Indian Married Life
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!
Acknowledging the reality of class, and its implications on family relationships
There is a word ‘class’ in English; and naturally it should mean some feature of an English society. For the reality is that there are classes in England also.
Distortion in sense: Yet, when we use the same word ‘class’ in our Indian social meanings, it does acquire a qualitative different sense and meaning. Actually this is the same case with many English words, when being given a sense connected to the Indian social reality. Though the meanings may seem similar, the total effects of either are entirely different. I cannot go more into this theme here; readers who are interested in knowing more about this theme may refer to my other book connected to language codes.
Indian social structure is riddled with class feelings. Actually in earlier times, it would have been easy to identify these feelings, and also the connected social attributes with ‘caste’. Now the connections have become slightly vague, as persons have tended to move from the vocations dictated by their caste strictures.
In my book, ‘March of the Evil Empires: English verses feudal languages’ I have delineated how the growth and strengthening of castes in India are intimately connected to the essential feudalism or hierarchy in the vernacular languages.
Linking ‘caste’ with vocation and to language: Basically caste and also hierarchical usages in the languages are linked to the profession of the concerned persons. Now with the persons in differing castes opting for professions, which are having varying social statuses, the same issue of hierarchy in infecting them also.
Intellectual rather than physical: It wouldn’t be proper for me to debate more on this theme here; but the essential point that I would like to make here for the purpose of this book is that the dividing aspect of class is actually intellectual rather than physical.
Persons differ in what they think about, behave culturally, the cultural standard of their spoken dialect, the way they place women and children in their communication structure, and the whole theme is connected to the postures they use when they sit, the gestures they use during talking, the type of persons with whom they are at ease and would instinctively connect to, and many other things.
Now, in modern times, it is a wee bit difficult to find persons in a small town or a minor area in a city who can be defined accurately as belonging to a particular class. Yet, it is possible to say with a lot of definiteness whether two persons belong to equivalent classes or to differing ones.
Measuring the classes: It is not easy, wise or correct to say that one class is above another. For, I have found that the dominance of each class can be different in different geographical locations, and among differing groups of persons. And usually when trying to find an immediate hierarchy, the most tangible aspect to look for is the financial aspect. And in financial aspects, any group of persons can show strength in a particular locality or time period.
The English speaking class: Again, the level of knowing English, using it in social communication, and also the number of companions one has with whom one converses in English also creates a strange level of class feeling. For, once a person converses in English, and establishes a social circle in this language, a lot of ordinary Indian dithering social communications systems gets blocked, and a new energetic, positive social relationship develop. This also is a class.
What I am trying to convey is that the reality and parameters of class are a bit beyond the usual measures that is usually used, such as finance, job, government position etc.
Class as different from quality: Yet, persons who belong to a particular profession naturally do tend to develop a certain class attributes. But then, this definition can again be at variance with what we define as ‘Class’, as something of superior attributes.
And again, do not mix up the term ‘class’ with anything like individual inimical ethical standards like alcoholism, womanising etc. or the lack of such tendencies. For, one may find persons with delinquent cravings in all classes.
Now, even though I have tried to convey a sense of what all attributes can create a class, it may be emphasised that they do not limit it, to any particular category of attributes. And to bring this debate to the present context, I may say that one is at much ease mentally if one finds one’s companions of one own intellectual class.
Here even though money is generally used as a measuring yard to measure, I have found that in these modern times, this measuring stick is absolutely inadequate for this purpose. For, in many places in our nation, a lot of social upheavals have taken places, which has contravened the connection of money with class.
Now all these talk about class is done here, just to bring this theme into the context of marriage relationships.
A recipe for mental peace: One can get the best mental peace if one is married to a person from one’s own class. For, each class has a communication dialect, which retains a particular social structure. In this structure, all individuals are necessarily arranged in a particular design; with each person’s relation to another person or groups of persons, in a predefined manner.
When one marries a person from the same class, then there is no essential disturbance to this non-tangible, yet very strong social structure. Everyone functions as they always did.
If a woman marries a person from a more refined communication dialect class, then it is possible that she may at first feel the positive halo of the refined communication system. Yet, in the long run, the effect may wear off, for her husband may get distracted by the social demands in the more crude communication dialect, being made on him by his wife’s relations. And his distractions could lead to problems with his wife.
A woman from the refined communication dialect is not well advised to marry a man from the less refined communication dialect, unless they plan after marriage to live faraway from her husband’s relatives. For, she may find it difficult to endure the crudeness of the words used to her and about her, by her husband’s relatives. The more cruder the dialect, the more is the claim they have over her personal issues, and mental standards. Now, this is a theme that has no corresponding themes in pristine English.
A female government employee marrying a common man: Then there is the aspect of a female government employee marrying a person who is not a government employee. In many vernaculars, and their social systems, this event is fraught with immense dangers. If the husband is rich, and socially prominent on his own and the wife is docile and very affectionate, then the negativity may be much warded off. Otherwise the strange programs in the feudal vernacular codes can wreak havoc on their family life. Generally in many vernaculars, the government employees are placed in a higher social position, while the common man is placed a wee bit below. Not only that, when the government employees talk about, or refer to a common man, they generally use the lower level words, about them; and in some cases to them.
This strange strangling program in the vernacular naturally induces a sort of disdain and aversion for the common man among the government employees. It may be noted that the government employees consistently use terms of respect, when referring to their colleagues and superiors.
There is a cumulative social affect of this communication aspect. And its affects will naturally affect the wife’s mentality in regard to her husband. More so, as she perceives him to be toiling with progressive lessening of social security, while she sees a lot of her colleagues living lives of feudal prominence.
An aversion for her husband’s capacities, and also for his companions can come up. Moreover, their home could also be the meeting place of her husband’s colleagues. Her own colleagues wouldn’t like to belittle themselves by being in close proximity to the common men. So they may express their dislike for coming to her house. Or if they do come, there may be a continuing stance of social separation.
All these could mar the married life. Yet, this could also be only an extreme case. For, there are many husbands who literally enjoy the social security in terms of lifelong financial benefits that can accrue to his wife, and also the social status that rubs on him, through his wife.
The success of this partnership again depends on their mutual compatibility. I have only discussed the undercurrents.
The enwrapping enclosures: Now, we may move from between the spouses, to the other relatives. Generally, in vernacular living conditions, any person who marries into the family, either of the male or the female, is wrapped in words, that emphasises the fact that he or she is a subordinate to the innumerable uncles, aunts, elder brothers, elder sisters, senior cousins, and many others of the spouse, including anyone who the spouse treats as senior. The new comer is given the freedom to use the same level of dominance on the innumerable younger members of the family.
Now, how much leverage the senior relatives give to the new individual depends on a number of factors. One of the main factors here is their cultural standard, and also the level of knowledge in English. When the dialect culture is cruder, or lesser is their knowledge in English, the more would be their strength. Here it may not be understood that usually there is any visible level of competition, for generally the new comer is attuned to accepting the dominance of many of the new senior relatives; and also willing to place a similar stance on the junior relatives.
The problem will arise only if there is severe disparity between the social communication standards of the new comer and that of the senior relatives. Then it can be either an initiation of a real tug of war, or a life of silent bearing.
Now if the situation is vice versa, with the newcomer being of cruder communication system, also, there is a chance of aversion for this person from at least some members of the family. Again, it all depends on many other factors also.
Usually persons do marry along marked lines of social codes. Nothing untoward happens. Only when there is a marked deviation from these codes do all these themes come into play.
The intimate zone: Now with more spread of English, the concept of nuclear family is gaining ground. Yet, the majority do still have mental moods of a joint family system. That is the spouse’s immediately family members, and others like uncles, aunts etc. would come with a claim of right to interfere or intrude into the affairs of a nuclear family. Yet, the amount of right they have is only proportional to the amount of leverage the corresponding spouse lends them. If he or she clearly shows the limits beyond which they have no right to interfere, then their married life will not be disturbed to that extent. Here again, do not get the impression that the uncles or aunts are of inimical interests or of delinquent minds. It may be just that this is the way they have been trained in their own family life.
The actual structural strength of the joint family system exists embedded in the hierarchical language system. So it is natural that all persons who adhere to its philosophy would only carry the theme of mutually connected family relationships. They would be only eager to establish and extend the links to the newer generations.
In all these situations, what ultimately saves the day is the attachment of the spouse for his or her partner. If there is an acute vagueness in the spouses’ mind about his or her responsibility to his or her partner, then there can be real problems. And it shall remain as an enduring example of marital irresponsibility; which can lead to severe repercussions.
Class as encoded in profession: There is another fallout or corollary to the whole question of class. This factor has no connection with the actual intellectual class of the person involved. It is more or less connected to a person’s profession or so to say, vocation. Generally in our nation, persons enter into a profession or vocation, and remain there till the end of their working life. It is true that many do endeavour continuously to escape any tedious, menial or any other lesser levels of profession. Here it must be understood that generally in our nation, most the jobs that require actual physical participation is considered lower, and those that generally allows a man to sit at the other side of a table is considered to be socially acceptable.
Each vocation or level of profession or job is encrypted in our hierarchical languages in a particular level of words, phrases and position. This encryption, more or less, defines a person’s social mobility, his capacity for articulation, and the ambit of freedom of intellectual expression. Along with this goes the general requirement of society to measure and evaluate a person, and to give him a particular mark, so as to enable them to place him in a particular social position.
Now, it is a universal phenomenon to measure a person by his companions and other associates of his or hers. So what happens when a person gets stuck with persons of lesser or higher social attributes is that, he or she is immediately bracketed with his visible relatives. When the words, expressions and phrases connected to him, in the vernacular changes according to this new evaluation, it may be the cause of grievous distress, especially if he or she does not really belong to that intellectual or social class.
Here in many cases, the evaluation of the society may be more in connection with their own minor understanding or lack of it. The less mobile the society or persons are, the more cruder would be their evaluation standards.
The problem here would be that actually none of the persons involved, that is the relatives, their companions, their associates, the society at large in the small area or even the new comer would be inherently bad or of any inimical mental standards. Yet, the whole interactions would create a lot of severe mental distress to the new comer, and possibly to a lot of others.
Yet, may I just intrude to say that all what have been described in this chapter is only a delineation of the extreme cases? However they can be used to understand some of the undercurrents of family tensions.
Class in forbidden areas: Beyond all this, I need to take the debate to the forbidden themes of spouse swapping and other themes, of which I have already dealt with. I had made certain sweeping statements about this theme in the previous chapter. Here I only interlude to mention that in that propositions also, kindly bear in mind the themes of class discrepancy.
This theme should be placed in a variety of contexts like that of extramarital affairs, adulterous relationships and many other dubious themes. A hint to the consequences of what happens in a feudal vernacular area, when persons step outside the demarked lines of acceptable intimacies is seen in the novel by Arundhathi Roy: A god of small things. (Actually this book deals with this theme; yet, I feel that many of the persons who debated about this book, seems to have missed this point totally).
Millstones and elevators: Now let me deal with one more aspect connected to the theme of ‘class’. Generally after marriage, during the vicissitudes of life, there might come times in life when the husband strives to move ahead in social standing. In a certain sense, this social climbing, or professional advancement, or even business restructuring can require a definite level of subduing of certain social connections, which were not very intimate; and then building up newer social contacts, which are in par with the requirements of the new social/positional/business levels.
Actually if both the husband as well as the wife, are from the same level of social class, it is possible that there shall be a synchronised effort in this effort for social or positional or business advancement. But then, if there is any chance that there is a disparity between the innate intellectual classes of the spouses, the momentum for the social leap would be with different speeds. In such cases, as one of the spouses strives to catch up higher grounds, he or she would find that the other is lagging behind with deliberate intentions. In such cases, the second person would remain as a millstone tied to the neck of the other. In effect this person with speed would have to drag the other, to the heights; thereby losing his or her own speed. And in a competitive world, this can really cripple a struggling individual.
Strings to the impenetrable levels: Again, if one of the spouses is going to deeper levels of social interaction, and the other spouse cannot bear such levels, then also, a tendency for the family to exist in varying levels would come about. Either of these cases is a highly dangerous situation for the family; with chances of real breakdown of relationship, very much in the offing.