What is marriage?

What is marriage?

What exactly is marriage? Is it a state? A feeling? A compulsion? An institution? A financial understanding? Even if you could zero in on any of these, would that still capture the flavour – the essence – of what marriage is exactly?

Probably not. One clear answer is highly unlikely. Marriage is different things to different people. For some, marriage is like a salad – toss a few ingredients together, season, taste; sometimes salty, sometimes sour, at other times insipid. Takes a lot of practice to get it just right, involves a fair amount of innovativeness and improvisation. You could be making salads all your life and still there will be the days when something goes horribly wrong or something is so right that it surprises even you.

For others, marriage is like the parcel in the game, covered in layers and layers of paper. You uncover layer after layer, wondering when the last one will come and at each stage you come across a new chit telling you what to do. Anticipation, trepidation, discovery, elation or disappointment... the parcel does its rounds in what seems to be a never-ending routine. And there’s no telling what gift is in the last box, whether there is a gift at all and whether you will even like it.

There are those who will tell you marriage is like karela – bitter gourd. The bitterness is intrinsic but with some careful salting and cooking, it makes a delicious dish that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.

The botanist may come up with the idea that marriage is like a sunflower. You think it’s a flower but it’s actually an inflorescence and the petals are florets – it’s not what it seems from the outside. Yet, it’s attractive, bright, looking to the warmth and light of the sun at all times.

The maths teacher will say marriage is like a sum: given certain variables you have to work out a solution which at times is easy, at other times apparently beyond your capacity. But there is a solution – waiting to be worked out in a series of steps. And even if you cannot get the solution to every sum, there are marks for the attempt to work it out – so even a seemingly impossible situation is not the end of the world.

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