Stella!! Hey Stella!! A Desire Named Love, Companionship and Marriage…

A Streetcar Named Desire (ASND) – strange name for a story, I thought, when I first read of it. I was curious to know more. So, I lay my hands on this Tennessee Williams play book. Engaging, intriguing and thought provoking it was, without a single dull moment. This post is not a review of ASND; neither it is a hosanna. It is exploration of thoughts that flooded my mind after reading the book and watching the fabulous movie adaptation with superlative performance from vulnerable-yet-vanity-preserving Vivien Leigh and raw-dashing-uncouth-‘Polack’ (meaning – of polish origin) Marlon Brando. More on the book and movie, – here and here. For those of you who have not come across this masterpiece, here is the plot summary courtesy wikipedia:

The play presents Blanche DuBois, a fading but still-attractive belle whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask alcoholism and delusions of grandeur. Her poise is an illusion she presents to shield others (but most of all, herself) from her reality, and an attempt to make herself still attractive to new male suitors. Blanche arrives at the apartment of her sister Stella Kowalski in New Orleans; the local transportation she takes to arrive there includes a streetcar route named “Desire”.  The steamy, urban ambiance is a shock to Blanche’s nerves. Blanche is welcomed with some trepidation by Stella, who fears the reaction of her husband Stanley. As Blanche explains that their ancestral southern plantation, Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi, has been “lost”, her veneer of self-possession begins to slip drastically. Blanche tells Stella that her supervisor allowed her to take time off from her job as an English teacher because of her upset nerves, when in fact, she has been fired for having an affair with a 17-year-old student. A brief marriage marred by the discovery that her spouse, Allan Grey, was having a homosexual affair and his subsequent suicide has led Blanche to withdraw into a world in which fantasies and illusions blend seamlessly with reality.

In contrast, Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a force of nature: primal, rough-hewn, brutish and sensual. He dominates Stella in every way and is physically and emotionally abusive. Stella tolerates his primal behavior as this is part of what attracted her in the first place; their love and relationship are heavily based on powerful—even animalistic—sexual chemistry, something that Blanche finds impossible to understand.

The arrival of Blanche upsets her sister and brother-in-law’s system of mutual dependence. Stella’s concern for her sister’s well-being emboldens Blanche to hold court in the Kowalski apartment, infuriating Stanley and leading to conflict in his relationship with his wife. Blanche and Stanley are on a collision course, and Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s would-be suitor Mitch, will get trampled in their path. Stanley discovers Blanche’s past through a co-worker who travels to Laurel frequently, and he confronts her with the things she has been trying to put behind her, partly out of concern that her character flaws may be damaging to the lives of those in her new home, just as they were in Laurel, and partly out of a distaste for pretense in general. However, his attempts to “unmask” her are predictably cruel and violent. Their final confrontation—Williams alludes to rape, but never states it directly—results in Blanche’s nervous breakdown. Stanley has her committed to a mental institution, and in the closing moments, Blanche utters her signature line to the kindly doctor who leads her away: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

As it is evident, Blanche was devoid of love and companionship, which made me wonder – Is it that important to have presence of love and companionship in life? I know everyone’s life isn’t like Blanche’s, but, they surely have a lot missing. What if she would have found someone and married like her sister Stella? Would she have ended up in an asylum? Does marriage really brings the balance required in the society? Is one not ‘settled’  until he/she marries? Is all this relevant in today’s world?

Companionship

Man is a social animal – time and again this statement redeems itself in each individual’s life. As we’re growing up, we feel more comfortable with our friends than our family. We find solace in the fact that we know someone who shares our view on the world around us, is as clueless about a lot of things as we are, and have a lot in common beyond age. That’s where it all begins. Dependence on friends, companions and cronies. Life and age chisels us into an individual with independent thinking and decision making capabilities, which is not at all possible if we don’t have support from companions, as we learn a great deal on real, practical life from these people. Need for companion who share our likes/dislikes, passion etc. remains through out our lives, as all of us want to be heard/listened to, recognized/appreciated/feel important or just to let others know that we exist.

Love

There is no single definition of love. Its highly relative and means different to different people. But, everyone will agree to the fact that they are constantly on a look out for love. Yes, even those people who disagree!! Beyond satisfying carnal desires, we all need to be loved because of the following basic parameters,

  • it is satisfying that you are worth something on this earth,
  • you are desirable by people and they seek your company,
  • you see yourself as normal and not as deviation, following the normal code of society,
  • you have a follower who holds you in high esteem, giving you feeling of superiority over others.

Surface parameters such as – you want to appear cool, happening and ‘not-left-out’ among your peers, admire someone for any attribute of theirs, are in love-with-love or simply convince that you are beautiful/handsome in other’s eyes… 😉

Sentimental/Emotional parameters such as you want someone who can understand, listen, identify with you, has a matching wavelength, acts as a friend, would be there-with-you in-thick and thin etc.

Marriage

Our elders, peers, relatives, friends, movies, media, advertising, industrial companies  – pretty much everyone that comprises in society, makes us believe that we are not settled unless we are married. I believe in love, companionship and marriage. However, I believe its not necessary for one to marry. Marriage is basically seeking life long love and companionship. How true is that – will form a great debate topic. 🙂

Now, back to the question facing me, is it really important to get love, companionship and marriage (LCM)? Yes, it is true. We need at least one of these to make our life worth living. And love / companionship can exist sans marriage. Live-in relationships prove that.

We need it because of the most powerful reason  – if you are without Love and Marriage, and have companionship, I am pretty sure your companion will have/would look for one of these two in his/her life. Eventually, your companion would stop devoting time towards you, may not fulfill your companionship needs and you will be left alone. And everyone fears exactly that – being alone! Life would seem hollow at that moment. Without a purpose…

Companionship can be a short term measure, but for long  term, you gotta have love or marriage to keep you going. For those of you,  if its all about living  in short term, companionship would seem to be the best possible thing. If it works for you, great!! But all of the people I know, can’t stay alone, without LCM…That’s what happened with Blanche in ASND…

LCM is not an Indian concept, that is, its not only in India society gives more weightage to LCM. Wherever you may go, in any civilized society, rules of the game are alike. For example, look at all developed countries’ heads of state – everyone is married or has companion. The perception of man/woman being incomplete without a partner is deeply embedded in people’s mind.

Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives – Bertrand Russell

You & I: Six Commandments for an ‘Equal’ Marriage

Marriage is a great institution. Not because of anything else, but because of the complexities involved. But what’s so great about it being complex? Imagine the number of people involved on both sides, the adjustment, sacrifices and compromises required, the bride shifting to a totally new set up, promises of unwavering love, domestic chores division, hygiene habits, space, individual behaviours, career decisions, family planning, moving out….phew!! Despite in the know of everything, people vie to get married one day…that’s why I truly believe marriage is a great institution!! 

Marriage has been there since the starting of evolution, with or without it being solemnised with rituals. However, when the society became civilized, and family system evolved, an average human being was supposed to complete the lifecycle by marrying, having and raising kids…. So, uncountable number of people have married, even though nothing concrete can be said, whether they lived happily ever after :)….Nothing unusual, eh?

However, in modern times, there is lot of effort being put to unearth the ‘secret code’ of successful marriage. Trying to go behind the questions like, what does it take to make it work? What should be the ‘roles and responsibilities’ of the individuals involved? Nguyen Vi Cao of Geneva School of Business believes his team has cracked the formula for a perfect wife….In my opinion, if you were to ask all the married people around you – What is the key to successful marriage?  I bet you will get all different responses. And why so; because, all of us are unique individuals. You can’t have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy…you got to look at each union on its own merits and demerits…

Quite moved by the phenomena of marriage, our national newspaper, The Times of India, has come out with a very ‘cool n hip’ matrimonial product – You & I – Equality Matrimonial, which is all about, would you believe – a democratic marriage!! So keeping in mind that in a democracy, the institutions woo the followers with a manifesto, You & I also proposes the following “Marriage Manifesto” (or shall I say commandments) which shall be abided by both the parties…:

 

There is a very interesting view on this matrimonial ad, you can read it here.

Indeed, I would completely praise the intent behind this concept, that both individuals have to be treated with equality. However, the idea of a manifesto seems ridiculous. Compartmentalising the concept of marriage in some bullet points, and fixing rules of the game – doesn’t work out that way in real life. There is much more to the story. Life is way too random and non linear to be bound in a certain rules and bulleted points. Having said all that, the very concept of this manifesto is against the ideals of marriage – it is never about ‘me’ or ‘I’ in a marriage. It is about ‘us’ or ‘we’.  All the clauses in this manifesto are just talking about what I want, rather than what we want and respecting what the other wants! In a marriage, the first thing you do is to respect other person’s viewpoint and then you sit together and chart out the kind of life you envisage…This manifesto looks like a merger contract between two parties. Sad part, however, is that 70% of mergers between companies fail…

The other thing this ad talks about is to see the married couple in isolation, which is not at all practical view as marriage in India is never between two individuals – but between two families. Yes, you can still talk these point out (not necessarily agree) if you have only two individuals getting married without any family involved in the whole process. The whole manifesto falls flat when you consider the family angle. That reminds me, if we were to do a survey and find out the number for people posting an ad in a matrimonial for their marriage and number of people delegating the ad posting to their parents (by choice or without it), there is no prizes for guessing which one would be more!!! You can’t really keep the parents and relatives out of marriage in India, at least not in the foreseeable future…

The ad does talk about the key issues responsible for failure of marriage, but leaves the subjectivity to the individuals. That’s hardly surprising, because even makers of the ad know that its better to let the individuals in a marriage to decide what’s right and what’s wrong for them. Even if you agree to abide by these commandments, you can always prove your need to be greater than the other person. And by the way, does anyone remember the vows they had taken while marrying? …:)..Basic premise of this ad is entrenched in subjectivity and complexity – the very characteristics making the marriage a code that is difficult, not impossible to crack!! I feel rather than featuring their profile in such ads, I feel people may better opt for live-in relationships.

Rather than setting the myriad contract clauses and safeguarding your own interests, one may better spend time listening, understanding and acting on views and wishes of one’s spouse. I still feel the old school approach of ‘doing small things for your spouse’, ‘sacrificing here and there’, and ‘becoming a helping hand’ among many other small nothings can do wonders for the relationship. The biggest change after marriage is the ‘intrusion of space’ –  how well you handle that is totally up to individual’s willingness to go that extra mile and help accommodate each other. For any marriage or relationship to work, the intent has to be there and effort has to come from both ends. Whether the effort put has to be equal? Ideally, it should be. However, in real life, its the woman who puts more efforts to make this whole thing work. Till the time there is a drastic change in the marriage process (like a guy going to a girl’s house), the woman will continue to put more effort into the marriage.

Bottom-line is,  Listen to every advice you get from various people on how to make marriage work, read all the ‘successful’ marriage formulas people come out with, appreciate the effort marriage related research scientists conduct world over, but when it comes to decide for what’s good for your marriage, along with your spouse, stand up and call the shots!!!

Be The Change You Want To See….

Mahatma Gandhi said this to people to self – empower themselves rather than cribbing about things being bad or not how they should be. Everyone, yes, everyone around wants things to move in the way they desire. They want other people to adjust to their whims and fancies, buses/train/traffic to move according to how they want, work to be over as they wish, want their favourite sports person/ team to perform as per their standard…etc. etc. Does that happen? The chances of all this happening is next to never…Still, people would proclaim…’my way or highway’… Till now, I thought this statement is useful in evaluating any system (political/social/education etc.)…However, when I twisted the cube, I found it is a very potent statement when applied to relationships.

The-way-I-want-to-see-you-behave-and-react forms the biggest form of expectation and cause for relationships to survive or succumb. It all starts with finding common behaviour in early stages of the relationship. After the relationship is stable, the commonness remains, and you are single-handedly after the uniqueness of the other person… You want your partner to speak, behave, react, laugh, cry, expect, imagine, dream, spend, save, invest, interact and conduct exactly the way you deem appropriate….quite a recipe for disaster I must say…

Why do we do so? Why we become less tolerant of other’s unique abilities and their method of reacting in a situation? Why cant we simply accept that two people will never react in a same manner to all the situations. We are just too engrossed to change the person’s behaviour and identity in the name of love…Here’s what I think why we do it,

Comfort Zone/Status Quo: People just don’t seem to bother to come out of their comfort zones and would like to have everything on a platter… They don’t make an effort to understand their partner’s personality, Instead they want their behaviour superimposed on them, so that they can live an easy life…

Additionally, most of us love uniformity and symmetry….everyone who does not behave/react in same manner as us/maintain certain acceptable norms, is labelled as too random and unstable…Its difficult for us to change rather than asking someone else to change…and we always try to go for easy path..:)

Ego & Conflicts: If two people are put into a situation, they will react in their own manner resulting in conflicts. Many amongst us are not game for a healthy argument… We avoid getting into confrontations with our partners. Even if we get into one, we want to force what we want on them, so as to justify to their egos…”Why do I bend and forego my habits…Why should I change if he/she are not willing to change?”…

Dominate and Dictate: People wish to dominate and dictate how their relationship should move ahead… They derive a certain kind of power kick out of this…They set the relationship rules for the other partner as their personality is overpowering enough… They become the ‘Atlas’ carrying the mantle of the relationship on their shoulders…soon, the dominant partner decides everything in the relationship…. Actually, if you look deeply, you will have a dominant partner in each relationship… I feel sex and age have nothing to do on who will dominate….

Prince Charming/Dream Girl: We all nurture dreams of landing that dream girl (DG) or being rescued by the prince charming (PC)…some people go a little beyond and also decide how they should behave….:) But, life is not utopia, where we get ideal matches…imperfection is reality… To give shape to what we think, we start our quest to improve our partner’s imperfections…and try to decide the right/correct way to behave…

Case of boosting self esteem….may be…

Comparison (True for People with or without PC/DG): Just because your friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend act in certain manner, you expect your partner to behave like them…’Look at them, so lovely they are….’ you say…underneath, You think…Wish I had a boyfriend/girlfriend like that…You know that can’t happen (or can it!!!)…so, you issue diktats for your partner….and start chasing an Image and forget to appreciate the qualities your partner has…

Previous Relationship Experience: Relationships end, expectations remains…We often carry the experience of previous relationships (Not only love relationships, but other relationships like with parents, friends etc.)…and expect an encore….We expect the same or more respect, attention, right etc. in the new relationship as we used to enjoy in previous one…so, when we don’t see that happening, we try to bring the same magic in our existing relationship…

Well, tolerance is what is eluding us…We have our opinion on everything but if some one has different opinion, we find it difficult to take it in right spirit…If all of the above is done to save the relationship, why not try to change your self to accept the person the way he/she is..Why take the easy way out to see what you wish to see…

A little more tolerance please…

The Expectations Conundrum: I am here, where are you?

It is expected in a relationship that both individuals understand the unsaid demands and expectations of one another – some sort of mystical bond which helps you gauge what the other person would be comfortable with or agree to.  If sometimes people can’t see through, they need to be told or explained in words or any other form of communication. It is an imperative to express your desires/expectation, get understood and vice versa. To Simplify, let’s take a peek into life of X (the guy) and Y (the gal)…

Expectations and desires change with time – Today, X wants this, tomorrow he expects that and so on…. But, most of the time, X wants Y to guess what he desires or expects from her – as if she gets a relay of X’s thoughts in her mind…If X does not see that happening, X talks to Y about what he wants, sulks and make huge issue out of it…..As a result, either Y fulfills these expectations or they keep arguing on the same and fall out…This is what we would call ‘important expectations’…

X has some desires and expectations which are ‘good-to-have’, but ones which X can do without… we would call them ‘good-to-have’ expectations…These are things which X desires, communicates and then either he forgets/accept the status quo or simply move on. This is where the whole confusion starts.

Y, who has been all the while listening to X’s ‘good-to-have’ expectations, is deeply dented/moved by her inability to gauge X’s expectation and do nothing about it… Thanks to all this, Y gets fixated at that point in time. It’s like a time warp, where Y is standing still and X has moved on.

Y then thinks of fulfilling those ‘good-to-have’ expectations for X, and it becomes a mission of sorts for her. She puts in a lot of effort, makes sacrifices, learns new things, embraces change and does everything possible… Small price to pay for a stronger, better relationship – She thinks.

And when Y is ready, she surprises X and gives him what he always expected…but, he doesn’t find the fulfilled expectation amusing or anything great about it. Y is heartbroken and confused – what did I do wrong? Isn’t this is what he always expected?

That’s the whole point – to understand the expectations. No one in a relationship can discuss A to Z of their lives. What’s necessity for you right now… may not be a thing of use to you tomorrow…It’s difficult keeping current with your own expectations, let alone that of the other person..This is because experience changes people’s perspective and it is different for all individuals…

I guess only way to come out of this situation is to keep asking your partner about what they would like to do….But, need to do this in a subtle manner…you would not want to spoil the surprise part of this whole exercise…

Keep current with their expectations….otherwise all your effort will go down the drain…

Interesting Take on Marriage…

“I never was attached to that great sect

Whose doctrine is that each one should select

Out of the crowd a mistress or a friend

And all the rest, though wise and good, commend

To cold oblivion; though it is the code

Of modern morals, and the beaten road

Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread

Who travel to their home among the dead

By the broad highway of the world, and so

With one chain’d friend, perhaps a jealous foe,

The dreariest and the longest journey go.”

– Shelley, Percy Bysshe