Madhumitha Prasad got married when she was 24 years old. In the eight years since then, she has had a child, moved cities thrice, moved countries once, and gone back to work. She feels an early marriage makes sense. And 24 didn’t strike her as particularly early, because most of her friends were also getting married around the time.
She’s candid about the advantages of getting married when she was in her early twent.es. 1 guess the pool of guys you can choose from is more when you are young. This pool shrinks as you age, and you may end up with rejects.
The real challenge, she says, is dealing with changing priorities after marriage. ‘Marriage’ is a gamble, she says. Half the outcome depends on the cards you fuck, and the how you play those cards.
‘What I mean is, fifty per cent of the work is done before the marriage—when you try to get to know your spouse, when you talk to each other, do your background checks on the person and the family. And this holds good whether it is a love match or an arranged marriage. The rest depends on the effort the couple makes for the marriage to work. Sacrifices, adjustments and patching up after a fight should come from both sides. That said, if you’ve picked the wrong person, no amount of sacrifice or adjustment will help.’
Knowing someone is right
Madhumitha had dated people before she decided to have an arranged marriage. ‘I’d made a few wrong decisions earlier, and sort of gave up on finding the right guy. So I bestowed the responsibility on my family,’ she says. ‘Frankly I was not really attracted to Prasad before marriage. The only reason I said yes to him, honestly, was that there was no reason to say no. I entered matrimony with doubts on whether I had made the right decision. Thankfully I had.’
She doesn’t trust instinct, and doesn’t believe one can simply ‘know’ when someone is right. ‘I think a little compatibility check should be done.’ In her case, it so happened that a friend had worked with Prasad earlier. ‘She told me that he was a nice, decent guy and that sort of gave me the confidence. And, of course, we met and talked to each other, and I felt we would get along.’
The first year of marriage left her worried though. ‘We both fought like mad, making me wonder many times whether I had made a huge mistake. But then I also knew that he was a nice guy at heart. I guess he would have thought the same about me. Both of us made that little effort to patch up, to work on the marriage, and here we are now.’
Say what you will about modern women and an advanced society, but Madhumitha feels priorities change more for women after marriage, at least in the Indian family structure. ‘Here, marriage means moving into a new household, both literally and in terms of our identity as a member of another family. You need to make the in-laws feel important. I don’t mean to sound docile, but making the in-laws feel respected will ensure that the family boat doesn’t rock—unhappy in-laws would also mean an unhappy husband. That does not mean giving up your career, likes or needs. But open communication really helps here. Once your people know how good you are, or your intentions are, you don’t even have to make a conscious effort to make them feel wanted or comfortable.’
The other tricky aspect of marriage for a working woman is the challenge of balancing her home and her career. In Madhumitha’s case, she shifted cities with her husband several times. The biggest problem she has had to confront is career growth. She works in the finance sector, and he in IT.
Again, it depends on priorities,’ she says. ‘I was working in Mumbai, and just a year after marriage, he got a job in Hyderabad. Half-heartedly, I moved out of Mumbai. I told him, “This time, I’ve sacrificed my career for you. Next time, you should do it for me.” I could have stayed on in Mumbai, while he went to Hyderabad. But I really do not believe in long-distance relationships, and we were just getting to know each other at the time. Now, having been married for eight years, we have decided that even if Prasad has to move out to a new city to follow his career, I will stay where I am, if that will help my career.’
When he had to move to the US, she made sure the visa regulations would allow her to start working soon. The work permit came through within a few months of their move, and her job search is on, but she decided to keep herself occupied in the interim. She started learning Spanish and conducting music classes for children, to keep herself busy. And I still tell him that once again I have sacrificed my job for him, to ensure that he does not forget it and adjusts for me the next time.’
But she acknowledges that one can’t have it all. ‘No woman I know does. Either they have a great career, or a great personal life. You may have both, but no children. Or, you have problem kids. Or, you have wonderful children, but you’ve got health issues. God is very fair. He distributes the spoils and troubles evenly.’
The mechanics of a modern marriage
Can we take it for granted that our generation of men will help around the house, and share chores and babysitting duties? Or is the onus still on women to keep the house running? Madhumitha weighs her answer. A good part of the onus is on women. But how you train your hubby is also a factor. A few women I know have trained their husbands beautifully into sharing household work. I would say it is also better to talk about these things with the guy before you enter matrimony. That way neither of you is heading for a shock. A friend of mine thought her fiancé was kidding when he said he would not help around in the house. He really did not, after marriage, and she felt like a fool.’
In parting, she has a bit of advice for newly married people: Tut in a sincere effort to make the marriage work. If it still doesn’t, don’t waste the rest of your life with him or her. There are women like Jaya Bachchan and Hillary Clinton who stay in marriages for their own reasons. I like such women too. But if you’re not getting anything like that out of it, walk out.’