“My whole life is spoiled because I had married you. How I wish I had got married to sangeetha.” – This is the husband talking.
“But Sangeetha is already married and with two kids. The past is past and we have to focus on us.” – The wife.
“No, I can’t be without talking to her atleast once a day. You are of no use to me.”
“Then why did you get married to me?”
“What will I do if you get married to someone else.??” – The husband, in an obvious, matter of fact tone.
The girl was inconsolable. This is a sample conversation I had with a college girl from Sivagangai. 70% of the girls from that college were married and all 70% were in a personal hell of varying degrees. Not one person who didn’t have tears in her eyes as she recounted experiences out of her marriage, mother in law, husband and parental pressure.
It so happened that I trained in a finance minister initiative. Minister P. Chidambaram had wanted his constituency Sivagangai’s students to be trained and my company had bagged the contract. I had gone there personally to set pace and spearhead the training. And the experiences that I had were real eye-openers.
I am not new to marital miseries. In a week I hear at least 10 stories of how the wife or the husband is abusive verbally or physically. But somehow when city folks recount their personal stories, there isn’t that sense of “All is lost” in their voices or in their demeanor. In Chennai, Marriage has somehow lost its central pedestal position and there are so many things in life which one could pursue if it has turned sour. It is easy to pull people out of their woes. Come to think of it, When I tell the Chennaites that “I am not married,” most of them give me a wistful look that speaks volumes on “How lucky you are!” When people at Sivagangai were told the same thing, they made me feel like a Joan-of-Arc reincarnate. These innocent girls from the villages have it really tough because in their society marriage is still the defining point of success or failure in life. The husband is still the God and the in-law the scripture provider for the family.
Married by eighteen, returned to the parent’s house by 19, another broken girl told me, “My husband, who also happens to be my relative demanded for a car and cash a week before marriage and threatened that he will stop the marriage if we don’t pay up. My parents are poor farmers. I said “stop the marriage” but they said, that will ruin my life forever. In villages you don’t stop marriages that easily. So they sold the only bit of land they had in giving my dowry. Now my husband keeps the car and cash and a keep who lives in the same street and says I must stay with my parents until I bring more jewels. Meanwhile my parents have no food to eat because they have sold their only land. I have joined Teacher’s training now to earn my jewels.”
What do you say to this? When I was discussing this situation with an officer from there, he proudly announced to me that Chennai has lost its heart because “You are people with shallow relationships who have lost themselves in running behind careers and money. Whereas we in rural parts still have our values left alive. You guys don’t get to hear your women complain of their in-laws because you don’t even have a joint family. But look at us, we still are following traditions. I heard of a girl from chennai who refused to come to Madurai when her husband was transferred here. She is working there and He is working here. Now such a thing if it had happened here he would have left her forever, but that spineless fellow is tolerating all this.” Not for a moment did it strike him that he was making comments that could offend me deeply. I didn’t waste my energies debating with him.
Keeping aside these sexualistic remarks, What do you think? Is it better to have goals in life and have marriage as the part of life? Or think marriage as the whole of life and suffer unspeakable agonies when it doesn’t work out? Which culture is better?