No, this post is not about what you think it is, given the title :-) I've been thinking about what would be the best advice to give to an Indian woman about to get married. This thought hasn't come out of the blue, my niece is getting married in the next two days. I am not able to attend the wedding given the distance involved, and I'm pretty sure that I'm the last person she would approach about advice as she enters this new phase in her life. And yet, I was wondering, what would I tell her from my lofty experience of having been married six years?
I still remember the advice I got six years ago, none of which I followed and all it did was make me angry enough to fight with the advice-givers! Here's the gyaan I got:
1. Have kids immediately!
2. Give whatever you earn to your husband and then ask him for spending money.
As you can well imagine, I did not follow the first piece of advice, and ended up getting into a major fight with my dear Aunt who gave me the second bit of wisdom :-) To think, she was trying give me genuine heartfelt advice and honestly believed that giving everything I earn to my husband would make me and my married life happier.
Coming back to the topic at hand, given that I am the dear Aunt in question this time, what would I say to my niece? How does one condense one's experiences into a few pithy sentences, to convey what I think is important- advice that my niece and (and given the example I just gave you) most of my family might not agree with? But anyway, here are the two bits of wisdom that I would pass along:
1. Always have a job and earn your own money
I cannot stress this enough. My niece does not work, and I also realize she will not be working after she gets married. Yet, I want her to. Work gives you a sense of self-worth and confidence. The fact that you earn money makes others respect you. It makes you an equal in some ways- ways which are very important in this already lopsided view of women that Indian society holds. Money is power, make sure you have some!
2. Don't give up your sense of self
Whether you work or not, always be your own person. Don't change your thoughts, beliefs, friends or dreams to accommodate other people and their beliefs. Value the things that are important to you and don't give them up. It is very easy to get swept up in the euphoria of marriage, and slowly give up on your own hobbies, likes and dislikes and dreams. Marriage is meant to nurture you and your growth as an individual, not stifle it.
As I look at these two pieces of advice, I realize how antithetical these are to what Indians call the good "bahu". One who serves her husband's family and becomes a part and parcel of them. One who gives up her dreams for the sake of the husband and his family. One who gives up her career and life because that is what is required. Well, you know what, you can still be a good, no, great bahu without giving up what you think is important for you. Giving your new family respect is essential, giving yourself up is not.
So that is my bit of advice. Here's wishing you a wonderful life ahead!
(Image source: http://www.japaneseweddingdress.biz/henna-painting-or-mehendi-indian-wedding-photography/)