A thought provoking article by Shalini Puthiyedam..
A tweet on twitter set me off thinking on this one. The tweet in question likened marriage to being in a bath tub. The more one got used to it, the less hot (as in desirable) it was.
It troubled me no end that a comment could be so callous and flippant. I wondered if the writer of this comment had any clue as to the import of the content that he was proudly tweeting. Firstly, the comment is as sexist as it can get. It attacks the woman in the marriage not very subtly I must add. It presumes that the man who was a perfect being before marriage has been grossly undone by the act of committing himself. Secondly, the imagery evoked leaves nothing much to the imagination as to the angle the man wants to impress upon.
I find this a curiously Indian male pastime to indulge in this flippant and often insulting and derogatory talk about marriage. I always wonder too as to why then these very same men finally do go and tie themselves and get bound in a marriage. They have a choice, isn’t it? They can say no.
If marriage is a platform for sexual gratification, then I do not think that in today’s liberalized world, its very difficult to obtain that. Urban India is very different from may be the India of even 10 years ago. So, I do not think that it is that which drives the majority of the male population to talk in such fashion. I think it is because the Indian urban male of today is a confused soul. We as an ancient civilization are yet to find our true selves in this rapidly shrinking world.
We are exposed to the proliferation of media of all types from the visual to the virtual and thereby exposed to all manner of cultures and influences. Now, the Indian male has been up until this point following the laws laid down since Vedic times that a man has to go through stages of life namely childhood, adolescence, marriage, career, children and then aging gracefully seeking enlightenment. Each stage had been well set and planned out. There was predictability and stability to the order of things. To add to this, all the great love stories like Laila-Majnu, Heer-Ranjha and others all ended as tragedies reinforcing the belief (and this is my personal opinion) that love has only a limited place in the business of living. That it eventually led only to grief and huge despair. I do not profess to know of the origins of arranged marriage but all the above factors combined to give this practice an acceptance that was total. Marriages were solemnized as a continuum of the life duties of the respective brides and grooms. This was until we began to be exposed to the occidental society which could not fathom at all the meaning of this curiously Indian practice – the arranged marriage. With the opening up of media and the arrival of the Internet, this cross access became rapid.
The grass as they say is always greener on the other side. So, the Indian populace seeing the images of giddy lovers and madly courting couples who were oblivious to the existence of the world outside of themselves began to aspire for the same even though the model had its own pitfalls.
Women are more expressive of their needs and in a society that didn’t care much about what the woman felt, such portrayal of equal partnership in a relationship was something that was not difficult for them to embrace. The men on the other hand though being equally drawn to the idea had difficulty in accepting the feminine part of themselves. It was considered to be unmanly to be sentimental and accepting of the woman as his equal. So, to go into denial mode was the next best thing and what better way than to relegate the woman to the status of an object of pleasure.
It would be seriously amazing if we could marry the pragmatism and rootedness of our ancient culture with the headiness and passion of the west and bring alchemy to this relationship that we take as bedrock of the unit called family.
Love is a beautiful emotion and it should be the basis for any meaningful relationship. It allows both the partners to respect and cherish each other. At the same time there should be the space for the respective partners to grow and bloom. If our Indian males can grow up to accept that women are their equals and cherish their differences, there will be less people making such unthinking comments as that which spurred me to put down my thoughts.
I end with this verse from Kahlil Gibran’s “The prophet”. It is a verse which resonates for me. It brings forth the power of love as well as the responsibility that go with it. It lifts the relationship to a higher plane which is what humans strive for. It speaks of the alchemy that I fervently wish we as a nation which is most capable of integrating and coalescing aspire for. I hope it resonates for you too who read this piece.
Let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
— Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)