The only kind of chauvinist worse than the ignorant, khap-panchayat type is the supposedly well meaning, highly educated type.
My sister, S, is currently on vacation. Last evening, I found her uncharacteristically quiet. When I spoke to her, I realized I was wrong about that. She wasn’t uncharacteristically quiet – she was on the verge of tears.
For all her independence and willpower and corporate toughie attitude, S has always been an exquisitely sensitive person at heart. And one conversation with one of our myriad uncles was enough to send her mood into a tailspin for the rest of the day.
I wasn’t party to the conversation itself, but I got the gist from her. This well-meaning uncle had been shocked to learn that the man S is planning to marry is not the scion of a large London-based Punjabi Indian family. Nope. He’s the son of a primary school teacher and is not Indian at all, let alone Punjabi. The uncle proceeded to tell her to get over her “infatuation”, marry a man from a good family (read rich family), quit her job and live “like a queen” on her husband’s money. Being who she is, S did not appreciate that advice at all and there was a…scene when this extraordinarily persistent mamaji chose to involve my parents in the discussion and advised them to get her to settle down.
I don’t get this obsession with “settling down”. For god’s sake, the woman is in a job she loves, gets paid extremely well for it, has a car, an apartment, and complete financial security. She’s been in a committed relationship for over two years and is planning to tie the knot soon enough. Isn’t that “settled” enough? What, pray, is the definition of being “settled”?
Does it mean you should be in the traditional, pre-defined role that has been set out for your gender?
Does it mean that you must do exactly what the earlier generations did?
Does it mean that you should stop living life on your own terms?
And why MUST one settle down, anyway?
What if I don’t want to settle?
What if I my aim in life is to trot the globe, climb Mount Everest, visit Mars, take a hike through Antarctica, host a charity sale and have wild sex with women from at least thirty-three different countries?
What is the overarching benefit I would get from settling down and being a good Indian son or whatever? What is the benefit S gets from being a good Indian daughter?
Why must life paths follow beaten, broken-in, severely traditional trajectories?
They don’t have to. At all.
Let’s learn to say “hey, whatever floats your boat”, and move on.
Settling down isn’t that important. Being happy is. If following a traditional trajectory makes you happy, great. But don’t harp on the rest of us.
Let’s just live our own lives and concentrate on being good people, and not follow hidebound mores and conventions.