This isn’t about the philosophical with every passing breath we are a step closer towards our death. This is about the ridiculous deadline oriented society that we have created. From people’s psyche to the entire system, this nation operates on deadlines. There’s a time limit within which you are eligible for admission to an undergraduate course at Delhi University or IIT or most other colleges for that matter. To some extent I have come to terms with that idiocy. What I haven’t and refuse to come to terms with is the expiry dates that are applicable on us because of our society in general and family in particular. Their desire to micromanage our lives has created a nation of not-really-wanting-to-call-themselves engineers. It doesn’t stop at that-the micromanagement I mean. Consider these deadlines that have suddenly become binding and a nightmare:
Settled by 25
So you’re 25. By now you should have finished all your institution hopping and degree shopping. You are the star kid if you have already taken a housing loan (relevant for guys since daughters are star kids if they have found someone with a housing loan). You grew up to be the angel they thought you to be in your diaper photos if you have already started planning for your wedding. You have a house, a car, a job and Ma. You are Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan (watch Deewar) rolled in one. This is our society’s expectations. Reality? Well we’re 25. Now when they ask us for our ID we don’t have to make excuses or tip them into serving us alcohol. We are thinking that may be we should do something that we really want to do: start dance classes, guitar lessons or sumo wrestling for that matter. Just let us be. We didn’t turn out to be a Rajshri Production kid and it’s doing no one any harm (their movies don’t work like they used to anyway, sign from God maybe).
Married by 27
During my elocution days at school I had once recited a poem called The Race. The jist of it: it is okay to fall, to make mistakes. What’s important is to rise everytime you fall. I live by this. I keep falling. I keep making mistakes. Sometimes they last seven days, sometimes seven years. The important thing to note is that I never look back unless some blessed soul reminds me that it’s getting late and then I start introspecting on how the delay happened. Here’s my answer: This country doesn’t give you the time or space to fail. Which means we grow up to be highly risk averse. The standard retort our society gave whenever we did not follow their command or decided to get too innovative for their taste was “We are warning you. Don’t come back to us if you fail.” We had hoped for a “Sure. Go ahead. We have faith in you. We have your back, just put in your best and forget the rest.” This attitude is not surprising at all if you look at the bigger picture of expiry dates. How can they allow you to take risks when your society expects you to be married by 27 and the man is then expected to work while the woman’s job is looked upon like bouquets that fill a house after a party-good for now but will eventually be thrown away. Taking risks, failing, figuring things out require time. If you take the path less traveled then the path might be the wrong one is what Indian society tells you; never mind Robert Frost. And our Prime Minister laments about our lack of entrepreneurial skills. Sir, please endorse “it’s okay to not be married or to not have a family.” You will do a great service for the youth of this nation.
Ring ceremonies have a “Best Before” date
A lot of my friends decided to play it smart only to be outsmarted. To make the society shut its trap they decided to get engaged without realizing that our society operates on the principle that a ring ceremony is best before 1 year from date of manufacture. You can’t get engaged today and not get married for the next two years. So what if you’re doing a PhD in New York and your guy works in India. If you got engaged last year then this year winter break has to be shaadi time. That nothing really changes in your life with this shaadi is not the barati’s problem.
Kid(s) by 30
The whole set up is like a game of dominoes. If you made a blunder at any stage chances are that you’re going to miss all your deadlines and then from a kid you will metamorphose into a big black sheep. Our society expects us to have kids by the time we are 30. People who have tied the knot would know that a year after your marriage you become a one stop shop for good news. Expiry dates after all. Thanks to all the Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara I kept looking at my 20’s as the time I will be high on adrenaline and so basically killing it with all the fun. As if college attendance requirements and my constant “what do I want from my life” have not already considerably deflated the carefully curated 20’s balloon, introduce society’s expiry dates and then I will be left blowing balloons for my kid’s first or n-th birthday.
If you look closely at the expiry dates you will realise that all of them should be our call. They affect our lives in a disproportionately big and intimate way. Others should interfere only when we ask them to. To say that in their days things happened xyz way is the most ridiculous argument. What could you possibly do in your day? You saved because even to get a scooter there was a waiting period. The sobriquet for the superstar of your generation was “Angry Young Man”. Says something about the society of that period. We were born with the economic reforms and liberalisation. Engineers become stand up comedians today. We get the blessed “scooter” on credit.
The problem with these expiry dates is the drama you’re subjected to when you’re not meeting even one. The same people who thought you to be the ideal kid brand you to be a pest for your family. That a dutiful child can grow up into a resolute daughter is something this society needs to come to terms with.