“In Patna, where I lived in a huge joint family, though the girls were sent to one of the best schools in town, there was no environment to study at home. We were not being trained to make something out of our lives as marriage was the final destination. Despite that I chose higher studies to broaden my horizons and improve my world view. My decision to pursue PhD was supported by my father. Getting into JNU was a turning point in my life. But even then, people in my extended family were not very happy with the decision because I had chosen to take the path less travelled by women in my orthodox family. They were worried that my PhD would delay my wedding. There came a point when it became a challenge to write my dissertation as it meant missing another cousin’s wedding or someone’s baby shower.
Finding a groom, who was equally educated, became a challenge for my parents. Prospective grooms and their families feared that as a student of JNU, I would be independent which meant that I was not a suitable match. I got married during the course of writing my thesis to a man from a progressive Muslim family. Both my husband and I felt that my PhD should take priority over the needs of domesticity. We did not immediately start with the things that newly-married people generally do, like looking for a house, buying furniture, and setting up the kitchen. I decided to temporarily tame the feelings of nesting and settling down and instead finish my PhD first.
My husband and I lived separately for two years after our wedding. We would meet in the evenings after work and eat dinner in my hostel mess. When relatives inquired about what I had cooked for my husband that day and found out that we had both eaten in the mess, they found it difficult to understand.
We have been married for almost five years and we do not have a child yet. I sometimes feel that in our society, there is no recognition of your achievements if you are not a mother. This is one constant challenge that I face as far as my identity is concerned. Nobody cares that I am an independent individual, living my life the way I want to. For them my life is incomplete without motherhood.”