Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life - 6

Jottings : Slice of life
A question, or rather a topic that is commonly discussed when I am among American circle of friends is about "arranged marriages" and "marriage by choice". I cannot remember how many times well Meaning Westerners have asked me my opinion on this subject. It is one of those cultural traits that is difficult to accommodate, acquiesce and understand. For a conservative Indian, even today, the prospect of getting to choose his or her own life partner is still an act of defiance, no matter how much we proclaim our modernity or flaunt modern values. The adjustment may come later on, but initially there is always a reluctance by society to accept. We may argue things have changed , but all of us know, there is always a little small talk, few sneers, looks of disapproval lurking somewhere in the family or immediate social circle. On the other hand, For an American , the very idea of having a partner forced down their throat is unthinkable. It is genetically simply not possible. To have two unknown people packed together in a room with absolutely no conscious, well thought and discussed consent seems an anathema. They are perfectly right as well. Now the question is not, which is right or wrong; but rather the question should be rephrased as what is more workable as a social solution to an important issue.
There are many learned works, discourses, studies on this strange phenomenon of why marry and commit, when Biologically , it seems against all principles of survival as a species. I don think there is any evidence of any elaborate ritual of marriage as Hominids. It seems to be a later social invention, whose origins are lost in the mist of time. I am not getting into that at all. The fact, however, is it makes sense and it is critically important for members of both sexes to maintain steady relationship with one another for four reasons:
1. It provides constant source for sexual gratification for both partners, whenever required, without having to impinge on other's territory, or worse still, to socially hunt for different partners all the time. It is convenient to satiate the need in house, so to speak.
2. Human babies take the longest time to mature into adults responsible enough to take of themselves. And this means, not merely physical development, but the proper transmission of cultural, social and ethical motifs. A stable parenthood ( which means steady individuals as Father and mother) greatly contribute to mature and effective growth in most cases. This has been proved scientifically over and over again. For those of us who want proof -read Jared diamonds popular account in "The third chimpanzee", for starters.
3. Thirdly, this is more a modern need. - the psychological self of Man needs a partner who can understand each other at levels more than merely physical. As we have progressed through time, instincts have given way to rationality, which in turn generates different kinds of individual distinguished by thought - each with their own views of life, art, politics, culture and taste. So to attain stability in relationship, very soon, the physicality of it should transmute into understanding at emotional and intellectual levels. Otherwise, it is difficult to put up with each other.
4. Lastly, the bringing together of a Male and female by way of legal and social bonding, is a way to prevent bigamy, adultery and plainly put - looking for other mates, which as primates we are genetically inclined to do. Customs indirectly helps in preserving the species and lineage.
If you ask me, there is absolutely no doubt on the importance of first two points in either the Indian view of Marriage or the Western. Sex and Child rearing are equally important in both. But I guess, it is in third and fourth areas mentioned above : the resolve to Marry someone as custom versus marry somebody after courtship a huge chasm opens up. For a moment, let me play devils advocate for the Indian way of doing things. If a relationship is not tightly bound by social customs ( as it done in arranged marriages), chances are high that psychological needs and rampant sexual instincts will have a better say in deciding the longevity of the association. It is impossible to have two people live together for a life time without mutual compromises. Left to itself, marriage as an institution will fail. Add to it an element of divine fear, theological sanctions, acquiescence of family; and you have a solid case for arranged marriages.. Bind the boy and girl in a phantasmagoric ritual spanning multiple days and make them feel the inevitability of sustaining the marriage at any cost. If not...... Dire consequences ,spiritual and social ostracism. But on the other hand, if society allow mature Men and Women to decide for themselves ( as it happens in the West) on how they wish to handles their incompatible personalities ,then it can go either way. And to be fair to the west, they have done exceedingly well. No complains!!!The only thing they need to careful about is the fate of their children. However, Children here have grown to accept multiple parents, if they no choice.. They grow up as normally as any kid in India, if not better, with step father and mothers piling around them.
Having written this much, I must also add that this discussion is quickly becoming superfluous in many gatherings. Whether it is right or wrong, the rate of divorce if going up all over the globe. India is no exception. With more and more youngsters migrating to the west, or retuning from a stint there; this question is hardly worth discussing any more. "We don't get along well..." Is the common refrain you will hear from lot of couples across nationalities. Whatever that means., I don't know.. But, by way of concluding this short essay, I must say that as a species, it is imperative we find a stable solution to this important issue soon enough. After all, our survival in the long run depends upon how comfortably we procreate and how well we prepare our progeny to carry on this wonderful heritage of Human life in all its dimensions as far as possible.
God bless.....
Yours in mortality ,
Bala

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