Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Of marriage and other demons

I ask only one thing. I ask the right to hope and suffer as I do now.
Count Vronsky, Anna Karenina

By John Cheeran
What keeps two vastly different persons locked together till the other one trips and dies? Is it love, loyalty, commitment, or plain hopelessness?
Is marriage an elevating experience or something that takes the life out of you, if you are not on the right side of the cosmic coin toss?
Has love got anything to do with marriage?
Is love a horrid word?
Few people are willing to take a close look at their relationships. Marriages, most of them, are marriages of convenience; for man as well as woman.
There, of course, is no doubt that man still has more of an advantage the way marriages are allowed to flourish in our society. Our society still looks down at a woman who walks out of a marriage as someone who is haughty, and in some cases, wanton. Most marriages endure, if one could use that word, because women have little choice and no means of livelihood. Had women been financially independent, more than half of the marriages in Kerala would have been over sooner than you think.
When a person in a relationship feels that he or she is not getting enough from that relationship, he or she has every right to look elsewhere for whatever that adds meaning to his or her own life. Commitment should not be a bogey to negate such a train of thought.
Yes, I know, marriage is not just about man and woman. The child, too, matters. Despite being at loggerheads, despite being not able to understand each other, despite not being able to become the fulfilling half of the spouse, you have been told to stay put in a marriage by all those who love you – mother, brother, sister, friends, etc—for the sake of your child. I envy the child that has happy parents.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a terrific take on marriage.
“The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast.”
How many of us are ready to invest time to rebuild it every morning? How many of us have the desire and will to do so? A marriage need to be worked on a consistent basis as much as a plant requires water and sunshine. If the sunshine of communication and water of understanding are not there, should you be part of the sham? Should you a live a lie or live your life according to what your heart and mind tell you to do?
Life is not worth sacrificing for others. It’s for you. Your child will live her own life. When she grows up she will turn around and tell you “Mama, please stop the stories of your sacrifice for me. Did I ask you to bring me into this world? Why didn’t you listen to your heart when you still had the time to do so? You are nothing but a coward.”
Well, not every child will be ungrateful, and yours won’t be one, and they may not tell you so, but it is important to be truthful to yourself and know what you want from life.
Even your partner would ask you when all passion is spent, why didn’t you leave me if you were unhappy? He or she would shock you by saying that “I would never have stopped you from walking out. But I thought you were happy with me.”
As a dear friend reminds me, we worry a great deal about picking our accessories, spend a lot of time what to buy and search till we find the right choice.
But, what about our partners for life?
We know the name, profession, skin colour but nothing about attitude, taste, thoughts, etc. And two persons are condemned for a life sentence by parents and society. You know what? Even if you commit a murder, there is more to your life. In our land, a life sentence lasts only 15 years. And if you are a good prisoner, two or three years are shaved off from the time in gaol. You still can leave the prison bars and start a life anew.
In a marriage? For most of us there is nothing called a second innings. Some of us cannot even contemplate beginning anew our life. Our marriages are hopeless than death. I remember a version of Last Temptation of Christ where Jesus reminds his followers, “death is not a door that closes but opens.”
Unfortunately, marriage is a door that closes on both partners.
I’m not against the idea of marriage. The idea is brilliant. Two people with many attributes in common, and an attitude to respect and love each other’s thoughts and emotions can invest marriage with new meaning. It can be the most wonderful of unions.
But it’s all a question how we can handle this abused institution that man and woman can get the best out of themselves and life. Yes, divorce is an option, that is gaining acceptability although slowly. Again, vague notions such as commitment stop short many of us from taking that plunge.
Yes, I’m all for commitment, but commitment towards whom and what? Are you committed towards yourself, your dreams and desires? Or are you living just to ensure that those who surround you are not upset and embarrassed?
Society will threaten you with its own versions of right and wrong, if you listen to your heart and head. Family will abandon you. A woman, then, is justified in asking a thousand times whether she is making the right decision to go against the grain, and in fact, is the next man worthy enough of such drastic step to cast her lot and heart with him.
Yes, I understand. I do.
Nothing is over until it is over---life, that is. Life can offer you much more than what it has given to you until now. But, then, that question pops up. Will it be a case of from fire to frying pan? How can he or she guarantee that happiness that I did not get in the earlier relationship? Do I know YOU?
Well, simple truth is that we learn from our mistakes. A decision that was taken without knowing the other half, in anyway, was bound to disintegrate. Now you have the time to know better, know more and demand more before you pursue happiness with another man or woman.
And bitterness, let’s throw away that cup.
Let it break.

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