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! 

Relating is the key to thriving at work and in Life

People are people. There are no right people and wrong people. You just either relate to people or you don’t.  
We met an entrepreneur the other day who leads a large organization. He has about 15 people reporting to him. Over the last couple of years that we have known this entrepreneur, he has forever been complaining about the lack of ownership among his leadership team. He is obsessing over how to sack the “laggards” among his direct reports – but, ironically, he hasn’t been able to do anything in that direction. Every time we meet him though, he only keeps complaining, fretting and fuming about his people. In a way, we sense so much negativity emanating from him – it makes me wonder whether he has a problem with his people of if he is the problem?
Contrast this with what Suresh Krishna, the CMD of Sundram Fasteners, shared with me when I met him recently for my Sunday Blog Series – “The Happiness Road”: “There are no right or wrong people. There are just people. And you have to take them along. This ability to take everyone along is what leadership is all about!”
I totally agree with Krishna. Seriously, whether it is in business, at work, or in family, don’t obsess over people and their behaviors. There are no right or wrong people. Everybody is right in their own way. In fact people do whatever they do because they believe what they are doing is right from where they are seeing it. To be sure, even you – or I – do things only from that perspective. So, there is no point in vexing over people like our entrepreneur-friend has been doing. You either relate to someone or you don’t. And people either relate to you or they don’t. And it is only when two people continue to relate to each other that they (can) work with or live with each other. It is, really, as simple as that.
I have learnt to employ a simple thumb-rule: no matter who they are, anyone who I cannot relate to, does not form part of my ecosystem. Whether it is a co-worker, a family-member, a school-mate, a neighbor or vendor, the day I have stopped relating to a person, I just let them go. This is my way of preserving and nurturing positive energy – and inner peace – in me.

When you agonize over people’s behavior, and your unmet expectations of them, you are filling yourself with a lot of anxiety, stress and, possibly, negative energy. This negativity festers in you and makes you inefficient, irate and, believe me, very, very unhappy. The only way to fix this situation is to drop all expectations you have of people, and to simply walk away – or let them go – if you have stopped relating to them. The key to thrive, at work and in Life, is to keep relating, than obsess over the reporting or the relationship itself! 

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. 

Sometimes, it is best to lay a relationship to rest a.k.a Relationship In Peace – RIP!

Life is so incredibly demanding. Sometimes, you may have to have the most uncomfortable conversations even though you may never want to have them. But have those conversations and liberate yourself, despite the pain that they may entail, because without them, you will agonize, grieve and suffer.
Let’s take an example. You just don’t have the chemistry going with someone in your Life. You have tried. She or he has tried. But it has never worked out. Over the years, you find that your equilibrium is lost in this person’s presence. And you take ages to recover every time from that ‘encounter’, that ‘conflict’ or even that ‘chance meeting’. So, you are now in a hermit mode, having ‘retired’ after being ‘tired of trying’. Not out of ego, not out of hatred, but out of wanting to just anchor in peace. Peace for you and peace for this other person. And then you get a call from ‘a someone’ connected to both of you, inviting you to consider a truce; appealing to your sense of maturity, to your conscience to let go of ‘past issues’, of ‘baggage’, to forgive and to ‘resume’ ties. This is the time that you must take charge of your Life. Ideally, you may want to duck this peacemaker’s call or conversation. You may want to hide from this opportunity. But don’t. Stand there. Be in the face of it and evaluate the opportunity objectively. Examine if you believe that the chemistry with the person in question can ever be restored and made to work. Examine if you and the other person, both and not just one, really will benefit from this ‘reunion’. Examine if you will be happy meeting this person. If the answer is yes, and only if it’s a yes for all three statements above, proceed. Else, stay away. Peace, inner peace, for both of you, is more important than a sense of reason and victory for the peacemaker. Not that the peacemaker means any harm. Or is doing something for ‘showing off’ (not that there don’t exist such pretentious peacemakers on this planet!). But just that, it is important for each of us to know what chemistry works, with whom, when and where. And more important is to employ this knowledge intelligently and profitably for all concerned.
Chances are the peacemaker, and observers, will opinionate and even chide you for being ‘bull-headed’, ‘heartless’ and ‘unreasonable’. But you explain your point of view while remaining unmoved. Just double check if you are not operating from a position of ego and hatred by asking yourself the following questions. If there was an avenue for rapprochement, would you have waited for a peacemaker to broker a deal or would you have reached out? Do you wish this other person well or are you still seething with rage? Have you been at peace in all this time that you have stayed away from the relationship? When you ask and answer these questions, truly, honestly, you will be able to confirm if your ego is coming in the way or if peace is the way. If it is the latter, have the difficult conversation with the peacemaker, any observer or even the person in question. This conversation must be gone through to free you of any pangs of guilt, of any emotional burden. Don’t avoid it. “Remember”, as American novelist, Nicholas Sparks, writes in “Message in a Bottle”: “Nothing worthwhile is going to be easy.”

So, a simple rule of thumb to feel unburdened and free in difficult relationships is to 1. WANT the peace 2. HAVE uncomfortable conversations although you may want to hide from them. 3. DON’T operate from ego or hatred. 4. DO what’s right and best for both people involved__you and the other person. 5. DON’T try to be a martyr or a hero__just be who you are. And, fundamentally, recognize that it is sometimes perfectly fine__and the best thing__for some relationships to be laid to rest, a.k.a, Relationship In Peace__R.I.P!  

Be in a relationship only if you can love, can relate and are happy

Don’t just cling on to a relationship for the sake of society – learn to focus on loving, relating and yourhappiness!
A friend of mine is going through a messy divorce. He developed an extra-marital relationship which, quite naturally, his wife objected to. My friend’s reasoning was that he had stopped enjoying being with his wife and found that he related better to his friend with whom he “wanted to spend the rest of his Life”. The three people in this story are in their mid-forties and are neither immature nor irresponsible. My friend’s friend, his lover, is divorced, and has a child; but she says she feels “secure and wanted” in my friend’s company. She’s not insisting that he marry her. All she wants is his companionship for the rest of her Life. My friend too sees her the same way. But my friend’s wife sees their relationship as scandalous and as a conspiracy to “rob her of all her wealth”. So, the divorce has gotten messy – my friend says he’s ready to accept a divorce immediately and is also willing to settle the financial aspects amicably but he simply refuses to allow “an extortion” by his wife. Therefore the matter drags on, for all three parties!
If you distill the issue, it all began with an extra-marital relationship. And I guess if you look around, there are so many of them, extra-marital relationships, going around us all the time. Except most don’t turn up in the open. Even so, why is the polygamous tendency of humans subject to so much scrutiny and scandal? Why is it necessary, from a social point of view, that people suffer in bad marriages than be happy in newer, and even multiple, relationships? If you consider history, man has been polygamous. It is society that has imposed monogamy as a preferred code of conduct. Just as you can’t wear round-neck tees, shorts and sneakers in certain old-world clubs, founded by the British, in India, if you have to live in most societies in the world, you have to be monogamous. But that really is suppressing people’s freedom of expression, is holding them hostage to dead relationships and is, quite simply, killing love and happiness.
What happens when two people come together is that they fundamentally enjoy each other’s company. It is their friendship that drives their being together. They may be different, as in most cases, but they can relate to each other. When that relating stops, one of them, or at times both of them, drift apart. When the drifting happens, they are not just seeking sexual satisfaction in a new partner, from a new companion, but they are looking to be happy with that other person. When they enjoy that other person’s company, they “engage” with that person. It is as simple as that. Now, while in some cases, people continue to relate to each other and enjoy each other’s companionship, in most cases, people stop relating to each other because both of them have changed. Or, at least, one of them thinks and believes the other has changed over time. Which is what is causing the lack of relating between them. Osho, the Master, says that marriage has ruined society. He champions a new world where there is no marriage – but where there are only lovers! This may seem like a radical idea, the way society is today – but isn’t it better having a world full of lovers than a world that’s infested with co-sufferers and broken homes arising from broken, or even dead, marriages?

The bottom-line in Life is to be happy. No matter who is causing you to be unhappy, you must simply move away from them. Suffering someone just to keep your image in an indifferent and couldn’t-care-less society is a grave injustice you will do to yourself. When you move away, or move on – if you will, have the courage to be open about your choice, have the integrity to go through a formal (if necessary, legal) and fair (especially if there are children involved) process of separation and be truthful to all concerned. By following through on your happiness, you may encounter strife in the short term, but in the long run everyone involved will be at peace. At the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters?

Friendship and Relating – the twin factors that make great relationships!

No one is inferior or superior. In a relationship, it is the relating which is important. Not who’s more powerful or articulate or successful.
The Airtel “Priya -Boss” Ad
A TV commercial for Airtel is making news in India for the wrong reasons. It shows a man taking orders from his boss, who is also his wife; while at the same time, she,  as his wife, offers to cook dinner and invites him to come home soon. The debate on social media is on, as one analysis on IBN Live argued, “whether the campaign enforces stereotypes, breaks established family roles, is a modern twist to same old misogynist propaganda or just neo-feminism riding on compromise.”
Watch the ad here

Honestly, I don’t see why there must be a debate in the first place. Why can’t a woman be a man’s boss at work while still offering to cook a meal for them at home? Why do we typecast people in specific roles – that a man should be the boss or should be the bread-winner or that a woman must primarily be a home-maker and not have a career of her own? When I got married, my wife used to earn a salary higher than I did – she worked in the computer education field while I was a journalist, earning a measly income that was determined by a government-regulated wage board! But this never really affected either of us. And then she gave up her flourishing career to stay back at home and help us raise a family. Again this decision never affected our love or respect for each other. I know a couple, both of whom have IIM-A degrees, where the wife is a high-flying software professional with India’s # 1 IT company, while the husband keeps the home and helps their young teenaged daughter cope with high school and now, recently, college. For years now, they both have kept these roles and continue to have a very happy marriage.
So, I don’t think a reversal of roles affects a marriage. Whatever be the role, as long as the friendship between two people is intact, they will continue to relate to each other. I, in fact, salute the Aritel commercial’s director, Vinil Mathew, for choosing to make such a sensitive film. To me, the ad celebrates friendship and relating. And these two are above everything else – even above the label of a “respectable relationship”. There’s no meaning in a relationship if people in it can’t relate to each other or enjoy each other’s companionship. What’s the point in strutting around trying hard to prove that everything’s normal, when nothing really is, to please a decadent society? It doesn’t matter who earns, who cooks, who does the dishes or who fetches the groceries – as long as the two people in the relationship continue to love each other and are willing to grow and evolve through Life – together!

Let’s learn to respond to relationship issues with maturity

Loving someone or having sex is not a sin. It is just a natural way for us, humans, to express ourselves.  
I recently read in the papers that the Indian Navy had sacked an officer of the rank of Commodore for having an affair with the wife of a fellow officer, also a Commodore. Both officers were at that time based in the Southern Naval Command in Kochi. And both had college-going kids. “Stealing the affection of his brother officer’s wife is simply unacceptable and the Navy has a clear zero tolerance policy towards the same,” a Ministry of Defence official was quoted by one of the papers I read.
Now, I have nothing to say about the Indian Navy’s protocols, rules and regulations. But conceptually I have a problem with the phrase “stealing the affection of someone”. How do anyone steal anyone’s affection? Yes, poets and lyricists have for the longest time romanticized the concept of “stealing someone’s heart”. But in reality affection and love are given – wilfully. They can never be stolen or forcibly taken away. So, if someone, as in this case, is married and is drawn to someone else outside the marriage, it really means the marriage, the relationship, did not fulfil that person’s emotional or physical needs. It means that there was no more relating in the relationship. And that this person related to another one, and not to his or her spouse. There’s nothing sinful, nothing wrong if such a situation arises. If anyone has a problem in a marriage, the best way to deal with it, after making sufficient attempts to resolve the issues, is to move on. There’s no point feeling suffocated, vegetated and listless in a relationship where there’s no more relating between the two parties.
However, the way people discover that their relationship with someone is over is through the way they start relating to someone else. Either they are drawn to someone because this new person is fulfilling an emotional need. Or maybe this person is fulfilling a physical need – which is about simply having sex. Or maybe there’s a strong bond, a special friendship that draws someone to another person. All these or more are indicative of the fact whatever one does not get in a relationship, one seeks in another. And there’s nothing wrong with this. As humans, we need affection, we need to be cared for, we need physical intimacy – and if we can’t get these with one person, we will naturally be drawn to someone who has these to offer us.
I believe that as individuals, and as a society, we must learn to respond to relationship issues with maturity. We cannot continue to dub a human need as a sin. Of course, people who seek love, affection and sex, outside of a relationship, must also be responsible about how they communicate their choices to their families. Especially when children are involved – the communication must be timed well and must be honest. There’s no point fearing social stigma or family pressure and therefore continue to keep the choice under wraps. When something natural is pursued clandestinely, it will be viewed scandalously. And that can hurt everyone involved. However, if the same choice is made openly, while it may shock and surprise initially, over time, everyone impacted by the choice will feel liberated. After all, who wants to be stuck in a relationship which had been dead for a long, long time!?