I had grown up reading Vimla Patil, long-time editor of Femina, advising women: “In India you don’t marry a man. You marry a family.” While it is fashionable to dismiss many things from the point of view of men as ‘patriarchy’, the other side of the coin, that of men being considered responsible for certain things in the families into which they were born, is often overlooked.
Meanwhile, the world has moved on. And how. When I was young you either had coffee or you had tea. Now you have capuccinos, lattes, mochas – and if you want, cinnamon or cream as an add-on. Coffee has become a metaphor for relationships. When you add Sugar-Free in your coffee, and add some brown sugar, and make it an espresso with ‘milk on the side’, it becomes the equivalent of what Facebook taught us all about relationship status: “It’s complicated.”
In fact, this thing called ‘relationship status’ is an American import of recent vintage. I spent the better part of my earlier adulthood without having so much as heard of that term. People had boyfriends/girlfriends, fiances/fiancees, husbands/wives. These ‘50 shades of relationships’ were alien to the mindset.
So it is no surprise that I have been mostly single, barring a short (mis) adventure into matrimony that taught me a lot and pleased me not much.
Older and wiser, I now understand that relationships are almost always ‘complicated’, unless you are terribly lucky. Because joint families have given way to nuclear ones, careers to families, families to individuals, compatibility to space and demands to adjustments.
Related reading: 10 things only single people will relate to!
That leaves a relationship seeker pretty much like a confused waiter who has been given an order for the coffee I mentioned above. That is particularly so if you grew up like me with simple south Indian coffee ideas that assumed that a woman would rest at the bottom of the stainless steel filter like that dark but enriching decoction as long as you poured some healthy, frothy milk to be the ‘other half’ of a complete family energiser drink.
Coffee is a metaphor, when you realise that it can be spelt as kaapi. Please note there is not a single letter in common between the way they spell it in the world and spell it in southern India. So much for compatibility in the common drink.
So the advice to men rooted in the past when your family was a given and you were the centre of the universe is to look at the fact that it takes two families (oops, two individuals as well), two careers, God knows how many mindsets and lots of space, poured like elegantly boiled milk, to make the modern relationship come anywhere near good old kaapi.
The alphabet of relationships does not go A, B, C. It goes P.O.V. expanded to ‘Point of View’. Point of view is what makes one camera look at an entire city from the skies, while another camera focuses on the wings of an insect.
So it makes sense to reconcile points of view after some examination, and hope that in the calculations of the mind, the hearts won’t stop beating. You must brew your own coffee, er, relationships, because not everybody knows what it means to go through a filter.