Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

The April Edition of Bangalore Freethinkers Meet was held at the National Gallery of Modern Arts at 11:00 am on 26th of April. I reached the venue around half an hour late. The group that had gathered was much smaller than usual. None of them were new faces for me as well. There was a casual round of introduction, which somehow seamlessly transformed into a discussion about marriage, monogamy, polygyny. The role of religion in marriage. Whether religion predated societal morals in promoting monogamy? Attitudes about monogamy in various religions and societies.

LogoNGMA

picture courtesy: NGMA

We reached an agreement that the topic that we stumbled on was more interesting to discuss rather than the topic that was designated for the day. Which was Net neutrality. Though it was a very relevant issue, it was unlikely to draw a lot of disagreements as we would unanimously support it. The discussion on marriage was continued. The discussion moved on to violence in religions and how reform is needed in religions for them to achieve peace. The recent trend of moving towards a right wing philosophy was also among the concerns raised.

The discussion hovered around the caste system for a while too. Ambedkar’s view on the caste system and his explanation on why it would be hard to eliminate the caste system, as long as people keep taking pride in their caste and look down on those belonging to lower castes.

Towards the end of the discussion we agreed to decide on a topic of discussion for the next month in advance. We came up with two. The topic of discussion for the Meeting in May (To be held on May 31st) would be “How to deal with insults in non-safe spaces”

The meeting in June would discuss the topic of “Cognitive Bias in Superstitions”.

There was also a call for better co-ordination with other rational and like minded groups in order to achieve common objectives on the ground. If you were present at the meeting and you feel I have missed something please bring it to my notice. Also please feel free to share links or resources that were discussed in the meeting or relevant to the topic. I’m sharing two links below. The first one is about a matriarchal society in China. The second one is about a form of polygamy practiced in India.

http://www.mosuoproject.org/walking.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/open-magazine/the-water-wives_b_7041320.html

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International Women’s Day (8th of March) seemed like an apt time to post this.

Once you near the age of thirty, people seem concerned about your future. Not so much your profession but, of your marital status. The concern usually starts earlier, in the case of girls; as it is hard for people to comprehend the concept of a single woman in her late twenties. It is assumed that every girl has the same dream of getting married and bearing children. Women who want to focus on their career and don’t want to bear children at an early age are traditionally shown as ‘Vamps’ in soaps and movies. What could be nobler than motherhood? How can someone not be interested in that? If she is not eager to fulfil this purpose, how can she be a good person? Hence marriage becomes mandatory. Marriage as an institution is ridiculed in countless jokes, while very few consider not taking this very essential step.Inequality is entrenched in most traditions surrounding marriage. From the engagement/wedding ringto the honeymoon.

So why is it considered almost inevitable? It is a meeting of minds and supposedly, the happiest day of your life. It is definitely the biggest party you will throw and you might spend around two years saving for it. Banks are happy to lend money for marriages. Isn’t that a deserving reason for the funds to be utilised. It just happens once (Ideally) in a lifetime. Who in their right mind would not want to make sure that they share this joy with everyone they ever knew? The guests should have a good time as well, so no stones are left unturned to ensure that. Not every marriage is celebrated on a grand scale. This usually has more to do with the means available to the families than their prudence.

Maybe, marriage is a necessary evil? A ritual; where a couple solemnize their relationship, with God’s blessings. It is one of the few occasions, where you get to see your relatives and friends, under one roof. It also becomes legally necessary in many cases. Does all that satisfy my curiosity? No. Is there no other way to move forward in your life with or without a companion? Of course there are individuals who spend their lives independently. Either they get disenchanted with the concept of marriage or get too absorbed in their work. Are their lives then, incomplete? Maybe that depends on an individual’s perception of the meaning of life or what he/she wants out of life.

So what would be the alternate to marriage? Before we address that question, we need to look at what is wrong with marriage. There are two major aspects with marriage; one is the ritual itself which would be conducted as per the religious beliefs of the couple concerned. The second aspect is the legal concept where it is treated, more or less like a contract. There is also the personal aspects, the changes, that come into their lives after matrimony. The major concern with marriage is how it is unfair to the woman involved. She changes her surname. In some cases she ends up quitting her job to take care of the household.

Even as a ritual, marriage seems to have a gender bias. In most rituals I have seen, the bride is treated like a property handed over by her father to the bridegroom. We are so accustomed to these rituals that we fail to see this blatant objectification of women. The woman changes her name and even her title. This perhaps marks the change of ownership. It makes you wonder how these rituals have remained unchanged over the ages and women still have a long way to go in attaining true equality. I have little doubt in my mind that these rituals were designed by men as it reflects the old world mentality. The sad thing is it is almost impossible to question these topics as it touches the sensitive topic of religion. Who would risk being accused of blasphemy? Any chance, of changes in these rituals seems bleak.

If one does decide to forego the rituals and opts for a registered marriage (which they do), what would be the concerns? It is much less expensive. The bride however, still changes her surname and her title as well. I have always wondered why this happens. When a man sees a woman whose name is prefixed with the letters “Mrs”, is it a signal for him to back off? Is it like the signboard which people display on their property “No trespassing”? These things are of course not enforced. However it is expected. Very few people even stop to think about it.

From my experience I know that not everyone is equally excited about getting married. Some of my friends, I know would prefer to stay single if they had a chance. Again, it is slightly easier to accomplish this if you are a man. Why would this handful of individuals try to stay clear of marriage? People are choosing to get married at a later age. Education is probably the game changer. Perhaps this is the reason why some girls are not allowed to pursue higher education in developing countries. Perhaps the most important reason for people to delay or defy marriage is that they are mortified by the thought of getting married to the wrong person. Another major reason could be that it curtails your freedom. So what could be an alternate, or a way out of getting married?

I am not advocating a life of celibacy or promiscuity. There could be countless ways around this ‘social evil’. Most of the people who do not marry tend to live alone or with parents. While this may not be an ideal way to live, it gives the individual a great deal of freedom. Being single is now becoming more common in urban areas. He or she is also free to pursue their romantic pursuits, which does not necessarily culminate in marriage. Somewhat like a live-in relationship, where the couple does not live together. Roughly like a pro-longed dating phase.The couple could spend time together whenever they feel like it. If this concept seems hard for you to accept, bear in mind you have been brought up to think marriage is the only reasonable option. It is not only the things you are told. You keep seeing marriages all around you while growing up. You end up thinking it is the only sane way to live.

People who are averse to getting married may settle for a live-in relationship (still rare) to ‘test the waters’ of cohabitation. Living together is a big consequence of marriage. Is it really necessary for a person to live with their partner to have a meaningful relationship? Why can’t you continue living with your friends or parents or alone just because you are romantically interested in someone? In most cases the people in question do not have a choice. Most often they don’t even realise that they are being denied a choice. My motive is to find an alternative which does not disturb the independence of either partner. Living single as a lifestyle is finding new takers among the urban youth. In the next post we will be taking a look at the options available for an individual or a couple who want to go on the road less travelled.

I would love to hear thoughts on this.