Friday, August 17, 2012

Agony Aunt

Two stacks of letters lay in front of her. “Love Marriage” said one and “Arranged Marriage” said the other.  After years of writing the “Ask Grandma” column, it seemed as though all love marriages happened without parental guidance and all arranged marriages got done without inputs from the bride and bridegroom. But then, it was precisely in such cases that the preponderance of problems arose.
Where the love marriage happened either against parental wishes or with parents totally – and, perhaps, foolishly – in awe of their progeny’s judgment, the probability of problems seemed to be high. As, indeed, was the case when parents either totally ignored the possibility of their progeny having their own ideas for a spouse or where parental judgment was considered infallible, life turned out to be not so rosy either.
Today she found herself in an awfully cantankerous mood – not the best of times for her to deal sympathetically with other people’s problems.  Work was work, however, and took no cognizance of her moods. She sighed with frustration and turned first to one stack.
* * * * * *
Dear Grandma,
I fell in love with my husband and married him after two years. While we were in love, he was perfectly groomed and loved to go to parties with me. Now, when I look at this unshaven slob snoring by my side, it is difficult to believe that it is the same person. His idea of a good time seems to be curling up with a book or sitting glued to the television. When I chide him about his grooming, he says, “I can’t be looking as though I stepped out of a beauty parlor 24x7.” When I want to party with him he says, “I hate parties! I only went out because that was the only way to be with you.”
        Tell me what to do, pleaseeee!
Yours in distress,
Disappointed Lover

Dear Disappointed Lover,
You have made the mistake of not realizing that the human peacock can preen with borrowed feathers. It is the nature of the male animal to attract the female of his choice by seeming to be all that she wants him to be. Had you exercised your judgment, you would have found that the feathers were borrowed and not his own.
If your love was also based on other things than these and if he is satisfactory otherwise, it is best to reconcile yourself to living with the ‘slob’ as you call him. If you stopped pestering him about it maybe in time  you could get him to groom himself better and even come with you to the occasional party or two.
Yours in sympathy,
Grandma
Dear Grandma,
I fell in love with this madcap bike riding boy and married him. The problem is that he is like a little boy and I spend the entire day cleaning up after him. When he is not messing up the house he is messing with his bike – so much so I do not even know if he remembers that he has a wife in the house. Every time I try to talk to him seriously he makes a joke of it. I don’t know if I can stand it any more to live with someone so totally irresponsible.
            Do you think you can help me?
Yours harriedly,
Worried Wife
Dear Worried Wife,
You have failed to understand that when you want to go jogging you do not wear stiletto heels. You fell in love for qualities that make for an interesting companion but can be a recipe for disaster in a husband particularly for someone of your inclinations. It seems to me that you are the sort of person who likes an orderly house and takes her responsibilities seriously. A happy-go-lucky person like your husband was probably not the best of choices for you.
Having said that, you could still be happy if you can learn to enjoy his pursuits with him; lighten up a bit and ask your husband for help rather than shoving it down his throat as a responsibility. It could well be true that for the rest of your life you may have to make all the responsible decisions and you will have to reconcile yourself to the idea.
Yours in sympathy,
Grandma
More letters with similar issues!! She was irritated. Why will these young people marry based on how a person looks or what he does without a single thought to what sort of a person he is? They seemed to be people who bought a house for the view and discovered only after moving in that there was no running water, electricity or convenient shopping facilities! She smiled to discover herself using the idioms of her architect husband.

A huge chunk of the letters was related to problems with in-laws. She wrote about them on a case-by-case basis though, it seemed to her, that a lot of her complainants seemed to be mildly taken aback by the fact that a family came as an enclosure along with their lovers.
Today, thankfully, there had been no letters about Mama’s little boys. She had always been skeptic about such letters. More often than not, it was a case of the daughter-in-law being surprised that her husband actually loved his mother enough not to take his wife’s side every time she had an argument with her mother-in-law or the son passing off his own desires as dear old mom’s wishes. There were some cases of the termagant mother ruling the household with a hand of iron but not as often as TV seemed to project.
She was glad, too, that she did not need to deal with the girls married to wife-beaters, who continued to live with him because they were afraid of facing an unsympathetic I-told-you-so from their parents, or the ones that are abandoned by their 'lovers'.
Thank God for small mercies! Letters relating to women having married a poor man - and finding that poverty was not as genteel as the movies would show you and love was not a sufficient substitute for bread – had dried up. Maybe the girls of today were more pragmatic about choosing their lovers at least insofar as financial status went. More to the point, they probably knew that what they would get from her was an earful of advice when what they really needed was a pocketful of money.
Half the work was done. Now she turned to the other stack
* * * * * *
Dear Grandma,
I had an arranged marriage. My parents were very satisfied with the alliance. My husband and his family want a child soon and they do not care that my career prospects shall get affected if I opted for one at this time. No amount of argument is getting the point through to them.
What can I do?
Worriedly yours,
Dutiful Daughter
Dear Dutiful Daughter,
It seems that you have fallen into the usual trap of thinking that changing your diapers equipped your parents with a complete insight into your soul. These issues should have been discussed before marriage. Parents may know what is necessary to run a family but they cannot be expected to know your every single taste and every single desire. You should either have made it clear to them as to what you looked for in your future rather than giving a dutiful you-know-best answer!
Now that you are married, I would suggest that you point out the advantages to your husband’s family of your advancing your career rather than focusing on what you want. People tend to be reasonable normally if you do not take a confrontational posture. If, however, they remain adamant you can always adopt ways of not conceiving including telling them outright that you refuse to do so.
Yours in sympathy,
Grandma
Ah! The naiveté of the young dutiful daughter! As though her parents were the avatars of Solomon and gifted with his judgment! She looked at her reply to see if she had made it too tart. It did seem a bit harsh but she decided to leave it as it was.
Dear Grandma,
My marriage was arranged and my husband’s family is also quite nice. The problem is that my husband is dull as ditch-water. He seems to know nothing other than his office, home and sleep. There is hardly anything to talk about with him. Life has become such a bore!
What do I do to make life more interesting?
 Yours in ennui,
Bored Wife
Dear Bored Wife,
You can trust your parents to take care of your security provided you trust their judgment but you cannot depend on them to make life interesting for you. Parents may ensure security; it is for you to ensure companionship. It seems like you never interacted with your husband before marriage, which you ought to have done to check for compatibility.
Your problem, however, does not appear very serious since your husband’s family seems congenial. See if you can get your husband to take part in the activities that interest you. More often than not, it is lack of imagination and not lack of interest that keeps such men in the rut. If he is not interested find a means to engage yourself interestingly.
Yours in sympathy,
Grandma
Thank God it was a light day. No issues of really bad people or horrid situations like dowry harassment or cheating spouses – only the usual mundane problems of the everyday world. Only issues of parents having been unable or unwilling to take into account the specific tastes of their children just as the lovers had failed to take into account the fact that the qualities that made a man a good companion did not necessarily suffice to qualify him as a good husband.
* * * * * *
Dear Grandma,
Do you think that Arranged Marriage is better or Love marriage is better?
Yours in doubt,
Confused soul
She had to laugh! As though it mattered whether the child introduced the future spouse to the parents or the parents introduced the future spouse to the child – except of course that arranged marriage offered the child the convenience of blaming her parents for her problems! Too much importance was being attached to the ‘going weak in the knees’ feeling and not enough attention paid to the fact that the rosy dreams of romantic love actually built unrealistic expectations! If you ignored romantic love, there was not much difference between Love marriage and Arranged Marriage as long as both parents and children involved themselves in the decision. The love that grew old together may spring out of romantic love as it happened with her son or could grow out of living together companionably as had happened with her.
Dear Confused Soul,
You seem to think that a good life comes out of the way you get to meet your spouse. What makes a marriage good or bad is the way you live after marriage.
Whether or not you love the person, you should LIKE him. It means that, apart from going weak in the knees and finding your heart melting like an icicle in a furnace, you should be compatible with him as well as care for him and he should care for you as well. By caring I mean that both of you should not be thinking only of how happy the other will make you but should also be able to take pleasure in making the other happy or in soothing the other’s hurt. If the care is all on your side be prepared to be a doormat.
After marriage, you should be willing to Compromise. Things are bound to be different from when you were not married and, thus, you may have to give up some things or do some new things – both of which may displease you. If you truly cared for the other, only such compromises should become necessary where the pleasure you derive from making your spouse happy should outweigh the displeasure of the compromise.
The most important thing is Communication. Any problem that you have must be clearly communicated. “You do not love me” does not tell the man that you are hurt about the fact that he forgot your birthday or that you hate his ogling that bimbo across the street. If you find it difficult to openly express your vulnerability, you are either married to the wrong person or you are unwilling to risk hurt to your ego even to attempt a loving married life. To marry someone when you are not open to communicating is selfish and to marry someone who does not communicate openly is martyrdom.
If you can truly set your ego aside and can compromise and communicate with your spouse, you will find that your married life can be far richer than you thought it could be. If your spouse repays your trust with disdain you will at least know that you are better off without the marriage and act accordingly.
Life is far simpler than you think. All it requires is sufficient courage.
Yours clarifyingly,
Grandma

62 comments:

  1. A very creative way of doing the topic justice! Grandma's wisdom will help those in 2 minds!!
    Best Wishes for the contest.

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  2. Dear Suresh Sir,

    An epistolary blog-post :)

    mark my words sir - is baar bhi award aap hi ko milega :)

    Do read my attempt and share your valuable comments / feedback -

    http://www.vincimax.blogspot.in/2012/08/meri-teri-teri-meri-prem-kahani-hai.html

    Thanks,
    Mahesh

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    1. Hey Mahesh! Enough that I managed a post this time. Lots of great posts for this topic around.

      Will do!

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  3. In terms of topic coverage and creativity of presentation, your entry is far better than mine. If I were the judge I would give the prize away to you.

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    1. That is very generous of you TF! Your entries covered everything too and were very creative and interesting to read as well!

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  4. Superb Suresh,. Guess time for a hattrick :D

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    1. Thanks Jaish! Lots of great entries out there, however!

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  5. nice post :) all the best !
    here have a look at this one too when you get time :)

    http://saurabhchawla2345.blogspot.com/2012/08/love-is-arranged-by-god-4.html

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  6. This is very creative and lovely. A wonderful read and congratulations on the WUC win.

    This one is a winner for sure. All the very best Sir.:)

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    1. Thanks Saru for both the compliments and the congratulations! Nice to see you here!

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  7. Hey, did you ever think of making yours an agony aunt blog? you could become a full-fledged marriage counsellor, Grandma Suresh :)

    All the best for the contest!

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    1. Ahem! And i can advertise my credentials as a bachelor :) :)

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  8. A very new and creative take on the prompt. Well, I hope it gets you the third award in a row (after Blogaton and WriteUp Cafe), Suresh ji. Good luck! :)

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  9. Many of the Agony Aunt columns were actually written by 'Uncles' or Grandpas. And they were single too ! So your credentials are quite pukka for this job. :-)

    I loved the way you have so creatively dealt with the contest topic. All the very best !

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    1. You mean I can actually use my bachelorhood for advertising Agony Aunt services :) :)

      Thanks!!

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    2. Of course ! Didn't you know that it is only the single people who can offer an objective view on arranged or love marraige? :-P

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    3. On marriage in general, I suppose! :)

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  10. Very innovative way of presenting the debate. I love the way you solved the problems of different marriage. All the best

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  11. Hi CS!!!!

    I totally loved your post. The last answer gives solution to many problems of the maaried life. Reading your post, its hard to believe that you are single. You must look out for agony aunt column in real life as well.

    All the very best. I m sure you are going to win the contest.

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    1. Thanks Ru! Great to hear from you after a long time!

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    2. Well your blog is on my fav list :). Your post is really very awesome. I m glad that I didn't miss this post

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    3. That's great to hear, Ru! Thanks!

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  12. What a charming approach! Engaging till the very end.
    I didn't quite care for this topic at all, but it seemed like everyone was participating in the contest so I had to do it, too! :)

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  13. very very well written!!
    I occasionally come here to read, but today I have started to follow you!!

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    1. That's very gratifying, Shazia! Thanks

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  14. Great concept... Nice way to highlight the point... Completely agree with the last point ... Instead of using the word directly I would say its all about managing expectations ... Do read my short story here ... http://theshittanalysis.blogspot.in/2012/08/Expectations-LoveYaArrange.html

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  15. could not stop laughing at this

    You have made the mistake of not realizing that the human peacock can preen with borrowed feathers.

    very well written

    Balu

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  16. Sir - this is the best post I have read on this topic....(it is with a little envy that I state this - I had almost awarded myself the prize, which I now know will go to a better post!! :-))

    I am amazed at the insight 'Grandma' has - because this is exactly what I feel, after over 12 years of marriage. Kudos for the humour quotient too!

    Do let me know how you like this one: http://lafemmenirvana.blogspot.in/2012/08/love-and-marriage-chicken-and-egg.html .... await your views!

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    1. Thanks Nirvana! There are, probably, far better posts around - including your own - but it is generous of you to say this here!

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  17. Stumbled upon your blog through Indiblogger. Real out of the box thinking on the topic.. Amazingly beautiful take....

    I would love to have your feedback on this post:http://odizzey.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/love-marriage-or-arranged-marriagesony-tv/

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    1. Thanks! Away till 2nd. Shall do after that!

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  18. one of your best post SureshJi:) unique and interesting indeed :)

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  19. What a creative way to deal with the topic ! Ever thought of being an agony aunt ??? You would be good . I sincerely hope you get the prize ! All the very best !

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    1. Mmm! Looks like I have another career opportunity :) Thanks TTT!

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  20. Woah! such a creative take on this one. And i was wondering how will others deal with this topic. All the Best. I hope this one wins. :) Loved it totally

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  21. It's really one of the best post. You have dealt with both issues in a genuine way which would make people think that we have power within ourselves & we just need courage to take that step.
    All the best!

    Have a look at my attempt(I have requested this to just Agony Uncle) ;)

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    1. Thanks Gayatri! Just back after a tiresome journey; shall look it up soon.

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  22. Awesome....well blended the content with creativity and humour..and the genuinity ofcourse...the best post i have read til now....all in all, u deserve to win...nothing less than the amazon kindle fire..:-D

    Loved it totally!!

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    1. Thanks Priyaa! Wish you had the ear of the judges :) :)

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  23. Very creative..one of the best post I have read on this topic..voted..All the best for the contest..:)

    here is my take
    http://dare-to-think-beyond-horizon.blogspot.in/2012/08/5-artists-one-topic-love-marriage-vs.html

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  24. Reading this really late sir. But i'm glad I didn't miss out on this one. A lovely read, yet again. :)

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  25. Very creative Suresh. Nice way of talking about marriage without taking sides!
    PS: You seem to assume that only women write to Agony Aunts based on your response to Confused soul where its not evident by the letter whether its a man or a woman :) But I guess the assumption is probably fair, most are that way.
    BTW, totally unrelated but there was one picture that was so funny and your whole Agony Aunt context reminded me of it and I couldn't resist sharing. Take a look at this.

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    1. You are right, Deepa! I have found that men do not recognize emotional problems as readily as women :)

      That was hilarious :)

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  26. Dear Agony Aunt,
    I am Aunt Abby, seem to be having the set of Dutiful Daughters and Confused Souls on this side of the globe. In addition to similar ones that you have, I have even larger set of interesting questions with approvals for Same Sex marriage and LGBT clientale. See my site: http://news.yahoo.com/dear-abby/

    It may be great if we can exchange notes as we now know only too well that with these truly connected globe these geographical and cultural differences are at best shortlived....

    Abby

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    1. I have enough trouble handling the traditional marriages, dear Abby, so i shall leave all the variations entirely to you :)

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  27. Really a good one. come out as though you have great experience... are you hiding something boss!

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    1. Not at all Boss! Only the advantage of an un-involved observer :)

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  28. Oh well,what can i say,you have said it all;and every word is true although it does not stem from first hand experience.
    Psst-is that why you chose singledom?

    What makes a marriage good or bad is the way you live after marriage.
    I loved this line.

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    1. Hahaha! Indu! Yes - in a way that was one of my reasons for choosing to be single. I am solitary by nature and hate to compromise on my space and time. Given that, it would have been unfair to marry and expect my wife to do ALL the compromising.

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