Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Is marriage a necessary evil?

I have a question that bothers me since there seems to be no correct answer. Long back, when my daughter was not yet 10 years old, a family friend approached me for details regarding a colleague of mine who was being considered a suitable match for their daughter. The man in question had joined as lab attendant and improved his qualification to become a lab assistant. He was working on his Master’s degree having taken admission in a local college. He had obtained a distinction in Physics Honors in his undergrad course and had a very good practical hand. (He still works with us and gladly fixes electrical and electronic items for us when required). I could foresee a bright future for him and had no hesitation in suggesting that they could go ahead and start negotiating with his family in Andhra Pradesh. I had no knowledge about his family’s financial status but guessed that they may not have been very well off since he had started working soon after completing his 11th standard and a bright student like him who could not continue to study was probably from a needy background. However, I kept my thoughts to myself on a matter that did not concern me.

A few days later I was asked by their daughter who studied in our college to drop by their house when possible since her mother wished to consult me on an important matter. I readily agreed to visit them after college on the very same day. When I reached their place I found the family in a dilemma. Their older daughter for whom my colleague was being considered was upset that her parents should even think of getting her married to a person of questionable financial status. It did not matter that the man had a chance of coming up in life. It was his current status that mattered. She would not settle for anyone that did not have a white collar job and whose father was equal in status to her own father. Her parents on the other hand felt that there was no harm in carrying the matter forward if the boy in question was hard working and responsible.

I tried to reason that since she had a government job herself, they could manage to lead a pretty decent life on their combined salaries. The girl was adamant.

“Would you say this for your own daughter?” she asked.

My daughter was around 8 years old and I had not thought of her marriage prospects at all. She was in grade III and I was not sure where this conversation was leading. But I had the sense to understand that the matter ought to be handled by the family and it was better to leave it to them. Finally the girl’s parents gave in and the matter was dropped. The girl however did not marry at all. She probably rejected all proposals considered by her parents. Her younger sister got married as did her brothers. She never forgave me for even suggesting that she marry my colleague and would refuse to acknowledge my presence when we met while traveling to work or in the market place. She probably did not know how or where to vent her anger and I let her be since I was not affected by her behavior in a big way. She now leads an independent life in Hyderabad while her parents stay with her married brother shuttling between Hyderabad and Jamshedpur. Marriage was not a priority to her and she chose to remain unmarried rather than enter into a matrimony that did not appeal to her. I too had to admit albeit a little grudgingly that this was perhaps a wise step that she took. Thirty years ago this was a bold step too.

Years later I narrated the incident to my daughter who was in college. Her reaction set me thinking.

“What was wrong with her question mummy? Why did it upset you? Tell me honestly if you would have considered the match for me? Would you not prefer to get me married to a man of sound financial background than a person with commitments to his family however promising his career?”

It was a tricky question and I had to admit that she had a point.

When I see my colleague today I feel that he hasn’t fared badly at all. His wife is an excellent home maker and their son has completed an engineering course and will be taking up a job soon. He is used to taking up responsibilities and gladly attends to matters involving his wife’s family. I wonder if his life would have been as smooth sailing and happy if he had married Rajalakshmi (as the girl mentioned earlier was called). The basic question as to whether I would have got my daughters married to promising young men on the basis of their qualification alone still remains unanswered. To be frank I did not have a very great role in the marriage negotiations of my daughters. It just happened the way it did. Had I been at the receiving end of marriage negotiations dealing with hard to please parents of eligible boys I too might have compromised. But would my daughters have done the same or would they have objected? The girls are well settled and their husbands earn well. It is easy for me to preach that marriage is a gamble and the gamble is played out in heaven.

Finally I think that life is a balance sheet. Credit and debit accounts are maintained. Looking back I realize that my mother did not think beyond a hard working husband for me and life hasn’t been bad at all. Among those that got married with me some started off well, some took time to take off but now most of us are at the same level. So life is not what one gets – it is more about how one wishes to deal with it. And it varies from person to person. Marriage is just part of life – not life itself.


Renu said...

I have this one big complaint with todays girls that on one side they say that they are equal to boys, but on the other they want to marry a boy who is..
superior to them in education or atleast equal, not less,
earning better than them, not less,
preferable from a good family( its a different matter that they want that family to vanish after marriage),
They can live on husband's earnings..its their right but wouldnt like their husband to live off them, asd they wont respect such husbands,
They want to support their parents but wouldnt let their husband do the same to his...

I want to ask them..a man brings into marriage.. security, food and clothes,house in a marriage ..what are the woman contributing? as they dont want to cook or keep the house.

Aathira Nair said...

My take on this is that... if the girl has to go and live in the boy's house after marriage, then the least she would be entitled to is that she be sent to a similar household as she is used to. ( in the case of an arranged marriage)

But if the couple is to live separately... then the boy, his aspirations and all should be the most important factor and not the family.

My reason is that if you have to deal with someone on a daily basis that needs to be given sufficient importance... else can be weighted down.

Would love to hear other views...

Tassu said...

Hmmm yes ma'am you have said that right - marriage is part of life not life itself. I wonder what life is for people like Rajalaxhmi who are leading a singleton life? One should compromise a lil , I feel. I'm happy I have got a loving husband:)

Tassu said...

I agree with Aathira fully:)

Anonymous said...

Marriage is a gamble. Things may turn to be all right for some. Fate may be cruel to some.

To marry or not and whom to marry is a matter of choice. If Rajalakshmi wanted to marry a person of a certain financial position, nothing is wrong with that. It is her life and she knows what she wants for her life.
There is nothing to pity in the life of single people. For all we know, they could be having a satisfied life.

Hip Grandma said...

Renu:the girl in question is perhaps nearing 50 and can hardly be called today's girl. Times are changing fast and the rule that applied 10 years back are outdated now.
Regarding girls not letting their husbands attend to his duties as son and brother, such girls always existed even when they were confined to the kitchen and hardly got to interact with their husbands. The few minutes they got to be alone with their husbands were enough to set him against his family and the man too gladly obliged. So why blame the girl alone?

A look around tells me a different tale. Some girls are not equipped to take up responsibilities be it at home or outside it. Parents ought to identify this and see to it that they are not burdened with an arrangement that they cannot tackle to avoid dissent and confrontation in the marriage.

Aathira:In the example cited, the girl would have made her home in Jamshedpur with occasional visits to Andhra Pradesh. However, he had sisters to get married and she may not have felt up to it. She was however honest about her feelings and I appreciate her for it.

Tassu:Whether single or attached compromises have to be made in life. Marriage means more compromises that's all. It is for an individual to decide on the degree of adjustment one is willing to make.

The Brown Vagabond: Fate, destiny etc are the usual explanations for a failed marriage. No one calls a successful marriage a gamble do they?

Having said that, I do agree that until two individuals live together 24X7 it is impossible to understand the compromise involved. This is the chance one has to take in marriage, whether arranged by parents or the couple in question.

On a lighter note, I watched with amusement, a young girl asking her newly married husband to buy her an expensive sari for Holi. The young man wanted to get her a less expensive sari and buy clothes for his mother and sister as well. The girl said that since it was her first Holi after marriage she had to flaunt an expensive sari otherwise her family would think ill of him. She was young and immature and the husband was at wit's end. I realized that this is exactly how a marriage grows and laughed it off. I wonder if I'd have done the same if my own daughter/DIL was involved? May be or may be not.

Ape said...

marriage is not necessary. When 2 people feel that they should spent their whole life together thsy should marry, else its not needed.

Santosh Kumar said...

If we believe in healthy and cultured Life, if we believe in Nature, if we wish to bear responsibility.. If we believe in civilization.. If Yes.

Marriage is a necessary evil.

Good post having lots of scope for open discussion.

Smita said...


I think nowdays, the girls are brought up to be independent, and if they think that the prospective husband's financial condition should be good... I dont think thats wrong... atleast the girl is taking interest so that the things dont go bad later...

I was married about 6.5 yrs back... I did not know my would-be's salary before I said yes, but I had seen his parent's house, so had a fair idea about the financial condition... I knew that my parents checked out the edu qualifications and salay before they asked the guy to come over to meet me... so I was ok in not knowing the salary... but I had told my parents, the family should be equal to us in financial status, not too rich also, because I would then have problems in adjusting... I was not in love, it was a proper arranged marraige... so why be specific in things you are not ready to compromise... even if marraige is just part of the life... its the most important part... the part that is going to define how you lead your life eventually

Hip Grandma said...

ape:true,if the commitment is not there compulsion will not work. at least not in the present times.

Santosh Kumar:Welcome here. Society does endorse the matrimonial arrangement and expects a compromise formula to sustain it. However, compromise has different definitions for different age groups. What I call adjustment is called subjugation by my children and god knows what my grandchildren will call it. Having said that I too believe that marriage is a necessary evil. You can refer to my earlier post on 'defending arranged marriage' written in Feb. 2008 and enjoy the inputs from readers.

smita:There is nothing wrong in insisting that one's spouse should be from a similar background and financial status. However, there are people who took a chance and married a person purely on the hope that he would eventually do well in life. It is an individual's choice and all about the risk one is willing to take and how much challenge is involved. There are also examples of people who started well and it all came crashing down for some reason and they've had to start all over again. One should not lose focus after taking a decision.

In the case mentioned, the girl did not marry at all because none of the proposals suited her. That I felt was unfortunate. In marriage or even otherwise one cannot get a perfect husband/wife/neighbor/ boss/friend. There ought to be some flexibility i feel.

hillgrandmom said...

HHG, the last point you have made 'There ought to be some flexibility i feel.' Well, that may have been the whole issue, a person who is not very flexible and hence much better that such a person remained single, because marriage absolutely demands flexibility for the marriage and the individuals in it, to survive.
By the way, I do no think marriage is essential. It very much depends on the individual.

Hip Grandma said...

hillg'mom:I think you didn't get my point regarding flexibility. I meant that all relationships flourish if they are flexible. But marriage is the only one in which people object to it. The very same girl was right in choosing to remain single if her attitude was rigid and uncompromising. But would she not be compromising in her terms with others in her life?

Having said that I do agree that a marriage requires 24X7 interaction and adjustment is not easy even for those that are flexible by nature and out of choice/compulsion.

Marriage however inculcates a certain degree of responsibility and commitment and that is why I feel that it is a necessary evil.

Anonymous said...

@age: "marriage is not necessary. When 2 people feel that they should spent their whole life together thsy should marry, else its not needed."

i agree. in fact, even when 2 people feel that they should spend their whole life together, marriage is not necessary!

i am not being facetious, and usa being a few years ahead of india in such matters, i think india will catch up to this sooner or later ...

- s.b.

Anonymous said...

I'm a great admirer of your blog. This post has kept me thinking. From my experience, I felt how sensible this women was who could decide for herself so independently almost 30 years ago when world was entirely different from today's. I am a working independent girl from a lower middle class family in India. Raised by a single father all throughout my life as my mother passed away when I was very little. All my father taught me in my life is the importance of education. With years of undivided concentration and hard work, I managed to get an international scholarship and came abroad for higher studies. I stayed here all alone and strugled for every little thing in life and finally got a managerial position. Anyway, as I was always a family oriented girl, I believed strongly in family life and marriage institution. I tried settling my own marriage through matrimonial website as by the time i reached marriageable age my father run out of steam in life. I felt fortunate to meet this guy who appeared to be smart, knowledgeable, sensitive, committed and perfect for western world. With everyones' consent we tied the knot after knowing each other for 8-9 months. After marriage I struggled to get his visa as he was in India. All my hardwork and personal life stories were not hidden from him. He joined me after 8 months of marriage as I had to leave India just after 3 days of our marriage because I had job commitment and my i didn't want to loose my only source of income. At that point of my point all I could think was work harder and harder towards settling down my family life. To join me here, my husband resigned his job in an multinatinal firm in India. Now it has been 3 years since we are staying together. After all the emotional, financial and physical support all I got in this marriage is jobless husband who is completely dependent on me. The reason for not getting job is that he is off the pastures new for last 3 years and super-duper recession. Only thing comes in my mind is- when I decided to marry him I saw a strong potential in him of doing well in life. Someone who would win the world with my love and support as he is full of qualities and knowledge which is hard to find otherwise. But time has proved me wrong, I wish I had considered what he was doing at that point of time rather thinking he would be a lovely responsible man in his future. Now I feel how wrong and immature I was in making all those decisions. Till date I don't feel married as I never experienced a husband. If I show him my pain and sadness, all i get in return is rejection and isolation by him. I'm still with him and would continue to support... I don't know why? It's so true, there are so many questions in life which can't be answered. We are the better judge of our lives and no one else can understand. So I would not judge the main character of your blog for rejecting many alliances as she was adamant or didn't find them any guy good enough for her. Probably she was strong and knew what she wanted from life. Marriage, rituals, social practices are set by human and who knows what is wrong and right!
Marriage is like any other relationship in life and it is just a part of life, not life itself. Probably this thought keeps me going as there is so much more than my marriage to cherish in my present life and there are bits that i enjoy to the fullest- afterall it's a package deal.

Hip Grandma said...

s.b.:I agree that if people agree to spend their lives together marriage is not necessary. However, marriage does translate into a mutually agreeable relationship over time if the will to make it work is there. So one need not look for perfect and ultra compatible equation within marriage because none of us are perfect. In my opinion an individual's nature, preferences and priorities, societal expectations and long term benefits of the arrangement all play a role in making it work. Most marriages survive due to the combined effort of both partners. If the effort is one sided there may be other compulsions that help it to pull along.

anon:Your story has left me wondering about the selfish levels that human can get to. It is however not an unusual one. It suits your husband to be your dependent. But does it suit you? i think you should make him see reason and make your expectations from this marriage very clear. Recession has hit people hard and this could be a major reason. But a caring responsible husband can make himself useful even when he is jobless. And if he is trying hard enough he would succeed in finding a job sooner or later. This is something only you can identify.

Cocktail Party said...

I agree with you on marriage is part of life and not life in itself.

My parents are looking for prospects for me, they were initially looking for a guy from sound financial background, but i never liked any of the proposals that came across. Whereas i would not mind marrying a person who is hard working and aims to make it big in life, as i am a working professional. I told the same to my parents...though it took them some time, now they have changed their approach.

What the girl in question did was valid from her point of view and she knew what she wanted in life. It could be that she preferred remaining single than getting into a marriage forcibly.

Very often I have heard people use the word "frustrated" espl when they talk abt single women, i find it so derogatory, each of us should have a choice whether to marry or not.