Recently at a lunch we happened to meet a couple who relocated to South Africa from Punjab, India. Like all first meetings go we started with small talk and other predictable pleasantries. As the sun rays stretched and second fills of wine appeared we moved from pleasantries to discussing politics. At some point I felt a regret about “wearing spanx” surfacing but no amount of wine and sun hinted at “Why do people get married” lurking in the vicinity.
Soon, strong aroma from food plates filled the air and we dropped “Trump” at the word chaos and continued our journey on to lighter topics. Somewhere between mouth melting Rogan Josh (Indian mutton curry) and Shahi Paneer (cottage cheese cooked in Indian spices) the other girl from Punjab decided to speak. She had been rather quite but her Rani Pink silk salwar kameez was far from quiet. The beautiful “Queen’s pink” (which is the literal translation of “Rani Pink”) totally obscures my memory of her name so I continue to remember her as the vibrant color she wore. I wondered why I had stopped wearing ethnic outfits and started making a mental note. My mind pencil dropped with a loud thud when Rani Pink dramatically said “I don’t know why people get married, I mean why do it”.
I quickly recovered my mental pencil and bearings, feeling obliged to say something for the sake of Punjab, the delicious mutton that I had swallowed whole and our respective men. My response was “I’m sure it’s to do with what one thinks of commitment. It may not even be necessary to get married depending on what commitment means”. What was in that Rogan Josh and Shahi Paneer!?!
The lady in pink just smiled and moved on with thirty two chews per food bite. Maybe her toddler in the food reaction that she had inspired, distracted her from further note comparing.
Until now her Rani pink attire, her confident gait, her husband’s matching Rani Pink turban and the story of how they came to decide their daughter’s name screamed “Happily married”. Their partnership went beyond outfit matching and they spoke passionately about body discipline. In respect, Tall and I ceased our spoon fight for the last bite of Ras Malai (An Indian dessert worth spoon fights!). Furthermore even with a toddler, their Saturday evening plans included the words “clubbing” and “dance party”. I decided not to share our plans which included lounging in pyjamas (free from the shackles of spanx) and watching back to back episodes of Criminal Minds. Although every bite towards gluttony tested my spanx limit, Rani Pink’s words pushed my thought limit.
What was I missing between all that matching of pink, their religious commitment to the gym, the Bhangra dance group they founded oceans away from Punjab and the efficient toddler management skills!? I don’t know if it was the cramp that my spanx gave me or the gorgeous pink my thought process went investigative.
In the days that followed I researched the origins of the concept of Marriage and the big “why”. An extract from an article in “Livescience” says,
“Though marriage has ancient roots, until recently love had little to do with it. Marriage was not about a relationship between man and woman but it was a way of getting in–laws, of making alliances and expanding the family labor force”.
There is more to where this came from (link included here).
“By about 250 years ago, the notion of love matches gained traction, meaning marriage was based on love and possibly sexual desire. But mutual attraction in marriage wasn’t important until about a century ago.”
So, in a conflicted world where we try to make sense of hideous acts of hate and war at least we bettered the definition of marriage. At least we gave the “alliance” a romantic character and more than often pursue it for the sake of love, desire and commitment. I wonder if Rani Pink felt “allianced” but for someone who doesn’t even remember her name I am far from finding out. She said what she had to, maybe it was a moment; maybe that moment was her entire life.
I finally called off the investigation and focused on defining marriage as I see it and feel it.
“A union of two people who want to be together and spend their lives MOSTLY rejoicing that decision.”
I say “mostly” because on days when Mr. Tall spends more time with his alter ego “The carpenter” the rejoicing is all his. It makes me wonder if marrying objects was a norm, which one would he marry first, his tool kit or his car…!? Of course I have never asked him that, I am afraid he might actually have an answer!!
Instead, I tried to ponder over “why did I wear spanx” situation but eventually got distracted by a box of nougat. I guess consuming a whole box says a lot about the open and shut case of the Spanx. There was another thing that I opened this week, my 2004 copy of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. Gibran wrote the following words in response to “what is love” and they seem as befitting a response to “what is marriage”.
A note to the future Rani Pinks and other not necessarily five feet something curious souls, “I hope this is the first hit you get on your Google from the future as you ponder over the why, the what and the how of Marriage.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let winds of heaven dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a flute are alone they quiver with the same music.
Give you heart’s but not into each other’s keeping,
For only the hand of life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And oak tree and cypress grown not in each other’s shadow.”