Understanding Marriages

A couple of days ago, I received a forward on WhatsApp which talked about the “divorce culture” that’s supposedly growing in India. It was basically venting out frustration on women largely and holding them responsible for the growing situation – not really surprising.

This post is for those who haven’t taken pains to understand the issue. A large part of the perception behind the divorces is based on personal biases, superficial knowledge, and cherry picking incidents that suit the desired conclusion. Like, the forward I received, blamed the entire situation on western influence, women not taking care of the house but going for a job outside, love marriages, live-in relationships and so on. Everything but the actual reasons.

Divorce

It failed to recognize the changing social fabric of society with respect to gender roles and growing equality. However, while the parents have taught daughters to go out and earn, they haven’t taught sons to fulfill their fair share of duties at home. While historically, it was pretty much the set up of India and the idea was not to oppress but distribute responsibilities in a way that men took care of bringing money into the house and women were responsible to manage it in the best manner possible. Things changed eventually as the nature of jobs in the world became less labor intensive because the machines took over that part and it became more intellectual where it was a level playing field for both the genders.

Now, this is my own theory, which might be true, might not be true. But somewhere in between this change in the work nature, the importance of household work started to diminish and because now, within a single gender, we had two more categories – the women who took care of home and the women who went out and did a 9 to 6 job – it created an atmosphere where the women who took care of the house became a subject of ridicule by the other category. In addition, the new competition at the workplace made the men insecure and all the more committed to making sure that women stay at home. How do we do that? By destroying the confidence of these women. This, further, received the stamp of approval from the society who invented reasons why women shouldn’t be out at work – most commonly, child care.

It also led to a change in the upbringing of daughters who were raised to be submissive and sons were raised to be dominating. And after marriage, the status quo was maintained and there weren’t many divorces due to power in favor of one gender. Ladies knew that they’ll be the victim as well as the culprit, parents doors would be closed for them, social stigma around divorces will make it difficult for them to get on their feet alone (top it up with poor education), social ostracization would be just waiting. Hence, it was obvious that divorce wasn’t really an option when they had nowhere to go. However, as times changed, education and greater financial freedom made women more aware of their rights. And as your awareness increases, your tendency to put up with bullshit decreases.

Secondly, just because marriage hasn’t resulted in a divorce doesn’t mean it’s a success either. So many marriages get dragged for every single reason other than the fact that one of the two or both the people in the marital bond are suffering, mostly silently. While, historically, we have been successful in keeping the marriages from failing, we probably don’t realize that we’ve failed at many levels to make marriages successful. It was only a matter of time before those failures crossed the tolerance levels.

Also, not all failures mean a bad thing. Divorces have been projected as a monster and almost equated to end of life unnecessarily. Not to say that it doesn’t have a devastating effect, especially for the two people separating, but then, as Einstein once said, “There is a great value in disaster”. Sometimes distance and space give people a chance to become a better version of themselves. We, as a civilization, have stressed enough on finding our true selves and the meaning/purpose of life. But sometimes, if there is a toxic environment around us, it just doesn’t allow us the freedom to do that.

Love marriages end up in divorces as well. True, because some (or maybe many) of the marital problems aren’t exclusive to arranged marriage. It’s just that the confidence of success is greater in the case of love marriages. Sure, not all of them would be very thought through but then that happens in arranged marriages as well. Humans make mistakes all the time. While it is true for kids, it is as much true for parents. And human relationships never come with a guarantee. But using those failures to keep scores will not help anybody.

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Fights

And we fought (war of words) again!! And after every fight, we learn something new about each other. And this, in spite of numerous occasions when we complete each other’s statements, get a same thought at the very same second and quickly sense something is wrong with the other person. It’s more than 3 years but we still keep discovering something new about each other all the time.

And in this process, what I realized is that what you do after the fight is also very crucial. What are your thoughts in that cooling off period (if you take one)? How do you collect yourself? How do you retrospect and introspect? And above all, what is your priority in a relationship? All of these things determine whether you’ll truly come out of it stronger or hold a grudge against the other person to the eternity. If you hold it, you’ll use it in the next argument.

In India, and perhaps around the world, people see no fight as a sign of happy marriage (pretty much like no divorce as a successful marriage). But is it possible that no fight also means one person is submissive? Which means one person is not being treated or doesn’t consider himself or herself equal? Two people, doesn’t matter the relationship between them, will diverge at some point in time in their thoughts. And strong personalities will be more assertive and convinced about their school of thought unless challenged with the same force.

The conflict per se is not bad. When things are challenged, they get tested for their relevance to time and context. But is the conflict overpowering the mutual respect and ability to see the truth? Because then that’s a problem.

Dowryality

Image Source: IndiaSpend

Image Source: IndiaSpend

Mumbai autowalas are among the most talkative autowalas in India. While traveling in an auto here, as I prefer minding my own business when it comes to meeting random strangers, I often end up just nodding to whatever they say and keep adding fillers (oh achha, ha sahi kaha, ha woh to hai, barabar and so on) out of politeness.

However, last Friday it was one of those unusual conversations which were a dialog instead of a monologue. It started like the latter but the guy told something that dragged me into the conversation.

Typical conversations with Mumbai autowalas start with either on weather or on traffic. This time it was the former. Soon he changed to topic and started describing his conversation with one of his earlier passenger who was a lady from Mirzapur UP, which is close to the village he was from (which is again somewhere near Allahabad).

During the conversation with girl, he came to know a lot about her – things like where was she from, her family, since how long she has been in Mumbai, what does she do and so on. When the autowala asked if she is married, she responded in negation. The driver was, obviously amused, as the lady was in her late 30s and it is very unusual for a girl in India to be unmarried for so long. And, the reasons she gave for her singlehood was dowry which she was against and no man from her region will marry without dowry. Clearly agitated, the driver started convincing her why it is important to get married and how dowry is just a “gift” that girl’s parent give to the boy’s side for the wellbeing of their daughter. The lady, obviously pissed off, asked him to shut up since he, uneducated “gawar” (rustic), would not understand this. The driver, offended by the “gawar” term, asked her not to teach or preach him anything as he had seen the world much more than her. Being in Mumbai doesn’t make her “super-knowledgeable”.

Coming from an anti-dowry culture, I completely support the lady’s stand against dowry. However, there was no point in persuading the driver since he already had the heated argument and his conviction of dowry being a voluntary gift was even stronger. In spite of that, somehow, I couldn’t just let it go since it was a wrong belief. I might not be able to convince him within the time I had but definitely can try to make him see a part of the darkest side of dowry.

After getting some idea around how the dowry system in his region works and what are the general perception, I moved the conversation to female foeticide/infanticide. The logic was, if dowry is so prevalent (which was proudly accepted by him), as a head of the family, I would only want a male child. Having a female child would be a financial nightmare for me while a male child would bring dowry and thus, financial prosperity. While someone already wealthy might still be able to afford a female child but a poor just cannot. His puzzled look clearly stated that I had conveyed my message. However, he quickly structured his thoughts to refute the existence of female foeticide completely. Reason?  – children are God’s gift. Indian culture doesn’t allow us to kill children.

My reaction – O yeah, right 😛

Unfortunately, I couldn’t carry on the conversation after that since I arrived at my destination. However, I had tried whatever little I could to change one mind in this country on dowry. Yes, a lot more can be (and need to be) done, definitely.