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"Yes" Man To All "No" Man To Love

Updated: Feb 15

By Disha Daryani

Abhay’s brother Dinesh had created yet another spectacle at work for the third time this week by firing an extremely diligent senior manager. This left Abhay feeling rather worried about the predicament of this family business which was finally showing signs of flourishing after thirty years of hard work. Abhay and Dinesh came from a family of five siblings which included three sisters and the two brothers. Dinesh being the oldest, had launched the family business and was later joined by Abhay and two external partners Ashok and Ramesh. Dinesh held the vision for the company together, however lacked an organized management style and often took impulsive decisions that cost the business severely over the years. 

The four founders had built a successful business selling parts for motorcycles. In the early years they had even set up a production facility, however overtime they realized that importing the parts from China was a more cohesive business plan and had far larger profits to give. Abhay at the age of fifty wondered, what the future of Kohinoor Electricals would look like now that Dinesh’s son Ajay had also joined the business. Ajay was not a trained engineer like Dinesh and Abhay and had no experience outside after his education to understand the dynamics of a professional business. Abhay,however, seemed determined to train his nephew to the best of his ability as he often looked at him as his own son.  

Five years had passed and Ajay had only managed to learn how to do the bare minimum. Dinesh was a soft father and believed his son should be a leader early on into joining the company even though Abhay and the other partners didn’t feel he was ready to take on a leadership role. This would create a lot of problems internally with other managers when Ajay’s lack of experience would reflect in his operational style. Abhay wanted to carve out the next generation of Kohinoor Electricals with his nephew at the forefront, however Dinesh’s constant interference led to Abhay and the other partners taking a complete backseat. Dinesh had even transferred a percentage of his own company shares to his son and paid him a handsome salary month on month. 

One of the firm’s other partners, Ashok strongly advocated against this decision because he knew what hard work looked like and what leadership was required for the future. His daughter worked fourteen to sixteen hours a day and almost fifty to sixty hours a week at a multinational firm to make almost a similar salary to Ajay who barely worked thirty hours a week. Beyond the time frame, his daughter had graduated from one of the top business schools in the country and had five years of work experience outside her current job with other consulting companies to hold the position of a project manager.Ashok agreed with Abhay that Ajay required more professional training and a deeper passion for the business to become a leader. 

Ajay’s direction and Dinesh’s rash dictatorship created a lot of losses financially for the company and Dinesh’s ego refused to let him see the bigger picture. Abhay spent thirty years of his life trying to show his brother the right direction, to no avail. Dinesh would simply turn a deaf ear or act in a completely different way. He didn’t care about expanding the business, he only cared about securing his own family and didn’t bother if it left the other partners on the streets. Abhay would try to maintain the harmony in the firm between the other partners and Dinesh as they too would get frustrated time and again with his brash leadership decisions.For Abhay, he had to always be on duty, everytime his brother called he had to follow instructions and be available at any given time. If his brother made wrong decisions, he still had to bear the losses. At one point, Dinesh decided he wanted to encash all his shares from the company which would create cash liquidity for the firm, Abhay to tolerate this loss as well.

Abhay’s work life for the past thirty years had been a balanced life filled with a lot of hard work. For the first fifteen years Abhay would travel frequently to China almost every second week to build the business and develop relationships with suppliers. These thirty years flew by in a blink and in between the demands of a growing family and a business to be built from the ground up with no financial backing or generational wealth to rely on Abhay had little to no time for his personal development.

For the first twenty years Abhay would follow his brother’s advice like the guidelines from the Holy Books and would often try to walk in his footsteps. It’s a cultural phenomenon in India for sons to follow father’s, brothers to follow their older brothers and sisters to follow their older sisters. It’s unwritten but not unheard of. A sense of pride and belonging within the family can be achieved if one follows through with a righteous path set out by an older sibling or member of the family, it demonstrates commitment to the family values and upbringing. Abhay also took on roles similar to his brother and having been the youngest in the family was more often than not an accessory to the older siblings with little attention from his parents with their heightened responsibilities at the time. He simply followed the rules and the plan laid out for him without having his own identity fully developed. While this led him to achieve a balanced life on the surface with a family and well thriving business, his personal ideas, passion and concept of self never saw the light of day. He had become the quintessential son, father, uncle, brother, business partner, husband and friend in what was required out of him, but remained emotionally unavailable to his own needs.

While Dinesh made the key decisions for the business, despite having a better education and a dignified business approach far superior to his brother, Abhay often remained in his brother’s shadow. Not only at work, his quiet demeanor and submissive personality even made his siblings and mother favor Dinesh over him and Dinesh’s wife over Abhay’s wife at all times.

One can never imagine, but life is usually quite quick-witted in the sense, it always provides us with what we didn’t know we needed. For Abhay, his life partner Sama held the questions to his abandoned soul and the answers to fill the void. However.their married life  alternated between being a safe haven and a battleground of unfulfilled needs. 

Sama, unlike Abhay, came from an overly affectionate background. She was the apple of her parents eyes and was raised with love, care and concern. While receiving the basic education, her parents never positioned her to have a career of her own and chose to let her enjoy her life with close friendships, family gatherings, a life of comfort and luxury to the best of her parents abilities. Sama learnt to build valuable and deep relationships before her marriage and to make the most of life. She was the quintessential beautiful girl with a reputation that exceeded her name of being desired by many but waiting for the one. At a tender age of twenty-three, she was married to Abhay. Sama felt confident in her choice to have married Abhay after rejecting forty-seven other proposals as they didn’t quite meet her criterias for marriage. She found Abhay to be honest and kind, she liked that he had an ability to lead and was extremely well educated and finally his family home was only a couple of blocks from her parents house where she could easily visit. Her vivaciousness, beauty and innocence had captured Abhay’s heart and her sense of responsibility towards her own family had convinced young Abhay at twenty-six that she would extend the same courtesy to his own family. 

The concept of marriage is one that receives little thought and a surface level approach which  is not enough for the magnitude of change it can bring to one’s life. Sama’s formative years and Abhay’s formative years built the foundation for them to give and receive love and also built their individual expectations around how families were supposed to behave. A marriage requires a new couple to step out of the formations they’ve been accustomed to and build a new ecosystem that may be led by the masculine energy but nurtured by the values of the feminine. However India’s patriarchal culture has left little room to provide couples the opportunity and knowledge to start afresh. Most households hold the expectation for the new feminine to adjust to the lifestyle and value system of the male and naturally expect the masculine to support the feminine. One needs to understand that it is nearly impossible to dismantle one’s past completely and new values can only be adopted with a sense of self validation not out of being imposed or forced adherence. 

Abhay and Sama both having naive hearts never held the awareness of building a healthy relationship. The interchange of love so to speak, their love languages and an understanding  of how to consciously communicate their own needs within a relationship without expecting the worst or resorting to verbal violence remained absent through the thirty something years of their marriage. 

Children are sensorial emulation creatures and demonstrating a conscious environment around them can shape generations to come. Abhay, born to a lower middle class immigrant family, observed a very transactional relationship between his family filled with heightened logic, ego and simply following the plan to survive. Sama on the other hand received a lot of love as a child, however her parents often fought and her father was extremely authoritarian towards her mother leading to a lot of verbal conflicts. These patterns could be found very easily in the way Abhay and Sama interacted with each other.

While all was not lost, Abhay and Sama connected on many fronts and gave to others from the most authentic and loving space. They both had a deep sensitivity towards the suffering of others and would spend everyday of their lives catering to the needs of others. They held similar values on shared finances, children’s upbringing, charity and living a healthy lifestyle. They had a friendship and a sense of loyalty in the relationship towards each other. While this may seem like a compatibility from the heavens, it only lacked a mutual understanding of each other’s representation styles. In constant service of others, Sama developed minor health issues and Abhay’s over-disciplined and rudimentary lifestyle would become overwhelming for Sama often keeping her in a state of fear. Abhay never explored his shadow side to understand how Sama’s display of love and affection towards him and towards her own family often triggered his insecurities. His reactions were driven out of those insecurities which he lacked awareness about from a more egoistic perspective under the guise of practicality as demonstrated by his own family for his entire life. He would consciously try to distance himself, shut down emotionally and create a deeper void between himself and Sama in the presence of these triggering situations. Over the years he began to immerse himself more in activities outside the house, leaving only time for duty towards Sama and no connection. 

Courting his wife, creating memories, choosing love seemed foreign to him and without guidance from his children and persistence from Sama he could never imagine how to make Sama happy and fulfilled. Sama struggled through the initial years of her marriage to cope with the void and would rely on her own family before marriage to fulfill her emotional needs.

Abhay couldn’t understand how to navigate through these emotions and his triggers. His ability to be the quintessential son,brother and so on kept him away from Sama and the love she had to offer him. The phone wouldn’t ring for two minutes, before Abhay would stand to attention to go answer it and fulfilled yet another demand asked from any person in the world in between dinner with his family. He lacked respect for himself and hence even respect for his wife and family. They had to serve the world to make him happy at their own expense from giving financial benefits to others to going for last minute disrespectful invitations, following people’s instructions was the way to go.Sama would feel extremely trapped living in such circumstances and it constantly dwindled her light. Her in-laws and Abhay’s family never included her in any of their plans or treated her equally. She strived quietly for thirty years to build a relationship with them, but to no success. They simply didn’t have the bandwidth to reciprocate and because they knew Abhay would never say a word, they often misbehaved with Sama by making crude remarks or taking control in her own house, making family outing plans without her. They would even fail to include Abhay on most occasions, still Abhay would go out of his way to provide for them and their demands simply because he wanted to receive the love of a family. After thirty years of marriage, Sama felt like an outsider. 

In friendship Abhay would try to be available for all his friends, help them out financially and give them business advice. His overgiving and lack of self respect made a lot of people take advantage of him and the reciprocity was seldom there in any equation.Sama couldn’t connect with these attributes of Abhay because she could not stand her husband sacrificing all the time at his own expense. She would try to stand up for him in certain situations and even show him the right direction towards having more self love and self protection even if it would cost her a lot of turmoil in the relationship simply for him to see the reality of people’s actions around him. In doing so, she had created a more verbose image for herself amongst his family and friends of being the dominating partner, however she only couldn’t see the injustice he suffered. 

Abhay remained silent on these occasions just like any other. The only time Abhay would have a say is when it came to his in-laws. He didn’t like their involvement in his marriage with Sama and couldn’t bear to witness the love they showered on his family as well. He refused to cooperate with them in most ways but showed them generosity for Sama’s sake. 

It is a rather archaic concept to look at life through a monochromatic lens of being emotional and practical about how Abhay viewed his life versus Sama’s. Abhay didn’t find recognition in his life, a mode of safe expression for his needs and hence only knew how to suppress them. Everything in his life had always been transactional even with his own mother and this had built the foundation for him to learn that love was always conditional and duty came first, pleasing others came first. 

Pleasing others and being in service to others is a beautiful concept when it comes from a place of generosity without any expectations. But pleasing others to expect them to fulfill your needs in return is a disservice to yourself, making the art of giving transactional and impure.  It also can’t guarantee the fact that another person would give to you in the same way as you or to the same extent which can only create a lot of pain and dissatisfaction for a person who’s core needs are unmet. Therefore, it must be understood that we can only give to others what we can freely give to ourselves.

How to bring about a change when you don’t hold the awareness of your whole being? How can one find peace and happiness, when one is so far from themselves? How does one relate to another being in full consciousness, when one can’t relate to oneself? 

At the age of fifty, Abhay has no consciousness of the ways in which he can still find fulfillment in his life, or to work on understanding his own needs as a human being to build some compassion for understanding Sama’s needs as a wife and mother. 

This anecdote is an example of how our lives are interwoven with the threads of our past and the people that surround us. It also is a question to solve for future generations to understand the role of such dynamics in order to build a stronger sense of self that can create more meaningful relationships in our lives and bring healing to ourselves and others.

By Disha Daryani

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