This article of mine had been published in U magazine (February 2003), of Jain Vishva Bharati Institute, Rajasthan.
To misquote Hamlet, “to tie or not to tie” is certainly the question. Our lives from adolescence to adulthood are very much weighed down by an intense preoccupation with this dilemma. Be that as it may, the only thought that everyone must unanimously agree upon is that one must seriously weigh the pros and cons before tying oneself to another being with a promise of a lifetime of togetherness! The following is an imaginary dialogue between the man from Mars and the woman from Venus…
Mr Mars: Hello Ms Venus! How do you do? You look gorgeous.
Ms Venus: I’m good, thanks. You look smart too.
Mr Mars: Hey thanks!
Ms Venus: I believe we are here to discuss the most valuable of partnerships – the marital one.
Mr Mars: Yeah, there are partnerships and there are partnerships. Equal, unequal…
Ms Venus: Exactly my point! A marriage is an equal one. Here I am not talking about equality in terms of material things. More like freedom of thought, word and action.
Mr Mars: Very correct. I agree totally with you there. But unfortunately this does include the many sacrifices that need to be made. I mean…
Ms Venus: Sacrifices? Just hold on a minute here. Just what does ‘sacrifice’ mean?
Mr Mars: The Oxford dictionary explains that ‘to sacrifice’ is ‘to give something up for the sake of something that is more valuable’, which in this case means the spouse’s happiness.
Ms Venus: Well…what kind of a spouse would expect his or her beloved one to give up something for his/her own happiness? I’m not sure that I agree with you here. No. sacrifice does not seem fair and will probably lead to a lot of trouble when you sit down to compare notes. Like when there is a difference of opinion, you would keep on pointing fingers at each other and start counting who gave up more. Or less, for that matter.
Mr Mars: Then what would you suggest? That one should never give up something for the sake of one’s spouse?
Ms Venus: I suppose I’m saying just that. Would you ask your wife to give up something she really wants in exchange that you have something for yourself?
Mr Mars: No.
Ms Venus: There you have your answer, then. So, why bring up the word at all? Something that is given out of love should not be called a sacrifice. Have you ever read the short story by O. Henry where the very young married couple go to such great lengths to buy special gifts for each other during Christmas?
Mr Mars: ‘The Gift of the Magi’. She sells her lovely long hair for a gold chain to wear on his watch. While he sells the very watch to buy tortoiseshell combs for her hair.
Ms Venus: That’s right. That’s the one. It’s a beautiful rendering of the couple’s love for one another.
Mr Mars: Wouldn’t you term what they did as great sacrifices?
Ms Venus: No, most definitely no. I’m sure they did it out of great love for each other and hence the term does not apply here at all. You probably kill a cow or a goat as a sacrifice.
Mr Mars: Hmm… I get your point.
Ms Venus: Another important thing is ‘appreciation’.
Mr Mars: You’ve caught me there. I fail to understand the necessity for this. The very act of getting married to a lady suggests that you appreciate her. Why do women feel the need to be reminded over and over again?
Ms Venus: You are a being from Mars alright!! Not able to comprehend us who are from Venus. We like to be told how good we look, how well we cook, how efficient we are at handling career, home and kids – we actually do, you know – etc. etc. etc. The list is endless.
Mr Mars: Whew! And we guys have to keep listing out your better qualities all the time.
Ms Venus: (grins) Well, may be not all the time. Then it will become a boring routine, you see. But from time to time…
Mr Mars: (loosens his collar) Thank God for small mercies!
Ms Venus: Time for a bit of honesty here. Out with it. Are you suggesting that you wouldn’t like to be appreciated now and again? After all, it’s like fertilizer to plants – just extra nourishment.
Mr Mars: (looks sheepish) Yeah, I s’pose so.
Ms Venus: There you are then.
Mr Mars: Well, what happens when we find that you do something that we don’t like at all?
Ms Venus: I am sure no force on earth will stop you from voicing your opinion. What say?
Mr Mars: (thinks hard and shrugs) I suppose so.
Ms Venus: I know so.
Mr Mars: I think truthfulness is another important factor in any relationship. Especially between a man and his wife.
Ms Venus: You bet! Truthfulness along with clear communication.
Mr Mars: Am I glad to hear that! Since you women have this wonderful habit of expecting us guys to read your minds and act accordingly. You’ll hope we will take you to Singapore while we plan to surprise you with a trip to Mahabaleshwar. You sulk with a long face while we confused men wonder where we went wrong. And all along we thought you’d love the surprise…
Ms Venus: …we expect you to give us something that is only in our minds, which you obviously cannot read. I can well understand your predicament. I promise to take care of this immediately. CLEAR COMMUNICATION! You have a very valid point there.
Mr Mars: There’s another thing of significance I would like to mention here. There is this obsession called competition. It usually starts as a small joke and before you know it, it snowballs into a demon that takes over your life.
Ms Venus: I know what you are talking about. It can start with little things like the level of education between a man and his wife and then builds up to the amount of money earned, the better friendships maintained, better way of communication and more.
Mr Mars: I wonder whether you are aware that there is a ritual in typical Tamil weddings. The use of the Nugathadi. This is a piece of bamboo that is placed by the groom over the bride’s head while placing the mangalsutra on it. It is symbolic – a bullock cart can move forward only if both the bulls walk at the same pace, in perfect co-ordination. If either one falls out of pace, the cart might overturn. A marriage is the same – an equal partnership. Both the partners have to work together in perfect synchronisation and not against each other.
Ms Venus: Both are bound to have some strengths and weaknesses. It’s makes better sense to work around them instead of playing the game of one-upmanship.
Mr Mars: Exactly my sentiments!
Ms Venus: A small amount of patience and perseverance go a long way in making any marriage an ideal one, wouldn’t you say? Correct me if I am wrong. But I am not able to stop comparing the marital relationships of today to the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. People seem to expect a full-grown tree the morning after the seeds are sown. Ooops! No pun intended. Come on, how’s such a thing possible? Maybe the next time we read the Eco-friendly message, Plant a tree, we should do just that. It is not just a message to improve the ecology but also to perk up the environment at home. A marriage definitely needs nourishment, care and a lot of perseverance to allow it to grow well. Nurturing a tree is bound to drive the point home.
Mr Mars: I concur with you absolutely. An attempt at seeing the other person’s point of view would be ideal. Should be able to feel pity for the other.
Ms Venus: Pity? Wouldn’t you say that pity would rob anyone of one’s dignity and self-esteem? Let’s say compassion. That sounds more like it. Compassion for the other’s way of thinking. This should create a harmonious atmosphere in the household, which should be excellent for maintaining a long-term pleasant relationship between a couple. And I am not talking about a colourless existence here, Mr Mars. A healthy quarrel many a time helps clear the air. And then there is the making up, of course. (winks)
Mr Mars: Spoken like a typical woman. But I do understand the twisted logic behind it… I think.
Ms Venus: Hey, is it possible to live and let live in a partnership? A marriage should not be a jail. Both should have the liberty to do what makes them happy – while taking into consideration that the other is not inconvenienced too much.
Mr Mars: Now what would you mean by ‘inconvenience’, Ms Venus? (tongue in cheek) I am quaking in my shoes.
Ms Venus: Mr Mars…
Mr Mars: (laughs) I was joking, of course. I am sure the couple can decide this as and how it suits either of them. This is not a matter on which you can pass a legislation. And talking of free will, I am reminded of a saying by Dorothy Parker – “Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it and it darts away.”
Ms Venus: Hey, that’s lovely and so very true.
Mr Mars: The bottom line is to be happy. Follow your heart and things should be fine.