Keeping the vow
Courtship & Marriage is an easy-to-read guide that provides an understanding into what is happening in one's relationship. GOUTAM GHOSH on the book's relevance today.
VIJAY NAGASWAMI, a psychiatrist by training and a marriage counsellor by choice, wrote Courtship & Marriage: A Guide for Indian Couples because ``The novel I wrote is loaded with non-fictional material on this theme. So the theme deserved a separate focus, because the books in India tend to pivot on sex for marital happiness. Books on relationships exist in the West but many are not reader-friendly.''
Courtship and Marriage (C& M) is a guide with a difference. Unlike ``guides'' that students reach out for before an exam, this book analyses the marital relationship in depth without using baffling jargon which would have made reading almost impossible and understanding even more difficult.
The 256-page book with 26 chapters, the last being just two paragraphs long, is a breeze to read. Let me hasten to add that given the gravity of the issue, the clarity of thought aids the reader to race along. The language is simple which again makes reading easy.
C & M has its share of modern usage. A psychiatrist is a ``shrink'', a slang term that does not raise an eyebrow today. The book is for the Indian readers (it refers to sati savitri for instance) though even Western couples could gain from it if they took pains to prepare the suggested worksheets to identify and trace the origin of kinks in their attitude.
When Dr. Nagaswami wrote, ``When I use the term marriage, I refer to not merely the legal covenant binding two individuals but also any committed intimate relationship entered into by two consenting adults filled with a strong desire to spend the rest of their lives together,'' he probably never thought of couples like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones who began their conjugal life with watertight clauses of fidelity, implying thereby the intrinsic inclination of the spouse to promiscuity and who had to be restrained legally from enjoying alimony benefits in case adventurism led to divorce. But such contractual unions and fidelity are quite likely to end in disaster an eventuality that is not the focus of C&M. The spirit of the book is positive.
C & M promises to ``provide an understanding of what is happening in your relationship... There are unconscious factors... which, if unresolved, present seemingly insurmountable obstacles to our growth. We must acknowledge their presence, understand their origins and make conscious effort to eliminate them. To do this we need tools with which we can start debugging ourselves. This book provides you with the tools ...'' A promise that the book more than fulfils.
The analysis of the sub-conscious processes is excellent, and one may be motivated to look around with sharpened insight to identify and analyse the many tottering relationships (including one's own perhaps!)
There are methods suggested to prepare checklists oneself, but no ``Step1- Step10-Bliss'' that usually constitute the tools in self-improvement books from the West. The reason is, the input has to be emotional, not intellectual, and ``Step1-Step10-Bliss'' is a distilled intellectual exercise.
The tools offer a tacit assurance that they will work to make the reader a better person, provided one is brutally honest with oneself and one's spouse and is willing to re-invest one's emotion (he calls it secondary commitment) in the relationship. As Dr. Nagaswami states in a sub-heading in his book, ``Have your scotch on the rocks, not your marriage''. His book is a platter with a set of tools to prime up a relationship. And the best is he does not condemn anyone.
``But why write a book? If any one needs counselling, marriage counsellors can be approached'' you may wonder. At a recent discussion with Dr. Nagaswami, he insisted that many hesitate to visit a counsellor till they are directed by family courts to try to work out the relationship, which means the ``committed consensual relationship'' (as he put it in his book) is at the last rites stage. ``It is easier to read a book. And long before it is too late,'' he said.
Certainly, when the book is as good as C & M is.
Courtship & Marriage: A Guide for Indian Couples, by Dr. Vijay Nagaswami, Penguin Books, 256 pages, Rs. 250
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