It was as if an earthquake had hit Pammi Maasi’s house that mundane Saturday afternoon. Her beloved and only son, my 26 year old cousin, Rehan, had just declared that he is in love with a 41 year old woman, Mira, and wishes to marry her.
Pammi Maasi was hysterical, her expressions would put Kirron Kher’s character from Dostana, in the ‘Maa da laadla’ song, to shame.
“Have all the young girls fallen dead? How did my innocent boy fall into that cunning woman’s trap? All this western culture influence! Oh Krishna, please give wisdom to my son,” she said dramatically, her hands folded towards the idol of Radha-Krishna placed on the side-table.
“Lord Krishna, himself loved somebody much older than him, Maa. Stop playing the culture card.” He snapped before storming out of the house.
I, being the older, mature cousin who Rehan looked up to, was especially appointed for this crisis management, to “counsel” Rehan. I was in a fix. Not because of Rehan. He has always been a sensible person. But how should I convince somebody of Pammi Maasi’s social conditioning that there was nothing wrong with what Rehan wanted?
In India, marriage is usually a very calculated decision. Love is rarely linked to marriage, and if at all it must transcend all barriers.
The entire concept of arranged marriage has reduced partner search to something like shopping – the selection of a highly customized, durable, flawless product.
Parents like my Maasi, apply their life-long wisdom and experience in selecting an appropriate spouse for their children. The ideal son-in-law is inevitably a financially stable man who can provide for a family. And the ideal daughter-in-law is the one who should be able to bear that family.
Needless to say, youth plays an important parameter for determining the marriageability of a woman.
Hence, we have made our peace with a 57 year old man marrying a 20 year old woman. However, our sensitivities still find it a little difficult to accept the reverse.
“She will not even be able to bear children,” was one of Pammi Maasi’s prime concerns. Is having a biological child the sole purpose of a woman? Are we looking for machines that manufacture quick and defect-free outputs, or partners? Isn’t it better if Rehan adopts a child and raises him/her with somebody he loves rather than searching for a fertile mate for procreation?
Mira’s home was no less of a war zone either. “This marriage will never work. Marry somebody your age. You don’t know.. Men’s eyes’ will wander. He will eventually cheat on you with a younger woman,” predicted her mother.
Pammi Maasi went a step further. “She will be dead long before you!”
We spend so much of energy planning the future, that we don’t care how we are ruining our present. Our present, is as much a part of our life as our unseen future. Our lives are very much happening right now, while we are directing our vision towards the future. When the only thing that is certain, is the present.
“He may not be interested in me 10 years later”… becomes more powerful than, “he is crazy about me now.”
Is it possible that the marriage will not work out? Ofcourse! No relationship comes with a guarantee card. Not even a “normal” socially acceptable one. Nobody can foresee who would end up drifting apart, cheating, falling ill, dying. But isn’t everything in life unpredictable? No amount of kundali-matching and background/caste/financial/social/age parity ensures a successful marriage. Maybe it would require a lot of hard work and understanding. But don’t all relationships require that?
When an adult couple has made a choice, shouldn’t we respect their judgment?
If Mira did not find Rehan mature, she probably would not have liked him. Similarly, if Rehan found Mira attractive despite her age, do we – random didis, buas, and other well-meaning family members have any right to question him?
Yes, we all want the best for him. We want him to be happy. But, it is time we realized that what we consider best for our children, may not necessarily be the best for them. Maybe the best thing for us to do is to let them make their choices in life. Chances are they know themselves better than we do. Especially when it comes to their romantic and sexual choices.
Do we fall in love every day? Do we regularly bump into people who are like-minded, and we find ourselves compatible with? How often does it happen that we meet somebody whose company we cherish, and with whom we envision a beautiful future ahead? And when we do, should we restrict ourselves because of age?
Love is not a matter of counting the years…But making the years count. — Michelle ANand