My column last month against the institution of marriage sparked off a massive and unexpected debate online – and in various WhatsApp groups, classrooms and kitty parties – and earned me both bouquets and brickbats. Life, however, has taught me that what other people think of me is none of my business, so I wasn’t too affected by the onslaught.
But one critic’s comment – forwarded to me by an old friend – stayed with me: “Just because she has two failed marriages, she views the institution with heavily coloured goggles,” the lady said about me.
Okay, hold on just a minute. Let’s address this. What’s a failed marriage? What is the parameter of success for a marriage? Is being married till the day you die – even if you die every day in suffocation, misery and abuse – a definition of a ‘successful’ marriage?
Come to think of it, what’s a ‘broken’ family? Is living with conflict and violence a better alternative? And what if there’s no alternative? Is that family broken just because it doesn’t fit into the 1970s’ family-planning slogan hum do hamare do?
Such terms went out of fashion in the last century. Let us lay them to rest.
My stance on marriage remains the same: It’s a punishment to keep a bad relationship going simply because you’re married, and a good relationship doesn’t need marriage to keep it going. Having said that – and considering that half of the adults in the world are married right at this moment – I venture to add: There’s no such thing as a failed marriage, unless you are wearing heavily coloured goggles.
If the parameter to judge the success of any venture is its outcome, then both my marriages were / are successful. The past one made me seek a higher calling and led me to Buddhism, and the current one has given me the courage to live my dreams. Somewhere along the way, I shed the goggles of social expectations, trying to live by someone else’s rules, judging others, and seeing life as a battle against antagonistic forces and myself as its hapless casualty.
I shopped for another set of goggles. These showed me the best in people, the silver lining on a dark day, an expanse of opportunities and joys just waiting for me to grab them, and such a tremendous amount of love that one little heart cannot possibly contain it all. I’ve had to place an order for one as big as the sun. For now.
How is that a failure?
Let us not misuse the terms ‘happily married’, or a ‘normal family’. Happiness is a process with or without marriage, and no family or marriage or even person is ‘normal’. Each one has its own quirks, unique traits, colours and flavours. Sometimes a mother and daughter living by themselves or a childless couple are a very complete family. Sometimes a pair of gay lovers disowned by their respective parents make for a perfect marriage. Sometimes a group of people totally unrelated to one another build a warm, loving nest to come home to each night, and it’s enough. ‘Normal’ is reductive. Diversity is the norm.
Be unafraid of social tags. The only failure is not living life to your fullest potential, and breaking relationships is better than being broken yourself.
Strive instead for the day when every cell of your body lights up with gratitude, for that’s when you’re ‘whole’, even if others may brand it otherwise.
Come, wear my goggles. They’re lightly coloured with peace today.
Lead image: ‘Cleansing my sins’ a la Osho, beside the very evolved Asha Rajkumari (left)
First published in eShe’s April 2019 issue