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! 

Life lesson from a mismanaged bar counter

As long as you accept what comes your way, you will be always at peace with and in Life!
Last evening, we were at a pre-wedding reception of a good friend. It was a well-choreographed evening of music and dance. And, of course, drinks and some exquisite gourmet food. As the evening progressed and the Manganiyars from Rajasthan took the audience on a spiritual high with some soul-stirring Sufi music, the bar ran out of wine. What had been on offer was red wine from Australia and California, white wine from Italy, and domestic beer. It appeared that the people managing the bar had wrongly estimated the inventory required for the evening. For some time, there was chaos at the bar counter. But the guests, obviously, given the occasion, did not make this inadvertent aberration a big issue. Soon, the bar started serving some cheap red and white wine and everyone seemed to either be content with the new order or switched to beer. The evening went on and climaxed with some spirited dancing by the guests and a high-octane rendition of “Dama-dam Mast Kalandhar…” and “Nimbooda…Nimbooda…”(Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1999, Sanjay Leela Bhansali) by the Manganiyars.
I was reminded of a quote of Epictetus (55 AD ~ 135 AD), the Greek sage and Stoic philosopher: “Remember that in Life you must behave as at a banquet. Is anything brought round to you? Put out your hand, and take a moderate share. Does it pass you? Do not stop it. Is it not come yet? Do not yearn in desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you.”  
If you observe Life closely, all the suffering around you, or even in you, comes from your wants. In expecting people, situations and things to be different from the way they are, you invite misery to yourself. Obviously the managers at the hotel, where last evening’s reception, was held had goofed up. Or perhaps there was a miscommunication, or a mis-estimation, of the required inventory between the hosts and the hotel’s staff. Now what can be done about it? I am sure some of the people from among the hosts will do a post-mortem and maybe the hotel’s management will review it as well. But what control does a guest, like me, have on the way the bar was managed? I just shrugged my shoulders, picked up some domestic beer, and was lost in the music.
This is precisely the way to deal with everything and everyone in Life. You – and I – have no control on what happens to us. There is no point in complicating your Life by demanding that people and events be in a certain way. The fact is that everything is the way it is. What is, is your reality. Your wishing it to be different cannot change the reality, cannot change what is. So, every time your mind agitates, every time you pine for something to be different, remember Epictetus. Just accept what comes and let things, people, events and situations, simply be! Happiness and inner peace are intended and assured outcomes!