Saturday, January 16, 2010

Holy Matrimony!!

“We cordially invite you to be a part of our marriage ceremony and share our happiness”- reads most of the marriage invites- those colourful, sometimes tacky-looking, invitation cards that are such a part of our custom. The families of the bride and groom invite all and sundry to be a part of the holy matrimony their children are about to be a part of, and which builds up to the mega event grandiosely called the Big Fat Indian Wedding!

As I sit alone in my rented apartment this Saturday evening and spend my last weekend as a bachelor, there are multiple thoughts streaming through my mind, in multiple directions, like dry leaves being blown around in an autumn afternoon by the breeze. I cannot still fully comprehend the fact that I am getting married, that I am going to share my life with someone else. I had left home 9 years back, and lived all these years as a true-blue bachelor, you know, things like, coming home when you please, eating out wherever (including the most unhygienic places) and whenever you want to, watching the crappiest movies in town and guffawing through them, spending money on the flimsiest of causes and excuses, but most importantly, not having to answer to anyone on anything! Now that all that is going to change, I can’t but feel a tinge of regret and a wisp of nostalgia, all the fleeting images of the last 9 years rushing back to me.

But experienced (I mean, married) people often say it’s a mix of both- the sharing of your life with someone else can be exasperating and uplifting at the same time, it can make you fight with your spouse over small things as well as give a whole new meaning to every day of your life. Well, I choose to believe them (not that I have an option!), but I guess it’s a quantum leap for me (or, for that matter, anybody who has been living as a bachelor outside his home for a long time)- from not sharing your room with anyone to sharing your entire life with someone! Guess this is a part of the change management situations that confront us in life every now and then.

The entire experience is once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully!). It all started with seeing my parents giving advertisements in the papers, me opening a profile on Bharat Matrimony, to going to meet girls to check (and be checked!) if they are the right match for me and my family, all in the matter of one hour! After the second interview (both-sided), I had developed a fixed set of questions, and in a fixed order, and the interview often resembled two wary boxers circling each other, waiting for the next blow from the opponent, and trying to duck under it and coming out with a reply of your own. It’s a difficult thing, and I’m sure those of you who have gone through arranged marriages would vouch for this, I mean, how can you really know who is right for you and vice versa, in a matter of an hour? Of course, after we got tired and selected each other more to get out of this infinite loop than anything else, came the courtship- short demure conversations slowly metamorphosing into endless talkathons, and understanding the person behind the face, a couple of meetings, and finally, the stamp of approval! The deal had been signed, and the project was underway! Of course, the final culmination of it all, the final act is still to be played out, but we are almost there….

What is it actually, I still don’t know. Whether we really complete each other, how it will feel like to wake up next to someone, to come home to someone, to know there is someone who you cant take for granted (like we do with our parents), and that whether the knowledge that I will not be coming home to roommates but my lifemate will make me want to reach home earlier than usual. But one thing is for sure, everything I know is about to change (for better, hopefully!), and as they say, end of one journey always indicates the beginning of another,……….

-An apprehensive soon to-be bachelor

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Decade That Was

A decade- the term itself sounds heavy and laden with possibilities. And so it has been, the last decade- the 2000’s- and as we stand today on the threshold of the old decade giving way to the new, one can’t help looking back at the decade gone by, and stop and think of the significance of the same.

It seems only yesterday that we were celebrating the arrival of the 2000’s, which was heralded with the y2k (anyone remember that?), which for many of our generation, was the first introduction to technology (quite an irony, isn’t it?). Of course, that bubble burst, like many others did during this decade, but there is no questioning the fact that this decade has probably seen more changes in the lives of people, in the perceptions that we held about life and society and indeed, in society itself than the last many decades put together.

It was during the beginning of this decade, that most of our generation were given wings to fly- we stepped out of our protected home environments into the big, bad world outside, left our cities, states and in some cases, countries and had the first taste of independent living. Some of it was good, some bad, we made mistakes and we learnt, we interacted with new people, learnt about new cultures and many of our long-held ideas and perceptions were fundamentally challenged. In a way, for us, this decade has been the defining one of our lives, it has given us an identity of our own, it has shaped our personalities, and made us who we are (of course, much of it is work in progress, but the process has started). We have gone to graduation college, undergone ragging, failed exams, bunked classes, fallen (and risen to fall again!!) in love, fought with our parents and friends and teachers, decided on our careers only to change track later, but overall, it has been a learning curve (quite a steep one at times!), one which has helped us in knowing who we really are, and for that reason alone, this decade assumes larger significance.

Looking beyond ourselves, this decade has been riddled with events that have shaken us, and often led us to lament the state of affairs in the world around us. A decade that started with 9/11, followed by America’s failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which in turn contributed to the rise of terrorism in a form much more deadlier and more sinister than we had ever known, so much that it has now become (unfortunately) a part of our daily existence worldwide. A decade that saw the burst of the dotcom bubble, as well as a global recession of the scale last seen 70 years ago, and amidst all this the rise of India as an economic superpower and a global player in major political decision making, even as malnutrition, poverty and rural health remain some of the most challenging issues we continue to face. A decade where telecommunication has reached our villages faster than primary health care and education, it has been one of tremendous ironies existing side-by-side with major achievements in various fields.

It has been a good decade for Indian sports, which has been long coming for a race fundamentally averse to sports and exercise, we have managed to win an Olympic gold medal after a long time, chess, tennis, badminton and boxing have been disciplines where Indians have shown their mettle, and of course, this has been the decade when our cricket team has transformed itself from being a bunch of talented individuals to a feared unit worldwide, a process started by Sourav Ganguly, continued by Dravid and Kumble and given fruition by Dhoni. Indeed, this decade has made us a better sporting nation, even if only by a small margin.

Politically, this decade has been one of numerous upheavals and change of guards, with regional parties acquiring a lot of prominence and consequently bargaining power. But most significantly, a new lot of young leaders have entered the fray, giving rise to the hope that some of the current muck in the system can be cleaned up with time, for without youth participation, no process is complete.

This decade has also seen the rise of a new breed of urban, well-educated professional, one who has moved beyond merely running after wealth, status and possessions, to the next level of questioning the meaning of his existence, and consequently, we are seeing a lot of young professionals giving up lucrative corporate careers and venturing into the social sector. This probably indicates the societal change that has come about in this decade. This has indeed been a decade of experimentation, be it in business, movies, politics or any other field, and this trend is likely to continue into the next decade.

Of course, for our generation, this decade has been one when many of us have bitten the poison fruit of marriage, or are going to in near future, thus changing our lives forever, for better or for worse, only time will tell!

Finally, as we stand on the cusp of a new decade, it is time to take stock, of ourselves as well as the society and the world at large. There are many evils existing, shameful episodes like the Ruchika rape case which anger us to no end, but as with any other major milestone, it is always best to look ahead with hope and optimism and dreams. The next decade is going to define what we would be doing with our lives, and more broadly, with our society and country, and thus is equally, if not more significant as the one going to end. And so I end with the immortal lines by Robert Frost:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
  But I have promises to keep,
  And miles to go before I sleep,
  And miles to go before I sleep”

Happy new decade to everyone, and peace and joy to the world!