I am forty, which I have serious doubts about, but my extended family has the collective memory of a herd of elephants, in fact for the past twenty years I have been reminded of my age by half a dozen aunts and cousins, my neighbors, our cook, the friendly neighborhood corner shop Uncle and even by absolute strangers on the road..Just another forty odd years in the life of an unmarried Indian woman/ Girl.
I was something of an oddity/ celebrity in my village, unmarried and forty usually catapulted you to the status hitherto reserved for ancient fossils and mummies. In fact people have even bought their kids on study tour to my place, the topic of study; ‘What not to do to end up like her!’ I would be given a set of questions, which ranged from 1) What is you educational qualification? (designed to find out if my qualification dimmed my marriage prospects.) 2) Can you cook? (No man wants a girl who might fail the ‘Masterchef ‘ auditions ! ) And even 3) How much I weighed.? (curvy girl alert) Finally the interview would end with the thundering applause worthy statement ‘ What will become of you once your parents pass away?’ This was intended to be the knockout punch aimed to finally bring me to my knees and wipe out any remaining traces of self worth and dignity. The interviewer would then look with a victorious smile at their ward who meanwhile had been sitting there gawking at me like I was a white tiger with two heads. Any attempts on my part to make light of the situation with a joke or a nonchalant shrug would be pounced upon and reprimanded thoroughly.
There were also the rare instances when I would throw caution to the winds and voiced my views which were usually met with expressions ranging from ‘ she has taken leave of her senses, to ‘ her arrogance is what has made her an unsaleable commodity. In all this mayhem my mother would run around offering tea and biscuits trying to calm the situation down. Finally they would depart with a pitying look at my mother. As soon as they departed I would pounce on my poor mother demanding her stand on the status quo. Her answer was groundbreaking; “Smile and stand up with dignity because you have not done anything wrong, marriage does not define who you are and it never should, take on life with a smile and follow your passions“
This philosophy which I followed to a T is what puzzled people about me. Unmarried girls in Indian society are a big taboo, made to feel unworthy and ugly they usually withdraw into a shell, social functions like marriage AKA The hunting grounds of the matchmakers, where most of the inquisitions on hapless girls took place, are usually given a miss by unmarried girls above thirty. Seeing me stroll through the same grounds, like a walk in the park, got me my fair share of admirers, girls half my age would come up to me for advice on how to deal with the whole marriage situation, and how I always managed to be happy. My advice though heard in earnest was often seen as impractical because in most cases the parents were more intimidated by the whole situation than the girl s themselves.
My rise to fame as the champion of the unmarried girls however came to an end last year when I got married, seen in itself as a miracle and now deemed socially acceptable. But my advice still stands; marriage does not define who you are, it may embellish it, if the partner is right but ultimately your strength of character and self belief will help in shaping your unique destiny. So Girls get out and face your destiny, its waiting for you and remember to smile..