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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Being Single in India: Why so much fuss and prejudice?

I read this thought provoking post by Suruchi Sharma and she packs in some salient points for ‘single women’ in India such as the typical question “What are your marriage plans?”
Single in India: The dreaded "What are your marriage plans" question
Marriage isn't something to rush into. It is more important than any other decision in your entire life. Sadly, few people think about why they want to marry X, Y or Z. 

That reminds me of an incident that took place in front of me. A well-spoken, highly educated young lawyer friend was booking a three bedroom flat. He was trying to convince the builder that he will pay the entire money (in lakhs) in less than a year. The builder wasn't convinced that a lawyer who had just started his career could do that. Exasperated, the lawyer said, "Of course I will. The day I get married, you can consider that the payment will be complete." The builder was impressed and convinced. The rest is history. 

Marriages in India: Problems that arise and why

Marriage is fast becoming a transaction and I am not saying this in general. I have seen divorces turn into ugly legal battles that too among close friends. I am seeing it all around me. But why is this happening? 

One reason is that we aren't honest with ourselves about our priorities in life and why we want to get married in the first place. We don't give ourselves the opportunity to reflect on what we want to accomplish in a marriage - not everyone marries for love, let's be clear about how it is in the Indian society. Love is placed at the bottom of the marriage ranking order.

Here’s what many girls have told me when I have asked them:
1.     When parents decide [10/10 – the ideal, suffering child – can anyone find fault here? Nope!]
2.     When a good match comes up [6/10 – not sure if this is about an individual or owning a fireworks company]
3.    When horoscopes match [6/10 – if you believe in the science of planets than your gut feel combined with some common sense, you need to rethink]
Lets come back to Suruchi Sharma's argument that the Indian society pressurizes girls to accept arranged marriage as a woman’s ultimate destiny. Once the girl’s family makes the decision to find a ‘respectable, nice family partner,’ she is pressurized from then to somehow fit in and learn to be a ‘good daughter-in-law.’ Whether it is an arranged or love marriage, the next dilemma is about living up to the expectations of the new family. Read Chetan Bhagat's 2 States if you aren't convinced. Good luck, folks!

Okay, lets cut the sarcasm and get to the point, shall we?
What about a girl as an individual? What about her aspirations, her goals, her happiness? I doubt if she has a say in any of this. But see the brighter side: she gets to choose her gold jewellery and wedding trousseau. Isn't that terrific? Depends on how you look at it. Personally, nothing would horrify me more than the fact that all I need to focus on is the jewellery and not have a say in whom I marry or choose not to marry.
The Big, Fat Indian Marriage: Why so much fuss?
In many well-to-do, ‘educated’ Indian families, hell breaks loose by the time a girl is eighteen years old, particularly so in ‘educated, literate, civilized Kerala. Parents begin to run helter skelter as though the girl has crossed thirty instead of eighteen.
Why so much fuss over a girl’s marriage? 
There are hundreds of ‘excuses’ that Indian parents will have for their ‘marriage’ obsession.  Here are some commonly cited reasons:
1.     The matching of horoscopes can take months and somewhat years. Result? The family astrologer has more say in when a girl should marry than the girl herself.
2.     The older a girl, the more difficult it is to find a suitable marriage partner in India.
3.     Adjustment problems tend to crop up when a girl is older. She becomes more vocal and set in her ways.
4.     Fertility and biological cycle – this one grand excuse is enough to set the alarm bells ringing for the parents of a girl.
5.     The earlier a girl is sent to her in-laws home, the better for the parents so that they no longer have to worry financially about the rising marriage expenses, not to mention gifts to be given, the dowry and the gold……well, aren’t you already feeling jittery whether or not you are a parent?
6.  The worst and most obvious reason is this – a single girl sends out an unspoken message to the society that allows everyone including the domestic help to wonder aloud about her ‘viriginity,’ ‘respectablity’ and decide whether she is of ‘loose morals.’
Being Single in India: Why is it so tough to take that decision?
In the midst all the confusion, a question remains – why do girls cave in to parental pressure when they are totally unsure? What fears do they have that they don’t have the confidence to stand up and say ‘No’ to the parents? 
Wait. I am not saying marrying a stranger is a bad thing or a social crime. It has worked well for generations in India. It worked well for my grandparents and parents but does that guarantee it will work for me? Is it like a constitutional law that cannot be easily amended? In India, I am afraid it is somewhat the case. 
Again, the question is - what exactly are we propagating? A family system that has no democracy in it - because you don't have  a say in your own life's most important occasion/event/drama?
At the end of your life, you alone will experience the reality of the decisions taken. You alone will be responsible for the way everything has been mapped out – not the family, not the astrologer or  the marriage broker.
It’s your life. The question is – Do you want to let others screw up your happiness? Are you ready to take some responsibility for your life instead of being spoon-fed?
Tough to decide if you haven't soul-searched before. It's a good time to start thinking and asking yourself: "Do I want to marry or stay single? Whatever I feel right now, what is the real reason in shaping my decision? Ami trying to please others or do I feel this way is the right one for me from my gut?" 
To stay single or not is a very personal decision, one that is related to your sense of happiness in life or at least leading towards it. So, how do you view a decision like that particularly if it is from some one from your family or some one you are close to?

6 comments:

Vinaya Naidu said...

I'm sure if given a choice, every girl would love to live an independent life with control over her choices, her finances, her dreams and goals in life.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Good to read your thoughts, Vinaya.

Sharing my experience here: A majority of the girls I have interacted with - be it from professional life or from within the family - do not believe they have an independent choice. The attitude is conditioned by years and years of parental counselling like this 'Marriage is your destiny, your husband's home is your home' mentality. Not bad provided, they are given a choice to question it in the first place.

Marriage counselling is essential in Indian society. Churches and educational institutions that are conducted by churches do a very thorough job of presenting it but within the structure of their beliefs. An expanded version with a more liberal interpretation should be implemented in secondary/high school level.

I truly feel that the first subject we need to teach in Indian schools after ninth or tenth class is the topic of marriage because that's where a lot of social restructuring has to take off and yes, it is currently taking place in a very small way though there's far far to go before we can begin to call ourselves 'culturally progressive'. And just to clear the air, I am not a feminist. I am just a writer:)

Anonymous said...

Staying single or not is a very personal decision. But what is the reason for staying single? It is because of over expectation. If you want to live in this world with happiness, then you have to adjust with others. Otherwise there is no option than staying single.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

@Anonymous: I understand your view but I see marriage as a person's personal decision, like clothes that one wears, the religion one chooses to profess/practice or not practice.

Regarding your question, what is the reason for staying single?

Different people could have different reasons based on their personal goals and experiences in life. It would be a sweeping statement to say that one's decision to stay single is due to over expectation.

Some of the world's greatest and most respected spiritual masters stayed single - can we say it is due to over expectation? Not at all. So, it differs on a case to case basis.

I also believe that to live in this world, it is self-realization that leads the way to both internal and external harmony with the world within and around us.

jk said...

NGDCs .. The fun of about to / wanting to get married and then prolonging that is probably a Ganesha Tech thread from a male point of view .. seems somewhat okay to me .. Recently in a talk show with former minister Sri. Ganesh Kumar, Sangeetha Mohan (who seemed somewhat happy with her status..) was trying to bring in some "priority" Concept Thoughts into it .. With a Nigudha Samkhyam Astrological Promotion Angle I may say 7th house (or even 12th house) strengths are something to assess in a generic way while deciding on marriage and there could be other complicated methods too by changing 7th house to some other favourable "Bhava" perhaps as a "Parihara" in getting married .. Even in India too probably there seems a slow arousal of some guiding thoughts that Marriages are more to be considered a more intimate friendship act .. but then when the strength of Marriage as an Institution gets weakened Children might the ones who might suffer more in the longer runs .. http://www.athmavidya.blogspot.in/

Jitendra said...

Jitendra - Great article.

Anonymous - i am unsure what you meant by 'over expecting'. Is it wrong to expect more, either from your potential spouse or from life in general. Also, what correlation 'adjusting' has with happiness?

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