S – a reader of my blog- asked me why no new blogs have appeared in the last few months. My excuse was lack of inspiration and partly lack of time. He suggested that I could write about the trials and tribulations of “to be married” and “newly married individuals”. May be, I can pretend to be experienced enough to write a few words on it.
A theory I expound to my younger colleagues and friends is on the following lines.
a. Completion of education – including post-graduation by 24 or 25.
b. Settling down (as in 21st century and not 20th century).
c. Marriage – for boys (who have become men) latest by 28 and for girls (who have understood the difference between a girl and a woman) by 25 or as a concession by 26.
d. Two kids within four years thereafter (feels like forever after).
e. The two kids completing their education by the time the couple cross 55.
f. The two kids getting married by the time the couple retire.
By the time I reach the middle of the above scenario, there are giggles (girls) and protests (boys).
“Nothing before 30” are the normal exclamations.
The alternative scenario I depicted is as below.
a. Completion of education by 25 or 26.
b. Getting a job by 27 and identifying a career by 30 or 31.
c. No time for personal life or pastime. Average working hours -11- plus another two hours for travelling.
d. A reluctant agreement to get married after crossing the 30 year threshold.
e. Hi-flying couple. Both focused on career with average working of 11 hours (obviously)
f. Bio-clock ticking away. First child (may be the only one) arrives close to the 35 threshold.
g. Child reaches 10th, 12th Standard, makes Engineering or Medical choice when the couple are viewing senior citizenship border from close quarters( 58 for women and 60 for men- women are always favored even for identification of old age)
h. In my view, this is hardly an age where there is energy to rush between colleges for admission and also focus on a career as a Senior Executive.
i. Marriage, grand children- well these are reserved after attaining seniority in senior citizenship.
So the choice is between reaching these inevitable thresholds when the body and mind is strong (before 50 in my view) or later when the energy and enthusiasm levels are low.
A young woman colleague (who told me she enjoys reading Bhagavad Gita) reluctantly admitted that the former scenario seems more compelling and attractive.
Now it is a moot argument whether an individual getting married in teenage (25 to 30) or middle age say (30 and beyond) would have different approaches to matrimony and its associated bliss- real , imaginary or a chimera.
Would a 34 year old man or woman be as romantic as an individual 7 years younger? What would you say about holding your to be partner in your arms at the time of the first rains and looking into her eyes and singing a song (into her ears- to save embarrassment)? Perhaps this is possible in “teenage”. On reaching ” middle age”, the focus would be on taking out the umbrella (both would be having one – having reached the era of caution or precaution) and reaching a covered area and wondering how to get back to respective houses without getting wet.
Perhaps I am being uncharitable. Raging hormones do not respect age, only the pace may slacken.
May be, as an experiment, married couples of different vintages (like Scotch whiskey- older the better)-should sing songs-which their hearts sang when they were young- to each other after the bedroom doors are shut and only the small night lamp is on. Most probably they would sing songs and the younger generation would stare intently at IPad or laptop and curl into sleep – after listening to songs from I Pad through earphones – separately.
Let us go to the next stage. Marriage is now fixed Boy and Girl ( whether teenage or middle age) have started communications to each other- Whatsapp, e mail, Skype- and sometimes face to face meeting (depending upon state of career – remember the two alternate scenarios). This stage has now evolved to a different level. In ancient times (20 or 25 years back), it was time to hold hands, hesitantly explore topics of mutual interests and wonder what the future holds for the union. Today, it is a contract being negotiated at various levels.
The parties to the Contract – parents & to be partners- evaluate the physical, material and astrological parameters. All bald or going bald men, individuals born with certain stars, those without independent houses (no “baggage” of in laws), too conservative (insistent on mores which existed 25 or 30 years back) and unmatched heights are normally eliminated. Income levels are compared rather frankly and with the overt understanding that the boy’s income should be higher than that of the “girl”. ( A Tamil T V debate program which was being aired when I was penning this had a girl magnanimously exclaiming that she would not mind even if her husband earns less than her so long as there is meeting of minds. She would not mind sharing the responsibilities.)
To me, this seems to be a throwback on the old stereo typing of marriage alliance. I remember an instance where a prosperous lawyer gifted her husband (holding a rather average position) a red Ferrari with the door opening upwards- to the envy of all other colleagues ( including me) . I was told that he had admired the car when watching a James Bond movie.
Once all these aspects are out of the way, then the Boy and Girl meet each other. It is not too different from an employment interview – the difference being the contract is anticipated to be of longer duration. Post marriage life is discussed delicately- can/should the girl work? How supportive would be the in-laws for bringing up the expected progeny? is cooking needed every day? Such romance filled issues are considered on a “pre-approval’ basis- somewhat similar to acquisition of an expensive asset. The answers to these questions are noted and discussed analytically within the “family”, so that “permission” can be considered for further evaluation on a more “in depth” basis.
Somewhere at this stage, the chemicals stored in the brain (weapons of God Kamdeva) which lay stagnant start working on an overtime basis. This causes uneasiness amongst respective parents. Depending on the level of interaction the individual had with members of the opposite gender, these Chemicals start their work with determination. The longer they had stayed stagnant, the harder the reaction. The individual seems to be fascinated with a world and another person with whom the acquaintance has occurred few days or weeks earlier. This is the moment to look into the damsel’s ( even if the age belies this description) eyes and express some sentiments which would remain etched in the spouses mind much after the fire of youth has diminished.
What are the sentiments that course through the couples’ minds during the courtship days? I carried an impression that youth allows a more adventurist and “can do” approach with an ability to adapt to prevailing/ changing circumstances. But current reality does not bear this out as evidenced by cancellation of alliances few days before marriage or divorces occurring within a year thereof. So age has no bearing. It is the individual resolve to make a success of this venture that distinguishes the success of a union.
I believe that in a traditional/ normal Indian family (which is the dominant part of India) any successful marriage requires some degree of adaptation by both the partners, with the woman being required to yield the extra inch. She is required to give up all that she is familiar with and enter into a new family and pretend that she enjoys all of it. The routine she is familiar with changes in small but significant ways- be it early morning coffee or tea, breakfast, food habits, religious rituals, traditions followed on common religious festivals and so on. Normal interaction with parents who could be few minutes or hours or days away become significant events. The groom she met in Café Coffee Day or McDonald’s seemed to be a different individual. Was he being too submissive to his mom? Need to check with Amma as to how she overcame these hurdles.
The Boy is in a state of dilemma. While having a woman whose life revolves around you is a novel and unique experience ( for most normal adults) , there needs to be some external display of nonchalance to show the world that he is not influenced by the new woman in his life. At the same time, ignoring the bride to meet the foregoing objective would ensure that the lurking tigress (there is an ancient theory that every woman is an incarnation of Goddess Kali Devi) is nudged awake rather strongly.
The next stage is the most underestimated but the crucial one. Just as most air crashes occur on takeoff or landing, so also marriages are tested for endurance and durability ( mostly) during the first 12 to 18 months. Whether the marriage is preceded by LOVE or is a byproduct of marriage, every alliance faces varying kinds of pressures. It could be anything from preparing the morning cup of tea or coffee or laying down the plates for breakfast, sharing the filling of lunch box, putting the clothes in the washing machine, picking up the laundry in the evening on the way back from office, buying vegetables, interaction with each other’s parents and relatives, sharing of expenses and liabilities and so on.
My belief is that it is small gestures that make more difference in the long run –especially for women. Offering a hot cup to tea when your wife returns tired in the evening from office, offering small gifts – flowers, chocolates, snacks of her choice- with reasonable regularity (mallika poo –Jasmine- on Friday) , remembering your in law’s birthday, marriage anniversary and so on give multiple returns as compared to an expensive gift given on a random or sporadic basis.
Another aspect that is often ignored or not understood is that being considerate or understanding in the early days of marriage goes a long way in strengthening the bonds. It requires some level of maturity to acknowledge that the human being who shares your life and bed has wants and needs that could be totally different from yours and accordingly adapt to a changing life. The art lies in understanding the unstated aspects of the relationship and reflecting it in action.
I will leave you with a moment I experienced few days back. I saw a man – maybe close to 65- holding his almost equally old wife’s arm and helping her to walk. The affection and the bond between them reflected a lifetime’s shared relationship. At this point of time, we do not know what the future holds for us, but knowing that we have a partner with us to share the best and the not so best with equal ardor makes life more worth living.
Do you agree?