lovely topic. Lemme give my two cents.
Leaving aside the issue of culture and societal pressures - because, as you say, in our culture being unmarried is a total taboo and gossip/scandal-worthy thing - I think in your own personal life, it is possible to be content without marriage. Maybe that's because I have not grown up / lived in a country where every man and his dog will look at you weirdly if you are a single woman with no intention of getting married. It does make a difference where you are, what your surroundings are. Here in England, there is no shame or taboo in being a single woman not bothered with marriage - people don't immediately think that something is wrong with you, that you couldn't get married, as opposed to you didn't want to get married.
It all comes down to self-esteem and your confidence in your own life. I agree with you that marriage isn't always - or just - about getting a man and popping out babies; it's about friendship and companionship and compatibility. BUT, I think you can get that in other ways also. Yes, as you grow older, your friends get married and have kids and other lives and drift away from you, and that may make you feel lonely - but to my mind, there is a difference in being lonely and being alone. One can happily be alone without being lonely, as long as they are comfortable in their alone-ness. And there are plenty of people and opportunities in this world to find a moment of companionship with.
As human beings, I think we are not built entirely for solitude, though. We get sad and jealous and happy and lonely and yes, we are conditioned by birth (whether you are Indian, Pakistani, Asian or none of the above) to want to be with people, marriage or no marriage. So one cannot be perfectly happy by themselves. But my problem is that many people use this fear of being alone to jump into something that doesn't really help them in the long run.
You talk about the "perfect age to get married" syndrome - let me share some examples. I have some old friends from school who got married right out of high school
and university, at 18 and 21. Now they have husband and three/four year old kids. Which is all well and good, and I'm happy for them - maybe they found exactly what they were looking for - but what now? Now you are a 23-year old wife and mother with a child and a marriage and mortgage and an uphill struggle. You've got about 50 years of the same thing, every day. What about the rest of your needs - the career, the friendships, the travelling, the learning about life and finding out who you really are? How can you effectively do all that while you have these ties so early in your life? By Indian standards, these girls married at "just the right time". To me, they seem impossibly young. I get very annoyed with all the auntie-jis who came up with this "prime shaadi wali umar" - where did they pull this number out of?! Back in the day, girls got married at 8, 9 , 13. These were prime ages? Children?! Now, the prime age is apparently 18-23, because after that the girl becomes...what? Stale? She loses her eggs so can't bear babies anymore? It's such an archaic and arbitrary system. And what it does is give these girls far too much pressure to marry someone in the correct time because with every passing year they are withering away
. So they make bad choices and are either stuck with it for the rest of their lives, or they go on divorcing sprees and generally lose their identities. This is not a good picture of marriage.
I think that you are right - people want companionship and partnership and to fill that void. How they choose to fill it - with people, with work, with pets, with travelling etc - is each individual person's choice. But I think if a person can put aside the societal pressures - and indeed, the pressure that they put on themselves as a result of societal pressures - then they can be happy without marriage. In this day and age, where half of marriages end in divorce, and countless others are suffered in silence - do we really need to add to the statistics of marriage simply to please others? Whether or not this is controversial for others, to me it seems worth saying that people can live together and, have lives together, without marriage. I know many people who are not married but have lived together happily for years - they have children, joint bills, pets and all the other trappings of marriage. But because they never got "married", they effectively removed all that pressure and expectation and simply focused on what they wanted. And so they are happy. And can you really say that after all that, they are not married? Maybe they don't have the piece of paper, the ritual, the mangalsutra, the sindoor. But if that is what marriage means, then it has no meaning. Marriage is not about an object but about a state of mind and a higher connection between two people. If they are committed to each other and their lives, if they love each other - can we really say that this isn't exactly what marriage is supposed to be?
It's not a one-size fits all solution, certainly - but I think it is worth thinking about. The modern world brings with it many changes, and as women - especially women - get older and more independent, more feminist and more powerful in the world, I think that the associations we make with marriage vis a vis women should be rethought. As you rightly say, marriage is not the be-all and end-all of a woman's life anymore, and this needs to be reflected not only in society and the so-called patron saints of marriage, but also in the definition of the term itself.
As for Priya, I certainly hope she is not the dukhyaari
, zindagi se samjhota
type girl. That would be staid and really quite irritating, though totally apropos of Ekta's taste in heroines
. One of my favourite
promos of this show was the one where Ram and Priya are on the balcony and he asks her "Kabhi pyar nahi hua?" and she replies "koi mila nahi". He is surprised, but in the very next instant, she asks him the same thing, and his answer surprises her. But it's such a natural thing - she seems perfectly content with her reply that she simply never found the man she wanted to be with, and he finds it odd because she's so beautiful; he is perfectly content with his reply that he was always too busy with work, and she finds that
odd and unsettling, as if thinking that work cannot be a substitute for love.
This to me is the perfect portrayal of Priya - yes, she believes in love (and maybe marriage) and thinks that work/career cannot be the mainstay of your life to the exclusion of everything else...but at the same time, the fact that she didn't find anyone to love/marry before is not exactly sending her into fits of hysterical tears. I hope they keep that balance in her character and try to avoid the stereotypical cliches of the girl who prays to God to find her a husband, if only to make her worried parents happy
Edited by psawyer - 26 May 2011 at 1:05am