I have a question that bothers me since there seems to be no correct answer. Long back, when my daughter was not yet 10 years old, a family friend approached me for details regarding a colleague of mine who was being considered a suitable match for their daughter. The man in question had joined as lab attendant and improved his qualification to become a lab assistant. He was working on his Master’s degree having taken admission in a local college. He had obtained a distinction in Physics Honors in his undergrad course and had a very good practical hand. (He still works with us and gladly fixes electrical and electronic items for us when required). I could foresee a bright future for him and had no hesitation in suggesting that they could go ahead and start negotiating with his family in Andhra Pradesh. I had no knowledge about his family’s financial status but guessed that they may not have been very well off since he had started working soon after completing his 11th standard and a bright student like him who could not continue to study was probably from a needy background. However, I kept my thoughts to myself on a matter that did not concern me.
A few days later I was asked by their daughter who studied in our college to drop by their house when possible since her mother wished to consult me on an important matter. I readily agreed to visit them after college on the very same day. When I reached their place I found the family in a dilemma. Their older daughter for whom my colleague was being considered was upset that her parents should even think of getting her married to a person of questionable financial status. It did not matter that the man had a chance of coming up in life. It was his current status that mattered. She would not settle for anyone that did not have a white collar job and whose father was equal in status to her own father. Her parents on the other hand felt that there was no harm in carrying the matter forward if the boy in question was hard working and responsible.
I tried to reason that since she had a government job herself, they could manage to lead a pretty decent life on their combined salaries. The girl was adamant.
“Would you say this for your own daughter?” she asked.
My daughter was around 8 years old and I had not thought of her marriage prospects at all. She was in grade III and I was not sure where this conversation was leading. But I had the sense to understand that the matter ought to be handled by the family and it was better to leave it to them. Finally the girl’s parents gave in and the matter was dropped. The girl however did not marry at all. She probably rejected all proposals considered by her parents. Her younger sister got married as did her brothers. She never forgave me for even suggesting that she marry my colleague and would refuse to acknowledge my presence when we met while traveling to work or in the market place. She probably did not know how or where to vent her anger and I let her be since I was not affected by her behavior in a big way. She now leads an independent life in Hyderabad while her parents stay with her married brother shuttling between Hyderabad and Jamshedpur. Marriage was not a priority to her and she chose to remain unmarried rather than enter into a matrimony that did not appeal to her. I too had to admit albeit a little grudgingly that this was perhaps a wise step that she took. Thirty years ago this was a bold step too.
Years later I narrated the incident to my daughter who was in college. Her reaction set me thinking.
“What was wrong with her question mummy? Why did it upset you? Tell me honestly if you would have considered the match for me? Would you not prefer to get me married to a man of sound financial background than a person with commitments to his family however promising his career?”
It was a tricky question and I had to admit that she had a point.
When I see my colleague today I feel that he hasn’t fared badly at all. His wife is an excellent home maker and their son has completed an engineering course and will be taking up a job soon. He is used to taking up responsibilities and gladly attends to matters involving his wife’s family. I wonder if his life would have been as smooth sailing and happy if he had married Rajalakshmi (as the girl mentioned earlier was called). The basic question as to whether I would have got my daughters married to promising young men on the basis of their qualification alone still remains unanswered. To be frank I did not have a very great role in the marriage negotiations of my daughters. It just happened the way it did. Had I been at the receiving end of marriage negotiations dealing with hard to please parents of eligible boys I too might have compromised. But would my daughters have done the same or would they have objected? The girls are well settled and their husbands earn well. It is easy for me to preach that marriage is a gamble and the gamble is played out in heaven.
Finally I think that life is a balance sheet. Credit and debit accounts are maintained. Looking back I realize that my mother did not think beyond a hard working husband for me and life hasn’t been bad at all. Among those that got married with me some started off well, some took time to take off but now most of us are at the same level. So life is not what one gets – it is more about how one wishes to deal with it. And it varies from person to person. Marriage is just part of life – not life itself.