Source : Google photo
The quote in Hindi in the Photo means “ One day we will lose those people when we start thinking that they do not remember us anymore so why should we?”
Synopsis : Human relationships undergo changes over a period of time due to many factors beyond our control . This blogs looks at some of those factors and suggests ways to live a peaceful life in the old age that spares no one.
We all have faced the situation in our life when we feel that no one writes to us and no one remembers us . We secretly hope that someone will write to us and say hello how are you but the mailbox remains empty and the e mail inbox shows nothing.
Then we start remembering that we knew so many people in so many places who claimed to be our friends but wonder what happened to them and why so many years have passed without hearing from them. So a sort of reverse psychology kicks in and we start rationalizing our own response and say what can we do?
People become old, they get sick or become disabled to the extent that they can’t write or use a key board , they may lose their vision or they get divorced that brings in its own set of issues that most people find hard to cope with so remembering loved ones and friends becomes a distant priority for them.
There may be other issues facing them that we can’t even imagine because every person has his own cross to bear in this life and face his challenges daily while some of us live a reasonably comfortable life and feel blessed because we do not have to face those challenges.
I think one thing that makes people quiet other than the ones I mentioned above is the financial instability that is the hardest to face and overcome. This often comes about due to many reasons like alimony payments, mortgage payments on things one owns, old debts that keep hounding a person due to living beyond one’s ability.
It is said that the poor has no friends which is sadly true. The rich people also have no real friends because those who pretend to be their friends are only attracted to their money but at least the rich do not have the problem of not having money.
So we at a certain stage of our life may feel that we have lost the people whom we once knew and communicated with but now may be they have forgotten us so we too try to forget them or stop communicating.
Human relationship is like a sapling at first that needs to be nurtured with care, love and a great deal of attention for it to grow into a healthy and wonderful relationship. A sapling stands no chance of surviving if it is not nurtured and withers just like so many casual acquaintances.
This is true with siblings as well. They tend to go their own way in life and do not greatly care to know how you are doing especially if they do not see you often or if you live very far from them in another country that they can never visit. The old fashioned Aerograms that we used to receive are now being replaced by e mails but only a few use it if they have a computer at home. The older generation meaning anyone over 70 now is not used to computers and e mails because they never learned to type so a computer is useless to them.
Walking to a post office to buy an Aerogram seems like a chore to them if the post office is not nearby or they do not keep Aerograms anymore so writing a letter becomes an arduous task for them if they have poor vision and shaky hands.
I cherish the old letters of my mother and keep them because even when she was practically blind made a brave effort to write letters to me in her shaky hands. She loved me and wrote to me as long as she could but that too stopped one day.
So the human relationship suffers due to many reasons some of them beyond our control that we really can’t do much about.
In some cultures people make an effort to organize a family reunion specially if there is a rich relative who pays for the expenses. We know that most people want to have a good time at other’s expense so they all gather to have food, drinks and take photos of numerous new faces they have not seen before.
But such family gatherings become expensive for just one person so it is not frequent. In some cultures they make some effort to get together with their high school or college friends through alumni homecoming but that too can be infrequent due to the costs, expectations of gifts from rich alumni and inter group rivalry, old animosity and issues that do not go away over a period of time so not everyone gets excited about the alumni homecoming.
In countries such as India, there are no alumni homecomings because people once graduate leave and disappear forever. Many go abroad and make a new life there so people do not keep in touch.
Then there are those whom you meet at work, become friends and keep in touch but they too become old and perhaps lose interest in you due to many reasons so one thing is sure. We all live our lives according to priorities that we all face. Life does not treat everyone fairly so some people face more challenges than others so they have to overcome those challenges first.
I knew a fellow who was so excited that I went to Vietnam so he got my photo published in a local newspaper with some exaggerated text that said that I was going abroad to fulfill all of my dreams etc. But many years later the same fellow passed by our gate one day and after a very brief hello just walk on and never looked back. I was stunned but later I came to know that his wife had died and he was too depressed to say more than a hello. I never saw him again.
Another fellow who was my childhood playmate avoided me when I bumped into him one day and walked on never looking back so I was intrigued. Someone said that he had become an alcoholic because he was not happy in his marriage and had severe money problems.
I have written a blog on Sibling relationship that you may like to read in this context.
But of all relationships, the hardest to accept is the deterioration of the relationship between the siblings and other relatives. People say that the blood is thicker than water but I wonder if the blood does not get diluted over a long period of time to the extent that it becomes water. Then the notion that we all have the same blood and DNA in our veins starts sounding not so reassuring as it once was when we were young and ate together, played together and shared a time together under the patronage of our parents.
Once we get married, a third person from a family we do not know at all comes into the picture and often determines the future of our relationship between the siblings.
In the patriarchal system that we have in India, the girl leaves the family and marries into another family through the arranged marriage system and becomes a part of that family and calls it her own. Naturally her ties with the parents and siblings become weak if she lives very far from her home town or in another country.
But in the matriarchal system practiced in some countries, the girl keeps close ties with her family even after marriage and frequently visits, sends money and gifts and supports numerous needy relatives if she can. Her husband is not given much importance in her family who is tolerated at best but never becomes one of them.
When you marry a person abroad who is of different faith, speaks a different language and comes from an alien culture that has nothing in common with your own then such a woman or man is rarely accepted by your own family. Such a person is tolerated but never accepted because the language, faith, cultural upbringing, education and many other factors then create a barrier that they can’t break down. Goodwill and lavish gifts do not win their heart because they can’t seem to accept such a stranger as their own.
Many educated people who immigrate to other countries and start a new life there find it very difficult to go back to their country of origin and reconnect with people they knew there including their relatives. Their children who are born abroad and have learned nothing about their parent’s country find it the hardest to adjust or like anything that they are not used to. If they are Americans, they may dislike visiting their parents relatives, their culture , language and even food because it all seems to them so alien from anything they know.
Now let us look at the wider circle of relatives who may be your uncles, cousins and their children. They all feel alienated from you because you never spent any time together to get to know them so maybe they are related to you but I suspect they only have water in their veins and not real blood.
Some of them may know something about you but are intensely jealous of you if you happen to be better off than them and do not bring lavish gifts to them or help them financially so such relationships are strictly money related.
The human relationship is therefore dependent on many factors some of which are real and some artificial. It is true that we humans are social animals and enjoy the company of others that may have its own consequences.
It is also true that when some people are always alone and lonely, they seek the company of others who offer company at a price so you will find young people joining gangs that get into criminal activities, drug dealing, alcoholism and end up in jail or worse.
Old people who are lonely and always alone join groups of old people who also demand a price in terms of religious fanaticism and other such pursuits. Seldom they offer friendship without strings attached.
Now I come to the last part to examine the relationship formed due to common dangers some people face together like in war. You will find deep bonds between soldiers who have faced dangers in war somewhere together and survived. Such bonds last a lifetime even if they live far apart and may be invalid due to injuries sustained. If one dies, others show up at the funeral no matter how far they live. There is a camaraderie among them that develops because they have saved each other’s life somewhere. This is very different from the common people or siblings who are not required to make great sacrifices for you. You will find such bonds between air force or army officers and soldiers who trained together and graduated together and later fought together always watching each other’s back.
The last type of human relationship has to do with fraternities and sororities that you often find in college campuses. They make it difficult for anyone to join them because they require severe initiation rites that often results in injuries, humiliation or even fatalities but they too form a bond not because they love one another but due to the oaths they take. In some Hollywood movies they show such frat boys getting into outright criminal activities.
If one gets into a high position in the government later then he or she will look for his or her frat brothers and sisters and employ them. This is how a newly elected leader somewhere draws on his frat brothers and sisters and makes a coterie that he trusts even if they are not good people. It is called cronyism and has its own disadvantages but many politicians do it until the public pressure mounts on them to get rid of cronies.
I have met many people in my long life and written about some of them in my blogs although most of them have completely disappeared so I have accepted it as a fact of life that nothing lasts forever. One must accept it and try to live the life with equanimity which means nothing should perturb you, distract you and make you feel alone.
You are never alone if you are a person without expectation of any kind. You are never alone if you are content with your life the way it is and do not seek company of anyone. This is the life with equanimity that we should hope for at a certain age. It is difficult but not impossible. The secret is to look inward and not outward.
Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography: