Is love a crime?

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet, but my family comes from India. We moved to the US in the 90s when I was quite young, so I consider myself American rather than Indian. That being said, growing up in an Indian household means that you can’t escape social, cultural and religious influences and pressures to conform to the traditions of “being Indian”. One of these pressures is to marry someone that your family has approved of. Of course, Indian traditions are not alone in this regard. I think that that most cultures and families do pressure individuals in some way about their marriage partner. And it’s natural for parents to have some expectations of who their son/daughter being into their family. However, there’s a line when parental preference become parental rejection, and I think that this is a line that Indian families in particular cross.

My friend introduced me to Satyamev Jayate, meaning “Truth alone triumphs”. The show, hosted by Bollywood actor  and filmmaker Aamir Khan,  highlights sensitive issues that are pervasive throughout India, such as female foeticide, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, the dowry system, and the caste system. As a side note, everyone should watch this, especially all Indians, because it does a great job of reminding us that the traditions  that bind us as a community and which we are holding onto so steadfastly are hampering and disenfranchising so many members of our community. Then how can we remain so loyal to these traditions?

Episode 5 asks the question “Is love a crime?” Often in India and for Indians living abroad, love is essentially a crime that is punishable by family rejection, pressure for the couples to break up, and at worst, honor killings. Indian law gives all individuals past a certain age the right to marry the person of their choice, so long as they are not related. However, as you will seen in the episode below, due to differences in religion, caste or social standing, individuals are persecuted for marrying.

While India is a democracy in name, I don’t think it can fully claim to be a democratic country until it succeeds in changing the mindset of the majority. How can its citizens still allow honor killings to occur? Maybe someone can educate me on what honor there is in killing someone simply because they’ve fallen in love with the “wrong” person.

What did you think about the show?

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What Makes a Happy Marriage? Lust, Laughter and Loyalty

I came across an article on the BBC by Adam Gopnik called “Is there a secret to a happy marriage?” and naturally I was curious. Now, I’m not married, but I think you can substitute “marriage” with “relationship” and the advice would still hold.

Gopnik starts off by saying that “Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn’t have one. There’s a truth universally acknowledged, or one that ought to be anyway.” But while reading Charles Darwin’s list of pros and cons on the idea of marriage, Gopnick thought about his own years of married life and came to a formula for a happy marriage.

You can find an excellent summary of Darwin’s thought process on Brain Pickings, but some of his reasons against marriage were:

  1. Limited Means. Feel duty to work for money.
  2. Freedom to go where one liked.
  3. Travel. Europe, yes? America????
  4. Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle.
  5. Anxiety & responsibility.

His reasons for marriage included:

  1. Children.
  2. Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one.
  3. Charms of music & female chit-chat.
  4. Object to be beloved & played with.
  5. Better than a dog anyhow.
  6. Home & someone to take care of house.

Clearly Darwin was clear on his priorities, particularly on how a wife is better than a dog. In the end, he decided to indeed marry his cousin Emma Wedgewood, and as Gopnik writes, they had a great marriage. “As he lay dying in 1882, the distinguished scientist, who had irrevocably altered the consciousness of the world, and knew it, said simply: ‘My love, my precious love.'”

After considering marriage, Gopnick says:

Marriages are made of lust, laughter and loyalty – but the three have to be kept in constant passage, transitively, back and forth, so that as one subsides for a time, the others rise….The trick is that marriage is played upon a tilted field, and everything flows downhill towards loyalty.

Sweethearts

Lust and laughter need no explanation. You have to physically want your partner, be attracted to them. And you should enjoy your time with them. They need to be someone you can laugh with, even during the bad moments.

Loyalty is the interesting element. Gopnik says, “Marriages from which lust fled decades ago, and laughter became hollow back in the 1990s, but which continue to run on loyalty alone….Loyalty alone can sustain a marriage, but not happily, and not for long.” Loyalty is the absolute necessity that no marriage can do with out, but it is not sufficient for a happy marriage.

Several people commented on this article, and one noted the absence of love in Gopnik’s happy marriage formula. However, I think that romantic love is strongly implied. What differentiate my feelings for my significant other from friends, family, acquaintances and strangers are that all three elements are present: lust, laughter and loyalty. I am loyal to my friends and family and have a lot of good times, but clearly there is the absence of lust (as there very well should be where family is concerned!). I can have a lot of laughs with, and possibly even lust for, acquaintances and strangers I just met, but I would be lying if I said I felt any loyalty to them. My boyfriend is the only person I can say I have lust for, laugh with and am loyal to, and coincidentally, I’d also say I love him.

So…while Gopnick doesn’t specifically mention love as the secret to a happy marriage, I think it has a strong presence in his equation. What do you think?

African Pygmy Hedgehog(LOVE this! And I want! )

Love’s “Get Out” Clause

In my first post, I discussed about how the French view love according to a New York Times article:

To love truly is to want the other free, and this includes the freedom to walk away. Love is not about possession or property. Love is no prison where two people are each other’s slaves.

The thing is that as much as I would like to believe this, I don’t. At all!

trees

I come from a culture of arranged marriages. My parents had met each other a few times, perhaps three or four, before they were married, and divorce was never an option. As much as they disagreed with each other, as much as they fought, walking away would never have been allowed by either of their families, particularly since my brother and I were in the picture. Sometimes I used to think that Indian culture was too oppressive, and that they should be able to walk away if they were not happy with each other, but if I asked them now, they would have been glad they did not give up.

There are some relationships that you can’t undo. I can never be an ex-daughter or an ex-sister. Whether I am on good terms or bad, whether I speak to my family or not, they will be my family. And the fact that they are gives me an incentive to make sure things are on good terms.

I’d view my future children on the same level. Once you have children, you can’t undo that, you can’t become an ex-mother again. Even if you disown your children, give them up for adoption, the relationship never changes. They are your kids, it’s a fact. I would want to have the same type of relationship with the person I decide to marry and have children with. I don’t want there to be a “get out” clause. I don’t want there to be the option of being an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife. I’m sure nobody wants a relationship to end but I don’t even want the option of walking away to exist. I think to really love someone means to stay sometimes when you want to go. Not of course in situations where you’re being mentally or physically abused or you are being devalued and made to feel bad about yourself.

Sometimes the harder thing to do is to stay and work through it. You don’t always feel like you love your parents, you’re not always going to feel like you love your significant other.

I suppose I feel this way because I don’t understand what people mean when they say they fell out of love. I mean duh! Those lovey dovey feelings never stay the same, but they change and evolve to a deeper, more companion-type feeling. You also do your best to keep the romance alive. Maybe it’s that there are other issues in the relationship that the couple doesn’t know how to deal with, so they start becoming emotionally disconnected, and rather than addressing the disconnect, they assume that there is something inherently wrong in the relationship. And next thing you know, the love is supposedly gone and there is a reason to walk away.

I’m not saying that all relationships can work. But if you have a good foundation, someone who has the 4-5 core traits you want in a partner, then I don’t see why the relationship can’t be fixed. You just need two willing people….and you need to get the “get out” clause out of your head!

Or am I being too naive?