Marriage is a terribly important part of life. It's a partnership you form, a companion you choose, hopefully for the rest of your life. Someone who helps you, who supports you and vice versa. The way we view marriage and the way we approach it determines how our life could end up being.
Today, I want to largely address youngsters, because most of you who are older are already married and for better or worse have already made your choices.
In India we spend so much of our emotions, thoughts, time and money (that which we have, and that which we borrow), towards marriage. But do we actually spend all this time, effort, money and emotion towards marriage? I think not. In fact we concentrate all of these resources not on our marriage, but on our wedding day.
“ Bade dhoom dhaam se shaadi ,” is probably one of the most common phrases in India. There's so much of emotion, thought, focus, all concentrated on the ‘event': “How will I look on that one day?” “How will society perceive me and my chosen partner?” “What will they say about the wedding arrangements?” “What will they say about the invitation card?” “What will they say about the food?” “What will they say about the clothes?”
Now, this ‘they' we refer to are our friends, our relatives and other people in society whom we are acquainted with, and whom we hope to invite. And most of our energy goes towards making this one day a success. Often, even our choice of spouse is in some way linked with the driving need to make the day perfect. Haven't all of us heard these statements: “ Meri beti engineer se shaadi karegi .” “ Meri beti IAS se shaadi kar rahi hai .” “My daughter is marrying an NRI.” We imagine that people admire such choices, and their admiration makes us happy. We allow our choice of spouse to very often be dictated by how people will perceive us. But the hard truth is that ‘they' are not going to spend the rest of their life with the groom or the bride.
Sometimes we simply choose the ‘ khandaan,' the family or the aura surrounding the family, and not the individual himself or herself. “My son is marrying so and so's daughter.” “My daughter is marrying such and such's son.” We tend to focus, not on the groom or bride but on the label attached to him or her.
Now let's examine a few other important aspects of marriage.
After we've spent the bulk of our time worrying about others' perceptions, we spend tons of time deciding what to wear. We do intense R&D on honeymoon destinations. We spend time discussing arrangements, menus, guest lists. All of these are great cause for arguments. All this time is being spent in preparation for ‘the day.' But how much time do we spend on the most critical decision — selecting the correct life partner? Who is the girl I'm marrying? Who is the boy I'm planning to spend the rest of my life with? Don't we want to know them as human beings? Understand his or her nature, value system? Are we on the same wavelength? Is there compatibility? Does he or she have a sense of humour? Is this the person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life? Instead of taking ample time to make this very crucial decision, very often, marriages are fixed after just one meeting. “ Chalo baat pakki hogayi. Muh meetha karo .”
In India, most marriages are arranged. We check on the prospective groom's/bride's family, caste, home, education, income, bank balance, appearance and complexion. But all of these things are purely superficial. Why don't we utilise the same time and effort in understanding the human being we are about to (hopefully) spend the rest of our life with?
Should you agree to spend the rest of your life with someone just because he/she carries an attractive label such as IIT or MBBS? Is one marrying the person or the label? Shared interests, like-mindedness, companionship, shared sensibility, sense of humour — shouldn't all this matter?
We spend a lot of money on the wedding day. The rich spend beyond measure — each competing with the other in extravagance. The middle class or working class pours all its earnings and savings into the wedding. If you have the money, by all means decide how you want to spend it. But for those who are not wealthy, for whom every rupee earned is precious, for whom a daughter's wedding means pouring everything you have earned, or saved, it means breaking fixed deposits, selling assets and taking loans. Instead of spending all that money on the wedding day, why not decide to take the amount set aside for the girl's wedding and give it to her to use to kick-start her new life with her spouse? Instead of that lavish function, why not just have a simple, sharbat wedding and give the girl the money instead? It will be so useful for her life? I believe sharbat weddings are a great idea. Call as many people as you desire, serve them a soft drink and say thank you for coming and for blessing the newlyweds.
Have fun. Enjoy the day. Make merry. But with simplicity.
Youngsters, tell your parents, “We don't want a big function. Let me use the money for something important that helps my life. Let me use the money to invest in building the foundation for a happy married life.”
All our emotions are trained on ‘that day.' What will happen on that day? What will people think and say? How happy will I be that day? Will the day be memorable? But instead, should we not be thinking of how we will feel for the next 40 years of married life? Let's not barter one day of happiness for a lifetime of unhappiness. Our emotions need to be invested not in that one day, but in a lifetime.
Think about life ahead, not just that one day. Let's give marriage the importance it deserves — in every sense, financial, emotional, mental. Let's give it our time, emotions and energies to plan those years that lie ahead. Therefore, the key is the person you have chosen as your life partner. That is the only element you should be thinking of and no other. And please take your time over that decision. Understand, probe, check, go deep. The better you do this, the happier life is likely to be. Take the step of marrying only when you are fully satisfied about the character and temperament of the person you are marrying.
Dowry I am totally opposed to. This is a retrograde practice, and also illegal. Think about it — can a relationship, built on the foundation of money and greed, ever be meaningful or beautiful? Should we not invest in our daughter's education instead of saving up for her dowry? Make her so accomplished and independent that she is capable of crafting her own future, and becomes the master of her own happiness. Then she won't need a greedy, useless groom to complete her life. Let her marry a person who respects her. Let her marry a man who she believes is worthy of her. Whom she is happy to spend the rest of her life with.
( Aamir Khan is an actor. His column will be published in The Hindu every Monday .)