A Subtle Shift of Power

In reasonably traditional/orthodox Indian marriages, the bride’s first name is also changed. The ‘also’ is to underscore the point that the last name gets changed almost always. The first name of a person, I have always believed, is very important to her. If that is indeed the case, I am surprised that some Indian women are happy/OK with this name-changing business.

Its not just names we are talking about here. Indian weddings come with dowry, customs that ridicule the bride’s family, how the groom is the King during and after the wedding, and a whole lot of other male chauvinistic cultural elements. As an anecdote, during a recent wedding, a North Indian friend of mine was shocked to see the groom taking photographs of a group of the bride’s brother’s friends. He was shocked to see the men of the family taking care of cooking and serving a traditional meal at another religious occasion. I guess South India is a little more progressive/liberal regarding these gender roles than the North – but its all still pretty much the same.

My first reaction has always been that of guilt and sadness about how the entire setup is not “fair.” This kept haunting me for a while, and I had questions regarding whether I’d personally be up to being fair when it came to my turn in a similar setup.

On deeper thought, I noticed something else in an ideal male dominated relationship. This is mostly seen where the man is dominant, but is also a mature and loving person, who genuinely cares for the relationship. Of course, it also involves a woman who submits voluntarily, consciously, and with full consent. In such a case, somewhat counter-intuitively, the lady holds the key. She holds the power. She is the one who can end it all. She can stop giving, stop accepting anytime. The day she says “enough!,” – the male dominance ends.

Why does it end? It ends obviously – as the giver has stopped giving. But thats not the interesting part – The interesting part lies in the expectation of the stop-event happening. Any thoughtful dominant person knows that the power exists as long as the submissive is happy. This apprehension of the submissive not remaining submissive anymore always keeps the dominant keeping the submissive’s happiness as first priority.

This doesn’t mean that the submissive can walk out anytime and the dominant is left nowhere. If the dominant has a lot of choices in life, in relationships, other more important things happening in life – this might not matter at all, and he might wait for the next submissive to come along. But if the relationship is something that cannot be done without, that cannot be broken easily, like a marriage – oh boy! the dominant is in quite a situation.

I suspect that Indian marriages is aware of this equation; of this imminent shift of power. and is probably one of many reasons why they are statistically more stable than others. Interestingly, BDSM literature also emphasizes on this virtual power that the dominant holds, and a possible power-shift towards the submissive, just whose knowledge is enough to keep the balance, and of course, increase the “fun.”

I have seen this work in relationships from both sides of the fence, and of course, none of it has been as clear cut, or as ideal for easy analysis. But I still see this shift of power leading to the dominant appeasing the submissive in various capacities – in everyday life – in major decisions.

PS: Genders here are incidental – it could always be a dominatrix who is apprehensive.

Reconciliation of the elusive kind

Different priorities exist. Broadly, Maslow established them at a high level, and I try to think about them at some level of granularity that might or might not fit into his framework.

Partition of India, the Holocaust, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Corruption in the corridors of power, Organizational Behavior, Poverty, Administration, Political Science, Computer Science, Logic, Formalization, and various other aspects of my world hold me captive. These affect me deeply. But this is almost always restricted to the intellect. I get depressed or elated when I am reading about them, when I am talking about them, when I am writing about them. But rarely have these affected me from within – Deeply.

Emotionally, I am much more troubled by close death, lost love, nostalgia, scary social embarrassment, great effort leading up to nothing, strained relationships with loved ones, and so on, and in no particular order. With limited success, I have tried to intellectually rationalize the pain which these bring. This reasoning works – but only during the reasoning period. Then, there is some peace; everything is not actually over; desperation is not at its peak; hope has not hit rock bottom. But as the reasoning period fades, as friends with whom I am talking go their ways, as the bottle becomes empty, the intellectual rationalization disappears, and pain almost always re-appears. Only time heals these wounds. Slowly, and hopefully, surely.

It seems that the earlier priorities that I mentioned, which are global, both in time and scope – never seem to hold emotional water to soothe the emotional pain. There is this phase of rationalizing which has to connect these, to give me the big picture, and console me to some extent. Why is it that the big priorities of life never become emotionally so close that they actually take care of the almost trivial emotional pains even before they begin? Why do I have to go through the rationalization phase every time?

To give an example – say I am screwed in an even imperfect relationship, it’ll take me ages to recover emotionally. But at that moment, when the emotional pain hits, there needs to be this emotional feeling for the burgeoning Indian Population that puts it all into perspective, and the relationship pain just doesn’t seem important at all. This is not instinctive. As of now, there are many sessions of rationalization that are needed to get here. This is the elusive reconciliation I am looking for.

It will bring its own problems. I might end up being perpetually sad, emotionally, about all the problems facing humanity. I cannot comprehend that situation right now. But well, if it ever happens, I’ll have to see how to handle that.

Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi (Review)

Following repeated recommendation, I finally watched Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi. It is an interesting love story set against the backdrop of the Indian political unrest of the late sixties and seventies, culminating in the 1975 Emergency. A good movie, bold in its theme – which could be the eternal debate between kraanti and playing it safe in this world, or an alternate theme of the growth of the protagonist – Geeta. But first, a comment on the female lead herself – she looks gorgeous. Its been a long time since I have been so enamored by a woman on screen. I don’t know if its just her looks, or whether its her personality that captures me. But I digress.

Coming to the themes – Capturing the Kranti vs. “conventional success” debate on screen would be very hard. I have never seen it done on film before. Here, they make do with showing how one of the main characters’ life changes from bad to worse, how his living conditions deteriorate, how his parents go from disappointment to despair, and finally, how he ends up with nothing in the end. His ideology is not met, and everything else that a common-man has, he doesn’t. As road maps of ideologically driven people go, I guess this movie gives a very realistic look at how badly screwed up it can get. Not everyone becomes a Gandhi. And that is something that is not acknowledged enough. This theme is well presented in the movie. And to put my own self in better light here, I still haven’t managed to read The Communist Manifesto, let alone ponder over it.

As for the growth of Geeta, our heroine – the movie shows various aspects of her life, how she handles the men who covet her, how she hold her own in an Indian Marriage, how she manages to stay with her heart and her conscience till the very end. Her sense of friendship, class, fairness, and mostly, love for her man, and what she can do for it, and finally, how she chooses something else over it – shows true character. I’d love to meet this woman.

As far as film-making is concerned, the movie is amateur at best. Editing, acting, dialogue, and barring music, everything about the movie is sub-standard (the music is superb). But that doesn’t take anything away from the theme, and the overall impact. A must watch.