Completing a college degree isn’t easy. And for an Indian girl, hailing from a conservative, orthodox family, it’s more difficult than it is for most. Here’s my story.
Dropping the M-Bomb
At 21 years old, in the final year of my undergraduate degree, my father sat me down for what he said was an important talk. To better put this into perspective, understand that I have a strained relationship with my father. He loves me, but there is unmistakable tension between us.
He doesn’t understand me at all. He doesn’t understand why I always want to be something other than a normal, small-town girl. He found the very idea that I wanted to achieve anything in life, revolting.
What he wanted more than anything else was for me to be the perfect daughter; and a perfect daughter, in his opinion, is one who gets married at the so-called right age of 21.
So… he dropped the bomb of marriage on me that day. I was afraid and shocked. I had so many dreams and personal ambitions I wanted to pursue, and I could feel them shattering to pieces.
What Did I Do?
My father views talking back to him as a huge sign of disrespect. He would beat me black and blue if I said what was on my mind. So I stayed silent.
I cried for days. I didn’t want to let my father decide my fate. I didn’t want to be married. I had planned to get a job after I graduated college. But that plan was no longer an option: marriage or no marriage.
The only option that would save me from an unwilling marriage, was to score an All India Rank in the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering, the most prestigious test in India. If I could manage that, he wouldn’t have any other option but to let me study.
If he did not, I knew our relatives would blame him for not letting me study. I had only 21 days until the test by then, so I studied day and night. I had to prove myself. I wanted to prove my father was wrong to believe that a woman is only fit for getting married and serving the family.
Flashback: Dreams Dashed on the Floor
All my life, I had compromised because of my father. I initially wanted to study fashion design, but he believed that engineering is the only respectable field of study. He found fashion design strange, and immoral. In his eyes, it was abominable.
I was 18 the first time I approached him with the hope of studying fashion design.
“Dad, I want to study fashion designing,” I told him.
“No, you won’t. You will study engineering. Otherwise, you can leave home,” were his exact words.
“I will leave home if you won’t let me,” I had replied.
He then slapped me, and hit me with a belt for my rebellion. After that, he grounded me for a month. I still fought to pursue fashion design, but in the end, he won.
Faced with a battle of wills for the second time, I couldn’t let him win. I had to prove that a woman has her right to shine.
I did secure an All India Rank of 539, and just as I hoped, he was forced to let me pursue a post-graduate education.
I left my hometown to study at one of the most prestigious institutes in India. Because of this, my college is in another state, far away from my home – but more importantly, far away from my father.
I was so happy to leave!
Did I Really Win?
On the day of admissions for my post-graduate degree, my father came along with me. He was worried. I could see it in his eyes. He pretended as if he was proud of me, to save face, but he really wasn’t.
While he was with me, he met one of my male classmate’s parents. They were having a conversation.
“I don’t want my daughter to study post-graduation [sic],” my father said. “If she studies post-graduation, [sic] I have to offer a higher amount of money as dowry for getting her married.”
I was sick to my stomach. He would ruin my academic career and all for a dowry – a social ill!
He didn’t know that I heard his words. This time, I didn’t cry. I felt happy that I found a safe haven at my new college: my escape from the expectations and false beliefs of my father.
Where I Am Now
Last month, I completed my post-graduate degree, and landed a job at a multi-national company. Now that I am done with college, and have a respectable job, I have found my voice.
A voice I will raise if my father forces me to get married when I am not ready. A voice I would raise again if he offered a dowry. And I will continue to raise it when people like my father stop their daughters from pursuing their dreams.
I plan to build an organization to help people like me, who weren’t given a choice at a younger age. I especially want to help the young girls whose fathers put an end to their dreams.
I want to use my newly found voice to fight for their right to education, the right to their own personal freedom, and the right to live their own life in the way they see fit.
About the Author
Sameera is a strong-willed woman who has learned to speak her own mind. She keeps busy with her programming career, but also makes time for writing, dancing, power yoga classes, and working on pencil sketches.
*The article was edited for Native English fluency by Alexis Chateau PR.