1 March 2006

Marriage – A screwed institution

I once read somewhere an interesting statement made by a lady of Stanford Business School. She was commenting on how it feels to be a lady in one of the most premier B-schools of the world. The discussion eventually came to marriage and she commented that ‘The only men we can marry are Harvard Graduates’. The reason being there is a convention in our civilization that in any marriage between a man and a woman – the man should be more educated than the woman, the man should earn more than the woman and all such bullshit. Now since there are very few men who earn more than Stanford grads, the pool of prospective grooms left for our Stanford lady consist of only Harvard grads. One of my friends girl friend happens to be in IIM - Ahmedabad and my dear friend is still trying his best to get into a decent B-school. Does that mean that he can't marry his beloved unless he makes it into IIM BCLIK if not A? How do you justify that. Now, this whole concept of man should earn more than his wife reflects how skewed our institution of marriage is. These are some things pertinent not only to Indian society but to even the most advanced and free societies of the western world, whom our Indian conscience keepers often allege of moral and cultural bankruptcy. It seems that this is a problem of the entire human civilization. Another such baseless convention followed when the institution of marriage is considered in the pan-Indian context is that the man should always be older among the two. You cannot and are not supposed to go around with a woman who is older to you. It is frowned upon and considered out of norm in our country. It is simply not acceptable in a society like ours which is neo-conservative at its best. I call it neo-conservative because the society to which I belong is a part of the urban upper middle class India which has tasted prosperity as a result of economic boom of the past decade but still have been unable to shed off some irrational dogmas of the past which we continue to follow in the name of upholding our tradition.
In a society like ours where love marriages are still taken with a pinch of salt, where your personal preferences take a back seat over the ‘what biradari wale will say’, two complete strangers are married off (read arranged marriages) and expected to take the vow of ‘Till death do us apart’. The result is often a lot of unnecessary emotional baggage. If these are the state of affairs amongst the educated lot of our country who socially and economically occupy the top 5 or 10% slot, then the occasional news from the rural hinterland about people killing young couples just because they married outside their respective castes hardly come as a surprise.

Suppose you end up marrying your beloved and if your marriage doesn’t satisfy these irrational and absurd conditions laid down by the conscience keepers of our culture, then the society will go to great lengths to criticize your decision and make you realize that what you have done is not something held in high esteem in our culture. If the purpose for marriage would only have been procreation, then we need to look at the physiological aspects of such a convention like a husband should always be older than his wife. Thankfully, the sole purpose of marriage is not procreation. But still I can’t help looking into the physiological facet of a man being younger than his wife. Experts say that there’s no scientific reason why the wife should be or should not be older than her husband.
Entire generations have been brought up by feeding them the ‘acceptables’ and ‘unacceptables’ and many of these ‘acceptables’ don’t make any sense to a rational mind.
I won’t touch upon the subject of inter-caste or inter-religious marriages in this context. With the danger of being termed as a feminist, I would like to elucidate the fact that in spite of blowing trumpets of female liberalization, we have brought up entire generations of MCPs (Male Chauvinist Pigs), men who are uncomfortable if their wives are financially independent. Our whole attitude towards this liberalization and ‘times have changed’ rhetoric seems to be hollow and hypocritical.I, personally certainly don’t condone a scenario where in men and women get into a shallow physical relationship just for the heck of it. The keystone of any relationship should be trust and commitment. If these things are present then the rest just don’t matter. All other things are irrelevant, least of all age.


Anonymous said...

Quite an interesting article. I guess with girls being more and more financially and otherwise also independent in most of the other contexts these age long list of acceptables and non acceptables should change. Marraige should be more of finding a totally compatible person with whom you would enjoy spending ur whole life.

Amit said...

Nice thoughts boss....still my friend, there is no guarantee that even if we allow everything that is taboo right now, marriages will last....

U must be knowing abt love marriages after yrs of courtship falling apart, whereas arranged marriages in quite large nos still stand the test of time.

So i suppose whatever way u do, yeah we need to give the individual more space, options, and at the same time accountability.

Anonymous said...

hmm.. mr. writer! see what i feel is marriage is a very personal institution. because it is the partners who set up the "rules" for it to develop as a working relationship. and to tell you the truth.. the scene you have just potrayed is not a complete picture.. women are coming out as more independent individuals.. and the society is accepting them.. albeit with some reluctance.. but the point is they are being accepted.

secondly, every generation has regularly thrown up its share of women - heros.. whether they are accepted or not is another question.. but they have been there and will be there.. and their marriage has in fact strengthened them .. and helped them contribute in their chosen field..

all i hope is "guys" approach these issues with much more open mind.. after all like everything else in this world.. marriage isnt perfect in itself.. its we who make things perfect..