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‘Never advise anyone to go to war… or get married’ — Germaine Greer’. Sorry if this disappoints you right at the outset, but it’s not gonna work if you are planning to show this column to your spouse saying ‘Ab toh newspaper mein bhi aa gaya…shaadi is nothing short of barbaadi’. Because I’ve better things to say today than state the obvious. And the things that I want to say are not meant for those who already took the plunge and are reeling under the always-known-but-still-ignored-isliye-ab-bhugto side effects. They are meant for those who are standing at that stage in their lives when matrimony seems like an imminent and clear danger in the near future. Ghar mein shaadi ki baatein ho rahi hain — mom is busy checking out saris, dad the fixed deposits and close rishtedaars mulling over how to wriggle out of gifting a gold chain to the bride, considering the back-breaking inflation. And in the middle of all the preparations, the would-be bride or groom are suddenly spending more time in the loo.
No, you dirty people, it’s only because now is the moment in their life to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and ask themselves the much dreaded question — Have I made it large? Oops, I mean Am I ready for marriage yet? If maturity levels are an indication, a lot of them probably aren’t… but then in all likelihood they’ll never be, so they better go ahead and marry anyway. The problem is actually graver for friends and well wishers of these confused souls. They have to listen to the ramblings of a perplexed mind, wondering if they are doing the right thing by giving up a carefree life in favour of settling down. I know of some such people around me — a younger cousin, a friend’s sister, a colleague — terribly confused and anxious about what the future has in store. Here are my two bits of advice to them, as well as to anyone whose loved one is experiencing cold feet — not caused by the change of weather.
1. Stop seeking advice: Ironical as it may sound, I’m advising you to not seek too much advice from just about anyone on something as important, and personal, as getting married. It’s basic human nature, actually, to blurt out thoughts about something that’s causing constant confusion in your mind. But do realise that those around you would not have anything better to offer than give vague or obvious suggestions like give it a serious thought, whatever that means. If you feel like it, talk to some happy couples for inspiration.
But when it comes to making a decision, the only person who can help you is you. For once, sit and figure out answers to key questions about whether you are at the right level of age, education, financial state, emotional maturity etc to get hitched. And once you’ve decided — either way, stick to your decision. Don’t keep going back and forth on your thoughts. Also, do not let the world enforce their pre-conceived notions on you. Listen patiently when the whole world tells you things like you must get married by a certain age or else you’ll have trouble conceiving, adjusting with the in-laws, getting good rishtas etc, but do what your heart tells you to do. There may be some practical wisdom in all these diktats but there’s more practical wisdom in not marrying if your heart, mind or body is not ready yet. Remember that the repercussions of marrying late can be handled, but the repercussions of marrying wrong can ruin your life.
2. Know your stress: Be clear when it comes to the distinction between the stress of planning a wedding and the anxiety of being married. Normally people tend to confuse the two. Last year, a friend of mine who was to get married called me in the middle of the night — all anxious and repeating I’m not sure a million times. After I gave her some heavy duty gyan on compatibility, adjustment etc, she told me she was worried about not getting her lehnga stitched in time for the function. If there had been a competition of occasions in my life when I’ve felt like an absolute idiot, this one would have ranked at least a second runners up.
The problem with Indian weddings is rather complex — shaadi do logon ki, tayaari sau logon ki. The whole khaandaan gets into a hyper-stress mode — right from choosing the caterers to the clothes to the venue to the gifts to the parlour. And a lot of this stress gets passed on to the bride and groom, who end up confusing this with the overall stress of the big upcoming change in their life. When in doubt, ask yourself if its the preparations, lack of funds etc that’s bothering you, or the thought of spending your entire life with a certain person. The answer will matter. Immensely.
3. Don’t hesitate to call it off: This will sound rebellious to some but I completely stand by this one. At any point before you are married, if your heart says you are not sure — call it off. I mean it. I’ve seen lives getting totally ruined when people didn’t gather courage to call off an alliance they were unsure about — only for the fear of what the society will say if the engagement is broken. The same society, however, will be the first ones to gossip or laugh when they’ll hear shouting matches between couples or families that turn out to be incompatible. I’m not asking you to be fickle minded and turn runaway brides a la movies, but then a few days of stress after a broken rishtaa in front of the world is way better than living a life full of stress with a broken rishtaa within the four walls of your house. Isn’t it?
The last word is for the friends of those who are to get married soon. Don’t make your friend’s impending wedding the only topic of conversation. If every time you talk, you’ll keep asking your friend about the wedding preparations or the future, you’ll freak them out. Remind your friend that suffering from pre-wedding jitters is most normal and happens to everyone. And also that getting married is a beautiful development in life. It is not life.
Sonal Kalra asks people to not seek advice and goes on to give truck loads of advice herself. She wonders if anyone’s still cares for all her lectures.