A couple of incidents happened last week that triggered this chain of thought inside me. I realize that this topic, especially my treatment of it, could upset some people. My only defense is that my intention is not to be judgmental; I am only thinking aloud.
'Arranged marriage' is a very commonly accepted way of finding one's spouse in India. Most of my peers have found their life partners by this process. The concept is that the prospective life partner is introduced by relatives, friends, marriage bureaus or social networking sites, etc. The prospective bride and groom then meet to determine whether they are 'right' for each other. The meetings have evolved over the times - where people used to meet in their homes earlier, nowadays they talk over the phone first, or webchat, or the guy and girl meet by themselves over a cup of coffee.
While some folks are lucky to 'click' in the first meeting itself, less unfortunate ones have to undergo several such iterations. It becomes difficult to 'reject' someone without some valid reason - as one does not want to hurt family or friends' sensibilities. This has led people to come up with several 'criteria' for selection. If someone does not fit into the criteria, then one feels justified in rejecting that person.
And what are the criteria - age, height, weight, complexion, caste, degree of education, compensation, horoscope match etc. It is a known fact that girls mature faster than boys. While this is mostly true, in today's world with so much exposure, even guys mature quickly. Infact, the sad fact is that the entire younger generation is maturing too fast, losing their innocence too early. Height is something that will matter only in photographs. Weight is definitely a matter of preference, but in today's age of diet and gymnasium culture, not unchangeable. Degree in education guaranteed job security in earlier days, it does not anymore. At one time compensation in the IT field was considered top of the line; in the next few years I doubt it will remain so. Divorces have happened where horoscopes had matched perfectly. Caste and family background can give some assurance that relations between bride and in-laws will be good; they still cannot guarantee that the wedded couple are compatible with each other.
Most of the above criteria are numbers or measurable quantities. Does true compatibility really depend on numbers? Having been married for several years now, I can say with conviction that it does NOT. Infact, people are constantly changing. So are their preferences - a person may start drinking or eating non-veg after marriage and vice versa. We live in a non-conformist era where girls marry boys younger than themselves and get along well with them. We have seen marriages that have survived economic or political upheaval, religious bias and even unforeseen success or failure.
Why then do we rely on these inaccurate criteria? What is it that can guarantee that a marriage between 2 people will work? The simple answer to this is that, as with life, there is no guarantee for marriage. The concept of marriage was originally founded out of the need to build a secure nourishing ground for children, and thereby, the society. Now, since the need is different, the concept needs to evolve too. In this age of nuclear families, with people settling far away from their native places, the need is to find a partner who can anchor you in the turbulent sea of life. One who can be a constant witness to your life, an unconditional companion and a personal champion. One needs to be open to the fact that such a partner may not be found in the first attempt itself; it may need more than one attempts(at marriage).
Where did these criteria come from? Frankly, they came from our parents or elders. They applied the same criteria when they got married. Some parents have now left it to their children to find their own life partners. They have realized that their complete disassociation with changing times render them inadequate to choose life partners for their children anymore. They cannot identify with or foresee the challenges faced by the younger generation and hence their own experiences in marriage are no more the guiding light for their children in this modern and fast- paced era. The younger generation has not realized this unfortunately and still stick to the tried and tested methods of choosing their mates.
While I agree that there should be a criteria for selection, it should be more relevant to the times and to ourselves. For eg., I knew that I will not be to able to respect a mate who is dishonest, or less intelligent than me. All I thought was can I see myself happy with this person 20 years down the line, when both of us have lost our looks and are ailing in some way or the other. IMHO, thinking about one's priorities in life and deciding on which ones are uncompromisable is the best criteria for choosing a life partner. Looks, education, compensation; even love and passion, are all transient. What lasts are the character traits and values that one is born and/or brought up with. In some cases, a person may not be willing to compromise on looks - it is a definite preference. Its fine for that person, it need not be a criteria for everyone else though. And finding a life partner is only half the battle won; the challenge is in becoming the right partner for your mate. Believe me, the latter is more confounding a quest than the former!
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