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“Vows” people take February 14, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, contemplation, life.
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Tyler Cowen posts about his media secrets – stuff that he reads but doesn’t quite link/cite on his blog and those that are rather non-obvious. Among them are some which would also get into my “media secrets” : Modern Love column of the NYTimes, Scientific American and the marriage pronouncements in the Times. The Modern Love column is certainly one of its kind and its harder to describe whats its about than to read it yourself and figure out.

The Vows columns ( which this post is about ) is more like news of people getting married – talks about people’s backgrounds, how they met and whole lot of other little details ( in about 800 words I guess ) with an accompanying photograph. It helps in understanding a small subset of a society so different from your own – what people do, people’s career curves, how marriages really happen, curves in personal life and the like. Ofcourse, its anecdotal rather than empirical, but for a subject of this nature, I would prefer anecdotal accounts rather than a 30 page .pdf report with charts, graphs and tables. ( some relations to the previous post ). Some of these stories are queer and incredible partly because a society that provides a wide range of possibilities, that is eseentially individualistic and encourages innovation in every sphere of life, the range of life stories and growth charts are huge. Like this couple who “began a conversation that with a three-decade interruption would last nearly a lifetime”, ( or here is another one ) these are ones that I would not imagine happening in India and for this reason alone it worth a read.

I would infact like to see another type of column – something to do with Ph.Ds and their graduate school thesis advisors. That is another relationship in society though far less common than marriage, still something I ( and certainly lots of aspiring graduate students ) would love to read about. Or perhaps between a favorite teacher-student pair from high school who perhaps later became friends. To someone who has many a teacher that he has adored over the  years,  its always a pleasure to exchange thoughts on how we used to be in school, what we thought of each other when they first met etc. I personally believe these columns are far useful, meaningful and uplifting, if you will, than the “agony aunt” sort of columns I make a point never to read.

Ofcourse if the purpose was merely “understanding a small subset of a society so different from your own – what people do, people’s career curves, how marriages really happen, curves in personal life”, then even this set of columns will in some sense serve that purpose. But then, as an understatement of the decade, let me assert that looking forward to one’s death is a bit less palatable than the possibility of being a witness to or a part of an extraordinary love story.

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