And matches are made in heaven

This discourse is not to justify the notion of arranged marriages. I have gone from being flabbergastingly against the concept to feeling more ambivalent about it in recent times. So, I want to examine the rubik’s cube of this centuries old concept that still exists in India to see what the society, parents and families were thinking about.

1) The dating scene

To know why and how arranged marriages came about, one must understand India and its landscape culturally a little more than from the heights of the Taj Mahal.

Until recent years, kids in India did not date. It was frowned upon, the girl was especially seen as a sleaze and the very act of dating and spending time together was seen as something wrong. 

I was travelling in Europe 15 years ago when I told an American woman that there were no malls where we lived, she said ‘Really? Where do kids hang out?’ I could argue that malls are not the only place that kids should hang out, but there were also no parks to boot or another place where kids could actually just hang.

Cell phones were not common until about 10 years ago, not every kid had their own and texting was not second nature to kids.

So, hindered by such factors, I don’t know..how else would you meet someone!

2) Marriageable age

The society in India has this theory and expectation – that everything should be done by a certain age in your life.

Which translates for men to find a job and with some leeway get married. For the ladies, you need to be ‘settled down’ and on your way to making babies. I would say, at about the age of 23 is when parents start going into panic mode for their little girl to tie the knot. And god forbid, if you haven’t had kids by the ripe old age of 30. Then, you have problems. It’s just assumed.

Practically in a way, there is some sense to it. A woman’s biological clock is ticking and the more they delay the process of conceiving a child, the more issues they and the baby could experience as time goes on.

On the other hand, one is not mature to even know themselves at 23. You may not know what you want from life, much less what you want from a life partner. And settling for someone because the clock’s ticking is not what is going to keep a marriage afloat for the next 50 odd years.

If you have met someone early on in life, then it’s great that you are able to travel together and spend some quality time together before kids arrive on the scene. But again, you just can’t do it because the time is right with a person who’s not right for you.

3) Social strata

Apart from the class system there are also different social strata that are based on your lineage and how much money your father makes. Arranged marriage is society’s way of ensuring that the daughter will we ‘well looked after’ and her way of life will closely mirror her life before she got married. That all her financial needs will be met and money will not be a glaring issue in their marriage.

On the son’s side, it hopes to ensure that their wife was brought up in similar social circles and has the same mannerisms as are expected of women in his family.

Of course, the husband or family having money does not ensure that she will have the financial freedom to spend it and that will not have to justify each purchase. But, one hopes that with enough money in the family, this will not happen.

4) Culture

Being as culturally diverse as India is, every state speaks a different language, eats different food and sometimes even prays to a different god.

Arranged marriage is their way of ensuring that along with adjusting to a new home and family, the woman will additionally not have to go through the effort of learning and changing the very basic that makes up the fabric of her system.

In modern times where joint families are not as commonplace, two people from diverse backgrounds can come together and make it work if they both make their way toward each other and not cling to all they have known their entire lives up until now and try to create an amalgamated family and future together.

5) Looks

This one has a few facets.

With not much else to go by, the first impressions are definitely based on looks. Many a photo is passed upon because the girl or guy doesn’t meet the criteria of good looks. Some factors here are just impressed upon people’s minds, the girl has to be ‘fair’, short enough to be shorter than the guy but tall enough to be about 2-3 inches within his height, thin and just generally beautiful. No matter that she is never going to see the face of a runway and strut her stuff down it, but she will most definitely be showed off to friends, family and foes – that you can be assured of.

The guy’s looks are sometimes compromised upon if he has a lot of money. Sometimes, parents actually recognize that their prince or princess is not all that and go for someone with similar looks too.

If a girl is beautiful, a guy will compromise on money/education or the other umpteen factors to bring her home.

You only have to read one of the many matrimonial advertisements in newspapers or online today to get a laugh out of people’s requirements of looks!

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Arranged marriage thought about the fundamentals of marriage and tried to take care of those. But, that’s all these are – fundamentals. And this is where the system can be seen as flawed, especially given today’s lifestyle and generation.

It may be seen as a way for protective parents to ensure that their child has a great married life ahead but when based on a mere set of shallow factors, it is really not perpetrating the elements that a marriage is made up of in reality.

Arranged marriage can be a way to introduce two young people if they so wish, but parents and families need to realize that the pressure that ensues thereafter to sign the dotted line is not going to do anyone any good in the long run.

There are strong undercurrents in each marriage that cannot be signed through a pre-nup, that have to be lived through and worked upon to make things work. And that is something no one can do other than the two people that make up the marriage.

What about the living?

We often wonder about the ones who pass away and leave us — what happens to them? The tunnel of light. Are they re-incarnated. How do they come back. What happens to them in the netherworld. How was their journey there. Do they ever miss us. Do they want to come back. Do they come back? Are they somewhere around us. Do they want to communicate with us. What is the afterlife. Is there an afterlife.

But, who thinks about the ones they leave behind. The wife, the mother, the grandchild, the lone daughter or son who shared all their secrets with them, the friend who talked to them for hours.

How do they go on. Do they go on living in a vacuum. Do they keep on living in a shell. Do they pretend that the person is still there around them. Can they sense their lost one in their surroundings. Does time actually heal wounds. Do we miss them lesser and lesser as time goes by. Or is the pain still as sharp.

The stab of disappointment when they feel like that person just entered the room but then realize that they didn’t. When they look at a picture and can remember the sound of their laughter and the warmth accompanying it. The nostalgia of all the good times that they shared. When they want to talk to that person about something, something that absolutely no one else will understand. When they need that person’s advice and can’t trust anyone else. When they walk into a room and can imagine that person sitting there. The way they sat there for so many years that it is imprinted in your mind.

The sense of seeing their clothes brings up images of them dressed in those clothes. The clinginess of wearing their old watch that doesn’t even work anymore. Those sunglasses that remind you of the many times you saw them wearing them. The ring they always wore. And then, how those hands looked and the way they held them. They way they wore their shoes and the manner in which they slouched while watching tv. How they teased you and made you laugh.

Does it ever end? Do you want it to?

There is a constant fight in wanting to forget and wanting to remember. You want to forget because you think it will make things easier to deal with, that you will be able to live easier. You want to remember because you want the feeling of that person around you. You feel guilty that you would forget this person who meant so much to you. You want things to be as they were, because things were good that way. So inside of you, you keep that emotion going that they live on.

At one point, one may feel that their own life is worthless and they can’t go on. Then one starts coming out of their shell to notice the world around them again. They start living a normal life and enjoying pursuits that interested them. They don’t necessarily go into a depression (not everyone that is). The recollections come in spurts, sometimes many, sometimes not so much. Sometimes, they catch you unaware and you feel a pang.

The pain recedes and vivid memories live on.

 

I’m not a hoarder!

That’s what we all say, right? My excuse is that I have all the space in the world to house everything I own. So I can avoid throwing or giving something away and hold on to it just that little bit longer.

But, when a neighbor mentioned ‘I feel like some people need these clothes more than I do’, it struck a chord with me. Rather than procrastinating and waiting for my seasonal clean-ups I should be more proactive about giving away the things that I truly don’t use or need.

My basic rule is that if I didn’t wear that article of clothing last year in the same season then it’s time for it to go. If it’s good quality, I might hold on to it a little longer, but two years is the absolute maximum. This does come back to bite you as you start getting older and fashions start coming back around, but in the world of fast fashion these days, unless an item is a classic or you spent a small fortune on it, it is not worth holding on to it.

Going through this exercise helps to remove clutter from your house and wardrobe and gives you an excuse to re-arrange things to suit your needs. You no longer need to stare at endless shelves of clothing and yet have the ‘I have nothing to wear’ syndrome. The more clothes one has, the harder it is to choose and the longer it takes to get dressed every morning. If you don’t believe me, try putting together one shelf of clothes that you wear the most and only wear clothes from there for a week, see if you don’t get dressed faster every morning. It is also said that we wear 20% of our shoes for 80% of the time so the same rule applies.

With all those unwanted clothes gone and empty shelf space, it’s a great excuse to go shopping!

anicca anicca anicca

Three words that could change your life. I know it’s one word repeated thrice(!) but it’s all the more profound when repeated, because you begin to feel it as you say it. Annica, in the tenets of Buddhism implies ‘impermanence’.

It dictates that everything in the world is impermanent. Thinking about this over and over leads you to another important aspect of Buddhism — non-attachment. When you start realizing that everything around you, within you, about you and everyone and everything else in the world is impermanent, you start to not feel that something is an end all to your being.

This is not to say that we must not be emotional about those we love, and not love or live with all out heart. But, it is to realize this truth and move through life with it.

If I am in extreme physical pain, I should know that it will pass. It is great to be happy, but to cling to it with wantonness is foolish as that is not to last either. The thought of a loved one dying breaks you inside, but we must know that there is an end to human life — ours and theirs. We are not the same person that we were 10 years ago, our emotions change, so does our life, sometimes our circumstances and our surroundings too. It is not just physically that we change, because of the science of the cells in our bodies undergoing division many times over.

As with any philosophical thought, there are many views and discussions, and many applications. I would like to think of anicca as hope — to expect tomorrow to be better than today. Today may be great, but why will tomorrow be any less. And if it is, we still know that there is something else up ahead.

I do also like to believe that some parts of me are permanent and will not change — my beliefs, principles and morals that form the core of me. There are definitely aspects that are re-analyzed over and over and re-adjusted but some little pieces will remain the same.

I would still say that although this concept easy to grasp, it is extremely hard to apply in life. Just saying that something is inevitable doesn’t always make it right, but hopefully it can make it a little easier to deal with.

A friend of mine who also lost their parent recently (which is a scale of 2-3 years ago for someone who has lost a parent) were talking and found how the first year was extremely hard to get through. Every day it hurt to get through life and we didn’t know how we would make it. The second year, the pain lessened and we now think about the happy times, the wonderful memories and our lives with them. If people had told me that this is how it would be when I was in that time, I would probably have not believed them. Now, I have no doubt that the way I remember my dad will change as I go through life, but I will always remember him, sometimes less, sometimes more, and in different ways and situations.

The concept of anicca was another invaluable lesson that my dad taught us about. He explained it to us by relating the idea to events and emotions in our day-to-day lives.

The problem maybe ‘YOU’

Another valuable lesson taught to me by my dad..

Every time I complained about someone or something to my dad, or my mood was sour because of something someone did, he would turn it around and question me. “Why is it that this person only affects you this way. If he/she were really that way, everyone would dislike them”. I also developed my arguing technique over the years and debated that ‘the person had different interactions with their parents and family so obviously they wouldn’t be affected in the same manner’. Well, that’s all well and good, but it still doesn’t account for all the other people that don’t mind being around them.

Alright, hard to win that one.

So, his point was not to say that you have to be in love with everyone, and never have any hard feelings against anyone. One would have to be a saint for that and that takes too many years of practice in isolation to be!

He was trying to explain to me that if this person’s words or actions were affecting me in this manner, and I wanted to change that, then  there were 2 factors — their behavior and mine. There was absolutely no control I had on them, so that left some work to be done on myself.

One needs to understand that they have very little to no control over people and their surroundings. So,  one needs to give up the hope of always giving someone their piece of mind in order to change how you feel.

We discuss this sometimes in our meditation group, and everyone’s perspectives are interesting. This seems to be a goal that most of us share — to not let others affect us by making us agitated, angry and ruining our day.

“I gave way to this person who was cutting me in traffic today because if I didn’t it would cause a lot more hassle to everyone else” 

“I smiled at this person who I would have normally gotten mad and yelled at because of what they did, and it felt weirdly right!”

“I gave them metta (loving kindness) when that was definitely not what was on my mind” 

It doesn’t work all the time, I think it is a skill that can be honed over time for interacting with most people. And then there are some that no matter what you do, can still get on your nerves. If it gets to a level where you are surrounded by people who you are not happy to be around, then it may be time to get yourself out of that environment or away from it. A slightly tweaked version of the technique would work for these — keep your distance and don’t let them affect you. You should not let it change who you are as a person, or affect your confidence or personality.

But at all other times, keep calm and smile 🙂

Music Inspiration – What makes you beautiful

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Hey, the popularity contest is over. Didn’t get the memo?

It was over a while ago. It’s all about you now. It’s always been. It’s all those insecure people that have nothing but that sense of ‘belonging’ anchoring them that live by them anyway. You? You could stand out on your own, out there on a cliff with waves crashing about you, and stand strong through it.

Did you forget the time you were fun, all on your own too? Karaoke with a hairbrush, Sunday morning brunches, walks on the beach, sitting by the window sill making crazy art, or prancing about..that was all you! What happened?

No time?
Had kids?
Grew up??

So what!

Did someone give you a checklist of what you need to be when you’re all grown up? No! It’s yours to write.

These are the things that made you, you. And you have to continue being that person. You don’t enjoy all the things your friends/family/everyone else does and neither do they, but if we all started blending into each other’s likes and dislikes, we would all be one giant mass of goop!

So, remember those times that you forgot about the rest of the world and smiled by yourself. Do that thing again. Take the time out, it might take an effort in the beginning. It’s a change and may not come easy but you can do it. It is what’s going to keep that spark alive and keep you going as you keep getting older and older 😉

The thing that changed

I have no bucket list for life and no resolutions for every new year that comes by. That is not to say that I don’t have wishes and just go about in the humdrum of life.  I still believe in getting the most out of my time. In fact, sometimes I will wring the life out of some weekends with one event after the other!

But, something hit me and last year and made me stop and think. Did keeping one crazy busy suffice for one’s happiness?  

To figure this out, I made myself think consciously about what makes me happy. I asked myself — what is stopping me — life is to be happy, that is one’s goal and purpose in life, and decided that I am going to do anything and everything possible to make it so. Once you start thinking about this, you need to make time for and take steps towards doing these things that bring you joy.  I guess it was a good thing, as it resulted in this

1) started running (a task I previously thought impossible, I did not run a marathon or even a half marathon but I started running)

2) joined a meditation group (this gives me immense peace and happiness, thank you Eve!)

3) went zip lining (this was something I had wanted to do forever, thought it was easy, went to do it and encountered my intense fear of heights, almost cried and wouldn’t do it and then had a ton of fun doing it)

4) tried surf boarding (this looked interesting and I wanted to give it a try)

5) read more books (this is a thing that makes me happy so it is an indulgence)

6) tried many new recipes (i just like trying new things, so this is fun)

7) did a photography class (just because)

8) started writing this blog (big, big step and it feels awesome!)

9) fell in love again 🙂 (we’re close to 7 years of marriage now, so here’s to defeating the 7 year itch!)

There are so many more things that happen in a year, many that make one happy and those that can count as accomplishments. But, this is not a post to talk about ‘2012 in review’. It is more to recount the small steps I might have taken knowingly, to grab my pieces of happiness.

I am happy with the way this year turned out and am excited to see what 2013 brings!