I had a busy spring between launching 40 Women to Watch Over 40 and an interesting consulting project that took me to India to do some “research with Indian 20-somethings and young families. Such an optimistic and driven culture was immersed in over the course of a week. The above is a picture of a mural in Pune, India. The peacock is an important symbol in India, a symbol of grace, joy and renewal. People often talk about how colorful India, but like the peacock who without his feathers expanded, is colorless and gray, the colors provide a juxtaposition to the oft dirty city streets. The color of India is celebration of life.
Today I am sharing one of my “40:20 vision” observations from the trip …on marriage. In India arranged marriages are still the norm. So when there is a “love” marriage it is “a struggle”. A fight for love that often comes with the loss of emotional and financial support from the family, which is so important in India.
One woman I met, her name is Shradha, spoke of her “love” marriage as her greatest happiness yet also her biggest challenge. While she gets ostracized on the street, her husband and family represent purity and peace in a rapidly changing world.” There is a ton of change reverberating across India as they embrace modernization, particularly with women, many of whom are bucking the social and cultural norms to find love on their own.
On a side note, Shradha personally felt the tension of modernization as she went from working (a rarity in her relatively smaller town) to being a housewife to entrepreneur. Passionate about sewing, she started a design business from her home. A true blend of old and new technology, she is taking designs from all over the world on her computer and bringing them to life on her old-fashioned sewing machine!
But what I learned from Shradha is that perhaps when you have to “work at” a relationship you appreciate it more. Shradha spoke so much about enjoying the little moments and the joy from the everyday…and I could see that play out in her interactions with her family. You have to go against the odds and social norms, often at the expense of the emotional and financial support of your family. That requires a true commitment to the relationship — a value on knowing it is worth it.
There was an overall sense in India of an appreciation for the fruits of your labor. They may have to work hard but the work is enjoyable because it is getting them to a better place and giving them opportunities they never had. They are enjoying the journey as much as the end result. Where here indulgence is often an escape from stress or a pampering release…there they associated indulgence with immersion in an experience that is an effort — from studying to playing cricket …or in Shradha’s case, her marriage and efforts at earning back the love of her family.
Many of the 40-somethings I talk to here who are in fulfilling marriages do say it takes some work …work meaning an awareness of the other and their situation and a willingness to tough it though rough patches. What they believed and “know now” is that the highs are higher than the lows but also that they can’t rely on their partner for their highs. Just like the peacock, you take the gray with the brilliant.