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February 26, 2008

Marriage & mayhem: Love is wrong, parents are right?

Life and Marriage are similar in many ways. For one, there are no guarantees in either. Second, there are no fixed rules for living a good life or a ‘making’ a good marriage that applies to all people. Then there’s the bit about both life and marriages throwing up surprises. Sometimes, nasty ones. It started two weeks back with an email from a reader in the US and as one mulled over the contents a colleague announced, “Someone left a strange comment on one of the tech stories” and ‘pinged’ me the comment. It was disturbing.

“Hi, I am from Bangalore and have been in love with a girl from Mysore for the last two years. She is a Punjabi and her parents are forcefully trying to marry her off to another man. I spoke to her father about letting us marry; he has refused and threatens murder. She is ready to leave her family and marry me but we are scared: What if her father kills us?” Even as one thought of possible suggestions for the distraught couple, a recently heartbroken friend called.

“My parents have found a boy for me. I have not met him yet but have said yes. The wedding might take place in the next two months. There is too much pressure. I am 26, how long can I delay the inevitable?” she asked. One told her that while there was nothing wrong with an arranged marriage – we have umpteen examples of highly successful, happy arranged marriages around – agreeing to marry someone she had not even met seemed a bit drastic. “After having taken most of my ‘life’ decisions myself – and things blowing up in my face – perhaps I should let my parents decide for me? Perhaps they will make a better decision than me… No?”

Two faces of the same coin: On one hand, a case where the girl is ready to marry according to her parents wishes, hoping that in their infinite, adult wisdom, they would make the ‘right’ choice. On the other hand, a couple is scared for their lives because eerily enough, it’s parents who want to kill them.

Before you go further, you might want to read these two pieces (my blogs on ibnlive.com):
On the question of parents knowing best..and then CHOOSING to keep quiet:
Children of an Abused Nation

On the question of HONOUR-KILLINGS or killing because parents dont approve of boy/girl:
Did Papa murder Rizwanur Rehman?

Before you read further, tell me what you think:
1. When it comes to finding marriage partners: Do parents make the best choice for us?
2. What would you do if your child chose someone you didn’t approve of?
3. If your parents oppose your choice of husband/wife, what would you do?
4. Do you think ‘honour killing’ is justified?
Read further >>> They gave me life… But it’s MY life?


Pointblank said...

1.Complicated! complicated! Yet, I wud say - "its ur life, so u decide". Atleast if ur old nuff, matured (both r different u know) and financially independent. But its always best to ask parents for approval. And if they disapprove, its good to know the reasons. Cuz not only love is sometimes blind, u may miss smthg tat others (parents or whoever) find glaringly obvious!

2. Its again a tough situation. I wud try n reason with the kids (provided there is a grave reason) and if I feel they r confident bout the decisions they take, I'l let them be.

3.Sulk, bawl, THREATEN! lol! I dunno!

4.Are u kidding me??

Abhi said...

Wow. You've been blogging serious and faster than I can comment. Good. I find it difficult to answer most of the questions :(. If only Life were not a spectrum of experiences, and had given us an absolute of truth! Anyway, a couple of remarks before I put forth my responses.

(a) I tend to distinguish between marriage as a social contractual bond, and a relationship as a private emotional bond.

(b) It appears to me that Life is a game like "blind men and the elephant" in that no one really knows what Life totally is! Each of us has, and lives, with their own partial view that is continuously shaped by the experiences, and their sequence, that we undergo.

So here are some of my views:

1. This is a general question. Parents are unique in that they can have some idea of the long term impact of the social contract, and can have an often-better-than-rest view of the emotional make up of "half" the relationship, i.e. their child who is a part of the relationship. Their unique position should ideally be treated as a "trusted source of information". The "can" denotes potential of incompleteness. The individual is then left at his/her judgment of the value of parental opinion given this "can". Since the individual, as well as the parents are the "blind men", the extent to which a parental decision may be considered best depends on the individual. The question, therefore, cannot be answered in general! It is likely to find cases where the parental influence was useful, and cases otherwise!

2. This is a direct question. I would express my disapproval, wish him/her the best, and leave them to their decision. Then I'd try my best to be there when my child might need me. God forbid if they need me, but if they do, then I would not remind them of my disapproval though. However, I wish things could be so black-n-white :).

3. A direct question again. Hear them out, but decide using my brains and heart. What other tools do I have? ;).

4. As the earlier comment says, are you kidding me? ;).

The Rajpath Reporter said...

Hi, it is most certainly clear that people should have a right to their own lives and any kind of force...active or passive, is just plain uncivil.

But I was wondering: there is some quaint old world charm in the way my parents went about it, they were never plagued by fears of dying alone... they never had to deal with mixed signals and mind games. They built themselves a career and then their parents gave them a ready made stable relationship to walk into which was a source of joy for them (as well as me!). Are people making things too complicated now?

Face behind the Mask said...

When i see marriages happening around............. i think to myself "oh shit, another one bites the dust".

I hate marriages, have never attended one after mine which was 17 years ago...... ,Sure i like to to be in love, to love & be loved etc, it should happen with each other irrespective of the legal binding.

As far as my young one is concerned, 'sure would enable him/her to grow up to make their own decisions

Kim said...

Before I begin, I must point out that the below opinions of my own, are no indicator of how I personally feel towards most Indians, many whom are my friends. It does however reflect how I feel towards the overall laws/government/feminine rights(lack of) that is placed in India. I apologize for my long-winded answers.

Wow, so many things are disturbing about those scenarios, and even more disturbing is the questions. Hello people it's 2008!! But then again, I am a white American female and have only been introduced to this country personally a year ago, so my take on things may be quite different from an Indians point of view. So here I'll start by saying.....

In answer to the first question:

1. I'm sure in several cases, parents may often know what's best for their child AT A WHOPPING AGE OF 18 to be married, but I am a firm believer that a persons body, mind, and heart is for their own choosing to do with as they want when that person has reached legal limit of adulthood. As everyone knows, the divorce rate here in India is very low, which is a good thing, BUT, that does not mean that the marriage is a happy one. So many women I'm sure would love nothing more than to be free from the, more than likely, unwanted arranged marriage that they themselves were either fearful of outcome(like the couple in scenario 1) or for mere respect(fear) for their parents. Either choice is not an easy one. I read an article not too long ago that really made me boil. This is what it read:

"For the first time, women in India have legal protection against abuse in their own homes under a law which came into force yesterday. It is the first time Indian law has recognized marital rape, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse of a woman by her husband as crimes."

By the way, when the part of the statement saying "yesterday", that means October 26th, 2006. It goes on to say:

"More than two-thirds of married women in India aged between 15 and 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex. Domestic violence against women is already illegal, under a 1983 law. But the new law marks the first time India has recognized marital rape. Previously it was impossible to prosecute a man for raping his wife, which was considered to be within his conjugal rights. The new law also for the first time recognizes emotional, verbal and economic abuse of a woman by her husband as a crime."

Ok, so I shouldn't compare one countries laws and how far it has/hasn't come, but come on!!!!! I really do hope that by another 20 or so years, India will be caught up with the rest of the world and it's rights for women and arranged marriages will be either a thing of the past or a person's personal choice w/out fear of either parent OR future marriage outcome.

That being said, NO, parents don't know shit about making the right choices for their kids when it comes to finding the right partner in marriage.

2. If I were to breed, I would raise my child to understand the the importance of choosing a life partner and ramifications of not choosing wisely. I would not try to stand in the way of their life choices.

3. Being raised by loving parents who raised me to do as the above answer, I still cared what my parents thought of me and my choices. At times I would ask their opinion and advise, but even if we did not always agree, I made up my own mind and chose how I wanted. Clearly my current choice is a good one; I couldn't feel more cherished than I do now.

4. I'll not even answer such a stupid question.

Eve* aka jb said...

Very well-written Kim. And thanks for commenting here...

The point about domestic violence is pertinent.
37 % women beaten and more shockingly, 54 % say they are OKAY with it: WHO is to blame here? Of course women dont ask to be beaten but when they take it???

PLEASE READ: http://www.ibnlive.com/news/most-indian-women-okay-with-wife-beating/54025-3.html

Silvara said...

heya - it's the one argument I have always had with my best friend - if things hadn't worked out with her boyfriend (now husband) she would have let her parents arrange her marriage to anyone they pleased - i didn't understand that - but then again she has a much better relationship with her parents than I do with mine.

Q1. No - I don't believe they always make the best choice for us - nobody can tell you what you will be attracted to or what u want in a partner - i have seen so many cases of where the boy was practically perfect on paper but then was the biggest dickhead in person. but they do have the advantage of not only loving you unconditonally but having experience behind them - so it is worth listening at least.

Q2. If my child chose someone I didn't like - it'd be hard - but I'd talk to them about it - ultimately it IS their life and their experiences - I can only offer my opinion and feelings on the matter. If it endangered their life in any way - it'd be a tougher call.

Q3. I married out of caste/religion/country and my parents were fine with it in the end - They weren't 'opposed' as such but they always wished I'd marry an Indian. However, they saw thru all the differences and approved my now husband for the person he was. If they had outright opposed him for the reasons he was not Indian - I'd have eloped :P

Q4. Never.

serendipity said...

I am still (as always have been) amazed by your insight into urban afflictions that we face every single day.
My answers would be:
1. Parents always try to make the best choices for us but when it comes at the cost of love, it is a forced choice.
2. They have to spend the rest of their life with that person. And after a point, parents need to let go of their children and be assured that they have taught them well to make informed, sound decisions.
3. I will always stand by love. But I will also find it impossible to turn my back on the people who have brought me up.
4. Under no circumstance and for no logical reason, can honour killings be justified. They are a horrendous, horrible act...much in the same vein of killing off an unborn or new born girl child. There is no honour in killing.

P.S: I wrote a post after ages, that includes you in it. Read if you get some time :) cheers!

The Rajpath Reporter said...

Okay, Kim, if you do not know how much domestic violence takes place in the US, your entire education has probably consisted of stereotypes about your nation and the rest of the world, which of course is a trait you share with close to 60% of Americans.

And second, please do not talk about India joining step with the rest of the world. Perhaps you have never bothered to learn that interracial marriage was banned till the late 60's in america (MD, for instance allowed it only in 1967). Indian laws and government had a "zero discrimination policy" from day one... while even in 2008, 1) you still have "In God we trust" written on your currency
2) The Ten Commandments in front of the Supreme Court
3) ALL your legislators have to swear in on the Bible!

It is ridiculous when americans criticize Indian institutions. Perhaps you could take a trip to Utah and find out if polygamy is allowed in your country. Most of your homeschooled children are taught: "Mommy answers to Daddy and Daddy answers to God" (verify!)

Eve* aka jb said...

Dear Rajpath Reporter
I STRONGLY object the tone used in your comments AGAINST Kim.
NOWHERE has she said in her response that she is either anti-Indian OR pro-America. When she says "rest of the world", she means the countries -- and NOT just US -- that do have laws that treat women better or at least give a chance to women for fair and proper redressal.

Again, YOU, dear Rajpath Reporter are ONLY intent on harping on India VS US, our culture better than theirs etc, WHILE Kim's response I saw and understood as a very thought-out response to situations she DOES NOT understand.

And dude, give it a fucking break: SEE a response for the points it raises than harping on stupid discriminations you have against another nation. And definitely NOT on this blog.

NO ATTACKS TOLERATED. You want to debate, debate an idea or thought, but no fucking targetting another person. And if this response of mine pisses you off, feel free to go bad-mouth me on other blogs or start sendin anonymous hate mail.

Mystique said...

I have a strong something against arranged marriages......
I;m not really old enough to answer any questions except the third, and I say I wouldn't be happy, but I'd still get married to the person I love.
And someone I can be completely open with.