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Monday, May 04, 2009

Marriage, Misery or Mockery!

As the phone screamed out, shattering the afternoon stillness, I had no choice but to receive it. At least to stop its deafening cacophony. The sleep induced dazed mind was brought to consciousness by the high pitched voice on the other end. It suited a heady teenager more than a mom of a preteen. It was my friend R. I responded groggily, my Sunday slumberous intonation clearly giving away my activity! But the news filtering through my comatose grey cells galvanized me into the sitting position and we both, after an initial bout of silly giggles, reverted to our more sensible selves. Realisation dawned that it was not a laughing matter and a sensation of hollowness and a strange helplessness pervaded my being! Why, we discussed, was this farce being allowed to happen and the repercussions of this on all concerned !

This is about P...someone we knew from our growing up years. He was getting married next month and his engagement had already been held a week back.

Later, as I sat sipping tea on a quiet, still afternoon….memories of P kept flitting across. I remember him clearly.... a funny, entertaining fellow but different from the rest. After college got over, whatever little association we had with P, came to an end too. However, we knew vaguely what he was doing, where he was working etc etc. But it was his difference that would come up in our conversations from time to time.....
Though academically superlative and professionally successful, P was remembered by us for being a comical caricature...he himself had proudly narrated how popular he had been during his school days-enacting roles and mouthing dialogues of the reigning silverscreen queens! College was no different and he continued his exaggerated performances.

P was unambiguously effeminate…the walk, the talk, the gestures and facial expression.
Intelligent as he was, he loved (or so it appeared to us) to showcase his difference and seemed to bask in the misplaced attention he received! Leg-pulling, ridicule, crude comments never detered him.
He had the guts to be himself, indifferent to whether society laughed at him or with him ..

To me, a staunch introvert, this quality of his never failed to amaze me.....that he could laugh at himself and knew how to use the jokes and ridicule to his advantage by being in the limelight wherever he was! He was completely uninhibited and at ease with himself.

Back then, most of the guys would be in and out of love, infatuations, but not P. As a matter of fact no one expected him to fall in love in the ‘normal’ way. He never discussed this aspect of life....
So, even as many of us got married, and some confirmed bachelors continued living their bachelor lives, and some were too busy with careers to spare time for a family life, P always stayed clear of relationships of any kind. At least none in the public eye.

So news of his forthcoming marriage was shocking! The intricate details left me reeling and sad. Here was this 30 something fellow...successful and well settled in life, whose sexual preference was definitely NOT hetero; but emotional blackmailing by parents had forced him to sacrifice himself at the alter of popular preference. He has supposedly informed his parents not to expect anything more from him other than marrying the girl of their choice at the given date…his duty ended with that and the welfare of the girl was to be the parents’ responsibility!!!
I wonder what happened to the guy who was comfortable in his own skin and had the guts to be himself! I dont remember having known the escapist hypocrite who shielded the truth...but ten years is a long time and social stigma and parental pressure to conform to norms must have taken its toll...

And then what of this girl who was his fiancé? This girl, rather woman, of affluent background, was not only highly qualified, but a high-flying career woman. So what had compelled such a woman to agree to enter this farce of a relationship? Feigning ignorance regarding P was impossible as one just had to spend a few minutes in his company to know....
The woman’s point of view intrigued me more. Was she too succumbing to parental / social pressures of some kind?

Why is marriage so important in our society? And at what cost?
If even the well-educated, well-heeled and urban population are reduced to being mere puppets to unwritten social norms and would rather live a life of lies, hypocrisy, compromise and escapism, what happens to the less fortunate of the society!

23 comments:

Pradip Biswas said...

Sharmistha
i was waiting a post from you. I think at one stage even if you do not want you are forced to give your consent because otherwise you are taken as an abnormal member of society or your hidden mental background gets exposed. So we most of whom are hypocrits (because few has the strength of the mind to become so) finally agree to this system of society. But are you sure the girl knows the the mental background or at least the initial wish of the boy? Normally parents expect that the boy must change his mind after the marriage.

Rajesh said...

In today's world, Marriages are no longer what it has been earlier. Now every move is as per the convenience and gain.

Kavi said...

The story of P makes you think if this is an exception or the norm. To me this seems to be an exception.

For, i know of many classmates / acquiantances who have walked out of marriage / marriage arrangements because certain things didnt go too well.

But yes, you are right. Parental and societal pressures do play a part. A big part !

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

very good post! Thanks for bringing out this aspect. I have no idea why parents can be so cruel under the camouflage of being caring!

SGD said...

PB, Kavi, RMC : Isnt it strange and sad that parents, who can, if they want, be the greatest mental support to their offsrpings, are the one's inflicting so much mental trauma.

And regarding the girl not knowing....highly impossible if I remember P rightly...and she's an intelligent, educated & well-informed woman.

I was really not sure whether I should be writing this blogpost...so kept postponing...

But I think instead of living in a rose tinted world believing that all is hunky dory, we need to talk and be more open about realities....maybe exposure and openness will successfully remove the taboo and stigma associated with homosexuality.

As Kavi pointed out, it is true and reassuring that today it is much more accepted than before, but still in a major chunk of society we prefer to behave like ostriches....close your eyes to whatever does not conform to your mindset or liking and they'll cease to exist.

SGD said...

@Rajesh Maybe to a certain extent.... but in cases such as these, it's a compromise of the highest order....it's death knell is sounded even before the relationship has begun

Little Girl Lost said...

sharmistha... if i comment on this i'll end up writing another post :)

the concept of arranged marriage itself is so fake, don't u think? like cattle breeding..
and in this case, the guy was gay (albeit closet gay). imagine how miserable a life his bride will live ...
marriages are so messy.

Little Girl Lost said...

come and read :)

SGD said...

@LGL-Marriage itself is such a complex relationship. And in India it isnt just a union of a man & woman but of two families....so the complexities increase manifolid...an endless equations have to be dealt with!

And in this case the guy is gay...he has buckled to parental pressures. But I wonder why the girl had to agree ...she isnt (from what i've heard) one of the 'gharelu' semi-educated types...she was a successful independent professional on her own right. If such a woman succumbs to pressure what will the lesser fortunate do!!!!

Inder said...

marriage of convenience...

as song as the pair is aware of what they are getting into and are prepared for it... i think it is fine.

SGD said...

@Inder - As long as the pair are OK with it , it's fine...but ARE they OK with it?
'Coz the decision was imposed on them....

Thanks for stopping by..hoping to 'see' you again and often

Sucharita Sarkar said...

a very valid question - but as long as sexual preferences will remain in the closet, we will continue to see eyewash marriages like this. And India is so slow when it comes to social change.

Renu said...

This is the type of hyppocracy I hate, so many boys bow before the parents before marriage , but defy them after the marriage, so why not show the courage before marriage, atleast you will not be ruining another person's life.

SSQuo said...

This is a wonderful but terribly terribly sad post. It goes against EVERYTHING I believe in and it makes me angry and sad.

I have two very very close friends who have different preferences than I do, and I have been through many ups and downs with them. One moreso than the other. It's hard for them to deal with their own identity than to have the world and then the parents to impose other 'requirements'. I hate this.

It takes a lot of guts to stand up for yourself, and my friends have. Its not easy, you may lose some friends, but the true ones will stand by coz youre in no way different. Society is harsh and the minds are ignorant and narrowminded twits that havent progressed an inch. My tendency is to ignore them as they deserve not even to be spoken to - and yet, this is the wrong way to deal with it coz they need to be told that they frikking ignorant, primitive twits (aunties, uncles, grandmas and those young so called exposed minds too, that are all too restricted in their thinking) that rest upon nonsense benchmarks, enough to value what the other person thinks, than to consider if their own son or daughter is happy or not! How cheap is your child's happiness that it can soooo easily be sold.

:(

On a happier note, both my friends have not succumbed and are true to their identity, whether you believe in their choice or not, you have to respect that. THey have wonderful parents that have asked them to get married, but perhaps see all too lucidly that perhaps it was not meant to be. So they are the support that they can be....in the hope, yes just as is every parents hope that their child is happy. (oops i retract my words, MOST parents hope that their child is happy!)

SGD said...

@SSQuo-Thanks for sharing your friends' experience.
It is indeed sad and unfortunate...how society imposes its norms. They are deprived of their RIGHT to choose/decide by none else but parents...who can become their greatest ally/support.
Kudos to your friends for having the guts to fight for their identity & preference and also to their parents for having the courage to respect their children's wishes.


@Renu-Yes it is hypocrisy of the highest order. Educated, urban, adults have no excuse other than lack of courage to standby for what they believe....two persons lives and futures are involved...and just for thesake of an eyewash, parents impose and indulge in such hypocrisy!

@SS-Right you are! The taboo needs to be lifted..
in our country, where mental maturity is in scarcity and escapism is considered normal,
maybe certain mainstream movies with crude humour (like Dostana)also do their bit to bring such topics out in the open ...

HR said...

The author has finally chosen to write on a topic which is being widely deliberated nowadays- The glory of gay world. The ticklish matter which people will love to discuss with gusto.I feel the comment box will inundate with comments in no time.
Personally, I never came across such personality , hence unable to feel the traits of the character. I am not a student of medicine too but a question comes to my mind. Isn't P suffering from a disease? Can any hormonal therapy or equivalent treatment cure the disease he is suffering from?

In case no therapy is going to help him to become a normal person it will be wise to leave him alone to survive in his own domain. Author has mentioned in one of the paras that he was ambiguously effeminate.It is also learned from the author that P was academically superlative and professionally successful. He is therefore financially independent and need not depend on any source as far as living is concerned. However the vital issue of his sexual orientation needs to be addressed.It will be absolutely unfair if we compel him to marry a lady. It is the societal pressure or our customs which coerce him entering into nuptial ties with a woman. Why can't we give P the freedom to wed a person of his own preference? Actually our fellow country men are still not ready to accept the truth of gay marriage. We still term it as a taboo. I do not find any fault with the parents of P. They have every right to find their son to lead a very healthy and normal conjugal life. This is the truth we had inherited from our ancestors for ages.
The lady who consented to the marriage , probably knowing the nature of P has taken a very bold and praiseworthy decision.

Nice piece of writing... you are inspiring us to think on such controversial issues... thanks...

HR said...

In my last post I meant to say unambiguously effeminate and not ambiguously effeminate... sorry!!

SGD said...

@HR-I think there are certain points where I do not agree with you..
Though not remotely associated with the medical profession, I DO NOT think P is suffering from any Disease.
He is as normal as you or me...only his sexual orientation/preference is different.
There are many many viewpoints as to the cause of homosexuality...genetic, psychological, environmental....none of us are experts and hence we cannot be judgemental about the right or wrong of it! It's just that he belongs to a minority....but does that make him an outcaste or a disease-afflicted individual?

And frankly I cannot give a clean chit to P's parents....P is an adult and hence the way he leads his life should be left to him. Coercion, pressure tactics may succeed in P marrying . Thus soothing the parents' ego and giving them a sense of achievement of successful execution of parental duty.
But should parental duty ONLY end with marrying off the son hoping for a miracle that all problems will be taken care of by God's grace or leave all problems to destiny ....that's quite an escapist route, isnt it?

And regarding the lady's so-called bold & praiseworthy decision....what''s praiseworthy about allowing oneself to be the sacrificial lamb???

HR said...

At the outset ,I apologize if I had hurt your sentiments by telling P was suffering from a disease. As like you, I am not remotely associated with medical profession, hence it is not ethical on my part to decide whether P is suffering from any disease or not. Frankly,I never tried to do that.I only raised a doubt and wished that if he could be cured.
Now, after going through your comments , I am convinced that he is a very normal person like you and me. His sexual preference differ from us. I also believe that one should have his or her own sexual preference. There is no wrong in choosing partner of their own choice. Everybody has freedom to make their own decision as far as sex is concerned.I feel, I expressed the same thing in my previous comment box. What I had written there, I repeat here, may be in a different manner.
As far as parents are concerned I just wanted to express my gratitude to all those parents whose relentless and selfless efforts had helped their children to bloom properly.Is it not justified for them to find their children leading a very happy and normal life?In that context, I mentioned that P's parents should not be blamed.But the seriousness of P's case was beyond my imagination. Hence rightly you said that he should be given freedom to choose his own partner and here I feel his parents should assist him to choose the right partner.After all son's happiness is the last word for them.
As far as the would be bride is concerned,I understand that she is a very accomplished, literate, professional and has extremely affluent background. It seems she is aware of what she is going to commit.But i have a question.If we are advocating P's freedom to marry a person of his own choice why can't we give freedom to the lady to choose person of her own preference.

SGD said...

@HR-Arre...na na!
Why should my sentiments be hurt in a normal debate!!!

And what I wrote was my perception and thoughts about a certain social issue...we all are welcome to our perceptions and points of view. So I just countered your viewpoint (which conflicted with mine), with absolutely no thought on trying to convince...I cant convince, rather am not authorised to convince about an issue in which I am just a distant onlooker...

Sumit said...

This is indeed sad!! Honestly, if I could I would have talked P out of this and talk sense into those who need it. It seems a recipe for disaster. The parents have in their efforts to "set things right" for their son done the opposite. The lady, is a mystery!! It's absolutely tough to understand why she agreed to the match. But then, as you said its been 10 years, couldn't P have learned to mask his sexual preferences?? Just a thought!!
As for P, can't blame him. Emotional blackmail is below the belt, one really can't blame a guy for going down!!

SGD said...

@SumitHuman psychology and its workings never cease to fascinate and intrigue me...
Why a person does what , under what circumstances is tough to fathom for distant bystanders...

and in our country, there are so many equations to be kept in balance....the society, family, parents, in-laws....gosh!! it's tough...to please everybody....in the process of pleasing all, pleasing/satisfying one's ownself takes a backseat.....

Sumit said...

Oh it surely does take a back seat. And in case you try to do that, you would be termed rude, uncultured, over-ambitious, self-centered!!

I've been termed all of the above, but I refuse to think of others when its me who is going to get slaughtered unless there is a good reason why I should let that happen!! For the greater good!!

In this situation, I don't see a greater good...

another thought, if its youngsters like us who are going to populate the society now then what societal pressures is the family being subjected to?? Or is it perhaps their own prejudices n fixated ideas which are dictating terms?? I've always questioned them, would always do that!!