Many of us carry the anxiety that relationships in the modern world are turning sour. Many of us also feel that our “modern lifestyle” is making us drift away from all our relationships.
Demanding careers, nuclear families, geographical distances, fast-paced life in cities etc., have all made contact between family and friends rare and wide apart. It is only during functions and festivals that there is brief and formal contact. The warmth of relationships seems to be somehow missing.
Let us try to understand whether this is truly a modern-day phenomenon, or whether it has been there in some form, or the other, in the past.
Change, the only constant
Humanity is evolving continuously. Every aspect of our life is changing – our knowledge, vision, exposure, way of dressing, way of relating, way of communicating etc. Modern science has given us the electronic media and altered our lifestyles immensely. In this continuous process of evolution, “change” is the only constant.
Whenever we become aware of this change, it evokes two responses — either we do not accept it, or we cheerfully accept it. However, irrespective of our response, change still happens.
The Internet boom has totally changed ways and means of relating. There are many who have bonded through the E-Mail and have turned their electronic relationship to a life-partnership. E-Mail and “chatting” have bridged the geographical distance in the most miraculous manner. Families and friends separated by oceans can now actually see and speak to each other via videophones. This completely dismisses the myth that modernisation has made us drift apart. Time and distance coming in the way of relationships is a thing of the past.
Strained relationships, a modern phenomenon?
Let us now discuss souring relationships. A “strain” in relationships is an ancient phenomenon. Epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata provide the greatest examples of soured relationships. Indian mythology is full of insightful stories where an entire gamut of strained relationships are depicted; whether it is father-son relationship [King Hiranyakashapu and his son, Bhakta Prahlada], husband-wife relationship [King Dasarata and his wife Kaikeyi], or the infamous brother-brother relationships [Ravana and Vibhishana as well as the Pandavas and the Kauravas]. Besides mythology, our history also provides innumerable examples of strained relationships and how they affect[ed] the fate of mankind. The strain between the Maratha King Shivaji and his son Sambhaji is also well-known to historians. As recent as the last century, history noted the strain between Mahatma Gandhi and his son. This has been poignantly depicted in the play, Gandhi versus Gandhi, and the film, Gandhi, My Father.
Very often, we feel that the human being has not changed at all. His exterior has, perforce, undergone a massive metamorphosis. However, his interior has remained just the same. There have been humans even in the past who exactly knew how to create harmony in relationships, and such individuals exist even today. There have been people in the past that ruined all their relationships, and this type of people too exist today. It shows that as a society we have remained just the same within, but as individuals we have always been carrying the capacity to grow, to evolve. On the other hand, we can also choose to deteriorate and perish.
It is easy to point fingers at the process of modernisation of human life, blaming it for distancing and souring relationships. It is difficult to take responsibility on oneself for the same. It is, in fact, inner commitment towards making a relationship work that makes relationships tick and even grow.
Whenever any one of our relationships turns sour, it is only “we” who are responsible for it. If “we” wish, we can make it work. If it is not working out, this is so because somewhere deep within ourselves we do not want it to work out. Destiny, changing times, changing lifestyles, disparity in cultures, status, or educational background are just excuses that we use to avoid taking responsibility. Bear in mind, where there is a will there is a way!
We have read about Lord Krishna’s relationship with His poor friend, Sudama, or King Rama’s friendship with Hanuman. We have known about the closeness that the highly educated Swami Vivekananda shared with the completely illiterate Ramakrishna Paramahansa. The close relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and Abdul Gaffar Khan, his Afghani faithful, is well-known. All these are beautiful examples of great relationships between two completely diverse personalities. It only shows that diversity in caste, religion, countries, financial status and educational status do not come in the way, when we want our relationships to work.
Strain, a stimulus for growth
Strain in relationships is necessary for “growth.” It is strain that provokes us to think in directions towards which we have never ventured earlier. It stimulates us to open up ourselves to different dimensions to which we have been closed earlier. Strain forces us to think deeper, think differently, and seek help. In the process of finding out the solution for a strain in relationships, one goes through the entire gamut of self-exploration and self-understanding: this ultimately makes one evolve and grow as a more understanding, more mature, and more loving, person.
Relationships turn truly sour only when one resists thinking in newer ways and refuses to see his/her own contribution to the problem. This also leads to resisting change.
Relationship is a mirror
All relationships in their healthiest form are like mirrors. They are meant to reflect our blemishes back to us. If we, in all humility, acknowledge our shortcomings and take action to transcend them, the mirror will reflect an unblemished image. Thus, the relationship grows. On the other hand, if we are ego-centric, we do not acknowledge the reflection of the mirror, we are in denial, the blemishes remain; there is conflict, and the relationship sours.
Thus, making relationships work has always been and continues to be in our hands. The choice is ours!