Of Nubile Daughter’s Marriage and Motherhood

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It’s not easy to be the mother of a nubile daughter in India. The social pressures for marriage are high. Family and friends start meddling way too much, Nanditaa, takes a personal and inward journey into her mindscape to debate the issue of marriage in a candid write-up.

Motherhood has innumerable dilemmas to deal with. One of them, amongst the myriad, is the issue of getting her children married. Counted as one of the major responsibilities of parents, mothers take this so seriously that they forget to live before they can double their children. This is more austere as far as daughters are concerned.

Some of them see getting daughters married as virtuosity, wishing to ‘purify’ themselves in the Ganga once the daughters are married – eternal credit augmenting their life’s repertoire! Some take that long-unfulfilled world tour, complaining that they had to languish in the country because the children were not married.

As soon as the grownup children reach a certain age, the need of marriage is impressed upon them. It’s a kind of ‘brainwashing’ that comes naturally to most parents. I too faced it. However, I feel extremely diffident and backward in this aspect of parental responsibility. My nubile daughter has been declaring for years that she is not interested in marriage yet. And I have failed to give a satisfactory response ‘as yet’, to her question about its importance. After all, science and technology are striving hard (and succeeding) in making humans independent. Nowadays, self-sufficiency or self-reliance is the key to modern living. We do everything to achieve it – study, buy gadgets, pray, keep healthy, invest, discover, invent and even take life coaching to deal with our (over-stretched) emotions. And then we go back to the point where all achievements seem dull and the question of marriage takes the centre stage.

As soon as I have convinced myself that marriage is not so important after all, I am back to square one when a relative questions me about the ‘unnatural’ state of my nubile daughter. It is a natural question. Curiosity, one of the most basic instincts of mankind, has never really killed relatives.

‘Hasn’t she or you found someone?’ they persist. I wonder about that and then it strikes me! Children come to this world alone and unclothed. A mother must provide them a partner in adulthood as she did clothes at birth. It is the outermost and best layer of good parenting, they say. Like the dazzling coat on the cotton; the final icing on the cake.

Only then can I decide to take that exciting plunge into my childhood hobbies again; or the Ganga. Till then I must deliberate and meditate on how to create in my child the urge to marry.

After all, I have hidden a new air fryer under the cot, swept some gold in the treasury and bought the best shawls and sarees from Kashmir and Mysore to set up my daughter’s new life. I need to dust these waiting-to-be-used items now and again. And keep reminding myself about my maternal state so that I don’t eye the goodies. After all, I have a ‘marriageable’ daughter.

In my quest to administer a dose of my guardian concerns to my daughter about her marriage, I end up looking up the synonyms of ‘motherly’ in the dictionary: ‘affectionate’, ‘benevolent’, ‘understanding’, spiralling my miniscule hope of convincing her down to zero.

My arguments about companionship and security are shred to smithereens by cold stares wrenched away from cell phones that make me seem primitive and regressive. I’ve tried. Yes, I tried giving examples of cosily married couples of my generation. Also, comparisons come to me easily nowadays, just like tears and the running nose. When I cite examples of girls finding great catches (well-settled guys), my daughter’s friend (equally arrogant about marriage) points out that they could still be trying their  hands at marital bliss, as it could be cases of second or third marriages for both partners! And hadn’t I heard about live-in relationships?

Marriage is seen as an emotional, cultural, social, legal, and religious delight. It’s a milestone. Divorce is an emotional and legal hassle, definitely not seen as a homecoming. Most religions do not have a religious ceremony for it as it is seen as the unclothed, vulnerable state; mothers becoming impure again.

And then the most disturbing question to consider, “Am I a burden to you, Ma?”

I need to convince myself that motherhood is an ongoing emotional and social state and not a profession with a determined ladder to culminate. The adage, once a mother always a mother is so true!

Don’t I deserve to be promoted to a dignified ‘senior woman’ despite of not having got my daughter married ‘so far’ (after all, hope never dies)?

At a far corner, I eye youngsters hissing about how marriage could be a short-term, renewable contract. And I say, more to my own self, ‘A mother was also a daughter first.’

My other eye is on the Ganga!

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Nanditaa Bannerjee is the author of The ‘Mysterious Dreams’, a historical romance and
treatise on attempts at balancing life between one’s will, circumstances, environment,
and fate, by two protagonists of vastly diverse backgrounds, has published short stories and poems too. A microbiologist by profession and a ghazal enthusiast, she discovered that writing was cathartic for her during her schooling.