Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Girl, are you old enough to get married?

          I happened to see a really old friend of mine. Well technically this girl is like 4 years younger to me. So she must be what around 21-22 now. I was shocked to learn last year that she had gotten married, because left to me, I would call it a child marriage. ha... This year I am even more shocked to learn that she is expecting soon. I don't know why but I am still shocked and not able to go meet her in person, partly because I might laugh at her and partly because who knows she might laugh at me. In India there is this whole stigma about age of marriage. I do know it is getting better nowadays. But I have to mention the changes are not way too much to get excited about. That said, some people in India typically very old people tell me that I am going to be 27 and that I am getting late by each my moment in getting married. Personally if you ask me, I would say that is pretty much BS. But respecting what elders say, I just asked some of these people who mentioned about age as to what do they think the right age for marriage for a girl should be. And they tell me, 24ish. What came out of my mouth right away was, how can you ruin some precious years of life in marriage so soon. :P. Not sure if I was right or wrong, but I said it nevertheless. Part of the reason why they were mentioning this age was that they really thought that it is an ideal age and also partly because they wanted to convince me saying that I am already late. Either way, I am not completely convinced. If you tell me that for health reasons a girl should try to get married pretty much by her early 30's it would make a little sense. Though if you see females in the US for example, so many get married much later. 

          All this said, the thought about this girl came back to my mind. She probably just finished a 3 year Bachelor's degree and right away got married as soon her final exams were done. I was surprised to learn about several other girls, including couple of own cousins think the same way, even though their parents are very well educated. But from parents' side they think they have to get over with their responsibility of getting their daughter married, because their idea of settling down is getting married, which I am not completely blaming. From the daughters' side, some of them like the ones I mentioned above typically have their mind set for marriage right after they are done with a basic Bachelors degree. Some of these girls would have even completed their Engineering and might still think the same. I would not be too surprised if these girls supposedly fell in love with a great guy and got married. But most of these get married to some guy through an arranged marriage, some guy who is most likely to be atleast 4-5 years elder to them. These girls are more than happy to get married and be home or just go work in some company. I think it is their idea of settling down in life. Again, I am no one to blame them or appreciate them. There is also another extreme of girls in India. Girls who raise their expectations about marriage and guys really high and keep pushing their marriage talks away and care more about their career, which again I think is fair enough. Again I am no one to blame or appreciate them. 

          In an ideal scenario, we would be allowed to date and find our right guy and we could get married whenever we want to. But of course, considering that this is India, for the most part this may or may not be possible. I don't want to really talk about moving in together etc here because this post is more about age of marriage for women than anything else. In my personal opinion, if you would let me decide, which in my case, I do get to decide, more than age, I believe a goodness of fit between me and my potential partner matters more than my age when I would get married. But also contradicting my own statement, I am giving a shot to all this marriage stuff only for a while. After which I would completely focus on what I wish to do than on marriage, mostly because even otherwise, marriage has never been a top priority for me. Either ways, in general as well, if one is not convinced that their marriage would be a happy extension of their life, and that it would be able to accommodate most of their aspirations with some adjustments here and there; getting married would be utterly foolish. Most of all, a girl who is not financially independent or not educated enough to be financially independent should think twice before getting married. It is totally upto an individual to decide on all this. Yet, the idea is to not regret later in life that you just got married, had kids and raised them and lived a very usual and kind of boring life where you didn't really achieve much (though some women would claim that they success in getting married, raising kids and making them successful). I do agree there are always tradeoffs when it comes to goals and marriage life. Having goals and trying to see if marriage would support or affect them, is one thing, but not having a goal at all, except the goal of living a very ordinary life ( I mean an ordinary life in my opinion, where you depend on your husband for each and everything) is in my honest opinion pretty stupid. All said, marriage is a big risk anyways, why not take the risk carefully. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Counseling centers in colleges in India

The term counseling is often very confusing. It majorly is a guidance to cope up with a situation or to make choices, an advice system which could help you make decisions or take a certain course of action. So I was reading in a local newspaper about the attempts to set up counseling centers, in Indian universities.According the universities in India, the whole point of doing this is the typical reason for helping out college students deal with their transition from high school to college and to help them deal with various kinds of stresses that they could face.

I completely agree with setting up counseling centers in universities. But in a country like India, counseling, depression, therapy and even psychology are all seen more as a social stigma than as something helpful. That said, anyone going for therapy or taking something as much as an anti depressant is looked upon with eyes of pity, or eyes of curiosity about their inability to handle their problems. As long as there is going to be this sort of social stigma, chances of children coming forward with their problems to the counselors are going to be really sleek. Several people cope with their issues and come out strong after struggles, but the whole awareness of setting up counseling centers has come about after college students have committed suicides.

Let me give a simple example. Again, this is purely based on my understanding. When Indian parents do eventually take a step of sending their kid to a shrink, they have all sorts of anxieties and apprehensions. Firstly they want an objective answer as to how long a therapy would continue. They are of the constant fear that a simple counseling and therapy could become a big problem in the future. Part of the fear is about any occurrence of future psychological issues, but the bigger part of the fear is concerned with the social stamping their kid might get on them, which could hinder relationships like marriages etc in the future. Note that there is a difference between a psychological fear and a social fear here.

All this said, setting up of counseling centers in Indian universities is definitely a positive step, but how effective it would be is still is big unanswered question. People need to be made aware that a therapy or medications for psychological disorders and several of the psychological disorders themselves are not really a social stigma, but are just like other genuine issues which could be solved. As long as psychological problems are seen as social disgrace, or as hardcore mental health issues, psychological treatments or counseling centers etc are going to be difficult to be made useful for people.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Somewhere I belong!

          Feeling of belonging is a very important concept. Consider being in a relationship, where you feel like an alien most of the time or working a job which makes you feel all the time that it is just not what you want to do or, living in a place where you feel you are a stranger and are hardly able to relate yourself with anyone or anything there. These were a few examples of what I feel are the feeling of 'not belonging'. Some associated concepts are cultural shock, which is essentially a feeling of not belonging to a certain culture and place; identity crisis which is essentially a feeling of not belonging anywhere in life among peers, among elders etc etc.

          It is convenient to say that all this lies in our mind. If you were a proponent of humanistic psychology, you would notice Maslow's theory of Needs (Please use google to study the theory :P), which specifies as one of the needs - the feeling of belonging and acceptance, love etc. Feeling of belonging is a very fundamental need at various stages of life and not just during childhood and young adulthood. In my opinion there is a paradox here. At first you don't have a feeling of belonging and you tend to be on the quest for somewhere to belong and try to reach out to sources which offered you sense of belonging atleast during childhood. On the contrary, there are people who just adapt themselves to situations and bring in a sense of belonging for themselves, which can probably be summed up as being a Roman in Rome. As we have evolved as humans, we have adapted ourselves to the environment and learnt to improve our lives. Even though it is hard to say how the need for belonging was fulfilled, in my opinion the need for belonging was superimposed by a more important need which was of mere survival.

          For me a sense of belonging is extremely important. The point I am trying to make here is that at any point, implicitly or explicitly a feeling of belonging is inevitable. If you are trying to connect with people on very professional level, sometimes you do that only for the sake of getting your work done or for so-called networking. But even then, your comfort level with people increases when there is a mutual effort to make conversations slightly on a personal level of course within certain bounds. As an example, in my opinion when you address people with their names more often during conversations, it makes the other person more comfortable. Similarly on a personal level, when a person individually tries to adapt to the society, the culture, the place he lives in, the people around him, a sense of belonging becomes a supreme need, the lack of which affects the day to day life of the person.

          Overall, summing the whole thing up, there is a quest in people to find out where they belong, until which nothing really makes them feel satisfied in life. As for me, I am still searching where I really belong and hoping that there is somewhere I do belong and that I would find it soon.