Sunday, October 19, 2008

THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE

This post was triggered in response to an article titled 'Latest export: Arranged marriage' in the Times of India of 19 Oct 08. Also, I have been reading a lot of posts in the blog-world with respect to this sacred (dictionary - 'made holy by religious association') institution of marriage. Sacred, because as far as I know every marriage, except maybe some civil marriages, are solemnised in the name of, and in the presence of the Divine as Prime witness - whatever name one may associate with the Divine.

Some of these posts are written by people who have never been married - but they sure do have opinions about it, and sometimes very strong ones too. So, I thought of key boarding my experience and understanding of marriage with a snap shot of our marriage. Looking back........

Poonam and I were married over 30 years ago, by Hindu rites. I believe all marriages are arranged - the difference being who arranges them - the family or self. In our times, and even today in majority of the cases, one does not marry only an individual, one also marries into a family. In our case I had an understanding with my parents that the family would be of their choice and the girl of my choice and that both of us, my parents and I, would have veto power. In essence this implied that I trusted them to decide on the family with the right values and I would decide on the girl who I would like to spend the rest of my life with - parting never even came to mind, back then. I liked Poonam, and my parents liked her family. We were thereafter engaged in 10 days and married after 8 months of courtship. So what do you call this marriage - arranged or love??

The Times of India article quotes a new type of marriage besides the two that I had heard of (love and arranged), and that is forced. I suppose forced implies marrying people against their wishes. Love marriage is when you fall in love, and then marry, with or without the involvement of the families. Arranged is when you marry without any knowledge about each other , with the parents deciding on the match. Would this change the quality of the marriage?? Would it change the significance of the marriage? Marriage is what you make of your relationship after the event. Nothing before the event can ever come close to the relationship that evolves after the event. Imagine two people from different backgrounds, values, upbringing, experiences etc. etc. coming together to live under one roof 24 hours x 365 days a year through thick and thin, hopefully 'till death do us part'. Living at such close quarters exposes one's ugly sides too. We all have them - part of being human. These could have been kept under wraps before marriage, as one always puts one's best foot forward when one is meeting someone for a few precious moments only. The article starts with 'Madonna may be divorcing her husband Guy Ritchie seven and a half years after marrying him for love'. Back to us.........

Poonam and I have been through a lot together in the last 30 years - years in which besides other things, we have been blessed with two of God's most precious gifts - our daughter and son. Years in which we brought them up to be good human beings and gave them values that we thought and felt were important. Our daughter is now married and has a family of her own - a caring husband our less than one month old grand daughter 'Meher'. Our son is 23 and living out his dreams of cars, guns and everything else that can tickle the senses at his age. We are happy and proud parents. We can say that our journey of 30 years of marriage has been very eventful, like all other marriages.

I have always believed that marriage was an institution that was created by our very wise ancestors to help God's creation survive the rigours of day to day living. Humans are the most evloved animals and differ from the other animals in the development of the brain. The human child is very fragile as compared to the other animals. It has needs beyond the needs of most animals, and these needs are more in the department of the brain than the physical needs, which normally get taken care of early in life. To ensure that there is balanced growth of the brain, the human child needs both parents - parents implying a man and a woman (the original definition of marriage - may change in the near future though). The only way to provide this facility to this child is through the sacred institution of marriage. Every marriage starts with I, me, mine, you, your, yours etc. Somewhere down the line the 'ours' creeps in silently. In case it does not happen earlier then this most definitely happens when the child comes along. The child is always 'ours' in a marriage and has the commitment of both parents. You can have everything that you have in marriage outside marriage too - including a child, but then the commitment will be found lacking.

In marriage thus the most important ingredient is commitment, as per me. It helps a couple ride the stormy seas of marriage, and also enjoy life's blissful moments with some one you are married.

I have always felt the next in line is duty, whereas Poonam believes it is love. My logic is that duty never changes and if one looks after one's karma, love is bound to follow - deep love, not the superficial variety. I believe love keeps changing like the moon - goes through the cycle of new moon and then full moon in 28 days. You never have a new moon, or even a full moon all the time. Duty never changes - you may not do your duty, but that does not change your duty. I have a hard time mouthing 'I love you'. My wife and kids complain 'why don't you say it' - sometimes it needs to be said' they tell me. I always felt that love is something to be felt, not said. Everyone expresses love differently - we are all different.

Many springs ago, a friend of mine got married. Six months later he came to me with a very confidential query. I was a one year married veteran at the time. He did not know how to broach the subject and I could guess what he wanted to ask. So, I answered without him asking me formally. My answer was 'Some days you feel on top of the world and the other days you are in the bottom of the pits' and he said 'Yes' excitedly, surprised at my mystical powers. I then gave him the wisdom of my one year of marriage and said to him 'Continue, you are doing well, but if you ever reach a plateau of indifference, then you need to worry'. I believe marriage is a roller coaster ride - the crests and troughs are part of it - they too have a role to play - a role to help the soul evolve - a role to make one larger than one self - a role to overcome one's ego - a role to commit, and learn how to honour commitment. Besides, what thrill is a roller coaster without the crests and troughs. Why does one ride a roller coaster anyway?

During this journey of over 30 years of our marriage, we have witnessed a lot - from very good to very bad - many things we would do differently if we were to re-marry with the wisdom that we hopefully have now. One thing that came to light during this journey is that in marriage you need each other most when the children are yet to make their presence felt and also when they leave you for greener pastures. The in between years are consumed in tending to the needs of your offsprings. Marriages they say, and I strongly believe, are made in heaven, but they have to be lived on earth - and the earth is no dull place with us humans around. So it goes without saying that marriages on earth will go through many excitements.

We have had a good marriage - we have had our fair share of 'made for each other' moments as also conflicts that seemed irreconcilable at those moments. We are happy to have lived up to the sacred trust that we swore before our Prime Witness. We are also happy to have been blessed to deliver two of His gifts to this planet. We are proud of our kids, and best of all - after thirty years we have come out much better as human beings and value each other's company as friends. Marriage is an institution that we believe is good for humanity.