I was going through the morning newspaper. The debate about the uniform civil code was on in full swing. Lot of activists accused the Muslims of wanting to continue having four wives. Progressive Muslims formed at the mouth and reminded all about the terrible row many sadhus and traditionalist Hindus at that time made when the uniform Hindu Civil Code was passed in parliament. It was very common among many communities of Hindus to have more than one wife at that time. Even at present, it went on clandestinely in many parts of the country.
There was a soft knock on the door. And a gentle cough, like a soft apology. I opened the door, to find Dr. H.R. Guru, MBPS, standing outside, clad in a dhoti and white shirt. The beard was white and reached the navel. He stroked it and smiled.
I was astonished. Guru was coming into the house for the first time. I moved aside, and he came in. I mean- he didn’t wait for me to invite him in. It irritated me a bit. Then he sat down on the couch.
“Sit” he commanded, as if he was the host. I complied.
“Ok- you are getting this now. You realize that there are a lot of psychological mental processes that are put in place by evolution, partly coded in our genes. Various mental propensities of human beings act in concert, without any of us being aware of them, and drive history in a purposeful direction. Miracles happen. Unlikely systems develop and evolve. And they cannot be explained by biological evolution. “ He stopped for breath.
“No.” I said. “The process is too fast for biological evolution. Meme spread is not the same. The selection process of memes is our own mental one. It was you who suggested that. “
He stroked his beard and looked like a cat that has had cream.
“Hmm…I bet there are things you wouldn’t dream of.”
“Such as?” I was becoming irritated.
“Like the fact that monogamy is a conspiracy of men.”
I gaped. The man was obviously talking crap. I waited for him to explain.
“You see. Now the entire so called civilized world thinks that polygyni is very regressive. Monogamy is the allowed norm. How come?”
“We are a pair-bonding species. Our infants have a prolonged helpless childhood. The father has to stick around. We are intensely groupish. The family is the basis of society.” I was firm with my words. I could not tolerate such talks against the dignity of women.
“That may be. But being Highly Realistic, let us look at ourselves from a zoology point of view. There are perfectly pair-bonding, perfectly monogamous animals. They include some varieties of wolves. Among our closest ape-cousins, the gibbons are almost perfectly monogamous. Mate for life and no infidelity. In such animals, there is no difference in appearance or size between males and females. The mated couple looks almost identical. In contrast, when in species where a single male keeps a large harem of females and guards them by jealously chasing other males away, the male is garish, decorated and huge when compared to the female. The male gorilla is double the size of a female. Look at humans. Our males are slightly bigger than the females. They also look slightly different, with beards and all. Genetic evidence from Y chromosomal DNA analysis shows that the variation is smaller than other somatic chromosomes. In evolutionary history, we are descended from fewer males than females. There is evidence from anthropologists. Among 1400 or so Societies studied, almost 1000 of them practice polygamy. Some men in their societies have more than one wife. The key point is ‘some’. Most have only one wife. This is the norm in hunter gatherer societies, which can be considered to be representative of our ancient state. The legally ‘monogamy only’ cultures are all western or westernised and of recent origin. Perfect and obligatory monogamy is a recent invention. Why do you think that happened?”
I felt my face flush. This guy was incontinent. Sorry- incorrigible. Yes that is the word.
“See this is the naturalistic fallacy. What ‘is’ is not what ‘ought’ to be. We should be able to have our own morals, not dependent on our ancient past. Now women’s dignity is as important as that of men.” I said.
“Well. Do you think women benefit from this arrangement? Sure- she may get a husband all to herself. But if there was polygyni, if her husband is a useless alcoholic or philanderer, she can join an already married, very wealthy and powerful man. She will be much better off.”
“That is what YOU think. That is not how women think. Er….probably.”
“May be. Difficult to tell. One thing is clear. A lot of men will be worse off, because the wealthy, strong and powerful men will corner all the women, and many males will not get any woman to marry him. In such a society, there will be reverse dowry. A male will have to give money to the girl’s family to marry her. In an unequal society in which monogamy is imposed, dowry develops naturally, as the market conditions demand it.”
“Market! I have never heard anything so offhand. I mean- offensive.” Emotion was making me forget the words.
Guru ignored me and continued:
“The more equal societies developed in the west. One man- one vote. Remember- it was only men. Women were allowed to vote only the last century. And one man- one wife. An all-male conspiracy.”
“Come on- the main political players were always males. Why should the powerful among them forego the right to have more than one wife? Doesnt make sense.”
“Makes sense if you want a more peaceful society. We have been moving steadily in the direction of peace. Bands of unmarried males are the biggest threat to society. They can revolt, and they do. Democracy cannot work like that. We need a more egalitarian arrangement. Hence monogamy. We can predict that polygynous societies will be much more violent and undemocratic. Maybe that is what we see. In that sense, monogamy is good. But not necessarily because women are benefitted from it.” He stopped.
My head reeled. Subconscious ancient drives. Mysterious social undercurrents and contracts. God working in mysterious ways.