By P. Alli:
One fine warm evening of October, with the sounds of crackers settling down to some extent, I was relaxing in a couch in the midst of my flower garden, holding a newspaper in my hand. Browsing through the various articles, all of a sudden my eyes caught hold of one particular phrase ‘the culture of living-in-together’.
On reading the article, I was reminded of the New Institutional Economists (NIEs) theory which emphasizes that old institutions give way to new institutions as society develops from a primitive to an advanced state. I was wondering how a traditional economy like India is getting adapted to the culture of ‘living-in-together’, which over the years will bury the very institution of ‘family’ that has been the fabric of every society.
My thought on this particular issue got interrupted when my parents asked me to get ready to attend a marriage function of one of our family friends. I was really exited to accompany my dad and mom as this is for the first time that I were to witness a traditional South Indian marriage ceremony. The marriage hall was having a religious fervor with the sounds of ‘nadaswaram’ and ‘mridangam’ filling the air. We were offered a seat to witness the marriage ceremony. I could see the bride and the bridegroom sitting in front of the ‘sacred fire’, reciting the ‘shlokas’ as told by the priest. The bride and the bridegroom were surrounded by their relatives.
Being a keen observer by nature, my eyes caught a glimpse of an intense-faced middle-aged lady, blessing the newly wed couple with ‘flowers and rice’ from behind the curtain of a room. I could not stop myself from knowing the identity of the lady and hence asked my dad. Before my dad could reply to my query, an eager lady sprang up from her seat and uttered, “Oh, that widow… she is actually the mother of the bridegroom”.
“She has actually lost the right to witness the marriage ritual of her son as she is a widow…”, the lady added. I then enquired, “What if she is a widow? Why should a mother be barred from witnessing her son’s marriage? Why did the mother not come and bless the newly wed couple? Why is she hidden behind the curtain?”Â Without losing any time, the lady replied vehemently, “Oh, Shiva..Shiva…don’t you know that a widow’s blessings will cast an evil shadow on the newly wed couple”. I was completely speechless. Why haven’t these ruthless institutions undergone a change as the society develops? Is it the Incredible India that we are told is shining? If we can adopt new ways of life, like a live-in-together, then why not do away with these principlesÂ and make way for new, better ones?