What is it with Indians and their intrusive obsession about marriage? My sister recently paid her girlfriend a visit. The girlfriend lives in another city with her parents and her in-laws too live in close vicinity. My sister stayed the weekend but could not wait to get back home. She said, “I can’t relate to my friend anymore, she has reached the mental age of 50.” Later, in the course of the conversation, I found out that while my sister was looking forward to some fun time with her friend, she found herself amid a bunch of people who wanted to know why she had not married and why she had become so fat. Next, they kept giving her food, food and more food. You know the hospitality law in India, if you refuse to eat, that is unpardonable!

I was talking to a close friend of mine in India, same age as my sister, and someone going through relationship woes. After being with this person for more than five years, marriage seemed the inevitable path, so a date was fixed and plans made when the man developed cold feet. And this, considering that it had taken a while for my friend’s parents to accept the man as he was already married and had kids. But just when they had gotten round to accepting everything, he gave them a shocker.

Obviously, the marriage preparations were already on and friends and relatives told about the marriage. But in this new situation, her parents did not know how to handle this 'public shame' and were desperately scouting all matrimonial ads to find an immediate groom for her.

Every Saturday, my friend had to meet a prospective spouse. The more men she met, the more she was put off marriage. Not that my friend abhorred arranged marriages but the men she met, no matter how educated, all wanted to get married in a week’s time. "I want to know the person I am getting married too but aranged marriage won't allow that, everyone is in a hurry," she told me.

Last night my friend said, “My parents look for boys every week, it is like a form of therapy for them but they don’t know the damage it is doing to me.” With her refusal rate so high, friend feared she might end up spending the rest of her life with her parents as they don’t want her to move out either.

Sadly, our society suffocates women so much especially when they are hitting their 30s. They put so much emphasis on when to marry, whom to marry that it can drive a normal person insane. I can imagine my sister’s idea of a good holiday screwed up and I can imagine my friend’s idea of a normal everyday life screwed up being surrounded by people who think marriage is the most important event in a woman’s life. Whether she has a good job or is independent is not important, if she has not been able to trap any decent man, that is a failure.

I remember when I got married, my neighbours told me I should also arrange something really quick for my sister! Little did they realise I got married because I fell in love with the man and not due to any societal pressure. When I told my neighbours that my sister would also eventually find someone herself and get married in her own time if she wanted to, they clearly thought I was selfish and had so sense of responsibility in life. Like finding a husband for a 40-year old is shopping - best deal, best bargain, pick one!

Why can’t people let single women live alone without questioning their unmarried status? Even friends, unwittingly perhaps, do it. They would say, “I agree they must be left alone”, but at the next instance won’t stop from reminding how “it is high time now' for so and so 'to settle down”.

Happiness does not end with finding a husband. Happiness begins with being happy about oneself and if people go on reminding someone how incomplete her life is because she has not found a man, they are doing very little to make her happy. One can be happy being single, one can be happy being married. The priority just shifts from 'me' to 'us' in a marriage. And at the end of the day, there will always be a reason to keep looking for that lasting happiness in life, because it does not end with finding a job, a house, a husband or a child.

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