Friday, February 11, 2005

The life of the Indian middle class kid is so well scripted. Admission to good school, the drive to achieve good grades, admission to a good college/university, move on to a well-paying job, marriage, kids.....Of course there are gender differences. The pressure to perform is far more on the boys, they are going to bring home the dough after all. The women only need to marry well. So they should be born with good looks and acquire a bit of savoir vivre by getting a half-decent education. I have seen most of my friends, classmates and neighbours from India follow this pattern dilligently. In fact, for those who remained unmarried post-25 it brought on a sort of existential crisis. For what else could you aspire to in your 20s except to get married?

Lata is a very dear friend and we grew up together in the same neighbourhood. After she hit 25 the pressure started building for her to get married. She had never dated anyone and been too timid to actively seek a boyfriend. She decided to go the arranged marriage route. After meeting many men in this manner, one day she wrote to me saying that all she really wanted was a relationship with a man and she didn't really care if it ended in marriage or not. I was happy for her, that she was able to set aside the pressure and family rhetoric and decide for herself what her desires are. A few months later, I heard that she was getting married to someone she had barely met for a few days. She was moving to another city and was going to live with him and his parents. I realised that the pressure must have become intense as she was only a year away from her third decade. And it was sad that she was forced to succumb to it.

But she's not exceptional in that. Again and again, I've seen friends and cousins falling victims to their own anxieties about missing the boat once the magic 30 is crossed. Do I not worry about this? I think I used to, much more in the past than now. But the space that I have in being physically removed from people who might cause such anxious moments helps a lot. Also, the ability to live life in short parcels instead of dwelling on some grand scheme. And being in a very loving relationship. I think that helps the most. To know that wedding or no wedding, there are comfortable silences, the ability to agree and agree to disagree, and a lot of joy in each other's physical warmth.

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