I heard about a friend of a friend of an acquaintance today (you know how it is, stories just float around). This woman recently had surgery to drain excess fluid from her brain. I’m not sure what the technical terms are, but you get the idea. It was a matter of life and death. The decision to operate had to be made in minutes, but surgery went reasonably well and the woman is reported by the bearer of this news to be out of the ICU and just starting a very long recovery process. As one can imagine, this involves learning to speak, walk, and feed herself all over again.
At this point, the story teller tells us two things. One, this girl broke off an engagement a few months ago because she was not comfortable with her fiance’s behaviour. Ever since this incident, her family has been gossiped about and accusations have been made at various levels. Two, this girl has two unmarried siblings whose own chance at marital happiness depends on her being married off as soon as possible.
Based on the above, three judgments have been passed. One, if this woman had agreed to get married, her parents wouldn’t be the ones having to see her through this illness right now. Two, how will she ever get married now? Three, when will her siblings ever get married? Even if the parents were not to wait for this woman to recover, what would they answer to the question. “Why are you looking for matches for them before their sister is married?”
Evidently, the timelines for a woman’s recovery from brain surgery are not determined by the gravity of the situation but rather, her position on the marriage market. Having unprudently called off one engagement and not showing any promise of a quick recovery from a near death situation, she is now considered a liability. There’s no polite way of looking at it. I’m personally quite outraged when I listen to some of the statements that come up as part of the discussion. It’s been hard keeping quiet.
“She’s too old to have feelings for anyone now. She should just get married to the first match that works out.”
“How can she decide to take a job so far away when her marriage is not yet fixed?”
“It’s hard to find an educated boy of her caste. She should understand and adjust”
“Who will marry someone with a brain problem? What will people say when her parents try to find matches for her siblings?”
“If she was married, then ok. Now how can she take so long to recover? Her parents have lost hope”.
Is that what the worth of a woman’s life comes down to? As long as she’s married at the right time even to the wrong guy, she’s safe. A girl who’s educated and who earns is safe. A woman stays single to support her family is perfectly acceptable. But a woman who is single by choice, who supports her family but is now in need of help is just a liability.
At what point does it become wrong to just listen without responding? I know it’s none of my business and I really don’t know anything about the woman in question, not even her name. I am certainly not sure if I can judge any of the events of her life let alone the brief engagement. Yet I feel compelled to say something when I hear this sort of thing. But what should I say?