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 ?