Marriage Shouldn’t Be Just Legal Sex, Stability, & Kids. We Need A Witness To Our Lives

Why should people marry? Is it just the things we’re told by elders that have to do with the mundane? What about love and companionship? Do we always get it?

In a movie I love and have seen many times, Shall We Dance, Susan Sarandon’s character Beverly Clark says, when asked why people marry – “Because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

I was thinking of this while I was rushing for my bus as usual, to go to work. And as it always happens with me, the walking put my thoughts into overdrive, making random connections that make surprising meaning – at least to my mind.

As I reached the stop, there was a bus already there, not very full. But it was slightly beyond my reach, just leaving the stop as I almost ran the last few steps. Pushing myself a bit more could have got me onboard, but my bag was heavy, and I reasoned that I wasn’t very late, and certainly another bus would come along soon.

The next bus was a while coming, and by that time, the crowd of bus boarders had increased. The next bus that came along had many standees, plus the surge of bodies that climbed aboard. Ditto the next bus that came along. Of course these were crowded as the intervals between was longer than it should be, even if it was still early.

Buses that came along for the next 20 mins were either similarly crowded, or not going my way. By this time, I had begun to worry that I was getting late. Not in absolute terms, but the later I board a bus, the longer my commute becomes – from a mere 35 mins if I catch the earliest one once I am at the stop, to almost 1 hr 30 mins once I have been waiting for a bus for more than 30 mins, all because of a railway station I have on my route, where the crowd increases by that time. I needed to catch the golden half hour.

Finally I decided to get into the next bus that came. It didn’t seem very crowded, and I could even see a few empty seats. But by the time I could navigate my way through a surging group of 20 somethings, there wasn’t any seat left.

I might as well have got into the bus that came 20 mins ago.

Apologies for applying this as a parallel for getting married, but isn’t this much the same? There is the ‘marriageable age’ that spares no Indian woman, the search for a life partner that might be parent driven or self driven, the pluses and minuses of prospective prospective alliances in an arranged marriage, the parental issues in case of a ‘love marriage’, the ‘baggage’ that all of us carry (yes, even the supposedly untouched-by-anything-anyone innocent person) that can pull us back when a few more decided steps in the right direction could be worthwhile.

In all of this, only the rare woman enjoys the luxury of her choices being taken into account (yes, it seems to be more common in our circles, but remember, most of India resides in villages where it is rare). And I’m not even going into the issues that come up if a woman is not heterosexual – that needs a separate post altogether, but suffice it to say, that a large proportion of women who do not have a say in deciding and choosing a partner have suffered through the ages, unwilling victims of a crushing patriarchy.

If one has the luxury of waiting for someone without worrying about social pressure, biological clock, a need for someone to share a life with, financial considerations, and also safe and regular sex (oh, yes, this does matter to women!), one would wait for ‘the ONE’, don’t you think?

A regret I’m sure many women have. Hopefully, the world must change, is changing, even if slowly. But what about the love, respect, and companionship that should be a marriage, you could ask.

There are many of my friends whose marriages have that. It does happen, does it not, that a bus comes along that has places to sit, that you can get onto, and rest. It does happen that one gets onto a bus that is apparently full, but has the potential to have someone get off soon, and you can sit. Or a bus comes along that is either empty or has the potential for seats, but I do sometimes have to struggle to get onboard, or weave my way through a crowd to get to a seat I think will be emptied, and sit down. And once in a while, I make the choice not to go by bus at all, and call for an Ola. But then, I have that choice, and am grateful that I am privileged enough to have one.

And it also does happen, once in a while, that a bus comes when I want it, that has places to sit, I can get on easily, settle down in a good seat, take out my book to read, and have a comfortable journey.

One lives in hope. That even if one might have missed one’s ‘ONE’ bus, others will get those of their choice, in their time. And also have the choice of not travelling by bus at all, or even, not travelling at all and going back home to work from there. Especially our sons and daughters.

A version of this was earlier posted on the author’s Facebook page

Header image: pixabay

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