If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me when I am getting married, I would be a billionaire. Doesn’t that always happen? I know, I speak for a whole lot of girls in India, Pakistan and other Asian countries when I say that I have a dream to make it big someday. Enter 20s and you think the world is yours. You have an ambition, a plan, a desire to make it to the top. But there is always a price to pay to make your dream come true.
It doesn’t matter if you are the eldest or the youngest, as long as you are a girl in our Desi community; you are somehow always obliged to look after for your family. Be it your father or brother or husband or in laws, it is you who is responsible for ensuring that they are fit and healthy and that they eat appropriately. If you do not take this responsibility seriously, and if you are a bit focused on your career, then you are subject to the whispers and comments of your kins.
Thus, if you are a career oriented woman, chances are that most people remind you of your duties towards your house and the others would just shut you off by not taking you seriously. Like there is always that woman at gatherings who would gush over ‘Shabana’s son’ and how rich and talented he is. But discussions are usually different if these women talk about girls. The usual statement would be ‘ Oh look how pretty she has become!’ or ‘that girl knows how to perform her household chores so well, she’s perfect.’
Let me just stop you there ma’am. First of all, no one can be perfect. If you keep looking for a perfect girl for your son, I am sure he would quit and find his bliss with a man instead. And in case you haven’t noticed, you are giving her less credit than what she deserves. Have you ever told her how well she paints? Or how well she writes? No, because you obviously don’t see her as an individual who is capable of achieving something.
Frankly, I don’t even remember when was the last time an elder came to me and told me keep doing what you are doing and I am proud of you. Mostly, girls of my age end up making our elders uncomfortable when we discuss our career with them. You don’t believe me? Have a talk with your family when you are 24 years old and tell them how serious you are about a career. Chances are you might be hushed by them, or they would change the topic and tell you how many babies your high school friend has.
So, where does this come from? The parents that motivate you from childhood to think big and to dream big, suddenly are the ones who wake you up from your dreams and tell you to stop right there. Of course, it’s the societal pressure. It’s the pressure they face from relatives and their friends. Because the society, ultimately being patriarchal, thinks that eternal happiness does not lie in a career but in marriage. They are the ones who smirk at you when you tell them ‘I am doing a PhD.’ They would look at you with wide eyes in disbelief and say “what is wrong with you? Why are you so serious about a career? you should just get married.”
According to Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, every individual has a set of needs. He built a so called pyramid underlining a set of hierarchy of needs. The most basic being physiological needs, followed by safety needs, social needs, needs of self esteem and finally self actualisation need. According to Maslow, after accomplishing one need, a human being automatically moves towards the next set of needs. The final need of self actualisation is pursuing one’s talent, creativity and seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
Then why don’t we take our daughters seriously? Why don’t we put aside the notions of the society and seriously think about what our girls want? Every girl does not want to have a career, that’s all right. But girls who are serious about a career do not want to know how many suitors they have. Also don’t make her feel worthless by telling her how proud you are of your son, how amazing it is that your son’s career is reaching new heights. It would just bring her down. You raised her to be this incredible person, and she wants to make sure that she turns into one.
Please do not take this away from her! She wants to show the world that she is capable of everything that a guy of her age is given. She didn’t ask you for the stars, she’s capable enough to achieve them someday, she’s asking you to watch out for her. You have given her wings; let her go for that god damn test drive and see where she lands. And trust me you will be proud of her one day.