It would have been just another Sunday afternoon for Sharanya had it not been for the awkward matrimonial alliance meet. She hardly expected the probable groom’s family to be modern liberals given the fact they belonged to a dying-yet-limping-on hypocritical Tamil Brahmin community. This in no way implies other communities are forward or that Tam-Brahms (as they like to call themselves) are regressive cave men. It just so happens I supposedly belong to this community that takes pride in outward rituals rather than imbibing the spirit of such KAmya KarmA. It came as no surprise to Sharanya when the possible groom’s dad was boasting about the vegetarian fanaticism of his son who was a successful IT engineer in Germany. She had gotten used to these not so occasional boasts of
“Avan Teetotaler” “Non veg ellam sutthama sapda maatan” “He shuns mixed kitchens”.
But what took her by surprise was the following conversation.
Grooms Dad (GD): What do you plan to do after getting married?
Sharanya (SH): I would definitely work. I’m not the type who can sit back and lounge all day.
GD: That’s very nice. It would be boring to stay at home in Germany.
SH: I’m not sure if I would be able to progress in my career in consulting in Germany.
A bit of a background about Sharanya – Aspiring millennial, an MBA graduate from a premier institute, working for a prestigious consulting firm.
GD: Why? What do you mean? You can find a job that suits you in Germany.
SH: I don’t think I can make a career in consulting there.
GD (Now visibly surprised and irritated): Looking at Sharanya’s mom. I think she can get a consulting job there, we have to adjust initially illiya Maami?
These words hit a home run. Sharanya made up her mind not to entertain this guy anymore. She politely turned down this proposal.
Now lets rewind a little bit and cut to the subtle aspect of chauvinism which is very easy to miss precisely because it is thought to be natural or okay.
The very first question which is countered by Indian girls looking for an arranged marriage match is what do they intend to do after they get married.
Why do I feel this is wrong? We still continue to unconsciously ACCEPT that a woman is defined by her nuptial status. Even women think that it is so. In a society where gender roles are getting blurry, the least a human being can do is observe this change and respect this transition. It is not a fault if a woman wants to stay at home. It is her choice. The same treatment should be applied to women who want to work. I believe this is a very personal choice that is decided by the individual and NOT by family, society or other institutions. Asking such a question is an absurd and ridiculous violation of personal space. It is akin to asking a person if he would shave his head when he turns 40.
The other part of the story is the women’s response to such border-line offensive questions. Sharanya’s response is not having an assertive tone but almost an apologist one. She does not want to offend the old man by telling him she had outdone his son in academic qualification so it is quite obvious that she aspires to be a high ranking career woman in a corporate world. This unconscious conditioning of women towards such glaring violation of personal space needs healing.
The next subtle form of chauvinism is the condescending tone “It is better to do something than staying at home – which is quite boring in Germany”.Every individual has a right to aspiration irrespective of gender. This aspiration is exemplified in actions, in this case Sharanya’s credentials in her academics and career. That is not to say a person’s historical credentials alone would justify her/his passion. It is an intangible that cannot be quantified in words. In this case, the guy’s ignorance of consulting business can be forgiven but he would be really stupid if he thought a person would forgo his/her career just to be with another person who in this case happens to be a complete stranger.
Something inside of me urged me to write this post ever since I listened to one friend who assumed her goals and ambitions were the fault that needed correction.This was an unpleasant and sorrowful experience – to listen to a highly motivated individual made to feel like shit precisely because she was ambitious.
It is because of such subtle thought patterns both in men as well as women that each of us have a collective responsibility to ensure equality. It is an urgent need that all of us must become feminists. It is quite natural now, isn’t it?