Thoughts and other trivia...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Wedding belles!

A couple of months ago, I wrote a profile for a matrimonial website. No, it was not for myself and shame on anyone who thought otherwise. It was for a friend. To be fair to her, she never really asked me to write it. She’d told me that she had put up the profile but she also said that she wasn’t entirely happy with it. Thereafter, each time we discussed her profile and the responses she’d been getting, I got the feeling that she wanted to ask me to rewrite it but was feeling shy to say as much. So, I volunteered to do it for her and she agreed. So, that was that.

She’s had a pretty good response so far...at least, as far as numbers go. Frighteningly large numbers, actually. There has also been many an interesting ‘candidate’ but nothing’s been quite there yet, if you know what I mean. Actually, not just not quite there but nothing even close. Not by a long shot. As she says, then, there must be some truth to the lament that all the good men are either taken or gay. (What that says about un-taken and un-gay people like myself is something we’ll discuss...never!)

Having written the first couple of lines some time back, I had consigned this post to the backburner. Maybe I was waiting for inspiration to strike. But, the problem with inspiration is that she doesn’t come my way very often, if ever at all. Besides, I doubt she has my address. Which is perhaps why I have many half-written posts lying strewn around, all over the place. Anyway, what got this post going again was something that one blogger is currently facing and the questions another is expecting to be asked at an upcoming wedding. Of course, they’re both in completely different situations. While the former, Sonia, has put up this post about it and is feeling rather oppressed about the pressure she is facing, the latter can laugh about it. Then, there’s my other friend, with her profile on a matrimonial website, who’s putting unnecessary pressure on herself to get married.

What’s with all this marriage business anyway? Don’t get me wrong...I think it’s a good thing. But so is bungee jumping and, just as there will be people who’re squeamish about hurling themselves down from unnerving heights, one ankle tied to a tenuous rope, there are others who’re unconvinced about the idea of marriage. They’d rather go jump. So, why can’t we let them be? Then there are others who, as you’d expect from nervous first-timers, need time to gather all their courage before they take the plunge. Why must we rush them?

I’m convinced that this whole fuss around marriage owes itself to conditioning. Growing up, we watch everyone around us obsessing over marriages in our immediate and extended families and imbibe that we must be married by a certain age. We learn that marriage is as much a necessary milestone to be crossed as vaccination. We observe that those who remain unmarried, perhaps like a distant uncle and the neighbourhood spinster, often become the object of ridicule. Just as with our choice of career, then, the decision to get married is taken early in life. Because we find that everyone gets married! In fact, like a good job, marriage becomes one of our cherished goals in life, albeit at a more subliminal level.

Coming from me, this may seem odd because I’ve never been married but, really, I think a lot of us have lost track of what marriage really means. We seem to have forgotten that marriage is a matter of personal choice and not some obligation that we have to fulfill. One shouldn’t get married because one has to, or is expected to, but because one wants to. You have to first meet someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, hope to hell that s/he also wants to be with you, and then think about getting married. The arranged marriage concept, on the other hand, works on the reverse principle...you or your parents decide that it’s time for you to get married, after which the mighty search for a bride/groom begins. I have nothing against this concept and I’m not one to judge those who opt for it...as long as no one is forced into it. If it works for someone, why not? My oldest friend, in fact, has had an arranged marriage...well, sort of...and seems none the worse for it. But, unfortunately, not everyone is allowed a say in what has to be one of the most crucial decisions in life. It’s when people are forced into unwilling alliances that I cannot pretend I understand. In the name of culture and tradition, I’m afraid, we’ve allowed a lot of crap to clog our brains. As a result, hypocrisy and false pride have sent countless unfortunate souls into miserable marriages. And, I fail to understand how that is any better than remaining single.

And, while I’m still playing this Mr. Know-all, let me also add that, I think, there’re just as many problems with what we call love marriages, as there are with the arranged ones. Almost all of us desire companionship and most of us, if we can help it, wouldn’t want to be alone all our lives. For many, in fact, the thought of being alone is unbearable, if not downright scary. It’s an insidious desire this, to be with someone. It is so overwhelming, and often so bloody tempting, that it blinds us to reason and logic and, indeed, to the very requirements of a long-term association. We dispense with the essentials and, confusing the initial flush of enthusiasm for the real thing, jump headlong into matrimony. The consequences, unfortunately, are disastrous for everyone concerned.

This brings me back to my friend, for whom, I must confess, I worry sometimes. She’s quite good looking and clever, works in a senior position in a large organisation and earns an obscene amount of money, has travelled far and wide, often to places that many will have trouble locating on a map and, generally, has a lot going for her. However, when it comes to stuff like marriage, I’m amazed that she’s willing to make the kind of compromises she wouldn’t even dream of in her professional life. Besides, she won’t take any time off from work to relax, pursue an interest or socialise. She concedes that she isn’t allowing herself any opportunity to meet anyone but, as an excuse, will cite pressures of work and responsibilities as major stumbling blocks. While I can understand the need for companionship and the pain of loneliness, the attempt to fit someone into that need is beyond me. I keep telling her that it has to be the other way round and, incredibly, she agrees. Yet, she continues to make excuses for any ‘candidate’ who shows the slightest promise. Thankfully, she hasn’t done anything silly yet but for how long, I wonder.

Is this need so great that we’re willing to risk our entire lives to try and feed it? Okay, don’t answer that. Sure, the need is real and great but should we be willing to satisfy it at any cost? Is the huge risk that it entails worth it?

Why do parents force unwilling daughters into alliances that may be doomed from the start? The only plausible answer that I can muster up is their fear of being branded irresponsible. After all, an unmarried daughter means that, in the eyes of the world, they’ve failed to fulfill their primary responsibility as the parents of a girl. Oh, and then there’s that thing about the glorious Indian tradition! Never mind if the poor girl is crying herself hoarse, protesting and dead set against the marriage.

Anyway, I have only one more thing to say but, I’m afraid, I’ll have to borrow the wonderful words of the wonderful Leonard Cohen: Take the only tree that’s left and shove it up the hole in your culture!

30 Comments:

Anonymous chandni said...

great post GOTJ! My thoughts exactly...

I just dont understand this concept of doing it "because its time"...how bizarre is that?

Easier said than done, but i wish we were "allowed" that space...where we would marry , only for love, when we want to, if we want to....and not be judged for it!

2:15 pm  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

and what if i say i agree? :-)

4:02 pm  
Blogger km said...

Tut tut. If you go around quoting Cohen, you will *never* get married. You should start listening to Bryan Adams.

I got married because I *really* wanted to (and of course, because my girlfriend said "yes".) Was it at the right age? Maybe. Maybe not. How does one know that, except in retrospective? (It was.)

But there's no denying that societal conditioning is frickin' strong. Do you think Westerners are free from the grip of this fear of "when will I get married?" Hardly.

So maybe it's just human nature and the reason all of us come under the spell of this question is that we can later ask ourselves, "what the hell was I thinking?"

6:11 pm  
Blogger jhantu said...

"As she says, then, there must be some truth to the lament that all the good men are either taken or gay."

How wrong. The saying has been altered to fit the modern time these days. Now it goes:

"the good men are either gay or promiscuous and sleeping around", ala Jhantu

9:36 pm  
Blogger rob@blogoftheday.org said...

Great blog! I've added a link to your blog on Blog of the Day under the category of Relationship. To view the feature of your blog, please visit http://blogoftheday.org/page/111866

6:47 am  
Blogger Fingers said...

Wonderful Cohen does say it wonderfully!

12:44 pm  
Blogger Ash said...

Bravo....
I think marraige is shit. But that is just me :P
hope you have been good.... :)

5:07 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Chandni: Thanks. It's up to us to make that space...we can't wait to be "allowed", as you say.



TR: ...then, I'll have to say I'm gobsmacked :-)



KM: No, actually, I din't suggest that the marriage market :-) is any better in the West. But whatever presure single people feel there is, usually, self inflicted. Besides, isn't there a diference in the way matches are arranged there and how we do it here?

Finally, I do listen to Bryan Adams, fried, but if she don't listen to Leonard Cohen, I don't think there's any point ;-)


Jhantu: Hi there! You say: "the good men are either gay or promiscuous and sleeping around", ala Jhantu

Well, you could be promiscuous and sleeping around, a la Jhantu, and still be gay, no? ;-)

5:26 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

rob@blogoftheday.org : Why'd it take you so long to discover my blog? :-) Thanks.



Fingers: That's usually my response to many of life's problems :-)



Ash: Howdy? Where've you been? So, good to 'see' you again. :-) I've been fine, thanks.

5:29 pm  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Very nice post. And quite similar to what I had to say in some of my earlier posts (one on marriage and the other on having kids). I do not believe in the social pressure and responsibility issues and think it is terrible that people still have to succumb to it.
"What that says about un-taken and un-gay people like myself is something we’ll discuss...never!" Why not?

7:56 pm  
Blogger Szerelem said...

great post. I have been seeing it my extended family a bit and im afraid i just dont understand the social pressure of getting married by a certain age.

Blame it on my parents. They've never spoken about such things or condoned such actions. Oh, and they believe if i want to get married i should find someone and pay for the wedding myself. Parental responsibily eh?

8:34 pm  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

*begin soppy music*
if you don't know me by now...
*end soppy music*

9:10 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

M: You may not remember but, after reading one of those posts, I think the one about marriage, I did say that I've been planning to write one too.

"What that says about un-taken and un-gay people like myself is something we’ll discuss...never!" Why not?

Well, b'cos I have a feeling it may not be such a happy event for me :-)



Szerelem: Hi there! You're truly lucky then to have such parents, who don'tpush you. A lotof people, I know, wouldn't mind trading theirs for yours :-)



TR: It's all b'cos of that soppy music, man...my eyes misted over and I just couldn't see. Forgive me :-)

9:24 am  
Blogger Cocaine Jesus said...

for me arranged marriage is no better or worse than regular westen marriage. either way you can either fall in, or fall out, of love.
cool post ghostlytom.

3:54 pm  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Well I'm glad you did. This one was written so much better.
"Well, b'cos I have a feeling it may not be such a happy event for me :-)" Well if you're still smiling at the end of that statement it might not be that painful, right?

7:13 pm  
Blogger MockTurtle said...

I've actually always thought that an arranged marriage would be an interesting proposition. The excitement of having to suddenly share everything with a near-total stranger, going in to a relationship with no expectations and then taking everything positive as a plus instead of the inverse.
Not that I could have done it, even though I think that anyone can learn to love anyone else, but it is interesting.

7:18 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Cocaine Jesus: Like you, a few others also seem to think that I'm pitting the Indian arranged marriage against how it is done in the West. I'm not. My point is simple: just as you cannot decide to fall in love and then go about looking for the suitable candidate, you cannot decide to get married and then go out to look for the right bride or groom. In both cases, somebody has to make you feel that way.


M: More tha smiling at the end of it, actually. So, you're right...can't be that bad :-)


Mock Turtle: sure, arranged marriage is interesting...as long as it happens to someone else, right? :-)

I'm not sure I agree with your statement: "I think that anyone can learn to love anyone else, but it is interesting." Why don't you write about it and then we can have a nice juicy debate over it :-)

9:30 am  
Anonymous **SilvermOOn**GEL said...

Ah, very interesting.
Definitely agree that "marriage is not an obligation."
I emphatically do not believe in arranged marriages. Even today in certain sects of my ethnic background, it is practiced.
Marriage is a lifetime committment of two independent souls who need to compromise and grow together and alone. Love is not enough to accomplish this and forced love is not the way, IMHO. (I don't mean to offend anyone who feels this works for them; that is great. I just have a very difficult time in believing that is more than a friendship unless one is lucky and chemistry occurs!)

There's much more to your post I dont' have time to absorb right now, so I"ll return to re-read it.
So nice of you to write her profile! :)

11:03 am  
Blogger Szerelem said...

yep am lucky that my parents are great. I think that parents need to give their children a certain amount of independence. Am definitely lucky in that sense. I dont live with my parents and they always tell me that trying to control me or the way i live when i am so far away would be not only futile, but also stupid.

Marriage per se is so far off my agenda that i probably shouldn't even be commenting but i think its slightly unfair to completely write off arranged marriages(As you said its interesting if it isn't you). I think theres nothing wrong in getting twop people to meet and i wouldn't look down on anyone who agrees to the arranged marriage route. Whats wrong is forcing marriage on someone when that might not be what they are looking for. By the by, arranging dates and set ups are so common in the west that i find it quite often hypocritical when they ridicule the arranged marriage system.

12:48 pm  
Blogger Prerona said...

lol - just read the first few lines and just had to give my 2 cents of poor humour ... will read rest and comment next!

"shame on anyone who thought otherwise. It was for a friend" ... why the shame ya - these things have become facts of life today - way things r with us the way life is going! u can write mine next :P

ur friend is right. there are no men out there who are straight, 30 and above, not taken AND take-worthy ... is the conclusion i have come to. and the ones that might be are not on bengali matrimonial dot com!

and abt inspiration, well i come to ur blog almost everyday!!! never struck anyone yet though.

1:24 pm  
Blogger Prerona said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:42 pm  
Blogger the-think said...

Ah, the endless discussions society has had about this...but the fact remains that everyone's still getting married...some way or the other
:)

2:45 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

SilverMoon**Gel: I'll only go so far as to say that I don't agree with the concept of arraged marriage...but that's b'cos of who I am. I have my reasons. Similarly, there are a lot of people who think it is perfectly alright, which is fine with me. My major contention is with this whole pressurising business, when the parents and relatives and, believe me, entire neighbourhoods start getting on your case to get married :-)


Szerelem: I didn't mean to put down the concept of arranged marriages and, as far as I can tell, I haven't done so. Like I said above, looking at it from my point of view, it's not something that will ever work for me. But, again as I said above, that's not even the point. The point is how everybody in the "marriageable age" is under pressure to get married these days. Some are being pressured by their parents and relatives while some, like my friend, are doing it to themselves.

To repeat myself, your parents seem like really smart people :-)



Prerona: That "shame" bit was meant as much as a joke as it was a comment on the way how anyone in the "marriageable age group" is quickly pounced upon :-)

Thanks so much for adding to my confidence that since I'm neither taken nor gay, there is no hope for me :-)

The trick, then, must be to go to the general matrimonial section and not look at only Bengali men, no?



The-Think: Yeah, given your situation, it's easy for you to be so nonchalant about it and say this :-)

8:52 pm  
Blogger Szerelem said...

you havent put down the concept of arranged marriages. I kind of wrote that re SilverMoon**Gel's comment.
I think people in every society are under pressure to not be single. I'm under constant pressure to find a boyfriend - its terribly pissing off.And people do put themselves under pressure to meet someone. How else do you explain the gazzilion avenues to help people meet?
I think in India its just more acceptable to get married (or even if you are seeing someone marriage is always seen as the logical endpoint), so the pressure is on that.

3:05 am  
Blogger Shivangi said...

I am glad my friend that you brought up the comparison! "I think it’s a good thing. But so is bungee jumping..." Yes there will always be people who will think they should get married albeit for ALL the wrong reasons... I think marriage in itself is probably the most vague concept ever... And some of my friends claim "You just know when and with whom you want to spend the rest of your life with." Really? You can really REALLY know? For an entire lifetime? Beats me how...

5:16 pm  
Blogger Sonia said...

i've written wayyyyy too many posts about marriage, and it's not possible to put all that down in one comment. parents seem so blind to everything, all they want is for their kids to be married before the neighbours start gossiping.

5:40 pm  
Blogger Ash said...

I had gone away for some time. :P
I will restart blogging again, soon and will let you know my new address too. :)

6:33 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Szerelem: I think it's a rare person who wishes to be alone. Whether it is by marriage or otherwise, most of us would like to be with someone but it's when people start expecting you to be with someone that the problem begins. Maybe they can't bear to see that, unlike them, the unattached people are free and happy ;-)


Shivangi: I don't think I have a problem with the concept of marriage. But, just as you've said, I think a majority of marriages happen for the wrong reason. And, as far as your friends' claims are concerned, I don't think they're wrong either. When they say that you "just know when and with whom you want to spend the rest of your life with", perhaps what they mean is that, at that point in time, the person they've met is just the right partner. That things can and do change between them is another story.


Sonia: That's what I said too. What parents need to understand is that when their children become adults, they should allow them to take their own decisions. It just amazes me that, in the face of stiff resistace they face from their protesting daughters, parents still insist on getting her married to a man they think is right for her. Nothing can be more unjust or more ridicuous. If they're s kicked about the alliance, maybe they should go and marry that man!


Ash: Okay, good...b'cos I checked and there was no blog! Let me know!!

6:45 pm  
Blogger Prerona said...

yupi got and and even i meant my reply in a joking manner. problem with the words on paper is u dont get the expressions and intonations and there's so much lost in translation just waiting to cause confusion :)

about the next bit well i am fast reaching the conclusion that there is no hope for all of us ... we r the doomed lot!!! (just kidding)

bengalimatrimonialdotcom was just the first name that came to my head - did not mean to imply ...

ok i am now tired of defending myself. still to ill to be up so long at my desk. catch ya later. peace

ps - guess that means u wont be writing my little essay? (joke)

1:30 am  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Prerona: Got it :-) And, I completely agree about the loss in translation too.

Going by the success rate, which is 100%, I'm thinking I should start writing profiles on a profesional basis :-) But, since you asked before that decision was made...will do it pro bono for you :-)

10:57 am  

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