Of friends in the family

The key to happiness in a family is the friendship between the parents!
Last week we were invited to tea at a friend’s place. Our friend, his wife and their daughter sat with us.  As we sipped some exotic Kashmiri Kahva tea, the conversation meandered to the subject of marriage. We all shared our thoughts on how companionship is more important than just being held hostage in the social framework of a marriage – where two people are trapped, unhappy with each other, trying to please the whole world! It was an interesting discussion that examined how marriage, as a socially-acceptable label, was perhaps losing relevance as a long-term engagement proposition.
Our friend’s daughter talked about the live-in relationship she had when she lived in Europe some years ago. She told us that because her partner could not make the move to India they decided to pursue their careers independently even if it meant separating from each other. But she added that despite their living on different continents their friendship has thrived. She looked at her parents and thanked them for supporting her choices all through – to live in with Mark, to choose to return to Chennai without him, and to continue to be friends with him. Our friend said, “We feel like Mark is one of our own.” And his wife exclaimed, “We will always love Mark. He’s a great guy!”
I found the entire conversation mature, honest and beautiful. For a couple of reasons. One, marriage as an institution indeed requires deconstruction and reengineering. Clearly the happiness of the people involved must be focused on more than the relationship. And that can happen only when two people are relating, in a present continuous sense, with each other. Often times – look around you and you will find so many examples of this – people are just clinging on to the social definition of the relationship although it has long been dead in a truly, deeply, personal sense! The other reason this conversation interested me was that this family inspires us and show us why we must respect the choices and preferences of our children. It beats me why some parents still want to control their children and force them to make choices for their (parents’) sake!

A good marriage is one where there’s a great friendship between two people. And a good family is one where parents and children respect each other for who they are – this means individual choices, opinions and decisions are not just welcome, they are encouraged; and everyone is free to live their Life, their way, without the fear of being judged. Simply, the friendship between parents impacts the destiny of the family – often determining how their children find love, meaning and happiness in Life! 
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Death is an inspiration – reminding us to LIVE intensely!

In the end, we all have to go. And those who have known us, will only be left with memories. So, we might as well live our lives fully, happily and touch as many lives as we can in this lifetime!

3-year-old Arshea bidding Major Mukund Varadarajan goodbye
Picture Courtesy: The Major’s Family/Internet
India lost a brave son a few days ago – Major Mukund Varadarajan, 32, of the 44thBattalion of the Rashtriya Rifles. He was killed in an encounter with terrorists in Shopian, Kashmir, on April 25. The papers have been full of public anger and grief, even as his family has remained stoic and patient – despite the media frenzy and all the VVIP attention they have been receiving. A while ago, I spotted this picture on facebook on Major Mukund’s wall. The caption said it all: “Daddy’s Little Princess. Final goodbye. Arshea at the Besant Nagar crematorium.” There was another picture too – of Indhu, the Major’s wife, receiving his uniform from one of his colleagues. And the caption said: “All that remains are memories and these.”

I kept looking at the pictures for a long, long time. They drove home a truth that is hard to miss. When it’s our time, we too will have to go. It is inevitable. But the question is, will we have lived a full Life by then – completing whatever we have always wanted to accomplish? Will we have made a difference to the lives of people in our circle of influence? What kind of memories will we have left behind?

These are significant questions that can make a huge difference to the way we look at Life. And, hopefully, change the way we think, live, work and love. We must understand that we have not been created on this planet to be running on a treadmill forever. This Life has to be lived – not just to earn hard now to live another day; but it has to be lived fully, enjoying each moment of it thoroughly. Death must not be feared nor should we be sad or overwhelmed by it. Death is an inevitable reality – and all of us, without exception – from the time we left the womb, have been heading for a certain death. The process can take time, days, months or even years, and exceptionally as in the case of Khushwant Singh (1915~2014) and Zohra Sehgal (1912~she turned 102 this past Sunday), even a century! But none can avoid it. So, when you understand Life, death can actually be an inspiration, because every time we see death around us it reminds us of the opportunity we have to live – when we can! As Osho, the Master says, “Death is your constant shadow. It is telling you – ‘I can come any moment. Be prepared.’ And what is the preparation? The preparation is: live life so totally, so intensely, be so aflame with it that when death comes there is no complaint, there is no grudge.”

Yes, we will have lived well, lived a brilliant Life, when we can go away calmly, without struggle – either for us or for those that we leave behind.