(This article appeared in a newspaper called Friday Gurgaon dated 16 -11-2012. ).
In a national daily, noted film director and scriptwriter Vikram Bhatt started a debate when he said, “Marriage is a defunct and an outdated institution. Marriage is socially encouraged and legally accepted, and this makes the compulsion to stay in a marriage more important than being happy in a marriage.” According to him, the rules of marriage have been set on unequal grounds. He says that India has the lowest divorce rate of 1.1 per cent, the UK about 42.6 per cent and the US and Sweden at about 55 per cent. The more ‘progressive’ the society, the higher the divorce rate. He quotes an inebriated friend who says, “In a marriage, one persons got to dish out the bullshit and another persons got to take it, because if none of them takes it, and both dish it out, then there is just a pile of bullshit in the middle.”
Is Marriage really a defunct and outdated Institution?
I get a whiff of Bollywood-esque, over-the-top reaction when Mr. Bhatt debunks the institution of marriage and labels it as ‘outdated’. To my mind, we need to look at marriage from an angle other than that of the ‘progressive’ Bhatt prism.
Undoubtedly, marriage is a matter of personal choice. I have several friends who have chosen to remain single, and yet their faith in the institution of marriage remains unaltered.
Marriage as a concept, symbolizes civilization. Since it was necessary to provide legal and acceptable norms for a sustainable society, the institution of marriage became the building block of societies all over the world. Indeed, the world is more populous, more prosperous and more educated than ever before. With the concept of contraception coupled with a sense of individuality, people are compelled to ponder over the functionality of marriage.
Is marriage just a piece of paper? In the world of surrogate and single mothers, do we need fathers at all?
Many so called ‘progressive’ societies are debating such dilemmas. But it is for all to see that the social fabric of such ‘progressive’ societies is rotting. One such ‘progressive’ society has recently re-elected their President, who on the eve of winning hugged his wife and said, “We are one big American family and we will face things together.” In the same ‘progressive’ nation, same sex couples are fighting to legalize their marriage to make life long commitments. Perhaps togetherness and commitment are the key words. Marriage is all about facing the tumults of life together.
Needless to say, that the divorce rate is higher in ‘progressive’ societies, because women are becoming independent; financially and otherwise. As a result, several urban couples, wary of commitment are opting to co-habitate minus the ‘piece of paper’. However studies have shown that co-habiters break-up at a higher rate than the married couples. So clearly, children borne out of such arrangements face legal dilemmas and insecure futures. In general, children raised in happy married households are more likely to enjoy stable marriages as adults. Similarly, single adults are more likely to be depressed and lonely when compared to their married compatriots.
Being a part of a modern, progressive milieu, I wonder why Mr. Bhatt believes that the rules of marriage are set on unequal grounds. Unless one endorses the khaps, I fail to understand why Mr. Bhatt feels that women have to abandon their names and their future for the sake of husband and children. Ask Kareena Khan Kapoor! She was happily living together with her partner, so what prompted her to get married and accept subordination? And joining the bandwagon is new Mrs. SRK – Shilpa Raj Kundra. Who forced an independent minded Shilpa to change her name? I doubt if it was her docile husband.
Finally, Mr. Bhatt had an ‘Aha-moment’ – a moment of realization, when his inebriated friend dispensed pearls of wisdom, “Marriage is all about tolerating each other’s bullshit.”
Forget marriage, any meaningful relationship is all about tolerating ‘bullshit’. In sober terms, it essentially means providing emotional support when the partner is having an emotional outburst. On bad days giving ‘bullshit’ can be cathartic. And who takes the ‘bull shit’ unconditionally? Other than an understanding spouse or a loving mother I can’t think of anyone else!
Psychologists say that those who think that marriage is a ‘defunct-outdated institution’ are those who have had dreadful personal experiences with marriage. Perhaps, the inability to take responsibility for incompatibility compels people to look at an external locus of control. Yes, it makes sense to move on if two people are incompatible and the relationship is beyond repair. It also makes sense to remain single as a matter of personal choice. However, to junk the institution only because some marriages failed, is utterly presumptuous.
Debunk marriage as an institution and we are on a slippery slope of legal pandemonium and an unhappy society.
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