Going the distance
Trans World Features (TWF) | 12 Oct 2016
Going the distance
Long distance marriages are getting more common these days in urban India. But those women who quit their jobs to be with their spouses also face criticism from certain sections of society considering the act anti-Feminist. Surangama Guha takes look at both sides of the coin

We all know relationships are tough, that they can get complicated before you say Jack Robinson, and however much you may bang your head and try to pick up the pieces, you come up against a wall more times than you care to admit.


So what happens when relationships, as a metaphor for travel chug off or fly off into a space that is separated by miles, often by seas and sometimes by entire time zones? That sounds daunting? For whoever said absence makes the heart grow fonder was clearly not in touch with reality.


Not just relationships, but long distance marriages are getting more common  these days among the urban middle classes. As far as women are concerned, while many of them opt for long distance marriages, a handful of them do not. For those who choose family and give up their jobs,  does their decision make them anti-feminist? Does it make them any less independent?


First,  the ones in long distance marriages. Why do they choose it?


Sreyoshi Samaddar, faculty in the Neuroscience Department at Central University, New York, had been in a long distance marriage for the first two and half years of her marriage. She did question her decision at times, yet did not give up. “My husband was my biggest source of inspiration” she admits. She also feels that since women tend to be more educated and independent these days they often choose not to give up their professional commitments for their personal lives.


Pramiti  Chatterjee, lecturer of history in a college in West Bengal, is not convinced, but she has been in a long distance marriage over the past year and a half anyway. Having worked for sometime now she is wary of not receiving the salary packet at the end of the month.


Amrita Mukherjee, Ph.D scholar at IIT, Mumbai, is very clear about her objectives in life. Neither she nor her husband could compromise on their projects and leave her research project. So moving in with her husband was never really an option.


Neha Bhagtani in Mumbai have opted for long distance marriage because both she and her spouse are in niche professions and are well-settled in their respective careers.

It is implied that education, ambition and preference for economic independence make these women opt for long distance marriages.


Now, what about those highly educated women who chose love and marriage but also did not sacrifice their careers? Shukti Basu’s husband is a diplomat which makes it difficult for him to settle down in India. Shukti had a well-paid job in a bank in Bangalore which she chose to give up, and is currently enjoying the first year of her married life exotic Egypt. She, however, is not ready to sit at home idling, and is now getting ready to join her new teaching job.


Ritu Singh from Uttar Pradesh quit her job in a private company and joined her husband in the US where she is currently studying. Dipika De too gave up her job in a high profile movie production house in Mumbai to be with her husband who serves in the Indian army. Delhi’s Kavya Taneja (name changed) willingly quit her corporate job to be with her new born child.


Ishita Basu joined her husband in England after resigning from her position in a school in Kolkata. She started working again after a brief break, and considers it wrong to believe that choosing family over career is foolish, because, she says confidently, being independent is not about having a job. It is about having the freedom to choose!


Does the decision to stay at home, or quit a job, contradict ideas of feminism, with its implied independence and individualism for women? Says Gayatri Bhattacharya, professor of  Sociology, University of Calcutta, “It depends on how you define feminism. These women might be financially secure and they prove they have a freedom to express their views.”

Well-known writer-academician Nabaneeta Devsen too says, “You should do whatever you think is good for you. Your life is yours.” Finding her voice and doing what makes her happy is what truly empowers the modern urban woman, she feels.


But do they always have this choice? Like Dipika who feels her friends and colleagues looked down upon her when she decided to call it quits, although eventually she knew she did not have to please anyone but herself.  Dipshikha Sengupta (name changed) too decided to call it quits at a reputed firm to be with her husband in Pune, although she had been advised against it.


In their case, even though they want to choose family or forego their careers they seem to face social pressure. It leads one to wonder whether feminism (a highly ambiguous, endlessly debated term anyway) has become self-contradictory, whether the fight for women’s rights is actually taking away their right to choose. Reminds one of Charlotte in Sex and the City –“The woman’s movement is supposed to be about choice…I chosemy choice!”