I didn't have an arranged marriage. Neither did my parents. So we were all thankfully spared the whole humiliating "see-the-girl-in- a-saree-balancing-12-cups- on-a-tray- and-not-spilling -a-drop-of-tea" ritual. But I was quite surprised this morning when the single women in my office were discussing their experiences regarding wedding proposals.
One colleague - now married - said she'd been 'rejected' by a suitor (read: his family) because she planned to continue working after she got married. This woman has an MBA degree and excellent work experience, but was expected to happily give it all up 'in the interests of the family.' ("Welcome to La Familia..." Hmmm....now where have I heard that before?)
Another woman, an engineer with an MBA in finance, said 'brokers' who call up always ask the question: does she plan to continue working after getting married? "Yes," her father says proudly. "And she plans to continue dancing as well," he adds for good measure. The lady in question is an extremely talented classical dancer and it would be a sad day indeed if she gave up the craft, especially if the move was involuntary.
She's lucky, it would seem. Many Indian parents, after their daughters cross 25 (in some 'liberal' cases, 27) give in to various demands from a prospective groom's family, lest they be accused of "not fulfilling their parental responsibilities" or get the neighborhood gossipping about why their daughter isn't married yet: "She probably has a flawed horoscope," they will say. (This means wrong stars in the wrong houses, which means she was born at the wrong time or under an inauspicious star or planet or something, and hence, is doomed to be pitied. Tsk, tsk.)
Here's a sample interaction - and this is in 2007! She works a for an MNC in a job that involves shifts - her's gets over at 9 pm. So did the prospective bridegroom's, albeit at a different company. This is what the prospective mother-in-law had to say: "See, we are very liberal people. We don't mind her working after the wedding," (Ooo....did you hear that, girl? They're liberal. You must have been born under an auspicious star, indeed.) "But, can't she ask for another shift? I'm getting old. If she continues with this job, she and my son will get home at the same time, and a man likes a hot meal waiting for him when he gets home so late." (Er, yes, any human being would like a hot meal waiting for them when they get home after a day's work and a long commute, but hey, who said life was fair? And if you hadn't pampered your offspring to his teeth, he wouldn't have expected his life partner so spend half her life in the kitchen slaving away for him while he put up his smelly feet and hogged the remote.)
Here's what happened to another prospective bride, a computer science graduate working in the marketing department of a tech firm. Her job involves overseas travel every few months for a week or so. The prospective groom tut-tutted and generously offered to get her a job in the MNC where she worked citing a "regular 9-to-6 routine" and no travel. "I like travelling occasionally, thank you." replied the girl, leaving the fellow slack-jawed, probably at the thought that she could "bear" to spend time away from her lord and master. (Nah, I think it's because his job didn't involve periodic trips to exotic destinations in Europe.) Like Gen Y says, whatever!
Grow up, boys! (And their mommies, in particular.) If India is going to continue following the West, then we need to be prepared to give up on our daily maids and Rs 5000-a-month drivers. As an economy matures, service is going to get expensive and then, the average middle-class indviduals will not be able to afford the housekeeping services that are still so cheap today. With higher education getting steeper by the day and subsidies on their way out, two-income families are more than likely to become more common.
So our boys (and yes, I have a son) better learn to chop their veggies, roll their rotis, dust the furniture, clean the toilets - and do it with a smile - because services provided by maids, drivers, gardeners, and errand boys are going to become the preserve of the rich.
Oh yes, and this also applies to all the pampered girls who proudly say: "I can't even boil an egg." (And not just because they're vegetarian.) Or "I've never threaded a needle in my life!" The bottom line is, being comfortable with basic household skills just makes a life lot easier. And with all the other problems out there, we all deserve to spend our time on better things than fighting over household chores.
Like it or not, this social evolution is inevitable. Are you listening, mommies?