I have two women in my life exactly the same age as me, twenty-five. They are three months apart from each other and tied to me by blood. These women come from very high socio-economic backgrounds in Nepal. The top ten percent. Which means they have lived most of their lives away from Nepal, in thriving diamond metropolis’ of the United States of America and India. They live in countries with booming opportunities for women and widespread feminist activism. They are the lucky ones. They are both completing high-stress, high-profile university degrees at renowned institutions.
So it physically hurts my heart to see that they are still, still facing the same pressure my grandmother faced sixty years ago, being married off at the age of nine in Kathmandu. Nine years old. An age where I let my imagination wander inside fantasy books and couldn’t tell you what concepts like love and marriage meant if my life depended on it.
My grandmother has told me stories of constantly falling asleep in the living room around her new family and having to be carried to her room. I imagine her tiny body in her wedding sari, the elaborate clothes weighing her down physically and figuratively.
One thousand and one more opportunities exist for these two women today than my grandmother had. They are able to say no to an arranged marriage and not risk being disowned, to resist softly, to gently lead their parents to a vision and value that life for women can be so much more than marriage before the extremely old age of 29. Yet the pressure still cooks them on slow boil from the inside, the timer is ticking, each minute getting louder as it nears 3 0.
What will happen when it hits 3 0 and they are still single?
The thought is too frightening to try it out.
I know these two women from when we were little girls, running in neighborhood alleys shrieking with a pleasure I can’t remember feeling, but I know felt amazing. We would buy 10 rupee Cadbury feeling every happy molecule illuminating us from inside. As teenagers, we asserted our maturity by going shopping alone and having lunch in fancy restaurants. We were growing up.
I have loved these two women deeply since we were girls. I love them from the henna colored hair on their heads down to the stubborn South Asian hair on their legs. Now I must sit silently and watch as their very independence is chipped away, eroded, each time their parents ask ‘What do you think of this boy?’ and their grandmother emotionally guilt ‘I just want to see you settled down with a good man before I die’ and they slowly surrender a piece of plaster.
The very plaster their parents paid over 60 thousand dollars for over the years to send them to the best boarding schools in Asia, and the best universities in Asia and America.
Dear parents, can you tell me what you paid for?
Did you pay for your daughters to develop strong spines capable of lifting entire communities, of them becoming courageous enough to say to the man whistling at them on the street ‘next time I will cut your lips off’, just to hand them a khukuri to ceremoniously cut off their wings and sew their lips together with golden sequins while hundreds rejoice in red?
Please, I want to know, is that what you paid for?
Why educate your daughters when you are still going to measure her value by how fair her skin is and the income bracket of her next male keeper?
Why are you spending your hard earned money on teaching her important things about how the world works; igniting in her a passion for changing every injustice; assisting her to build her dreams from the ground up? When at the end of twenty-eight years you are going to spend 280 days Facebook stalking the neighbor’s aunt’s niece’s son, finding his best photos and coercing your daughter into a life with this doctor from London?
Save it. Go on a holiday to Paris. Every year. Go on a cruise, around the world for six months. Buy a new Porsche.
Why uplift your daughters with Master’s Degrees before she has even earned a single rupee just to hand her over in a golden palanquin to the next male keeper as she walks bright-eyed out of institutionalization, graduation hat in hand? Streak the sindoor on top.
Save your fucking money next time.