As a young man, I was participating in a national level group discussion competition that was organised by the magazine, ‘Competition Success Review’. The topic was ‘Marriages – Arranged or Love’. The quiz master Derek O’Brien was the judge. I emerged the winner.
Out of curiosity, I, later, asked the judge on what appealed to him in my presentation. His answer was simple-Every contestant had either supported arranged or love marriages whereas I had underscored the importance of love in marriage, irrespective of whether it was an arranged or love marriage.
There is no denying that the wonderful institution of marriage continues to endure because it is strengthened by eternal love. The bond stemming out of mutual respect for one another gets further consolidated because of the equally enchanting institution called family that also owes its uniqueness to unbridled togetherness.
This is in spite of the sacred institution getting diluted in the name of modernity. Family is a precious resource that brings stability and tranquility not just to our individual life, but even to the society by and large. Innumerable factors wreck the institution of marriage. Customs and traditions reinforce the asymmetry of relationship between man and woman. Sadly, marriages often perpetrate this historical asymmetry.
Marital discord develops the moment the woman starts questioning this asymmetry of relationship, either consciously or unconsciously. This is precisely the reason that marriages often become oppressive instruments for women. But this pathetic experience need not illegitimate the very institution called marriage.
We have to rediscover the treasure in marriage. There are two kinds of individuals among men. Both may at times exploit this asymmetry. But, men who find sanctity in patriarchy and the men who repudiate patriarchal value system at times become victims to that cherished value system.
One fine morning, I was busy getting ready for a meeting. I asked my wife to get me something. Even without giving her a moment, I yelled at her for the delay. Guess what! I was going to a meeting to speak on ‘empowerment of women’. But it took no time for me to realise the hypocrisy in me. I did not hesitate to apologise to my wife.
The wonderful lady appreciated the simple fact that I did not believe in the asymmetry even though I enjoy the fruits of such an asymmetry of relationship. The sanctity of marriage can be preserved if men are little self-critical and accept the fact that patriarchy needs to be rejected. Women would be magnanimous. It is ditto with men, too.
Pre-eminent poet-novelist Oliver Goldsmith has best summed up the husband-wife togetherness: All that a husband or wife really wants is to be pitied a little, praised a little, and appreciated a little. Serious problems in marital relationship often begin with petty issues. Newly married couples and those on the verge of tying the knot should give up the unrealistic assumptions on married life.
Differences are bound to exist when two individuals live together. Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the distinguished religious and social reformer, who founded Arya Samaj, described the essence of such a spirit of togetherness when he said, “To fuse your ego; and for that you require another person.
You have to work with another person towards this emotional growth because when there is another person, one ego rubs that of the other. If the rub is too rough, it is not good; if there is no roughness at all, it is not good either. This is the nature of marriage. There will be some roughness, but you will have to work with it all the same because of your commitment”.
Such a realisation would bring in the much needed spirit of accommodation. Marriage is neither heaven nor hell; it is simply purgatory, observed Abraham Lincoln.
Some couples are fortunate to enjoy similar likes, tastes and attitudes. One cannot expect to identify this coincidence in every arranged marriage. The fantasy of love masks the distinct tastes and creates an artificial feeling of homogeneity. But, it will not take too long to realise the truth. This is precisely why even love marriages tend to break.
Therefore, wife and husband, instead of hoping for an artificial fusion in attitudes, tastes and likes, should try to find a middle path whereby each respects the other’s right to be distinct. As Martin Luther Jr said, “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave”.
To once again quote Swami Dayananda Saraswati: “Marriage is a very significant event in one’s life. It is sacred because two separate pilgrims come together to proceed towards the same goal. Like two rivers that come from different sources and merge in the same ocean, these two people come together in a marriage and undertake the pilgrimage together.
Therefore, marriage is not an end. If it were an end, it would end! It is a means, a sadhana, for your growth. Don’t be wary of problems in this pilgrimage”. You may also take solace from the philosopher-extraordinaire Socrates and whose pearls of wisdom are drawn from personal experience, “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher”. Hope this applies to women too.