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Archive for December, 2006



Faultlines for Young Couples: Language and Culture


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Young couple of different raceThe richness and diversity of our culture has had paeans sung to it from as long as we can remember. But the many languages we speak, and the many ways we approach ordinary activities, whether it is lighting a lamp or cooking potatoes, make India a veritable minefield of conflicting practices and lifestyles. Perhaps because of this, a website like Bharat Matrimony categorizes the search for a life partner according to language and culture.

Love, of course, transcends all such smaller differences. It is possible to feel great love for another person even if one comes from a different race, country or culture. If this were not so, it would be impossible to find couples of mixed race, or from two different countries or religions. But such couples are very much a part of our world, and proof of the love that binds humanity.

Where problems may begin to show is in the process of sustaining the love after marriage in spite of very different approaches to everyday activities. “Hemant used to drive me crazy in the years just after we got married,” reveals Anju, a Punjabi married to a Mangalorean. “He had a ‘proper’ recipe for everything – and proper meant how his mother had done it. From grinding chutney to making rasam, celebrating Janmashtami or Ugadi, it was one long recitation of how I should do this or that. I don’t know how I stayed with him in spite of it.” Her husband’s excessive invocation of his Mangalorean roots ceased only after their son had grown and gone to school, and Anju had gone back to work and recovered her confidence. “It was almost as if by staying at home I was at the mercy of his instructions. When I went back to work I began doing things much more by my own ‘system’ than any recipe of my mother-in-law.”

Fault Lines for Young Couples: Parents


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Successful MarriageShailesh had no idea if every man who got married had a wife who was as attached to her mother as his wife was. For the first few months after their marriage, his wife Shweta would listen to a tape of her mother singing old Hindi film songs and cry her eyes out. Every chance she got, she was on the phone to her mother. Meanwhile, whenever his parents, who lived in the same town, even came over for a few hours, they would get indifferent treatment.

“Initially, I hardly knew how to tackle her abnormal attachment to her parents,” says Shailesh. “I thought all women were like this, and that she had given up her family to be with me, that’s why she was entitled to some sadness. But when her family clearly continued to be the utmost priority for her, and she refused to even behave with normal courtesy to our neighbours, my friends and my parents, I had to take a stand.”

The stand he took, unfortunately came after four years of marriage and resulted in their divorce.
Not every couple faces a similar situation, and not all brides are as excessively attached to their mothers as Shweta was. But any Indian marriage comes with a substantial amount of baggage in the form of the parents of one’s partner. Since families are much closer knit among us than in some other parts of the world, and parents do not feel they have to ‘let go’ of their children soon after they have become majors, mothers and fathers tend to loom much larger in an Indian marriage than in many others in the modern world.

Fault Lines for Young Couples: Kids


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ParentingIt is not that uncommon any more to meet couples who are approaching the marriage counselor or the divorce courts for an end to their marriage fix. While marriages can develop cracks at any stage, the difficulties that arise in the initial years are often traumatic for the young couple involved. This series is an attempt to understand some of the factors that put great strain on the couple, and how these can be avoided or overcome.

Kids are supposed to bring great joy in their wake. The arrival of offspring is greeted with enthusiasm by aunts, uncles, grandparents and extended family. While the young parents do share in this happiness for a while, it is not long before the reality of parenting duties begins to have its impact on their relationship.

Consider this: the modern day couple has both working partners. The woman has taken off from her job in order to deliver the baby. Once the baby arrives, sleepless nights are a routine occurrence, and a crying or colicky baby may intrude on most of the evening on some occasions. The couple has two choices – one, the husband share in child-care duties in the evenings, after he is home from work, since the woman has already spent many hours looking after an infant. Two, the wife continue to look after the child virtually on her own in the evening as well, because the husband has come home tired from work.

A Gradual Alienation


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EstrangementHow do people who fall in love and get married drift away after many long years of marriage? This is a question disturbing quite a few among us in Indian metros, with a rising number of couples seeking to go their separate ways after twenty years or more of marriage. “I was shocked beyond belief, when my fragile looking neighbour, whom I met every other evening at a party with her husband, calmly told me she had walked out on him,” confessed my friend Nithya to me the other day. “I wouldn’t have dreamed that anything was wrong – they made such a nice couple.” 

The social image is not always the true picture, as many have found, with their friends, relatives, and family members deciding to call it quits at different stages. What seems to be good for a silver jubilee suddenly gives way. However, in actual fact, it can never be as sudden as it seems. For a relationship to end, the couple has normally passed through many stages of ‘estrangement’, literally turning into strangers for each other. 

Beating the Blues


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Beating the BluesHowever much you attempt to be a model of positive thinking, there comes a time when every individual has a touch of the not-so-good feeling. You wake up in the morning vaguely uneasy, not particularly interested in going for work. You drag yourself through routine chores, the mood not getting any better, till it is time to bury yourself in work. From here, you can usually afford to ignore the unease or lethargy, till the evening hours claim you with the morning’s residue. 

Loneliness and displacement, stressful work conditions and the lack of creative and rejuvenating pastimes are all contributing to producing that universal illness of modern times – depression. Depression is definitely an illness, because one’s natural tendency is to be happy if given the chance. It is only by careful nurturing with sad thoughts that one can cultivate a bad mood beyond a day or two. If it persists for weeks at a stretch, it is obvious that some outside intervention should be sought to take one away from one’s own dark thoughts. 

But this is not a discussion about clinical depression. It is an attempt to list those methods that can work to successfully stave away the blues. I can vouch for some of these, as can some of my friends, so hope this collection of tried and tested means works for you too.