The irony of being a South Asian womxn is this – no matter how successful you are, no matter your achievements and successes, your unmarriedness will eclipse everything else. It isn’t that everything you’ve done does not matter, of course, it still does. But none of it will matter as much as your marital status.
Your aloneness becomes an inextricable part of your identity. Your “inability” to have a partner will raise many questions.
After the 245th time it happens, it becomes unnecessarily exhausting.
On the 1 year and 11th month of our being together, my partner and I will be getting married. Mrs and Mr Something. Mr and Mrs Something.
Some, hearing news of our marriage, who mean well, will say, I am so happy to hear you’re finally getting married. I think to myself, but why, finally? Is there a dictum that suggests that marriage, like eating breakfast, having your hair cut, turning up at work, must be done by a certain time? That in a bid to making this arbitrary timeline (set by people who know better?) a womxn has to compromise on her beliefs, values, wants, desires? But. Why?
Isn’t it more fulfilling a journey to join with a partner who fits you the way you want to be fitted with, even if it takes time, even if it means the both of you have to go through your own journeys before you come together, whenever that is, just at the best moment, a whole beautiful relationship ripe for picking, hanging softly between the two of you?
There is a funny party story I have about my mother, from more than half a decade ago.
We were traveling as a family to Jaipur, India, and we had a tour guide. He was kind and attractive, and appealed tremendously to my mother.
One evening, as we were waiting to enter a heritage site, she tried to ask him out on my behalf, as I stood by her, waiting for the ground to swallow me up whole.
I remember being most confused by the dissonance I experienced. To have a partner, or to not have a partner. That was the question.
I wonder about a lot of things, but I wonder about this the most – how parents of daughters, even up to my generation, speak two languages to their daughters.
The first, is one of purity, chastity, sanctity, all of which are somehow related to the daughter’s success. The importance of working hard, of getting a good education, of being chaste. The second language, which starts seeping in later, is one laced with fear and chastising, a discourse of dependence, the need for a partner to lead a complete life.
I do not blame our parents for this language – when we have been steeped in a certain discourse for all our lives, we parrot only what we know, thinking we know best.
But the question remains. Is it?
It is easy to be caught in this sweeping patriarchal tide, to be pressured to make choices and decisions based on what others expect of a womxn. Most womxn I know (including my mother), have spent most of their lives rebelling in their own quiet ways to exist the way they want to, to be aligned with their ideals and values and beliefs.
I am thankful that even though I too, was exposed to dissonance, in hearing two languages that screamed opposite things about how I was supposed to be, I carry with me the lineage of strength, to step forward, to step aside, to walk the paths less trodden, to say no firmly and repeatedly and loudly, to refuse words that say that my strength is an aggression, to remain kind and soft despite it all.
Always, I am thankful.
My biggest worry, for the longest time, was that being married would force me to become someone I am not. I struggle with this. As someone once said of me recently, I am incapable of deception. To others. To myself. It is not a bad way to live. Not an easy one, but not a bad one by any measure.
This worry lingers, albeit in smaller, quieter ways. That the choices I make, may not sit well, not with one but two sets of parents, that I will exhaust my partner and myself by trying to justify my/our lives.
I am thankful that my partner is understanding, that he has entered this relationship just as I have, with both eyes open, that it is this very nature of mine that drew him to me anyway. And yet, over time, expectations change. People change. Responsibilities change.
Where will my person fit, in all this chaos? How will I continue to live with myself, at peace?
I know I want to be a good mother someday.
I don’t know how much I want to be a mother (this differs often), but if I do, I want to be a good one.
I desperately want to be the mother of a daughter, because I want to empower my daughter in ways that I wish I was empowered as a womxn (and truly, I was empowered plenty).
I want to be a mother, mostly because I believe that mothers have the key to a secret knowledge (I half suspect this has something to do with unconditional love, but I am not entirely sure) that makes them fearsome and beautiful and sometimes, completely incomprehensible creatures. I want in on that club. I want in on that knowledge.
I also want to be a mother because it means my partner will be a father, and that is going to be a gift to this world because he is born to be a father. He will be like my father, who is the best father I have ever known, the first man I know who truly understood what it meant to have a daughter, and embraced that knowledge fully; the man who told my mother the day I was born, that being parents of a daughter meant that they would need to learn to let her go, sooner rather than later, so that she can see and breathe and learn and live this world.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Tomorrow, I am getting married.
Like most things in my life, my marriage too, is going to be an interesting story. My new parents are not going to be with us because my partner and I are getting married in the middle of a pandemic, which has halted almost all forms of international travel.
We will be getting married in masks, but we will still be allowed to kiss.
We are an Indian couple hosting a Chinese dinner, because we like Chinese food and we are a little unconventional that way.
We will be together, which is the best part, and truly, the only thing that matters at this point. Everything else, is a detail.
I have rewritten my vows several times, and each time, my vows find the same words. I am trying to fix something that is already quite perfect.
I will be wearing my grandmother’s black sari. Most of the saris I own are my grandmother’s, gifted to me by my aunt who is another mother to me. My grandmother is not lucid for the most part, but I know that the little bit of her that remains lucid, is here with us, with me, ecstatic that I have her on my skin as I begin another adventure. My mother will be tying her mother’s sari for her daughter. Three generations of womxn coming together in a single poignant moment.
One day, I will try to find the words to describe this to my daughter.
I am almost hundred percent certain my partner will cry before I do. It will probably set me off, and that is perfectly fine.
There will be eucalyptus everywhere, blessing us with its woody and heady scent. It is my mother’s favourite plant, and mine. I want to be drunk on the smell of fresh wood and plant, smells that I have grown up with.
Tomorrow is a big day, but it is also just a day, and like all days, it too, will pass.
Life will be the same, yet different. That too, is okay.
Till tomorrow, then.