Category Archives: Relationships

Our right hands, our left hands. – How our relationships empower us.

Castaway. The movie.
Man alone on an island.

Instantly I gave thanks. For family, friends, nieces, sisters, boyfriends, bosses, neighbor. Yeah, even though she’s planning my marriage without my permission.

Of course we’re millenium women. With careers, independent minds and a hunger to achieve. But it’s relationships, the people we go home to, that make it all worthwhile.

True, they may nag and point out that your top makes you look too thin/ fat, but they also hold a towel for you when you come in from the rain.

And however dysfunctional, or loud their snoring, there’s a reason why – even if we don’t see it immediately – each one of them is in our lives. Each, like a different vitamin providing the emotional nutrition we need. Providing the balance to career, money, fame.

Let’s begin with the parents. Well, besides the obvious, they were given to us to argue with. A chance to voice our opinion, and sculpt out our identity. But below the surface drama of ‘Who changed my channel? and ‘You should eat more, sleep less, go out and meet some guys’ runs a lode of love and nurturing, structure and security. Advice that comes from experience they inherited from the beginning of time – Hell, my mum advised clove for a toothache long before I read it in any book.

Would we be able to pursue our careers without much interruption, make big-shot decisions if not for them handling the cooking, taking care of the baby? Guess not.

Boyfriends or husbands? Yup, they contribute to the Dept of Love, Sex and Teaching us patience – especially when they leave their clothes on the floor. But most importantly we should give thanks for the male point of view, for balancing your ying with his yang, for the massage, for when he appreciates your behind, for listening, or is just there for you – even if he’s just snoring sweetly on the couch.

Our kids bring blessings that would need a whole book. But hugs and innocence rate high, sustaining us, giving us hope. Of course, as they grow they challenge our perceptions, our pronunciation, our fashion sense. But you wouldn’t want to turn into a dinosaur, would you?

And if you need someone to take your 2 am phone call, there’s two kinds of people you can turn to. Siblings and friends. The shoulders to cry on and an ear when you need one, even if just for small talk. Of course, they’re also there to tell you that you look terrible in that skirt. But look at it the right way, and it’s an opportunity to learn to handle criticism. To look at our flaws in a ‘safe’ environment.

They’re the ones we can ask for a loan. The ones who will happily share recipes and clothes. And the ones who will point out that the man you’re in love with isn’t right for you and has a scar that’s unaccounted for. They’re there to baby-sit, and stand by you like angels at weddings protecting you from ‘When’s your turn?’

Every one of our relationships help us examine our lives. Sometimes showing us our imperfections in cinemascope-size reflections. Sometimes, like earthquakes, shaking up our comfort zones, to create new landscapes. Inspiring our successes, and applauding while we celebrate ours.

But it’s not just them being there for us that empowers us. It’s also the fact that we’re there for them. In being the daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend we become someone they can turn to. Putting us in a place of importance. Letting you be the one who manages their kids when they’re ill, or listen to their secrets, allowing you to learn from their experience. Giving you the opportunity to help, to teach them what you know.

In their health and their sickness you’re given the power and the chance (and therefore the satisfaction) of being able to nurture. The power to change, to mould, to affect their lives.

At the end of it all, every one of them give us the power to love and forgive, and options to be better women and human beings.

So yes, go out and conquer your Everest, but know that it puts a bigger grin on your face when you have your base camp waiting to welcome you back.


(Essay published in Femina (March 2007).

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Untying the knot.

Through sickness and health. Through burping and farting. With bad friends and good. Through world cup football and otherwise. And then of course, till death do us part.” That‘s the way the vows go for many of us women.

Yes, it could be funny. But when you begin to give up the very essence of who you are; your very basic freedom in life, just because you’re in a relationship, that’s when the phrase ‘tying the knot’ becomes suffocatingly literal.

And sadly many of us slip into that fog easily. Giving up our identities. Buying into the V 2 R 1 concept. Letting social conditioning and many romance novels make us believe that the path to happiness is finding a man. That all we need to do is love him, and we’ll have nirvana. So we give up our freedom to go out with our friends. Give up thinking for ourselves. In some cases, don’t even tell anyone about the relationship, only because the man says so. Fooling ourselves all the time that it’s ok, so long as we are lucky to be in a relationship.

What is an even sadder fact is that many of us don’t even know what freedoms we are entitled to. Simply because, we’ve never cared to think about what we want. Of course, we may know one day when resentment festering invisibly like a wound under the skin erupts into confrontation.

But why wait till then. We are lucky to be in an age where many privileges come easy. Fought for and earned by women who’ve come before us. Who gifted us the vision of what we can have: The power to go out and earn and not be dependent on our partner. To wear what we want. To be able to define our own concepts of motherhood, of being a wife. To walk away or choose to stay in a relationship.

So yes, we should uphold them. And yes, you can have them without having to ask.

Freedom is what you give yourself. Once you declare yourself free, you are.

Truth is, before we ask for freedom in a relationship, we have to gain freedom from our own beliefs. The ones that say we aren’t good enough, don’t deserve this or that, that it’s wrong to want more.

So first, recognize what is important to you. And know that you deserve it, any of it, whether the freedom to be able to choose your friends, chew chicken to the bone at the dinner table, or to just have ‘me’ time.

And if you stay true to yourself, to what you want, all the time – whether within the room of your mind or at a presentation, you’ll have automatically given yourself the freedom to be you, in a relationship or otherwise.

The next step is easy. All you have to do is communicate what you want, clearly and compassionately. In most cases, your partner will respect you for it and nod. If he doesn’t, talk.

Talking –and listening- are vital to any relationship. And as necessary as love, understanding, respect, trust, and here’s a heavy one, responsibility.

As the head of any nation will tell you, freedom comes with enormous responsibility.

The freedom of speech gives you the space to say what’s on your mind, yet, not necessarily nag, be nasty or cruel. And ladies, it also comes with the freedom to think before you speak. Expressing ourselves does not mean flinging pots and pans.

Yes, it’s the 2000’s. But smoking and drinking come with the responsibility to take care of your health for the sake of the ones you love: you, your spouse, your kids. And earning and spending your own money is great, as long as you don’t incur distressing credit cards bills again and again, that will eat into the house loan.

Thing is, you can have any freedom you want, – even the freedom to meet your ex, now friend. But you have to trust yourself first, that you won’t abuse that freedom or your spouse’s faith.

How you own your freedom in a relationship demonstrates just how mature you are, and if abused, questions your right to have it. So let’s appreciate it, exercise it.

Like muscles, you need to exercise your freedom.

Today, thanks to progress, careers, our awareness of the importance of our roles as women and the resulting confidence, we have freedoms in our relationships that our mothers and grandmothers didn’t have: The freedom to build our careers, while our partner stays at home. To not cook and order out if we want. To chase our dreams, even if the income gets cut in half. The liberty to make decisions and have our partner’s support in whatever decision we take, whether it’s changing jobs, or buying a car.

If you lived in the 1930s, everyone and his cousin assumed that his wife was plain ecstatic just because she could cook his meals and wash his feet. Why would she want to do anything else. See a movie by herself for example.

Breathe happy because we have freedoms that many women in small towns and villages still don’t have. The space to travel to another country without our partner. To say what we want without being told to shut up. The freedom to stand up and not accept another woman or a second wife.

So let’s not take our freedoms for granted lest it erodes the love that builds our relationships.

True love and Freedom go hand in hand.

When you ask for freedom, you’re automatically making a pact that you’ll give your partner his. And you can only keep that handshake warm if you truly listen, love, stay compassionate and respect his needs and well as your own.

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck in his best-selling book The Road Less Travelled, quite rightly says, “Freedom and discipline are handmaidens; without the discipline of genuine love, freedom is invariably non-loving and destructive.”

So then, dear people, freedom is also allowing the other to make mistakes, and the chance to make amends. My parents have been married over 30 years. They argue. They make up. And it’s because they choose their freedom to love over their right to stay simmering.

Kahlil Gibran puts it nicely, “Love each other, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” Translation: Keep it fluid, like dance, like a waltz. You step back sometimes and sometimes he does. Find your own unique rhythm, by growing, by experimenting.

Now while we assert ourselves, in capital letters no less, sometimes we need to cut a little extra slack. Having made big strides over the last decades we are changing quickly, even for men who are trying to keep pace. Should they open the door for a woman? Offer to split the bill? And that’s only the small stuff.

So let’s use our freedom to take the high road, and let them pass now and then.

Aah, isn’t freedom empowering?


(Published in Femina. Yes, a woman’s magazine.)

Feel free to quote from this site without permission, staying within the normal fair-use conventions, as long as you do me the courtesy of linking back to the relevant permalink and also letting me know. (You can get the permanent link to a particular post by clicking the time stamp below the headline.)
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Does history have to repeat itself?

There was a time when you got married and walked into an orange sunset. Today you’d have to get his attention away from the neon signs that line the beach.

The peril of marriage is you want it to be forever, but sometimes, “I do” becomes the “I don’t”, and you part with pain, relief and sometimes, with a wistful ‘what could’ve been’.

In this world of Mars missions, Page Three lifestyles, 92 channels to surf, and the all the pressures they bring, marriages, unlike your grandmother’s, don’t necessarily work out, and that’s putting it politely. And sometimes you marry again. For various reasons…you don’t see eye to eye, you simply grow in different directions or your in-laws come to stay.

So everybody to everybody – J Lo, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Kabir Bedi, Alyque Padamsee included, has married again. But the question is not “Hey, so I married again,” but “Hell, did I marry the same woman?”

For most it’s a theory that fits in the same place on the Scary Scale as Commitment. And it gave enough people enough jitters to say “Er, no comment.” But let’s face it, the hypothesis exists. Many times, a man or woman marrying again, tends to choose a spouse who is in most ways a clone of the first. Now, though outwardly, Spouse Two may seem to be the very antithesis of Spouse 1, it turns out that he/she shares the same core values as the first spouse.

In the mission to poke and prod at the truth we checked with a few braves who took that second chance.

“I would say we do tend to choose the same kind of person. We’re human, it’s in our nature to make the same mistakes over and over.” CP Surendran, Editor, Bombay Times, laughs self deprecatingly.

When I point out that if we have that awareness, we shouldn’t be making the mistake, he tells me, “Yes, but growing is hard. We protect ourselves, against experiences that will teach us. We know the world demands a certain kind of response from us. It’s comfortable to provide a typecast response.”

On a hopeful note he adds, “But it doesn’t have to be this way. When we grow, we react differently to the same person. A nuance that once seemed petty to me, I now understand. I wouldn’t compare my spouses, because my lifestyle has changed, the world in which I live in has changed, my perspective has changed. Finally, it all depends on an individual’s own evolution.”

Yatin (name changed), argued “To a certain extent yes, we choose the same person, but then don’t any two individuals have similarities?”

Dolly Thakore, tells me, “Both the men in my life were similar. Both believed in the same things -liberality, globalization, were interested in art and literature. Both were bright, intelligent achievers, one a lawyer, the other in advertising and theatre. The drive, the stimulation appealed to me.” She chuckles as she remembers that both have gone for younger women, and married thrice.

“In my first relationship we were both immature. My second husband, however, was 15 years my senior and so was a lot kinder, mellower. But once the bloom is off the rose, then the bloom is off the rose.”

“Yes, I’d choose a person with the same mental make up again. The emotional gaps? They’ll always be there. You have to fill those gaps yourself.”

Daniel SR, Lecturer, Tata Institute of Social Sciences directs me to look at the pattern we follow in choosing a partner, to the Systemic Thought that explains Complimentary and Symmetrical couples. What you and me know as ‘the Opposites that Attract’ and ‘Think Alike Soul mates’.

People who tend to marry early tend to form complementary couples for the developmental need to complete themselves. Fusing their own quirks, sensibilities to a relationship, learning from and teaching the other. For example, Ms. Social Butterfly would gravitate to Mr. Reclusive author. If these people uncouple, ahem, divorce, they usually form a symmetrical relationship next, in which their basic nature is reconfirmed. They go back to wanting to love and be loved by someone like themselves.

Symmetrical couples tend to be unstable and usually break up, not coupling for a period during which they learn to think of themselves as self-sufficient.

Only when people choose partners solely for their appreciation of who the other person is, rather than a developmental need that’s when a harmonious lasting relationship can be formed.

Classic case: Mira (name changed), artist who married young. Sanjay, her first husband, was a dude, attractive, advertising exec, life of the party, but an emotional amoeba. Ranjit, spouse two is a podgy, soft-spoken, software professional who prefers the company of close friends at a quiet dinner, and yes, cuddles her in public.

“Since we’re so lonely, the first reaction is to immediately look for another person to fill the space. In the gap between the marriages I did a lot of growing up. I realized that looks and “being seen” weren’t important to me anymore. It was my low self- esteem that had made me pick a man who made up for my own lack of confidence,” she says.

Her experience brings up another corollary. That the person we choose is in some way a reflection of our self, and where we are on the growth curve. Chart Madonna’s journey of self that took her from a then violent Sean Penn to calm as a clam Guy Ritchie and you’ll see the point. By evolving, she chose a radically different man.

The suppositions keep flowing in. There’s another one that says that you are wired to choose someone like your mother or your father.

Mostly we got an erudite “What crap?” to that one. “Well, in some ways,” some agreed.

So then, are we doomed to making the same choice by genetics? Course not, the gurus murmur. Like our dress codes,(ha, would it be so simple) we can un-learn our values. 32 is a good time to be 32 (or 26 or 57) and take onus for changing our ideas. Mind you, takes a bit of introspection and hard work. But then as you already know, the ‘happily ever afters’ belong only in fairy tales ma cherie. Now, Liz Taylor of 6 husbands and one Larry Fortensky? Well, that would take a whole different article on therapy.


(Published in Guy Thing (A Times Group mag)

Feel free to quote from this site without permission, staying within the normal fair-use conventions, as long as you do me the courtesy of linking back to the relevant permalink and also letting me know. (You can get the permanent link to a particular post by clicking the time stamp below the headline.)
If you’d like reprint rights, please mail me at