Sharanya Misra

The below post has been published on Women’s Web and was selected as a Featured Post.

I was watching the popular English sitcom Friends the other day and a dialog of Monica’s on her brother’s wedding made me stop and take notice. She said “Ross, how long have you been thinking of this wedding? Emily has probably been thinking of it since she was 5….that’s what we did. We dreamed about the perfect wedding.” And it struck me. How true is that? I remember reading in Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi’s “Dear Ijeawele” – “Why condition girls to aspire to marriage and we do not condition boys to aspire to marriage, and so there is a terrible imbalance from the start…the relationship is automatically uneven because the institution matters more to one than the other”. Yes, this is what we do. We bring up our daughters dreaming and day-dreaming of that one day, we make them aspire for the most beautiful day of their lives, as we lead them to believe. But what after that? Do we prepare them enough for what comes after?

Growing up, I was always encouraged to be academically/culturally inclined, to work hard, to become something. But I also remember being heavily fascinated with the concept of being a bride. Whether this was under the influence of television serials or ads or cousins or aunts,I know not, but the thought of being that demure bride with the mukut tied around my forehead (I am Odiya) and the beautiful white dots around my brows was an ever-present reality of my childhood. As it was with all the girls around me. Mothers kept aside sarees and jewellery “for your wedding”. There was often nostalgia involved too. “I wore it at my own wedding too” with teary eyes. All of this sure is beautiful. But while we are so busy painting our girls a picture of that one day, who is to prepare them for the rest of their lives?

Because the truth is, marriage is not the Wedding day. It simply is not. Once all the festivities are over, the relatives depart and the noise dies down, real life begins. Of course, it starts small. Who will sleep on which side of the bed? Who will wake up when the doorbell rings at 6 in the morning when the doodhwala arrives and both of you had a late night? Who will take the dog for a walk 3 times a day, the same dog one of you had impulsively gifted the other on Valentine’s Day as a token of love? Who will stay back home with a sick parent/in-law and give up on that all important meeting? Who will quit their job to allow their partner to pursue their job interests instead? Over time, it grows and grows till it becomes all of this, plus so, so much more.

Marriage is about decision making, and about responsibility. In India, marriage is about families too. Are you balancing the time you give to each side of the extended family? If the husband or the wife isn’t comfortable with the in-laws, is the other partner finding the balance and making peace? Marriage is about life-altering decisions – financial, emotional, biological. Where do we invest our possibly limited funds? What can we splurge on and what must we save? When can we have a child? Do we even want a child? Are we financially ready for our child’s future needs? Do we have a support system in place for bringing up a growing child?

And most importantly, marriage is so much about communication. Every step of life after that wedding day calls for the husband and wife to communicate – their likes, dislikes, their oks, their not-at-alls. Disagreements have to be resolved. Compromises have to be made. Tears have to be hidden and smiles forced sometimes for the sake of the one you love. While at other times, it makes you feel loved and understood like never before, giving you that boost you needed to keep going. Marriage can be companionship. But marriage can also be loneliness. Phew! Marriage is HARD WORK.

And yet. And yet, what we focus on is the one day when the bride must look her best. We giggle about the honeymoon without giving her any details, leaving her in the lurch with doubts unanswered. We convince her that now that her big day is here and she is looking as beautiful as she possibly could, her life’s mission has been accomplished. And the next day when she must take those first steps into a new world, we are nowhere around. The one piece of advice we do give her is to “adjust” – like all women have before her, and all women after her will.

To all the girls out there dreaming of that perfect wedding, I wish I could ask them to dream of that perfect marriage instead. To all the girls taking that big step and saying that all important “yes”, I wish for them to do so well-informed, with all the knowledge of what they are walking into beyond the 7 pheras. Marriage isn’t a single day. It isn’t that single lehenga done up most intricately or that lovely mehendi red as the bride’s blushing cheeks. Marriage is life-long, marriage is every day, every second of all your life. Marriage isn’t a grand party. The wedding is. Dreaming of a beautiful day when you tie the knot with your forever-after partner isn’t wrong at all. But what’s important is getting into the institution knowing what comes after too.

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