This blog by my friend Balasanjeevi makes a hilarious read. As a fellow co-traveller, I largely agree with his observations and feel compelled to share my own, although I must admit that I cannot replicate his humorous effect.
The current marriage market is a textbook case-study on how excessive domination could end up becoming hugely counterproductive and one begins to appreciate moderation as an essential even in domination.
Traditional marriage market
RK Narayan writes in an essay in "The Next Sunday" which although laced with humor makes grim observations about the then prevailing marriage markets. A father of a prospective bridegroom apparently declares that next to an investment in land whose values never comes below a point, having an unmarried son is the next best investment. Taking a cue from the discount/ combo offers during festive seasons, dowry demands were innovatively designed too – a car/bike/cycle (my son has to maintain his status, you know), refrigerator (my son likes everything cool, you know), in addition to household items etc.
One can easily picture the bride's father controlling an irresistible urge to enquire if no efforts were made to upkeep status, prestige and refined tastes of the bridegroom all along and whether they were patiently waiting for this unique opportunity to acquire them. Nonetheless, marriage was a seller's-market and no father mustered courage to ask these and quietly submitted to the demands.
Curiously, the socio-economic vagaries of pre-liberalized India and increasingly unreasonable dowry demands led to overall drop in enthusiasm to have girl-child and imperceptibly the male-female ratio in population became skewed.
Meanwhile Indian economy boomed, woman employment rose & the financially-independent women were no longer confined to West. However, men struck with the image of their mothers as a guiding factor to choices were in for a rude shock.
Secure with the knowledge that women are fewer in number than men, cases of reverse demands aren't unheard of today. Sample few absolutely hilarious demands (based on what I hear from friends).
· We should stay separate and I wouldn't appreciate your parents residing with us.
· Parents should have independent source of income, and shouldn't be dependents.
· My earnings are none of your concern, and any enqueries/requests wouldn't be appreciated
· No interference in my lifestyle, habits are appreciated.
· I won't relocate, you should do so if interested.
These cases notwithstanding, woman-harassment is far from extinct in India and apart from some urbanized islands , the trasformation hasn't touched most of rural India yet.
The irony is that the patriarchal society of 70s, 80s would seldom have imagined that by overdoing their domination they have indirectly catalyzed not just woman-liberation but also woman-emancipation. “Ati sarvatra varjayet" – anything in excess is best avoided may find new relevance to them. *
Owing to changed conditions, objection to love-marriages has died a slow-death. Perhaps the partner-hunt has so taxed the parents that they're happy when they are spared the painstaking hunt & selection process although they are still keen their children do marry and do so early in life. Which reminds me that universal marriage system is by far a hugely successful experiment in India across milleniums. No other civilization deems marriage as hugely necessary for human-life as Indians.
But these in turn, direct our attention to the larger issue – does marriage retain its sanctity today?
Marriage as an Institution
The sanctity of marriage as an institution has received drubbing from legalization of same-sex marriages in parts of US and which is steadily finding voice in most parts of the world including India. The traditional position against same-sex marriages was that the ultimate purpose of marriage is procreation - which remains unfulfilled in these marriages – therefore these relationships are deemed illegitimate.
However, marriage is no longer being seen though Judeo-Abrahamic culturo-religious-moral-ethical framework (upon which West rests) and is increasingly viewed as an arrangement to live together by two consenting adults. Live-in relationships (among hetero-couples) are the norm in West, and marriage is usually considered post-pregnancy. Increasing number of children in US are born to unwed mothers. Recreation and not necessarily procreation, thus forms the basis of new-age marriage !
Progressives of all shades are glad over these developments and feel that these trends encourage more freedom and tolerance although it amuses me no end on how almost all ideologies of past two centuries were radically anti-family (communism more than any other).
Religiously-inclined but realistic people see this as gradual degradation. I'm reminded of an Western astrologer who claimed that these changes owe their origin to the advent of The Age of Aquarius after having passed through The Age of Pisces where each age consists of roughly 2000 years. Pisces (zodiac) represents emotions, faith, commitment, loyalty, superstitions, selflessness, community-spirit, honestly etc which were adequately represented in the era from 0 AD to 2000 AD. Aquarius(zodiac) on the contrary represents detachment, reason, selfishness, individuality, rationality (as opposed to emotion), hypocrisy, scientific spirit that will be represented in future (2000 AD to 4000 AD?) and the signs of which are already visible.
As a phlegmatic person (and thus an Aquarian man(?), although I consider myself a Nietzscheist), I'm amused by these trends and look forward to more informed & objective analysis. But while I support the right of each individual to live their life in line with their wishes as long as they're legal and unobstructive to society at large, the western deconstruction of family has larger implications which I want to discuss. That'll however have to wait for now.
*(a pertinent point deliberately avoided here which presents a more nuanced understanding is the morals concering female infanticide; which among these is more cruel : killing an undesired baby or letting them live and subjecting the girl to daily and constant harassment in abject poverty over a lifetime.)