By Pallavi Ghosh:
The pressure of getting married at the right age and right time is so common in India that it is practically inescapable irrespective of which family one is born into.
Titan’s ad starring Katrina Kaif on “The Right Time to Marry” touches an issue that is at the heart of discussions around Indian culture. One of the biggest contention with the ad, in the words of Ridhima Shukla, sub-editor at Hindustan Times, is that “it doesn’t leave much choice for the audience. What about those who don’t want to get married ever? What about those who are forced to get married and have no choice? I, personally, think that when I meet the right guy, I won’t need a stamp paper of wedlock to spend the rest of my life with him.”
This acute pressure is also reflected by India’s global status in the prevalence of child marriage. According to the World Health Organisation, India, with 47% of marriages with a child bride, has the most child marriages in absolute numbers.
Moreover, child marriage is not the only arena where the centrality of marriage is witnessed in our part of the world. Honour killing is another reality that is premised on the rules of marriage. The choice and right that the ad advocates is all but missing in reality. The cost of making such choices is often excommunication, death or at times both. As per United Nations statistics, one in every five cases of honour killing comes from India.
If you think this is it, wait for it. There is more that makes marriage a rather sordid affair. NCRB records have, for over the years, shown that the incidences of suicide among married men and women are highest claiming a total of 95,264 lives in the year 2012. However, there were more suicide cases among married men – 63,343 as against 31,921 cases among married women.
Speaking of the pressure of marriage, journalist Somesh Jha shares, “With progress in one’s career, expectations from the family also escalate. They begin insinuating towards settling down and marriage is naturally thought the next step. Moreover, if one has married siblings, parents tend to believe that the other children in the family one will also follow the same path irrespective of the ideologies.”
Lack of choice, thus, remains a major characteristic in the way marriage decisions are made in India affecting men as well as women. The level of freedom and egalitarianism in relation to marital matters is dubious even for the urban upper class or the elite, to which the ad seems to be directed.
Marriage continues to be treated as sacrosanct so much so that a few days ago a Parliamentarian argued live on the floor of the House that marital rape does not apply in India. Given this halo around marriage, the ad, though desirable, seems to be another utopia splintered by everyday reality.