Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Question of Marriage

There is an age when the question of marriage pops up frequently and you wonder whether the time is ripe for such a decision. Friends tell you that when the time comes, you’ll realise while family members are, of course, not too concerned about such inner feelings – entering a certain age automatically qualifies you to get married.

It is difficult to argue against the idea of marriage. Not everybody appreciates the idea of living a reclusive life, away from family and society. There are surely merits in the arrangement of marriage, otherwise this institution would not have survived centuries.

It is almost a tad romantic to think that friends will be there forever with us to share our sentiments. It does not happen overnight that your long lost friend actually looks long lost and you wonder what conversation to strike with him. Familiar topics like marriages within the group, job opportunities, boss bitching and small family talk form the main conversation and then suddenly, you realise that you have run out of words to talk to your good old friend.

As you look back at the passage of time, you realise that things have indeed changed. There are things that you no longer discuss among yourselves, there are family secrets and specific timings to call up friends or not call them.You come to know through rumours that someone’s become a dad and you feel sad that even a news of such importance is not informed; a small realisation that time has moved on. And then friends too become all too busy to visit your place or worse still, welcome you. The writing was always on the wall but you refused to look at it – you know my friends are not like that; we will always keep in touch and all that…

The BIG QUESTION remains – Why marriage? Legal sex is a very simplistic answer but yes, that is surely an important aspect in a country with a repressed sexual climate where S-E-X remains a word that is still discussed in hushed tones (of course, we have still come a long way). But this cannot be a sustenance tool in the long run and there has to be a better reason to get married.

Parents do not work overtime at finding alliances merely to ensure that their offspring’s base instincts are met. They use the word COMPANIONSHIP – the spectre of finding yourself lonely; the prospect of returning from office everyday to an empty house and bed, which cries for attention. The TV, books and Internet become appendages that you start to hate but use it for the feeling of being connected to the outside world – a world that is virtual and is separated by miles and miles of space.

Parents do a good job in driving home the various scenarios that could trouble you. Amma would say:
1. You meet your friends whenever each of them gets married and after sometime when everyone’s married but you, what will happen? Sounds like a question on permutations and combinations
2. What happens if you fall sick – we will not be there throughout to take care of you. Medical angle introduced here but what if “she” falls sick?
3. Maybe you can finally eat South Indian food daily at home, even when in Mumbai. Chance to do away with my dabba, now only if “she” knows cooking
4. We are getting old. Who will take care of us now? Will “she” take care of me in the first place
5. Don’t we want to see the face of our grandchildren and play with them? Oops, this a double whammy scenario- not just wife but even a kid, will lead to performance pressure

Is it difficult to live in this vacuum? Not initially but slowly the thought drives you sad and frustrated. Now, becoming a celibate is a way out but clearly, that it is easier said than done. We are not ready to give up family and society life for a harsh world that requires inner introspection – takes time to introspect and accept realities of life.

In Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, the protagonist decides to become an ascetic and leaves his family and friends in search of the TRUTH. He wanders aimlessly, gets sucked into a life of wealth, greed, lust and attachment until he finally realises the TRUTH. He realizes that the TRUTH has never changed but it needs one to undergo certain experiences to understand the TRUTH. Marriage is, probably, a hard taskmaster but what lies ahead requires one to go through this phase – to learn the meaning of attachment. In a simplified way, if you need to become the Monk Who Sold his Ferrari, you need to earn the Ferrari first.

Let me quote from a blog I just read which gives a different perspective to the thought of love and marriage:

Many of us have been exposed to the idea that love should be romantic and sweep us off our feet. While this is a natural part of any relationship, the true test of our love comes from our willingness to explore this world with another person; to not only share in the delights that we encounter but also to negotiate the bumps in the road together

Entering into a committed relationship is in fact a spiritual journey that we undertake with another person. By being able to love and care for someone else with an open heart, we will find that we can reach a greater level of personal transformation, evolving along our path and learning powerful not otherwise be able to do on our own.

There will always be doubting Thomases (including myself) but the best way to approach an issue is to experience it first hand and not feed on a third party’s perspective. Each person’s perspective is different and to assume that we can think through every topic logically and analytically may not help in solving it.

Forget the philosophy, loneliness can hurt and the manifestation is not always on the surface; dig deep and the need to call out and share your moments and thoughts with someone is always there.

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