Thursday, September 3, 2009

Women Education: How much it can do alone?

I know this post is bit long, but I could not cut it short in spite of my best effort as I felt the message could not have been conveyed in a better way as two stories are involved here. So, if you have patience, please go ahead and share your opinion.
I was shocked from head to toe when I heard one of my relative got married to a girl (let's call her A)15 years younger to him.The boy was around 33 and the girl was hardly 18. Even though I was utterly ashamed, I did not say a word against this bizarre incident(bizarre to you and me but not across rural pan India) as they are my relatives but not close enough that it matters to me, so I just moved on.

Few days back,I read a post at
Chai Garam and opined that we should raise our voice against such incidents (though she was talking about a complete different incident). Since then, my conscience is being haunted day and night asking me whether I am guilty of not protesting, because these are the incidents where we, the educated and cultured ones are supposed to stand up and raise our voice.

Before you and me reach a quick conclusion here, hold that thoughts just for a second before I give little background about both the family involved here. The incident happened in a village in West Bengal. A was studying at 10th std, her father has a small scale business. The boy is a graduate, runs his own medicine shop (financially independent), has a very small family (which today people find worth considering before even considering the groom's educational/financial status), any sort of abuse on DIL is a distant dream, no question of being thrown away for giving birth to a daughter , so in a nutshell, in that environment he is considered to be a good eligible bachelor.

And the environment I am talking about, "outside knowledge" is very much limited to their four walls, financial independence of a girl they have heard I guess but not realized certainly, importance of a girl's education they know but caught in the dilemma that over educating their child might jeopardize her chance of getting married because not too many educated groom they can find in their circle (And i know "the boy MUST be more educated and earn more than the girl" is a precondition prevailed across all societies over India ) and most importantly marrying off their girl to a family ensuring "roti, kapra aur makan" & "sukhi sansar" is their up most task in life. And regarding the compatibility factor you and me think about, the girl is brought up in an environment to have limited expectation, she is not probably familiar with the concept of personal space and therefore will not realize the absence of it, if any and physically age difference will not be much of a hindrance unless the boy is of Mike Tyson category in bed or has some hidden disease which even I am not aware of.

On the other side of the horizon, there is another story quite radically opposite to this one. The girl (let's call her B) had a Master's degree (now keep in mind that obtaining master's degree may be a cake walk for most of us, but it was not so for her, when her nearest school was 5 km away, the college she went was 20kms away and she had to walk a few kms, then on rickshaws, then on boats to cross a river and then finally catch a bus to her college, no private tuition to avail and this incident I am talking is more than a decade old) and not to forget B was reasonably good looking. But as destiny had it, she was married to a boy of 10th pass, in a village which is remotely located beyond our imagination. The reason? according to the matchmakers, there was no highly educated suitable boy for her in the nearby vicinity, her father being poor, couldn't afford dowry and to make matter worse, the girl was taller than average girl's height (she was 5'6"-5'7"). The parents were least interested to agree to the proposal, but had to give in, they had no other choice. I have heard from my mother that the girl's mother repented "Wish I had educated my daughter little less..." Whom do we blame here? What do we teach and to whom? The girl is happy with her family, no usual hassles in her family (consolation prize for her parents), but does she wish something else would have..? I never dared to ask her.

Keeping all these in the background, it is now time for me and you to think whether I did any wrong by not protesting against A's marriage. I am sure that she is married to a good family, even though she could not educate herself much. I am sure probabilistically she might not get too many better families as her in-laws. I know any time at any condition, living her life independently is not a choice for her , if required (bad marriage??). Even if the education could give her the courage, she might not accommodate the pain of being tabooed in the society (even if she has her parents on her side) and more importantly educating her more does increase the probability little of getting married to a better groom (as happened to B) , because as we all know family status matters. Would any of my educated modern bachelor friend (I am asking to all the single male blogger friends too,) marry to a girl of this category where she is educated enough, but lives in a village, social status is categorized to be lower middle class or so, her parents may not be educated at all and if I exclude all the educated bachelors for the sake of simplicity, a boy having the same parameters as this relative of mine but staying in urban Kolkata would want his sasural to be in a distant remote village!! And if I ask what B has got in life after putting so much of hard work, exhausting herself to the last drop of life she had inside? Her fate would have been anyway the same without the education. I am not authorized to judge both these marriages, but just for the sake of perspective, I personally feel that this 18 yr old 10th std girl is luckier than the lady holding a prestigious master's degree.

I am disturbed because I am confused and don't have a blatant answer to the question thrown by my conscience that what good has education done to B. How do we bring a complete mind set change of the overall society? It is a Herculean task and we, the intelligentsia have to take a collective responsibility to lead the way for the rest.

Buttt.....but, it is easier said than done. The other side of the spectrum, the people needing education has to come forward and how do we even do that first, forget about teaching something!! Think about this, every one of us a got a single life to live, naturally the mantra for them would be to live happily and not think much. So, the parents of A are happy to marry off their daughter to such a family. Now, why should they listen to you and me about importance of girl's education? And as I said before, in the current context (situation,society, their social status) educating their child more does not guarantee them a better and happier life, so why should they then take the risk (and they will always have examples of so many B's which they will throw at you and you don't have an answer). It is a choice for them between a secured present vs uncertain risky future, even if that might be better. Even people like you and me also sometime settle for secured establishment rather than taking risk wanting for betterment and when we take risk, we take calculated risk. These people does not even have the wisdom to calculate that risk factor.

And here comes the biggest challenge. No amount of public awareness through electronic/print media can do that. It is only through personal guidance & mentoring, we can achieve this. How can we living in urban city life can enlighten this large backward society scattered throughout India?

How do you suggest practical solution for this and what would have you done if you were the parent of either of these women ?


  1. A couple of points:

    1. Why do you need education? In order to get married ? Be happy ? Make money? In my opinion, the ONLY reason to get educated would be to have an informed choice in everything so that at the end of the day you are not taken for a ride by anyone.

    2. Your academic degrees are no indicator of your level of education. If education cannot give you the courage and provoke you to think and act, then you might be a post-grad but your education has hardly started. Its not what you study and read, its what you make out of it and assimilate.

    3. The only power education ought to give you would be the power to question EVERYTHING. And in course of those questions, if you have to leave and stand against your entire circle, so be it. If not, then again, you are hardly educated.

    4. In this case, you are equating education to happiness. I guess, we both know, that there is no correlation. In order to be happy in life, you just need to rein in your expectations.

    5. Contrary to your opinion, A is surely NOT better off than B. B still has the option of starting anew any time which A does not. It is a different matter if she would exercise that choice.

  2. Hirok has already said the most important point that came to my mind after reading your blog. Education is supposed to give us the power to think independently and at least have a choice, it's another matter how many of us would exercise that choice by taking the risk! 'A' may be living happily, but the basic point is she did not have the choice or information to decide whether getting married to someone 15 years older would be good for her future. And in reply to your question whether we would like to marry someone from villages like 'B', I can say that I would love if my Sasural is away from the hustle and bustle of the city :) Also, someone like 'B' would attract me for their strength of character, but it is also upto 'B' to stand up against the funny rules set by the society around her if she thinks that is not good for her future.

  3. @Spiderman,

    1. Why do you need education? In order to get married ? Be happy ? Make money? In my opinion, the ONLY reason to get educated would be to have an informed choice in everything so that at the end of the day you are not taken for a ride by anyone.

    Mustaf: In addition to what you said, the other purpose of education is to enable us to lead a better life, and that includes earning money, getting married to a person you feel comfortable and not being compelled and subsequently to make us happy, too.

    2. Your academic degrees are no indicator of your level of education. If education cannot give you the courage and provoke you to think and act, then you might be a post-grad but your education has hardly started. Its not what you study and read, its what you make out of it and assimilate.

    Mustaf: Agreed, but practically sometime in spite of having the right education, do we always do the "right" thing? Doesn't our personality, the situation, the people surrounding us influence our decision?

    3. The only power education ought to give you would be the power to question EVERYTHING. And in course of those questions, if you have to leave and stand against your entire circle, so be it. If not, then again, you are hardly educated.

    Mustaf: Agreed, but as said above, we don't/can't always do that. We do negotiate/adjust depending upon the people we are dealing with and the gravity of the situation.

    4. In this case, you are equating education to happiness. I guess, we both know, that there is no correlation. In order to be happy in life, you just need to rein in your expectations.

    Mustaf: If that is the impression you got, then it is probably my fault. I did not try to correlate them, in stead I see education as a tool to enable us to be happy. It is not the only way, but certainly one of the way

    5. Contrary to your opinion, A is surely NOT better off than B. B still has the option of starting a new any time which A does not. It is a different matter if she would exercise that choice.

    Mustaf: You are correct, my opinion was in the context of materialistic parameters only. If at any day, both these women need to be on their feet, B certainly has an edge. Otherwise, if the life goes as it is going, then at the end it is debatable who was happier/led a better life and this entirely depends on what matters most to these two individual, anyway no one else can't define happiness for them.

  4. @Samik,

    I have already responded to Spiderman, you might like to go through them.

    Regarding marrying B, I know B would attract you more and same is for me, that's why you are one of my bestest (!!) buddy :) But the question do we fall among majority? If yes, then we have certainly grown up as a society, and all of us are happy including me.

    But when I see a highly educated man harasses his wife for dowry or an educated woman's only moto in life is to "grab" a NRI husband (I am not generalizing this, but I have seen happenning both of these by myself), no matter what even if it requires their parents to pay huge dowry amount and the girl's response is "What's the problem, you need to pay to get a good deal", then obviously it perplexes me more, has education served its purpose for these people?

  5. Mustaf I think gettinmg educated has more to do with the confidence that you get to lead a better life. An educated wife , an educated mother can generate a brighter future..whether she gets an educated husband is another issue, but where she as an indiviual is concerned, she would be confident enough to take up the task of running her family, God forbid if there are dire situations.A tenth pass might not be as confident as a highly educated woman. Though even in the case of the former, when she reaches a maturer age, her edu would help her in some way or the other, shes much better off then the girls who do not even get an opportunity to gt edu at all. Coz edu is not only related to being literate, its also leads to the enlightenment of the mind.

  6. Rahaman Bhai..Kudos to you for sharing your thoughts !You could have certainly chose to have let those feelings die within, but you shared it to the world ! Now that is a great ACTION !

    Having said that, we can go on with endless pros and cons about knowledge,society etc.

    What matters is simple ACTION. Just DO IT ! Everything else,doesnt matter.

    P.S - Its my opinion only..

  7. @A New Beginning,

    I agree with you when you said "she would be confident enough to take up the task of running her family" & in dire situations (GOD forbid if any), she would be much prepared. But when you say "An educated wife , an educated mother can generate a brighter future", there only I hesitate to accept not because I have doubt on the capability of an educated wife and mother, but because the situation and environment she is currently in. In that remote village, I don't know how she will provide higher education to her children, how she will make their future better. I know being educated, she will be able to teach ethics/principles/values but there is practical side of education also, which is earning bread and butter, living a comfortable life, how much can that be achieved, remains a question. That's why I get lost in whirling thoughts and never come out with a definite answer.

    Note for All: I see the discussion is drifting towards comparison between these two lady. While that was one angle of the story, the other and more important aspect was how do we educate their parents. Where "roti, kapra aur makan" are the basic parameters for them, how do we make them realize concepts like "ability to hink independently,enlightenment of mind". Because I am sure, if her parents were educated, this educated lady must have had a great future ahead!!

  8. @Sants,

    I absolutely agree with you.Only action and no talking. But when I myself went through brain storming to find a real practical solution for this, I had no answer and that's why I shared this with you guys.

  9. Somethign to be pondered this is...
    I guess education did no good to B..She didn't stand up for what she wanted...But did she want something? Many a times, people get educated only because they have nothing else to do...If B was so independant and strong, she would have spoken for herself...I do not know these people and so...don't think it is right to comment further....

  10. Mustaf I agree with Spiderman above. Education did B no harm, and if she has the confidence, there is no reason why she and her husband cannot as a team move to a better life. He may not be as educated, but as a couple and as a family, they will benefit from having an educated member. Her education is with her forever.

    Also there is more to life than marriage, I wish B had considered working for some time, and since marriage was considered important, maybe found the right guy (from any community).

    But I also do not think it is essential for a husband to be more educated than the wife. I know couples where the husband is from the Army, wife is highly qualified and earns more than the husband - they are a team, they have a good life, who earns how much, who is higher educated is not important, they are a team not rivals, and I have seen many couples like this one.

  11. Hi Mustaf :)

    An extremely thought-provoking post. Thanks.

    About happiness in marriage, the only thing I can confidently say is that it is a blessing by God and not all married couples get it.

    Equal socio-economic status, externally considered physical compatibilty, educational degrees or any such thing is no guarantee of marital happiness.

    Mutual respect and consideration make a marriage a truly happy one. If that is there in a marriage, it is a special gift given by God.

    Sometimes women are compromised in the name of marriage; then again, some women compromise their husbands! Everything is possible on planet earth.

    Best wishes :)


  12. Dear bhaia,
    Today only I could complete reading your latest blog note on women’s education. In my opinion we should not raise objection against the families of either A or B. The main problem is not women’s education but the social position and standpoint of women. I being a graduate, had never knowingly opted to marry a postgraduate girl. Because, I have a feeling that if I am under-educated than my wife, it’s a matter of life-long humiliation. This is not my personal opinion but the opinion of the majority of this society. The same is the case with a girl. A well educated girl will never willfully marry a boy with lesser educational background than that of her except under exceptional circumstances. If a graduate girl marries a 10th standard guy, there should not be any problem if and unless their married life becomes unhappy due this particular reason or due to any other reason. If this married life becomes unhappy due to this particular reason that the man is under educated than that of the girl, then the real problem lies in the poor mentality of the man. There are innumerable instances where a rickshaw puller and an educated girl from a rich family lead a happy married life. Marriages out of love often tie up two odd couples! Being educated and getting married sometimes are two separate aspects of our lives. Further, these things drastically change with the social circumstances. Our conscience more want to lead a happy, hazardless, peaceful and secured life than to find a life partner with matched educational background. A bucolic girl gives more emphasize on a secured and happy life than to give justice to her education that she has acquired by the sweat of her brow. The question of being lucky (your instance “A”) and unlucky (Your instance “B”) does not hold here. We should enquire more whether both the girls are able to lead a happy life or not! That’s all!

  13. @Destiny's child,

    Even I do not know whether she wanted anything, that was an interesting and very important point you raised though!! If she was happy with whatever happened, we are uncecessarily wasting our time and energy here :-(


    I agree there is more to life than marriage, that the education is always with B and that can always come to her aid if needed, no denying there.

    But from another angle, does not marriage, where and to whom we are getting married, decide to some extent the environment, the facility our children will be availing and that has an impact on their upbringing, too(I am not denying there are other factors,too). Has "B" been married to some decent guy in urban city(where educational facility is much better than "B" had faced in her life), would not had that been better for their children, even if B was lesser little lesser educated than she is currently?

  14. @Ayesha,

    For that matter, nothing gurantees nothing on this mother earth!! Whatever is beyond our control, we can't do anything about it anyway, but we try to do whatever maximum we can do for our betterment.

    For GOD believer like you and me, the "GOD" logic is acceptable, but if there needs to be a convergence between the theist and the atheist, there needs to be something more, correct?

    As far as happiness is concerned, both must be happy as I have not heard about anything horrific till now. But when i said "A" is luckier than "B", I meant in addition to happiness, the urban facitlity A is getting, probabilistically A's children getting better education infrastucture and the likes.

    Of course,as long as the values/principles go, B is better positioned to teach them than A is.But unfortunately that is not all about education!!

  15. Education as a tool to release a society of some evils acts in phases. It might take 2 or 3 generations for some of those to disappear. As for the two brides in question here, we may hope that an educated wife and mother will be helpful to that family while in case of the other, if the 33 yr old is ready, the 18 yr old may pursue her life interest, if she has some. And lastly, they might have had better reasons to choose their life as they did. Commenting from wide outer circle, not knowing their facts may be a worthless exercise.

  16. @Mirror/Bhaia,

    "Happiness" is a relative term. But is "being happy" only sufficient? Should not we continuously strive for our betterment so that we can create a better platform for our next generation. If my father was just concerned about being happy with just an ordinary education holding a small job in that remote village, most likely I would not have been here where I am today. But it is because his hard work and dedication, I got atleast a platform to take off. So, whatever facility,infrustucture I have talked about in my previous comments, is about that platform. So my question is among A & B, whose is in a better position to provide that platform to their next generation in spite of A being not so educated.

    So, when we search for our life parameters, along with searching just happiness, we don't overlook these parameters. When an educated girl marries a less educated guy,doesn't the platform their children will be getting affected compared to had she been married to a more educated guy?

    @The Holy Lama,

    Firstly, Thank you for visiting :-). Yes, it's important what an individual thinks. I agree with you that commenting without knowing them personally might not be a good idea, but the reason why I picked these extreme examples because these are not distinct incidents, rather it is a very common phenomenon in rural India. So, I was questionning how much only women's education can contribute and how much the society as a whole is responsible...

  17. I have lot of things on this to say...

    Read completely, but i am lost in i...

    Will come back....later

  18. Society consists of different people from different strata of life. There are many things that happens around us but the system gets bigger.
    Its really sad!!

  19. Excellent topic and loved the discussion too! And believe me as a girl of the mordern society I want to congratulate you. Why...well becoz, you provoked thought and I got to see what the opposite gender thought.

    As I write ...a load of mixed thoughts are zooming into me and I know not where to start.

    Let me try with myself...I am single and doing my PhD and that was entirely my choice and extremely supportive parents. I am happy with my choice and I believe it is the right one for several reasons but for one parents - sadly they have to withstand the pressures from the society. I have to be grateful to them once more for doing the same without even letting me know it.

    Secondly - the question that everyone asked and you seemed to have answered to but I shall raise it once more - what is education? Do degrees mean anything? I think education is a tool as you said but not for happiness but self-esteem and confidence to question the rights and wrongs around you. If inspite of having education, you cannot stand on your own and question the society ..I think it would be useless to have education irrespective man or woman!

    Marriage - this I have thought long hours ...simply becoz too many around me were getting married and I had to think...Why do men even today have a feeling that women want education to rule them? Or do really women want it like that? I don't ... I want my career as much as a man but not to dominate him but to make myself satisfied and to co-operate with him. Y does it matter that your wife earns more or has more education than you? Is it not more important and useful for the household? I believe marriage should be a synergy where the weaknesses are covered between the couple.

    I think I better stop ...I can go on forever with examples but just dont want to here...


  20. I see that many comments almost say what I wanted to express... but yes there is something I wud want to add.

    Its not only abt villages, even in educated middle class, such things happen... Parents discourage gals frm getting educated (which means higher studies) coz they believe tht she wud face issues getting married.

    It is completely abt society and then not every gal has the guts to leave it all behind and carry on only coz she is educated...

    Lets see, if things improve... frm my side I make sure that such things dont happen even if it is my maid's sister's daughter or her sons.

  21. I wish people would realise in India that education is the key to freedom. Freedom from all the malaise of the society.
    Most people have already said what I want to say, so will not take up any more space. Just few things I wanted to add.
    A. We have to realise that marriage is not everything. If the same situation had happened to me ( what happened to B), I would have preferred to stay unmarried. I would never have married an almost illiterate guy. After doing my masters,and that too with so much hardship, I would have realised by then that being educated and financially independent is better than getting married to an 10th pass guy.
    B. I feel that in these 2 instances, B is still better because she can educate her children and make informed choices. Where as A probably will just go through life, meekly doing what the husband says. She will not be able to contribute in any way to the future of her children.

  22. Hi Mustaf first time on your blog, and wow what a topic of discussion!! I feel education has a lot of practical applications that we seldom use, we just get to deep into the theory part of education, I really feel we should outgrow the habit of wanting to make our kids doctors or engineers or lawyers, unless ofcourse they want to..but we should instil in them esp in our girls the power of a degree as a means to a career, a job, a professional training, we must instil in our girls the will to earn for themselves, have an identity alife thatrs beyond a daughter, awife, a mother, a life that is her own, only a properly chanelised education has that poweer.

  23. Hi mustafa..that was a real thought provoking post..:)

    Education,i consider is not only a means to gain a job or degree,it also establishes a matured personality and change a persons attitude and outlook towards life...It is an asset even for a woman.if not her husband,an educated mother will benefit her family..

    Considering the woman factor,an educated deserves an equally or more educated partner,because married life is all about understanding!

    On the contrary,life situations can bring paradoxical cases,then its all about adjustments and helps again if it helps out with acting proper with situations.

  24. @Mahesh,

    Please come back when you get time, but me waiting for your comments dude :-)

    @Nazish Rahman,

    That's why I wish in addition to the women themselves realizing the importance of education,the parents and the society at large realizes that it is for the betterment of the society only, women needs to be educated.

  25. @APARNA,

    Thanks for dropping by :-)

    You are lucky yo have such parents, but not everyone is lucky enough and also don't have the guts to stand against their parents, even if the parents are wrong.

    To me, education does both empower you and also helps you to lead a better & happier life.

    And how did you conclude men think that women want education to rule them? Did i say this, I guess No.I just touched upon one of the social stigma still prevalent in our modern society (I agree there are exception) that the boy needs to be at least equally or more educated than the girl. It is not the men think, this is what the society thinks as a whole in most cases.


    Welcome to my blog :-)

    I just absolutely agree with you!!

  26. @Aparna,

    If you had to take the decision, either you would have needed your parents support or the courage to go against your parents. But unfortunately not everyone can do it, be it because of strength of character, be it because of the "real education" we are taking here.

    And I really feel sorry for B as I am doubtful how much her 10th pass husband will realize what education is and will support B in her pursue to educate her children. But I sincerely pray her husband to be understanding at least, that he realizes what he is lacking and would not want his children to have the same fate as that of him.


    Welcome to my blog:-)

    Instilling that urge to have your own identity is very important. As someone rightly pointed out here, many a times we get educated just because everyone else do, just because we don't have anything else to do.Once we realize the inner sense of education and we realize how badly we need this, nothing can stop us.

    Please do visit again :-)...


    Many a times, I have come across people specially from the older generation, who just did not get opportunity for proper formal education, but they were more "educated" than many of us today. I believe the fact that "an educated deserves an equally educated one is more of a social tradition than a necessity. A lesser formally educated husband (but provided he realizes education, has his independent thoughts and not just a follower) married to a highly educated wife can lead a better family, if they understand each other, they can withstand the social pressure and the so-called "Male-Ego" does not come in between, if any.

    The so-called society and its abundant luggage become such a burden at times, I think if we were not social animal that we have to consider so many things before taking any single step, were we be happier?

  27. I think education is a must. It atleast empowers one to start again. Infact eductaion is a must not just for women but also for their support fabric.

  28. Some good thoughts flowing through the post and the comments! And I agree with you...Hirok has pointed out what education "should" do. But not all of us are able to do the "ideal" things that education "should" empower us to do. "Education" and our "immediate society" (by immeidate I mean our own circle...and not society in general) are the two main factors influencing our lives and our decisions. Just like a higly educated person in a society of illeterates will struggle for survival, similarly, a less or lowly educated person will never really "belong" in the modern urban educated society. To get a "balance" of both is the challenge.

  29. education is supposed to give us the power of choice and since B did not use that power, education was wasted on her...

    What is the point in getting an education when you still cannot say anything in your defense? Why didn't B object to her parents' choice? I know it is for me to say since I'm an outsider but what did she gain by undergoing all the hardships? Can she have a civilized conversation with her husband?

    Is B's education coming to of any use? Is she working and bettering her life?

  30. I think education IS the only solution for this problem..It won't be an instant solution, but with time it could be made possible..perhaps if the govt takes some initiative on educating everybody, not just children?
    As for A and B I sincerely wish them the best and hope that they are happy with whatever choices they made..

  31. @Starry-eyed nut,

    Yes education is a must, but it is more important to apply that education. Had "B" done that, who knows may be the story would have been completely different today!!


    Thanks for dropping by :-).

    I just could not agree more with you!!That was the point I wanted to convey, it is equally important for the society to get educated as well as the woman herself.



    As long as B's own life is concerned, yes may be she did not use education she should have. Still, if she can educate her own child and make their future better so that they don't repeat the same mistake she did, then we can say education was not completely wasted on her.

    @Novice Writer,

    Yes, it would take generations to wipe out the problem completely. The other challenge was how we educate the older generations today? Do we just sit back and wait for us to become older so that the problem will no longer be there, or should we try to spread awareness today itself.That question of mine still remain unanswered :-(


Thanks for dropping by. Please leave your mark, it keeps me going :-)

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