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There cannot be two bosses in any relationship

Vaihayasi P Daniel | February 15, 2005

Get Ahead presents the concluding part of Deputy Managing Editor Vaihayasi P Daniel's interview with Shobhaa Dé:

Part I: Marriage is becoming like the dinosaur

Do you think you are exposed to those kinds of women?

This book is as comprehensive as it can be without being a research.

It has been years and years and years of watching marriage -- my own and [that of] others'.

I have talked to a lot of people. Not just to women but to men, too.

I have been talking to young Indians. Not just friends of my children, but whenever I travel -- which is a lot, to address women's conferences and groups -- in India, not just big towns and cities, but in smaller cities as well.

I am talking about places like Coimbatore or Nashik, and meeting lots of students because that is one invitation I always try and accommodate. So if I am called to address any college anywhere, if I can fit it in, I always do because it is a big learning curve for me.

I come away feeling better informed about young India's aspirations.

So a lot of it has to do with talking to people in their early 20s and 30s -- advertising people, people in the entertainment business (because that is the world I meet more than any other), and a lot of people in media.

These are young professionals. A lot of them have come from outside Mumbai. They are not necessarily south Mumbai products. In fact, not at all.

I meet a lot of women, particularly working in and around the studios of Andheri [in northwestern Mumbai], and elsewhere. And they can be from [as far away as] Mizoram and beyond. They are all either postponing marriage, opting out or saying, "Yes, marriage, but no kids."

People talk to me. I have a lot of women who I have never met in my life, who talk to me on the phone. These are suburban housewives who I am not likely to meet, who all want to come here and meet me. Many of them are troubled. The stories they come up with are beyond what you expect reality to tell you.

I will call them lower middle class ladies, amazingly assertive within their marriage, very clear about what they want out of marriage, what they will accept in their marriage and what they want.

Most of them are living in a joint family situation, but are in a position to assert themselves because of their contribution to the family kitty.

What makes Indian men different?

I would say Indian men, Italian men, Jewish boys have a lot common traits.

All these three societies are dominated by the mother.

They are all mama's boys more so than other communities. What distinguishes these three communities is [that the men] expect the same mollycoddling, pampering.

Other than that, men are men, husbands are husbands.

But what are the positive sides?

Indian men are very conscious of their roles as providers and as heads of the family.

There is less confusion than the new age man in the West, who does not quite know if he should be the sensitive guy willing to switch roles with the wife, take on equal amounts of time and interest in the nurturing aspect of marriage.

I think India men fall short there. But, at least, there is no ambiguity in their heads about their contribution to marriage.

And there can't be two bosses in any relationship, I feel.

The roles can switch. And, sometimes, it can be women on top.

That is how I see modern marriage: you don't have fixed roles which are forever and ever and ever.

It depends on certain circumstances and how adaptable you are. The more adaptable you are to changes, situations and circumstances, the more stable your marriage.

What advice can you offer the next generation, considering making a good marriage is more often about luck than anything else?

Anybody can make the wrong call. Young people can make it. I made it.

But the most important [advice I can offer], is that you should marry for the right reasons and at right time. You should feel from within that you are ready for marriage.

You should not succumb to pressure. You no longer have to.

It is not like my generation, where parents would start getting antsy once a girl crossed 22 or 23 [years of age], and her 'sell by' date was already approaching.

There would be all these panic attacks and pressures, subtle or otherwise, that you had to conform to and, "What will society say if I have unmarried daughters?"

Those pressures are technically off.

And I think girls, particularly, should wait if they feel they have not come across the right individual. It has to be that judgement call based on intuition and a whole bunch of other factors.

It should not be because of pressure, because you want to conform, because you are panic-stricken, because you are the odd one out in your group, because your best friends are all married.

You have to have trust, respect and commitment to the idea of marriage. You have got to believe sufficiently in marriage. You have got to think it's worthwhile that you are going to cherish. You have to give it your best shot. That you are going to do it with conviction and sincerity. And the rest is up to luck.

There have been marriages where pundits have matched the horoscopes and said, 'Out of however many guns [good qualities], so many match. This is a marriage made in heaven', and it has just collapsed in the first couple of years.

Forget the luck factor and forget the law of averages. Your intentions, more than anything else, determines [the success of a marriage].

You go into a marriage saying, "This is what I want for myself, and I am going to commit to it because I believe in it. To me, intention itself is good enough."

It has to be an honorable intention.

You can't go into a marriage and say, "Ya, I am going to take this guy for a ride," or, "I am going to try it out."

It is not like a new outfit from a designer collection.

And there are a lot of people involved in a marriage. It involves family. It still does, and if you are going to say, "I really don't give a damn about that. It is only going to be me, me, me and my spouse," I think you are starting on a bad note.

You are much more sympathetic to the problems of the woman in your book? Woman are in a position to tell their husbands where to get off and not put up with ridiculous treatment?

It is cultural conditioning [to not tell your husband where to get off]. I think this generation is successfully breaking out of that.

But I am still protective of women because I still think women in our society  require that strength and support. It may be easy for you or me, but it is not easy for possibly 80 per cent of India, where they don't have the same options.

It is easier for me to argue it from both points of view, but mine is determinedly a woman's point of view.

For a lot of men to appreciate what I am saying, they should switch places [at least] for a week with their wives. I would like to see how many survive that -- with all that it entails and all the adjustments required.

And if they can handle it with the same fortitude and grace that most women in our society do, I would say, "Hats off, the new man has finally arrived!"

So you feel the Indian man has not come of age?

No.

Are Indian parents moving towards a more progressive approach on marriage?

Oh yes. They are more open. More receptive. They are listening to their children much more.

And the children have changed.

It is the first generation of global Indians. Global in the real sense of the word whether they travel abroad or study in universities. They just know what is going on everywhere. That has brought about significant changes in the mindset.

If the children have changed, the parents have changed, why do you feel the men have not changed?

They are still in the 15th century.

The pace is being forced by women and their children. And unless they are really driven to it because they are not left with any option, I don't see why they should change.

Most men, not just Indian men, prefer the status quo. Unless they are pushed against a wall, chances of them rethinking old pattern don't arise.

But what about in the case of love marriages? Men in love marriages would have to change?

The mortality rate is also very high [for love marriages]. Couples have gone into it without thinking it through; without the man actually re-examining his attitudes towards women towards marriage, towards family.

You see the marriages collapsing in under two years!

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Number of User Comments: 5




Sub: Indian Men (Shobha Dey)

I really do not understand why every discussion on women's problems has to drift towards men-bashing. You have tried it for years without much result. ...


Posted by Pradeep





Sub: yes boss!

I read the article with interest and agree to the statement that there can't be two bosses in a marriage. Be it the mother-in-law the ...


Posted by Rashmi





Sub: Shobaa De's interview

In the concluding remark Mrs. De's statement, "Mortality rate is higher for love marriages" seems to be a sweeping one. On second thoughts, probably she ...


Posted by Senthil Kumar





Sub: Confused writer

Dear Ms. Shobha, This is the first time I have read any of your article. And find that you are very confused. One way you ...


Posted by Kausik Roy





Sub: Load of Rubbish

It is surprising that a person as widely travelled and well read as the author has such a myopic view of the Indian society and ...


Posted by Shailendra




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