Baba studied in a Bengali medium school and maa in a Hindi medium. They both had their schooling in the village where they said that going to a school in itself was a big thing. They lost their fathers at an early age and both were raised by single mothers. I salute my grandmothers who gave importance to education and sent their children to schools despite all the adversities. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for them at that time.
When my parents decided to educate us and that too in English medium convent school, baba’s eldest brother was not very pleased. There was a huge age gap between them which also resulted in their difference of opinion. My uncle believed that spending anything on a daughter’s education was a waste of money. He even tried to convince my parents that their decision to send us to English medium schools was wrong as such schools were not good for girls. Thankfully, my parents didn’t pay any heed and never thought of discontinuing our education.
Maa talks about a time when there was a wedding in the family and our relatives had come to invite us. The wedding date clashed with my final exams for class-2 and when she raised a concern, they were shocked. They never thought she would give more importance to the little girl’s exam and not the wedding. They gave a quick solution that she can miss the exam and attend the wedding instead. Maa didn’t agree to it and they didn’t like her decision. Finally, baba alone had to attend the wedding and maa stayed back with us so we could finish our exams. That incident didn’t go down very well with them and for a long time after the wedding, they didn’t talk to my mother.
After my sister finished school, our relatives started convincing my parents to start looking for a groom. It was an everyday battle to tell them that they wanted to continue their daughter’s education and they were not ready for her marriage yet. While my sister was pursuing her graduation, we had these unwanted matchmakers visit us now and then. There was a whole lot of drama to it. One day an old man came to our house with some relative’s reference and out of courtesy maa welcomed him to come and sit for a while. Later, he said he had come to see my sister for his son. My mother politely denied him but was furious later.
A similar incident happened when an entire family came from the village to our home, the boy’s mother, aunt, sister, uncle and God knows so many others. It was not a new thing to happen, as even before people would suddenly come for a visit without informing and that was normal at that time. This family was a distant relative of baba and they came to know from someone in the village that we are looking for a groom. They didn’t even wait to discuss anything with us and started asking questions to my sister. “Do you know how to wear a saree and what all things can you cook?” That is when baba had to politely stop them. They were shocked to hear when he said he wanted his daughter to study more before getting married. It was beyond their imagination that a father was giving more importance to education and not marriage.
Such was the societal pressure to get the daughters married as soon as they finish school. That caused a lot of stress which was difficult for my parents and even more for my sister. She stopped attending any family get-togethers and avoided meeting people. The same thing was repeated six years later when I was doing my graduation. One day a neighbouring aunty came with a photo of a boy and showed it to my mother and then to me and said, “he is my handsome nephew.” We understood and that was an instant red flag for me. I knew I had to run away to a safer place! My parents supported my decision to move to another city, away from the daily drama and pursue my education.
Getting an educational loan was a battle again. We lost count of how many times we visited the bank and how many pages we had to sign. With some people convincing them to get me married and others telling them that they are wasting their money, I wonder what kept them going strong and sticking to their decision. Life wouldn’t have been the same if they were pressurized by societal norms and stopped our education to find grooms.
When I got my first salary, my mother was in tears because that was the amount she retired with. I sat with them as baba talked about all the difficulties and struggles with which they raised us. They didn’t have enough money to buy new clothes and toys for us but they saved all the money so they could provide good education. They were happy and proud of their daughters and we sisters can’t thank them enough for making the right decision, fighting all odds and doing the best they could do for us.
Coming up next –
L – Love Marriage
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