November 10, 2013
25 years ago I heard these words at altar of the St. Sebastian’s church at Bendur in the lilting voice of my then bride and now wife Ophelia:
I, (Ophelia), take you, (Brian), for my lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
I had made the commitment first as per tradition, and was very anxious to hear her repeat those words after me.
What if she didn’t….? But she did as she had promised me earlier.
Her words became my awesome moment - A moment at once, of anticipation and trepidation, but believe me, once done, it promised immense fun.
Marriage is an awesome moment in any man’s life; and here I must confess, I am gender neutral. It’s the moment of truth - he is now coveted, committed, consequential and carried away – both literally and figuratively.
He has to forget the past and create a future, a future for two, and possibly plus two. He has to unlearn the number 1, its spelling, and its limitless fun. He has to follow where the other leads, and bandage where the former bleeds.
Carol Mcgiffin Said, Marriage is like going bald – there is no parting. Having done the deed, man must wonder – how did he get himself into this? Was it something he wanted, yearned or panted for? Or was this momentary greatness thrust upon him – by those who had married before him? His parents? Or hers for that matter?
In the days of yore, it was the gothra, the group and the grandpa that decided, who what and when. No doubt, the color of money tinted the decision glasses any which way, and still does, opticians included.
In the meanwhile, as the world moved from Moses’ stone tablets to Steve’s Phone tablets, a blind folded, winged cupid, with a spear in hand, also known in Latin as Amor, often portrayed as the son of the love goddess Venus, clandestinely entered the fray, as a match maker par excellence.
Shakespeare, in a midsummer’s night dream explains cupids form and role beautifully:
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath love's mind of any judgment taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.
And therefore is love said to be a child
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
Cupid is winged because lovers are flighty and likely to change their minds, and boyish because love is foolish and irrational. His symbols are the arrow and torch, "because love wounds and inflames the heart."
But Cupid is not always present at the beginning of the epic, especially in India. He often enters surreptitiously, during that vulnerable time between the platinum and the cesarean.
Finding the right soul mate is unlike the search for Playboy’s playmate. It’s often confused, complicated and convoluted. However, there are several aids, from Cupid himself to the traditional matchmaker, with the .com process in between. The .com selection process has itself evolved from the ten word “ fair, handsome and rich, without bad habits” ad, to a video presentation of all things bright and beautiful. In all of these there is a liberal sprinkling of illusion, delusion, impertinence and impatience.
The traditional match maker survives, but barely, and he too has a website and a mobile. And then there are the preferences of the bride and the groom themselves. Educated, world wise and well informed they are like our parliamentarians – what is proposed they often oppose, and make their views widely known. Ultimately, the famous adage, Marriages are made in heaven, but finalized on earth regularly reiterates itself.
The word "marriage" derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250–1300 CE This in turn is derived from Old French marier (to marry) and ultimately Latin marītāre meaning to provide with a husband or wife andmarītāri meaning to get married.
Marriage as an institution itself has evolved, from the heterosexual to the homosexual. From the succession certificate to the pre nup agreement. A couple of years ago, many of you who are television viewers will recall an ad for a brand of jeans mysteriously called “live in jeans”, it was but a step away from a currently popular form of marriage – a live in relationship, the salient feature of which is you not only live in your jeans, but you also exchange them, without a commitment to return the favour! The one positive take away from this phenomenon, is stability in the divorce rate - A break up is not a divorce statistic.
The original purpose of Matrimony was to transit from polygamy to Partnership. In the context of the skewed gender ratio in India at 962::1000, it was an important transition. Procreation was another visible and natural objective. The latter has received very little encouragement from the government for obvious reasons. Urban couples too have taken the Govt.’s mission to heart and have developed their very own innovative, self sustaining philosophies – The DINK (Double income no kids) and the DIOK (Double income one kid) depending upon their circumstances and entertainment options.
The Family unit too has changed its form – from the natural and renewable to the nuclear – despite the hazards of overheating and a meltdown. Now it’s but a single unit of two to a max of four. Good for census taking, but difficult for day to day management. The Support system has eroded, but the beauty is, that they have learned to cope.
In India, Marriage is a celebration of gigantic proportions as evidenced by the serials Band Baaja Bride and the Big Fat Indian Wedding. It is unmatched by the joy de vivre that follows a birth in the family or the ceremonies that follow death, the two most unanticipated events in human life.
But, unlike in the west, where it is a union of individuals, in India, it is a union of families, and despite the geographical distance between their locations post marriage, they exert covert, overt and sublime influence on the relationship and decision making process in the family unit. It is known, expected, difficult to subsume and often a cause for divorce or, a loveless union. On the positive side, there is an opportunity for support, sharing and sense.
Marriage is great for partnership, procreation and purity. I love being married. As Rita Rudner so nicely put it - It’s so great to have found that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
Expectations are high, disappointments, equally high, and compromises are limited. These are challenges of a society in transition from the traditional to the modern.
It’s time to leave you seasoned married couples to your marriages – But I can’t resist leaving you with a piece of advice for the promised compatible companionship, gleaned from a reading of Martin Luther – “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”
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