By Sonal Arshad Siraj
May 2, 2015
Before you wrinkle your eyebrows in a ‘holier-than-thou’ frown and judge my very existence, let me assure you that this blog is not a preaching of what you should or should not do. This blog is based on mere observations of human relationships and a concept that defines our lives in so many ways – shaadi (marriage).
I was familiar with this word at a very young age. But it was at the age of six when my brother (eight-years-old then) told me something that freaked me out. In sheer exasperation, that only an older brother can have, he said,
“I can’t wait till we marry you off so that you’re not around to annoy us anymore.”
“I’ll still be here,” I said.
“No, you’ll be living at your husband’s house. You won’t live with us forever.”
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the ground beneath my little feet shook as I came to realise he was serious. I did what any six-year-old would do, I burst into tears.
“What? No. How is that possible? Husband? I can’t leave my house, this is where I live. Why would you say that? Ama Baba will never let me leave! They won’t let me go, I’m their daughter. Will you leave too when you get married?”
These were the questions I somehow managed to word out.
With regret on his face, my brother apologised and calmed me down. He explained that every girl has to leave her parents’ house after marriage. He explained how our mom lives with us and our dad and not with Nana Nani (maternal grandparents). He said just like she left her house to live with her husband, I will have to as well.
That was my first reality check.
Marriage isn’t all fun and games; it is something that takes you away from all the things you love. It’s better for boys; their lives pretty much stay the same. But for girls, your entire life will change. Since then I began to observe our society. I observed married people and their actions. As a student of psychology, I analysed their verbal and non-verbal cues, signs of distress, facial expressions and body language.
While people my age ventured into relationships and ‘dating’, I became that one friend who gave the best relationship advice and who knew what to do despite never being in a long-term relationship.
Years later, today, I have developed an aversion to the concept of shaadi. People shouldn’t get married and here are my reasons. Once again, these reasons are based solely on observations.
No, I don’t believe the institution of marriage is flawed. Since the beginning of time, through religion, culture and society, people were to find a partner to spend their lives with, in holy matrimony. Marriage was a sacred bond; legends and epic tales are proof of the sacredness of this union.
Today in our times, however, this institution has lost its sacredness because people stopped respecting the bond itself. It became a ritual performed because ‘we have to’. Parents took it upon themselves to get their children married to the most suitable partners. Consumerism increased the need of more rituals, a need to display the union to the world along with a desire to compete, boast and beat others at it. Shaadi no longer means marriage, it means wedding.
The generations before ours (our parents, grandparents, etc) had a different meaning of relationships than we do. For them, it was all about compromise and fixing things. They are the kind of couples who go through hell and still stick together. I’m sorry but I don’t think our generation has what it takes to tolerate and be with each other through thick and thin. Therising divorce rates back up this argument.
We, the youth, are conditioned to be independent and free thinkers. What we read, learn and watch (through the media) has evolved us into accepting individualism. We rebel against the system, question norms and think out of the box – that is what our generation is. There is nothing wrong with these qualities but perhaps it is these qualities that cause problems in relationships.
When both the partners are so opinionated and do not have the ability to compromise or sacrifice their own needs and wants for the other, then how is a relationship supposed to work?
They call us the resilient generation, well resilience also counts for our ability to move on and bounce back when a relationship ends, so perhaps that’s why we don’t try to fix relationships and work on them the way our parent or grandparents did.
Divorce is no longer taboo; if we can’t stand someone anymore, we leave or think of leaving.
Sexist Time Bomb
Our society is extremely sexist to BOTH the genders, especially when it comes to marriage. Not only does a girl have to leave her home, her room, her parents and her freedom to move in with her husband, she also has a constant psychological ‘tick-tock’ on her head since the day she turns 20.
Trust me, this tick-tock is a constant nuisance hanging over heads. There is so much that I want to do with my life. I want to study, work, build a career, travel the world, and write a book! To this argument, I am told by everyone,
“So, no one is stopping you. You can do all of this after your shaadi.”
Agreed that you can study after marriage and work post-shaadi but what about the other things?
Will my husband have the patience to let me be locked in my room writing for most of the day? Will he be fine if I want to focus on my career for five years and not have children?
And boys don’t have it too easy either.
While a boy gets to live in his own home with his parents after shaadi (lucky son of a gun), he also faces the constant tick-tock. He is told he has to complete his entire education, build his career and get settled at least by mid or late 20s so that he can ‘afford’ to have a wife and family. I really don’t think that’s fair. The pressure of getting the best job and high-figure salary can be really stressful.
What if he wants to become an artist or travel, things that won’t get him the money he needs. What about his dreams?
Marriage is a full-stop to our dreams. They say we can pursue them after shaadi but who are we kidding?
Shaadi Changes People
During the pre-nuptial period, everyone is on their best behaviour. Not just the couple but the families of both treat each other like royals. It is all about gifts, wedding preparations and impressing each other.
It is only after the shaadi that everyone becomes comfortable with each other and reveals their true selves. Mother-in-laws, who before the wedding sang praises of how perfect theirbahus (daughter-in-laws) are, begin to mentally make a list of all the things their bahu does wrong and how awful she is. The bahu suddenly sits, walks, cooks and breathes in the wrong way.
For the bahu, she begins to see her mother-in-law as nothing less than Cruella De Vil.
Every single person in both families feels responsible and overly concerned about the couple and their relationship. They become mediators and judges even though no one asks them too.
The boy and girl gradually begin to change into constantly irritable, annoyed and bezaar (fed up) human beings. Stress levels increase, tempers boil and each day, the ability to tolerate each other reduces.
These are some of my reasons (I have many more) of why people shouldn’t get married and why I won’t (till my parents have had enough of my excuses). I have seen and heard of so many couples getting divorced (many who were deeply in love with each other), people cheating, families turning against each other, children fighting with parents, people ending relationships in a blink of an eye. I have heard of khalas (maternal aunts) turned mother-in-laws, physically abusing the bahu. I have heard of a man throwing his wife out on the street a week after their love marriage. I have heard of in-laws kicking the girl out because she couldn’t produce a son.
I have heard of enough shaadi horror stories to loathe the entire concept.
If this is what holy matrimony and relationships come to then thank you very much, but I’m better off.
Sonal Arshad Siraj, A student of psychology and social sciences, who likes to eat and write in that order. She tweets @Sonal_arshad (twitter.com/Sonal_arshad?lang=en)