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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Three years on, some insights into married life

We just completed three years of marriage.  Marriage is probably the second most familiar term to the philosophers after love. I think the same can be said of the number of otherwise ordinary people who hold the philosophical opinions about these terms. Marriage is popularly believed to be such mythical fruit, the abstainers of which also regret as much as those who taste it. While many ordinary people believe it to be the necessary evil of life, some others hold tremendously dreadful ideas of it. I catch the opportunity to put my own insights about marriage in this short piece.

Well, they say you have to die to see the heaven. Probably that is true for hell too. When to-be-married people ask me how it feels to loose the privilege of bachelorhood, I think along that line yet abstain from uttering those words.

Surely, writing about my own marriage after one decade from today (of course, provided that the life keeps loving me till that time the way it is doing so now) I will be much better positioned to write more objectively and in much more details. Yet today's piece will also be of some significance for many readers, I believe.

The prelude

As a kid I was very much idealistic and used to have very dramatic and heroic ideas of life. In the beautiful egalitarian world to be born, I was supposed to play an active role. To that end, an ascetic lifestyle was a must and unmarried and celibate life would best serve the purpose. The purported communist values of shunning the personal comfort for the larger well-being fitted very neatly into my paradigm of ideal life. The religion-based values of my early childhood were thus eventually replaced by the atheist communist values in the later years in the school.

Yet the late teenage years began to bring some amount of disillusionment in my way of thinking that was to be cemented so solidly in the early youth years that not much long after, I was a disillusioned man in the question of the life, its values and destiny. One factor behind this was the decay that set in the culture of the communists around me who had towered before me earlier. As such my values about life, society, duties and obligations of individual, etc. were well but the world turned out to be of a much different nature than I had initially thought of. Its evil and wretched players, attitudes and tendencies turned out to be much stronger than I had presumed.

As a result, first, I had to change my understanding of the world. Then, given the somber realization that I was faring like the every mundane person next to me, I was forced to change my understanding of myself. I was no longer a to-be-noble man of good cause and was like an average gentleman who is first to sacrifice the values when they are at odds with the immediate material gain.

This makes the perfect pretext of the plot of my marriage. When I was no longer a man born to help everyone else in the world; a man born and reared to look after himself, a man full of parochial greed and desire of material gain and comfort, I was naturally supposed to behave like every other gentleman. My desires, which were to be suppressed for fear of distracting myself from the noble journey had I followed the original trajectory of life, were now the kingmakers as I was also the prisoner of desires.

The circumstances

In many of his brilliant stories, Anton Chekhov elaborates why and how most of the marriages that take place in society are the result of purposelessness, passivity, boredom and lack of self-worth. When people lack the awareness, willpower and determination to live for some larger than life cause, when people are imprisoned within the boundaries of their petty desires and the loneliness and sense of worthlessness arising out of that, they end up perpetuating the age-old cycle of getting married, procreating, getting old and dying without a single meaningful deed done in the life time. Depiction of this cycle is so poignant in some of his stories that they make one gasp. I have read some of them more than a dozen times and do not know how many more times I will read them in the future.

So the question of life and its purpose obviously comes when talking about the trendsetting events in one’s personal life like marriage and the choice of career. I had keen interest on literature from very early on and that was main factor behind the heroic and romantic ideas of life. In the essays at school titled ‘Aim of life’, while teachers and other students often elaborated how and why they aimed to be doctors or engineers, I often wrote how and why I aimed to be one of the two: a writer or a philosopher. The irony of life is, while most of my friends are now philosophers about love and marriage, I ended up being an average doctor.

When the ominous hormone called testosterone came to increasingly grip me after my +2 years, I was undergoing a serious transformation. The ideal figures of childhood had either already fallen on the ground or were on a process to that end. The romantic and utopian communist world described in novels of Astrovaski and Yang Mo had crumbled. Unsavory information about Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, the idols of communist past, was creeping into my attention. The situation in Nepal was even more frustrating with the devastating conflict deepening its hold in more and more territory of Nepal.

To sum up, I was going through a very dangerous vacuum at the time of my MBBS days. The earlier ideas of life had lost their gloss, yet new and sustainable values were yet to take place. While I had merely aura of the new values to come, the values of the gone days still had a profound effect on me. My friends, on the other hand, I believed, had been living with the vacuum all along and had adjusted so well with the vacuum that they could no longer feel it. The crutch of porn was universal among the medicos and some of them had been using it from very early on while most of them used the multiple crutches of the porn, the alcohol and nicotine to navigate through the stormy days of youth.

For me, none of the three crutches was there. Even though the core had hollowed, I still pretended to have a very solid support of the values from my earlier years. At the same time, however, the hormone was taking its own toll and I was no longer the same person from my childhood and teenage days. I had a strong desire ordinary for the age.

Yet, the after effects of my somewhat grandiose ideas from earlier prevented me from admitting the fact that I was like the every ordinary friend of mine. Literally, I was in a denial and I had to pay a very heavy price later for that.

After marriage

I can foresee the disappointment of the reader as I skip the marriage proper in this piece supposedly about married life. Yet, sometimes it is good to let some things remain undone even when it is possible to do them. Elaboration of marriage details touches too many people and with the awareness of how they will react to this, I cannot afford the amount of objectivity needed for the purpose. Better to leave it unwritten than to write it badly. Here I will limit myself to some entirely personal feelings about real life.

Married life has taught me many things; I am not sure if it teaches the same thing to every other married man or woman. And I summarized those teachings in one of my facebook posts long ago that went somewhat like this:
With marriage, you barter stability for freedom. If you love absolute freedom, better remain bachelor forever.  If you crave for a lasting company of other person, are insecure and are scared of instability and loneliness, go for an early marriage. If you want to have a productive life and loneliness is hampering that, marriage could be one option but if you fear that a company may disrupt your productivity; avoid it as long as possible. Exceptions apart, a timely marriage is a good thing provided the partner is right. The problem is, however, in seeking an appropriate partner. …”

Perseverance is one word that best explains what I have learned over these three years. Marriage is as much about friction, antagonism and struggle as about mutual compassion, empathy and preferred compromise. The determining factor in married life is how well you manage these various modes of interaction between the two individuals. At another level, it is also the meeting point of plethora of interests of the families and societies at either side and it can have devastating consequences when the interplay of these interests is not properly managed.

While most of us understand this kind of interactions as some events, sometimes recurrent, before the marriage; they change into the continual process after that and their management also becomes a continuous process. This definitely consumes a lot of time and effort and may yield little at the end.

My entirely personal realization is that for any person facing serious problems or crises in life, denial is the worst mechanism to defense. It merely postpones the day of real trouble. One who has fairly balanced life as a bachelor has absolutely no reason to hurry for marriage but this strategy is highly fallacious for those who crave for married life.

To conclude

Finally, talking about my three years as a married man, the notable achievement is, I guess, the fact that I have learned how to set the objectives and priorities in life. Whether that was result of marriage or a mere coincidence, I can not tell. Rather than the lofty and overarching conceptual objectives of changing the world, I have learned to adopt less appealing but more feasible objectives of doing my best wherever I can in whichever way to help people. Now, neither do I have any grand vision of changing the whole world for the better, nor do I have the sense of guilt or belittling myself for having abandoned my childhood dreams of utopian world.

It is an altogether different matter that I never had the dream of changing people’s lives through medicine for having realized from very early on that serving people and pursuing a business or profession are two altogether different things.

As far as the aforementioned aims of my school years are concerned, I am highly unlikely to be a philosopher in future but writer I’ll surely be (It is an altogether different matter if I become the sole reader of my literature or can get some others also to read!).

The second thing I have learned is that it is important to be happy. Even though the sorrow and happiness of others can be felt and they impact our lives, making oneself happy is a tricky and important job that helps one to energize and re-energize the self. It also lubricates the moments when one has to endure a lot of friction in life.

Finally my apologies to those who had expected a detailed account of how it feels like to be married after seeing the title. I suggest them to wait for a decade more when I’ll elaborate those things in much more details with the degree of objectivity and detachment required for the purpose. Alternatively, they can venture to get married in the meantime to have a firsthand experience; after all, you have to die to see the heaven!

(To read one story about love that I wrote before marriage, one can visit my fiction blog and read "Beyond love" and for a story in which a frustrated protagonist represents some of my own frustrations "The stagnant river" can be read. This was written in Bhairahawa after my marriage. )

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