Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why I shudder to think of Arranged Marriage

Marriage is that instrument of (mortally) eternal bliss that every one of us aspires for... no -- desires: union with that one person with whom we will (hopefully) realize life and (eventually) attain salvation. And so, it is imperative for us to find the right person. We seek the boy/girl of our dreams, or the one we haven't even dreamt about.
This being the case, it would be convenient if this person happened to be found to us (It's called Love Marriage, I am told). For lesser beings like me, the quest is to find that one person in this wide wide world.
The world is a difficult place today. No, I'm not talking about the recession or global warming. Simply, people have become more difficult. Actually, I will say that the main issue I've noticed is - people who are half-full are getting away with doing those things which only "properly full" people ought to have been able to do. Take me, for instance. I have a Master's in Computer Science. Indeed, a Master's is supposed to be quite something. But there are so many aspects of Computer Science which I totally lack. Programming, for instance. Ok, that's not entirely true, still, I've realized that there are so many vile pieces of flesh flaunting around with Masters (some even PhD's) that it is sometimes difficult to imagine how they even crossed their undergrad. This analogy was actually supposed to point to a larger fallacy today. The fact that every Velu, Venkatachalam and Vincent seems to have opinions on a lot of things in life should actually be something to be happy about, especially in this increasingly selfish world, where people seldom bother to have opinions/care about extraneous occurrences in the world, as long as they aren't directly affected. The tragedy is - how much of a strong opinion such imbecile creatures (me included) dare to form, with the limited knowledge they have. There is too much of too strong opinion about too many things in the world today, all with too little knowledge. I have personally felt this so many times - how strong I hold onto something without knowing enough. So much so that now, I have to consciously try to think about something from multiple perspectives before retaining/changing the initial opinion (which anyhow forms impulsively :P). I thought there was a problem with me, but the more I saw of the world and the more I interacted with people, I realized I was a trifle blessed. Why? Not that I am superior to them in being more knowledgeable - but in that not only do people not realize they have a strong opinion about something, they also stand farther away from knowing how little they know about whatever it is they are so strongly wrongly opinionated about. Why I stress so much on knowing that we have a strong opinion on something is because - the realization that we have a strong opinion about something is the first step in us trying to subject that opinion to a rigorous proof analysis. Why? A strong opinion should exist if and only if it is correct.
(Kind Note: This is applicable to only that minority which is interested in and desires to have the correct opinion about anything. The world, in case you didn't know, abounds with people who don't care about whether their opinion is actually correct or not...just that others think their opinion is correct). And unless we critically, impartially analyze the topic of our opinion from all sides, there is no way we can be sure of our opinion being correct. And you know what - even after such intense analysis, our opinion can fail spectacularly (Refer this).
There is also another botheration - a lot of people have baseless opinions about things which are somehow, inexplicably, right. Yes, it's unfortunate and it just shouldn't be, but it is. And these people have such a (high) opinion of themselves that...forget it(It might also be the case where we think the opinion is 'baseless' or its premise is too flimsy, but the person concerned actually knows this case, it's perfectly okay). But sadly, these people also do exist - and logical human beings (like us) will find it most difficult with such people.
Now a closely related thing which I mentioned earlier - the half-full thing.
Explained below...
I don't believe in the caste-based discriminations so shittily screwed up by us Brahmins a few hundred years ago. But I believe the Varna system of the Vedic Age was great in the sense that - people were complete in whoever they were and whatever they did. Now I'm not saying that is how the world should be today. Just an example to reiterate my point of being Raymond (or Lisa Raymond). Me again - I am nowhere near how good a programmer I want to be, but apparently, I am still employable (I probably have other attributes to compensate, but I wonder how my employers know about all that yet). Ok, but I hope you see where I'm coming to. Mayawati is the head of one of the largest political parties in India. Deve Gowda was the Prime Minister of India. Shucks, George Bush was a President for two terms! (Though I didn't want to say it, I cannot but refrain from citing the name of one Ajit Agarkar's presence in the Indian cricket team). Oh, and I almost forgot...Barkha Dutt is a "successful" journalist. So do all these examples mean the world is wrong? Possibly, but we have to live with it. And...Sadly, deal with the Mayawatis, Deve Gowdas, Barkha Dutts, Agarkars and Bushes of today. Even in people's careers, it is possible to OB-adichufy and succeed. I am not saying this did not exist in the Vedic Age, but it did so to a much much lesser extent. So much so that today, this incompleteness seems to be the hallmark of the contemporary human being. We lack in so many aspects, and yet, we compulsively have this air of knowledge/achievement about us, whoever we may be.
It is in the context of such a world that singles like me are looking to mingle. (Remember, this post is about me and arranged marriage?). In effect, I am definitely not claiming that 99% of the populace is a clone of one of the afore-mentioned characters. The bigger tragedy is this: almost 75% of the populace is made up of specimens that abet and encourage such characters - a bigger crime. It's almost equivalent to having negative knowledge (Sub zero IQ?). Nah, just kidding. But seriously, in this kind of world, there is so much for people to know about others. And if people are supposed to enter into this holy alliance called matrimony, it is imperative for each to know about both...completely (That is when you will have a Raymond "suiting"). Alas, in the good old days...I have no idea how things were so easy. Whether people were that much less opinionated or that much more knowledgeable or that much more correct, I don't know...but most of the arranged marriages worked. Conservative though I am, it is for this reason that I think love marriage clicks, today. But then, it's a vicious circle. When the same jnaana soonyams fall in love, they also royally screw up marriage. How? For one, they don't know themselves, first. In fact, point zero-they don't know that they need to know themselves first. And obviously, they don't know their spouse. What more do you need? Psst...there are even characters which you will be shocked to know can exist. And the worst part - they appear as normal as you and me (reminds me of Kamal's awesome dialogue in Anbe Sivam - "Indha theeviravaadhigal ellam neenga nanaikkara maadhiri enna maadhiri (bayangarama) irukka maattanga. Romba azhaga iruppaanga...") :P.
So much for appearances. Here's more...
I have another confession to make. Despite my aspirations of spirituality, I am still appreciative of a woman's looks. Ok, so I might not be a very good analyst of feminine curves, but I at least am capable of getting hooked by a girl's face. And smitten...Yes, you guessed it - though I have started thinking on the lines of not being averse to a single life, if I marry, I still need at least a half-beautiful girl for my wife. Ok, I'm willing to settle for someone who is as good looking a girl as I am, as a guy (assuming, optimistically, that I'm not ugly), though I would definitely like for someone a level or two above me in the looks department (Another example of Man's Chronological Deterioration). I don't know if it's attempted justification of a bad quality, but I kind of have asked myself time and again - why good looks in the girl I am going to marry are an important consideration for me. Here is my attempted explanation -
First, I am a person who takes most things (in life) seriously. If and when I marry, I want to fall for my wife - hook, line and sinker. Now that doesn't mean I will never look at another woman for the rest of my life (even if neither is my wife, I will always follow Tamanna and Trisha all my life). Jokes apart, yes...there might be the Aishwarya Rai's and the Meenakshi Seshadri's who are simply stunning, but such ethereal beauties have never been in my consideration, and never will they be (aaahhh...I did put a full-stop somewhere). So then, there might be other good looking girls too, but if my wife is somewhat comparable, I will have no necessity to cast a second glance over these other girls. Do I lack self control? No. You see, I should not have to control myself to not 'look' at another woman. I am sure, after marriage, I will never "look" at another woman, but I don't want to do this out of my effort, rather, it should be natural. Effectively,
  • If I decide not to marry - then it definitely means I've gone up by one spiritual level (no offence intended to marriage :D), so no issues here.
  • If I settle for a not-exactly good looking wife, it means I have grown to the level of not admiring physical beauty. That would mean I have acquired enough jnaanam/knowledge to practise it. Now if that's the case, it again means I've gained a spiritual level ...which means I wouldn't have married in the first case. :P
I hold a reasonably decent opinion of myself, though I've got a long way to go. Still, I don't want to think of myself as someone capable of saying no to a girl based on her looks. After all, seeing a girl, liking her and then thinking about marriage is so much more convenient and easy compared to thinking about marriage, then seeing a girl, and finally, liking her. I am trying to adopt this "looks are not important" principle which tons of bloody hypocrites preach, but I feel I will be practising precisely that, if I take looks also as a consideration for finding my Ms.Right. You see, when I see a girl, like her looks and accept her, I do it knowing fully well that she is not going to look the same 10 years down the line. Obviously, for a character like me, looks might count for a few years not more...(ya, but they will count :P). I don't know if I am capable of saying no to a girl because of her looks, but I don't want even to place myself in such a situation.
I have not the heart to hurt someone else, and for all talk of modernism and stuff, rejected/getting rejected in marriage (for whatever reason) is still considered something of an insult in Tam Brahm communities (has it changed? Someone tell me). The two families in question will never be the same to each other (in case they know each other before), in all likelihood. Ya of course, I would, happily, point out someone's failings where they are so obviously and grotesquely wrong, but even then, I have realized nobody but God (ok...parents, probably close friends) has the right to do that. Well, at least, I don't want that right. Rather, I don't deserve that right...yet. Even with the right, I'd think the last place to do it would be when pon-paathufying or after.
Whether I like it or not, I have to admit that I am a picky person. Rules Ramanujam, some friends call me. Mambalam mama to some others. Many have said that I think a lot, too...more than is acceptable/comfortable for peaceful (co-)existence, apparently. This being the case, finding a corresponding girl becomes that much more difficult, doesn't it?
For some reason, I am not really worried about girls rejecting me, probably because I have never sought the acceptance of "girls" specifically (that's not to say I didn't enjoy any feminine following I might have had ;-).. I'm perfectly ok with it, seriously (unless, of course, it's my Ms.Right who is rejecting me...and even then, I'd feel bad only about not being able to get her, and not that she rejected me). But I really really don't want to be in a situation where I cannot but say No to a girl, obviously, in the best of both our interests, for whatever reason...looks, character, how she thinks, what she wears, her attitude, her *opinion*.
All this while, I've been talking only about looks. That's because, of all that (I think) I expect in my to-be-wife, looks are the easiest to see/know and decide. I have a reputation of being an excellent judge of people (intended sarcasm), hence, a girl's looks are probably one of the few things I (probably) wouldn't screw up in deciding/judging. But since "looks" is just one among a number of other necessary (but by no means, sufficient) conditions, and if I had to list out even one of the other attributes/expectations from my prospective girl, I'd probably be writing a post (at least) twice the size of this one, I have no idea if I am capable of taking a decision which would, potentially, put not only my life in jeopardy, but her's as well as both our parents'.
And for all these reasons, I shudder to think of arranged marriage, for me.

  • Ironically, the whole thing I wrote about people and opinions is...but my opinion. ;-)
  • What if I get a girl who satisfies all my other "requirements" but is not sufficiently good-looking?
    "Adhigama aasai padra aambalayum adhigama kova padara pombalayum nallaa vazhndadha sarithramae illa" :P
Update 2:
I realize that if even 75% of married couples today had thought this much (before marrying) about self-realization, opinions, expectations, etc., then we'd have 80% of the population remaining unmarried.
Explanation - 75% of married couples includes only those currently married. There is always an already-single population. I'm assuming none of the 75% would marry, add to it another 5% who are anyway going to remain single, and we have 80% spinsters/bachelors.
Mathematical Realization based on Update 2 - x% of married couples constitutes much less than x% of the population. Obvious, yet insightful.