An act towards happiness

Family members play an important role in the couple’s life, but there needs to be a clear boundary that should not be crossed. - JASMEET KAUR

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Photo: Apna Humsafar (Punjabi Matromony) via Flickr

By Jasmeet KaurOpinion |

The Sikh wedding ceremony is named as Anand Karaj. It translates into ‘blissful event’ or an ‘act towards happiness’. It is aptly named so, as marriage is a happy occasion and is purported to bring more happiness. Tons of research carried out on marriage report that married people are generally happier than their single counterparts. However, there are also many who disagree with such research findings and find singleton’s to be happier. Well, each to his own and I believe that being married or single is a personal choice and it comes with its own pros and cons.

As for myself, I boarded the bandwagon and committed myself to marriage. My spouse and I participated in the traditional Sikh wedding ceremony firmly believing that it is an act towards happiness. The four lavan’s (circumambulating the holy scripture Granth Sahib as part of the wedding ceremony while the marriage vows are sung)are meaningful and it captures the essence of marriage beautifully. The palla (ceremonial scarf) held by my spouse and I as we performed the lavan signified that we were united in a sacred bond.

BOUNDARIES

After the Anand Karaj and wedding festivities are completed, the reality of marriage gradually sets in. As with any couple, it is not always sunshine and rainbows, but it depends on both partners to work things out and make it blissful and harmonious. There is always much joy when couples reconcile after tiffs; sunshine and rainbows abound. Nevertheless, what happens when there are meddlesome family members who tend to think that they are in charge of the marriage between the couple? Undoubtedly, family members play an important role in the couple’s life, however, there needs to be a clear boundary that should not be crossed. Both the husband and wife must be firm in setting the boundaries. When there are no boundaries, the act towards happiness will defeat its purpose as it will lead to the contrary.

The set boundaries are applicable to everyone including the matriarchs and patriarchs of the family albeit their age as age does not equate with wisdom. Many a times, one spouse (no prize for guessing which spouse) will unfortunately become the victim of double standards and the holier than thou mentality. There will be relentless unnecessary comments that derails the marriage from its definition. The comments and interference ranges from matters such as dressing, culinary prowess, financial ability, childbearing ability and even petty stuff that does not matter. Double standards are applied to different genders and the spouse who is considered as the outsider within the family. I have observed many who suffer in silence and keep swallowing their pride to avoid conflicts. This is a result of cultural conditioning since childhood that one should respect elders and not talk back. In addition, talking back could lead to a broken marriage, which remains a matter of shame to date. 

I am all for respect, not just for the elders but for everyone. Respect is a two-way street, in order to gain respect, one must give respect. How does one dish out respect for someone who does not respect them and oversteps boundaries? This very issue of double standards, disrespect and crossing boundaries snatches away the happiness in a marriage. I do not envisage any family members wanting to be the reason to inflict unhappiness in a marriage unless they have malicious intentions or are just inconsiderate unhappy beings. It could also be plain ignorance and being oblivious to their behaviour. I would like to think the best of every being and assume that they are oblivious to the issues they are causing.

SOLUTION

The feasible solution I can think of to curb these issues are creating awareness, being respectful and jettisoning the double standards and holier than thou mentality and attitude. As Sikhism is a progressive religion that sees all individuals as equals regardless of their gender, race, socio-economic status etc, every person must be treated equally with respect. The family members should treat the couple equally and respect them as an individual. This will ensure harmony and the true meaning of Anand Karaj to be embodied as happiness will be guaranteed.

Some ways of creating awareness is through sermons in Gurdwara’s and making short indie films addressing these issues. This is because media has a large outreach and impact on the community. These are bridges towards changing mindsets and the reconditioning of unsuitable values that does not serve well and should not be passed on to the next generation. It will not change overnight and may take generations before real change will be apparent. However, we must start somewhere in order to create the change and progress.

Apart from that, the storyline of most Punjabi / Hindi movies and dramas aired on television tend to depict characters who perpetuate the very values of disdain and crude language. The matriarchs and patriarchs too are stereotyped to behave in a certain manner. This makes the public imitate such values and believe that it is acceptable.  It imparts the wrong values to the masses. The movie makers need to diversify their genre and storyline to keep away such unwanted values. Movies are made for entertainment and need not be a moral lesson, but the positive values should be subtly woven into the storyline. In the long run, the values will be absorbed by the masses and we will begin to see the desired outcome. Some contemporary movies have begun addressing these issues; kudos to those film makers.

MARRIAGE COURSES

In our local context within the Malaysian Sikh community, I strongly believe that more needs to be done. There should be talks and workshops organised for families and couples addressing the various issues plaguing the community. Marriage courses and refresher courses should also be organised for couples. Marriage courses should be made compulsory for couples intending to tie the knot. The courses and workshops should be made fun and interesting so as to ensure active participation. It can be organised in almost every state where there is a substantial Sikh community.

Perhaps, a needs analysis could also be carried out in the preliminary stages so as to identify the needs and a plan can then be drawn up based on that. All of this is ideal and could be a catalyst for change and community empowering. I am happy to contribute and collaborate with relevant parties if such programmes take flight.

In summary, Anand Karaj is a meaningful and precious ceremony that binds two individuals in a sacred bond. It takes a lot to sustain a marriage and keep it happy for a lifetime. It is only possible to sustain a marriage if there is mutual respect, love and much more not only between the couple but also their families. Hence, family members need to ensure that they respect the couple as individuals and provide support without being overly intrusive and overstepping boundaries. The boundaries are important to maintain happy and cordial relationships. As a community, there needs to be support to empower and educate the members of the community so that we have an informed and empowered Sikh community.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jasmeet Kaur is a professional in the finance sector based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is passionate about spreading happiness and joy. Her interests include nature walks, cooking, reading and spending quality time with her little family.

RELATED STORY:

Anand Karaj: A marriage ceremony with a difference (Asia Samachar, 17 June 2023)

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