Sunday March 25, 2018

Marriage is a commitment, not contract


By Nithin Sridhar

The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to grant a divorce by mutual consent to a couple after it found out that the couple had decided to part ways because the husband had promised to pay for his wife’s treatment if she gave her consent for divorce.

The couple married in 2010 and applied for divorce by mutual consent in 2013. The Apex Court observed that the woman, who was suffering from breast cancer, agreed for the divorce after her husband offered to give an alimony of 12.5 lakhs so that she could use the money for her treatment.

Upholding the sanctity and sacredness of the marriage, the bench headed by Justice MY Eqbal stated: It is a duty of the respondent (husband) to take care of the health and safety of the petitioner (wife). In the instant case also it is a primary duty of the husband only to provide facilities for the treatment of the petitioner. This is a pre-existing duty of the husband, provided the husband has sufficient means and he is diligently doing his part in taking care of her.”

The SC judgment is very significant on multiple counts. Firstly, it sent a strong signal that divorce could not be used as a medium to run away from one’s responsibilities. Secondly, it upheld the fact that though homemakers do not earn money, they do contribute towards the family and equally share happiness and sorrow thereof. Thirdly, it upheld the sanctity and sacredness of marriage.

What is marriage after all? Is it just a contract that can be broken anytime, anywhere on a whim? Or is it a commitment, a bond that has a higher purpose?

The Sanskrit term for marriage is: ‘Vivaha’, which means ‘that which imparts special rights’ (vishesena vahati iti vivaha). But, what special rights is it speaking about? The ‘special rights’ here refers to the right of each couple to share their life, their goals, their duties, and their destinies with each other. In other words, ‘Vivaha’ gives the couple ‘Right’ to enter Grihastha Ashrama– the stage of married life, which is vital not only for achieving social welfare but also for individual spiritual uplifting. This is best highlighted in the marriage vows uttered during the Sapthapadi ritual of marriage:

Let us walk together, hand in hand, the seven steps symbolic of the aspirations below;
May We take the first step together for sap (nourishment);
May We take the second step together for vigor;
May We take the third step together for thriving wealth;
May We take the fourth step together for comfort;
May We take the fifth step together for offspring;
May We take the sixth step together for the various seasons;
May We take the seventh step together for everlasting friendship;
You be my unswerving partner; let us have many auspicious progeny who shall see long life crossing 80 years.

Thus, marriage is not just a contract similar to business deals. It is a bond, a commitment between husband and wife to share the body, mind, and soul for the purpose of achieving the fourfold goals of life: Dharma (duty), Kama (desire), Artha (wealth), Moksha (liberation).

It is for this reason that the Court observed: “Hindu marriage is a sacred and holy union of husband and wife by virtue of which the wife is completely transplanted in the household of her husband and takes a new birth. It is a combination of bone to bone and flesh to flesh.

This commitment cannot be one sided. Both the spouses are bound to keep the commitment. Such a marriage, wherein the couples stay together in times of happiness but separate when their spouses fall on bad times, is no marriage at all.

This does not mean, divorce as such is wrong. It is just that divorce should not be used as a self-serving tool. The husband who wants to have a divorce because his wife is suffering from cancer is disregarding the very first two vows of providing nourishment and vigor to his wife.

Instead of supporting his wife in difficult times, he is promising to give her money in return for a divorce, thereby making a complete mockery of the sacred institution of marriage.

Alas, the fact is that a large number of people today in this secularized fast moving world, have reduced marriage from being a sacred commitment to being a self-serving contract that is devoid of love, selflessness, and dedication.

The Court rightly addressed this particular case by asking the husband to first fulfill his duty towards his wife by getting her treated and then ask for a divorce. But, the society is yet to address the continuous downfall of marriage from being all about commitment, duty, and love to being a business contract.


Also Read: Vivaha Panchami: Celebrating Rama’s marriage to Sita

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Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.