Walk The Talk – Marriage , Our National Obsession


Looking for a “suitable” prospective bride or groom for their children is an obsession with Indian parents. It doesn’t matter if they are conservative or liberal. Weddings, social gatherings are the breeding grounds for matchmaking. Keen eyes watch all your movements and scan you like an X-ray machine to see if you can fit into the role of a ‘good bahu or demand ‘for their family. There is an obsession to “marry off” the youngster as early as possible. The term itself puts me off.

No sooner is the child born, parents start dreaming of his/her marriage. In case of girls the scenario is worse. Even the most liberated parents spend most of their time planning the marriage of their children.  It is considered a moral duty to quickly fix a match and make sure that the child is ‘settled’.  I have seen many parents and grandparents pestering youngsters to get married. I have met frustrated parents fighting losing battles with kids when they decide either to not marry or they find a life partner of their choice hence shattering all dream castles of a grand wedding of “their” choice. It seems as if Matrimony is the most important event of human life.

The obsession begins from childbirth. It differs from one region to another but the entire nation suffers from it except maybe the North Eastern states. Money is put in various saving schemes specially tailored for this grand event, gold accumulated, children advised to choose their career with care so it’s easy to find a “good catch” in the “marriage market”. If one is parent of a girl then the responsibility to find her a “good home” and train her to become “a good wife and DIL” becomes the top most priority but that is another long story.

The moment kids finish high school the pressure starts building up on them. Everything revolves around one thing – marriage. Family, relatives, everyone suddenly becomes concerned to terminate their brahamachaya status and push them into grahasth status and it doesn’t end there. Then there is an urgency to have a grandchild and then the second grandchild so that they can be subjected to the same pressure. It’s a social let down if a friend’s daughter or son gets married and you are still fighting to coax yours to agree. It’s considered a stigma if your child crosses the “marriageable age”. The rants are endless and emotional drama worse than what the daily soaps on TV churn out. Torn between their desires, parental aspirations and societal pressures the youngsters don’t know where to head.

Satyamev Jayate ‘s episode on Love marriages had just finished and I was discussing it with my son when the bell rang.

“Hey, can you spare some time for me, I need to talk. Can we go out?” The young man at the door, a friend’s son, seemed disturbed.

“Sure thing my boy”, I said and we decided to walk to the local mall.

“What’s eating you?” I asked.

He threw up his hands in the air.

I told them to give me a break.  “I do not wish to marry and when or If I do I will find a girl for myself. They created a ruckus and I just walked out. There is a limit to everything. First they don’t like my choice of subjects, then they have problem with my career choice and now this”.

He was in a bad mood and I could see why. Barely in his twenties, he was subjected to the ‘career/ marriage and moral talk’ torture every day.

“I am sick of it. They push me just because they were married off early. It’s like “we couldn’t have our way so we won’t let you have it”. What crap is this”?

I completely agreed with him. Knowing the kind of family he belonged to.

“Now the latest is,” Do you have a girlfriend? What community? Will you marry her? Do her parents know? We won’t allow a “love marriage”. “Find someone from your own community. Don’t go for live in or fall for girl of other religion/ caste”. Why do you want to be an artist? Why not MBA?

I am done”.

I asked him if he can stand up against the pressure and pursue his dreams.

“Of course I won’t give in. It’s a matter of my life but think about all those who can’t. I mean, among my friends, everyone has the same story to tell about themselves or an older sibling. Girls get more harassed than boys. They are pressurized to follow a certain moral code. Boundaries are set. The moment they reach teens, their mothers get obsessed with their every move. Like watch dogs the parents monitor everything so the girl can later be ‘ shown off’ as a ‘ homely , demure’ person who can cook, clean, satisfy her husband , have babies and care for her elders. You won’t believe that even those girls who come from so-called ‘modern’ backgrounds have a certain code of conduct which they Have To follow. Why do you think they lie and make stories to slip out and breathe some fresh air? The continuous moral policing smothers them.

Why is it such a touchy thing with the parents? Why can’t they let us be? What if one doesn’t want to get married? What if one wants to marry late? Why being single is such an issue? Why is it looked upon as something abnormal? I do not even wish to go into the issue of sexual preferences. That is one thing parents will never understand”

“Well, know many parents don’t but I have no issues of any kind dear boy”, I said with genuine feelings for him.

“Yeah, how does it even matter, everyone isn’t like you, I feel it’s something to with their insecurities. ” he said thoughtfully chewing the gum.

“They want to prove to themselves, to relatives and society that they can be qualified as “good parents” because they fulfilled their duties, that their children “obey them”, that their children are “normal and straight”, that they can have kids  …God damn it. Sometimes I feel they all have OCD.  Why is so hard for them to let Us decide for ourselves, when and even, whether, we should get married.  ”

I felt sorry for him but was glad that at least he is raising questions and speaking up. The situation gets sticky when young people run out of arguments against this great Indian marriage obsession and give in. Ill prepared and forced into  institution of marriage these youngsters end up being disillusioned and unhappy.

Sometime the pressure is so much that they decide to do something even worse. They decide to marry the first person they fall in love with, without giving any thought and later either end up in early divorces or suffer the consequences of their decision.

Do we see our grown up children as “adults” and even individuals?

Do we care about their dreams, aspirations?

Do we realize that they are not extensions of ourselves and should not be subjected to perform as we want them to?

Do we realize that by making the children feel guilty about not “fulfilling” our dreams and desires and by running them down and accusing them all the time for ‘stepping out of family customs, values’ we are actually smothering them?

Do we ever think that what we as  parents, grandparents do in the name of  “love and betterment of youngsters” is actually smothering their individuality, their decision-making ability, their intelligence and most of all their dignity as a person?

Why do we always have to show our superiority and “expect” the younger generation to abide by our wishes? Why can’t we rejoice in their blossoming?

It is really sad the way we bully the children emotionally and mentally on almost every aspect of life from the time they are born, sometimes knowingly and most of the time unconsciously as a habit. We chart their paths, force them to take the road We choose and in a way make them end up being our own clones. No wonder they try to do the same with their children. Marriage is just one of the many issues which we hang like a sword of Damocles over their heads. The “We know what’s best for you” attitude continues all through their lives and is translated into their dealings with people younger than them.

It scars their lives for good.

In many families where a boy or a girl opts for ‘love marriage’ (usually against the wishes of parents), there is a complete breakdown of relationships. It is unacceptable to parents that their child can go against their wishes and marry just ‘anybody’. Nothing hurts their social ego as this one step. Most of the time the new couple face opposition and in extreme cases have to pay the price with their lives. In other cases, sometimes the families cut off all ties with the “rebel” youngsters and the worse hit are those who are accepted in the fold of family to either keep the social image or in fear that they will “lose” their son , their Budhape ka sahara.

If, under pressure, a girl is ‘accepted’ into the boy’s family, especially an orthodox, traditional one, she is expected to mould herself completely to their customs etc as in any other marriage and  if there is no support from her spouse, romance of love marriage leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

In many cases the boy succumbs to the emotional blackmail by the parents and begins to perform exactly as they want him to, forgetting that he is now responsible to uphold the dignity of his decision and that of his wife’s honour too. The guilt trip is so strong that he gives in with no second thought, hoping that everything will be fine one day. Unfortunately that day never comes in many lives.

Very few are able to create a healthy balance. Most of them are usually in the middle of a tug of war and the boy’s parents; especially the mother makes sure not to leave any chance of proving who the boss is. Interference from in-laws makes it very difficult to lead a happy life with the partner of her choice. Most of the time there is no support from her maternal family too and that makes the situation worse.

Are we responsible enough to protect the dignity of love? Do we really understand what it means in the true sense of the word? Be it love for our children or for each other.

Why is it that Indian parents have such an obsession with marriage of their children? Why is it that there is so much resistance to the child choosing his/her own life partner? Why are young adults continuously pressurized to get married and start a family? (That is another pressure that comes along  … to have kids as quickly as possible and be done with it).

We had a long conversation about this and the more we discussed the subject became murkier and complex.

“I think this obsession about marriage is the root cause of all evils. I think most of the crimes against females would end if This changes.  If the older generations do not push themselves and us to follow blindly the customs and norms set centuries ago. If they opened the windows of their minds just a wee bit.” He said thoughtfully. These urges to fit in and please the society, the regular taglines – what will people say, that’s the way our society and traditions are – are meaningless if we give it a thought.  What is society after all? It is made up of individuals and if individual thinking is changed society too will change. Won’t it? “

There was sadness on his face, a concern for the society slipping into dark ages.

“Absolutely, I am sure if the younger generation decides to break away from the clutches that hold them down, things will get better. I will try to reason it out with your parents”, I assured him though I wondered if the older generations were ready to move forward with conviction.

One can always try.

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Walk the talk – Temple tales


“I am an Atheist”. He said.” I do not believe in organised, ritualistic religion or God “.

I believe temples are the biggest wealth hoarders  and should be termed as business houses if not anything else and for that matter even the churches , mosques, gurudwaras and all other so-called places of worship. Can we use RTI  to question all these people who are amassing wealth in the name of religion?

I can not believe in anything that doesn’t exist like ‘ God”  if super powers are what we are talking of then I can a name a whole pantheon of superheroes who are more real to us than some non entity that lives in an abyss . I would rather  respect Nature for that matter.

Long ago before this whole class division etc happened people simply revered the nature around them then some men  devised this concept of heaven and hell to  put fear in masses and used it as  instrument of power. People use it because it is comfort beyond compare for those who do not have faith in their own abilities and a sure shot way to richness and power. Those modern-day worries have made people use religion as a crutch and that is the reason they blindly follow those babas, gurus, yada yada to the highest degree of stupidity.”

I decided to listen. It is a wonderful thing to do. A lost art too. “I would rather believe in Good than God ” I said.

“We live in an increasingly gender-neutral, technological world then how can we believe in a sham like religion.”  Except for the temples of Khajuraho I detest them all. Noisy, their air dripping of communal ism  and class/gender differences. I hate the priest who fleeces the zombies who visit these places ..zombies for they are bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli.

” The “God” sits there smeared with various things,  adorned with finest jewels and watches this crap or in some other religions He is conveniently formless. All that milk which is poured on the shivlinga can feed hundreds of malnutritioned kids.  Wonder if God knows that. I find this whole Abishekam and shringaram rituals pathetic. Such waste, and to think people pay hefty sum to be a part of this, to watch God bathe. Yikes!

People do not have faith in themselves , they do not have love for themselves and their fellow being , animals, trees , things that sustain life but they would draw blood and commit the most atrocious things like child sacrifice for a belief they can’t even explain properly. They are like those terrorists, fundamentalist who have blinkers on and one agenda – their supremacy.

I was impressed at the use of vocabulary.

“Losing an illusion is better than finding a truth”- Ludwig Borne

God loves you and he needs money.

“What made you talk about this suddenly?” I asked.

“I refused to enter the temple where granny had taken me and that brought hell right on earth at the doorstep of the temple. He laughed. “I  was lectured on how I would burn in hell for offending Him. Ah, well , who cares.All that fasting had made her irritable and in my opinion she needed food than God at that time. The best thing to do was listen and text to bro for a fake call which came promptly to my rescue.” lol It was my turn to laugh.

“Also I watch our house help pray religiously for her husbands long life and well being and in returns she gets beaten up, abused sexually, emotionally, mentally by  that drunkard day in and day out and I say to myself surely her God is deaf and pro rich and pro men , someone who can  listen only when some seth or sethani is playing raunchy bhajans based on latest film songs  by a loud speaker and offering him a big notton ki gaddi. This poor woman’s tear streaked voiced drowsed by pain and sorrow doesn’t reach his ears.  It makes me sick. ”

“I don’t see any relevance of these grand structures. Mosques, temples ,churches , I love the architectural, cultural or historical aspect  but beyond that, nothing.  It is a height of conceit to clothe some non existent God in human form and  ascribe to them our petty vanities and jealousies. Rituals, beliefs in Horo(horrors)copes, gems, stones, astrology, numerology anything that gives people that illusory hope and a name in His good books is lapped up whatever the cost may be. Sad isn’t it that we have no compassion for living but we can go to any length for some abstract thing/ person or an ambigu­ous con­cept that is not well-defined?”

“True, I hear ya”, I said munching the roasted chana( good choice, when thinking) .

“Religion is the root of all the mess in this world and the most racist, sexist , discriminatory vice of the society and the viral root cause of all evil in this world. Society will rot if this doesn’t end. Religion is a refuge ground for all the unscrupulous people, politicians,business men with number do ka paisa, criminals and many such others. I don’t think I need their company. It is a tool for gender inequality mainly oppression of women. I am perplexed at  how even eman­ci­pated women pre­fer to stay within their reli­gious faiths and strug­gle against oppres­sion, and not choos­ing to dis­card religion? Glad you discarded it long back. ” He heaved a sigh of relief.

I told him about an article from Guardian ,” Religions do a good job of training people to be obedient and loyal to the authorities and women in particular are raised to be both devout and submissive. Religions are sticky: they are hard to abandon and that is doubly true for women, given that subordination and unshakable fidelity are their chief duties.” { LINK }

Fanaticism is at t he core of all religion. A man kills100+in Oslo & is termed as “Gunman” “attacker” “Assailant” by media but If he were Muslim he would have been declared a Terrorist. Somehow the word terrorist is conveniently associated with Islam but I feel everyone who has deep-set ideas and beliefs that are rooted with age-old dogmas, rituals, religious norms has a potential terrorist trait.

“I never believed in religion. I cringe at the fact when someone says “Hindu child” “christian child” so on and so forth. I never took mine to a temple to force religion on them.  I encouraged to ask Why? and take their own stand in life, to choose what is right and acceptable to them. Today it seems I made the right choice by taking a conscious decision of not to indoc­tri­nate my boys and fill their impressionable minds with my aesthetic beliefs.

I remember a huge debate that rocked our home when my FIL decided to build a temple in his ancestral village and a room at Badri Kedar . The question which we raised was “whose temple is it anyway, yours or God’s”? It was funny to me but to the family it struck like a bolt of thunder. It also sparked another fire when I asked how a family can fast for seven days, chant bhajans in praise of the goddess, light a lamp twice a day and abuse , insult the DIL of the house ? Does the Devi grant permission for that? The question evokes responses which the Goddess  herself is still wondering about  but her devotees have forgotten conveniently.

I detest the gaudy display of wealth in these places of worship where we see the names of  people who have given “DAAN(offerings)” . It looks so crude. Is this some “name to fame”  kind of show? Something to brag about for generations to come. Birla Mandir is one such example. Poor God has been left sitting quietly on his pedestal. It is not something new, it began from the times of kings.

“People can go through an entire lifetime without questioning”, I said ,’  It’s impossible for me to believe in any of the anthropomorphic gods, because they are simply ridiculous. They are obviously the fantasy-projections of scientifically ignorant minds.”  I winked at him and said, ” may be we can believe in “Hoobanog”. “What’s that ? ” He gave me sharp look. Well Don’t ask , it is beyond explanation, a kinetic energy that I believe runs the entire show of the universe .” He laughed . ” you just coined a new term. ya well, we need to label our beliefs.”

Jokes apart I am good without God. I said as we neared the gate of our building.  I am in awe of the universe itself, and very grateful to be a part of it. That is enough..When will we grow up and be cured of this illness of  our unfounded belief  in religion and face the real tragedies and pleasures of life?

“How is your writing going? Any new assignments which will pay?” He asked suddenly.

“Huh? No, not so lucky I guess. ” I replied.

” Hey why don’t you become a priestess? It would be damn cool.. ” Tiku – the high priestess of Delhi. She has the divine power . ”

I laughed out loud ” ya,sure and trust me I will have no shortage of wealth. ”

“Absolutely, that’s the point. All you need is a few strings of rudraksha, some rings with colorful gems, a robe ( the Osho maroon is cool), a crystal ball and such other stuff plus a swanky office in posh south Delhi. How cool is that !”

“We are such fools.Adam and eve must be crazy to sow the seeds of human race”, He smiled. “Were they” whites” ? ” How come then we have so many colored people?” ” Something went wrong”?

The sun was setting behind the high-rise shopping mall across our balcony and I wasn’t in a mood to indulge in another discussion.

” Our obsession with white skin must be the by-product of that. Did anyone commit any sin to get brown, yellow, black skin?”

I  decided to enter my sound cave by putting in the ear plugs. He hugged and got busy with the laptop. That God for small mercies.. oooooops :p

Thoughts mentioned are personal and I do not wish to offend any religion, belief  or viewpoint. 

Walk the talk : Crumbling relationships, Social networking, Eve teasing and other things


His silence conveyed that something was majorly wrong. I was in no mood to have a heavy conversation. The rain drops were still shimmering on the freshly washed leaves and the eastern sky was seeped in a rosy hue.

It was becoming uncomfortable.

“Alright , what’s eating you?”

“I could have fucking strangled him with my bare hands If Only I could know him. I had a fair idea but that hand had no face. ”

” Huh?” I was instantly reminded of a post on eve teasing by Ideasmithy called The faceless hand in the crowd.   Had he read it too?

I waited for him to go on. The park was empty so we decided to walk the talk in the serene evening.

He narrated how a hand appeared in a crowded metro and began to grope, touching , pressing his female companion’s body. No , she wasn’t “dressed provocatively” and did not do anything to “entice”  the pervert.

I listened with contemplation.

“Why are some Indian men such perverts?”

“Good Question but it is not just Indian men. Maybe the number of sexual abuse / street harassment or eve teasing  are more here but the situation is as bad as anywhere in the world I guess.

I too have experienced it many times and trust me it doesn’t end on the streets and it isn’t just about physical touch. I have seen the lust in the eyes, in the gestures , in the comments and much more. However I may be dressed I am conscious of those stares, I am conscious of the hidden agendas and the underlying meaning in their conversations or offhand remarks.

Are you aware that it’s not limited to real world , that sexual harassment is rampant on internet and by unsolicited phone calls? Have you heard of Sexting ? ” I asked

“Yes, irrespective of age, from school girls to elder women, some men are relentless. All they see are breasts. Filthy animals, they strip you naked with their fucking eyes.” He fumed.

“Ah! Don’t insult the animals my boy.”

I remembered how one day the autowala kept staring at me from the rear view mirror and deliberately applying the brakes and entering pot holes and puddles on the road.  He kept turning back and staring with a twisted smile on his face. As I sat stone faced not really ready to take up the issue with him on a lonely long road.

“accidental touching/ rubbing/ pushing ” is a common thing which women experience all the time in public transport , crowded streets/ markets etc.

Do we ask for it ? Is it what we wear creates the sudden sexual urge in those men?

What utter crap.”

He told me how he had seen a gang of boys whistle and pass  lewd remarks at a mom and daughter duo on a busy market lane in Patel Nagar. They were “modestly” dressed and were walking back home from school. The girl must have been 10.

“Unfortunately eve teasing has become such a universal phenomenon that we don’t even regard it as an issue. It is crazy to think that women are always at a wrong place, wrong time, in wrong clothes and in wrong company and they initiate sexual crimes ” He said reflectively. I agreed.

To think that a doctor can dare to touch and feel your private parts in the pretext of examining is unimaginable but it happened on protesting he simply expressed that ” a little ‘ fun here and there is good for healthy mind, body and soul” Bloody sucker . I wanted to smash his balls then and there but somehow managed to get out of the freaking clinic unable to collect my disoriented thoughts and shocked to core. I wonder how he runs his practice and was I  the only one to be sexually targeted. I know of a case at Spinal Injury Hospital where a pregnant lady was abused by the doctor in the same manner. Too scared and ashamed she just decided to forget the ugly incident.

It was getting late so we left the park .

” Is it because of crumbling relationships that people indulge in revealing their dark secrets to strangers on social networking sites?” He asked matter-of-factly.

I was taken aback by this sudden change of topic. It’s true that social networking sites have become a comfort zone for people troubled in their relationships and life in general. chatting , talking to unknown faces behind the screen maybe helps in some way to lighten the heart but then there are incidents where this so-called ” sharing and bonding with virtual friends” leads to ugly consequences, harassment and blackmailing. I have been there seen it happening to some people I know.

I told him we will talk about it some other day but he was not giving up. He had seen me struggling to keep at bay the advances of those “available” men who went by the display picture and wanted to be “Frands” thinking that every woman is easy and on a lookout. They take the networking  for dating sites and endlessly keep pushing till you want to hit them hard. A writer who found me among common friends requested to be added. After sometime he pinged on chat and asked for an evening out with him because he liked my name and found me intriguing . When I refused point-blank he stated that its good to” explore and discover each other”. I found it disgusting that a person of his caliber could stoop to such level.

We were nearing home and the young man was still in a reflective mood. “The whole scenario sucks. Be it home, workplace, streets, malls, markets, public transport, net women are not safe anywhere damn it.” He shook his ahead. I was glad he was awakening to the basic core issues that were eating up the society. I had seen him tackle some with great effectiveness. It made me feel good.

“Men too suffer ” He said .

“Yes, especially those who tag along in life holding the pallu of their mom’s sari. Those adult babies who can not think, act without permission and support of their mommy dearest.” I  said with bile rising in my throat.  “Let’s drop it. Some other day maybe.”

“Umm, No, I meant this abuse stuff. men too suffer at times but they suffer in silence. Maybe that is one reason the social networking sites become their ground to find comfort and solace.” ” I am not saying that justifies for what some creeps do but all men aren’t bad after all.”

I laughed. “Spoken like a man”  I said. “Well, you do want to protect your tribe.”

“Naah, I know each of us is targeted due to some assholes who nothing but burden on this earth. and it agitates me”.

I felt for him. He was struggling with a lot of issues. “It is sometimes not about gender, it is about mind-set and power. It is about how open we are. Being modern is not just copying West, it is about  being fearlessly yourself , it is about looking at things from a larger perspective and mainly looking within.”

“We will continue to talk more about it. I think this walk the talk idea is good.” .

He smiled. “I guess so. I hope the solutions to these things were as easy as talking about them. We talk a lot. ”

Profound.

I knew he had a lot to talk about . So did I. I  have seethed about various issues lately. From bomb blasts and our precariously hanging lives, sexuality, LGTB, relationships, this ridiculous obsession with body image and “beauty”, the moral dilemma and much more.

We were still hanging out in the parking lot when he suddenly caught hold of my hand and said, “let’s go have an ice cream”. I love this kid. 🙂

“Two things I want to know by the way” He said concentrating on the small round pebble he had turned into a football.

One –

‘Why didn’t you teach a lesson of a life time to that motherfucking doctor? and

Two –

Is having a close friend of opposite sex after marriage  such a turn off  especially when this institution of marriage sucks( I agree to this but then can one generalize this) ? Is it infidelity to open up to someone other than your legal partner( don’t know if I liked this term but it tickled me no doubt)?  Why is it that a relationship crumbles so easily and two people who swore love a few years ago can’t bear the sight of each other now and for good reasons”

Those were two too many questions.

“We will talk about it”, I said.

Sleep did not come easy to both of us that night. The questions burned like embers.

One thing was clear. In days to come we were going to have a lot of walk the talk sessions. Sometimes it is better this way.