Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Piece of Paper?





(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daily, noted film director and scriptwriter Vikram Bhatt started a debate when he said, “Marriage is a defunct and an outdated institution.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Is Marriage really a defunct and outdated Institution?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 Bhatt debunks the institution of marriage and labels it as ‘outdated’.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.

Image Courtesy : Google Images.www.voiceofsikkim.com

60 comments:

  1. Marriage is not entirely a farce. Without it, life is just an lonely period between birth and death.

    It's progressively changing, undoubtedly, like everything. Divorce rate is high because now people have an option to opt out, which is perfectly fine. Instead of living in an uneasy surrounding it's better to quit.

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    1. At the end of the day, it is a personal decision. But do you think its time to debunk the institution? Would love to hear different views.

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    2. No, if children are a part of it. I think it'd not be appropriate to dissolve a marriage if couple has a child with it. Children are feeble and cannot understand what is going around at a young age.
      However, if children are understanding and have come to an age where they can feed themselves, I think at that point things could be different.

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    3. Prateek, you are taking an individual case. Individual cases are a matter of personal choice and decisions. This post was a reply to Mr Bhatts argument that it is time to debunk marriage.

      By and large do you think we are ready for a society where people live in and move out at free will minus a marriage. Is it time to debunk marriage by the majority of educated progressive society?

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  2. May be not all marriages are not happy, but not all marriages are sad either. It's better together than alone. I don't want to talk about the wife and husband relationship, but about the kids, I can say for sure that there is a difference. The moral strength the kids get when they have two supporting parents is greater than one. Again, I don't mean to offend any single moms. No one willingly goes into that position, situations make them to.

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    1. Agree. I have the highest regard for single parents. This is not about personal choices but about the institution of marriage.

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  3. Well said. It's all a matter of personal choice.

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  4. If psychologists say only those who have had unhappy experiences in marriage think it is a defunct and outdated institution,then they are wrong. They are forgetting people like me exist, who are able to take an objective view. I am happily married and yet I think marriage is outdated and defunct. :)

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    1. Such studies are based on a random sample and express a majority view point.

      Good to hear a contrary point of view.But why do you think so?

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  5. I think it is between the couple. Whatever suits them. We can have all kind of opinions flying around.
    I think what 'marriage' denotes in a society depends on the way that society is structured. Our society does not take the institution lightly. There is too much undue pressure on people to make it work.

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    1. As I said in the beginning, its a matter of personal choice. Here we are discussing marriage as an institution.

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  6. Mine is a fourteen years old marriage. There are times when we are not together in the evenings and I get this hollow feeling. I just don't who to agree with about the stray bits of news, a movie, or a sitcom, or a colleague or a neighbour. Worse, I don't know who to disagree with -at times bitterly- about the very same things. Marriage is all about companionship and sharing. The socio-legal status accorded to the 'piece of paper' is a recognition and catchment for human needs, a coast and shore for human bonds, a self-satisfying mechanism of socio-biological necessities. That said, one man's elixir is another man's poison. And a jaundiced eye can but see yellow.

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    1. Well said.
      Readers are confusing the post and imagining that I am passing comments on personal choice. Its about marriage as an institution.

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  7. End of the day it depends on the Two people who are in a marriage what they wanna do with it , how do they take it forward ..

    just marrying for the sake of it is also not good..

    Bikram's

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    1. True. As I said in the beginning, it is a matter of personal choice and I respect it.But Mr Bhatt says that the institution is dead and as a society we need to debunk it. Do you agree?

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    2. Forget about Mr. bhatt, he has to say something to be in public eye, hence the lines , I am not sure but isn't he the same bhatt who is married and has a affair too or am I talking of some other bhatt..


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    3. He is the same....and even the affair is kaput now....

      True, I guess he is saying these things to garner publicity....he has several releases this year.

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  8. This could his personal opinion.I am NOT surprised at a statement coming from Bhatt.
    One Bhatt brother was my neighbour for years in Mumbai
    I dont blame him for making such a statement

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  9. It really depends on the individual. But as far as I am concerned, I am a firm believer in marriage. It works for me, it worked for my parents. I see them happy. Ofcourse there would be hiccups, but again, its between those two to make that happen. I liked the choice of the topic.

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  10. A very well thought out post Alka.
    Marriage is not a piece of paper .. Infact if a lot of married people took their marriage vows more responsibly and considered marriage to be more than just a piece of paper /social obligation our society would have been a better place to live in!
    I don’t think marriage is outdated but the concepts like “everyone should get married”, “single people are unhappy”, “life is useless without marriage are outdated”. Marriage is and will continue to be an important part of our social fabric, but believing it to be the biggest or the best thing that can ever happen to you is a mistake. There is so so so much more to life than simply marriage and kids – It’s high time people realize that !
    As you say marriage should be a question of personal choice !

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    1. You have summed it up so well.
      As you say, sometimes single people can be happier than married individuals. However the institution holds relevance and should not be debunked.

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  11. Alka,

    Very well written. I will like to ask Mr Bhatt two questions :

    1. If we also start living with one partner, have babies but leave as and when we feel like to join another partner and so on & so on, then what is the difference between humans and stray dogs or other animals?

    2. Would he accept his daughter to have babies from different men and raise them all alone?

    Take care

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    1. I wonder what he has to say to that. There is going to be legal pandemonium for sure.

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  12. I think its high time people admit that marriage is based on unequal terms for both the partners. One partner dominates and the other is slightly docile. Of course, there is a chance that the roles may reverse after a point of time. But marriage can never bring equality in a relationship.

    Second, in our society forced marriages happen more often than what anyone thinks. The pressure from relatives (and parents) is high, and often the reason behind all that is money. Do you think any such marriage based on high principles like 'dowry' and 'commission for dowry' is ideal for anyone?

    Destination Infinity

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    1. Why marriage DI? I think every relationship is unequal where there is a dominant partner. We don't debunk that, do we?

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    2. Destination Infinity....you are taking an individual case where some individual is pressurized to get married, which is undesirable. But , by and large do you agree with Mr Bhatts argument that marriage is an outdated institution and that we should debunk it? Will that not lead to leagal pandemonium?
      We can agree to disagree that all marriages are about unequal relationships. I find myself on a equal footing in marriage. If we start weighing relationships on the scale of egos, no relationship will endure the test of time.It is all about give and take, understanding and mutual respect.
      And dowry is a different subject all together.

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  13. Marriage is definitely not a defunct or outdated institution. Don't know why Mr. Bhatt is making such statements.

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    1. He has six releases lined up this year and perhaps he wanted to start a debate to stay in the limelight....I am guessing these are marketing strategies.

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  14. I also read this piece and felt that why there was need to say that marriage is bullshit. I mean it is one thing to not believe in it and another to debunk the concept. Those who believe in it make serious efforts to make it work and I don't see anything wrong with it. Call it regressive, outdated or whatever one feels like but it brings lives together.

    Nice post Alka.

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    1. Because you read his article , you can appreciate where I am coming from. Those who have neither read his article nor this post in totality, believe this is a comment on individual choices.
      Glad you understood.

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  15. Alka you have tackled this subject from many angles and have done a wonderful job at it. Like you pointed out, the bullshitting happens on both sides. The key is to feel enough for each other to support when the other is having an emotional burst. And I don't see only marriage thriving that way. It works for all relationships. Besides, I find that it is easier for people to hit out at the concept of marriage when they are talking of related things. I guess for some personal experiences or those of their parents or loved ones might also contribute towards their aversion. Personally, I love being married. But, I was brought up in a more conventional setup. Will my son feel similarly about marriage? I frankly cannot say :).

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    1. True Rachna,...no relationship can survive egos. It is all about give and take, mutual respect and trust.

      At the end of the day, its personal choice. A person may be happy and unmarried or married and unhappy. But I do not agree when Mr Bhatt says it is time to debunk the institution of marriage at large. It is bound to create a legal pandemonium and several lonely individuals.

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  16. I agree about the chaos part if a legal bond is dispensed with. I remember arguing the same in one of my posts on Reverese Stereotyping. You have quoted the cases of Kareena and Shilpa Shetty. What about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who tied the knot after seven years? I remember an article that quoted stats that said that marriage was looked upon as a grounding factor. In a society that is so biased against women, doing away with an institution would be an open invitation for the beasts and brutes to maul them. I wonder how responsible people can even argue without taking into account the socio-economic and literary realities.

    Well presented and argued, Alka. But that is your hallmark, isn't it? :)

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    1. I quoted Kareena and Shilpa because Mr Bhatt in his article had said that women are forced to change names and drop their identity after marriage. Shilpa and Kareena belong to his 'progressive' fraternity and I doubt if they changed their names under pressure.
      This was a point by point rebuttal of his article in Timeslife, Sunday edition.

      The last line made my day.

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  17. Right now, legally and socio-economically, especially in India, the benefits are definitely tilted towards marriage for both partners. At the same time some people, especially the young think those aren't reasons to get married at all. So whatever my opinion, they'll do what they believe is right for them.

    Whether it is the west or the east and whether it is with or without that piece of paper, the ones who are in a relationship with concern for and commitment to each other will have a better chance of making it last.

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  18. ..its personal choice marriage or no marriage ..or livin relationship. The only n only thing that matters that kids born out of any relationship should not suffer ..their priorities should be kept in front before our own luxuries or egos of any kind..
    usually in western countries I see kids suffer ..getting abused for fault of their parents!

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    1. I doubt if it makes sense to debunk the institution by and large.Hence the post.

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  19. I am wondering, if we took emotions out of Bhatt's inarticulate statement, if there a genuine premise in what he is saying. If 55% of marriages are failing in countries like the US and Sweden, and the rate in India is on the uptick (I am pretty sure that the divorce rate in Urban India is higher than 1.1%), there is something flawed in the institution in the current paradigm.
    Yes, most people still aspire to get married, but why can't more than half of them who do, sustain it? I think it is a very ponderable point :)

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    1. Ruchira made a valid point. One can be single and happy or married and unhappy. Depends on the people involved.

      But are western societies which are gradually debunking the institution happy compared to societies where people still believe in the institution?
      Its debatable.

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  20. Ahh...what a lovely write-up! Kudos for it.

    Just because a few individuals had unhappy experiences and relationships that didn't work out, doesn't mean we debunk this institution!

    American society is largely very conservative. They believe in the institution of marriage and giving their all to it. The last two months, I have met so many couples from that country who have been married for nearly three decades and have a rock solid marriage!



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    1. This post was meant to rebut Mr Bhatts points raised in a national daily.I tried NOT to make this post personal. Yet some readers take it as a comment on personal choices. One has to read this post in the context of Mr Bhatt's views.
      Glad you echo my thoughts.

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  21. Ahoy!I see Bhatt is free of writing scary stories these days. Someone please get him a movie offer and lets get rid of him. Read my blog post o the same 'progressive' thiker;)

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    1. Read your post...very well written. Trust his judgement to compare sex with car driving. No wonder he is single.

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  22. Alka, a nice round up! Unfortunately the Bhatts have been there and done all so they are better judges than us lesser mortals and they know better what sells:)

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  23. I would like to marry the day I want to have children and I have that person in my life who I want to father my kids :) You don't need to marry in my opinion for enjoying the other benefits :) :) It's just a piece of paper - a legal sanctity for your actions....

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    1. Divya honestly, it is more than having kids and legal rights. It is more about sharing and caring if you are lucky to find the right partner.

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  24. If only the film director could understand that the failure of a marriage (or any relationship for that matter) is due to the people involved instead of the concept of marriage itself. Does he mean to say that two completely normal and nice people who get married to each other start dishing out crap and taking crap just because its the concept of marriage which makes them do so ? A failed marriage or relationship is due to the fault in a person's attitude and character. Such a person is bound to deal in crap whether or not he or she is married. It is ridiculous to suggest that a normal and nice person suddenly becomes dominant or the suppressed just because its how marriage works.

    Thankfully I keep away from movies as I can only expect what sort of movies this director/scriptwriter must be dishing out. But I would end by saying that politicians, film people and celebrities maintain their presence in the public eye through preposterous comments as it is the easiest way. To try and find logic in their comments is similar to trying to find a needle in a haystack (and that too like when the needle was never dropped in the haystack ! :-) )

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    1. Shobhit....you have worded it so aptly. Its a pleasure to read your perspectives on my posts. Blogging becomes pleasurable and enriching only because there are sensitive and sensible people like you.

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  25. I think Vikram Bhatt made it very clear that he is not made of marriage material and that he is a loner.Now that makes him a non believer in the institution of marriage.Agreed,there is inequality in the marriage set up in our society but we can never be ready enough to trash this institution.It is one of the stable pillars of civil society .We can as individuals,make efforts towards equality in a relationship instead.
    Ironical,Alka..I wrote about marriage in a different light today,seen through the eyes of an old lady I met in a village .

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    1. Would love to read...please pass on the link...you have so many blogs.Its difficult to find....

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    2. Read it and commented.....its almost poetic prose.

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  26. Well debated..the word Marriage has been there for always. Its about two people, their companionship and their faith in its sanctity. If one believes, should go for it and enjoy the blessings and if not better to keep mum. Those who talk ill of it have also been through it and their talk sounds more like sour grapes.

    manjulikapramod.com

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  27. I've been married now for a year and a half but find it difficult to believe we've made it through till so long! We are so very different yet we connect at a level, we have endless arguments but end up in a amicable decision, we work together in our home-office but find it extremely difficult to make some 'our' time 24x7, we need to badly share so many little thoughts with each other yet we tend to keep many things to ourselves, and the list goes on...

    I guess if we would have drifted apart at any moment, had we just been 'live-in' couples; marriage taught us both that relationships need to be nurtured on earth even though matches are made in heaven!

    My dad married my mother and lived a happy, respectable and worthy life, while his brothers chose not to marry and both recently passed away in severe sickness and pain.

    That said, I have friends who are in a completely abusive marriage, which is really unfortunate:(

    Blaming the institution of marriage because it didn't work for your parents, yourself or others near you is based on a very defective sample population. Like you have explained how 'progressive' has actually regressed society, Vikram and others who believe like him, need to get rid of those grey tinted glasses while expressing their opinions on marriage (on a side note, I would like to know what Ms Sushmita Sen has to say to this statement of his?)

    the two BOLD lines sum it up...

    P.S.: You and most commenters are nearly a decade or more older and wiser than me...so i always make it a point to read and imbibe points of views from here :)

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