Indian women have come a long way since the days of exile in dark kitchens full of fumes of a coal fire. One of the foremost factors ushering this change has been the education of women. Gone are the days when a parent would plan the son’s education and the daughter’s marriage. Today in most urban educated homes, equal importance is given, or so I would like to believe, to the education of girls and boys. So far so good. But still not good enough. Formally educating a girl is just the first step, not the final. The reason why I felt like making this point is that around me I see too many educated girls who have a college degree (something coveted in a place like the US I believe- but much too easily available in India) but have no clear idea about why they acquired it in the first place.
Years ago when I was in University pursuing a degree, one of my very catty and sarcastic classmates had made the point that the day we would graduate our “worth” in the ‘marriage market’ would drastically improve. I paid no attention then since I knew she was just being sarcastic and that none in my close friends group had any such perverted ambition. Years later today however when I am the mother of a college going girl, I am unpleasantly surprised to see that that tenet uttered years ago holds true for so many girls who are pursuing college / university degrees with no clear aim of using the education so acquired for the betterment of society, to do something outside the home, to give back to the society that nurtured them.
Having said that college education is easily available in India, it does not necessarily mean that it can be devalued. This is especially true of specialized courses where the number of seats is limited and the competition to secure one of these is high. After having landed one of these plum seats, if the girl in question still intends to use it for nothing more than value-creation in the marriage market then all I can say is, “Girl! What were you thinking while writing the entrance test?!” Somehow you might have thought that these were the course contents:
Accounts: How to keep the grocery shopping accounts
Human Resource Management: How to bring up children
Public Relations: How to entertain guests and score points with your in-laws
Finance: How to budget the spends and savings on your husband’s salary
Research & development: How to research the latest gadgets to equip you home with
Entrepreneurship: How to plan a kitty party
IT: How to download the latest software on your laptop
Production Technology: How to operate your microwave oven
Fluid Mechanics: How to operate your washing machine
Architecture: How to build your dream home
So on and so forth…The question is about having a conscience and realizing that courses on offer at good colleges and universities come at a price. If you happen to be occupying a seat in a government institute of repute, it was set up using tax-payers’ money. Even if you are at a private institution, the courses on offer had a ‘purpose’, the last of which must have been churning out ideal housewives.
Make no mistake; I am in no way disrespecting or demeaning the vocation and zeal of home-makers who often do a brilliant job of converting the hearth to a piece of heaven. All I am suggesting is that if that is the aim and purpose of your life, you should have the heart or the conscience to pass on the seat to another (girl or boy) who may not have the brilliance to do as well as you at the entrance to the course but who in the long run would engage in society outside the home.
At the same time, I urge more and more Indian girls to step out of the home and actively engage in transitioning the society in which they live. I live in the hope that they will see the world that is outside their four walls, that they will also relinquish some of their hold on things inside their houses so that their brothers, partners may engage more and share some of their responsibilities and joys. At the end of the day, it’s a give and take.
The first step was educating our girls; it’s time we take the second step.