Respect Thyself

Yesterday we were celebrating my husband’s birthday at a fancy, upscale restaurant in our city. Our table was next to another where a family of three were seated – husband, wife and a young daughter. As we were seated, the man got a business call which he promptly received and then proceeded to hold a loud conversation without giving a thought to the inconvenience he was causing to the other diners. Indeed for the first half hour of our meal, my husband and I could scarcely hear each other across the table thanks to our oblivious neighbor’s incessant ramblings in an extremely loud tone.

From the corner of my eye I could see the wife looking at us intermittently, whether apologetically or not I cannot tell. However we also managed to sneak in a few glances surreptitiously and what we say really appalled me. Obviously the family had come out to dine together at a nice restaurant, ostensibly to relax and enjoy each others’ company. Instead what was happening was that the husband was lost in his own world of making money, the daughter had a pair of earphones glued to her ears and the wife was left to look around in boredom and occasionally address a few words to her daughter. I gathered she considered her husband a lost cause as she did not bother to talk to him much.

When they had paid the bill and were getting up to leave, the man discovered that the doggy bag they had asked for had not yet been given. Immediately the man let flow a flood of recriminations against his wife in his native language, unaware that I could understand him perfectly being from the same part of India myself. While not exactly using abusive language he chewed out his wife for being dumb and lost in her own world. Imagine saying things like that to your own wife in public, moreover in the presence of your own daughter! The wife kept resolutely quiet; it seemed this was not a new occurrence for her.

My husband remarked, after they had left, that it looked like a rerun of a recently released movie English Vinglish where Sridevi plays a middle class housewife who is taken for granted by her family due to her weak English skills. Maybe something similar was the case with our unpleasant fellow diners. Of course it may have been because of an ongoing quarrel but what irked me was the way the man was ticking off his wife in public. Like me there could have been others who understood his words and who were witness to his wife’s humiliation. A relationship should be founded on trust and respect; demeaning your spouse in public is simply not acceptable. There is a tendency of people to air their dirty linen in public and that is extremely loathsome in my opinion. This applies to both sexes; I do not hold for a wife haranguing her husband in public either.

The intimacy of marriage forges a bond that cannot be equalled by any other relationship. We are all close to our parents, siblings, relatives and friends but the relationship with a spouse is special, possibly because it is the one that is yours exclusively. People make a great deal of fuss regarding arranged marriage versus love marriage but at the end marriage is marriage. In both cases the relationship needs a great deal of attention and nurturing. There is a tendency to put the marriage on the back-burner when kids come on the scene and at times it turns into something like the scene witnessed by us yesterday. Maybe the blame lies with both parties – the dominating one for ignoring the other and the submissive one for letting go of his / her own identity. Of course, that’s generalizing the issue – the only people who can understand and analyze the dynamics of a marriage are the two people bound in that marriage. So let me ask this – is it ok to sit quietly and accept every barb until a dam bursts within you someday destroying everything in its wake? Or will it be better to understand the pitfalls and try to work out a solution without losing your self-respect in the process. In English Vinglish, Sridevi’s character mentions she doesn’t need love, she only needs a little respect. And to earn the respect of others you need to respect yourself first and foremost, don’t you?

On a similar note, I discovered that once in a blue moon even our politicians can give us something to emulate. Shashi Tharoor’s tweet defending his wife against the coarse words thrown at her by Narendra Modi is a lovely example of how to silence people who are slinging mud at your spouse. Even if you are arguing like cats and dogs within closed doors, I believe it is your duty to stand up for your spouse in public. For, as we learnt from our childhood days, united we stand and divided we fall.

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