Saturday, October 31, 2009

The 'other woman'

Of late I’ve been hearing a lot about the ‘other woman’ in a man’s life. A court verdict has ruled that a man’s second wife/partner is entitled to property rights just like his first wife and if I am not mistaken this applies to a live in relationship as well. I don’t want to go into the legalities of such an arrangement or argue whether such a verdict would or would not act as deterrent to the not so serious flings that men and women tend to have without the commitment that is called marriage. I merely wish to analyze whether it is okay to paint the mistress/second wife black and call her names just because she involved herself knowingly or unknowingly with a married man? Is there perhaps another side to the story? I know it is easy for me to offer my opinion having never faced such a situation but a few cases known to me make me wonder what went wrong and also if those of us who pass judgment are overlooking the trauma faced by the so called ‘other woman’.

As an undergrad student studying in Trichy some years back when I had neither age nor maturity I remember announcing that if my husband ever had an affair, I’d let him go and have nothing to do with him. There was no point, I argued, in continuing my relationship with a cheating husband. I’d show him the door……. We were actually analyzing the situation in a hit movie and our sympathies naturally lay with the unsuspecting, god like heroine who sang soulful songs to express her agony. She finally forgave the errant husband and the other woman was suitably punished.

My friend agreed heartily but added that she’d show him the door too but only after making life hell for him and his mistress. Others too agreed but suggested punishments like rolling him down the stairs, scooping out his eyeballs etc. etc.

But movies are movies and real life stories are different.

Take for instance the case of Veena (name changed) that took place 40 years back around the time we had the above mentioned argument. She was working in a multinational company and fell in love with her married boss and could do nothing about it. She married him against the advice of well wishers. Her parents in law sided with the first wife and the couple moved to the middle-east. She felt guilty about having wronged the first wife and decided not to have children of her own. Unfortunately her husband died. She continued to support his family-got his daughter married and educated his son. Now with the parents in law passing away, the two women live together and the children love her, if not more at least as much as they love their natural mother. Veena was related to me by marriage and I may be biased in my opinion of her. But I find it equally difficult to be harsh on D…….. who I know only from a distance.

D……. was at the receiving end of life’s blows. Her husband was an irresponsible sadist who troubled and tortured her day in and day out. She found solace in the company of a family friend and finally walked out of her marriage and married him who agreed to look after her daughters as well. She was of course highly criticized and I am afraid I too agreed to the view that walking out of an abusive marriage was one thing but marrying an already married man and disturbing his family life was quite another thing . I agree, hers was a marriage of convenience. I noticed that she had to be fiercely protective of her daughters and could not trust them to remain alone with the step father. Nothing in her life was easy. She educated her daughters, got them married and looked after their children while they went to work. She never for a moment kept them under the illusion that her husband was going to support them, the way a natural father would. There was an invisible line drawn and the girls rose to her expectations. It is not easy for grown up girls to support their mother under the circumstances but they did. She is no more and her husband has gone now back to his first family. The girls are happy attending to one another’s needs. They hardly have anything to do with their step father.

I sometimes wonder if she was happy with her choice. Wagging tongues and prying eyes notwithstanding, she perhaps wanted some protection from her first husband both for herself and her daughters. But even after marrying someone known to her she had to worry about their safety and could not bring herself to trust him. Somehow I am not as critical of her as before. One does not know the circumstances that led to her decision.

What are the circumstances that lead to extra marital relationships I wonder? We see highly educated qualified women agreeing to marry men who are already married and never accord them the same respect that they give their first wives. AG married D soon after her graduation. Her father sensed that all was not well and encouraged her to do her Masters and later to appear for the National Eligibility Test for lectureship. Educating girls and encouraging them to work was unheard of in her family. She realized that her husband was having an affair with a divorcee and walked out of the marriage with her children and took up a job in a new town. Today the second wife is insecure and keeps calling her to know the whereabouts of the husband! And despite the misery she caused, AG is inwardly sympathetic towards her. For all you know the man may be having an affair with a third woman, she says.

I can go on and on. It is easy for one to sympathize with the wronged woman. She deserves all the support that can be given to her. But what about the ‘other woman’?
She is neither respected nor supported. Her needs could have been emotional but who cares for her emotions? She is a home breaker and that’s it. Does anyone ever stop to think of the insecurity she may be experiencing? No one seems to criticize the man who abandons his first wife for whatever reason.

‘Men are like that only’ is the famous refrain. Either the first wife was not smart enough or the second wily, crafty and what not. No one seems to think that both of them cared enough for each other and were willing to face the outcome by marrying against all odds.

I hope I am not giving you the impression that I endorse extra marital affairs. Far from it I feel that in the unfortunate event of falling in love with an already married person, one should insist on proper divorce proceedings. Again I say that it is easy for me to sympathize with the women, having never faced the situation myself. Those who have, know the sorrow that inevitably follows and the sense of inadequacy that one feels for having let one’s husband go. This is not a black and white situation and there are several shades of grey that fall in between.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gup Shap again

I know it is late but Happy Diwali all the same. I hope you all had a nice and safe Deepavali.I reached home just a day before Deepavali so we made it very, very

It has been a long time since I posted anything on my blog. I think I am going through one of those lethargic phases when one just does not feel like doing anything. The trip to the south was exhausting and made me pledge never to fit in so much of travel in future trips. Considering the accident prone world we live in I am glad to have returned to my niche in a single piece. In Karnataka it appeared as if the rains followed us giving us just enough time to leave a place before creating havoc there. Unfortunately we were unable to enjoy the natural beauty of the western ghats since we were holed up in a hotel room most of the time.

I had high hopes of meeting Suranga, Usha, Aarthi, Srijith and Riti during this trip. Lack of communication was the only reason for missing out Suranga and Srijith who live within walking distance of the place I was staying in Mumbai and Chennai. As for Srijith I felt lousy staring at an apartment complex near Balaiyya garden bus stop and wondering whether he actually lived there. I must have crossed the place at least twice a day but I did not have his phone number and I was being punished for my laid back attitude. Sorry folks, there will be a next time and that is a promise

Coming back to Jamshedpur feels good. Where else can one leave home at 10:15 AM and reach one’s workplace before 10:30 AM? Where else can one go on long winding walks for an hour and return all set and fresh to take on another day? I can hear my brothers and sister both natural and by marriage call me a ‘pattikkadu’ (villager) unaccustomed to smart city ways. True, we all get used to a particular life style and claim it to be the best. Every time I meet my folk I am under a kind of dilemma as to whether I should continue in Jamshepur after retirement or move out to Chennai, Bangalore or Mumbai. But city life baffles me and finally I decide that our good old Jampot is the best place for an ageing couple to spend the final lap of their life on earth.

Post retirement I need to take up an assignment and absent myself for at least 5 hours each day. Or else my husband is going to drive me nuts and I’ll be churning out sob stories in my blog. I had copied out a piece on ‘Golden Retirement’ 3 years back and like the lady who authored the piece I think I am going to have him velcroed to my hips if I dared to stay home. Can you imagine the areas in which he awaits my response are?

I’d have returned from college and would be relaxing in my bedroom with a magazine in hand.

HIM: I am going for milk.

ME: Okay.

HIM: I am going for milk.

ME: Please do. And take the keys with you. I may doze off to sleep

HIM: What did you say?
I ignore the question. He has almost reached the door and comes back just to ask if I had said something. I could not have asked for a cuter husband but I really wish he could just go and get the milk instead of waiting for my approval in matters that don’t matter at all.

Jokes apart, I don’t blame him. There was a time when we had to worry about so many things. A child’s admission, hostel bills, father in law’s health concerns etc. etc. There now seems to be a sudden void in our lives. That brings home another realization. When a person has nothing to look forward to, one’s life becomes monotonous and boring. That is exactly why his concern touches my heart.

Did you take your medicines?

It is getting cold. Why not wear a half sweater?

I am drawing out my quarterly interest from the post office. Shall I deposit a part of it in your account?

The questions continue and they are important because they sustain us. The phone rings and I pick it up.

He appears at the door.

Who? He gestures.

My friend. I reply.

He goes off nodding his head.

To those of you leading a busy life these things may not matter. May be not yet. But to us it reiterates the fact that we need to remain fit and well if not for ourselves at least for the other person. We have made ourselves so very interdependent that very often he says something that I was just about to say. This brings to my mind another malaise that seems to have inflicted society of late - couples opting to separate in the twilight of their lives. I recently heard of a person known to me with grown up and married children opting out of marriage. They may or may not go for a divorce but they certainly prefer to lead separate lives. Each one says that the other is free to come and stay with him/her but on his/her terms and conditions. When I discuss this with friends they say that people are more honest these days. Why put up with an arrangement that is no longer agreeable? There is some logic in this argument but is this the right solution? Like one says that children earlier put up with their parents since their common property generated the income that was required to support their families. It no longer holds in a society where parents see to it that children reach dizzy heights saying that their children should never go through the hardship they once faced. Parents too have set aside enough to lead an independent life post retirement. There is no question of anyone adjusting with the other person. But isn’t it taking things too far when a wife or husband refuses to be part of the other’s life at a time when there is an acute need for meaningful companionship? I’ve known children supporting the mother and abandoning their father. Perhaps they feel that a mother’s presence in their homes would be more useful to their working wives than their father’s who would do nothing but occupy the front room reading the day’s newspaper.

Be it as it may I still subscribe to the view that old age is meant to be spent together whatever be one’s differences in day to day life. As for me I cannot imagine life without the domineering presence of my old man so what if he bugs me with irrelevant questions all the time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tagged by Renu.....

This was a tag given to me by Renu long back. To be honest these are not the actual responses by my children. Knowing them, this is what I expect them to say. Just meant to be laughed off.

Mama: What is something I always say to you?

Son: You say so many things. The list is long.

Daughter: I don't think you've kind of insisted on anything. So can't really say.

Me: A talkative person like me hasn't said much? Not very complimentary :-((.

Mama: What makes me happy?

Son: The quick retorts you get from me. But for me you would lose your mental sharpness.

Daughter: You are generally happy but you seem happiest in tackling adverse situations. Challenges seem to give you a high.

Me: so true:)

Mama: What makes me sad?

Son: Anyone whose sob story impresses you. God knows how many people find your shoulders suitable to cry on. Honestly, I've lost count.

Daughter:Treachery and your inability to correct it. But you do go overboard to the extent of letting things affect your health.

Mama: How do I make you laugh?

Daughter: When your lips start quivering and you seem ready to cry while watching vidaai scenes in a movie or TV serial. I found it funny even as a child and wondered how you failed to see that it was not for real.

Son: mmmmmmmmmm.I think I'll say 'me too.'

Mama:What do you think I was like as a child?

Daughter: From what patti said you were a bookworm and very careless with your things. But daddy's company seems to have sobered you.

Son: I can't even imagine you as a child. But from what patti says you seemed to have been the boringly good kid, listening to mamma and generally being obedient. Thank God for us children who made life spicy and interesting for you.

Me:I didn't know that being good could be boring.

Mama: How old am I?

Daughter: You are now a grandmom to 4 g'kids but getting younger by the day.

Son : My soon to retire mother, why ask leading questions? If you expect me to say that you are young at heart and stuff like that..........I think I am sleepy and need to go to bed. (yaaaaaawns!)I think I'll make up for that by saying that you are ageing gracefully. Happy??

Me: Loved your responses.Reminded of the time when you were here in Jamshedpur.

Mama: How tall am I?

Daughter: All of us could see the top of your head from time immemorial.

Son : As tall as I want my mother to ever be.

Mama: What is my favourite thing to do?

Son:Your afternoon sleep with all three children made to forcibly lie down whether they wanted to sleep or not.

Daughter:Discussing issues that affect mankind in general.

Me: My college timing has changed and so no more afternoon naps except on Sundays and holidays.

Mama: What do I do when you’re not around?

Son:Playing computer games I suppose.

Daughter:Listening to carnatic music and blogging perhaps.

Me:Missing my kids, you silly children!

Mama: If I become famous, what will it be for?

Son: For being the mother of excellent children. The day is not far ma....Just wait.

Daughter: For your heartfelt concern for those around you.

Mama: What am I really good at?

Son:You seem to handle situations that drive you crazy very well. And you make excellent rasam.

Daughter:You balance home and job pretty well tho' I don't remember you doing anything really fast. I remember you starting after us and overtaking us on the road in your moped. Daddy was always a safe driver but you loved to speed up.

Mama: What am I not really good at?

Son:Cooking an elaborate meal. I don't think you care too much about spending hours together in the kitchen.

Daughter: At defending your children. You always wanted to hear the other side of the story instead of believing our version right away.

Mama: What is my job?

Son:Being our mother.What else, eh?

Daughter:To worry about daddy as if he were a 4 year old.You've never let him grow.

Me: I did not stop his growth. He preferred it that way. It suited him.

Mama: What is my favourite food?

Son:Spicy south Indian dishes like 'vattal kuzhambu and seppangizhangu roast'.

Daughter:Junk food like pani puri and samosas. We know it ma..ha,ha.

Me: I've given it all up now.

Mama: What makes you proud of me?

Son:You learnt to drive a car at the age of 54. Wow, I am impressed.

Daughter: You pursued your studies after a gap of 15 years. I remember the hard work you put in.

Mama: What makes me proud of you?

Son:Proud of me? That's good news.

Daughter:didn't know you were proud of us. Why didn't you let us know?

Me: Naughty children. as if you didn't know.

Mama: What do you and I do together?

Son : Discuss socially relevant issues.

Daughter: '''''''''mmmmmmm' let me think..... Oh yes, you've made me help in the kitchen ever since I could. So how come you don't remember me helping you out????''''

Me: sorry my child. I wish I could undo all that and give you back your childhood.

Mama: How are we the same?

Son:I don't think we are the same and I am glad we aren't. Like poles repel you know!

Daughter:We both like junk food.

Me:Sonny boy, we share the same gene pool. How different can you be?

Mama: How are you and I different?

Son:I am a towering personality and you are a shortie!!

Daughter: I am better organized than you. You keep hunting for things all the time.

Me: True, very true.

Mama: What is one thing you wish you could change about me?

Daughter:I'd really want you to lose weight. It would be good for your health.

Son : Me too.

Me:I'll try harder but There seems to be little I can do about that.