Sunday, October 23, 2011

Unmarriage


“Why on earth would anyone want to get married? And if they did for some unfathomable reason, why then, would they follow it up with kids?”

This came from Aqseer, all of twenty one summers young. Asawari, if anything, was a shade more virulent on the subject.

I appreciated their lack of appreciation of the marriage and parenthood phenomena because I felt similarly at their age. There were no ‘shehnai’ notes ringing in my ears, nor was I taken up with the associated colour and ceremony. What I saw instead in my arrogant young head was a huge table and a blue coloured Jonga that I drove to work at a company I owned! Of course, it turned out later that the big desk in fact was my current Resource Centre table and the blue Jonga was the service Gypsy used by my husband until recently!

The point is: why marriage? Why not unmarriage?!

Back in the 1980s, it was one of the things you did. A lot was presumed, more was taken for granted. Not many questions were asked. Everyone went along with the flow and life took care of the rest. The traditional mind-set viewed male and female life cycles differently. For a boy, it went from college to career to marriage while for a girl, it would typically be college to marriage with a brief recreational detour to career.  

It is a different world we inhabit today. Girls don’t necessarily need providers and it is about a lot more than just in-house procreation for boys. With women’s education and work potential, there has come a new expectation of the marriage institution as also revised parameters of acceptance. Marriages are happening but there is greater tolerance of what were once considered aberrations. It is not unusual for "happily married" couples to echo the question right back at you, "You are right, why marriage? Good question!"

To start with, the onus for discovering the right person has shifted just that shade from the parent’s plate on to the eligible young. Unlike the TV serials and films, girls are not just delaying but even forgoing marriage. The median age for tying the knot has gone up. Mothers of daughters are encouraging them to adjust but most certainly not at the cost of their personal welfare. From a family focused alliance, the shift is towards maintenance of the couple’s relationship. The girls’ family is nearly as equal in laying the stakes. And should the domestic-partnership movement and child support legalities become better known in India, it would remain to be seen what advantages marriage really offered. And let’s not forget the school of thought that says one could love another too much to marry them!

Notwithstanding these shifting sands, one day, I know the light bulb will go on in their heads and they will don the auspicious red. Perhaps it will be about emotional security, companionship, personal growth and a partnership on all fronts including the home. Irrespective of whether they do it to fit in, or because all their friends are settling down or for the straightforward matter of love, it is going to be a win win situation I am confident. 

And even though as their Mom, I wonder at the number of choices they have the luxury of facing and am in fact, wary of too fairy tale and romantic an expectation, I essentially believe in marriage. It is a critical milestone in a person’s evolution if one took care to remember that it is no protection against the outside world and there certainly is no man or a woman for every season. 

I read somewhere that the married partner fulfills a very basic human need for a constant and close witness to one's life. The desire for at least one person in this world you can trust completely and to whom you are the axis of their universe. With some luck and focused work, it could well turn out to be the synergistic magic that will power a complete and fulfilled life.

What marriage can therefore be is an absolute friendship, a growing together, a real conversation, that wonderful and all important zone of mutual acceptance, the knowing that you are essentially OK! 

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