MARRIED TO CASTE AND RELIGION


A spectacled middle aged woman of average height and looks with tears streaming over her eyes was declaring with emotional fervor: “even in my next birth I want be Mr.’s wife”. The audience was watching this with respectful and emotional silence and clapped thereafter.

I was watching a TV Program on inter caste and religious marriages and the emotional ravages brought by an intolerant society or family on such personal relationships. Some of the experiences described were even more melodramatic that some of the Tamil movies and serials I had watched. Some of the more interesting experiences narrated were :

senior police officers sensing threat to the lives of the newly wedded couple belonging to different caste/religion, on their own volition, gave shelter to them in the police station for the night,

parents living in the same street refusing to recognize such rebellious offsprings and crossing the street to show their displeasure,

locking newly married daughter in rooms (like Pran in some old movies),

marriage conducted in a cinema hall while a Kamalahasan movie was on (the parents were outside the theatre keeping a watch on their children) and marriage vows thereafter strengthened in the Hanuman temple outside the theatre.

The persons who were describing their travails in love did not look like Ranbir Kapoor or Shahid Kapoor nor were the middle aged women resembling yester years’ film heroines. My mental image of falling in love was restricted handsome men and women with filmy looks and dashing behavior. Ordinary men and women normally toed the parental/community line and gave vent to their fantasies in love through films, dramas and books.

I imagined falling in love with some of the girls I used to stare very hard in school and college. I tried to extend the scenario further. I imagined taking any one of them (several is too expensive) to a movie near my college. There were two cinema halls nearby. Both were awful then and continue this status even now. The tickets cost between Re.1 and Rs. 2. I used to watch all the movies which were released. Perhaps I would have had to take a fifty percent cut on the number of movies I watched. Would romance have bloomed in darkened, dingy and sweaty theatre with only fans circling reluctantly?

Love is blind but may still perhaps seek physical comfort, dampening any ardor. What about pecuniary limitations? Would I have shared the daily dose of the exquisite Mysore Masala or puri bhaji (I alternated between these two dishes everyday) at Vishwa Mahal for an uncertain relationship? Perhaps, I would have asked her to take a soldier cut (my generation’s code for equal sharing). What would her view be on my smoking unfiltered Charminar? Is it a macho thing or ugh, ugh!! On the whole, looking back, all this seems too much trouble for uncertain rewards- mental or physical!

I still have my college ID card. The photo stuck to that shows (in my view) a hungry looking desperado, wearing shirt with wild design which even Aamir Khan would have hesitated to wear in his Movie Rangeela. But then, such outrageous dresses were the “in thing” then.

The next scene I imagine is bringing home a girl from same religion but different community/caste (another religion is beyond my imagination). I bring home a girl studying in second year of college (first year of Plus three in today’s parlance) along with me and declare my honorable intentions (towards that girl) in the presence of my parents and brother. I can imagine my father’s fury, my mother’s bafflement at this extraordinary initiative and my brother’s anger at extending a hobby or pastime into a full time reality. The girl would have run away immediately and the relationship would have had a premature and painful demise on that day.

On a more serious note, the impact of the program was higher as ordinary persons had gone thru an extraordinary experience and were declaring it in a public arena. One good point which the anchor made was that the emphasis in each of the person’s narration hinged on merging their identity with another caste or religion and not retaining their own post marriage. Why can’t each person continue to live as earlier retaining their own identity and leaving their children to select their path? The chief guests attending the program explained how they implemented this concept in their life of a mixed religion marriage.

What matters most in a religion or caste in our day to day life? It is certainly not concepts of the sort described below.
Dvaita – mean dual(two distinct – atma and God/Pramatma). The proponent was Madhvacharya.

A-dvaita -means non- dual (no- two, both atma and paramatma are one). ‘A’ in the beginning means the opposite. The proponent was Shankaracharya

Vishit-advaita – Qualified(Special) – advaita. It is similar to advaita, meaning both atma and paramatma are one/similar in nature/quality(being and consciousness) but not in quantity(paramatma is infinite).

Mostly it is the pattern of behavior, rituals followed, community oneness and familiarity with one portion of the society to which we have a sense of ownership, identity and belonging. We enjoy the familiarity and the memories these observances bring to us and want to continue it to the next generation. One example of this is the number of temples abroad and the sincerity with which the rituals observed there by Indian emigrants. An even better example is the caste and community based organizations in Mumbai which celebrate various festivals with pomp and splendor which is sometimes absent in our respective places of origin.

The question which reverberates in our minds is how we ensure that some part of our way of life which we believe is beautiful and is to be retained for posterity. One source of optimism is the presence of the younger generation in many arts, callings, religious institutions, places of worship in more than expected numbers. The next is the inquiring minds of the present generation which while giving up blind and unquestioning acceptance of our generations, is willing to explore further in finding out what is beautiful about our respective heritage and are willing to toil for it.

When I speak to the younger generation, I find a yearning for marrying for love and not because the identified time has come and it is “your duty to get married.” One person told me with great disappointment that the intense hunt for a suitable spouse did not yield the desired level of success. The middle class society’s quest to earn a living –whether in metro or tier two cities- leaves little time to go close enough to another human being to take the decision to spend rest of the life with that person.
But then times are changing. But they are changing slowly. We still see ads of the following kind .

Wanted Bride: only very beautiful, fair & slim, up to 24 years, from middle class or even lower middle class with educational qualification like graduate/ undergraduate or even plus 2 for…..

Anjeneyan

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5 Responses to MARRIED TO CASTE AND RELIGION

  1. Gauri Kamath says:

    You’re very right to question why one person’s religious identity needs to be subsumed into the other’s in an inter-religious marriage. I have wondered the same. Why can’t both go on in parallel?
    But then I would like to extend that thought to include what happens even in same-religion marriages – why is it that even today in a Hindu home the woman’s first name is changed after marriage, that she is forced to reject her father’s identity (surname) and adopt her husband’s when her father has probably done more for her than her husband can begin to do? Why is it that the woman moves out of her home but the man stays put? Is marriage about turning one person’s life upside down by taking away all that is familiar and comforting and expecting her to start from scratch? Can a union based on so much of ‘giving’ from one side and nothing from the other ever be truly fun for both?

    • anjeneyan says:

      After marriage, my mother retained her full name as it existed at birth. The practice of changing name and surname is a modern or foreign concept so far as our Tambrahm community is concerned. I added my name to my wife’s name as it seemed to be the practice. I think it is more of our ego or sense of posession, rather than any necessity. Perhaps it is also the quest for a new identity post marriage. I do not know.

      I agree that a woman gives up a lot of familiar things on marriage. I remember the first letter my daughter wrote immediately after her marriage and the words she penned describing the evolution process from daughter to a wife and daughter in law would remain etched in my heart for ever. She can draw graphic pictures with words.

      In any union both parties have to invest to create a new relationship. One sided relationship does not create any lasting edifice. On conversion from bachelorhood, a sensible man would take time and effort in mentoring his new bride as that is an investment that would give great returns throughout life. With joint family a relic of the past, today both husband and wife move to a new house to start their own nest. So I think both have to invest in mental terms to coverst their house into a home.

      Thanks for your comment, seems to come from the heart.

  2. Deepak Thite says:

    Mr. Anjeneyan,

    Thanks for touching the most sensitive subject in our society.

    I support your views fully.

    We consider our selves modern and forward thinking and follow the western world but when it comes to marriage nothing is equal. I believe we should take better things from western society such as equality let them be from any cast, religion, gender or profession.

    I agree there are more temples outside India because we become more religious and also Indian becomes a common bond in the outside world.

  3. Revathy says:

    I also seen that programme.Though it contains some artificial things the present situation is portrait promptly. As u said we don’t want to break the chain of following the same custom, religion etc to the next generation.

    Here in Africa I am witnessing the things as u wrote that both the husband and wife belong to different religion and they continuing to follow their own even after marriage. But in practical they are facing somany hurdles like children after grown up struggle to decide which should be followed and both the parents have no control on them and in small age itself the children should decide themselves about their future like education, and even after some age both the parents will diverse and leaving the children in a question where to go. These things lead the children to give up the education because of poverty (nobody will look after them and they have to work for themselves for food)
    Really it is horrible to see the girl children to struggling for life (here teen age pregnany is the highest in number)
    I think because of some chain of culture, family values, following some rituals making India stronger day by day

  4. Manikandan S says:

    Great stuff! You have a way with words. Although I knew this all along this is the first time I could savour your writings. My belief has always been that when people choose to be what they are and want to be, nobody, repeat, nobody has got any business to meddle with their decisions and senses so long as their decision is their sole decision and not one which is forced upon them, the responsibility of which lies solely and entirely with them whether their move succeed or fails. Caste and Religion has no stand in a relationship. Keep it up. I shall be following your writings in the future, without fail. All the best.

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