There is a girl, who will be referred to as Girl in this post. Girl is in her second year of a post graduate degree in engineering, which she joined after successful completion of an undergraduate degree. Girl turned twenty three years old recently. Girl’s parents discussed among themselves and concluded that their daughter (who will be a Master of Technology, is a student of Carnatic music, a Bharatanatyam dancer and a serial winner of the Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes award conferred by relatives) must now get married. As you may have already wondered, what is the point of all that education if she isn’t married? Out came the horoscope, and thus started the secret visits to various astrologers, and the numerous calls to those who may know probable grooms-to-be. And finally, a matching horoscope! STD and ISD calls back and forth, and a date was fixed for the boy and his family to come and look at Girl (Yes, much like the mannequins you look at in Lifestyle). Girl wore a saree, and even practised a song, and was coached in the acceptable behaviour for these situations (though Girl would be the last person to ever need tutoring for such a skill). They came, they saw, they agreed to the match, set a date, and deemed it admissible for Girl and Boy to talk to each other.
What is it that I hear you ask? Was Girl asked for an opinion? You see, she is the kind of girl who is respectful and obedient, she wants to get married to make her parents happy, and to execute her duty to her grandparents (such as giving them her babies to play with or asking them to wave at her babies over a Skype call). She did have one condition though – to be allowed to finish her education, which her future family did not refuse, showing much generosity and kindness.
I do not know what I was most dismayed by. Was it the fact that this happened in January 2015, in an affluent family in Chennai? Was it the idea that “here is a good girl, who did everything at the appropriate age” and will therefore be a role model against which I am measured (and found lacking)? Here is a girl who could have had as many opportunities as she wished for, and yet thought nothing about asking for permission to complete her course, or moving to a country that is close to the Arctic Circle. I found myself thinking of how K.Balachander was wasted on an entire generation, and then two more maybe. In the movie Arangetram (which he made about three decades ago), the mother tells her daughter: When I was your age, I’d already had two kids. Thirty years hence, mothers still tell their daughters that, and hold them to expectations that feel almost archaic. I suppose nobody wanted to take anything away from his movies, for all these people I know were too busy complaining how KB and KH brought sex into Tamil movies and disgrace upon Tamil Brahmins.