After there was an uproar that Indian Institute of Technology-Banaras Hindu University was launching a course on how to be a good daughter-in-law, the Registrar of the Institute declared in a statement that the news was false. The rumour spread because one of the university’s alliance partners had planned this start-up in collaboration with another private body in the city. We may heave a sigh of relief that a course called “Adarsh Bahu” doesn’t exist in an engineering college but it’s fair to recognise that if it did, it would be as tough to crack as IIT JEE (at least, practically).
If one is being charitable, we may view the creators of “Adarsh Bahu” as brave innovators, who, in their own blundering fashion, are trying to apply sound management techniques from MBA schools, to marriages. It’s also a tacit acknowledgement, yes, Indian men’s parents are very difficult and women need to study them carefully, to survive. I, for one, think, whoever’s brainchild this was is onto something, despite the tragic mistake of making the course gender specific. Both men and women struggle with meeting the high expectations of modern marriages and in the Indian context it is worse. Extended family is forever present, offering advice no one asked them for. Considering all the meaningless stuff we’re taught in school and college about the variety of India’s cash crops, for instance, it’s crazy there’s no formal training on how to negotiate fragile relationships, the failure of which leads to so much unhappiness all around.
Marriage is hard and it’s only getting harder. It’s all too common to hear how some of the smartest people around have stumbled into marriages heedlessly, for all the wrong reasons. Because it was expected, or they thought it was the right thing to do, or their parents pressured them. Probe a little further and the confessions pour out. It appears half of humanity got married out of politeness because they didn’t know how to extricate themselves from a situation. Not good enough reasons (if there can ever be any) to last a lifetime with another person. The young don’t have adequate communication skills and skirt the big issues till they explode. The anti-climactic launch of “Adarsh Bahu”, which has so much wrong about it, starting with the cringeworthy name, makes baby steps in the right direction by pointing to the brutal truth, it’s not easy being married, and you’re better off preparing for it. It’s guidance that Indian parents fail spectacularly at imparting, neither does it come from watching When Harry Met Sally.
It is one of those maddening perversities of life that you learn there are no soul mates (or, conversely, way too many of them) only after you have already made a pledge of lifelong devotion. Since a lot of life’s happiness depends on the quality of one’s marriage, it’s a wonder that we don’t go about choosing a partner more scientifically. Popular culture has successfully sold gullible singles a falsehood, that to be happily married you have only to find the right person. So it comes as a huge shock that what you thought was right is all wrong a few years down. While theoretical concepts mostly go flying into oblivion once you are faced with a real-life context, a marriage prep course on managing conflict as a central theme, can only help. Love at first sight may be real. It’s surviving — till death do us apart — that’s the real challenge.