Padma and I were married over three decades back in Varanasi in May when the temperature hovers above 40 degrees Centigrade. The total attendees were not more than 25. The priests chanted all the prayers probably required under Brahma Marriage (first of the 8 types of marriage under Manusmriti). It was spread over two days where Padma and I sat in front of the holy fire and inhaled good quantity of ghee laden smoke. In the afternoon, the priest told us to take a Tonga ride to the Varanasi Vishwanath Temple – all by ourselves- which was the first time I spoke to her ( I officially held her hands earlier during the Panigrahanam ceremony). At night , after chanting some more prayers and inhaling additional ghee laden smoke, he showed us the Arundhati star, gave us a exquisite tasting Paan ( betel leaf with areca nut and other sweet ingredients) advised us to enter grahsthashram in a more active manner (rather than just holding hands and conversing during Tonga ride).
This was the start of a new and the most important relationship of our lives. Two total strangers selected on a random elimination process (star, horoscope, sub caste) staying 2000 kms away from each other were directed to make certain vows and start their life together. Are arranged marriages(defined in Wikipedia as “a practice in which someone other than the couple getting married makes the selection of person to be wed, meanwhile curtailing or avoiding the process of courtship”) the sole example of important relationships in life commencing due to caprice of fate or chance?
Swami Udit Chaitanya (don’t think ‘Oh God! Not that Swamiji again’ , he is a bright chap and does not keep flowing beard and wear white Egyptian Cotton dresses) says that children chose their parents. The souls in transit from one life to another (some what like Hritik Roshan searching for next magnum opus after Agneepath) and searches for an appropriate home. If they like the choice they have exercised, then they continue there. If not they leave this home and go elsewhere. When I first heard this, I remembered the smile of our Grandson Shivam when he first saw us few hours after he was born. Did we exercise similar choice ? Were there better choices ? Quite intriguing questions if Swamiji’s theory is correct.
My earliest memories include my elder brother. He tells me that when visitors threatened to take me away (when I was a new born) he would protest vociferously. The protective spirit is inherent in a blood relationship. I remember my brother instinctively holding my wrist when crossing the road even when not needed. But what is more important is the implanted instinct to protect, support, cheer and in short share with the siblings at all the great and not so moments of life. While as a concept it is easily understood by all, its’ implementation is sometimes sparsely seen. When this spirit exists, then it does represent the most valuable element of our existence. With such a backing, anyone can face the world in times to crisis. I speak from personal experience. This makes all the difference when faced with difficult decision points in life.
The next set of relationship is with the larger extended family around us. In Indian context, it means uncles, aunts, cousins, their respective spouses and so on from your parent’s side and spouse’s side. Considering the lack of employment opportunities in villages, most of these relatives would be settled in different cities and meeting them would in marriages (unlike mine) or such functions or rare sojourns to these places. In such cases, distance does not necessarily make the heart grow fonder. The closeness emerges from facing common issues in life- teenage children, higher education, marriage, grand children, health, aged parents and so on. Age, experience and existence of unmarried adult children is a great leveler.
For consummating marriages there are enough examples of ‘off line network’ (mostly of women who have astounding memory for details of relatives and their children- especially awaiting the throes of marriage) which can beat SMS or Tweets in terms of speed and completeness. (“Laxmi’s daughter is 2.., just back from States , not so dark, but good income…’).
In the late afternoon of life, we are able to relax and exchange notes on our experiences ,idiosyncrasies (‘I drink one litre of water in the morning’), views and what we desire for our children. My belief is that with cousins we are able to identify some common weaknesses and strength by instinct and thereby share a bond which can be renewed even after gaps in time. There is pleasure in meeting close relatives during various visits to South India (where most of our relatives live) as there is a sense of belonging to a larger family and shared memories.
Relationship with parents is complex and continues even after they leave us in a permanent manner. I remember reading the following on some occasion. When we are small kids, our parents are Gods, they can do anything. When we grow up a little, we know that they are not Gods. When we cross teenage , we hate them and quarrel with them as they seem to have wrong and outdated ideas. When they grow older, we start loving them again. After they pass away, we pardon or forget all their weaknesses and say there are none like them. Our father mellowed by the time grandchildren were born and they benefited from it. He left behind a positive impression and influence on them.
While we are always parents for our children, the nature of relationship evolves or changes over time. The emotional aspect of the relationship is complex and very subjective. Every parent dreams big for their progeny (in a material world IIT, IIM, MBA, CA and so on and then to be a good human being). At some juncture we realize the finiteness of the dream and attempt to reconcile. The more difficult part is the mutual expectations and how to meet them. In today’s situation of nuclear family and longevity of age, it is not uncommon for a parent to have children who served and superannuated in the normal course. In other words, a parent witnesses a large part of their progeny’s life cycle. How does one sustain a relationship over such long periods when confronted with the compulsions of own life? We see many examples of senior citizens who prefer the comfort of familiar surroundings of the place where they have lived all their life rather than re-locate to where their progeny lives. The situation is more complex in case of children living/settled overseas and parents being needed for looking after grand children.
Relationship is about making life more beautiful to live. It is about there being more human beings who care about all of us. It also means that a meaningful effort needs to be put in to nurture and sustain any relationship over a long period of time. It becomes very relevant in today’s context when our children are growing in an environment where education, employment, material success take precedence over everything. Being emigrants and living in other than the home state or abroad shrinks the circle of families who know you and more importantly whom you know. The pleasure to joining a celebration with others who share many matters and memories with you cannot be substituted very easily.
Lastly only when you love your own people would you know how to love others around you.
What do you feel?