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Unravelling the marriage mess

KANKANA BASU
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Amusing yet hugely thought-provoking, this book is likely to strike a chord with all readers. KANKANA BASU

The Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy; Vijay Nagaswami, Westland, Rs. 295.
The Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy; Vijay Nagaswami, Westland, Rs. 295.

T he author is a familiar name for readers across the country, having built up a reputation as a trusted columnist and counsellor over the years.

With a best-selling first book in his kitty, Vijay Nagaswami now returns with The Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy, an ode to the great, big, crowded, confused (and often doomed) Indian marriage.

Close examination

Drawing on the vast store of his case studies, Nagaswami puts the institution of marriage, in all its knotted glory, under the microscope and then proceeds to unravel the mess with care. The examination of each strand yields enlightening results besides revealing the astonishing fact that the end product of a marriage is not necessarily the sum of its parts.

In language that is lucid and chatty, Nagaswami lays bare the physical and psychological infrastructure that supports, or alternately shatters, a marriage. With seven chapters dedicated to it, toxicity in marriages is discussed in the minutest of details leaving no room for doubts in any mind.

The existence of the various sub-sections that fall under toxic marriages (angry, depressed, controlling, violent, neglected marriages among others) is a bit of an eye-opener for the naive reader who probably has been cruising along with the belief that marriages are made in heaven and associated merely with champagne and roses. Space is not an inanimate bit of distance as we know it to be but, as the author points out rather deftly, a throbbing entity that could be categorised into I-space, we-space or even (as it happens regrettably in many Indian marriages) no-space!

A generous dose of humour is injected into the text, which has a racy unputdownable quality to it. An undue emphasis on the physical aspects of marriage might appear obsessional on the part of the author (making the puritan reader squirm) but all of it eventually emerges relevant and important in these times of quick love and even quicker separation. In citing real life cases of marital discord, Nagaswami cleverly juxtaposes contemporary mindsets over traditional ones, highlighting the disconcertingly swift changes happening in the family structure in recent times, giving clear pointers towards the strengths and weaknesses of both generations.

While traditional Indian marriages in the past saw the bulk of compromises falling into the bride's lot, the emergence of the new liberated woman has changed the equation radically. The thinking, educated and professionally qualified woman who is not shy to flaunt her sexuality or make clear her expectations from her partner has resulted in social and marital chaos and Nagaswami interprets this phenomenon with astute empathy. Though most couples find the first chunk of their marriages a major uphill job in establishing compatibility, Nagaswami urges them to make a second commitment in the later years to seal the relationship.

Indian marriages are notorious for being crowded and engulfing the entire troop of family and friends in its folds. The author cautions against partners spreading themselves too thin and doing their relationship a disservice in the process.

Challenging norms

A brave man, he does not hesitate to challenge age-old norms regarding filial duties towards parents/elders and advises all self-effacing couples to give top priority to their own relationship. A section of the advice dished out might read mundane, repetitive and clichéd (especially to those in the habit of reading the Agony Aunt columns in the newspapers regularly) but the bulk of it makes sound sense.

For all those who are wondering what the Fifty-50 part of title is supposed to imply, the end of the book will answer the question very satisfactorily. With complete impartiality to genders, generations and social milieau, the author confidently and cheekily charts out a rather smart manual for marriage survival. It's immaterial whether the reader is much-married, just-married or about to be married; this amusing yet hugely thought-provoking read is likely to strike a chord with everyone between 19 and 90.


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