By Suma Varughese
the capacity to be vulnerable and admit your mistakes will determine the strength of your relationships
The Sathe family was tucking into a wholesome Maharashtrian meal consisting of jowar bhakri, cooked sprouted moong, delicious roasted whole potatoes coated with dill and a salad. Avijit, however, was playing with his food, a frown on his face.
“What’s up, dude?” asked Dad.
“I’ve just had a major row with Ramesh (his best friend) and we are not talking to each other.”
“What happened?” asked Mom.
“I happened to make fun of one of our classmates, a girl called Shaila. Her hand is always up in the air with questions that stump even the professors. I was imitating her style of questioning and suddenly Ramesh slammed into me. He told me that I was an MCP, that I couldn’t stand to have a woman be better than a man, and so on. Eventually he stormed out. I think he has a crush on her.”
“Why were you making fun of her?” asked Mom.
Avijit looked abashed. “For all kinds of unworthy reasons,” he admitted. “She makes the rest of us look bad; she has been getting all the prizes so far… come on, the woman is downright aggravating.”
“Would you have made fun of her if she were a man?” asked Mom. Avijit thought, then admitted. “Maybe not so much. I mean, you don’t expect girls to cream you in maths and physics, you know.”
“You were clearly in the wrong. Tell Ramesh he is right and that should be the end of it,” said Dad.
“Hmm,” said Avijit, looking mutinous. “But what if he does not accept my apology and what if he will not talk to me? I don’t want lose my bhav with him. Maybe I should just go and say hi and pretend as if nothing has happened.”
“Well, that may work and he may agree to talk to you also, but there will be a small gap in your intimacy because you have not cleared this baggage. The level of trust and intimacy will diminish,” said Ajoba.
“You should clear up the air, son,” urged Dad.
“Yah, but,” said Avijit, “What if he expects me to become this Shaila female’s chela just like he has become? And what if after that he will expect me to keep apologising to him for everything? I don’t want to become his side kick or something.”
“Avijit,” said Dad sternly, “There are a million what-ifs you can conjure but you will never know the truth of even one of them because you are not in a position to look into another person’s mind. And based on these imaginary situations you are planning to regulate what you say and how you say it. Not only are you trying to manipulate the situation but you are also ensuring that Ramesh will behave in exactly the same way that you fear.”
He added more gently, “You are afraid to put yourself in Ramesh’s power which is natural. But there is no other way to handle relationships. You have to be willing to be vulnerable, to say what you need to say without expecting anything from the other person. Only that will heal your relationship.”
“Never attempt to hedge your bets,” said Mom. “It never works. Just jump in courageously with an apology and leave the rest to the universe. You children know that Dad and I never hesitate to apologise to you when we are in the wrong. Why Avijit, only last week I said sorry for screaming at you because you had not told me that you were coming late and eventually it turned out that Alka forgot to give me the message.”
A light broke over Avijit’s face. “Yes, I remember,” he smiled broadly, while nodding his head vigorously. “Mom, it was an incredible moment. I felt so touched by your humility… a wave of love washed over me. Remember how tightly I hugged you?”
“I do, son,” smiled Mom. “Don’t you think Ramesh might feel the same when you apologise? When we make ourselves vulnerable, we are actually giving the other person permission to be vulnerable too. There is nothing more revolutionary than the courage to say you are wrong…hey, Avijit, where are you going? You haven’t finished your dinner yet.”
“Am off to call Ramesh,” came a distant voice, “Just can’t wait any longer…
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