Indian weddings are full of fun, excitement, pomp, flavour, rituals, drama and expectations. Yeah, that ugly word comes in at the end as well. And why should there be expectations, you would say. “My best friend is getting married. And we don’t married every day, so it has to be a special event.” “She’s my only daughter. I have worked hard for last 25 years for this day. I want to marry her will all the pomp and fervour that I can afford.” Says the father of the bride

But with expectations, as always, the challenge is the degree of reality, viability and feasibility of the same. The reason I choose the dialogue “Meri Beti Ko Hamesha Khush Rakhna” (Always keep my daughter happy), is because of the burden of expectations that the father is passing on to the groom. More than that, the huge vote of no confidence that he is putting in his own daughter, is probably the starting point of all problems for the girl as she is getting into this ultra critical phase of her life.  Its akin to a Dad telling his son’s cricket coach, please be nice to my son, kindly ensure he has to face easy deliveries, so he can hit all of them to the boundary. Would he say that? Of course NOT, he wants his son to learn it all the hard way. Then why this level of softness to the daughter? Can she not take ownership of her own happiness, that the onus of the same has to be passed on from her father to her husband, as if it is some family jewel?

The reason I chose this use-case to highlight the meaning of happiness, is that it straight away attacks one of our core beliefs. That the man is responsible for the happiness of everyone else in the family. Being the provider, being the bread earner and being a caretaker, is HUGELY different from being responsible for happiness. 

A man might be earning well, his family is living in a nice house, safe and secure. Can that guarantee the happiness of his family?

  • Can it guarantee that the non-working wife would going from one kitty party to a coffee meetup to a pick-up-and-drop service for the kids while the man is gone on a month long work trip and she will be happy?
  • Can it guarantee that his son will be fine doing his maths homework by himself, as he is coming back home late from work due to long meetings and client dinners that he has to attend and he will be happy?
  • Can it guarantee that his daughter will be fine to missing the Ed Sheeran concert in Mumbai as its not feasible for her to travel to the city alone with her friends, and she will still be happy?

I cite the famous quote from Leo Tolstoy: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Similarly, all members in the family are happy for same reason. But for being unhappy, they all have their own reasons.

If we pass on the key to our happiness to others, we will always be looking for support. Does not mean that a wife should not expect for her husband to keep her happy, get her flowers, take her on vacation, etc. The husband, to the best of his abilities will do that. And he is not doing that for her happiness alone. He is doing it as he is aware that his happiness is linked to her happiness as well. But is his happiness linked to her happiness alone? No, he has other avenues to get happy.  A great deal won at work, boss giving him a praise (or a raise or both), a great time over drinks with a close friend, a nice round of golf, etc. Then does she also have his flowers, his vacation, his gifts as the only source of her happiness? Why should she? She has as much a right and obligation to build her own arsenal of reasons to be happy. And having a job/profession is definitely a sure shot way to build a large repertoire of the reasons. Just with one act, the level of balance achieved is quite significant.

The important part here, is once we retain the key of our own happiness, we should not become ‘ignorant’ or ‘indifferent’ to the efforts of others, more importantly the ‘failed attempt’ others. The latter is far far more critical. The flowers that the husband could not get because the shop had closed. The vacation they could not go because the kids exams got postponed, etc. These ‘failed attempts’  have far more meaning, as many of them would have been attempted in moments of adversity and challenge. One should not discount the effort behind them, just because they failed.

One should ultimately look for happiness without any act or action, from others or from oneself. That’s the first step towards eternal peace and tranquil life. If one can find happiness in the pure breath of fresh air, in the first ray of light in the morning, in the beauty of the setting Sun, in the serenity of the full moon, etc. one can find it lot more easier to handle many tough moments in life with a smile and feel happy about it.

And why just the groom? the wife keeps her husband happy in a million plus ways. Why does the groom’s mom not tell the bride “Mere Bete ko hamesha khush rakhna.” ? or is it something that is just assumed as a given?

I know this topic is a highly debatable one.. so welcome your comments, feedback and additional points. 

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Hetal Sonpal

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