few close friends who went down similar unfortunate paths where marriage due to societal or parental pressure did not survive. Six years later, Priyadarshini’s regret is not that she now stands divorced, but that she gave in to parental pressure and succumbed to a marriage she was not at all ready for. Apart from this, the fact that she opted for marriage when she had actually wanted to be single remains one of her biggest regrets. She understands today that succumbing to pressure and adjusting to a way of life that others expected her to lead was her biggest mistake. While her marriage’s failure had specific reasons, a marriage that happens under obligation or pressure can fail due to any number of reasons, because the foundation is ultimately not solid.
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Luckily for others who want to remain single, the scenario is changing, and fast. Statistics worldwide show an increasing number of men and women who are opting to stay single and are making their life choices clear to both society and their immediate families. The trend is not different in India – many men as well as women are making such informed and determined choices. The fact that a large number of women are financially independent helps them assert these choices. Added to this is the phenomenon that urban Indian women today are increasingly open to experimenting with relationships. This has swept in the realization that genuine compatibility with one’s partner is more important than the security of marriage. Women realize more than ever now that the smart thing to do is to marry when you want to and don’t marry if you don’t want to. If you marry at all, then choose someone who will be supportive of your lifestyle and career choices.
Newer relationship styles in urban India
In this regard, increased public and family acceptance of live-in relationships, and of those who choose to remain single, has increased all over the world. The receding moral judgments made on relationship statuses has helped many people decide to lead a life based on their individual choices. The recent move by global technology giants, Apple and Facebook, to offer female employees USD 20,000 to freeze their eggs for a later date allows women to concentrate on their careers. This is only one step in creating a world where women no longer have to be riddled with the guilt of sacrificing motherhood over their careers.
In the end, decisions regarding marriage and relationships are personal choices that every individual should have the liberty to make, and under no condition should they be under the constricting purview of society.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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