I have heard from countless people about both sides of the argument as to what makes a marriage work – is it love or is it sharing similar background. Too many confuse infatuation with love, and give ammo to people who say love doesn’t work. And too many think having similar background will lead to compatibility or a happy marriage. I believe the answer is love, as portrayed by this couple. But my definition of love is commitment, communication, compromise, tolerance, friendship, equality, and most importantly respect. Infatuation doesn’t cover a fraction of it, and sharing similar background does not guarantee anything about a happy marriage.
Here’s my observation from a different perspective – the religious law says she needs permission from her husband to remarry. But in civil law, she is a divorcee and can remarry. So she wants to change the religious law so she can again marry under the orthodox religious law. And that makes me wonder, if you do not like the religious law, do not follow it. But wanting to dilute it or change it for personal preference is well…picking and choosing what you want to follow and what you want to change. Either the entire thing is divine, or none of it is. Treating those parts that are easy to follow as divine, and anything that is politically incorrect as “culture”/”man-made” is cheating in my opinion.
I say all the ‘right’ things about women’s rights and I am Batman – they should be treated as equal partners, not as minors who always need permission or protection from a male. They should be able to pursue any career or life they choose. They have the right to expect domestic help from their partners, that they don’t have to work all day outside and then do all traditional house chores alone. Telling them they should or shouldn’t do this or that because of their biology, hormones etc is just plain stupid. That women shouldn’t be judged on their physical attributes like weight and looks, but on their brain, personality, and character. That they have the right to earn the same amount of money for same work as men do. All girls love it when I say all this stuff.
But then I ask – should men be expected to be the sole breadwinner because of their Y chromosome? Can they be allowed to work part-time because they really want to spend more time with their young children? Does anyone ask men are they happy working their ass off supporting a family and missing out on family time? Can they pursue their passion of working as an artist or a photographer where they don’t have a fixed monthly salary, don’t earn enough money to support a family on a single income, but with their spouse’s added income the family will be alright? Will you marry them if they don’t have the traditional, stable monthly income of an engineer or a banker? Can men expect working women to share dating expenses when they aren’t married/don’t have a single bank account? Can men expect not to be judged on their physical attributes like height and looks? When I ask this amongst a lot of females, I suddenly go from being Batman to Bane because men can’t/aren’t supposed to do X/Y/X because of their biology/hormones/emotions or because the gender roles and expectations are set in their respective traditions and cultures.
Society (and men) has created unrealistic expectations of women that has been harmful to young girls. They have to act, behave, dress, talk in a certain way to desirable and to be wanted. Men want a tigress at certain situations, and a lamb in other situations. A woman who never lived her life before marriage, but should know how to fulfill her husband’s fantasies after marriage. And of course it is all wrong and unfair.
Yet what about the expectations of men? They are to be strong but not dominating. They are to be sensitive but not emotional. They must be suave and charming, but not a player who has practiced a lot to hone the skills that are so dearly desired. But no one wonders how all this might confuse men and affect their self-esteem.
I don’t get human beings. Every single group on Earth faces discrimination at some place or situation, yet every single group on Earth discriminates when its beneficial to them. I don’t get the psychology of human beings. Of course, not all men nor women are like what I described above. Today we are having a lot of conversations about women’s rights and roles. But we must not forget about men either. Not all men enjoy the “male privilege”, not all women are victims, and men are also victims of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse at the hands of their female partners. The conversation should be about a fair, equal, and better world for both genders.
Once you have met and befriended people of various nationalities, race, faiths, sects, political beliefs, ethnicities, and sexual orientation…it becomes really hard to keep believing that your background is the right/true/best. It feels like intellectual cheating and arrogance to continue to pick and choose based on convenience/selective ignorance to support your side. And for this, I am indebted to New York City, and to the United States in general for the global melting pot that it is. Seriously, I have friends from Chile to China, Morocco to Malaysia, and every major religion you can think of. I am fond of Arab and Mexican cuisine, German and Belgian beers, and Eastern and Western philosophies. And I have spent more time in the last 10 yrs reading up on Abrahamic faiths, especially Islam, than I have on biology (my career) or astronomy (my passion). So when some of my friends, especially South Asian females, try to put a label on me -Indian/Brown/Hindu/Brahmin/Oriya or anything else – I just say I am a human. Every other label makes me susceptible to be biased towards my background. And after knowing every different kinds of people, I cannot afford to be biased to any side for emotional or sentimental reasons. Who or what I am today is immensely shaped by the diverse groups of people around me. So yay for diversity and melting pots!