There is that blurred, dusky region between sleep and wakefulness when one is vaguely conscious that one is dreaming. During such times, it almost feels as if one even has a modicum of control over the course the dream is taking. I am sure scientists already have a name for this phenomenon. I, however, like to call it "Interactive Dreaming."
Interactive dreams are wonderful stuff, except for a single little hitch: if one is truly enjoying one's dream (like a child playing with a marvelous toy, for example), and it became apparent that the dream was soon getting over, one would never let go of the object of his/her fascination; one would hold onto it tight and fast.
I had this interactive dream last night: I thought marriages are fair, even and balanced. I dreamt of a perfect relationship, an equitable marriage. And then this week's Weekend Thoughts came in and knocked on my doors. I held my dreams tightly, close to my chest; unwilling to let go. Alas, that was not to be. Reality soon took control, and I opened my eyes and saw clearly I had been naive. I saw Debasmita Misra's article on marriage.
In this well thought-out and wonderfully presented piece, the author takes the institution of marriage, and places it square under his microscope. He doesn't like what he sees, and he shares his observations with us. Characters from Hindu philosophy and mythology lend depth, color and credibility to his views. Touches of humor render the article eminently readable, regardless of its somber conclusion.
There are two reviews; they follow immediately after the article. The first is by Debjyoti Paul, a brilliant computer scientist from I.I.T. (Kharagpur). He spent his childhood in Rourkela, and treasures a unique empathy for things Oriya, even though Bengali is his mother tongue. He is a graduate student in computer science at Texas A&M University at present. The second is by Anirudh Sahoo, an outstanding graduate student at Texas A&M University, and a valuable contributor to ornet. His perspective is as unique as his review is honest. In particular, his comments regarding how the relationship changes with the arrival of children makes sound, common sense.
Amitabh Mishra, January 5, 1996.
[Name prior to adoption : Debasmita Pati] snail-mail: 401 Labore Road # 101, Little Canada, MN 55117 e-mail : email@example.com Parents : Prafulla C. Pati and Pramila Misra, Bhubaneswar, Orissa. Wife : Nilima Misra (Married to this nice person in 1987) Son : Sambit Misra (This greatest gift of God is a member of my family since 1990) Education: ? - 1969 : St. Joseph's Convent School, Bhubaneswar. 1969-1970 : Stewart School, Bhubaneswar. 1970-1977 : D.M.School, Bhubaneswar. 1977-1980 : D.M.School Bhubaneswar (+2). 1980-1984 : College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology, OUAT, Bhubaneswar [B.Sc. (Ag. Eng. & Tech.)] 1985-1986 : Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand [M.Eng., Water Resources Engineering] 1987-1988 : University College Galway, Galway, Ireland [M.S., Engineering Hydrology] 1988-1994 : University of Minnesota [Ph.D.] Currently : Research Associate, Army High Performance Computing Research Center, University of Minnesota. Specialization: Numerical modeling of ground water flow, contaminant transport and bioremediation of subsurface contaminants. Hobbies : Anything to keep an environment of joy and amusement. Philosophy in Life : The smallest good deed is better than the grandest intention. Motto : Unity and Amity (Haven't achieved this 100% yet).
I don't know where to start my discussion except from an observation in Amitabh's article. He has repeatedly mentioned the importance of the career of a person in a married life. Yes, the career plays a vital role and it decides certain aspect of the ongoing of a harmonious marriage. However, there are many other aspects besides the career and chores that govern a married life and steers the harmony/disharmony. The ideal 50-50 relationship as commented by Suparna in the review of the article is a dream of some sensible bachelorhood. Step into the married life and the aspiration of getting a 50 or even a 40, 30, 20... is difficult to achieve for either partner depending upon the various circumstances of marriage.
In order to illustrate my observations in a better way I would like to pose the following scenarios which are related implicitly and which can provide a better picture of the married life.
The Hindu Philosophy
I always like to draw analogies between the Hindu philosophy from a religious-myth point of view and the real life. The central hierarchy of Hindu Gods start with BrahmA, Vishnu and Shiva (Maheshwara). They are presumed to be the creator, nourisher and destroyer of life. Besides these Gods we have an entire courtship of Gods who represent and seemingly govern the various aspects of life such as Vayu, Agni, Vidya, etc. I will be concentrating on the lives of the first three in this scenario.
BrahmA (alias Jagata KartA) is pictured as a celebatic Brahmin who is devoid of all the luxuries of life (Ajeebana BrahmachAri). He never had the pleasure of a married life. However, he can still create life. It is very intriguing to me as to how he does that or how he possesses the knowledge of doing that. Then we hear often a reference of BrahmANi. She is not the wife of BrahmA but merely a feminine gender. What I understand from this philosophy is whether you are male/female, as long as you are unmarried, you are a dreamer, a pure thinker and hence a creator. Once you are married you lose several degrees of freedom as life moves on. Your thought process is always biased. Your dreams are linked to your family. Hence, your role as a creator becomes difficult.
Vishnu on the other hand leads a happy married life. He is also portrayed as having a bigamous relationship. The philosophy of a nurturer like him goes into more depth from a male and a female angle of view. From a male angle of view one can readily observe that he is beyond any luxury of life. Well settled on his eternal bed (Anantasajya), with his loving wife Laxmi massaging his leg and feet constantly, he is both physically and mentally settled/satiated. A very alluring scenario any man dreams of.
Since, he is stable in his married life he is the best person to think about nurturing others. However, let's think from a female point of view. This person (God) is married to two women. However, he duly cares for one (Laxmi) and has least care for the other (Saraswati). What's the reason? Is it because Laxmi is more of a service than Saraswati? Again, Saraswati has been often portrayed as ChanchaLA (Unsettled). Isn't the reason obvious? Which woman in her right senses would care for a husband who is not only married to another woman but also is closer to her for the only reason that he gets the desired service from her.
Here, I must refer to a point raised by Amitabh in his article : A reasonable guess would be that the man's career would not be half as important if the woman earned more than him. Yet, how many of us will find that scenario acceptable? Would we not think hundred times before marrying a girl who might earn more than us?. What Amitabh intends to say is will the relationship be a harmonious one if the woman is more capable than the man? Well, it seems not because Saraswati is more capable and more career oriented than Vishnu himself which is probably the reason that Vishnu is afraid of such a relationship. How many men would prefer a wife who is worth an intangible million but is also immensely capable over a wife who is worth a tangible million but is less capable than him. Can this problem in a marriage relationship be fixed at all? Can this attitude be changed at all? Think about 50-50 relationship - where is it?
Once again from the female perspective, a woman who strongly believes in her capability needs a man who is understanding and respects her abilities. This does not mean that the man has to forgo his own capabilities in order to succumb to the ego of the woman. The vice versa is true. However, a meaningful relationship might start if the situation is non-competitive and both the partners respect each other's ability and strength while rationalizing each other's weaknesses. If the above is not true then often women are the victims of the relationship and are termed something like chanchaLA while men settle with a partner (like Vishnu did) who is happy to serve.
Again a woman who is willing to serve is not necessarily less capable than the man. It is mostly situation dependent which I will discuss later. However, in order to get the desired service from this woman, a man has to keep her happy at all time unless he wants to go through unforeseen problems like Vishnu did when Laxmi left him once. A man can go through hell when his most loving and serving wife leaves him for any reason because he has made himself completely dependent on his wife despite all his capabilities. This dependency reflects another angle of married life called DOMINATION. Again the ideal 50-50 relationship is a dream and a man is left with a feeling like SmArang SmArang Swagruha Charitam DArubhuta MurAri.
Before I begin with life of Shiva I would like to offer a prayer in his glory:
hey chandrachuDa madanAntaka shulapAni sthanogirisagiri yesha mahesha sambho bhutesha bhita bhaya sudanam mAmanatham sansAra dukhagahanAdh jagadeesharakhya hey pArvati hrudya ballava chandra mauLey bhootAdhipa pramathanAtha girishajApa hey bAmadevabhavarudra pinakapANi sansAra dukhagahanAdh jagadeesharakhya [I think one person who can best explain the above phrases is Dr. Bijoy Misra]While the life of BrahmA illustrates an idea of bachelorhood and that of Vishnu a troubled marriage relationship, Shiva's life depicts a very discrete scenario of the extent of a married life. Shiva's life is always a monogamous relationship. However, Parvati (his wife) has been pictured in four different images: Gauri (the spinster), PArvati (the loving wife), DurgA (the ever powerful - Shakti), and KALi (the dominatrix). The above four images of Shiva's wife clearly depicts the depth and extent a marriage relationship can go to. As Gauri, she is the calm, serene, innocent girl who is curious about a married life and is looking forward to it. Then she married Shiva, the destroyer of life, an image of power and strength. She was happy in her preliminary married life as PArvati. She cares and looks up to her husband. However, does the husband reciprocate? Shiva has his own agenda in life. Why? Because he is the man. He doesn't have to consult his wife. He knows the best. A typical male chauvinistic attitude. Never consult your wife/partner because she doesn't know better. He goes off on bloody wars with demons, drinks the poison when approached by Vishnu, breaks the fall of Ganga coming from heaven and so on and so forth. What goes on in the mind of his loving wife PArvati? She is left alone in her humble abode for days together leading almost a life she used to lead prior to their marriage. Hence, she becomes creative and as a result gives life to two kids KArtikeya and Ganesha. Once, she has two kids to back her up she becomes powerful and hence gets a different image with 10 hands (dasabhujA) and becomes the powerful DurgA. This is the reasoning period of a married life. The wife shows an illustration of her might and determination. The husband is given a chance to come back to his senses and forego the chauvinistic attitude. At this point either the husband becomes reactive or succumbs to the needs of his wife. In either case the fourth stage comes up pretty quickly, i.e. KALi, the dominatrix - a stage of complete domination. I leave the rest of my description of the fourth stage to the imagination of the readers.
The Cyclic Image
Once married, both the partners go through several cycles of image. My friend, Niraj Sharma, describes the various moods of women in a humorous tone. According to him, women go through three stages of a cycle : Chandramukhi, Suryamukhi and JwALAmukhi. The first stage starts from the first union of the two individuals. They try to understand each other, fall in love, move to deep love and then become dependent on each other. Until they hear the first cry of the offspring women have a light mood, playful in nature and look forward to their union. This is also a stage when they have pleasant dreams and aspirations. This is the best part of the marriage union. The first cry of the offspring adds 8 arms to the woman. She becomes practically dasabhujA (10-armed). She starts analyzing life from a different perspective. Suddenly, the child becomes the center of power and the woman becomes Suryamukhi. The term dasabhujA is a symbolic term used to define the sudden surge of power that a woman acquires as did DurgA. The whole world revolves around the child and husband becomes secondary in most cases. This makes the marriage relationship drift slightly apart which brings about the third stage, i.e. JwALAmukhi. Again, I leave this part to the reader's imagination with a final statement that this last stage is similar to that of KALi. However, days go by and the need of a second child, a third child, ... comes by. Whenever, the need for a child comes, the cycle goes back to the beginning.
Isn't it selfish on my part to leave this description right here? After all the husband goes through a similar cycle. This description comes from a Bengali friend who defines a male cycle as : Husmukh, Deshmukh and Lajjyamukh. Again the three stages of the husband are reciprocative to the three stages of the wife. Immediately after marriage, the husband tries to keep a smiley face so that his wife doesn't feel that she is being ignored. They discover love together and have union. Despite any anxiety or problem, the husband always is Husmukh until the wife is pregnant. This is a time of joy for the husband since the unions become less frequent. This is the time which he devotes to the society at large - Deshmukh. Meet with friends for hours, discuss politics, play cards, invite people, visit long lost friends, spend more time at work. I am not saying that he ignores his wife. He can't because the child is aboard and he has already announced it proudly before everyone. Once the child is born and the wife goes through the stage shift she starts pointing out everything that she thought went wrong or is going wrong in the married life. The husband has no other defense except feeling sorry - Lajjyamukh. The cycle repeats again when the need for a second child approaches.
Besides all this cyclic images of both the partners, one aspect becomes quite imminent in the married life. The wife gains a increasing grip over the relationship with the birth of each child. The longer the relationship, the stronger the grip. In a humorous tone the husband (Pati) is reduced from a Parameshwara (God - at the beginning of a relationship) to a Kukura (Dog - towards the later part of the relationship). I leave it onto the readers to define the position of the wife with the progress of the relationship.
Domination is a reality of most marriage relationships. The ideal reasoning or equality might exist only in board rooms or non-competitive business. However, various forces in a married life makes a partner dominant. Again, dominance may or may not be a permanent attribute of a partner. It might be situation dependent and can be a flip-flop. I will try to define a few such scenarios before I conclude my article.
Natural Dominance: One of the partner might be naturally dominant. In this case (s)he is the decision maker. This brings about a very harmonious married life.
Parental Dominance: Dominance of a partner can be instigated by the parents. One example is the involvement of the wife's parents in the married life of their daughter. They drive their daughter to take the upper hand in the relationship. The intention is noble and the reason is absolute love for their daughter. However, this might bring harmony if the son-in-law adjusts to the external force. Else, it might bring about the most disharmonious marriage. A catchword to look out for is: Dear daughter...whatever your husband says is right and you should listen to him. This phrase sounds so alluring to the son-in-law. However it has a big catch. This is a subtle step to make the son-in law submit to his wife.
Societal Dominance: Society dictates the dominance of a partner in a married life. For example, if one of the partner belonged to a high society and the other to a lower society then the dominance creeps in through the former partner. Social dominance can be benign in most circumstances. Inter-caste marriage relationships might experience societal dominance.
Cultural Dominance: In this case, the culture of a partner determines whether (s)he should have the upper hand in the relationship. The upbringing, exposure and values that a partner has experienced over and above the other could be a reason to be dominant. These relationships sometimes results in calamities due to the difference in vibes of both the partners. Educational differences could be classified as cultural dominance.
Financial Dominance: This has two aspects. The first is the lavish upbringing and financial backbone of one of the partners brought forward from his parents. The other is a difference in pay rates between two working partners. Often, the wife is a victim of the second aspect because traditionally a man cannot adjust to the fact that his wife is earning more than him. On the flip side, a woman always sacrifices to the ego of a man. The first aspect is however, more deep-rooted. In either case, the partners cannot enjoy a 50-50 relationship and decision is driven by one. These relationships are mostly malignant in the first aspect.
Physical Dominance: The physical dominance is often a male-oriented dominance because the man is stronger. The woman always has to succumb to the physique of the man (unless of course it is USA). This may lead to physical abuse and domestic violence as a result of certain other displeasures that the man has to take out on his wife. The relationship can be harmonious or disharmonious depending upon the attitudes of the partners.
Sexual Dominance: I don't think it is appropriate to discuss this in the forum.
Psychological Dominance: Sometimes one partner influences the other through the act, selflessness, sacrifice, etc. This type of dominance could be temporary or permanent and could possess a dark side too.
In my opinion, there is no ideal 50-50 relationship in a married life. It is always 100-0 depending upon the time, situation and type of relationship. However, dreaming about a ideal equality during a bachelorhood is a strong step to enter a world of non-equality and domination. You might agree or disagree with me. But it is true that Delhi kA ladoo jo khayA woh pastAyA, jo nahin khAyA woh bhi pastAyA.
The above article is entirely my personal opinion. I might have used politically incorrect statements at time. I may be excused for that. For those of you who are very religious and cannot sustain the description of married lives of Gods, please forgive me. I am not atheist, neither I am agnostic. Also, please don't conclude that I am leading a very unusual married life because I am not. I am a very happily married person.
Some of you might think that I have been too discrete in my description. In other words the above might seem to be: hATa madhyarey brahmagyAna. However, I am presenting this with the idea that the contents will not be taken seriously by the reader. After reading this if you think that marriage is not worth it then you have missed the point, if you think that this is the usual course of marriage relationships then also you have missed the point. The analogy of human marriage to the devine marriage is made to establish a datum. We always look forward to a datum in relationship which is either ideal or the extreme. I have merely presented the datum. One should evaluate their relationships based upon the datum they choose.
Coming back to my final conclusion, let me present a single statement from Amitabh's article:
"A relationship succeeds only if it is fair. We should be fair to our spouses; consequently, to ourselves. Only by being fair to our spouses can we ensure that there will be no lingering grudges preserved in the long run."
And a statement made by Suparna in the review of Amitabh's article:
"The author has some very good views about how to make a marriage work vis a vis the role of women in it. I hope this will give rise to some introspection about harmony in marital life."
Both of them have pointed out the importance of woman in a marriage relationship. This reminds me of the famous lyrics of Shantanu Mohapatra:
With regard to the "Delhi ka Laddoo," the reason a person gets married is liking for the other person. I think this feeling should keep the marriage at a 50-50 basis. In the context of greater awareness and liberal views, this is a more likely scenario than the mythological ones mentioned. However, I am not saying that they have no relevance; only that the steady state of marriage will probably be very different and a more harmonious one. The forces which governed such situations have changed dramatically. The extreme pressure under which the relationship exists may be released by the safety valve which exists today (divorce).
I am not sure about author's idea of cyclic image. According to him, I and my wife are in cycle 1. May be some elder ones can comment on their experience in other cycles. But we must note that these changes are a part of life. Once you have kids, you have some more beings to love and care for. May be your affection for your spouse goes down(if law of conservation of love and affection is true), but you must look at it this way : you are loving someone who also belongs to your spouse, so, in effect, you are loving your spouse too. Do not you think your spouse will also feel good when you show affection to your kids?
I do not think it's a good idea to measure your contribution to the nuptial relationship. Let's forget our analytical mind for such emotional strings and enjoy it. If one's wife is more capable than oneself in any field, that should be a pride to brag about. If that field happens to be the earning what's wrong about it? If it is cooking, we do not mind, what's wrong if it is earning. Come on, we are going to be in 21st century.
Your comments are always welcome...
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