SONGSOPTOK: ‘Marriage is a lifelong symphony with one central theme but the music is played in anew everyday’ – this is a rough translation of a line from a short story by Rabindranath Tagore. Do you feel that this comment, made in a period dominated by Victorian romanticism, is true today?

MITRA :  “Marriage is a lifelong symphony” -  some agree; some don’t. Some show it, some don’t. This idea exists in real life, though exceptions are not less and yes, the rate of exceptions are increasing and the scene is changing very fast. No relationship, and especially marital relationship, lasts without concern, understanding and cooperation. With every change in situations and requirements, changes need to appreciated and dealt with accordingly. Once a relationship is established, it is not to be taken as granted.  Here comes the necessity of playing the music anew. Before answering each and every question, asked here, I feel an urge to express my ideas of marriage and divorce, as I found these are the two important issues here to discuss upon. I request the readers to bear with me. Today, the compulsion as well as the concept, I mean, the old scenario of ‘marriage’ has changed a lot, whether we like the change or  not.  We cannot just deny or ignore the present scene as it is phenomenal. Social/ family forms of marriage are also far more different now from those of old days when the world was more primitive, simple and unique than it is today. It is 2015. I don’t think, marriage is inevitable for pursuing one’s own life, a substantial, meaningful life and I don’t think marriage is either a must or a life-long event for an able, self-dependent, resourceful, courageous and open minded person, or a family, or a society. Marriage is just a choice with a package of some benefits and practical consequences (how they are managing the relationship and responsibilities, whether managing this commitment is easy or stressful, whether they are really benefitted or not, could they enjoy or feel the life at all). Marriage depends on physical, emotional and economical needs and the dependence of one individual on another ……for achieving some important benefits with support and cooperation from the partner---it is a treaty for sexual, biological and socio economic stability. I think, among the purposes and interests of marriage, sex plays a vital role… to maintain an easy, permissible, safe and steady sex life.  At first it starts with this hidden purpose (biologically, for gene propagation, gene multiplication) with romantic, flowery concepts and ideas. Then follow the solid responsibilities and commitments, lateral and vertical. So, if there is a marriage -- apart from achieving these benefits and stabilities; there are also manifold expectations, responsibilities and commitments; not only to each other--but also towards their families (parents and children) and society. As the outcome of multiple interests of families and individuals, through a marriage, are long term; there is a natural concept or pressure to keep it rolling successfully, lifelong---for the sake of keeping and developing wealth/ properties within the family in the long term, through generations. If interests click, people feel compatible and steady with the relationship and they marry to gain permanent security, comfort and stability. If interests conflict, people feel repulsion, failure of purpose, hatred and they try to quit --before going into marriage or after going through some phases of the marriage together. At the psychological level, wishing for separation and detachment was always there, but the social option was not there. Now the social rules are more flexible – actions are taken from the psychological level to the social level. If I apply my life experience, observation, information and if I see our next generation around the world, I realize the marriage is not a big deal and neither is divorce….every entrance has an exit too, at least the possibility is there. That is how it should be; otherwise marriage means nothing but an imprisonment. In my opinion, there is nothing to get panicked in the name of divorce. Life does not stop there though big changes and new challenges begin. Life is much more important and phenomenal than these optional events - even if the family has children.

SONGSOPTOK: What, in your opinion, is the real chemistry of an intimate relationship? Do you think that the social institution of marriage is based on that chemistry?

MITRA: Social institution of marriage has only one major concern, to keep and develop wealth, power and fame through generations, within a family, within a society, within a nation…to build and keep rich and powerful nation. In a social or arranged marriage, specially between rich and conservative families and celebrities while money matters the most, physical beauty is also an important and major parameter which determines whether a negotiated marriage would take place or not ! Even the marriage is in threatened / breaks solely based on money (and beauty). However, an intimate relationship of course depends on mutual chemistry. Mutual, I said- different chemistry between different couples – depending on the backgrounds and priorities. Generally, as it may be a long journey together and then (may be) with a larger family; apart from mental and sexual compatibilities, the chemistry in a long term marital relationship needs balance in benefits (both material and emotional),  distribution of labour and responsibilities,  income-that means ability to develop security ( in the form of wealth and  resource which could be used in necessities), love (expressed by mutual trust, faith, care, concern, respect, ability to make each other happy), backgrounds like culture, ethics, education, social status and social image or persona.

SONGSOPTOK:  What according to you are the main factors for keeping marital relationship alive and healthy?

MITRA:  Love - most uttered and least understood phenomenon. I already mentioned some forms of very special behavioural and mental attachments which generate energy, spirit, happiness, comfort, trust, patience and spontaneous commitments, mutually satisfied sex life, steady economy and personal qualities and practises like transparency, appreciation, support, openness, acceptance, easy and straight forward communication, healthy habits, awareness about ‘healthiness’. On the other hand; selfish, egoistic, paranoid, stubborn, dishonest, greedy, too much ambitious, too much demanding, racists (about anything, almost everything), drug addicts would not be able to keep a marital life or long term relationship healthy and alive. But, even  if everything is going  fine, a person could still leave his/ her partner ( and family) for his/ her own reasons ( stress, ambition...) -- marrying another whom he/ she find sexually more attractive or more compatible mentally and materially (one major side of marriage is bargain for fortune and security) or just for love . Extra marital relationships are very common in every society, globally. Usually the two persons and both the concerned families carry on respective marital relationships as status quo with this fact.  But, sometimes the consequences are unpredictable for divorce and remarriage. It happens; nobody can stop it. Only damage controls and due compensations are arranged/ done mutually or legally.

SONGSOPTOK: Very often we see that a happy marital relationship results when one of the partners surrender to the other’s ego. Do you think this is how it should be? Especially since it is most often the woman that surrenders to the man, or more generally to the patriarchal system?

MITRA:  If it is ego-conflict, it could be generated from both or from any of the couple. These result in unhappiness, social and family embarrassment, fights and many cases there are break ups if both of the couple have their own strong footings on the material world. Worse is the situation (surrendering under the power of Ego-tripper) when only one of the couple is the earning member (usually women are house makers and males are the earning members).  For economic dependency and in anticipation of the long run benefit, one has to surrender to the earning member or property holder always submissive, always playing the underdog.  In old, conservative, patriarchal society ( like ‘Jaigirders’, ‘Jaminders’ of our country) or in the weaker socio-economy sectors, the man is the boss and the wife  has to obey him silently for her helplessness—she has nowhere to go and  no means to survive.  Another social pressure for obeying this suppression/ oppression/ humiliation (even for those wives who are not so helpless) is to maintain the peace and happiness of the family. No. I never support this kind of fake and inhuman peace, happiness and stability of a family whether the weaker one is female or male (though rare, but it happens in matriarchal societies too) and even if the children accept this rotten system. The entire system should be changed and legal actions should be stronger. But, I have another reaction on this matter. I feel disappointed not only with the blind society, male chauvinism and power trip, but also with those women who, for whatever reasons, make themselves so weak and vulnerable to accept this destiny without trying to face any challenges. Why do women accept/ do that for a life time? How can they be and think about themselves so helpless for their entire lives? If, from their childhood, there is a perpetual threat on food, shelter, education, peace and respect; then why do they care at all to obey or submit to the power?  If this is the social training, why aren’t they courageous to break it and give their life/self-respect a chance?  Why are women not together to battle against this crime and injustice? Why do they pretend to be happy and be the peace maker? Aren’t they conscious about how they are extending themselves to these families (like domestic animals) for the purpose of generating children on whom she or her family has no say, no control? I have a doubt for those women; educated, working and from well to do families—when they accept humiliation, even violence -- whether they have secret pleasure of sacrifice, a secret satisfaction of ultimate win gaining sympathies from everyone? If not, don’t they become sadists with this perpetual sufferings and one day don’t they exercise the power trip (jointly with the husband or alone) to their girl children and daughter-in-laws? I am not blaming anybody; I want to understand what the society is doing in the name of marriage and peace. I believe, however, the picture is not so sad and shameful today!  Things are changing….. Women are getting more and more self-sufficient (in all respects). Where this type of blind society and destiny prevail, they learn to ignore or bypass the pressure by building their own career, profession and home…like men.  Girls are always practical, smart, dedicated and patient. So, they can have a bright future. Moreover, now, they are not surviving by means of marriage, neither are they depending on their parents for survival; they are getting able enough for taking every decision concerning their lives; they could find their jobs, partners and homes. As mother, they are quite able to take decision about their children too!   

SONGSOPTOK: Tolstoy said in his story THE KREUTZER SONATA “... a marriage without love is no marriage at all, that only love sanctifies marriage, and that the only true marriage is that sanctified by love”. We all agree that this is how it should be. That there should not be a tragic end to any marriage. What is the reason then for the increasing number of divorces in all societies?

MITRA:  As I said earlier, for any personal relationship, love is an essential factor. But, marriage might be a different story all together. Lots of purposes and interests come into account, even outside of the couple and family. There is nothing as ‘should be’ in a real life. Only lasting thing in life is life itself, nothing else. We should not make everything heavy and stressful expecting or demanding everything we get or earn is to be attached with us till our last breaths.  Unfortunately, if any loss in the form of break up, separation, divorce, death occurs… if one of the couple leaves, the family has to keep going. If one wants to make his/ her life as blessing, one has to go far, whatever happens.

SONGSOPTOK: By the word ‘marriage’ we generally think of a well-defined relationship built on the tenet of spending the entire life together. Do you think that this in itself creates a type of suffocation which leads to break-ups and divorces?

MITRA: No. I don’t think so. Life itself is an endless journey till death - it involves immense struggle, labour, patience, acceptance, responsibility and commitment. Could anybody leave it, take a break from it for feeling suffocated imagining the life as a long journey? I think, it is not about the long time, it is about the long term responsibility, serious responsibility. Those who feel suffocated and run away for any long term commitment (personal / social/ work place) usually show a history of quitting. There must be good enough reasons to quit, but if it happens often or repeatedly with somebody, a specific mental set up of this person plays a definite role in feeling suffocated and then get detached!  If they don’t want to go for marriage-bondage, let them find their own ways of happiness and stability. In fact, they might choose the right option for themselves. Not marrying is a wise option for many because if they go for marriage, it might end with too many losses actually important to them…for example: loss of money, position, mental stability, freedom, fame, popularity, free time, creativity, attachments, adventurous drives, children, care free living, so on and so forth. It is the priorities as every adult and self-dependent person set for self. Marriage itself appears as a threat to them. But, I find that there are many more people who rather dream and desire for lifelong partnership and steady family life. They find marriage as assurance of security and old-age support from the partner and children, they try to make a support system into their own families.

SONGSOPTOK:  In a very general way, marriage is understood as the cohabitation of man and woman with a view to reproduction. Can this narrow and very physical dimension be the essence of marriage? Doesn’t the success of marriage depend also on a communion between the personality, psychology and above all the soul of the married couple? What is your opinion? Do you think that in modern society such a definition of marriage is relevant and realistic?

MITRA: Yes, Fully agree with you. Life for everyone is not alike; it is not a well formulated, unique, close system and neither is marriage. Only basic purposes are survival and propagation of same life-form (species) through generations (as per biological science). There are lots of ways people spend their lives together, bring up babies and nourish children. Among them, marriage between a male and female is only a usual, old and common practice. But, we can see, marriage / partnership is not always between a male and female. So, ‘life is to expand through generations’, though a scientific truth, every single person doesn’t decide to contribute or sacrifice his/ her entire life only for this biological reason. The new generation understands “options” and ‘choices’ -it is the era of individualism. Today, human being is not imprisoned within these physical drives only.  The powerful brain solves almost everything -- makes substitutes and alternatives –even it manipulates!  For the birth of a baby, male and female intercourse is not the only way today—there are other alternatives. We have already travelled a long way leaving behind the question whether people should marry in order to give birth to babies and to expand families.  This can be taken care of by modern science. Marriage, staying together, partnership, bachelorhood and every other journey is experiencing new turns and new finds.  Journey of the brain…. it creates new possibilities, new paths…..it might be called as journey of the mind and soul …whatever individuals want to call it, it is there. 

SONGSOPTOK: It seems that in today’s society the clash of personalities, especially within marriage, is an unpleasant reality. Almost 100 years back, D.H.Lawrence said in Lady Chatterley's Lover “The modern cult of personality is excellent for friendship between sexes, and fatal for marriage”. In other words, he thought that the development of woman’s personality is actually a hindrance to successful marriage. What is your opinion? Do you think that it is the inability of the patriarchal society to tolerate the independence of women the main reason for the marital conflicts in today’s society?

MITRA: Yes, this may be a major cause; the society is still very much patriarchal. It is of course not true that development of woman’s personality is actually a hindrance to successful marriage.  It is only true if we want and support the primitive and inhuman form of marriage where husband beats the wife, children don’t listen to their less educated and timid mother. If marriage is the only good thing we want and we can imagine of, then, let the institution be reformed, let it evolve towards a good, positive and successful form of relationship where there is respect and appreciation for everyone. If there is no freedom/ independence of woman in  a society, the stress, injustice, oppression and abuse start from the childhood of a girl --within her own family, society and her entire world. If a girl could break this pressure in her childhood or womanhood, in whatever way and with whatever supports, surely she won’t be a victim of injustice before or after marriage. She has to fight. And she is fighting. Meanwhile, let falls and breaks of such families take place where the social structure tries to fix the position and role of woman as a useful pet or a slave. Tomorrow a better and civilized family structure would evolve. There is no instance in the nature that something only grows or a graph that only climbs higher. Conflict and failure is everywhere -- if it is in marital life, it is natural. Marriage is not a fantasy.  Anything can happen and everything is to be accepted. When we choose an option, we know we have to try utmost to make it a success, but we may fail - every controlling factor is not in our own hands. So, let us be sporting if something goes wrong in spite of our sincere attempt and contribution. In life, we get everything of something and something of everything, but not everything of everything.  Life is the most important thing and talent, creativity, intelligence, wisdom, happiness have more to do with a life than to get married or divorced.  Everything can be achieved without marriage.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that society perceives a divorced man and woman in the same way?  Most of the time we see that the woman is blamed for not making the necessary compromises. So the implicit assumption is that the success of a marriage is directly related to the woman’s capacity to compromise. What is you view?

MITRA:  No. I don’t think so. It is a social blame-game; why bother it at all?  Women can ignore it! They have many important, serious and creative things to do other than attending/ explaining this baseless argument and undue blame. No the society does not perceive a single/divorced man and woman in the same way. So what? The real world is still not a good and safe place for people who are identified and discriminated by the rich, strong and powerful people as ‘weaker’. Battles are there, the way is long.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that divorce affects the conscious and the subconscious of the children? What, according to you, could be the effect of a divorce in their adult lives, positive or negative?

MITRA: Yes, of course. Long term impacts are different for different children - may be nothing, may be positive, and may be negative.  It depends. We can see all results are there. Nothing to predict or assume. There are researches, reports, writings of Psychologists, social scientists, social workers, eminent writers, philosophers, experienced families and some of those children. From my experience I found the impact as neutral, every child has enormous power and flexibility to create his/her own life, to experience and learn from self-journey. Nobody allows one incident in his/ her life to shape the entire future as a rigid, narrow and framed.   

SONGSOPTOK:  Generally it is the mother who takes care of the children following a divorce. Although children need their mother more while growing up, what kind of impact can the absence of a father figure have on a growing child? So what according to you should be the role of the mother?

MITRA: I see the scene in a different way.  I know many children who live with their fathers and paternal families - may be the mothers don’t earn sufficiently to take care of the children or not working at all. Mother is mother and father is father; mother figure and father figure are different --could be any person who could love and take care of those children; who act with the same qualities as fathers and mothers do.  There are many abusive parents - father or mother – that is not uncommon or unusual. So being the father or mother only, does not qualify to take care of the children. Anyway, let me try to answer it directly.  Talking about the case where the mother is taking care of the child following a divorce…  (Why divorce only? There are more situations when the child has only one guardian or no guardian at all; the responsibility of the mother as single parent remains the same).  The single mother is expected to act like a responsible guardian, befriend the child with strong control (not power trip or abuse), spend more time with the child, keep herself available, open, communicative, allow the child to socialize with friends/ other people and families, arrange for exposures as per the child’s requirement/ talent and knack.... She may share some of her  responsibilities (which fathers usually do -- for example: teaching, coaching, playing, travelling, storytelling, taking to school, playground, library, movie, theatre, clubs, etc.) among some family members or friends (father figures) whom the child likes, obeys  and accepts. If the child loves and needs his father, make a mutual agreement and arrangement (with the father) to extend his company for the child at his place on holidays/school breaks. Divorce is not an issue like death that the child would be deprived of the company of his/ her father forever for some big incident he/she was not responsible for.  In fact, if the custody goes to either of the parents, the other one also has responsibilities towards the child which are decided and defined by the court at the beginning of this phase. There are many instances (even in India) and the court orders are nicely being carried out by the parents with full support of the child as well as the concerned families. If the father is not available for some reason and if the mother goes for remarriage or is living with a partner, I think it is better to talk about it first to the child. What I find, it is usually OK with the child but not OK with the elder generation. Let the woman listen to the child and make the new journey extending full space and respect to the child. Same thing holds good for the singles father.

SONGSOPTOK: What according to you could be the impact of the growing number of divorces on the next generations? Or do you think this is the way tomorrow’s society will evolve?

MITRA: What will be, will be. No social rule and mass -opinion (especially when no opinion is being taken from the new generation and children) could shape and steer the entire world and foresee + control the future of the mankind. What we need are good and aware human beings. That’s all. Divorce is not a social or legal crime neither is it a choice. It is a consequence of multiple factors which couldn’t be avoided at any cost.  Rather, marriage is a choice; one can avoid that if he or she is not very sure and comfortable about it.

MITRA GHOSH: Ex Geologist. Social Activist. Writer.
 Publisher- Editor of 'Sohojiya Prokashonee'


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