The Checklist

EDITOR: Shruti Bhatia

Based on a true and unfortunate story.

From the very moment I turned eighteen, I ardently avoided weddings. Not because I despised the fanfare or the ever-present smell of jalebis and jasmine, but because of the inevitable turn every conversation seemed to take: my own wedding. I am now twenty one and the fear is stronger than ever. Every time the family gathers, my bridey-sense tingles. The wind shifts, the ground rumbles and I know that it is time for nervous chuckles and subject changers.

Let me assure you that I am not against the institution of marriage. But I am vehemently against the idea and practice of forcing someone into marriage. All conscious and subconscious efforts to do so included. In my defence, I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. Growing up, I could only watch as one by one my siblings and cousins defected to the other side. I speak not of those who genuinely chose to get married, but of those whose right to choose was limited to the pool of select candidates courtesy of matrimonial sites. Being an individual of marriageable age in today’s world is like being in the Hunger Games: with each passing year your chances of being picked increases exponentially. And there is no escape.

The early man began cohabitating to procreate. Procreation was necessary to populate the planet. There was strength in number. More people meant more labour and more resources. It was once crucial for man’s survival. Fortunately, we have come a long way since then. We no longer need to procreate. Companionship is no longer a necessity for humankind to survive. It’s a want, and a negotiable one at that. Marriage is not and should not be a social sine qua non, but a choice. It is neither a right nor a duty. It is not an entry in a checklist that needs to be ticked off.

It is interesting to note how the items in the above-mentioned checklist vary with age. At eighteen it is marriage, at twenty five it is parenthood and at sixty, grandparenthood (exact numbers may differ). Marriage should be about two willing parties who mutually decide to spend their lives together. The decision to start a family should be made based on natural love and affection and not ticking biological clocks. They are not tasks that need to be completed in order to graduate to the next level.

As I write this, I come to terms with the fact that THE CHECKLIST is very real and inexhaustible. A shocking majority are bound by it in one way or another. And as I heave a sigh of relief for having survived yet another conversation with an expectant wedding guest, I realize that it will not be my last.

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