I’m just back from attending a wedding in my ancestral village. While there, I thought many times about some wise people who were no more. And about what they’d said to me, off and on, over the years. Naturally, I also thought about their views on marriage. A rule, which they had said was time-tested, came to mind.
‘If you want progress for your son and for your family, marry him to a woman who hails from a better family. If you want a secure and dignified future for your daughter, marry her to a man who is a rising star in his family’.
As profound and simple rules do, this one too leaves unsaid the routine but not unimportant stuff that people anyway pay attention to while match-making. It doesn’t say that if the man or woman or their families fail obvious standards, then a mere application of the rule would make for a good marriage. As enduring rules do, this one too allows for a dynamic definition of ‘progress’, ‘better’, ‘secure’, ‘dignified’, and ‘rising star’. So it lets people decide for themselves, and in keeping with their times, whether these terms are to be interpreted on the basis of anthropological, social, political or economic value.
All it says, is that one could use the rule as a supplement to one’s own good sense and judgement. Even if it were the man and the woman deciding by themselves about a life together.
Ok. So a man should marry a woman from a better family. Because she would have higher standards, expectations and aspirations. Because she would want an even better life for their kids. If the man could understand and appreciate that, then he would be propelled forward. And if the man’s family could understand and appreciate that, then they would be propelled forward too. By virtue of a unit in the family getting propelled forward and raising the bar for other units. Needless to say, that an insecure man and his ungrateful family would waste time and effort in trying to make the better woman conform to their lower standards. Also, that a woman with a chip on her shoulder about being from a better family, could never be a propelling force with her condescending ways.
But why would a woman marry beneath herself ? Well, she could, if the family were only a little beneath hers. And she found a man who was a rising star in that family and looked all set to exceed her standards and expectations in the near future. She would be the appreciated additional propelling factor in the early days of marriage and a respected participant in the later days. Besides, the woman marrying a little beneath herself would also satisfy the condition that is good for her man. That he should marry above himself. It’s a win-win match.
A woman marrying above her would need to have high personal qualities to avoid the possibility of being ignored or made subservient.
Sure, there are many exceptions that defy the rule, for reasons I can understand, and for reasons I can’t. But when I look around, and look within, it appears to me that the underlying spirit of the rule applies more often than it does not.
Forget marriage. Forget man and woman. Forget old times and new. Examine for yourself how we hire people into our organisations.
Do we have any theory at all to guide our hiring decisions after we have assessed the education, experience, skills and behaviour of the candidates ? Do we frequently manage to get in people better than ourselves ? Can we prove to them that we are rising stars worth joining with even if it’s a little beneath them to do so ? Often times, not.
It’s very common to want to go into a better family. Therfore it’s very easy to bring in someone like that from a lesser family. It's yet another kind of a match. You decide if it's a win-win. You decide if you want to continue to hire like that.
Or hire, as the wise people do.