Marriage-an overrated concept?

R’ mom’s post on women’s web about marriage being an overrated institution and Hip Hop Grandma’s comment to that has certainly touched a chord in many of us evoking strong responses. (Warning-long post ahead)

The basis of many age-old customs and practices has become questionable in the light of changing time; so is the case with marriage, which is fast losing the sacred status it had once assumed. Hence the question of it being overrated arises. I don’t know whether it is overrated or underrated. I only know that everyone wants to get married-whether to conform to the societal norms or otherwise. It is like the saying-“shaadi ka laddoo-khaye woh pachtaye, na khaye woh pachtaye”. Even the utterly feminist (read men-basher) does marry. I think it is got to do with the perception of marriage. It is seen as the biggest milestone, only second to parenthood, in one’s life-especially that of a woman. No one really prepares you for the dynamics of marriage. It is rarely the “happily ever after” story. Also, today is the age of extremes. It is either my way or the highway. There are no in-between solutions to a debate.

My colleague S got married to A, her boyfriend of two years. S is a bubbly and vivacious girl who speaks her mind and likes her freedom. A is more of an introvert. Initially, they lived as a couple separately from A’s parents who also happened to live in the same town. Due to some reasons, A decided that they should be staying with his parents (obviously S’s opinion was overridden). S was somehow never herself with her in-laws. As I understood from our conversations, it was not as though A’s parents mistreated her or made her uncomfortable. She simply could not “adjust” to live amicably with an older generation. Many times she suggested to A that they could live close to his parents yet live separately as a couple. A, however, for reasons I don’t know, never agreed to it. S and I later parted ways and I came to know of her divorce through another common friend.

P, another close friend of mine, separated from her husband of 10 years, after two kids. We had somehow grown apart from each other by the time this happened and hence I do not know the entire story. However, I can make an educated guess. Theirs was a love marriage and they lived separately as a couple. P was-is a social butterfly who thrives on meeting other people. She had, a couple of years ago, landed herself with the job of an event manager-a role that fit her personality to perfection. She became a social figure in no time, meeting great legends from the entertainment field. Her work demanded a lot of time from her but she wasn’t complaining. She was clearly having a blast. Her husband, six years older to her, was a businessman and perhaps a typical husband who although wanted his wife to work, also didn’t want her to be away for long periods of time from home. I think this was the bone of contention in their marriage leading to the inevitable, 10 long years of togetherness and young kids notwithstanding.

In both the cases, the women in question are the epitome of a modern day woman. Neither faced any serious abuse or ill-treatment at the hands of their in-laws. Yet, the marriages fell apart. These days, divorce is not a taboo-at least with urban middle class families. If things do not work out to one’s expectation, the couple-both or either of them- does not hesitate to call it a day. On one hand there are scenarios where the couple jumps the gun at the first issue and on the other there instances where the woman is urged to put up despite serious compatibility issues.

Any relationship calls for compromises if it has to be nurtured. It is only when it comes to marriage that these compromises or adjustments are blown out of proportion. Here the gender bias is confused with the type of compromises involved. We have been-and are to a large extent even today- a patriarchal society. It cannot be denied that, in India, a woman is married into the boy’s family but the vice-versa is not true. It is still “expected” of the woman to call her acquired parents as “amma” and “appa” but the man is “not expected” to do so. If they do (I do know of some men who address their parents-in-laws as amma and appa. Of course their number is far less than the ones who do not feel comfortable doing so.), they are “appreciated” while if they don’t, they are “understood”. Why isn’t the same discomfort that can be felt by the woman understood? If the husband does not feel like visiting his in-laws, it is OK but if the situation is the other way round, the wife is made to feel guilty for being selfish and is asked to come along nevertheless. These are considered minor issues and the mind is asked to be conditioned to “ignore” such things. Unfortunately, again, only the woman is expected to condition her mind and ignore.

I feel this is a period of transition where the women have risen in protest to the old ways of society. Till the time men continue to have the upper hand in terms of compromises and adjustments, there will be extremities. Eventually hope, faith and trust will be restored to this age-old institution called marriage. I do hope it happens.

P.S.- After reading the comments on my post above, I got the feeling that perhaps I have not come across I way I intended to. I was merely stating that there are instances where people jump the gun at the first instance of discomfort in a marriage and there are cases where women are made to go through hell in the name of adjustment and family honour. Both are uncalled for. Here, the debate was if marriage will lose its significance and its very existence in future. Hence my take is- in a relationship there is some amount of give and take and if we want to safe-guard this insitution, we (as a couple) need to work on the relationship while valuing each other's rights.

Are we a free country? Are we really a democratic nation?

We all read about the recent civil revolution in Egypt and Libya, which the civilians went against the military governance of 30 odd years (successfully in the former and not so far in the latter). We lauded and cheered the people of both countries for their fearless and persistent struggle for their rights. We spoke at lengths about how each country should be a democratic one and how people should wage a war against unjust and extreme rulers. Closer home, do we really spend so much thought as to- are we free?

We are a democratic and independent country, sure, but sadly only on paper. We are worse off today than we were during the colonial rule. At least they were not one of us. Today, although, we are governed (deceived) by our own people (under influence of some foreigner?), we really cannot truly call ourselves a progressed or progressing nation. Sure enough we have progressed in some spheres but in the light of corroded values in the form of corruption, red-tapeism and nepotism, we still have a long long way to go.

Each day a new scam exposes a shameful state of affairs in almost every sphere of occupation. Black-money is stashed away in the tax havens of Swiss banks by leaders, corporate and influential individuals who have been squandering away hard-earned money of common public in broad daylight. The aam admi is struggling hard to meet ends even as he is battling inflation, bad civic management, poor economic policies, heavy and multiple taxes. Housing prices are on a perpetual high making the basic necessity a mirage for many. Most residential areas are reeling under water shortage and poor sanitation conditions. Women call themselves empowered and liberated today. Are they truly so? Every day, some woman is stalked, threatened, raped, brutally murdered, molested, or just subjected to some other kinds of sexual harassment that may be equally humiliating and disturbing. Girl child is still not welcome in many so-called educated families too. We need not even mention the rural areas here. People obtain fake certificates and degrees without any difficulty, even in case where public life is at stake. The recent case of an Air-India pilot being caught with a fake degree underlines the risk and danger common people are being subject to. We even have fake doctors performing life-threatening operations. Education is a rare commodity for under-privileged children. The government, sure, boasts of having announced a reform granting right to education. Only that, the amount of school-drop-outs far exceeds the enrollments. Teachers are under-paid and not motivated enough to uphold the nobility of this profession. Corruption has seeped into every quarter making it so common that it is almost being brushed off as something that is a given and needs to be put up with.

Such mediocrity and apathy by governing bodies notwithstanding, we cheer the rising (grossly misinterpreted, I think) economic rate and build it to the levels of it being enough to take us on the road to be a super power. Cricket matches become a platform to promote patriotism. People become dumb enough to cheer up on a superficial feel-good factor created by the over-active media from time to time. The media itself is a biased body which is affiliated to respective political parties. The news is largely filtered, with the facts twisted to suit the larger interests of the party it (the channel) serves. The truth however can be tracked if one follows the internet carefully (thanks to private and not-so-private blogs maintained by politically aware citizens).

On a positive note, some states like Gujarat are doing enviously well. The Modi government contrary to what the media might like us to believe has truly done amazing work. Sadly not one news channel features a programme on this front. Facebook and Twitter triggered the civil revolution in Egypt and Libya. Will these be enough to awaken us from the slumber we are in? Are we, as a nation, ready to swallow the bitter pill necessary to cleanse our country and start afresh? Are we even willing to exercise our voting rights and vote the right person?

The Women In My Life

Women’s web is hosting a “Feminspiration” contest to mark the 100th anniversary celebrations of International Women’s day. The contest requires an article to be written about any woman (en) who is an inspiration to others. As I pondered over which one great woman stands worthy to be saluted, my mind drew a blank. I could not single out any one particular figure. I realized that I need not look beyond the women who played a significant role in my life -my mother, my Grandmother, my sister and my maternal aunt. Sure, they have not cut a big name for themselves but they are all inspiring in their own way, each leading a different yet similar life; in bringing out the inner strength to live life with a smile on their face. I thank women’s web for giving me an opportunity to celebrate the women in my life.

My maternal grandmother is a person who can give tough competition to any woman-entrepreneur of today. She is ever enterprising, full of energy and ideas with a never-say-quit attitude. For a woman who although does not have a formal education, is very street-smart and knows the ways of the world. I envy her motivational power and wish many times that I had inherited this quality from her. Even at her age when one would be content letting others take charge of the housework, she is ever-eager to lend help in the kitchen and even enthusiastic about dishing out savouries and sweets that are tedious to prepare.

My mother balanced home and work with single-minded determination only so that we (my sister and I) could have a more comfortable childhood and could be offered the luxuries money could provide. We grew up under the watchful eyes and loving guidance of our grandparents (her parents). She missed our childhood and growing years not because she was a career woman but because she had to pitch in monetarily to the family kitty. In spite of being a working woman, she tended to all our needs-from taking care of our studies to cooking our favourite food to buying all that we asked for. She always gave us quality time during her working days.

My chitti (mother’s sister) is a second mother to me. She is a woman, who, in spite of all odds has faced life with quiet dignity. With my uncle spending long hours and sometimes days at a stretch at work, she spent a greater part of her youthful and married life single-handedly bringing up her only son. Being in a single-income household and with a nothing to boast about income, she saved every penny for the son’s future never caring for herself. A great cook and homemaker, she never shies from feeding large crowds-even strangers.

My sister is the ideal daughter, sister and wife all rolled into one; a fantastic multi-tasker and gifted person. A grounded person, she has always been a great support system during my low-phase in life. She does everything to perfection. With a travelling hubby, she single-handedly manages the finances, the home, plays parent to a demanding toddler, pursues her hobby and also socializes. They recently shifted to a new home and she was the sole person to make sure that the house took a ship-shape look, from supervising the site to coordinating the workers to making numerous calls to the interior decorator.

These are qualities that truly make a woman a class apart. In the daily grind, we somehow overlook and take these for granted. Whether as homemakers or working force, life is never easy for women. Three cheers to them and the entire women clan!

More wonder and a proud mom

My little wonder can associate things so well at so young an age! He has about 20 words in his vocabulary list which, I learnt, is a little advanced for his age. He really attempts, and manages, to communicate in two-word phrases. When people say, ahem…, he is quite fast for a boy at this age, my heart swells to the size of a football. I know its’ too early to know but R does put two and two together many times to pleasantly surprise me. For example, I do read out a lot of board books-shapes, stories, vegetables, animals and the like. The other day he picked up a toy and said “ova”. Yes, it was an oval-shaped teether. Now, that he points to any other shape and says “ova” is a completely different story :-). But he did get it right the first time. He can “identify” many of the pictures when asked and also flip through the pages “pretending” to read. He can build a three to four block stack.

I generally do a video chat with my mom in the afternoons. Yesterday, as I switched on the p.c. for the session, R said “paat” (for paati-grandma). This was the first time he said the word. He sometimes walks about with his hands tied behind like adults. Now neither I nor my hubby has this habit.

His mischief-making skills are also getting honed by the day. Each day, a new antic. Since he is adept at climbing now, he tries his to apply his skill to every furniture above ground level. His new game is climbing onto our double-bed cot, head towards the switchboard and play around with the switches. He is constantly on his toes-I mean literally. Every item within (or without) his reach needs to be pushed to the farthest corner on the kitchen platform, utility racks, tables, etc. The house has been cleared of all the decorative pots ever since he began to move and has been rearranged multiple times since then in accordance with his mobility advancement. Speaking of activities, one thing he never tires of is opening the kitchen drawers and littering the entire house with spoons, vessels, mixer fittings, get it.

His peers are not quite doing the stuff he is doing. Again, I must add a disclaimer that I haven’t really met many kids (boys) around his age. I am just going by the comments I get and my general observation. I am not sure if my boy is showing some signs of being out of the ordinary and I cannot care less if he is just like any other child. I say this because, firstly, I know the pressure a child faces today to steer ahead of others in the rat race, to which I do not wish to accentuate. Secondly, such skills do average out as the kids grow older. So in a way, these early flashes of brilliance may mean nothing down the road. I only want him to have a normal and happy childhood. But that does not stop me from being a proud mom for now.