Musings over a cup of tea-Part II

Bisma Tirmizi

A lighter issue I ponder today, but maybe not that light; just written with a tad bit of humour and some passé amusement. I was sixteen years old when my uncle suggested I get engaged to his son. Fifteenth century England or the city of Sukkur in the state of Sindh, Pakistan, latter I reckon.

I was oblivious to the existence of my cousin but once told, I seemed to be a smitten kitten, why, I truly wonder now? My education was at a prestigious school, I spoke some French and fluent English, mingled in the upper middle class society of Lahore and Sarghoda and most importantly and essentially I was a mid teen. Tariq, the prospective seventeen year old was a teenager living in Sukkur, he seemed to have some aspirations for himself and wanted to join the armed forces and become a military officer. Surprising was the fact that his family had no military background, but not so surprising was the reality that he was a mediocre student with limited career options due to his lack of will.

I attended a coed school therefore my male cousins were never my first line of romance, but since there was a big fancy family wedding, romance and hormones were raging in unison. The high point of the engagement arrangement was when the two of us strolled to the Sukkur midtown market and amidst the smog and fumes of the rickshaws, buses, mini buses, taxis, cycles, dented cars and dented pedestrians declared our joy to the world.

The following day my family drove back to Lahore as did my affections for cousin dear, out of sight out of mind, the engagement arrangement considered hung in my mind. Once back home I made my intentions clear, and my overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia helped me into the brave decision of telling my parents that I wanted a way out. My mother was a very courageous woman and had given me the confidence to be the same; I fought tooth and nail and delicately extricated myself from the mess to be and made true the quote by Mark Twain, `It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’ I may have looked like a little Russian Samoyed but I fought like a Pit Bull, for my future, self-preservation and a little something called my life, my choice. In hindsight it was a very wise decision.

Adam Grant, an expert on success and work motivation, and a professor at Wharton wrote a paper titled `How to think like a wise person’ in which he cited the following example.

Imagine meeting a 15-year-old girl who plans to get married next week. What would you tell her?

Here’s a response that scored low in wisdom: A 15-year-old girl wants to get married? No, no way, marrying at age 15 would be utterly wrong. One has to tell the girl that marriage is not possible. (After further probing) It would be irresponsible to support such an idea. No, this is just a crazy idea.

In contrast, wise people embraced nuance and multiple perspectives. Consider one answer that received high marks for wisdom: Well, on the surface, this seems like an easy problem. On average, marriage for 15-year-old girls is not a good thing. But there are situations where the average case does not fit. Perhaps in this instance, special life circumstances are involved, such that the girl has a terminal illness. Or the girl has just lost her parents. And also, this girl may live in another culture or historical period. Perhaps she was raised with a value system different from ours. In addition, one has to think about adequate ways of talking with the girl and to consider her emotional state.

I can obviously claim that no such wise argument was put forward to dissuade me from going ahead with the engagement but God in his ultimate wisdom and strategy had chosen another path for me.

I went on with my life merrily, and married almost twelve years later for affection, happiness, familiarity, fondness, peace, or maybe that thing called love. My cousin’s ego, was a little bruised, but apparently no hearts were broken, no Heer Ranhja story etched but only a simple observation — if the union had happened two siblings would have divorced, since in laws almost always seem to, and two hearts would have broken. There is little wisdom in cousins getting married.

Marriage however wonderful is complicated, why make it more complicated to begin with by adding cousins, family, siblings to the mix.  There are over seven billion people on this planet, when looking for marriage, arranged or otherwise look outside the family, for the preservation of family.

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