Why Everyone Should Have The Right To Marry
Priya Ramani wonders why a country obsessed with marriage is determined to deprive Indians the right to marriage equality.
I find it astounding that a country that brainwashes—even forces—its population to marry, one that relates marriage to self-worth, and a place where ‘marriageable age’ is a scary, looming target for every independent young person, should fight so hard against those who express a desire to legalise their union.
Parents regard marrying their children as their primary responsibility, their main life goal. We even condone women marrying trees. Yet we have a problem with inter-religious, same sex and intercaste marriage. The ongoing marriage equality debate in the Supreme Court seems ludicrous in a country where so many of us—even those struggling economically—don’t think twice before blowing up our savings on that ultimate celebration—our wedding.
Before I met my husband, I was one of those women who was allergic to the idea of marriage. Every time the M word was used, I could feel my face swell and my thoracic cavity constrict. I even left the country and studied further to avoid getting married. One of the first things I told my now spouse when we began chatting over office email at the weekly news magazine where we both worked—him in Delhi, me in Mumbai—was that I was not interested in any long-term commitment. He seemed relieved.
But then, three months after our first email exchange where I revealed I was a vegetarian (anathema to him), he asked me to marry him. And I had no flight or fight response. Zero hives. Only a thrumming excitement about a new adventure. In 2024, ‘we’ will be 25.
Recently, two younger women shared that when they were having a bitter fight, they wondered how other couples held themselves together in committed relationships for decades without thinking: ‘This is it. We’re done’. They told us our names came up. And they asked us an incredibly naive question: "You don’t have any serious fights?"
Of course we do. Everybody does. In the beginning, disagreements can be terrifying. Until you understand that fighting is an inevitable part of any committed relationship. Think of fights as an endless opportunity to tweak yourselves so you can be just a little more at peace with each other's irritating choices, points of view, quirks, habits and failings. And, before you know it, you can’t imagine wasting the monumental love and effort that got you a seat at the table of much-married folks, a plush seat that’s as comfortable as those recliners with glass holders that men covet and women dismiss as ugly. This comfort, along with the occasional, sudden resurfacing of the early excitement and the sacks of memories you made together, his smile or the way he spoons you, is the bedrock of all marriage.
Most married people would agree that the structure of marriage needs serious overhaul. In recent years, I’ve often announced to whoever is listening that marriage is an unnatural institution; that young women shouldn’t marry; I confess I even rolled my eyes disapprovingly at my adventurous niece who revealed years ago that she was in a stable, monogamous relationship with someone who had no body piercings. But I did all this from within the silken comfort of my marriage. My new resolution is to leave the well-deserved critique of marriage to those who actually opted out of this institution. Me, I’ll just be grateful someone stuck around for quarter of a century.
I asked some much married people what they liked about this archaic institution. Here’s what they said:
"For me, A is someone to discuss the daily inane things that no one else really cares about—the conjunction of moon and Venus in the sky, the golden oriole that came to the window, the irritating neighbour yelling so loudly, the details of indigestion…Sharing life tasks and responsibilities so everything is not just on you."
"I like that I’m cared for on the days that I’m sick. He’s always sympathetic and doesn’t blame me (even if it’s a hangover). Then, there’s the general kindness and the logistical support. He can’t cook and nor does he know anything about medicines but his attitude is good. Also, now that I’m not working, I don’t think I could have if I didn’t have the financial support (or security) of a partner."
"Companionship. A perspective giver. Someone to care for and someone who cares for you (almost unconditionally). And above all, seeing a human go through life at close quarters. Fail, succeed, evolve, devolve, cry, laugh, struggle, win—exclusive access to a majestic life journey."
"Someone to binge watch thrillers and documentaries with while eating dinner in bed. Someone with whom I can plan holidays and who will make the actual bookings. Someone who supports the work I do and the projects I would like to do. An exercise partner. Silly everyday things."
"The history, the familiarity, the partnering, the children. Growing together. Growing differently from each other, but having the same history and seeing how far we have come from the dreams we had."
"In my case, after 32 years, someone who always has my back, who’s non-judgemental about my baggage. I can be myself completely, OCD and all. I can share anything…grief, guilt, fear, anger. Plus, he shares my love for travel, C-grade movies and other less cerebral stuff."
I asked a divorced friend what they missed most. Their reply: “Seeing someone you love every day, putting an arm on someone as you sleep, just taking on the world together, raising a child together and feeling the wonder and madness of it, knowing someone so well that a single look tells you everything, knowing where to take your grief on bad days.”
When will we disentangle the marketplace from marriage and see it like the people above do? Those who are debating the right to marry and arguing in favour of depriving the LGBTQAI+ community of marriage, clearly married for the wrong reasons. They don’t understand the poetry and love that make people want to marry and stay together.
Priya Ramani is a Bengaluru-based journalist and is on the editorial board of Article-14.com.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BQ Prime or its editorial team.