From Ma, With Love is a campaign celebrating recollections of feminist tales and lessons, passed down to us by our mothers, this Mother’s Day. The first edition of this compilation has 16 heartwarming stories. ‘Self Learning’ by Ashita Alag is the twelfth story in this series. You can download the entire publication here.
“It’s time for her to settle.” This is probably a sentence we hear around us very often. It is possible that you have heard this sentence for yourself as you came close to completing the minimum educational standard considered necessary by your family. The most common places to hear this sentence are at family gatherings, and of course, Indian weddings. The source of this sentence will more often than not be uncles and aunties looking out for you.
What do we mean by ‘settle’? Men in the Indian society may be considered ‘settled’ when they have joined the family business or are earning well. But for women anywhere between 18 to 25 years old, if you want to fall in the ‘settled’ category, you must be married. That’s it. Once they’ve put you on the marriage-children-family path, they’ll consider you settled.
Does it matter that you cannot sustain yourself independently should the need arise? Does it matter that you don’t feel satisfied with your life? Does it matter that you may want to do more? Those are factors often not taken into consideration to reach the ‘settled’ mark.
As I completed my law degree, I feared going to family weddings, for the sound of more uncles and aunties pestering me to get married. I knew that having me ‘settled’ would be their next goal. I assumed it would only be a matter of time before my parents would start asking me about marriage, too. But there came a twist to my tale — my mother.
I was to attend a family wedding, mentally prepared for middle-aged people coming up to me and having the shaadi (wedding) conversation. At one of the functions, as I enjoyed the golgappas with my mother and a couple of other guests, someone hinted at my impending marriage. While I planned only to nod, smile, and move to the next food stall to avoid an argument, my mother retorted, to my utter astonishment, to the comment.
She said something to the effect of, “Of course, I want to see her settled, but for us ‘settling’ her doesn’t mean getting her married. It means having her stand on her own feet, it means to have her be financially independent, for her to make the choices she wants and be able to live the life she wants.” She said that all of this meant that I was ‘settled’ and it came first. If I wanted to marry, I could. I would still be independent and would not have to go looking to others for support, capable of living my own life. Once I had this capability as per my mother, I would be ‘settled’ in her eyes.
I have rarely had feminist conversations with my mother. Mostly because of lack of time, but also because I thought she wouldn’t understand. However, I have to admit that her idea of ‘settled’ is probably congruent with, if not better than, my own. In that one minute reply that she gave to the poster aunty for ‘settled = marriage’, she earned more of my respect, made that aunty walk away and probably taught all of us a thing or two.
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