Saturday, January 26, 2008

Confessing a Human Tragedy

Ages ago I had a book of quotes and one struck me then and smacks me in the face now:
"Every woman grows up to be like her mother, that's her
tragedy; no man does, that's his."
As I whiled away this time last year, Ma took it to her to drill into me what marriage meant.
Marriage, she said, is hard work, plain and simple; and it's upto the woman to make it work. In societies like ours, the man is never at fault, however much a beast he may be, it's always the woman who'd be put up on the stake of criticism. Marriage, Ma said, is compromise, not just by the wife, but also by the husband, but it's essential that you don't look at it as compromise, look at it as a decision that was reached mutually because your spouse agreed with you had to say. It takes work, 24/7 to make marriages last, 30 years plus and Ma and Pa still had to see through each day to see their marriage work. I've seen my parents grow old, I've seen them have their issues, resolve their issues, work around...I grew up seeing all that, even if I was presented with a child-friendly version of their tiffs, my view of how Ma made her marriage work may be juandiced, limited to whatever exposure I had of them. At the end of it all, I saw Ma and Pa as a team, whether it came to getting us kids ready for work, deciding life-altering things like relocating the family to Pakistan, they may have had their differences, but to us it came as The Decision. Pa's word was final but it never meant he would actually decide againsst what Ma had said. They'd reason around but the decision had to be mutual. They must have, in the long course of their marriage, been at odds with each other numerous times, one must have compromised, bent to others judgement, but for most parts, we were blissfully unaware of it all. Pa, the ideal man-figure that I've always looked upto him as (as most daughters end up doing, knowingly or otherwise), took years and years of being moulded into shape. He was a difficult man, Ma told me, but with time, he came around to being a family man. I remember once long ago Pa asking me and sis if we had 'ideals' or an idea of what kind of man we wanted to marry (Pa's that way, more of a friend than a traditional desi father), we were stumped, but sis turned it round and asked him if he had an ideal before marriage and he said, very seriously, that he was married to her. And he meant it.
Every marriage is unique, but the essentials of making it work remain the same; understanding, compassion and respect, the confidence that you can talk about anything under the sun and your spouse would understand you even if he/she disagrees. This, being able to talk and be understood is the foundation for marraige. It would be the foundation for every relaitionship but marriage it trickier. The moment you realise, or are reluctant or afraid to talk about anything to your spouse, you should know that your marriage has hit a rough patch. You simply need to connect, start over again, if needs be, but work over it. Love, passion and all that hoopla is trivial. Connect and how well you connect is what matters in marriages. With desi marriages, on the woman's part there is surrender. At least I argued with Ma that it was surrender and letting go of your being. I'm still learning about marriage and how to make it work. There are times when I marvel at all those people who've lasted decades with each other and there are times when I know for certain that I could be one of those lucky couples who grow fonder with each other as they age. If I have the will , strength and the sabr to make my marriage work. As Ma said, it's upto me now.
As I look back onto the months that have past since I've been married, I see how I have changed, how my priorities have changed. If there's one thing I like in myself, it's that I take complete responsibility for my decisions, with no regrets. I haven't ever regretted my marriage, it was, at the end of it all, my decision, I could've said no and no one would have pushed me into it. Ma told both me and sis, when we were getting married, that we don't make the mistakes that she made in her married life, if there is anything you find admirable in your parent's marriage, she pleaded with us, take that with you.
As I'm reminded of the saying above, I fear if I have indeed become my mother, down right to some of the mistakes she made in her relationship. I'd love to have the kind of marriage Ma and Pa have, but I don't want to repeat any of their mistakes (I'd rather have my own?). At times I find myself so insecure, so drained that I encyst myself, completely. It's not right, I know, I've seen Ma do it and how it strained the home environs. This is one of her mistakes she'd warned us about. At times you just need a sympathetic shoulder to lean on and it's such a shame that it is not your spouse's. The guilt of confiding in someone else than my husband kills me but I do it all the same. I should be able to talk freely and completely, why do I then hold back? The fear that there is something lacking, that I'm not doing enough to make my marriage work makes me restless, ruins my appetite, makes me mad, and I'm generally reduced to an emotional, mushy mish-mash of insecurities. All that and it hasn't even been a year.
Becoming Ma in her mistakes has been one of sis' and my greatest fears, she's talked to me about it (when she could talk to me), how nerve-racking it is, the realisation that you're making your Ma's mistake...and go on making it. I would want to be like Ma, as Pa has glorified her in the rare moments he reflects back on his life, I would like to be like Ma in all the good she's done and been as a wife and mother. If I can half as good a wife and mother she's been to us, I'd think myself lucky and utterly blessed; but her mistakes, I fear and dread. One most than others, her silent temper. Not talking at all, a blank face and a whirlwind of thoughts plaguing the mind.


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