For whom the bell peals

(Published in the July 2014 issue of Shubh Yatra magazine, retrieved from​)

It’s rather awkward when one is deemed an expert on a subject one has no practical experience of. Since Hitched was released, I’ve been accosted by journalists, young men and women, uncles and aunties, who expect a verdict on arranged marriage – is it more durable than ‘love marriage’? Why are more people getting divorced nowadays? Is social networking making people act out their marriages for the public? Why do people marry ‘late’? I’ve been accused on behalf of my generation of being too fussy about a partner. I’ve been told the problem is that modern women don’t ‘adjust’.

The fact is, neither arranged marriage nor love marriage makes ‘more sense’. I belong to a generation in which almost everyone has dated, even been in long-term relationships, earlier than their parents have; but most of us have stayed unmarried for longer than they did. I can think of several reasons for this, but perhaps the most important is that we have witnessed too many unhappy marriages to rush into partnerships that seem superficially promising. For the previous generation, marriage was about uniting gene pools. For the one before – our grandparents’ – it was about securing a financial future for women, and perhaps breaking the world’s population record. Our generation tends to think marriage is about people, not progeny and DNA.

Why is it that writers so often find love with their editors or readers, actors with their producers, colleagues or fans, teachers with students, and journalists with each other? I suppose we all look for patronage (well, and flattery). That’s a tricky ask in any marriage, love or arranged. For some people, the way out of a bad marriage is divorce. For others, it’s having children, under the illusion that if you whistle long enough and loud enough, you can drown out your problems. Maybe the impracticality of the latter option has hit us, and that’s why there are more divorces today than a few decades ago.

Often, parents believe it is their duty to step in when their children seem not to know what they want. That’s a terrible idea. A confused person is easy to brainwash, but when s/he comes to his or her senses, s/he will almost certainly harbour resentment against the washer of his or her brains. It’s equally dangerous to foster the idea that someone should get married to make the ‘elders’ happy. Our temperaments and socioeconomic milieu don’t allow us to make the ‘sacrifices’ the previous generation had the luxury of making. And science allows us to take our time to reproduce – worst case, it can be outsourced to a surrogate.

Sometimes, people want to get done with their list of parental duties so that they can time their retirement and budget their pilgrimages. ‘Get child married’ needs to be crossed off that list. What parents often don’t realise is that it has no place on that bucket list. Like Khalil Gibran said (and every parent should read the entire poem): Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

Your marriage is about you, not your family. And it’s fine to hold a prejudice, as long as you’re honest about it. To me, the idea of an arranged marriage always seemed like a compromise, even during extended periods of single-dom. That may not be the general case; but it was the case for me. The events in my personal life since then have proven me right.

So, the only advice I have to give people who are in two minds about getting married is: Never underestimate your instinct. Once that’s taken care of, if you decide to get married, don’t let anyone bully you into a wedding you don’t want, just as you didn’t let them bully you into a marriage you didn’t want. Marry someone you trust, because the easiest way to weaken a relationship is to check up on your partner. If your marriage isn’t working, don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake. And, to draw a parallel with the airlines’ emergency instructions, get to know yourself before you venture to get to know anyone else.

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