Tag Archives: marriage

I am my own woman

We were newlyweds at the Lucknow airport checking in for our flight to New Delhi, onwards to San Francisco — we had been assigned seats a couple of rows away from each other, so we requested to be seated together. The agent refused. “You don’t have the same last names,” he said.

Wait. What?

I was still wearing the traditional new bride jewelry (the red and white bangles being the most distinct give-away) and despite repeated attempts at clarifying we were husband and wife and I had opted to retain my maiden name, he wouldn’t budge. Finally he called his supervisor. I, in turn, called my dad, who had come to see us off, to vouch for our matrimonial status.

After half an hour of back and forth, we finally got adjoining seats.

It was bizarre.

Two years later we made our first trip back as a married couple. During the last leg of the flight, the attendant asked my husband what he wanted to drink. He said, “Coke” and the attendant moved on. I turned to my husband and asked, “What about me?” He gave me a blank look and shrugged. I shouted “excuse me” a couple of times, but apparently it didn’t register. A couple of minutes later, the attendant got my husband and me the same drink.

I don’t drink Coke. So, I said to him — “I didn’t ask for this. In fact, you never asked me what I wanted!” He immediately shot back, “He is your husband. I assumed you’d drink the same thing as him!”

(Needless to say, we’re never flying Air India again.)

And I was treated like this during our entire stay — we were in Rajasthan for a week and the auto-drivers wouldn’t negotiate with me … they would only talk to my husband. The locals we engaged with would see through me. Some even gave me the look that said loud and clear “Shut up!”

I felt suffocated. And offended. Here in my own country, I had no voice. And I realized that all these years, I had only been my father’s daughter. When he “gave me away” on my wedding day, I became my husband’s wife.

That was all there was. My identity as an individual was determined by whom I belonged to.

For 21 years, my parents had sheltered me from the sexist attitudes of the relatively small town we lived in. The two times I stepped out of the house (once to do a year-long computer course and the second time for my job), I lived in the metros — Delhi and Bombay seemed to treat independent, working women with a tad more respect. Or so I felt in my limited experiences.

But having been exposed to life in the States where I was known for my work, respected for my professionalism, and recognized as “bright young asset” to my team, gender aside, going back in that environment made me realize how good women have it here. Here I have my own identity, my own place, my own voice. Decisions aren’t made for me and people acknowledge me as an individual.

I am valued for who I am, not the family I come from or the guy I married.

And heck, why do I have to be the only one to “belong”? Just as my husband married me, I married him. So, he “owns” me as much me as I own him.

And my name is a big part of my identity, just as his is for him.

I don’t necessarily claim to be a feminist, but it feels demeaning to me to be discounted just because by accident of birth I happen to be a female. I, too, have a place in this world. My place. My status. My identity.

I take pride in being a spirited individual and want to be recognized such. So what if I am a woman?

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P.S. I thank my parents and my husband — the former for raising me to be a self-respecting person and the latter for bolstering my confidence.

Submitted as a non competitive entry for Indus Ladies International Women’s Day blog contest.


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A marriage of lies

I watched about 10 minutes of the Tiger Woods apology this morning. Seeing this iconic figure say to the world “I failed you,” was moving. He’s not the first man in time to have strayed from his values, his family, his wife. Many before him have faltered. Have cheated. Have lied.

Many continue to do so. And will.

There’s something about the sanctity of marriage that is so binding for these folks — men or women — who give in to temptation. Affairs offer an escape from the humdrum of the lifelong agreement they signed. Those who cheat want the best of both worlds. Some do it for companionship. Some to rescue their self-esteem. Most do it for sex. To relive the rush, the excitement, the spirit of adventure that has long died in their routine matrimonial lives.

Woods said he didn’t think that the normal rules of marriage applied to him. “I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy the temptations around me,” he explained. “I felt I was entitled.” And his money and fame made it even easier to slip.

The media crucified him — he was after all the guy who had changed the game of golf. From a pastime for rich, old men to an international sensation. His name had become synonymous with the greens. Everywhere. He was Tiger Woods. How could he let that get to his head?

Through his transgressions he showed them — us — that he was just a man. An ordinary human being with failings. Weak. Selfish. Irresponsible. Vain.

But sorry.

For now, at least.

It’s hard to believe that someone who’s repeatedly made the same mistake would mend his ways. As much as society and media pressure him into walking the line, it’s his character that will need to stand the test of time. His will. His mind. His heart. He will need to be true to himself. And to his partner.

At the end of the day, it’s not about the media, the society, the family, the sponsors, or the fans. It’s about two people who made a promise to each other.

Some people wrote him off when the news of his affairs first broke. But it seems he’s getting a second chance.

I hope he makes the best of it because he certainly won’t get a third.

Interesting tidbit: Only 35 percent of marriages in America survive an affair. See infidelity statistics on Truth About Deception and AdulteryTips.

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The battle of the sexes

As I watched Modern Family last night (which, by the way, is the best new comedy on the airwaves these days) I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when one of the characters woke her daughter in the middle of the night and beseeched her teenager to teach her how to use the remote. The daughter sleepily, and irritatedly, asked, “Now? Why can’t daddy teach you?” and the mom ever so matter-of-factly responded, “Because we’re married.”

It was so succinctly put. Although I laughed, the veiled sadness of the situation wasn’t lost on me.

Marriage somehow tends to bring out all the stereotypes of both genders to the fore. Women and their emotional dramas. Men and their forgetfulness. The silent grouch. The overly-communicative diva. The one who won’t ask for directions. The one who loves the shopping channel. The mall-fashionista. The gadgety nerd. The nurturer. The provider. Unknowingly we find ourselves stuck in a socially-constructed maze of expectations. Almost unfailingly, we can “predict” what the general gender-specific reaction will be to something we say. We are so entangled in the politics of marriage, that we forget the reasons we entered this lifelong pact.

Besides the whole “love” part of it, wasn’t it about sharing a life together … accepting each others’ failures (and failings) … not being on the defense all the time … leaving our egos out the door … not judging … being a team instead of competing against each other?

And yet, we empathize with complete strangers of the same sex, but not with our spouse. How do we end up taking sides with those “against” our better half? How do we bond with colleagues( from different nationalities and different ethos) around spousal jokes? How are we able to label our significant other (who is so unique that we believe he/she was “made just for us”) into a general “this is what all men/women do” category? And we do it with so much reckless abandon all the time that it becomes second nature to the concept of marriage.

I guess it is just the way it is, given what a social construct marriage is to begin with. And since no one seems to mind it, who am I to question this age-old mechanism that continues to fuel the power struggle between men and women?

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Breaking a “sacred” contract

I’m  not a big proponent of marriage (before you pass judgment on this seemingly-hypocrite statement, read on), so when I read Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off by Sandra Tsing Loh, I found myself nodding, chuckling and pondering. Growing up, I had these elaborate big fat Indian wedding fantasies (at one point in seventh grade, I remember making a scrapbook of Neeta Lulla’s bridal collection) and had even picked out the probable names of my unborn children.

But as I grew older and started noticing the loveless marriages that abounded everywhere, it made me question why people chose to stay in a social contract that was more of a burden than a beneficial, emotionally rewarding, heart warming relationship. The answer, more often than not, was children. Couples had become a family and it was important to stay together for “the sake of the kids.” Forgive me, but I think that is the weakest argument to present. Children are no fools. They can sense the tension between their parents. They don’t turn deaf when their folks are yelling at each other. They know. They understand. And, they remember. More emotional scarring happens in this situation than when couples decide to mutually separate and come up with a reasonable way to ensure a stable environment for the kids. Easier said than done, right?

“So why don’t we accept marriage as a splitting-the-mortgage arrangement?” asks Loh. The laws of the land and society dictate marriage as a useful enterprise to engage in. But conforming to societal pressures makes it a rather painful arrangement. In some cultures more than in others. If you weren’t married, for example, you wouldn’t have to spend Thanksgiving with your husband’s family and buy tons of presents for your wife’s cousins. Of course, you could choose to, but my point is, you wouldn’t have to.

I think for the most part, a marriage for a woman only serves to offer protection from wandering males (not adequately either sometimes) and loads of social norms to ascribe to in return. You become a wife, a caretaker, a cook. And I would have resisted being stereotyped this way had my Indian parents not thrown a tantrum about their only child crushing their lifelong dreams (yes, that’s the kind of stuff parents dream about!). It would have been a miserable situation to be in had my “husband” and I not entered into a secret agreement of treating this relationship not as a marriage, but rather as a friendship. He is no husband, and I am no wife. Our marriage could be called a sham…for after all, all it is is a combination of hormones that clicked. He having a good amount of testosterone (the “director”) and I being ruled by estrogen and oxytocin (the “negotiator”). And I think, for us, this “marriage” works only because we don’t treat it like one — it’s not a “sacred” contract bound by social dictats, it’s simply a desire to be with each other, to share, to laugh, to love.

We are, in many ways, like that “long-married husband and wife” who have “pleasantly agreed to be friends, to set the bedroom aglow at night by the mute opening of separate laptops.” But, no — we’re not “done with it.”

I highly recommend reading the article and posting your thoughts.

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