This one’s easy. Rule four – You’ve got to have a shared vision of the future in order to stay happy and together in that future. But surprisingly, when couples fall in love, or believe they are in love, the future begins with the wedding and ends with the honeymoon. Unfortunately, life is not like the movies. Happy endings don’t always lead to exciting beginnings. Most courting couples treat the future the same way cricketers treat the weather report. It could be good or bad but it will be what it will be and it’s not like you can choose it. You just want to play and so you get into the game hoping it will all be fine in the end. It’s just a peg to hang a conversation on at the best of times.
But should it be more? Should it really matter if my beloved is a business woman or a social activist, a home-maker or a film-maker, a massage therapist or a television reporter? Well, it might be politically incorrect to say so but I really believe that it has got to matter, and a fair bit too.
There was a time when work meant survival. It meant hunting, fighting and scavenging. It was not something one chose. One’s very existence depended on it. And up till the 90s, at least in this country, ‘work’ had remained at best a variation of the original theme. But then the economy slithered out of its strait-jacket and opportunities grew like fungi in the rain forest. Today, what I do defines me, my character and my choices. Undeniably pertinent markers all.
Those days, all a woman wanted to know was, “Can he provide for me and my brood?” and all a man wanted to know was “Can she bear me children?” But times have changed, and apparently for the better. Most civilised cultures have ensured that those questions are a given. A global economy doling out doles for individuals, states and nation-states ensures that providing for one’s family has become easier than ever before in the history of man. And advances in medical technology have empowered more and more women to safely conceive, deliver and rear children than ever before.
Now, that should have made life for a couple a lot easier. But nay, that is never to be. Each generation has its own battles to fight…
It was rather late, around 2300hrs, when the phone rang. I was reading myself to sleep when the once-black berry groaned to life. It was Mynah, a distant cousin and a close friend. She had been living in Minsk with her husband, who sells high speed elevators, for the last five years. We had remained in touch, often exchanging messages every other day in a week. This wasn’t her usual hour…
“I’m sorry! Did I wake you? I was so distracted, I didn’t realise how late it was back home…” I told her it was OK and that I was still an arm’s length away from Morpheus. But was everything OK? Well, yes and perhaps yes but she wasn’t sure… “We’re both really excited about work. Mayuk (her husband) is having the time of his life. Sales are easy and there seems to be a tower popping up on the eastern horizon every week. I might be leaving for a week long junket along the Baltic coast in a few days so work wise, things couldn’t have been better. It’s just that… just that we don’t seem to care... I mean we care about each other and I love Mayuk. He is the most important person in my life… but I can’t seem to talk to him about what I do… He doesn’t want to know… doesn’t seem to care. Can’t blame him. Neither do I… I just want to come home.”
And you are thinking, “So….?” Well, this was about a year ago. Mayuk is still there in Minsk, and might someday be packing for an assignment further west, but Mynah is back here in Delhi, waiting, for her husband to return and sign the divorce papers. It was her idea.
If you think I’ve lost my marbles (why that phrase should mean one has gone crazy is beyond me, but that is all it is meant to mean here) for suggesting that not sharing similar passions at work could drive a wedge so deep that it could split up a marriage, you only have to look at your own and wonder about the truth of it. But here’s my hypothesis for whatever it is worth…
Every few years in our lives, we come across these windows that shape us. For some of us, or some times, these windows open up every five years or so, for others in a decade and for some, it might take even longer. These phases are defining moments in our lives, like for me it would be the time I fell in love, knew what love is, at least for me, and realised how it was different from the other times I had thought I was in love. It would also be the week after I was first taken to a police station (long valiant story… saving it for another day). And it would also be the years I started playing competitive cricket, teaching and writing for a living. Each of these times, the people who were with me or had inspired these paradigm shift s left a bit of them in me.
Now, in our own life, and in the lives of our partners, if the paradigm shift s to come are not shared nor shaped by each other, each successive paradigm shift would pull us away from each other because we would inhabit separate worlds even though we live in the same house. At that stage Mynah and Mayuk might have recognised it for what it is and decided to call it quits while other couples might recognise it and yet want to give it another chance, while still others, expecting very comparatively little of their relationship, might choose to live on in silence, mistaking it for the ‘peace and quiet of home’.
When Mynah and Mayuk met in a B-school class room, they were immediately drawn to each other. Myna is intelligent, attractive and witty, just like the rest of her cousins, and Mayuk’s pretty much the same. They knew they would both have pretty exciting careers ahead of them and the small matter of one living off reading and writing books and the other only wanting to sell them, for a profit if he could, was never supposed to get in the way.
Well, it did. As the years rolled by, and they got better at what they did, their work started carving them to suit its own needs. Soon, though together and apparently in love, a small part of them became a stranger to the other. And the more their work defined them, the more it pulled them apart, and bigger grew the shadow cast by the stranger within.
If you look carefully, you will see such dynamics in more than one relationship around you; they might have chosen to stay together; they might laugh and share a joke or play together with their kids, but deep within they are both strangers living in different worlds.
A shared vision of the future means the world of my tomorrow and the world of her tomorrow should at least be neighbours if not the same. If I want to live with my parents, in the middle of a grassland in Botswana, and love quoting Byron in the bedroom, it just wouldn’t work, no matter how much we might be attracted to each other if she wants to live independently, close to a mall, but never away from Delhi, and hates poetry and prefers reading the Economic Times while I’m celebrating Byron. Yes, I can hear you mumble the dreaded C-word, a bonafide love killer – compromises.
But compromises work only as the exception that proves the rule.
The future is where we will live tomorrow. Whether you will live in it all alone, or with someone new walking in after every act, only to leave a short while later, still a stranger, or with someone who will hold your hand and walk with you till you both drop off the horizon would depend on you asking the right questions as you explore a new relationship.