Sunday, June 19, 2005

What's love got to do with it?

"So, when are you having another baby?" is a question I'm often asked. And the reason I'm told I should have one is - "children need a companion".

Looking at the Anil-Mukesh saga - and hundreds of similar sagas among lesser mortals all around us - I have to say, there is simply NO guarantee that you and your sibling are going to get along for life.

So having extra kids just to give the first one a 'friend' is, I think, not a good enough reason. Not anymore.

Zamaana badal gaya
"Things fall apart," wrote the novelist Chinua Achebe. "The centre cannot hold..." And that describes - exactly - what is happening to the whole concept of family. In India and the world over.

The "centre" was based on two principles:
a) Zaroorat - or need
b) Farz - or duty

In the caveman era, we hunted and lived in packs - it was a matter of basic needs: security, survival.

In time, religion brought in values like "Honor thy father" (every faith has its own version - but similar in spirit).

So that was farz - or duty - which bound us to each other. Although one had to sacrifice some amount of individuality on the altar of farz, in return you gained an identity and some amount of social security (the family/ community would always be there for you).

And what about love, you might ask. Isn't love what really keeps families together? To which I must say - love is a factor. But minus farz and zaroorat it's just not sticky enough.

Hum saath saath kyun rahein?
That's a question families across India have been asking over the last couple of decades. The answer is - we don't have to.

In fact contrary to what Kyunki Saas may depict, the modern day mother-in-law is often quite clear that SHE would rather not stay with son and bahu.

Tum apni zindagi jeeyo, hum apni - I've heard more than one aunt say. In good humour on the surface, but deadly serious really!

On the other hand, some bahus (esp working women) choose to live with their in-laws reasoning it will be good for their kids. So again, that's zaroorat kicking in.

Paise ki maaya
Income levels have everything to do with it. Money can't buy you love, sang the Beatles but what's clear is it can certainly create a lot of acrimony where love once existed.

There's a general pattern to family break-ups:
a) Poor-to-Rich phase: Your extended family is an asset. You have nothing else, so your gain your wellbeing from your relationships.

b) Rich-to-Things Fall Apart phase: Brothers who once ate sukhi roti from the same thaali, lubricated by the ghee of filial love, now eat rasmalai in fine china plates.

But one starts feeling the other's plate is fancier. Or rasmalai sweeter. Spouses too play a role here ...

Now often brothers will live and work together for years, despite these feelings. But once the patriarch of the family passes away - things fall apart. Farz - or duty - is no more.

Then, comes the question of zaroorat Do we really NEED each other - or can we manage our lives/ business quite well alone, thank you?

In the Anil-Mukesh saga the feeling of zaroorat pretty much evaporated. Which is why it became impossible for them to co-exist.

c) Separate-but-Social phase: We meet, we smile - at birthdays and weddings. But - in most cases - it's never ever going to be one big happy family. Except in faded photographs.

I say this because I have SEEN things fall apart in my own extended family. The love and togetherness my 3 chachas once shared living in a cramped 3 room house didn't survive the tectonic shift to a two storeyed mansion.

Things have fallen so apart that certain people don't even talk to certain other people.

Pyaar kiya to kya..
So that's the extended family bit. But even with the nuclear family, it's more often zaroorat and farz which keeps things together.

If you go in for an arranged marriage - love in any case, you hope, follows the event. Or is born out of it.

And if you have a love marriage, 5 years down the line what keeps many couples together is the joint 'projects' - your kids, your mortgage, your status in society.

And I'm not saying that is a BAD thing as long as if not love, there is at least 'like a lot' in the picture...

When we talk of commitment - what is it but farz anyways? Partly imposed by society, and partly a value we choose to commit ourselves to. While "love" at the end of the day is a zaroorat... A basic human need.

But the need for space - and individuality - is becoming more and more important. And these needs are at odds with 'love'. And a million mutinies are born everyday...


  1. Anonymous6:16 AM

    If you are strong and dedicated enough farz is enough to keep the family together. I realise that it's not easy, but then that's why there are so many examples of failed relationships while the ones which shine through are very rare....

  2. I'm not saying siblings are going to have a great time all the time, but life wouldn't be the same without brother.
    Single kids are screwed up, simply because they'll never learn to deal with living with things they don't like!

  3. Kind of Agree with Bhavya here. I don't know if I can counter your deep analysis here logically, but you simply have to ask people who were alone with people who had siblings to see what they lost/gained. Of course, they might not get along whole life, but then in your words, there is no guarantee that any human being is going to get along with another. Why does one marry (okay there is reason to it) but why have a child? That hardly is a necessity except, I don't know, perhaps love? And this doesn't mean that you need to have another child, its a personal wish, but if you are generalizing this through logic, I think that fails.

    PS: I see that I can still post anonymous, I thought you wanted to removed that!

  4. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Hey Rashmi
    I don't think that 'family' has become an archaic concept , maybe because of my own experience . I have 2 chachas and my dad gets along really well with them, though they don't live with us.I live with my grandparents and I don't have a problem with that.Infact i'm chill with the idea of staying with my in laws when I get married.Considering generally most parents are working these days , children brought up by their grand parents are definitely better off than children brought up by servants. I have a younger brother and we do have our share of fights but, life would not have been the same without him.
    So, i'm definitely not disillusioned with the concept of 'family'.

  5. Anonymous11:05 AM

    *irrelevant comment* but are archives deleted after a certain period of time. as in where do i get the posts before January 2005 on ur blog?

  6. Anonymous12:33 PM

    I think brothers/sisters break up easier than friends. But, that is only when the grow up. The companionship of a brother/ sister can be compared to nothing to children, leave the grown up matters to themselves.

  7. Anonymous12:43 PM

    Definitely, a companion sibling is better than single upbringing. Just think about the enormous peer-learning one is exposed during upbringing. However, I guess opposite gender siblings are relatively better off because of less competition in ownership issues in later stages. This is again more prevalent in typical Indian families (barring families like Scindia's or Dutt's in politics).

    About love marriage (LM) vs. arrange marriage (AM), i am reminded of Osho's reasoning, LM based on gaseous state while AM based on physical solidus foundation and thus more stable.

    However, although the foundation may be gaseous, but LM calls for the other person (gas) to occupy space according to your occupancy, and keep evolving on that space, rather than two physical objects kept next to each other.

  8. Anonymous1:59 PM

    Hey Rashmi,
    First time here..

    While I tend to agree with your closing statement, I also do believe that siblings bring in a lot of joy (most of the times!) to one's life.. :)

    Thanks to a transferrable job, my parents were on the move quite a bit and we've lived all over the country...Having a younger sibling made the transition to a new city easier... My sister and I always had each other to hang out with and get over the adjusting-in-a-new-city blues... :)

    ...and eventually, how things pan out between siblings depends entirely on what is it that binds them...all things material or simply being each other's emotional anchors?

  9. Sibling relationships may be a barometer of your family's level of harmony. Working to improve how smoothly your family functions overall may help to reduce the likelihood of sibling rivalry.

  10. individuality and love coexist even today--its absolutely degrading --this entire hue and cry about farz,etc--as someone one said-you dont have to ask yourself if you belong,you belong.period.

  11. I'm not anti-sibling. I have a younger brother... and there are a lot of memories we share. I'm just saying you can't take ANY relationship for granted anymore. And that having two kids is more disruptive than one to a woman's career and other ambitions... So many of us will weight the pros and cons and be 'selfish' about having a second baby. You'll know the dilemma when you get to it!

  12. Anonymous11:37 PM

    Hi, first time poster here... It was very interesting the way you described kids, mortagages etc as joint "projects" which keep relationships together. This assumes greater significance in working couples where both are financially independent. Have soend quite some time brooding on this particular idea.

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