Diary of a Feminist: Indecision and Arranged Marriages

Sometimes it seems to me as a people we score poorly in problem-solving behavior. That is, we often exhibit a lack of initiative and mental synthesis to attain a goal when faced with a situation of some complexity.

We have a tendency either to ignore the problem altogether or shove it under the carpet. By no means do such tactics shield us from the effects of something gone wrong. A problem, in fact, if not solved creates a myriad of other problems.

Somehow instead of resolving a conflict people live with it and let it eat them up slowly until they fall apart. And it’s painful to watch it happen. Particularly in cases of marriage failure.

Well, some marriages do fail. And there is nothing one can do about it. Except its dissolution. A bitter solution. So people avoid it. And keep on walking on a hot tin roof.

The worst part: it’s not just the couple but a whole lot of people who suffer including the girl’s family and the boy’s family.

For instance, take Rani’s case. Yes, they call her Rani at home. A Rani of no kingdom. They married her off to a cousi who lives in Pindi. She returned home after three months. And stayed. Seven years have passed. Her child, a girl, is now six. The man did not even come once to see the child, if not the wife.

To begin with, the parents had made an unwise decision. The boys of the clan, including Rani’s elder brother, knew the guy was a pervert. And they expressed apprehensions. But the elders of the family brushed aside all doubts with the proverbial “He’ll be alright after marriage.” Obviously he didn’t improve.

I have thought about Rani many times. Why did her parents marry her off to that man when they knew about it? You might say it was fated. Or, they simply made a mistake. In good earnest.

I have a strange feeling. I think Rani’s complexion has something to do with her tragic life. Rani is dark. Her younger sisters are very fair (though personally I find Rani more charming). Wasn’t it that her parents unconsciously feared that Rani might not get a second proposal? Her younger sister was already engaged. And there were four more in the row.

You might find this reasoning very crude. But crude or incredible, it’s my feeling. I might be wrong and stupid.

Anyway, Rani came back and began her shadowy existence. She avoided people. Became almost a recluse. Grew pale, lost weight and had circles under her eyes. But nobody did anything. She couldn’t do it either. She was a submissive, voiceless soul.

Years passed. Rani’s husband and his family turned out to be really queer and clever and heartless. They sued Rani’s parents for not sending his wife. The case opened at Pindi. Rani’s father did not go to the initial hearings. It made the matter worse.

At last he had to make the journey from Karachi to Pindi, which wasn’t easy for an old, ailing man. The court provided him with a lawyer who was a considerate fellow. He advised Rani’s father to file for Khula at once. Otherwise the case would continue indefinitely, he warned. But the old man was still indecisive.

One day Rani’s mother died. All of a sudden. She was fifty-ish but a strong woman who had borne and reared a dozen children. The doctors couldn’t exactly pinpoint the cause of death. Rani’s elder brother has started suffering from Angina. The case is still on which means erratic trips to Pindi.

All because they didn’t solve a problem, and a very important one at that. If Rani’s folks had asked for a Khula at the outset they’d have been spared so much misery.

And there might have been some chance of Rani’s remarriage. She is 30 now. With each passing year, her mother dead, father sick, brother though caring but with a life of his own – his wife and children, what chance does Rani have of a happy, trouble-free life?

Rani does not have a college degree. She belongs to one of those numerous families in Karachi who don’t believe in girls’ education.

And it’s not just her case. At present I am a witness to two more families who are exhibiting the same dismal lack of decision-making and problem-solving in marriage failures.

Why can’t people be more decisive? For one thing, I think, in situations like these, that is, arranged marriages, the responsibility is diffused. The girl can’t make the decision on her own because it wasn’t her decision to marry that guy in the first place.

The mother thinks it’s the father’s responsibility to settle the issue. The father might be wondering what other elders of the family would say or he might be simply waiting for the boy’s family to take the initiative. The same holds true for the boy and his family.

Isn’t it time we discarded the institution of arranged marriages and let individuals make their own decisions and be solely responsible for their own lives?

2nd Feburary 1984

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