A SWEET AND SALTY RELATIONSHIP

It was 21st December 2008 when my husband came to see me for the first time with his parents. Yes, we chose the traditional route of arranged marriage 😁. We were nervous as hell, hardly speaking anything, just occasional glances at each other in a room full of people. “Why don’t you guys take some alone time and talk?” Proposed my Uncle. The would-be groom sprang out of his chair exhibiting both his nervousness, anxiety and eagerness to strike a conversation. We decided to go to the nearby temple. We commenced our stroll and conversation. Our dialogues were borderline whispers 😁. As we were about to enter the temple an old lady begged for some alms. And I am not sure what was going on in his mind or that was a completely unmindful action, he handed a currency note Re.500. To this date, we have a hearty laugh about it. My brother and cousin joked about that incident “how we wish we disguised ourselves and were at the place of old lady, we could have received a hefty note”.

That was the first meeting, first conversation, first weirdly sweet incident. Then both the families (of course with our consent) agreed to carry forward this alliance and culminate into the sacred institution of marriage. We got engaged on May, 16th, 2009. We had a distant courtship period before we tied knot in the month of August same year.

Be it the courtship period or time frame after marriage till there’s an addition in the family (2nd August 2011), life if photo framed would be nothing less than picture-perfect. Stealing glances when surrounded by people attending different functions organised by the families not the newlyweds, holding hands beneath the tables 🤗🤫), discovering the person you are hitched with, late-night movies, lazy weekends, long strolls in the neighbourhood, outings…….. Yes, it was all candyfloss and rose-tinted!!!

When did things change? As the life of every married couple, ours too took a turn when we had our son, our first child. The idea of romance isn’t anymore the same. In fact, romance either takes a back seat or cease to exist completely. Its Love – for family, for kids, for the spouse that comes to the fore in ways that need the heart to understand the underlying emotion. To begin with, we were not together for the first eight months due to visa issues. Restlessness and eagerness to see each other was riding a high tide. And when we finally met we realized we are set to play a different ball game altogether – Parenting. The levels of frustration of sleepless nights could unleash havoc in relationships. With more planning going into every aspect of life – from grocery list to life insurance plans tensions do knock the doors. Postpartum depression definitely needs a mention here. I had severe mood swings, I would cry for trivial things, but my husband had my back. The best thing or say one of the best things about him is that he is quite easy going when it comes to how our home is kept. Even to this day when we are running into our 12 years of marriage and having two beautiful kids, he would say “take care, relax, sleep. Chores can be winded up later, health comes first”. That takes off a lot of pressure of running around and racing against the clock tidying up things. As much as he doesn’t give undue importance to the chores being done he doesn’t even pin-up his expectations or demands to the way I look. I was once almost like a big bag stacked with potatoes, but never did once his attentions deviated from me. If loyalty has a face, it’s him (I know the password to his phone and he leaves the phone without worrying 😂😉). He never ceased to take a stand, support and talk for what is right without any bias. And what else a woman can ask for.

Then what is Salty ( sour or bitter for that matter)? Yes, I’m coming to that part of our relationship. I would be a liar of higher-order if I say there’s nothing wrong in our relationship or us as human beings. My flaw is that I am extremely emotional and me getting swayed by emotions is no it new. And I see things through the tinted glass of emotions that can paint things differently than what they are. And making the situation worse is sudden flared up tempers of my husband. In the spur of the moment, he could say some really mean things which otherwise he never meant or never had any place in his psyche. When such extremes collide the air could be lot volatile at home. There have been situations when we would go simply silent for a couple of days just because he uttered something uncalled for and my emotional quotient being high decline to take it the other way than what I perceive. A constant feeling of breaking free brews inside (I am talking about myself) during those moments. I surely can’t give complete detailing of our conflicts as washing dirty linen in public isn’t a done thing 😁 and obviously dirty linen is an every household thing, isn’t it?😜

Then Still Continuing? Yes of course and going strong. These 12 years have taught me a few important lessons on life, love, commitment, respect and completing each other. My husband at the end of each of our clash says just one thing “you tend to remember the words that I never meant but blurted out in the fit of rage but forget my actions that I wholeheartedly mean”. Be it taking a stand for me even if I mean going against his family, be it encouraging me to learn something new at every step, giving my health importance over any other thing, most importantly being loyal to me – my husband surely got qualities that can negate or at least overshadow his shortcomings. After the first year of marriage I never saw him in an eternal romantic mood that I crave but also never saw him take his responsibilities lightly, doesn’t that qualify as love? And when love, loyalty, respect cohabitates there’s enough reason despite minuscule faults that we continue this journey together till death parts us away.

LOVE FOR THE NATION

As a student of Sociology in Grade 11, I came across a new term – altruism. To explain this term better, the book had the example – the service of soldiers for the country. Though I later studied about altruism in detail in Psychology, the example that stays in my mind till date is that of soldiers serving the country at the cost of self.

Not at all times in history have soldiers served their country because of their love for the country that they belonged to. There have been times in countries across the world when able-bodied young men were forcibly taken away from the comforts of their homes and enlisted in national service. Colonialism saw colonies feed soldiers into the armies of their colonial masters.

In the times that we live in now, most countries have done away with conscription (mandatory/ forcible enlistment) and colonialism is a thing of the past. We live in times in which sovereign monarchies are less violent and work strategically to earn the love of their subjects, absolute monarchies force allegiance from their subjects, autocracies force feed nationalism into the minds of their citizens, liberal democracies give open freedom for their citizens to act out of responsible love for the nation while illiberal democracies use soft power tactics to arouse love for the nation in their citizens. There are exceptions to each of the above. At times, systems of governments make transitions from one to another depending upon the regimes in power.

A touch-up on the above helps understand what love for the nation implies.

Love is a free bird that soars high in the sky with strong wings, but strolls on the ground without flight wings. This applies to all types of human love and includes an individual’s love for the nation. Just as love for a person cannot be forced upon another, love for one’s country cannot be imposed. Love that is coerced is not love in the first place. Forced allegiances regale the political masters in a false sense of victory, whereas stories of true dalliance with the nation lie few and far between.

Should we love our countries?

Yes.  The country that we are born into and the countries that we choose to migrate to (if at all) deserve our love.

With love comes responsibility and accountability. Hence, we are responsible for our countries and accountable to them. Whereas, each of us is free to like any, every or all other countries of the world as well, none is expected to be responsible for those countries.

Can a country love back?

Though sentimental thoughts and rich literary articulations ascribe the good gifts or the bad ones that one receives, to the land, air and water of a country, in reality, what we get or don’t get, how we feel or don’t feel depends upon the government and the people of the country. When we love a country, we feel loved when its people and the government love us back.

The justiciable Fundamental Rights incorporated in the Indian Constitution by its architects are India’s ways of loving its citizens, whereas the various non-justiciable Fundamental Duties incorporated in the Constitution prescribe the obligatory duties of Indians towards India. Reciprocal love!

Why is it necessary to love the nation?

It is fair. It is legitimate. It is required.

The one other decision that no one gets to make, apart from not getting to choose one’s parents, is the country that one is born into. None of us gets to choose the country that we are born in. We can choose to migrate to another country later, but can never refute the country of our birth.

Just as it is difficult to love a person who doesn’t love you back, it is hard to love a country that isn’t warm enough. However, “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient” is a God-given Biblical command that applies to all. Though there ought always to be space for constructive criticism of and dissent against those in power, to bring out the best in them, there is definitely no room for bad-mouthing – just as parents at times admonish children to help them live upto their potential, but should never abuse them or put them down before others.

Love for our nation is evident in our actions

  1. Have you witnessed parents of two children conversing about them? Each loses no word to praise one’s own child lavishly. Parents love their children and hence lose no opportunity to brag about them and their feats. Speaking lowly about one’s nation does disservice to it. Ascribing due praises to one’s country shows our love for it.
  2. Striving to lift up the nation’s face in various competitive parameters like sports, inventions, art forms, while stepping up to rid the nation of its ills and irrational dogmas like poverty, neonatal and maternal mortality, female foeticide, child marriage, racism, casteism etc. portrays one’s love for the nation.
  3. Citizens may not always have direct says in nation-building. However, citizens can always pray for those directly responsible for the same.

“ . . . entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quite life in all godliness and dignity”, says the Bible.

Is love for the nation, the highest form of love?

There is no comparison in love.

Soldiers who lay down their lives for the country when duty calls thus, are no less concerned about their families or friends. However, they are altruistic not because they love others less, but because they have dedicated their service to the nation over self and others.

While the eight-fold Greek classification of love towards people does not incorporate love for one’s country (since country is a non-human entity), be it as civilians or as armed personnel, loving the nation is  important too.

Having said thus, it is pertinent to remark that though countries are formed by human efforts and their boundaries demarcated by think tanks, a country is a temporary habitation for humans. Our citizenship of a country ceases the moment our physical bodies cease to live and breathe. Our souls have heavenly citizenships in the eternal kingdom of God if we choose to accept His citizenship offer while on earth. Maligning the soul in the process of preserving earthly territories is fruitless.

Let us love our countries while on earth, but prepare to be heavenly citizens for eternity.

STORGE – THE UNADULTERATED LOVE

As a child, you must have always seen your parents as the ones who are there only to point out your mistakes and to deter you from doing things that you like. Indeed, most of us feel that way, until we become parents.

As soon as we become parents, we get natural or instinctual affection for our children and we just want them to be perfect in everything they do. Even the children feel safe and secure with their parents, for they never leave them alone till they are grown-ups, ready to take charge of their own lives. Yet, irrespective of the age, a child always remains a child. 

Children always believe that their parents are the strongest and so can’t imagine them to be weaker. So, when our parents grow old in front of us, it gets difficult for us to digest this fact. My father, who is going to turn 75 soon, walks much slower now. He has accepted his old age, but I want all his tests to be done again. I want him to be energetic like he used to be. My mom, my first teacher, often calls me up when she’s stuck in an online task. I get overwhelmed when I help her out. 

Parental love is truly divine, selfless, unadulterated, and truly eternal. We, as parents of young children, are busy disciplining them. We sometimes (mostly for me) yell at them and chide them, but our hearts melt to them in pain. I often scold and sometimes even hit my sons. I feel bad also, but then a slap works when nothing else does! And whenever they cry, they come to me to seek my comfort. It’s strange when a mom slaps and the child comes into her arms to cry. 

Teaching new things to children every day, celebrating their little milestones and laughing over their silly mischiefs brings sheer joys in life. I remember when I used to come back from work, all weary and tired, my little one would jump into my arms and all my stress would vanish.

Each day we make memories with our children and when they grow up, we laugh together recalling those precious moments. My children often cling to me and I fear once they grow up, they will stop doing that. Perhaps I am wrong, for their love is unadulterated, just like mine.

SELF-LOVE IS NOT SELFISH

Self-love is a constant choice. It’s not a magical feeling that appears on one day. It’s a commitment to have your boundaries, your well-being, your mental and emotional health, and your body.

Let us first establish that self-love is very different from being selfish. I have struggled with this concept for ages. The way I grew up, I believed that I will be the nicest and most loved person on the universe if I put my own needs at the very end. The result was that at one of point of time in my life I felt like I was being used as a doormat by every other person in my life. I would hear my near and dear ones tell me – “Why are you doing it to yourself?” And I would just put up a smile and say that – “This is how I am”. 

Even though I believed that I was being the nicest person by putting my needs at the end of my priorities, it is not humanly possible to ignore your needs. My needs and desires manifested in other ways and I ended up committing some of the huge blunders which caused further complications in my life. I learnt it the hard way that if I would have taken care of myself in a healthy way at the first place, maybe everything would have fallen in place. 

Being selfish means being nice to only yourself at the cost of other’s wellbeing. Self-love means loving yourself and others keeping in mind your own and other’s wellbeing. A selfish person says – “I am the most important person and nobody else matters”. A person with self-love says – “I am as important as everybody else. My needs are as important as everybody else’s. I need to ensure that I am healthy so that I can take care of others.” 

There was a time when I would feel immensely guilty for spending money on myself. Any additional shopping or spending few extra thousand bucks in beauty parlor and I would end up feeling guilty overnights together. However, I would feel happy if that money is spent on my family members’ needs. 

It took me years to realize that I was indeed in a very unhealthy situation. It further took years of constant monitoring of my thoughts and actions to get myself on the right path. I had to come to a position where I could demand what I thought was right for me. I had to change my mindset to believe that my needs are as important as everybody else’s. 

3 years back when I started going to gym for the first time after my son’s birth – I realized how much I had ignored my body since last few years. 

Now, let me tell you a few things that I do for myself and myself alone:

  1. I take time out to meditate and do affirmations every day. It helps me reset my brain.
  2. I take time to work out every day.
  3. I ensure to budget some money for spending on myself every month.
  4. I keep a packet of dark chocolate that nobody else (even my son) supposed to eat. ☺
  5. I define boundaries in every relationship. I observe and monitor my decisions to ensure that I didn’t step on any of the boundaries. 
  6. I invest in my hobbies regularly now. 

This is just the beginning of the list, with everyday this list keeps growing.

My journey of self-love started a little late after I had already made a lot of mistakes over and over again. I was so busy blaming everybody in my life for not taking care of me and I didn’t even realize that I myself wasn’t giving any importance to my own needs. Once this realization came, a lot of things fell in place.

Love yourself instead of loving the idea of other’s loving you

HOLINESS IN LOVE

Love and holiness are concepts that might seem polar opposites of each other but are in fact intertwined with each other.

Love served on a platter of holiness tastes ambrosiac.

However, it is just as difficult to love wholly as it is to maintain holiness in love. Holiness in love does not refer to chanting the name of God ceaselessly or sermonizing on spirituality at all times. Holiness in love is a call to guard the sense organs and mental perceptions against unholy intruders just because you have decided to present your unalloyed self to a special person.

WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO MAINTAIN HOLINESS IN LOVE?

· When you love a person, s/he is special. S/he occupies a place in your life like none other. It would be an injustice to present a deliberately defiled unrepentant self to that special person. You wouldn’t gift a broken pen or half-eaten chocolate to anyone, would you?

· There is a moral standard set in place against unholiness. Does it really matter? It does. Entertaining unholy intruders sears the soul and the spirit, just as it defiles the body. But, then who decides the moral standard? What may be unholy for you, may simply be fun for me. Why then drag morality into the picture and make a big deal out of it?

· We are created in the image of a holy God, who is love. Holiness is a part of our DNA. When we think of ways to fiddle with holiness, we fiddle with our DNA which is more than mere biology. Consequently, love gets the beating.

· Pleasures of holy love are richly rewarding. While the pleasures of unholy love offer momentary gratification, pleasures derived out of holy love are perpetually gratifying as it soothes the soul and strengthens the spirit.

HOW TO GUARD OUR SENSE ORGANS AGAINST UNHOLY INTRUDERS?

First, it is important to identify the unholy intruders. Be it having fun at the expense of a dirty joke, flirting, watching soft/ hard porn, mere sexual fantasizing or physical intimacy before/ outside the marital relationship – these are unholy intruders into the holiness of love. These intruders destroy all the potentials for enjoying love to the fullest extent. Hence, it is vital to identify them.

Second, erect mental and physical barriers. The next step after recognizing the unholy intruders is to block their entry. If you have more idle time, develop a constructive hobby. If you have peers who challenge you into entertaining any of the unholy intruders, part ways with them. If your body secretes high levels of hormones which push you towards welcoming the unwanted intruders, build up a regimen with the help of professionals to deal with it.

Third, say NO to experimentation. Thomas Alva Edison once burned down his lab in the course of his experimentation to discover the incandescent bulb. Alfred Nobel blew up quite a few rocks and boulders while experimenting with dynamite. Neither Edison’s lab, nor the rocks blown up by Nobel were restored to their previous forms ever. There are enough explosive precedents of experimentations in love across all cultures and generations. Need we experiment further?

Fourth, tap on the strength from God. God is Love. He provides the necessary restraint to safeguard our minds and bodies so that we can cherish love in its totality and holiness. It is not easy to prevent the unholy intruders from sneaking into our lives merely by self-determination or vows of chastity. Missiles cannot be encountered with rifles. Missiles need to be encountered with missiles. That is precisely why all nations keep their military arsenal well-stocked with missiles!!

WHAT ABOUT THE SLIPS?

It is easier to give a dictum to follow than to follow the dictum. Slips do happen!! Big stalwarts have fallen flat in surrender to the unholy intruders. Temptations often knock at the door. Discernment between mood uplifting fun and unholiness is rarely pondered upon. When slips do happen during unguarded fragile moments, it is vital to recognize the sin, admit to self and God, repent for the same and resolve never to repeat them. And the, of course, to erect stronger barriers than before.

SHOULD YOU ACCEPT DEFILED LOVE?

I know of a man who had guarded himself against all possible unholy intruders, just to be able to love the special person who would come his way. When he realized that he was in mutually reciprocal love with his friend, he also realized that she had been emotionally bound to two others before (which he already knew as her friend).

It was a tussle for him. He remained true in his love as he was in his friendship with her, but it took a while for him to come to terms with the fact that he would be receiving what he called ‘a third-hand gift’.

What helped was the fact that she was true about her past, was true with him all through and admitted to having sought God’s forgiveness for those seemingly silly affairs. Overall this was God’s strength that helped him brush off her past and accept her with loving holiness.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember truth and forgiveness are vital keys. Genuine slips need to be forgiven when truly repented for. Unintentional unholiness needs to be forgiven in acceptance as well. Victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse deserve the healing and bliss of holy love. God heals the broken with His love, and so He expects that we give the scope to the broken for healing by showing our love.

Love is an intense emotion which rules the world. The consequences of love dying in the world that we live in would be disastrous. What can keep love from dying is holiness. This is not only true about romantic love but also true for all relationships.

When there is holiness in love, all the other virtues discussed earlier in the week – Justice, Truth, Equality, Kindness, Respect and Acceptance, Patience would be largely visible.

WITH LOVE AND PATIENCE NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

The car lurched forward, jerked and stopped. Sameer said in a frustrated voice “Aanya you have to slowly leave the clutch and press the accelerator simultaneously. How difficult is it to comprehend?” Aanya was near tears “You’re sitting next to me and rolling your eyes is pressure enough for me. Don’t shout at me. Have patience na… It’s my first day learning how to drive a car.”

Kaushal came home in a very bad mood. He was snapping at the kids and Suhana at every small thing. Nothing they did was right according to him. The kids scuttled away into their room on the pretext of homework. And Suhana was left alone to face the wrath of Kaushal. Suhana was simmering inside and was ready to blow her top too. But at the right time, her mind reasoned that she needs to deal with this situation with some patience. Kaushal was on his notice period in the office having been asked to resign. The pain of being treated unfairly in the current job and no other job in sight was taking a toll on Kaushal.

Shruti was bedridden for last one year after the accident. She was beginning to lose hope that she would ever walk again. She was so dejected that she had stopped trying also. No amount of cajoling was pulling her out of this stoic mindset. Aayan was at his wit’s end. But he knew he had to keep his patience while dealing with Shruti or else he would never be able to help her out of this dark pit of depression.

There are innumerable such instances in our daily life. Among all the relationships in our life, we have the maximum expectations from our spouse. There will be times when the behaviour of your spouse will irritate you or frustrate you. But before you lose your cool think about what the other person’s emotional state is. Maybe their heightened emotions are making them behave unreasonably. So be patient. Don’t react immediately and look for a better way to deal with the situation.

No, I am not saying always put up with their bad behaviour but do put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and think maybe at this moment they need your empathy and not your equal and opposite reaction.

RESPECT AND ACCEPTANCE – A LOVELY COUPLE

Gaurav and Sweekriti are at the sessions court, they came for a hearing as they have applied for divorce. Court gave adjournment of six months which is a normal practice for couples applying for divorce to give them time to rethink their decision.

Gaurav and Sweekriti, married for 5 years now after a brief courtship period of 5 months are at a pedestal today where they don’t want to continue their relationship. And it was their mutual decision and they didn’t involve their respective families for they feared that they might be pressurised for the sake of SOCIETY. They are individuals having their respective perspectives towards life, love an independence. Amidst all the disagreements and arguments one thing that they agreed upon is separation is the independence and MIGHT bring happiness to them.

As they were waiting the period of six months given by the court to pass, they had a sudden yet pleasant guest – Setu Uncle, who happens to be Sweekriti’s best friend’s father and even Gaurav is so much fond of him. They couldn’t continue their charade of a happy couple in front of him and within two days the issue was out in open. Setu Uncle isn’t someone who talks in a circumlocutory manner. Also is someone who isn’t into the foul and futile practice of upholding a false, fragile prestige that gets dented by happy carefree smiles. That might be the reason that Gaurav and Sweekriti broke the news to him as they knew he won’t be judging them.

Setu Uncle smiled and said “at the end of the day we are responsible for our happiness, if you guys think this is it then let it be. But can you do one thing for me?” And pulled two blank papers from his file that was lying on the table and handed them to the couple. They were blank as the papers in their hands and stared each other. And Setu Uncle continued “I know that you dislike each other so much that don’t want to be in this bond any longer. I can’t use the term hate as I find it too strong to be used for two lovely, intelligent people like you, so dislike will do (he chuckled). Take these papers, think and write what are the reasons, characteristic traits in your partner that made you loathe about the person to a point that you don’t want this association anymore. Take your time and no cheating” (he winked) and left them.

He returned after two hours only to find the papers kept on the table folded. He called Gaurav and Sweekriti and opened their respective sheets.

Gaurav – she doesn’t understand me 😡

Sweekriti – he never respects me, always brooding 😡

Setu Uncle read and laughed hard ” I thought one paper wouldn’t be enough for your complaints but you guys disappointed me. Coming to your issues did you guys ever spoke to each other about your feelings? Gaurav you said she doesn’t understand you, that means Acceptance is the issue but did you try to talk to her explaining your stand or perspective without getting irritated. Your irritation, the choice of words in the heat of arguments come across as crass and disrespectful which are more dangerous than the obvious physical abuse. Have you thought about that? Sweekriti I am on your side, words said in anger hit like venom but apart from that any other flaw that stands out remarkably in this man? Is he not loyal to you, not supportive of your aspirations, not a responsible partner? Isn’t one flaw pardonable in otherwise perfect man? The way you deserve respect so does he acceptance. We all are flawed some way or the other, isn’t it? Flaws can be complimented and completed but lack of love can’t be and none of you have given that as a reason to call it quits”.

Both Gaurav and Sweekriti looked at each other, once angry glances mellowed down. Confusion still persists but a willingness to try once more has sprouted up.

And Setu Uncle continued “see I always believed our happiness is our prerogative and call so whatever be your decision it should make you happy, together or otherwise. The issue I see from where I stand is non acceptance of the problems or flaws – both within and our partner. Acceptance of our problems induces solutions, acceptance of others’ flaws induces clarity. And that bridges the gap by paving the path of respect, communication being the bricks. If talking is leading to arguments drop messages, handwritten works better any day. Don’t think I am being preachy or poking nose in your business. It’s just that I would never want a couple to become separate entities just because they couldn’t identify and accept, respect the bliss of being together, think differently and not indifferent or devoid of love. Any way I am leaving tonight and leaving you to ponder over. I promise this will remain with me as a secret unless you decide to spill the beans. Take care”.

*****************

Can you guys guess the ending of the story?

PS** Gaurav – pride/ prestige/ respect; Sweekriti – Acceptance; Setu – Bridge**