If you are lonely in each other’s presence, it’s probably best to separate!

Loneliness is a virtue if you are alone, a learning if you are in a crowd and a curse if you experience it in a relationship – particularly in a marriage!
Someone who read my recent blogpost on Bajirao Mastani (http://avisviswanathan.blogspot.in/2015/12/what-we-can-learn-from-kashibai-about.html) shared her perspective: “I don’t think Kashibai deserves to be deified for her choice of separating from Bajirao. Perhaps, she was uninteresting and very traditional, housewife-ish? Perhaps Bajirao found Mastani very refreshing, vibrant, oozing mohabbat from every pore…perhaps the trappings of being a Peshwa and being bound to tradition – wife, kingdom, mother, army – shackled Bajirao and he just wanted to break free? And Mastani’s offer to be his companion gave him that exit route?”
Hmmm….! In the absence of the real Bajirao, the real Kashibai and the real Mastani, you can’t entirely disagree with this reader’s point of view. Besides, if that is what drove Bajirao go with Mastani, nothing wrong with it at all. It is definitely a better choice than being lonely in a marriage – which, interestingly, leaves your spouse lonely too! In the movie The Lunchbox(Ritesh Batra, 2013), Lillete Dubey, who plays Illa’s (Nimrat Kaur) mother, poignantly alludes to how lonely – and dreary and traumatic – her Life has been until her husband’s passing away. In fact, she confesses, not in a grief-stricken state of stupor, but in a moment of absolute clarity, that all she really wants to do, to perhaps celebrate her new freedom, is to eat parathas! The reference to parathas is purely figurative. It could be anything that you love doing – anything except feeling lonely in a relationship, anything except suffering alone, anything except being shackled!

A marriage is nothing but an arrangement, equivalent of a business contract. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out, the arrangement must be dissolved. There’s nothing to grieve about, feel sorry for or berate when a marriage fails. A marriage fails because the two people in it have stopped looking forward to each other. They can’t relate to each other anymore. They are lonely in each other’s presence. How much more banal and painful can it get? When you put up with loneliness of this kind in a relationship the entire responsibility of your suffering is yours. Remember: you have a choice. And that choice is to opt out.


I am not trying to suggest that all of us must break away from our marriages. All I am saying is that if you are unhappy, lonely and suffering in a marriage – or any relationship – exercise your choice to break free. The brutal truth is none of us has too much time left here. This Life has to be lived – each moment is to be celebrated and you must be happy every step of the way! When something or someone pins you down and makes you lonely, sad or unhappy, either get it or them out of the way or you get out of the way yourself! Simple!!


What we can learn from Kashibai about relating and relationships

Don’t cling on to any relationship that makes you unhappy. Just step out and free yourself!
I watched Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s (SLB) epic historical Bajirao Mastani earlier this week. True to SLB’s style it is awe-inspiring for its grandeur, finesse and story-telling. The film recounts, with some cinematic liberties taken, the story of Bajirao I (played brilliantly by Ranveer Singh), the Peshwa (Prime Minister) of the Maratha empire, between 1720 and 1740. In this time, while on the one hand Bajirao leads the expansion of the Maratha empire across the North, South and East of India, he takes Mastani (an amazing performance by Deepika Padukone), the daughter of the King of Bundelkhand, as his second wife. In the backdrop of the political compulsions that govern the Life of the Peshwa, SLB’s Bajirao Mastani tells the story of the unbridled love between Mastani and Bajirao – even as Bajirao’s first wife, Kashibai (a solid portrayal by Priyanka Chopra), comes to terms with losing her husband to this “other woman”. SLB’s work, as usual, is pure poetry on screen. The romance between Ranveer and Deepika makes Bajirao Mastaniseem so real in front of your eyes – as if you are in the 1700s, in Pune, in the midst of the Maratha empire.
But the real hero of the story, according to me, is Kashibai. For a simple reason – she operates, all through the narrative, from her core of inner peace and as who she believes she is. Yes, she is shocked when her husband falls for the aggressive and maniacally-brazen Mastani – who, to compound matters for the staunchly Hindu Maratha society, is a Muslim! So, Kashi does grieve initially. But she soon chooses to stand her ground. She has done no wrong. She has caused nothing to warrant losing her husband to the “other woman”. It’s her husband’s choice. In one epic scene in her personal chamber, where Bajirao goes to take her leave before embarking on his final military mission, Kashi tells him not to ever come back to her room – meaning, to her! There was no drama as Kashi expresses herself. There was just a firm, stoic, acceptance of what is and a decision to move on – “you have another woman, that choice is unacceptable to me, we don’t relate to each other anymore, so, let us separate.” Even when she rushes to his side later, as he lies ailing, she has this clarity that she’s there as a caregiver and not as one necessarily in a relationship. And that perspective that SLB brings out, and which Priyanka beautifully portrays, offers a key learning for all of us.
The tragedy with most marital relationships is that they try to lock in, actually hold as hostage, people within a legal and social framework. Just because you are married to someone, you have to suffer that person for the rest of your Life – however disenchanted that person may be from you or however distant you may have drifted away from that person. There’s nothing wrong with marriage as a concept – except that the way it is insisted it is practiced has rendered it totally useless. The truth is, over time, everything and everyone changes. The circumstances in which people come together change. Biologically people change – with ageing. Emotionally people change. So, like Bajirao, people get drawn to new liaisons. To be sure, Bajirao here is not a gender-specific metaphor. There are so many contemporary women who seek meaning in companionship outside of their marriage – and there is nothing wrong with it. They key is not to feel trapped. It is important not to suffer. And Kashibai teaches us how not to suffer. She can’t relate to a philandering husband, she can’t accept her man sharing “love meant exclusively for her” with another person. Simply, she can’t relate to her new ‘Peshwa’. So, she divorces him by banning his entry into her chamber.

Kashi’s must not be as a reel-Life choice. In real Life too, indeed, it is so, so simple. If you are caught in a relationship that’s making you unhappy, just step out of it. Be open. Have an honest conversation with your spouse and opt out. There’s nothing wrong or sinful about such a choice. In fact, it is grossly unjust only when you kill your inner peace and happiness only to protect a relationship – per a social and legal definition – which is long dead, which is, seriously, not there anymore! 

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! 

Keep relating, keep celebrating

Even ‘close’ relationships need continuous celebration for them to thrive. If they are not celebrated, they wither away like plants that are devoid of water and sunlight.

Here we are not talking about acquaintances that we ‘can’t get along with’ for professional or other reasons, but are referring to people who ‘were so close once upon a time, but are no longer’! This is to explain why we grow distant from childhood friends, from spouses whom we dated, romanced and loved deeply once upon a time or from siblings that we grew up with. The distances between us and such people are not because of lack of mutual respect or admiration. These distances have come between us because we have stopped celebrating each other. Celebrating here means nurturing, providing the adequate sunshine and water, through continuous conversations, critiquing, supporting, challenging, caring and sometimes, just being available. Celebrating therefore means loving someone all the time___irrespective of time, space, behavior, responses, whatever.

In a recent issue of Mint, I was aghast to see an advisor suggest “5 tips to ensure a financial contract exists between two partners before they marry”. I come from a time when people just met each other and if they believed that they wanted to be together for the rest of their lives, they just married. That’s how Vaani and I decided to marry way back in 1988. Now, when I look back, the companionship between Vaani and me would still have remained sacred even without a marriage. I have come to understand that marriage is an unnecessary label, a worthless stamp of approval from a decadent society! The only tip to long-term companionship I can offer is – keep relating, keep celebrating!

Osho, the Master, offers a simple, do-able, immediately implementable formula for celebrating and nurturing relationships. His prescription: don’t call or label anything a relationship. Instead, he says, just keep relating. He reminds us: “LOVE IS NOT A RELATIONSHIP. Love relates, but it is not a relationship. A relationship is something finished. A relationship is a noun; the full stop has come, the honeymoon is over. Now there is no joy, no enthusiasm, now all is finished. You can carry it on, just to keep your promises. You can carry it on because it is comfortable, convenient, cozy. You can carry it on because there is nothing else to do. You can carry it on because if you disrupt it, it is going to create much trouble for you… Relationship means something complete, finished, closed. Love is never a relationship; love is relating. It is always a river, flowing, unending. Love knows no full stop; the honeymoon begins but never ends. It is not like a novel that starts at a certain point and ends at a certain point. It is an ongoing phenomenon. Lovers end, love continues– it is a continuum. It is a verb, not a noun. You are in love with a woman or a man and immediately you start thinking of getting married. Make it a legal contract. Why? How does the law come into love? The law comes into love because love is not there. It is only a fantasy, and you know the fantasy will disappear. Before it disappears, settle down; before it disappears, do something so it becomes impossible to separate.”


Instead of bringing law or definitions and labels into relationships, let’s focus on never-ending celebrations, on loving each person in our lives, and to keep on relating to the other __ lover, friend, parent, colleague, sibling, whoever __ without pausing to evaluate, analyze or justify. Try this. It works. Choose a relationship that you think has gone “cold” over the years. Ask yourself if you have grown distant because you have stopped relating to, stopped celebrating this person? Don’t focus on a ‘revival’. Don’t expect. Know that all you need to do is to continue loving without either the label or an expectation coming in the way. The other person may still be distant__physically and metaphorically. Don’t worry. Don’t stop the celebration, the loving, the relating. 

Because through the energies of your continuous celebration, the loving, the relating will happen__enriching both your souls, exponentially, infinitely.