My comment on R’s Mom’s post on whether marriage is an over rated institution has evoked strong responses from several young readers as I had expected. Several young women seem to think that marriage is an over rated concept and that a woman/man need not marry unless the need for matrimony is strongly felt. They are not wrong in saying so. We have several young men and women postponing marriage for the simple reason that they don’t want to marry unless they find the right partner. Some do not wish to compromise on their careers and even those who do not have a good job and earn a small amount by taking tuitions or marketing home made snacks are seen to postpone marriage saying that if they marry a man with a modest income and a large family of parents, unwed sisters and unemployed brothers to support, they would have to continue earning their pocket money as before and cater to the whims of in laws who would treat them more as a domestic help than a daughter in law. To add to their misery they would be expected to produce a child (read son) within a year after marriage with no means to give him/her good attention let alone education. I cannot say much against this line of thought and I do agree that this happens in several families even today and girls are better off leading their lives as singles rather than marry a man who cannot take care of their needs.

I agree that my comment was based purely on personal experience. 40 years back I did have teething troubles and finally I did win hearts. Today I enjoy a good rapport with my acquired family and I don’t differentiate between them and my own. This was possible only because there was a willingness from all concerned including myself to accommodate the others in the set up. I won’t go into the reasons since they have no meaning now but it was possible only because of certain compulsions that were acutely felt both by me and my husband’s family.

These compulsions seem to have disappeared from people’s lives and society has changed a lot since the time I came to Jamshedpur as a new bride. I hope I am not wrong in saying that a marriage works only if there is mutual respect in the relationship. However, I do admit to feeling a little scared at the attitude that society seems to be acquiring towards marriage. The present scenario of a monogamous relationship with one’s spouse took years to evolve. I would suggest that one fights for mutual respect and dignity within marriage rather than claim that it is not indispensible. I had written about my friend Prema in an earlier post. There were times when I too had felt that she was better off without marriage. Today she is handicapped and with no children to support her and it is the husband who takes care of her. She had a promising career but she had to opt for medical separation after her stroke and while her colleagues earn 5 digit salaries she is stuck with 75% of her last drawn salary which is just around Rs.4000/- per month. Her husband’s siblings allow her to stay in the house built by their father only because she takes care of a mentally retarded sister in law and no one else wants to share the burden. Twenty years back Prema had dreams of raising children and having a successful career. Today she has only her marriage to fall back on and she is quite happy about it. She has no resentment towards anyone including her brothers and sisters in law.

People talk of shifting to old age homes post retirement. Prema cannot even afford the cheapest of such homes. Her own brother and sisters are all older than her and welcome her only on occasional visits. They have their health problems and are themselves dependent on their children. Prema has no one to turn to except her husband and their marriage works on mutual respect alone. Today I feel at least for people like her, marriage is an important part of their existence and what befell Prema can happen to anybody.

A final word. Desigirl of GGTS had responded to my comment by saying that we humans are social animals and rules that apply to wild animals need not be applicable to us. Several wild animals and plants have been domesticated and the wheat that we consume is one such example as are the cattle we rear. Their wild ancestors have been traced and several back crosses are done in order to bring desired qualities in them – disease resistance being one of them. Marriage is a tried and tested institution and one should strive towards improving it rather than giving up at the first challenge one faces.