No bride start

No bride start

Married too young and now a mother of two, one woman looks back at what could have been.

MAIRA* often stands by the kitchen window in the morning and afternoon, observing the college nearby.

A deep longing fills her heart every time she sees youths attending classes, reminding her about her own missed opportunities.

"Funny, isn't it, that I was not old enough to buy cigarettes and alcohol, but I was legally married and having children? I wish I had never married that early, though, looking at all that I had to give up for the marriage to work," she says wistfully in a phone interview.

Malaysian law also dictates that at 15, Maira is too young to even refuel a motor vehicle, let alone drive one.

Strangely, under the same set of laws, Maira is not seen as being too young to shoulder the responsibilities of married life.

"I knew nothing about marriage when it happened to me. All I knew were the stories I watched in movies about being happy with the one you love. I also thought I was going to marry the man I love in the future anyway, so why not now?" she says.

Maira and her sweetheart, both from Perak, were married off in a small ceremony after it was discovered that she was three months' pregnant. At the time, she was barely 16, while her husband Adam* was an 18-year-old college student.

Asked if the couple continued their studies after marriage, Maira said the idea did not even cross their minds.

"Since I was pregnant, many people at school looked down on me, and I stopped going to school because I felt uncomfortable.

"Adam stopped his studies because he said he had to support the family from then on," she says.

It was not a romantic, happily-ever-after kind of union for Maira and Adam, since they discovered early on that things were not going according to plan. Adam's job as a mechanic only brought in enough to pay for basic needs and Maira's medical costs.

The pent-up frustrations resulted in Adam taking it out on his wife, by means of verbal and sometimes physical abuse.

"If that was not enough, my mother-in-law would join in and abuse me as well, since she blamed me for apparently spoiling her son's future. Even during my pregnancy, no one would accompany me to hospital for check-ups. I had to take the bus to and from the hospital by myself," she says.

Thankfully for Maira, things looked up for her somewhat after she gave birth to a healthy baby girl a few months later.

Adam became more attentive towards their needs, and eventually moved their little family to the Klang Valley so they could escape his mother's abuses.

Financially, however, things were still bad for them, forcing Maira to take up odd jobs in between caring for her baby to make ends meet.

"I did part-time house-cleaning and babysitting, while Adam took on extra jobs.

"I remember being very depressed during that time. I lost my friends, my family members, I was even losing touch with Adam because both of us were so busy supporting our little family," she rues.

Fast forward 10 years since the early marriage, and Maira is now holding down a job as a receptionist in her cousin's company, while Adam works as a driver for a corporate figure. Their two young daughters are attending primary school near their small flat in the Klang Valley.

"While I'm thankful that my marriage has survived the tough times, if you ask me whether I will make the same decision to marry early if I could go back in time, I won't. My friends at school have a good education, and some have just started a family. None of them had to go through what I did, because they were prepared for married life.

"My time has passed, and my focus now is on my daughters. They deserve their education and better career chances, and I will not let them marry until they are completely ready for that life," says Maira.

* Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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