Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Institution of Marriage

This happened in the winter of '83.

We were a few months away from graduation. Before the young engineers step out in the real world, colleges usually send them on what is called the 'Industrial Tour'. Since industrial tours involve visiting industries to see how work is actually executed, it should be possible to conduct this tour in and around the city. But no. It had to be a tour of a distant region and in all cases had to involve the dream world, Goa. So here we were a class of some 30-40 students in a train towards Goa to see the industries in Goa on the beaches.

In the train, were two young (older than us, of course) guys. I remember, one was from Holland and the other was from the US. This chap from Holland became very friendly with us. He sand along with us when we were singing at top of our voice, "we shall overcome ...", one line in English and the next in Hindi. After we were all hoarse, this chap from Holland and I got up and stood near the door of the train, talking. This was the first time I was talking to a person not from India, so I was very curious and was extracting information from him about Holland and Europe, and at the same time trying to match the information with my knowledge gleaned from books. I do not remember the details, but I remember just this excerpt...

"Are you married?"
"No. The institution of marriage is dead."

And then he launched into a big explanation why marriage is a dead institution and how he and his girl-friend were perfectly happy living together.

I do not remember the rest. Though I do remember that my friends and I had a whale of a time at Goa. And that all of it was not spent visiting factories.

All this came back to me as I am reading the Logic of Life by Tim Harford. To give you the complete title of the book, it is called The Logic Of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World. (One of my senior colleagues picked up the book when I was not at desk and read a few pages and commented, "This is like a 'Sex Manual'. But that is another story).

The book, among other aspects of life, discusses marriages and divorces, and the rational, economic reasons behind these. The funny thing about the book is that it is not categorized under economics. Rather the back cover indicates that this book belongs to Current Affairs genre of books.

In any case, in 2009, marriages and divorces are still current affairs. People do marry (and divorce.) My friend from Holland was wrong after all. The institution of marriage is not yet dead.

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1 comment:

Heidi said...

Great post.
Even here in "puritanical America," the divorce rate is boggling.
Marriage does matter. It is the foundation of the family. Without it, we are boats without rudders.
There have been times when I have been tempted to divorce. I have held onto my marriage, because I made a vow to God and a vow to my husband to stay with him. Each time I overcome the temptation, I am so happy and glad that I made it. My marriage really is a precious gift, and on days that it is good, I know that I would never experience the blessings I do if I were to succomb to the temptation to throw it away.
Thanks for this post -- great fodder.

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