Nitya got married in her early twenties. She was very comfortable with the idea of marriage, and because she knew her to-be-husband for years together, it was an easy decision for her to get married to him even when she was pretty young. Now, she lives in Mumbai with her husband and his family and is quite happy about her decision to tie the knot. In fact, the other day, when I spoke to her for hours at end over the phone, she did confide into me that she was also ready to plan her first baby. Nitya is just twenty-four.
When we were growing up, we also had a common friend who would go to school with us and play with us. Nitya mentioned to me the other day, that our common friend, Riya was back in town and that they had decided to meet the next day for coffee.
Even in school, Riya was a rebel – From orchestrating mass bunks to contesting detentions, she was the badass villain of our class that everyone adored. Riya moved away from Mumbai after schooling and we somehow lost touch. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise for me to hear about her from Nitya.
The next day, Nitya left home after lunch, her tote swinging on her bony arms and her sindoor vehemently present on the parting of her hair. She reached the coffee shop well in advance and ordered herself a cappuccino as she waited for Riya.
Riya arrived minutes later, squinting her eyes and looking for Nitya – And when she located Nitya, her friend from those old school days, she couldn’t hide her excitement. Riya jumped across the room and hugged her friend.
Nitya blushed, and smiled.
“I could never invite you for the wedding – You had disappeared off the face of earth – No sign on social media, no address, no number – Where have you been, Riya?”, said Nitya in one breath.
Riya looked at Nitya’s sindoor, her eyes still round with shock.
“I can’t believe you’re married! You’re just twenty-four! Who gets married at twenty-four? It’s like child-marriage!” said Riya, with a serious level of incredulousness in her voice.
Nitya looked a little offended, and said, “Why, what’s wrong with getting married at twenty-four? I know my husband for a long time, and marriage was the next logical step, and we are very happy.”
Nitya paused a little, but confidently continued, “In fact, we are even thinking of having a baby.”
Riya’s eyes turned even rounder, if that was possible, and said, “You’re crazy. You’re just twenty-four and you’re already married and thinking of getting pregnant!? Look at me – We are the same age and I don’t even know what I am going to eat for dinner tonight, let alone thinking about marriage and babies.”
Nitya rolled her eyes, and said, “That’s not necessarily a good thing, Riya. You can’t be a rebel forever – Everything looks good if it is done at the right time.”
Riya ordered herself a pack of cigarettes and a coffee and said, “I have been travelling – Visiting new places, countries, trying out local cuisines, being alone, discovering myself and leading a life that I design for myself. I cannot get “settled down” just because society expects me to do so. Shaadi, Bachche & Settling Down – Can’t even think about it until I am at least thirty or thirty-five. I keep meeting relatives and aunties when I come to visit my parents – And they all say the same thing – You’re twenty-five, you must get married RIGHT NOW – You must utilize your eggs quickly, lest they become less-potent and you lose the divine opportunity of becoming a mother forever. You’re twenty-five, you have to quickly tick off shaadi, and then bachche from your to-do-list and only then you will be given the status of being settled.”
Riya smoked a puff and said, “Tell me Nitya, why should I do all this to feel settled? As far as I am concerned, I am already settled – I have a job, I do what I like, I eat what I like, I am happy – How can shaadi and bachche make me any more settled than I am today? And what’s this bullshit about time? Why do people tell me to hurry up? Why is it so important for me to get married by twenty-five and have a baby by twenty-eight? Who created these timelines and these norms? Time is not ticking away against us – It is as if I am letting these opportunities of being settled quickly drift away from me by being adamant about this subject.”
Nitya looked into Riya’s eyes, and just like old times, heaved a sigh of exhaustion.
Nitya said, “You’re absolutely right, Riya – You don’t have to follow a checklist created by society to feel accomplished or settled – And no, time is not ticking away – There’s plenty of time for marriage, babies and only you decide what’s right for you. Age is just a number – Age is neither a limit nor a target. And obviously, one shouldn’t be pressurized by society or parents to get married & start a family if one is not ready. So, you’re right about that, but you’re wrong too.”
Riya was beginning to soften a little, and after what Nitya said, she understood.
Nitya took a sip of her coffee and said, “Just like I said, age is not a limit neither a target number, you must understand that getting married at twenty-four too is a personal choice. I did not get married because society asked me to, or my parents were getting fidgety or because I wanted to feel settled. I got married because I wanted to. I found my soulmate, the one person who makes my heart leap with joy and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. So, I got married to him! And yes, we both are ready to have a baby, not because of anyone pressuring us, or because I am afraid that my eggs are going to turn “less-potent” – We want to have a baby because we truly do. So, Riya, you disrespecting me and my choices is wrong – You’re being exactly like the aunties who bias against you for not getting married at the right age – You’re biasing against me because I got married too early, whereas your entire argument is based on the fact that age is not a deciding factor when it comes to marriage and kids.”
Riya understood, and apologized profusely.
They both began their conversation with an argument, just like old times, and ended their meeting only after hours of sitting together, ordering almost half the menu in the coffee shop, giggling like schoolgirls, swapping drinks and gossiping about me, obviously, just like old times.