The institution of Marriage in the Twenty First century

Is the institution of marriage a modern union or a confusing dichotomy?

This article has been written with the urban youth in mind. There is such a huge social gap between the values and ideals of rural and urban India that I have chosen to streamline my article towards the emerging urban culture and the rising marital trends.

“Oh! Look how much you’ve grown. My, my! Its your turn next you know…”, exclaims a 40-something, self-proclaimed matchmaker-the typical ‘auntyji’, your mother’s friend’s friend, who meets you after some years in some wedding and claims to know a very eligible bachelor who is just perfect for you. “When did this happen?” you wonder. Just a year ago, everyone was telling you to behave responsibly like an adult and shun those childish, girly traits and now, they say you’re ready to marry! After a lot of matchmaking and bridegroom judging, someone finds someone for you and you are married off in great splendor to an individual you don’t know and are expected to enter into a household, you haven’t ever seen. Then comes the ‘adjustment’, like your dear experienced mother says.

You learn to adapt to new surroundings, live with your newly made relatives, mould perfectly into your environment and take care of yourself and your husband’s needs. You have been as obedient as people told you to be, but you are miserable in this new dwelling, where you learn the actual meaning of ‘compromise’. You confide your feelings to your mother, whenever you go visiting your parents, and she tells you, “Be thankful that you got married at the right age. Now, I can become a grandmother in my last years. Just look at that Pooja, I heard she wasn’t a virgin when her time came to get married. Sheesh! No wonder she’s been rejected by the groom’s parents so many times,…people get to know these things very easily.…”

You get tired of questioning and confiding and learn to fall in love after marriage… Well, the love just seems to grow out of familiarity. You grin and bear the differences for the sake of your children and life teaches you that marriage is an institution that needs to be cared for meticulously.

No, this wasn’t a portrayal of the scenario of marriage in today’s society. In fact, it was a glimpse into the institution of marriage in the 20th century-the kind of relationships our parent’s generations maintained.

Cut to the present:

It’s the 21st century, the year of 2007 and 21 year olds are no longer expected to ‘settle down’.

“The age for marriage in India is slowly edging towards the late twenties. And why not,” Roshini, a 23 year old software professional says. “Women today, are increasingly giving priority to their ambitions, instead of getting crushed in the dichotomy of marriage and career. They are red-hot and refuse to be the sole compromiser in the relationship”

The traditional role of the man being a breadwinner and the woman being the caretaker of the household is totally non-existent. A vast majority of young couples are striving to attain that coveted balance in their marriages and that work-gender division has vanished. Previously, when the woman earned more than a man, or was academically more qualified, it was considered as a major hindrance in the relationship. This difference in qualifications in 21st century marriages is not considered as a deterrent to the relation. Nevertheless, it hasn’t completely disappeared from our social mindset. “An ‘I’ and a ‘you’ form a ‘we’. But if the ‘I’ is not ready for commitment or has other priorities, why unnecessarily force him/her to form a ‘we’? Man! People should get into a marital relationship only after they sort themselves out”, opines Kanishka, a 21 year old collegian.

Its fantastic how two biologically, mentally, genetically different human beings, can unite in a bond and vow to stay united for their entire lifetimes, among a billion other human beings! ‘Generation X’ seems to be imbibing the concept that a marriage is the union of 2 minds, rather than caste, religion, creed, or although still socially unacceptable, but nevertheless existent, genders! With the dominance of nuclear families in cities, it is very normal to hear a girl say, “I am marrying you, not your family!”, if she is asked to ‘compromise’ and put up with her in-laws’ demands.

Gone are the days, when infidelity sent shock waves in the entire neighborhood and caused major disequilibria. Although unacceptable, it doesn’t break marriages today. The emergence of more reliable matrimonies such as, and professional match-making centers has diluted the role of that neighborhood auntyji. The focus is more on how compatible 2 people are with each other, rather than how compatible the society judges them to be.

Mrs.Sajani Bhat, a marital counselor, puts things into perspective, “It isn’t that the society is becoming immoral or that the sanctity of marriage is getting dilutied. It’s just that with the evolving world, values are changing. Nowadays, it isn’t expected of woman to grin and bear the injustices done to her. People don’t stay together only for the sake of their children. Instead, choices are being made and lives are being separated if 2 people find each other incompatible after a certain time period.”

Disappointingly, the mindset of the masses, urban or rural, seems stagnated. A recent survey conducted by the Times of India reveals that, in spite of the changing culture almost 50% of Indian men prefer virgin brides as they consider non-virgins to be ‘second-hand’ material. However, certain sections of society consider pre-marital sex acceptable and are gradually opening up to the concept of live-in relationships.This trend is very evident in metro cities.

Marriage, which is a serious decision, is taken after careful thought and understanding of the partner, both by the couple and by their families. As long as there are humans, there will be a union of souls and of minds. The concept of marriage in India is never going to lose its sanctity due to our culture, how much ever the West influences us. However, there are those young wisecracks, who follow their own untrodden path and keep us guessing. For instance, this 21 year old youngster completely overthrew my analysis with the following statement, “Marriage is an institution. Umm..Who wants to spend their life in an institution?”!

Neha Bhat