Recently, I was teaching Marge Piercy’s article “Why I Want a Wife”. It was a mixed classroom with boys sitting to my left in a row and girls to my right.
There came a point where everything seemed too drowsy. I did not even know what went wrong. Although I was explaining the author’s ideas on how women were ‘treated’ after marriage by their partners, something was missing from the class. I have always felt that acting on immediate spur during a particularly monotonous and routine process, could rejuvenate the situation. It is as if a stream of creative energy flows into my being and I share it with everyone else surrounding me.
At the spur of the moment, I decided to ask three questions.
1. What is marriage?
2. Which form of marriage do you prefer?
3. Which is the marriageable age in your opinion, for both boys and girls?
Two questions were answered immediately—the first and third one. I was surprised at the response to the second question: most of them were silent. This, I received from students, who normally would begin a conundrum of talking once the topic of love or marriage is brought up. As I was wondering what the reason for their silence was, one of the boys stood up. “Sir, how can we be sure, what we share in this discussion wouldn’t go outside of our class?” He asked.
This question stands as the naked proof for how complicated the question of marriage is, with all its ramifications and existential dilemma.
Indian culture still holds on to the Bollywood version of marriages, even in the twenty first century. Every positive ending of a man-woman romance (no homosexuality here please) should culminate in marriage, in order to be called successful and happy, with only one difference from Hollywood—permission from parents.
Every movie, ever since movies are made in India, has shown love as a central idea in their narratives. However, the love between a man and woman found its glory only when it is approved and accepted by the family of the bride and groom. Marriage has always been a matter of parents; other members of the family and bride and groom only appear as the superfluous outer cause for such a ceremony to take place. In other words, marriages essentially become the coming together of two families.
I have heard the same saying many times in my society, ‘love should happen after marriage’. A risk-fearing mentality is clearly on the forefront when such a statement is made. Romanticized and sensationalized love-failures are not lacking in the Indian popular culture—including a story transported through its myths, of Lord Krishna and Radha, whom Krishna abandons as he moves to a big city, leaving his village.
Bollywood has its share too. In the 1955 Bollywood movie Devdas, Paro and Devdas, childhood sweethearts, separate due to the blockade Devdas’ father creates between them to get married. Inevitably, the social set up demands them to get married if they wish to live together as husband and wife. This poses the problem of having no other way without the permission of Devdas’ father. The lovers in this movie never get together. This was Indian society in 1955. Marriages are accepted only if they are performed according to the tradition of their respective communities, which points straight at the influence of the family and community....(to be ctd.)
Anu Lal, Author, Lecturer in English, and blogger