Copied, for kindle, conversation, relationships

"If you're lonely when you're alone, you're in bad company." ― Jean-Paul Sartre

I once met a counsellor who deals with a variety of subjects and people, but seemed to attract more relationship-based concerns than any other. I didn't meet her on the pretext of any personal problem — god forbid that it should ever come to that. I met her as part of an interview that got eventually published in a tabloid. But during our friendly discussion, she had made an interesting observation based on her personal experiences with different people (couples mostly) and presumably something based on her own life.

When we got to the subject of marriage, she said, "it changes people". She didn't elaborate on it, but we both understood what she was inclining towards, based on the context and direction of our discussion. The infliction of duties, responsibilities, assumed hierarchical positions based on gender and tradition, dependence, self-imposed restrictions and constrictions, cultural values, norms and practices and the very notions of marriage people carry in their heads could disturb the very foundations of what may have otherwise been a healthy relationship based on affectionate friendship between two people.

But relationships are complex and they are each based on so many dynamic individuals with their own peculiar qualities, idiosyncrasies, beliefs, standards, ideals and so on, that it wouldn't be fair on my part to generalise the outcome or presume a pattern here, even if a vast majority of them do in fact follow a very patterned and conditioned way of living. Something else struck me recently when I was discussing the subject with a friend, I had observed based on a small but measurable sample size, that people who generally come from dysfunctional or broken families tend to be more guarded, critical, sceptical and sometimes somewhat averse towards relationships and marriage, and those who come from the opposite spectrum seem to be all too chirpy, hopeful, almost naively optimistic and enthusiastic about the prospect of marriage and are even willing to get into it at a rather early age despite the obvious dangerous of it. This isn't to critique either sides or make any sweeping statements based on such a limited study — as it seems a bit too Freudian and a little too apparent to see just how families influence one's line of thinking in this matter. But it does bring an interesting perspective on just how deeply conditioned our views and inclinations tend to be, based on our personal history, experiences and environment.

There are days when I meet people who seem to take an unusual interest in my personal life, and that includes little 15-year-old neighbours, and sometimes I entertain the idea of a discussion on the subject if I think someone is genuinely curious and is open to a discussion that isn't directed to reaffirm their own subjective beliefs on the subject. However, there are times when I think this curiosity is rather unhealthy and is built on this need to intervene and impose one's own assertions and ideas on to others. I find that those who fall under the kin variety are often those that venture into this dangerous, unhealthy territory and it is for this reason that I hate going into familial events of any sort, especially marriages which are largely unimaginative and dull affairs. But by-and-large, I understand that, despite their invasive and crude outlook of life, they do mean well even when they stubbornly suggest you to consider their limited grasp of the subject.

But what interests me greatly is in hearing others' view on the subject. I find it offers me a great deal of insight into how our minds work and how much it yearns for a sense of psychological and physical security, however false or illusory that may be. For obvious reasons, I would never mention the names of people who have shared their personal views, but I find that often the motive for any relationship is based on fear, self-projections, peer-pressures and customs. India is a much more peculiar state to study this phenomenon, given its archaic practice of arranged marriages, deplorable casteist and sectarian traditions, and the stigma it carries towards the casual dating- and live-in-cultures. So in that sense, my observations may seem bizarre to those who are not very aware of the demography, culture and challenges of such an environment.

There was a point very early in my young adult life that I almost gave in to the impulse of early relationship and considered marriage rather easily, without thinking a great deal about it. I am glad I didn't succumb to those early instincts and walk into something that I may have regretted later. I know a few people who have experienced just that and are struggling to come out of it. An old room-mate of mine thought I had commitment phobia. He may be partially right, but I don't really think that's the problem here. I discovered that I, unlike some others, don't feel the pressure, desire and constant need for a companion. There was a time in my life where I actively sought a relationship, but I discovered later on that I had merely caved in to the carnal desires, peer-pressure and the other demands of the world, and that I was much more myself and comfortable when I was living without such underlying motives, urges and goals. I realised the thought of being alone is not something to be dreaded, feared and escaped from, but rather something to be embraced and immersed into, so as to discover its true value and potential in liberating one's mind from the bondages of the world. This feeling of aloneness is ever with us and our escape from it seems now like a rather petty and futile attempt at evading our own underlying selves.

I also realised later on that it is only a mind that is capable of embracing this feeling of aloneness, solitude or loneliness, courageously — without feeling a sense of despair, fear, anguish, self-pity, distrust, hatred, envy or a yearning for an escape from all this — is capable of being in a healthy relationship and experiencing the total warmth of love. A mind that is crippled by fear and is constantly seeking security in various forms and through external sources, to validate its own existence, is bound to project its own insecurities and create all forms of dependency and confusion and mistake all that to be love. In this sense I discovered that I am perfectly at peace with where I am in my life, alone, and exploring the wonders of relationship, people, places, stories and time. This sense of aloneness has also given me a great amount of time to reflect on my past actions, past relationships, past mistakes and learn from them.

There can be no regrets in respect to who I was with and the time I shared with them, however brief or fleeting, for they all helped me understand myself better. These relationships have served as a mirror to explore oneself and to see one's own image reflecting of it. All life is relationship and so man can never escape this inevitable connection he shares with all aspects of life. In this sense, no man is ever truly alone even if he perhaps feels so, on a neglected and isolated moment in time.

I still have trouble facing up to people who would never try to understand how I feel about all this and who seek a very conditioned response to the problems of relationships, age and marriage. It is somewhat tiring to bump into people who think a man or a woman who reaches a certain age is obligated by a sense of duty and responsibility to serve the interests of family, culture and tradition and get into a wedlock, with presumably a stranger whose only relation to you is an absurd astrological, socio-economic or religious tie. I have decided that whenever I am faced with the task of answering such people, I am only going to confront them with humour, as my means to cope with their rather uninspiring questions on marriage, children and family. I find that often, such questions are asked by people who seem incapable of understanding those that don't confirm to social standards, pressures and beliefs, either through fear or for the sake of tradition. In a way, these people end up trivialising the very important question of relationship and reduce it to a cultural standard that all must confirm to.

But it would be a mistake to paint me as a person opposed to all social institutions, even one as flawed as marriage. I do not discourage it among others, nor do I see it as a cause for celebration or dislike. I find it rather vain and childish to flaunt a marriage and spend enormous amounts of resources, either in the form of food, money or clothes, just to scream to the world the legality of one's relationship with another. If you didn't already know, India's wedding industry is among the largest, if not THE largest, in the world, and this despite the severe crippling poverty you see all around. There are so many better ways in which to spend money, if one happens to be so fortunate enough to have it. Marriage in some ways (as a legal act) is necessary in the construct of society as it exists today, with its inequalities in gender, race, justice, wealth and resources. But I am certainly not someone who thinks marriage is a mandatory part of existence, especially when it involves two people of like-mindedness, intelligence, affection and sincere capacity, who are well capable of living together without the need for a sanction from the state or from their respective in-laws.

And I certainly don't subscribe to the rather arrogant view that marriage is somehow a greater display of commitment, trust and love than any good relationship between any two thinking individuals. In this sense, I don't hold the view that marriage in any way particularly enhances a relationship or is a necessity in a better society, although I could concede that in certain individual cases it may help bring about a sense of purpose or direction to their otherwise dull lives, however limited or superficial that purpose may be.

I find that I am increasingly drawn towards people who are free-spirited in their inquiry of life and are committed to finding new ways of looking at old issues. I often tell people, who seek my answers on the subject, that relationship is not something I could direct myself towards, through sheer will, through conscious effort or active pursuit, even if logic does suggest that it requires some amount of effort on one's part. So I prefer waiting it out, to see what unfolds, and if I could perhaps one day meet someone who shares my interest, passion, love and inquiry towards life and truth. I firmly believe that love and freedom are inseparable and cannot exist without the other. So no relationship could sustain for any significant period of length without that quality of freedom, affection, understanding and intelligence. If there is such a love in my future then perhaps marriage is something I may consider, but only under the view that there are valid grounds for it. But I fix no hope or attach no longing sentiment for such an outcome, as I find myself increasingly falling in love with life and the very relationship I share with her.