When I was in college doing my Engineering and later on my MBA, my sister was engaged in doing her MBBS. One of the hot topics of discussion that my parents were often subjected to was when they were planning to get my sister married. This was despite the fact that she was doing a professional course in Medicine which would not be over till she was about 24 years old. My parents and I were asked about my marriage about a few years later, after I had done my MBA and worked for 3 years or so.
I was reminded about the above as I was recently having a discussion with my friend about the life goals I had and he pointed out that my children’s marriages did not seem to figure in them. When I told him that it was not really one of my life goals, we went into a rather long debate about whether it should or should not be a goal in life. I am happy to say that by the end I was able to bring around my friend to my viewpoint.
Now do not get me wrong – I am quite clear that marriage is an important step in the lives of my children and they should definitely have it as one of their goals in life. I will be happy to offer my opinion on it and even organize stuff for the marriage, financially or otherwise. However, I do not see it as my responsibility to decide when they should get married and who they should get married to. They are already adults, taking many important decisions on their own, and I hope they will be able to take the right decision at the right time in this issue too. I will be more than happy to be a guide to them, as I have always been, but I am quite certain that I have been able to bring them up in a manner which will enable them to take this responsibility and do it well.
Most Indian parents, unfortunately, take it on themselves to decide who their children should marry, when it should happen and how the marriage should be conducted. In fact, a lot of our social evils stem from this as the expectations from both sides are set at an absurdly high level and, more often than not, lead to disillusionment and problems. Marriage today has become an occasion for both the groom’s and the bride’s side to show off their actual or perceived status and a display of consumerism, sometimes in a vulgar way. A lot of the associated social evils are a direct consequence of this.
Another issue that comes out clearly is how we still differentiate between out sons and daughters even in this day and age. When I explain my views on children’s marriage the most common reaction is – ” well that is ok for your son but surely you need to need to think of getting your daughter married?”. My answer to this is simply that unlike most others, I genuinely do not differentiate between my son and daughter. I have brought them up in exactly the same manner and have the same expectations from both of them. My life goal for them is to help them grow up into well educated and capable individuals who will be able to do well in life for themselves and others. Fortunately, both my children are well on their way to achieving this and once they do my goals will be achieved. Of course, I want them to marry, have a family, do really well in their careers etc. But, these are their life goals and not mine.
At the end of the day, if I have not been able to inculcate the right values and attitude in them, then I have failed as a parent. Whatever they choose, as long as they live happily with their choice I am quite happy with it too. Even in the unfortunate situation that they are not happy, it is something that they will be responsible for. As parents we can always offer our opinions and guidance, but it should be in a neutral manner, not to be taken as an imposition. My daughter will probably get married in 5 years time and my son in 8-10 years time. I feel quite confident that by them they will be completely capable of a good decision in terms of their life partner.
To complete the story of me and my sister – she got married after completing her MBBS and internship, to a fellow student of another Medical college in Kolkata. Though my brother-in-law is not a Bengali, we were very happy at the marriage and it has really turned out well for them. They currently live in UK. My marriage to Lipi was made somewhat complex by the fact that she was from a different caste, but all ended well and has remained so for the last 22 years and more.
So is children’s marriage a life goal for me? No way, though I do hope they are as happy, or possibly even happier, than my sister and I.