Today I am going to share with you the tragedy of growing up. My childhood, I believe was better than getting into adolescent and now youth category. I had happy and enjoyable life being first daughter of my parent where there was huge appreciation of getting good grades and being obedient. Enjoyed in home based game station with my cousins. Grew up learning nursery rhymes and bed time stories which now if I recall, feel sorry for dreaming to be one of the princess who lost her shoe and was waiting for her prince charming. Yes, my mom as any other mothers shared her best stories of princess who struggle to make her dream come true whether kissing a frog, losing a shoe, brightening her hair or being whitest ever. The reason behind these bed time stories was to make me understand a social phenomena “Marriage is compulsory”. During those days as child, these stories fantasies me and I could not say “Mom I am not ready” to dream a prince.
My bed time stories ended when I reached my puberty. I remember my first day of menstruation. I was frightened, holding my underwear inked red with blood and searching my mom for rescue. I was much terrified to know my private area was bleeding and all my bed sheet turned to be red. The I met with reality that even in this situation when I am traumatized there was not any prince to secure me with correct information or holding my hands with hope to never let it go away. Now I realized that my mom wasted time finding those fancy bedtime stories. It did not helped me instead made me imaginary to imagine a prince. My mom was comfortable to give me indirect hints saying “Marriage is made in heaven” but she was uncomfortable saying what happens after marriage. As I look behind into my puberty my mom never talked about menstruation before I faced it as tsunami in my life. Neither my sisters nor aunts talked about enlargement of my breast before I felt embarrassed. When I asked why I am bleeding four days a month, the reply was it is consequences of my bad deed in previous birth. What? Exactly same response.
As I grew up to my teen and doing most of the household works like assisting family members to cook food, washing dishes, cleaning, washing, sweeping and behaving a typical Newari girl; my relatives started to tease me saying “thulo vaye cha choori aba bihe gardinu parla” (Now she is grown up she is eligible to marry), “keta khojyo uskolagi” (Did you search groom for her?) etc. Remembering those embarrassing moments where I could not reply to those relatives and say “Mom I am not ready” for those comments, make me want to reverse the time and shout on those relatives saying it’s non of your business. With all those teaching from my parents and being totally feminine with smile on my face I had to dissolve those comments. And I could not day “Mom I am not ready“. My family was much more interested to find me a groom than asking me about my bra size or getting me sanitary napkins or teaching me how to use home made pads. Here in Nepal marriage is taken as license to get indulge in sexual relationship legally and having babies no matter how many.
Our culture does not allow talking about sex and sexuality. But the intention behind marriage proposal during first age of girl’s teen is indirectly talking about having sexual relationship with a guy. How could a girl take this? I am not allowed to talk about bodily changes during puberty but I am forced to meet a stranger to get arranged marriage. This time I go to one of my cousins wedding reception wearing sari or kurta, all my relatives are much more interested on news When I will be getting engaged than my cousin’s wedding. Someone says “aba ta timrai pali, koi cha vane hamilai na lajaikana vanna la” (Now its your turn to ring the bell. Let us know if you are in relation without hesitation) as if they are going to accept my relationship with a guy of another caste. My parents will be listening to those comments and keep smiling with hints as they want to relay same message to me that I am eligible to get married. That is why I have stopped going to any relatives’ parties and they say I am being unsocial. My relatives are more interested on my growing age than my family. I got my first marriage proposal when I completed my school. Everyone was positive about the proposal, do you believe this? Even my dad and mom. I was just 16 years old back then. The thing I regret is I could not say ” Mom I am not ready”. Since then there was open gate for someone in my family for getting marriage proposal.
My parents are thinking about my better and secure future. But they have not realized how I could, when we are not discussing about my sexual life. They want me to choose a stranger and want me to say “Yes” meeting him for first time. They are not thinking my compatibility with him and how I could trust him. The culture of marriage in my family is going like this. Parents fixed the meeting of potential bride and groom, expect “yes” from both of them as soon as possible, get engage and finally marriage happens. None has argued on this and raised question. In defense my parents said the marriages happened are successful. I am not allowed to date my friend but I am allowed with a strangers and the excuse from my parents is “His father is my childhood friend”. What an excuse!! Another scenario is my cousin has a boy friend and she had already shared this with her parents. Although my family has given her green signal inside they are not happy with her relationship. Families have had their meetings and finally they are going to engage. Still my family has objection on her getting close to her boy friend or frequently staying late evening with him. Don’t you think its funny? My cousin who has shared her status of being in relationship with a guy and family agreed their engagement in near future are objecting them for spending time with each other. But I who is not in relationship is forced to meet a stranger, spend time with him, talk or phone him frequently and without asking me they announce my relation status with him……. emm….. not happening. This is because I did not say “Mom I am not ready“.
The message I am trying to relay is marriage is not simply handing daughters to a stranger. It not about celebrations and parties for more than seven days or up to month. Marriage come with responsibility. Before that it’s a girl decision whether to get married or not. She has right to decide with whom, when and where she gets engaged with. Before than she should have accurate information about her body and changes, sex and sexual relationship, emotions and pleasures, contraception and abortion. In our society daughters are taught how to impress her husband, compromise in relationship and at the end most of the marriage fail within and none stays happy. Daughters should be empowered by giving her higher education due to which she would be able to take her own decision, negotiate and compromise on her own cost. These lessons should be provided by parents but it lacks in our society which is leading huge generation gap. There should be culture of saying “Mom I am not ready“.