The zero side-effects-wala divorce is surely possible

Separate as a couple if you must, but stay together as parents.

I saw an interesting – and valid – observation made by Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court in today’s Hindu. He advises estranged couples to put their children first, ahead of even themselves, while working out divorce settlements. This way, he believes, the parents may be able to agree on all their differences and set up a workable, practical, compassionate, parental relationship with their children. I agree with this point of view completely.

Some years ago, this is what I advised a dear friend too. He has a drinking problem which had led him to being out of work. He was often fighting with his wife because she, naturally, hated him being drunk most of the time. One day the poor lady gave my friend an ultimatum that if he wanted to live with her, he must give up his habit. That very evening this friend invited me to a bar for a drink. Two pegs down, he said he was going to divorce his wife for “ruining his peace” and for “giving him an ultimatum”. I asked him if he had thought of his teenage daughter. And he replied he would fight for her custody in court. That’s when I held him a mirror and told him that if he loved his daughter, he must learn to respect his wife’s point of view too. Especially when she had a valid point. I dropped him home that night. To his credit, my friend sat down with his wife and worked out an arrangement where they started to live separately in the same apartment – but with no rancor between them, sharing parental responsibilities, splitting the bills and the chores between them. Their daughter has gone on to college now and the couple look forward to being more independent with their individual choices and outlooks in the years ahead.

DIVORCE-not-handles-properly-hurts-children-forver...I think this couple have implemented a very fair and workable arrangement. And this can be made to work in most cases if a couple can understand that a.) it is perfectly fine to fall out of love, just as they had once fallen in love (irrespective of whether it was before or after marriage!); or b.) it is okay to realize and concede that there was never any love lost between each other at all! The simplest way to clear up all the confusion over a soured or souring relationship is to ask yourself – would I want to (continue to) live with this person if there was so social stigma attached, if there were no financial claims involved and if there were no parental responsibilities towards the children? If you answer yes, then you are no longer relating to your partner in the relationship. Which means, the relationship is dead and you must separate. Now, when the decision to separate is made, think of the children and make them your first priority. Don’t think of social stigma or financial claims, they are surely less relevant that the children. And the way to look at your roles as parents is to be able to give your children the best of both parents and an environment of love and care. This can happen only when the parents are not fighting. So, stop fighting! Period.

Understandably the point when a couple come to separate is fraught with myriad differences. Of opinions, of attitudes, of claims and of just the way they are experiencing each other. It is also possible that while one partner may be willing to see the larger picture – involving the welfare of the children – the other may not. This is where a spiritual perspective comes in handy. If you consider the futility of any fight that saps all your energy and fills you with anger and negativity, you will want to clearly abandon it. A good fight, if at all, is when you don’t suffer while going through the process of fighting. There is a lot of endurance which is tested but you believe in the cause you are fighting for. Often most fights stop being worth it because they are not cause-led, they are ego-driven. Which is why they turn bitter. And divorce proceedings are no exception. However, when you bring in this understanding that you will first work for your children to get a compassionate environment, that allows both parental influences to thrive, you will see value in dropping all differences and moving on! Bottomline: it is totally unnecessary that divorcing couples fight with each other at the cost of their children. This is the way to go through a divorce without side-effects!


Don’t expect fair-play in Life – it was never promised

Life never promised to be fair. So, don’t complain. Just go with what is.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy: Picture Courtesy – Internet
Last week a major news story, which had been engaging much of India for 18 years, made headlines yet again. But like most other stories in today’s hyper-reactive, and insensitive, televised media world, it too appears to have died a sad death. This was the story of the Supreme Court “letting off” the two prime accused for the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy (of 1997 in which 59 people had died in New Delhi), famous builders Sushil and Gopal Ansal (who owned the cinema), with a fine of Rs.60 crore, but without a jail term. Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost her two young children in the fire, has been spearheading the legal battle on behalf of all the victims’ families for 18 years now. She broke down on hearing the verdict and said: “I am angry and disappointed. I’ve been let down very badly.” She later told NDTV in a late evening show, “I have not been able to go into my kids’ room. I can’t face them. This is just not fair…” She choked as she spoke and buried her face in her hands.
The pain of Neelam and Shekar Krishnamoorthy, and that of the other families who lost their loved ones in the gruesome tragedy, which was caused by the sheer negligence of the owners of the cinema, is palpable. Most people in India believe that the verdict has not been a fair one. Yet, a verdict is a verdict. And that too it is from the highest court in the land. At best, a review petition may be filed – with no guarantees that the verdict will be revisited, let alone revoked.

So, all that anyone affected by such a consequence can do is to accept what is, live with it and move on. This is not just true and valid for a legal situation where there isn’t an opportunity to appeal any higher. This applies to all contexts in Life too. The simple truth is that Life did not and does not promise any fair-play. To expect Life to be fair, therefore, is sure to cause agony. All that Life does is that it keeps on happening. There are no explanations, no justifications, to what happens in Life. All that we can do is take it as it comes. If we fight Life we will suffer. If we accept Life for what it is, we can’t change what happens to us, we can’t ever avoid pain, but we can certainly do away with the suffering.  

Meant to be or not meant to be – accept both!

What is not meant to be, is not meant to be. Period. Such is Life!
Tejpal arrived late at his mother’s funeral
Picture Courtesy: Indian Express/Internet
Tarun Tejpal’s mother passed away in Goa on Sunday, May 18. Tejpal, who is in a Goa jail facing charges of allegedly raping his junior colleague, moved the Supreme Court on Monday, May 19, seeking interim bail for three weeks. The bail was granted late afternoon yesterday but the paperwork governing his release from jail took an awful amount of time. Resultantly Tejpal could reach the crematorium in Goa only an hour or so after his mother’s funeral pyre was lit by his younger brother Minty. When I read this story in the papers this morning, I just thought of the Family Tejpal. What would have been going on in Tejpal’s mother Shakuntala’s mind when she arrived in Goa to see her son, in jail, although her own health was so fragile – at 87, she was suffering from a brain tumor? What would have been Tejpal’s feelings over being unable to attend his mother’s last rites, despite the best lawyers in the country securing an order from the highest court of the land? The most ideal situation would have been that Tejpal did not do what he allegedly did in an elevator at the Hyatt, Goa, in November last year. Ideally too, it would have been best if he had been available to attend to his ailing mother. And ideally again, if none of that was possible, at least he could have made it on time for her last rites. But that was not to be. And that’s Life! Some things, however hard you may try, may simply not work the way you want them to.
It is important and relevant to know that we can’t always have everything in Life. Some things will remain elusive, incomplete or unfixed – forever. Our grief comes when we don’t accept this reality about Life. We think we must solve every problem, mend every relationship and fix every broken part of our lives. But that’s not the way Life works. There are many aspects of our lives where we cannot get answers to all our whys and why-me questions. Life does not offer any justifications or explanations ever. If we seek any, it will only cause our suffering. To be free of such suffering, the best way to respond to Life is take it as it comes. Whatever comes your way, embrace it. Don’t fight. Don’t resist. Just simply accept your Life, the way it is.
Intelligent living, simply, is about knowing what is meant to be, knowing what is not meant to be, and in accepting both!

Everyone has to bear their own cross in Life

Life and grief comes to each of us in different ways. Often times something may not be hurting you directly. Someone you love may be going through, pain, suffering, agony and grief. Watching that person suffer, will force grief on to you! The situation gets amplified when it is someone very, very dear __ a spouse, a child, a parent, sibling or very close friend.

How do you handle a situation where someone else’s suffering is consuming you?

There is no easy or one way to do this. Even so, it is possible to avoid being consumed by someone else’s suffering. Surely, you can make a beginning by seeing the situation as an opportunity to train yourself to be detached.

Yesterday, a friend called to say that his teenage daughter, who often has been prone to depression over the past few years, confessed to him that she “had lost interest in Life”. My friend lamented over the phone that he couldn’t handle “her suffering” anymore. The girl had been under medical treatment and was receiving counseling regularly. Her parents, I know, had been the most understanding, despite their conservative background. I could understand and empathize with my friend’s sense of helplessness and grief. “I am suffering watching her suffer. I feel I will break down. I need a solution. I demand to know why my child is undergoing this turmoil and why we have to be put through this,”he exclaimed.

“Why” is the simplest and the most profound of all questions! Answering Life’s “Whys” eludes all of us uniformly. Well, if only we knew the answers to our “Whys”, Life will no longer be a mystery, right? So, think of such a situation, as the one my friend is facing, as an opportunity to understand Life itself, your role in it and to practice detachment.

Understand, first of all, that each one in Life has to bear her or his own cross. In India, actor Sanjay Dutt’s impending return to jail, over a folly he committed 20 years ago, is making headlines because of the Supreme Court awarding him the sentence finally. Most people know that Dutt is both guilty and repentant. But despite his huge fan following and his network of admirers and believers including the powerful in India, Dutt may still have to go back to jail. Unless of course the Governor of the state pardons him. I remember seeing pictures of Dutt’s father, Sunil Dutt, waiting outside the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, for days on end, during his son’s frequent incarcerations there. Dutt Senior did his jail duty diligently as long as he was alive. I am sure he was pained. Maybe he even died with some of that pain and a sense of incompletion that he could not see his son’s name cleared. This is true of each of our lives__that each of us has to face and endure the Life given to us. Obviously, this includes what even your own child has to go through! Very simply, the moment we are born, our Life meter starts ticking and our Life’s screenplay starts unfolding. A good amount of that screenplay will have several episodes of pain. If we grieve for each of them, either our own or for others, we will end up spending an entire lifetime simply grieving. Not living.

Once you realize this truth about Life, accept that the painful experience someone is going through is for them to learn something. Pain is a great teacher. She teaches us to stop expecting Life to be painless. She also teaches us that suffering is a meaningless option, that we often end up choosing by default! Without pain, there would be no suffering. Unless you suffer, you will not realize that it is a completely wasted response to Life. So, if someone you know is suffering, believe that they are actually learning something. When your child is studying hard, staying up awake most nights, for a school or University examination, do you grieve? Don’t you admire your child for the focus and resilience? Then why do you grieve when your child is having to face a real Life examination? Well it may not be a child all the time, but know that whoever is facing Life’s tests is surely learning invaluable lessons too.

Finally, this person you grieve for is not going to be there forever. Death is bound to separate you. If not now, some day. So, let go! Detach from wanting for things to be different for that person. Accept the current reality and the eventual reality__of a physical separation__and practice detachment. This does not mean you should not feel or pray for the person. Of course you must if you can and want to. Just don’t grieve though. Because grief debilitates. It takes away your spirit. It draws you further out of your inner core of happiness and peace.

All of us grow in Life. Our families have grown. We have grown. Our assets and wealth may have also grown. That growth’s pointing to the physical, financial and biological aspects of Life. But there is another dimension. Growing intelligently. Using such trying situations as personal growth opportunities__to practice detachment__is about evolving, about growing intelligently in Life!