‘Marriage for men is like puberty for women’: Nandini Krishnan

nandini-krishnan-hitched-400x400-imadmuhyuygmg2xeThis is an extract from Hitched: The Modern Indian Woman and Arranged Marriage by NANDINI KRISHNAN

Saurabh laughs that he had the advantage of knowing what the process of spouse-hunting involves. A year before he went through the drill, his sister did.

[…]

However rosy the courting period may be, once you’re married, you get a rude wake-up call when you’re living in the same space. ‘Living with a strange person takes adapting. You could be in love for a few years and then get married, but even that doesn’t prepare you for sharing your personal space with another person. Of the other gender. Who has a different set of bodily smells, and opinions on the way your clothes smell.’

He has an interesting comparison for what men go through after marriage. ‘Remember when you, as a girl, got up close and personal with menstruation. That’s what most guys go through in the first month of marriage, unless they’ve been in a live-in relationship before. The first month is very chaotic because you’re experiencing another gender’s physicality and emotions.

Curiosity and disgust go hand in hand. Men see that their wives menstruate. Women begin to appreciate that belching and farting are natural human processes, but somehow they never manage to complete this process of appreciation.’

So, what women should expect from marriage, according to Saurabh is:

  • Gastric human effluents

  • Scratchy underarms

  • Pot-bellies

  • Guys in unsightly undies

‘You know, the usual realities of male human life,’ he says. But apparently, there’s a silver lining. ‘Seriously, marriage is actually quite fun and liberating for a lot of women. Lots of folks don’t have control on their lives before marriage because, well, they’ve never known what control is. Then they get married, and there’s this guy to wine and dine you, shop for you, take you around. You’ve got more money to spend. And your own house to set up. You inherit a lot of friends from your spouse, who are often nicer than your own friends, because you were smart enough to marry a guy much cooler than you!’

What men want

When I spoke to some of my male friends, both married and unmarried, I got something of an insight into the standards men really set for their wives. Here’s what they had to say:

  • ‘She needs to have had at least one boyfriend. . . because I don’t want some Miss Goody Two-Shoes who’d give me grief over all my exes, and want to know whether I’m having affairs when I meet them. She has to be okay with the fact that I’m friends with my exes.’

  • ‘She needs to like video games. I’m not kidding. I play video games to unwind. Ideally, she should be a player too, but if not, she has to be willing to learn. I don’t want someone grumbling that I spend all my time on the computer. Because what other people do with the crossword, or a book, I do with gaming. I don’t think non-gamers get that. I don’t want the sort of marriage where each person is resentful, because they don’t get the other.’

  • ‘I’m particular about appearance. Long hair puts me off. I don’t know why, but it does. If a girl marries me, she needs to either have short hair, or be willing to crop it short. And I don’t like fat women. I know this may not be true, but I feel they’re lazy. I take a lot of care of my own body, and I would be put off by a woman who didn’t care. People may call me shallow, but you can’t deny that in a love match, you’re first drawn to someone because of physical attraction. Why should an arranged marriage be any different? That said, if a woman bowls me over so completely that I can look beyond all that, I’m not going to ask her to chop off her hair or hit the gym. And that would be love, anyway, even if I meet her in an arranged marriage set-up.’

  • ‘I’m the possessive kind, so don’t know how I would feel about a woman who’s had boyfriends before. It’s not simply about virginity. Just the idea of ex-es troubles me. Maybe because I haven’t been in a serious relationship myself. So, I would be paranoid that she would be comparing me with someone else. Or, that I’m a last resort. The reason I’m looking to get married is that I want to share my life with someone else. I don’t want to marry someone who’s doing this on the rebound.’

  • ‘I don’t think the question of a modern woman who hasn’t dated even arises. Forget a modern woman, chances are you wouldn’t find a gaon ki gori who hasn’t had a boyfriend. I honestly don’t give a shit about any of that. I mean, I’ve had relationships myself, and my girlfriends were not creatures from outer space, they were women too. Some, I considered settling down with. So, why should my wife not have the same right to date that they did, and I did? But that said, I don’t want to know the details. If you want to discuss your exes, talk to your girlfriends, not your husband. Whether they were heroes or losers, I don’t care. And I don’t want to speak about my relationships either.’

  • ‘I went bride-hunting the traditional way. The parents would speak, and then we’d go over to their house, and the bride would be in some inner room. First, there’d be some polite conversation about the traffic and weather and my education and how it’s all right that I didn’t go to IIT. Then, there’d be an awkward pause, and some friend or sister would be sent to bring the girl. She’d be all decked up, and wouldn’t look at me, and there’d be a lot of giggling, and the said friend or sister would nudge her over. Then, someone would suggest that we speak to each other. We’d end up speaking about where we studied, and the weather, and why I didn’t go to IIT. In my wife’s case, she opened the door herself. And she was wearing an ordinary salwar kameez, and no make-up—at least, not like a sixties movie star, that’s the level of make-up I can spot. She said hi, and she made us all feel comfortable, and wasn’t awkward. She and my mother started trading jokes. And when I spoke, she listened. I knew I liked her immediately.’

19 thoughts on “‘Marriage for men is like puberty for women’: Nandini Krishnan”

  1. After I finished reading the article, I felt I wasted my time. This is not even a real social issue. Modernity has a different definition in India than rest of the world usually derived from bollywood! Inevitably, it’s all fake, full of bullshit and bad for you. A modern man or women wouldn’t let their parents/family smother her/him at the first place! But the whole point of arrange marriage starts with the acceptance that our parents/family is our God and we can’t defy them! I didn’t expect such a brainless, bimbo-gratifying articles in Kafila. Have some standard duh!

    1. I don’t see why this extract should be dismissed as brainless. It shows us how social standards are evolving and how at least some men have different, and more evolved expectations from marriage. However, I do agree that it’s odd to see a post like this on Kafila. When I read the title, I had expected an article that would go deeper into the question of what marriage means to modern Indian men.

      1. Social standards are evolving? Apparently not. Marriage gives a woman money, a “house to set up” and nicer friends than she could have made on her own? What??? Is this some kind of a joke?

        And the finale: “And when I spoke, she listened. I knew I liked her immediately.” The women must be wondering where to line up.

  2. Is there a point to this post? It seems so completely random and unlike the usual posts on kafila.

  3. The book sounds interesting. But why is the extract so short? I can’t get much idea of what the book is about. Are there any more pieces up? Where can I find more information?

  4. The prescriptions and descriptions in this ‘laboured hard’ write-up are happening and shall continue to happen even without marriage.

  5. Very weird to read this kind of tripe in Kafila. I’d like to quote the most cringe-worthy line but there are too many.

  6. Why not? I mean when why can’t we discuss marriage and the changing perceptions and parameters of marriage? I’m sure Kafila must have discussed or will discuss the marriage law bill coming up in the parliament. At that time people who are dissenting now would not mind discussing the expectations people have from their spouses. Obviously the article was written in a lighter vein. And aren’t we discussing status of women in the country? I don’t think that the discussion on marriage and men have to be separate from that.

    The subtitle of kafila clearly says ‘dissent’. I think we as a society are dissenting against the accepted norms for the sacred institution of marriage, by discarding the old notions and adopting the new ones. Its important to discuss them.

    And if people have problem with the humour, then I would like to point out that. Nowhere Kafila says ‘no humour allowed’.

    I personally feel that the article was incomplete, it should have been longer!

  7. Seriously? Putting menstruation on a par with farting and belching in front of another person? I can think of a few differences: One is necessary for the reproduction of the human species – the other one is unnecessary; and one cannot be helped – the other can easily be avoided.

  8. I hope Nandini Krishnan knows that all the people who have expressed utter surprise over this article being on Kafila are complete idiots. This is important, and beautifully written. Thanks!

    1. There can be no dispute that the topic addressed by this piece is pertinent and there is no reason why Kafila should not carry it… but perhaps some have objected only because the piece is very very ordinary and isn’t thought provoking… I was reading JM Coetzee’s Disgrace this morning and then I read this… and honestly I didn’t like it at all.. still am sure lot of people would enjoy the book… my best wishes to the author for the book..

  9. Why some of us feel the need to pigeon hole everything and everyone is beyond me. Who says Kafila is only there to write about politics and such? Not liking the article is one thing, but an outright rejection on the flimsy grounds that you’ve never expected such posts here, is ridiculous. Marriage is a social phenomenon and is going through a radical change as far as the way people think about it is concerned. Many of us think the post is great and may even look forward to reading the book.

  10. The conclusions I got – as a single woman – from this excerpt were:

    1. Farting and belching are natural bodily functions and that as a woman I need to ‘appreciate’ them more.

    2. That apparently marriage will give me more freedom because I’d have married a ‘cool’ guy.

    3. That some guys want women who’ve had a prior relationship, some men really don’t, men’s expectations are changing, some want physically attractive women, some don’t, etc.

    I figure this one chapter seems to discuss men’s expectations, so I’m not going to judge Nandini for putting forth a chapter the entirely male-centric view, but I have to ask Kafila – why have YOU guys decided to put out an excerpt that is so entirely male-centric? What about what WOMEN want from marriage?

    And this statement, regardless that the guy may have been joking, just made me cringe:

    “‘Seriously, marriage is actually quite fun and liberating for a lot of women. Lots of folks don’t have control on their lives before marriage because, well, they’ve never known what control is. Then they get married, and there’s this guy to wine and dine you, shop for you, take you around. You’ve got more money to spend. And your own house to set up. You inherit a lot of friends from your spouse, who are often nicer than your own friends, because you were smart enough to marry a guy much cooler than you!’”

    Fun and liberating marriages exist for a mere fraction of privileged Indian society. For most women, Indian marriage is an archaic, repressive institution that expects women to sacrifice most of their identity and choices and absorb the man’s. I think Kafila readers will more than agree on this, which is why it is surprising that Kafila would

    a. carry a male-centric approach to marriage, their changing attitudes notwithstanding
    b. carry an excerpt that looks at how liberating marriage in India is.
    c. think that this little excerpt which has little analysis or depth would be illuminating for its blog readers.

    Nandini Krishnan is entitled to write about a slice of upper-class/elite experience of marriage (and I have serious doubts of my own about whether there is real liberation there).

    But on Kafila, it is the alternative viewpoint that we come to read. That is just not represented here.

  11. I’m appalled at the absence of analysis in this extract. One can only hope that the rest of the chapter may contain it. Judging from this extract, however, one is not too sanguine. It seems that a rather promising topic is thrown away. For starters, the author and/or her respondents in the book are unaware that farting and belching are normal human bodily functions for women as well (if, of course, one agrees that women are humans). Since men seem so blissfully unaware of it, it is much more likely that MEN are the ones who need to accept this simple fact. Or perhaps it might ring the death knell of innocence for most men to learn *after* their marriage that women too fart. (Haaw!)

    It goes downhill right from there. As if women don’t have pot-bellies. Or scratchy underarms. Or that women don’t wear undies (gasp! even unsightly ones). Another commenter has already pointed out the fallacy of comparing farting and belching with menstruation, so I will not repeat the point.

    What irks me much more is the bland listing of (some) men’s expectations from their future wives. What exactly is the point? Where is the author’s commentary on the insidiousness of patriarchy under the garb of defining what the “modern woman” is, or should be? Every bullet point listed there is an example of how the so-called “modern” man is the one who gets to decide his own idea of a modern wife as per his convenience; whereas for women, modernity is yet another checklist that gets handed down to them, that they must abide by, so that they may yet be worthy of desire-worship.

    Lastly, where is the explanation of the title of the piece? Is it covered in that quote from Saurabh – “Remember when you, as a girl, got up close and personal with menstruation. That’s what most guys go through in the first month of marriage, unless they’ve been in a live-in relationship before.” ? Really? Thank you for enlightening us that only girls attain puberty when they experience menarche and that boys have to wait for puberty till they start living with a menstruating woman! All these years I imagined that boys too reach puberty in their teens! Imagine that.

    But I bear Kafila no grudge for this post. They have done worse.

  12. so many people write abt this subject in america and france, why not india since dating rules are different? nothing’s wrong with article. it’s a point of view that should be welcomed, not criticized.

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