put a ring on it!
Picture this scene, one that is typical in any young woman's life, on the night of a special event. The closet door stands ajar, gap-toothed in that several items are missing from the columns of garments hanging there. The missing numbers lie on the bed in a swirl of silks, chiffons, muslins, jewel tones winking against the softest pastels, solids snuggling next to the print.
After searching through the lot, our protagonist finally selects an outfit to her liking, and, having showered and changed, stands in front of the mirror, wondering how she'll wear her hair tonight. Sophisticated chignon to underline and complement her successful career? A sassy ponytail to go with her playful personality? Or should she just blow-dry and let it fall to her shoulders in all its simple elegance, content to be her youthful, happy self? It is precisely at this point that the strident tones of another player entering the room shatter the feel-good glow.
"All you can do is attend other people's weddings. Will you never have one of your own?"
"I will when I'm ready, Maa..."
"Of course, when you're ready! I don't know if you'll ever realise, but there's a time for everything, and unless you're at a decent marriageable age, your chances of getting a good..."
"Ma...please don't start this now..."
One would think that being young, relatively good-looking and successful would have a fair number of things in life fall into place, right? Wrong! Not when one happens to be a woman in her mid-twenties living in Bangladesh. As a woman, you could have all the accomplishments that a solid education can earn, but at the end of the day, the only achievement that matters in the eyes of all your 'well-wishers' is whether or not you manage to land a husband.
Fast forward to the scene of the wedding that our protagonist is attending. No sooner is the greeting and air-kissing done with, the questions begin.
"So, you next?"
"Why aren't you married yet?"
"You want us to look for someone for you?"
"What is it you're doing again? Haven't you graduated already?"
And the mother simply nods along, because clearly, the 'well-wishers' ask all this because they are 'concerned'.
Its times like these, when we realise that despite being so far along in so-called modern times, society, at least that of here, still seems to resemble something out of Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice", where smart, educated, independent women are still viewed as 'lacking', unless they are able to 'settle' down and produce offsprings.
There's quite a bit of confusion here, though. While some liberal-minded modern day mothers, may say things like, "nije pochhondo kore nilei paro", it's almost never that easy! Questions may arise as to 'how' and 'when'? Had the girl found someone for herself while she was in college, she'd still be termed 'spoilt', and when finally, she reaches the university level, when she is deemed much more 'independent' and 'responsible', in most cases she'll end up outside of the very few lucky ones who do find their respective soul-mates.
In another occasion, one young friend of mine, playfully asked her mother, "Ammu, what would be the first thing to come to your mind if you knew I was going to die?" To which, the ammu, equally teasingly replied, "I'd suggest you get married quickly and start producing my grand kids, so that when you're gone, I'll have them to remember you by." We all ended up laughing at this quite outrageous solution, but at the end of the day, one can realise from this how a mother's single-minded effort to 'do what's best for my child' can be quite overbearing.
Parents, in all their perseverance towards getting their precious children 'settled' in life, may sometimes go quite overboard! I've known of at least one occasion when a mother practically turned her daughter into the laughing-stock of all her colleagues, because she would invariably send at least 2-3 completely random men to her daughter's workplace to 'visit/see' her!
While in all honesty, she may feel she is doing the right thing, for in her mind, who will take care of her daughter when she is no longer around; what she fails to contemplate is that, her daughter is an intelligent, responsible and successful woman and doesn't quite require to be 'taken care of' in that regard!
Having said all that, we might as well turn our concentration to that on the other side of the pasture. Is the grass indeed greener? Not really! Apparently young men nowadays have it almost, if not equally, as tough as women! One such young and handsome bachelor friend of mine, while working as an intern at a reputed bank, had innumerable seniors approach his desk at the customer care unit with bio-datas of their respective daughters or nieces, and asking him questions regarding where he studied and what his parents did.
Initially, being the gentleman that he was, he obliged with polite answers, for oblivious as he was, he couldn't for the life of him understand what possible connection his personal information had to do with their opening up bank accounts. Only when he finally realised what was going on, he had to fend for himself, as politely as possible, for the 'ghotoks' could be quite adamant, while all this time, his bosses where pleased over the fact that his desk was always relatively crowded, implying that he was probably doing a mighty fine job!
But why is it, that young people nowadays are less inclined to marry and settle down? While we went on an excursion for this bit of detail, we came across, innumerable such answers:
"I'm simply not ready."
"I value my freedom too much."
"Haven't found the right person."
"Need some more time....."
Most young people are repulsed by the idea of the parents choosing for them, because, after all, "I'm going to be the one spending the rest of my life with that person and s/he has to be in sync with my thoughts". It makes complete sense, but while finding your soulmate, or a person you feel you connect with and respects you is no easy task, their is still the fact to be considered, that parents are, for their own reasons, usually unwilling to give their children time.
What's ironic is the fact that both groups, parents and their young adults, are aware of the importance of such a decision as marriage, but both are unwilling to comply with and trust the other regarding decision-making. While parents insist on believing their children don't necessarily know what's right for them, their children, on the other hand are also bent on grabbing the right to choose for themselves.
According to one parent, "Its all this modern talk of freedom and soul-mates that messes with their heads. Some things should be kept practical and realistic. When two compatible people who are worthy of each other are put together, they will learn to love and respect one another and ultimately be happy. There is a time for everything and young people should abide by that, for their own good."
And so the war wages on, with neither side willing to surrender. Here's wishing all those young singles out there a happy ending of their choice, be it with someone or without, and here's hoping that their well-meaning parents will accept and respect their choices.
By Farina Noireet
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Models: Opi and Rafiq