I was watching an episode of the blockbuster TV series, Satyamev Jayate, a couple of weeks back. The cause discussed on this episode was ‘Intolerance towards love ‘and I’ve been mulling over this social injustice ever since. If the Indian culture and values are being propagated as justification for the Taliban-style treatment dished out to couples in this country, then we must ask ourselves, are we really a democracy? No self-respecting democracy would tolerate such vehement and heinous crimes against couples whose only ‘crime’ was that they had the audacity to fall in love. It’s because of obsolete and illegitimate practices like these that India is still referred to as a third world country.
We have all either heard or read of honor-killings being rampant in parts of north India and there is no excuse for not punishing the perpetrators of these crimes. However, I’m trying to understand what compels these offenders to commit such crimes. Is it the fear of being mocked by society? Is it because of religious and moral beliefs? Or is it a case of hurt egos? I’ve heard different psychoanalysts provide different explanations to these questions and I agree with most of their analysis. But, is it that simple? Can we generalize the motivation behind all the anti-love crimes? I believe we can.
I’m at an age where everybody I’m friends with, is either getting hitched or are planning to. One such friend/colleague, who is doing extremely well in his job, holds a ‘foreign MBA’ and has a charming personality to top it all off, is looking to tie the knot before he leaves for the US early next year. He hails from an orthodox upper middle-class Kannadiga family who settled in Bangalore a few decades ago. He got introduced to a girl who works in the same organization, belongs to the same caste as him, comes from a decent family and is quite a treat to look at. However, there was a slight problem. She turned out to be a month older than him. But this didn’t stop him from proposing this alliance to his parents. His mother shot down the proposal faster than a butcher dicing meat! Why? Because for his parents, getting their son married to an older girl would mean being humiliated by relatives and the society. Before I delve into my expert commentary on the latter situation, let me share the story of another one of my friends who finds himself in a similar predicament. His mother raised him and his brother alone after their father passed away. She gave them the best of everything, she even sent both the brothers to the UK to pursue their higher studies and she also manages the entire household herself with no support from her family whatsoever. She is a strong woman. However, for a single parent to be strong means being uncompromising, having inflexible rules and wearing their religion and morals on their sleeves. My friend’s mother is adamant that she finds her sons’ brides herself. She does not approve of any match that either of her sons finds for themselves, even if they’re from the same community and from well-to-do families. I’m perplexed by the outlandish constraints set by the parents in both these cases. My parents are no different from my friends’ parents. My mom says it doesn’t matter who I choose to get married to as long as they belong to one of the upper castes. She’s not giving me much of a choice, is she? But my problem is that I’ve always felt that I had no say in the caste/religion/community that I was born into and that I should have the right to marry into any community that I choose. I’ve always dreamt of marrying into a Punjabi, Gujarati or Bengali family! My unrealistic dreams aside, I believe the factors affecting the parents’ judgment in all the three cases are the same.
Following are some of the reasons that I could think of:
- Fear of being ostracized by relatives and the community
- Values and beliefs passed down from generations
- Lack of exposure to the world outside of their community
- Legacy of being oppressive
- Protecting one’s ego
Are these reasons enough to stop your child from being happy? It’s a rhetorical question! Having said that, not all parents share the same views. Some believe that their decisions are in the best interests of their children. But I have a few fundamental problems in the way parents go about looking out for their children, especially since I’m agnostic when it comes to religion. Why does a kundli/jathaka (horoscope) have to decide whether I’m going to be happy with the partner I choose? Why is it so wrong for me to choose a partner from a different caste/religion/community? So what if I choose to marry somebody slightly older than me? Murdering your child is better than them being alive and married to somebody that they love? Billions of people around the world lead happily married lives without ever having their kundlis matched, don’t they? People marry into different communities all the time; have all those marriages failed? Men with older partners seem to be as happy as anybody else, don’t they? People who murder their children are obviously criminals in the guise of parents.
For me, ‘Love’ is not something that makes me feel all giddy and sleepless at nights, it’s a combination of attraction, loyalty, trust and most importantly tolerance. Would I be able to wake up every morning, see her face and not feel sorry about the decision that I made? Would I be able to remain faithful to her and is she somebody that I can trust completely? Would I be able to put-up with her on her off days? Would I be able to live with her under one roof without having the urge to strangle her? Yes, that’s my perception of love. If this is the criterion for me to choose a life partner and if this is how I can be happy, then why should I let society and a bunch of planets dictate terms to me? It doesn’t take much to make people happy but for parents in India, happiness is defined by other socio-economic factors. Sad, isn’t it? I can understand their concern about the child’s ability to support a family and their maturity to understand the magnitude of their decisions. But I’ll never be able to comprehend why parents don’t support their children’s life choices. If parents really cared about their children, they would trust their children to make the right decisions or even better, let the children make their own mistakes and learn from them.
It may be a while before India gets more broad-minded parents and before society does away with its obsolete values and egotism. But like I said at the beginning of this post, there’s no room for violence and crime. Stricter punishments and community centers educating parents about the consequences of their actions, is the need of the hour. Condemn honor killings in the strongest way possible; raise your voice today to help save somebody else’s life tomorrow.