It can be tough to be a woman in India but is it easier in many other places? I wonder. This post was inspired by another post by a blogger I like.
The following is a set of random observations that collectively seek to answer one doubt:
I know of a man who at the young age of 18 was forced to become the man of his house, take up a job and take care of his mother and three sisters due to the untimely demise of his father. With just a class 12 he put his sisters through college and got them married. Today each of his sisters is well settled with their families and he married late and is blessed with two daughters. He has worked very hard and has put the elder daughter into a prestigious engineering college and his younger daughter may join her in a few years too. He has always been tied down by debt moving from one expense to another for all the weddings and all the responsibilities that he took on or rather was forced on him. The other day when I asked him why he chose engineering for his daughter he said that having studied only up to school he wanted to give the option of the best education in college he could afford to his daughter(s). Incidentally this daughter is now rebelling against the father because she feels inadequate among her peers as she never has enough money on hand.
I know of another young man, actually a colleague who has been supporting the family immediately after college with the first job he found. After an expensive treatment for his ailing father who passed away he had to get his younger sister married. He worked extra hours saved up money, borrowed from money lenders at usurious rates of interest and got his sister married off. Mercifully there was no dowry but yet a wedding can be economically draining. And then there are the festivals and other events when jewellery is given, gifts are given because it is traditional. His own wedding is far away since he has to clear his debts before he can even consider it. Recently he started taking the bus to work because he could not afford to pay the installments on his much loved motorcycle.
There may be others like these men who were forced to take up roles that they were not ready for, they gave up dreams that had, and they walked the extra mile because they had to. Did they really have to? They could have opted out but they chose to do what they do because they loved their family. They made big sacrifices not because they had to but because they chose to.
In India women are considered a burden because of the big W the wedding and the big D the dowry that comes. One solution for this is to avoid education and save that money for the wedding day. Though it is workable it is silly and no parent these days does that. Standing for hours to get admission in good schools and colleges to give the best education for their daughters is normal for parents today. So what about the boys? It was believed that the girls will be married away and the boys will remain and be the pension system for the parents. This fallacy has been rudely shaken because for one parents seldom plan their retirement and two they spend a lot of their earnings in bringing up their children and getting them married. This fear of the future spurs many parents to get their children married in time and there appears to be a lot of merit in this argument.
The mushrooming of fertility clinics across the city tells you that increasing number of men and women are becoming infertile and they are willing to spend obscene amounts of money for assisted reproduction. The reasons are many including lifestyle changes and late marriages. I read in an article that women are postponing marriage and childbirth to focus on their careers and consequently the number of patients for treatment is increasing day by day. Medicine has helped grandmothers conceive but you wonder if it is avoidable.
These days two working parents with children have contributed to a host of lifestyle changes which come to affect the children. From lack of parental care, to bad food habits, the problems and complexities keep increasing. Earlier one working parent and one stay at home parent ensured that the child got the attention the child deserved. Be it homework or meals on time one parent was available and the growth of the child was monitored. Today caretakers and sometimes grandparents take up this role; sadly they can never replace a parent.
The recent advertisement by a matrimonial site where a young woman expresses her desire to work after marriage and the advertisement shows the husband explaining the choice to his parents. While the choice of getting married is not often with the children, the choice of spouse is given to them especially in urban households. Parents allow prospective matches to meet and surely aspirational men and women can take the opportunity to articulate their dreams and desires.
Life is all about choices. Some choices may affect only one, some may affect many more. Some choices can be enablers, some can be disablers. Blaming others for the situation one finds himself / herself is a choice. Life is very difficult only if someone is denied the choice.