It is no secret that marriage changes a couple's life. But, it's also no secret that marriages, especially in India, impact men and women differently, often leaving men at an advantage. Most women have to change their surnames and move to a whole new house, leaving behind the comfort they've known for at least 20 years of their lives.
A woman also ends up undergoing countless minor and major changes to 'fit in' with her husband and in-laws. The pressure is even more in arranged marriages. And while men may change their lifestyle, it's never as extreme as the changes women go through.
And yet, the popular narrative is quite the opposite.
For as long as I can rememeber, women, across countries and cultures, have been portrayed as being obsessed with the idea of weddings and marriage.
We apparently spend our lives dreaming of our wedding, can turn into 'bridezillas' if our wedding day does not go as per our plans, and are doing something 'courageous' or 'foolish' (depending on which side of judgy society you land) if we give up on the idea of marriage.
Pop culture, mainstream media, and of course, society, have gone above and beyond in reiterating the fact that women love weddings and their sole purpose in life is to get married.
Men, on the other hand, are the 'victims' of marriage - they are losing out on their 'freedom' by getting 'tied to the old ball and chain', and if they dare to think differently about the institution, they are quickly labeled, "joru ka ghulam".
This thought has been perpetuated to such an extent, that we have countless jokes (forwarded with unerring frequency on WhatsApp), songs, and hell, even entire movies making a joke out of infidelity. And the very idea of men supporting their wives is considered an 'attack' on masculinity.
There are hardly any male characters, apart from perhaps Dara in the 1978 Khatta Meetha, and Abhay in Break Ke Baad, who openly desired to get married. On the contrary, examples of female characters 'dying' to get married, are a dime a dozen.
If this isn't an example of gaslighting at its peak, then what is?
Patriarchy changed the entire narrative around marriage and weddings to make it appear as something women covet, and men dread. When in reality marriage oftens ends with men, especially entitled men who are yet to grasp the concept of equality or feminism, finding yet another person who caters to their demands.
From the harsh reality of social evils like domestic abuse, marital rape, dowry demands, etc. (that are yet to end) to the cost of emotional support and unpaid labour that women are owed, there is no shortage of clear examples that showcase how, for the most part, men benefit from marriage, and women suffer because of it.
And yet, the pressure on a woman to get married, especially on a woman in her late 20s, is very real and very high. And respect for single women, especially those older than 30, is still hard to come by. In fact, the very idea of a woman rejecting marriage was termed radical and has only now, in recent past, gained a modicum of acceptance.
The idea that women are dying to get married is rooted in misogyny, and needs to end. Because the reality is, like most things, marriage too, should be a choice. And it's time society works at fixing the institution itself, rather than force it on women. It's marriage, not equal pay - and as a woman, let me say, we covet the latter much more.
The views expressed in the article are personal.