Sharing an email from Jayeeta Basu.
From a bundle of joy to a bundle of misery:
When I had not been killed as a fetus or made to feel unwelcome as a child, I had blissfully assumed that I had escaped the misfortune of being an Indian ‘daughter’. As a child I was always told that since I was the only child of my parents, I was both their son and daughter. I was never wanted of any small joys that my parents could afford. I sported a boy cut and played with all the boys of my ‘para’ (neighborhood).
I grew up without any bias attached to being a girl. I was happy being a daughter. I was always given the freedom to choose my career and friends. My parents never interfered. As a result I was happy being a ‘daughter’. I wanted to take up the responsibility of taking care of my parents when they grew old and required my support (which in India is deemed to be the task of a son). I took up a job away from my hometown and my parents supported my decision (even though many relatives chose to point out the flaws of such a decision). All in all I never felt any gender bias till the golden age of 25!
Things started changing once I hit the benchmark age of marriage in Indian middle class families. 25 and yet not married! I was suddenly being seen as a misfortune to my parents. Suddenly I was being urged to quit my job and shift back to my hometown. So that eligible grooms and their families could come and ‘see’ me. Also my mother pointed that in-laws do not like the thought of an ‘independent girl’ staying alone away from home in an ‘unknown’ city.
Matches started pouring down like the rain. Even relatives who had never bothered to remember my name started telling my mom who all got married at such young age and how I would never get married since I was so ‘independent’ and ‘headstrong’. Men aged even 10 years elder to me were seen as ‘good matches’ while men of my age were rejected since they were very ‘young’. I was expected to quit my job and shift to the city where the groom was working without so much as a doubt.
Recently my dad passed away after a yearlong battle with cancer. The relatives came to offer ‘condolences’ for my dad; however, they seemed to be offering ‘condolences’ for me to my mother, having the misfortune of having an ‘unmarried’ daughter and her husband dead. Now who will get her daughter married? If only my dad had had been smart enough to get me married moment I completed my studies. Such a misery to my mother.
My questions: what makes apparently liberal parents also break? What could I have done to give them the reliability for them to depend on me? Why do they think that a man, just by virtue of being a man, to be my protector from this big bad world?