Monday, August 28, 2006

August Be Gone

August is always a depressing month for me.

I hate the fact that the summer is over. I hate the fact that everyone is going back to school, and even though they hate admitting it, they are looking forward to a change, a new beginning. I hate the fact I did not do much fishing this summer.

I ran into some desi guy on the tennis grounds a couple of weeks back. After Saturday's game a bunch of us went over to his place for some BBQ chicken and drinks (the non-alcoholic type). He was older, 33, and lived by himself. As I looked over at his various degrees framed on the wall of his study (he actually had a 'study room'), one thing struck me as I glanced over the MBA, the BBA, the BSc and the Project Management Certifications.

He was 33.

And single.

And the highlight of his day was tennis with a bunch of younger guys.

Yes, he was educated. Yes, he was making the big money, driving a BMW. But I did not want to be that guy. I could be him, that was depressing. But I would not want to be.

Rarely have I paused and taken stock of where I was heading. This was a sharp wakeup call. I have become used to coasting through the days.

The other thing that struck me over the weekend was one word. Family.

I know for me, family is paramount. These are people I take for granted, drop all pretense and they accept me for what I am. Even with close friends, if there are fights, disagreements or clashes, they can drift apart. Family is family. For me, family comes first.

How important is family in marriage? I have a few friends who married into families that were drastically different from their own. Some marriages have succeeded. Others have failed, or on the verge of failing. One thing I have noticed - if the families are too different (for example a conservative/modern clash, or rich/poor clash, or cultured/fobby) then the marriage has a (far) better chance of succeeding as long as the couple live by themselves.

That was the case with a friend of mine whose husband came from a far richer family. She had to live with the 'friendly' taunts, until she decided enough was enough and coaxed her husband to accept a job in a far away city. Their marriage is now far stronger and happy.

Growing up in a culture that has touted the values of arranged marriage with joint families, where family members strengthen each other through difficult times, this was indeed a troubling find.

Yet, there is no denying the fact that marriages are more often likely to succeed if the families are of similar stature, education or 'mindset' - the magic word. Does that mean that we throw out all those filmi stuff - such as love, honour and respect, along with all the religious stuff about moral values and religion being supreme, out of the window? Do people 'fall in love' anymore, or is it just a business? Tick some questions, answer some forms, and 'adjust'?

Looking forward to some answers. Cynicism, here I come.

Meanwhile, September, please be good.

8 comments:

Rezwan said...

Don't worry, it will happen. Just don't push the chances. Relax, meet some new people, you never know you could be hitched in no time.

Ek Umeed said...

Mezba, you have touched on quite a few topics in just one post; with the breadth of the post, it will be hard to address all concerns and comments, but I shall try.

I am a 3rd year college student; and believe me when I say: the last thing I look forward to in my life, after a summer, is the reopening of the academia; this holds true for reasons of my own. For many people, perhaps these events constitute new beginnings; for me, however, it is more of the same-old, same-old. Realize then that other people are not any happier or cheerier at the thought of getting back to their old routines.

Well, as I had read both your review and ponderings on the movie "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna," I cannot help but think your current line of thoughts has been influenced by perhaps the depiction of heart-wrenching isolation initially of both protagonists. I think, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, we are all afraid of loneliness. It matters not if we are surrounded by the enthusiastic support of friends or love of family; we fear it more than anything because it is an affliction of the soul rather than of the heart or mind. And perhaps that is why not having "the one" in our life seems so significant to us, for most of us believe that they will prevent us from experiencing that aloneness. Why should "this one" individual, unknown to us (at least the unmarried lot), be the force of our pining and subject for dialogue otherwise? Do not worry on the account of "the one;" solutions for things like this are not found in marriage but within discovering wholeness of ourselves. Moreover, have you thought that the desi man of your story with the single status and a BMW does not share your perspective in looking at his own status quo as a subject for discussion but celebration? Though, a woman, if unmarried by a certain age, is labeled a spinster or an old maid, men do not share this problem. In tradition of our hypocritical patriarchal society, men are forevermore considered a bachelor until they themselves choose otherwise by confining said selves to holy matrimony. So, maybe, the desi man is just making the most of his money and his bachelorhood. Even if I say so myself: "Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that."

As far as families and marriage partner are concerned, the two in most cases "look good" and "feel better" in two separate spheres. Family is important, but responsibilities change when a person from being a single individual becomes a couple in a marriage. Most people in today’s society have very low tolerance for drama and fights; so, most couples know that the quickest way to maintain peace between families after marriage is to avoid conflict by moving away a safe distance from the location of his or her in-laws. After all, marriage is a sacred institution and does merit saving from the interference of those with both good and bad intentions.

I believe that the concepts of soul mates are overrated; I do not believe in the all-consuming, passionate love, for I am more inclined towards terming it infatuation. Infatuation is the phase of courtship or self-inflicted gaga where you cannot but think of the other person as perfect. The media sells people on the story of Romeo and Juliet, but I cannot help but shake my head. I believe in rational love, not irrational love. Though the whole affair is not “strictly business” so-to-speak, I am more of the mind to extol the virtues of a couple sharing similarities and complementing each other in their differences. Differences can be a source of both surprise and joy when they make up for the other person’s lack. Though I cannot speak for others, I believe in mature love where both individuals know what they’re getting themselves into, accept each other whole-heartedly and stay away from the “filmi” stuff. Movies are made from the stuff of dreams, but marriages are made from the stuff of this world and need the essential ingredients of reality and potential for emotional intimacy, rather than hormonal imbalance and declarations of "in love," to sustain for the long-term.

These are just my opinions, and anybody is free to disagree. Each to his or her own. :)

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Greetings. I will be recommending this blog as one of my choices during Blog Day 2006 on August 31. You can visit my blog (http://gypsylibrarian.blogspot.com)to see this and other blogs as well as share the festivities.

P.S. I found your blog via Global Voices.

Ek Umeed said...

Mezba, you have touched on quite a few topics in just one post; with the breadth of the post, it will be hard to address all concerns and comments, but I shall try.

I am a 3rd year college student; and believe me when I say: the last thing I look forward to in my life, after a summer, is the reopening of the academia; this holds true for reasons of my own. For many people, perhaps these events constitute new beginnings; for me, however, it is more of the same-old, same-old. Realize then that other people are not any happier or cheerier at the thought of getting back to their old routines.

Well, as I had read both your review and ponderings on the movie “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna,” I cannot help but think your current line of thoughts has been influenced by perhaps the depiction of heart-wrenching isolation initially of both protagonists. I think, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, we are all afraid of loneliness. It matters not if we are surrounded by the enthusiastic support of friends or love of family; we fear it more than anything because it is an affliction of the soul rather than of the heart or mind. And perhaps that is why not having “the one” in our life seems so significant to us, for most of us believe that they will prevent us from experiencing that aloneness. Why should this “one” individual, unknown to us (at least the unmarried lot), be the force of our pining and subject for dialogue otherwise? Do not worry on the account of “the one;” solutions for things like this are not found in marriage but within discovering wholeness of ourselves. Moreover, have you thought that the desi man of your story with the single status and a BMW does not share your perspective in looking at status quo as a subject for discussion but celebration? Though, a woman, if unmarried by a certain age, is labeled a spinster or an old maid, men do not share this problem. In tradition of our hypocritical patriarchal society, men are forevermore considered a bachelor until they themselves chooses otherwise by confining said selves to holy matrimony. So, maybe, the desi man is just making the most of his money and his bachelorhood. Even if I say so myself: “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.”

As far as families and marriage partner are concerned, the two in most cases “look good” and “feel better” in two separate spheres. Family is important, but responsibilities change when a person from being a single individual becomes a couple in a marriage. Most people in today’s society have very low tolerance for drama and fights; so, most couples know that the quickest way to maintain peace between families after marriage is to avoid conflict by moving away a safe distance from the location of his or her in-laws. After all, marriage is a sacred institution and does merit saving from the interference of those with both good and bad intentions.

I believe that the concepts of soul mates are overrated; I do not believe in the all-consuming, passionate love, for I am more inclined towards terming it infatuation. Infatuation is the phase of courtship or self-torturing gaga where you cannot but think of the other person as perfect and endure restless lights waiting to begin a life together with “the one.” The media sells people on the story of Romeo and Juliet, but I cannot help but shake my head. I believe in rational love, not irrational love. Though the whole affair is not “strictly business” so-to-speak, I am more of the mind to extol the virtues of a couple sharing similarities and complementing each other in their differences. Differences can be a source of both surprise and joy when they make up for the other person’s lack. Though I cannot speak for others, I believe in mature love where both individuals know what they’re getting into, accept each other whole-heartedly and stay away from the “filmi” stuff. Movies are made from the stuff of dreams, but marriages are made from the stuff of this world and need the essential ingredient of reality and potential for emotional intimacy and intensity, rather than hormonal imbalance and declarations of “in love” to sustain for the long-term.

These are just my opinions, and anyone is free to disagree. Each to his or her own. :)

Abu Sinan said...

I know what you are talking about, although I rather like Fall, Spring and Winter. All of the hot weather doesnt agree with the cold blooded German side of me.

I have had these sorts of turning points a couple of times. I remember when I was 17 seeing this guy I knew who was 25 and I thought that if I continued my life the way I did that I would never live to see age 25. It took me a couple of years, but I changed and made it to 25.

After 25 I started to think family, future, and even religion. It was after this that I converted to Islam and this caused the marriage I was in to fail, so I moved on. At age 30 I thought I would never get married again, getting married to a Muslim lady for a white convert can be difficult. But I didnt get married, Alhamdulillah, and we we have our two boys.

I think a marriage can over come all sorts of difficulties, it just depends on how much the man and wife want to make it work. I am from lower middle class white background, my wife is from a rather upper middle class Saudi background, her father was a diplomat. It doesnt get more difficult than that I dont think.

We have had our issues with family, but nothing that did not eventually resolve itself in the end and now everything is fine. I think living a distance from the family isnt a bad idea. I think when you start your own family you kind of need that space, especially if you have grown up here in the West and expect that kind of space.

Family is very important, and no more important than starting your own family. I am a much happier man than I have ever have been in my life due to my wife and the kids. Nothing is better, nothing gives you a greater sense of well being than your own children.

I never thought I would have any children, but now I have two, and their smiles are 1000% stronger than the most potent drug or drink.

'liya said...

It's hard not to compare ourselves against other people but you never know what the situation with the guy could have been... maybe there was an event in his life that discouraged him from marrying earlier. Who knows.. maybe you're right, he could have gotten caught up in school, financial success, etc., that he missed out on something super important - family life.

I disagree with Ek Umeed though, I don't think your single friend is happy being single at that age.

mezba said...

Rezwan:Thanks for the comments.

EU: Well KANK did give me food for thought but it didn't affect my thinking on marriage, what did was experiences of friends and family, as well as happenings around me.

I don't think my friend wanted to be single but the pursuit of work and academic success has its costs, and one of them is the lack of someone to share it with. That is not something I am willing to sacrifice for mere financial success.

Angel: Thanks. I will be sure to check out your blog.

Abu Sinan: Thanks for your advice, it's good to have the perspective of a happily married man. I do agree that your backgrounds seem very different, yet alhamdulillah you have managed to make it work.

Liya: Yes, while I agree everyone's situation is different, this was a thinking point for me. I see lots of guys give up family for wealth or personal reasons and to me that's sad. It's ok if you tried and couldn't but can never understand why someone woudl consciously do it.

koonj said...

On the issue of family pressures vis-a-vis one's spouse: I have horror stories about that from personal observation. My sister is top of the list.

Her marriage was decent, in fact, in the beginning it was great, but her parents-in-law hated that their son cared about her. Eventually, after some years of whispering in his ears about how bad she was, he got to the point where he turned to someone else, started disliking his wife, and eventually divorced her.

I was disgusted at the way these older, supposedly wiser people pressured their son into turning away from his wife. I think even they did not quite realize the extreme consequences their behaviour could have.

And of course it had consequences -- most of all for the 3 kids.

I'm a FOB who is extremely suspicious of arranged marriage and joint families - for a reason. It can be good, but it can be horrendous.