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Rishte badi mushkilon se bante dekhe, tootne keliye bus ek hi lamha…

(my transl. relationships are built with difficulty over time but can also snap within a moment)

(Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and AR Rahman from “Gurus of Peace”)

Thanks to Moserbaer CDs at least we get to watch original movies in good print at low cost. These CDs have actually contributed substantially to the cinema world and for viewers as well because: (a) They are cheap and easily available; (b) They are not pirated and (c) Some very old black&white and Eastman color movies are available now in the market. I got to watch Kora Kagaz (1974) from one of these CDs yesterday. I had always loved the songs of Kora Kagaz, but did not get the opportunity to watch this movie before. I liked the movie very much and thought of writing an article related to that. However, the theme of this article is not completely cinema and cinematic techniques of Kora Kagaz; the theme is — relationships.

I am slightly nervous while writing this post — relationships are difficult to be written about and feel worried that my own prejudices and emotions should not come in the path of the narration. Anyway…. I begin with the movie.

Kora Kagaz is the story of a young girl (Jaya Bhaduri) from a well-to-do upper middle class family and a college literature professor (Vijay Anand) who comes from a “poor” family. By choosing to remain in the teaching profession in a city college, the professor chooses to maintain a humble lifestyle. He gets married to the girl with a reluctant acceptance of the girl’s mother (Achala Sachdev), who had dreamt of getting her daughter married to an engineer/doctor or a businessman. The actual drama begins after the wedding, when there is a constant interference from the side of the bride’s mother, unacceptable to the “honest” and “prestige-conscious” son-in-law.

Every new day there is a new problem in the couple’s life. One day there is a fridge sent by the mother, the second there is a telephone, third the mother goes and tells some relatives that her son-in-law will go to London and submit his PhD thesis, and so on. The man in turn feels that each of these tokens of “love” are nothing but “nails” hammered on the coffin of his honesty and principles. He believes that these ideas are especially contrived by the mother-in-law to show him down. The newly-wed girl is sandwiched between her mother’s love/influence and husband’s principles. Finally, they separate on a very bitter note to be reunited years later.

Like most Bollywood movies, this movie ends with an optimistic note when the protagonists meet in the railway station years later and decide to live happily ever after. Well, that is the movie but life is not a movie. The protagonists are reunited by destiny and are given a second chance by life. But, that may not happen in “real” life. Actual story may not end/start with a reunion. Reflecting on the movie, many things came into mind. Yet, what appealed to me in the movie was the way the complex threads of relationships have been handled. The Director (Anil Ganguly) has to be credited for understanding and presenting these complex problems related to marriage. Parental interference (both bride and groom’s side), societal demands and finances and importantly communication gap all these form the crux of not only this story but many other real-life stories. I shall discuss each of these four aspects with examples in this article. Personally speaking, frustrations and failures of married/love lives of my friends and relatives based on these aspects came haunting after watching the movie.

Coming to parental interference, most of the times parental interference creates a havoc in the life of a newly married couple. As per most Indian customs, after the wedding the bride is supposed to live with the groom and his family. She changes her maiden title and has to relinquish many of her bonds with the maternal home. Expectations are high on both sides and a new addition to the family creates some amount of anxiety. Often interference at this stage affects long term relationships. Especially, if there is an interference from the bride’s side, things get blown out of proportion. The girl is ‘expected’ to adjust and she might find it difficult because of a very different kind of upbringing. Sometimes the expectations might be just very high. In such situations if there is parental interference, things become very difficult. Sometimes the parents/relatives/siblings of the groom and their constant interference lead to friction in a new relationships. Expectations that the bride “has” to be “meek”, “humble”, “respectful” and “dutiful” are always there, but sometimes these reach the limit of atrocity. Meekness, humility and dutifulness does not mean that one forgets that the person is new into your family, needs time to adjust and deserves to be understood as a “human being”. Sometimes the desire for seeing the bahu as an embodiment of perfection is so high that people become unforgiving.

For an example, a friend of mine kept to sick-bed for months immediately after marriage because she was expected to assist her elder sister-in-law in the kitchen to cook for their joint family. She was finding hard to cope up and there was constant tension with her husband which got severely aggravated when the bride’s sister called up and spoke to the groom regarding the issue. The boy didn’t take it lightly and matters could not be settled until both side’s parents met and had to solve with mutual discussions. But sometimes such simple issues become a huge problem ending in breakups.

One cannot always blame the groom or his family. Sometimes the fathers, mothers, aunties, siblings of brides play no less spoil-sport. In their over-zealous protection for the daughter and in their possessiveness, they land up creating problems for the new couple who need some space to understand each other. One of my acquaintances took her sister on her honeymoon! You can guess the response she might have got from her spouse…. In another instance, the mother of the girl kept calling her frequently, telling her she should pester her husband to switch over from his current employment and should choose a job which is closer to the girl’s home. Result: there were constant bickering on both sides until they separated.

As far as societal expectations and finances are concerned, these are problematic both in marriage and love affairs and are deeply interconnected. These days one can see a trend in which if you are in love/marriage the first thing people tend to ask you is the “CTC” of your husband/boyfriend. I am not sure if males face the same questions for their spouses/girlfriends from their circle and friends. The success or failure of an affair depends on the amount/lifestyle your spouse can “buy” for you from malls and shopping complexes. In Odisha, I have seen a major trend — if the groom is a “software engineer” then only the bride’s family accept it with pride. If not hmmm…hard-luck πŸ™‚ . One of these days we sat joking in the mess regarding “computer engineers” taking away all the “nice” girls and all the “nice” money . Some of us conceded in tongue-in-cheek fashion that we do not want a “literature” researcher as our spouse for he can feed us only with “love” and not with “pizza” πŸ™‚ . Well, the scenario doesn’t seem to be new. In Kora Kagaz too there is a firm dig at this trend when the girl’s mother broods over her daughter being married only to a “literature master” who earns 600 rupees per month. While, another newly married girl’s parents boast of their son-in-law as an NRI engineer who earns huge amount in US dollars nearly 10-12000 rupees (in 1970s).

Not just finances, in the University, I remember many of my friends (males) were rejected by the girl’s family on the grounds of their not being a student of engineering/medical. A particular choice of subject is considered to be the hallmark of lasting friendships and relationships…strange! Also, vice versa many of my female friends (doing a “simple” MA/M.Sc/ M.Phil) were taken for a “joy-ride” by engineers/doctors only to be dumped by them for a choice of girls either of the same profession or from professions like MBA, CA, etc., whom they could call their “equals”. Many think that literature, economics, sociology, psychology, culture studies are meant for “freaks” and “time-pass” who have nothing to do but to perenially waste time. However, society forgets that some of these “freaks” like Tagore, Sarojini Naidu or Amartya Sen contributed to the making of the “modern” India, and some other “freaks” like Kant, Hegel, Foucault, Derrida, Spivak and Levi-Strauss have made the “world” that we see at present. In fact, an entire lecture can be given on how Foucault’s theories brought jail reform in the long run or how Derrida contributed to what today can be called the “margin-center”. But, let us keep that discussion for another post.

We have burnt many a midnight oil in the hostel trying to soothe broken hearts where one person was preferred over another either due to his/her social status or education. Especially, some of my close friends fell prey to the so-called glitz and glamor of the world and returned brokenhearted for they were “shown” that they are dunce, good-for-nothing types who have no position in the “soft world”. One of my acquaintances who was a topper in her career suffered huge pain when she was told by the family who had come to “see” her that “will she be able to adjust with their son who earns huge amount after his BCA? Can she show her ‘feet’ to the groom’s family so that they can judge whether she is “lakshmi”?” Irony! πŸ™‚ Congreve says “way of the world”. For example, once when we were in college I had come across this story of a girl committing suicide for not being accepted by the boy’s family even while the person impregnated her on the grounds that she did not match the status of the boy who was a senior “ranger” in the forest department. Phew!

While I was in Post Graduation one of my relatives asked what were my subjects and I replied that I was doing a PG in literature, and he replied “hmm! there are millions of PGs in literature what difference does it make to the world! If you were a scientist or engineer you could have managed…hmm” . He was right in a sense! Apart from education and finances, societal pressures manifest in other dimensions too. Pressure for “male child”, pressure to buy a house/car like peers or colleagues, pressure to maintain beauty/charm and also pressure to be more intelligent than colleagues/friends’ spouses. These are true for either gender. Societal pressures are huge and excruciating. I observe sometimes people uploading snaps of their intimate moments on social networking sites for the sake of “showing” the world that how amazing and warm their relationship is. How much that is in “good” or “bad” faith can be a subject of research for psychologists dealing with inter-personal relationships….

Communication gaps in relationships are also strongly responsible for the complexities. Everything in this world revolves around the necessity to communicate. Gestures, non-verbal communication and face-to-face discussions play a huge role in determining the “health” and “longevity” of any relationship. In real life, sometimes communication is the only thing lacking in otherwise perfect relationships. Especially, in elderly couples after their children have grown up and left them for their own destination lack of communication creates health hazards.

Finally, one can say that each relationship is unique and has its own beauty and complexity. Starting from friendship to love to marriages relationships are complex, because human beings are highly complex. Freedom to choose and not to choose can be left as a mutual issue between the people sharing a certain bond, unless the concerned parties “seek” advice. If you observe the animal world and especially monkey parents, they too leave the little-one to play, rise and fall as per its pleasure, so that it learns the rules of the game. But when it topples and hurts itself then the parents jump and give support. So also, human relationships are an intricate “game” and one should get the chance and the opportunity to learn the rules of the game and play it effectively in their own style.

Thoda hai thode ki zaroorat hai…zindagi phir bhi yahan khoobsoorat hai πŸ™‚

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to hurt any gender/professional sentiments. The author merely records experiences of people.