In my mother tongue there is a phrase that when literally translated means, “What news?” This is a phrase I get often now from my relatives and acquaintances. The correct answer or the expected one from the 25-year-old me is that I am getting engaged/married or that my parents are looking for an eligible groom who I could settle down with. The next question is where I work and a large portion of the time is then dedicated to what my timings and my weekly off patterns are. I have resigned to the fact that the questioning is still done with an intention to understand how eligible I am for ‘marriage’.
All the hard work put into my career, the educational and professional milestones are not as consequential anymore. Over the years I have found myself becoming more aggressive. From someone who was never against an arranged marriage, I find myself arguing with people about how redundant expenses on big fat weddings are, how I don’t see why a girl’s parents must bear all the expense and so on. I am told that while they agree with me, “This is how it is in our community.” I find myself rolling my eyes at that and planning my next trek trip in my head instead.
What irks me most is that almost all the girls in my generation received equal educational opportunities and were pulled up as much as the boys were if their marks were not up to the mark. Almost all those who I have grown up with – girls and boys – have earned professional degrees. Yet the girls, including me, suddenly came face to face with the glass ceiling. Yes it was there – not at our workplaces but in our own homes. The career choices had to be in sync with marriage plans. “Finish studying by 22, work for a year and then get married.” For others it was, “Study what you want, but marry by 25.” Then there were some unlucky ones who never saw this statement coming but heard their parents say, “Finish your bachelors. You can study more after you get married.”
My friends and I laugh over how the reaction to our career choices is so intrinsically linked to ‘marriage’. If it was going to be so, then why did no one warn us? Why were we taught that we were equal and could do what we wanted to and then a timer was set for us? I see a few of them have given in to their pressure and chucked their nascent careers out of the window because they were too demanding.
Ironically I find all the workplaces I have worked at to be free from any sort of gender bias. My work was valued based on its merit and I was treated on par with anyone else. So far, no glass ceiling there. Phew!