The simplicity of basic etiquette

Marriage creates a bond or rather fusion of individual identities. In a way, the “we” becomes more important than the “I”, as it should be. It’s a crucial element that strengthens the foundation of the relationship. But by force of habit we tend to take things for granted. I agree, it’s human nature but one that can be rewired every now and then.

Having an open line of communication is a must in the marital relationship. It’s the only relationship that allows you to be your true self without any inhibition or judgement. It’s up to each partner therefore to build that level of trust and create a space of comfort. It requires control, understanding, maturity and commitment.

The fallout is losing the basic glue that is essential for any relationship – an acknowledgement and acceptance of the other person as an individual and a recognition of their value in our lives. Within this, the simple expressions of “thank you…please…sorry…can I help…I understand” have the power to re-instil confidence in each other, and maintain and/or restore the sanctity of the relationship.

These words hold an infinitesimal amount of value in terms of making the partner feel loved, important and taken care of. It makes them want to do more, so much more. It raises the bar for the relationship. Simultaneously not using them often enough (or not meaning it when you say them!) makes the partner feel used, worthless, unappreciated and insecure.

Often it is said, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Roles within the marriage can be defined but that doesn’t mean one partner’s contribution is anything less than the other. A lack thereof makes them feel lost. They’re unable to understand their position and importance within the relationship. It’s debilitating. They might continue to contribute but there’s no feelings attached leading to disappointment and unhappiness. Soon the feeling that there’s something missing in the relationship raises its ugly head.

Expectations of these basic tenets of etiquette can vary in degree and differ from person to person. When they are met, the level of expectation is lower. We tend to add value (mostly negative value) to our expectations when they’re not met. They can also get blown out of proportion! Often partners are heard saying, ‘s/he’s like that only.’ This isn’t just an acceptance that they will not reciprocate or acknowledge the meaning and impact of these simple words. It basically ensures that love is lost in the process thereby widening the small cracks within the marriage.

For example, ‘sorry’ doesn’t only mean you’re apologising for hurting the other. Most importantly, it means that you think your partner is worthy of your respect and in turn they believe that you’re worthy of being forgiven. Such is the power of the word.

If these are such ‘simple’ words, then why is it so hard to practice? When we fail to acknowledge our partner’s efforts, is it because we feel it’s our due and so there’s no point in asking politely? Do we view them as a sign of weakness? Does it make us question why everything our partner does needs to be appreciated? Or do we assume that the partner should know they’re important so it’s just a bother having to tell them that?

Perhaps, the next time you’re really happy about doing something for your partner or sorry for being difficult and you share this but your partner doesn’t acknowledge your efforts – question yourself about how it makes you feel within, and then about your partner and the relationship. Does it open the floodgate of similar bad memories from the past? This is a simple yet quick way to understand the importance of using these words in our daily lives.

Let’s Face It, men like independent, successful women as long as they are not their wives!

Most often, even though single women don’t make a concerted effort, they’re open to giving Mr Right a shot if he happens to come along. The Girl is an established professional, well-travelled and very independent. She is someone who can throw her head back and have a good laugh, believes life is an adventure and there are more things to learn and see than possible in one lifetime.


Pottsandpan (PP): Marriage has been on the cards for you for a while now, including subtle pressure from family. How do you deal with it?

The Girl (TG): Well, the questions are subtle as well as overt, specially when you are attending any family function. I start with a nice smile, and politely say “I’m still waiting for the right person.” And if that doesn’t cut it, I just counter it with another smile and say, “well seems like no one wants to marry me!” Both work, depending on which generation in the family I’m talking to.


PP: What are some of the questions people ask when they’re keen to know your marriage plans?

TG: Well they broadly range between…

  • Why aren’t you getting married, don’t you think it’s time?
  • When will you get married? We won’t be able to do any work during your marriage, we are getting old, so marry fast!
  • Well, have you decided you don’t want to get married?
  • If you want to get married, you should start thinking about it seriously!
  • Who are you waiting for? They are all handsome princes at the start and become Johnny Walker as life progresses (yes! Some of my close friends (and business heads) have actually told me this)
  • You look nice, earn well, you travel the world, how come you have not met anyone yet? (Duh! I think in my head, you asked me a question I haven’t been able to answer myself, maybe you can answer it for me!)


PP: What has been the inanest question someone’s asked you about marriage?

TG: I would say the one where someone looked me up from head to toe to determine that I wasn’t a “defective” piece and wondered why I was not married yet. I am sure some people think I am a closet case :-p


PP: What are the 3 key qualities you would want to look for in your future partner? Why do you think they’re important?

TG: In my mind it’s a simple ask. I’m looking for someone who is comfortable in his own skin and therefore is willing to let me be comfortable in mine, someone who is kind and humane and has a sense of humour.

One would think the ask is simple, but apparently, it does not come easy.


PP: In general, the usual expectations from a marriage have been buying a house together, a car, traveling to exotic locations – now you’ve already accomplished all that by yourself! If and when you do tie the knot what do you think your expectations will be?

TG: The expectation would be to spend the next 30+ years (known as rest of my life) with someone who wants to spend his life with me too. For companionship, for being there when its good and bad, for sharing experiences and actually working together to leave a legacy of sorts, together.


PP: Is marriage really needed today? What are your views?

TG: Marriage as it was known in yester years, where it was more for security, both financial and social is less of a requirement today. Marriage for companionship, for being supportive of each other, to share and to give space to each other seems more the necessity. As an institution, I guess it did build the society, but with women being well educated, supported by their parents, financially well off it is less a “need” and more a choice. The institution nevertheless I believe still needs to exist to give society a framework to go by. I think it gives an arena for one to think beyond oneself and for the larger cause called family, which therefore brings forward the good in people. Not saying that not marrying doesn’t make you good, but marriage does make you put others before yourself.


PP: There was a meme on a social media site recently where at a wedding, the priest is seen reprimanding the groom saying the answer is “I do” and not “I’ll try!” Do you think it reflects the reality of today’s life?

TG: A commitment is a commitment, which is what you exchange as you say your vows (doesn’t matter in what language or religion). The reality of today’s life is things are so abundant that one has a plethora of choices and can move from one to the other very easily. Relationships, marriage, friendships, family ties need to be nurtured and cared for. It’s not an expectation alone which both parties have to live up to but also somewhere they both need to drop the ego and find the middle path for a larger cause. At times, though one party has to walk all the way to the other instead of meeting in the middle. Often, one has to gulp the ego and move forward. This is easier said than done. However, if you are confident that both of you want the same larger cause it’s easier to do and if the cause isn’t common, then drifting apart and justifications become easier.


PP: How long have your parents been married? What do you think has been the secret to their success?

TG: 47 years! I think their ability to respect each other and let go when required was the key. It also underlies love, compassion and understanding each other, which some may call getting used to one another.


PP: What is the one advice they gave you for selecting a life partner? Are they in sync with your views?

TG: It is important for partners to be complimentary in nature, don’t choose someone with the exact same character traits as yourself. Initially I was surprised, but I realized they meant traits and not qualities. I’m strong willed and decision oriented, and need a patient partner to deal with me. Patience isn’t one of my strongest suits, though it may be stronger in comparison to some others.


PP: Have you been meeting prospective partners? What has been your experience? How do these men react and respond to a successful and independent woman like you?

TG: Yes, in spurts, I haven’t made a very concerted effort. The experience has been less than desirable, probably why the concerted effort hasn’t happened. Men like independent, successful women as long as they are not their wives.


PP: What are your views on financial equality in a marriage? Do you think you will be okay if your husband earns less than you?

TG: When I was starting my career, I wanted someone earning equal or more because of the needs one has, to build the basics in life. But at this stage of my life, my views on this is far more liberal since I’m not looking at anyone to take care of my financial needs. Yes, it is ok for my husband to earn less than me, but the “quantum” of less should be defined. I’m used to a certain lifestyle, giving it up almost entirely will not be easy. The same way I don’t fancy being anyone’s trophy wife nor do I suspect that I will ever choose a trophy husband (please remember, that’s not the same as being a house husband).


PP: What is the position that love holds in your life? Between love and respect, which do you think is the most important element in a successful marriage?

TG: I think it is important to have love in your life, to hold someone else dearer to you than yourself. I think love and respect are both equally important in a successful marriage. Respect allows you to be you, otherwise you will be looking for validation or taking out your wrath by being derogatory to others or worse, lose your self-confidence and become a victim. Love is something you feel, you give and you make happen – quite like respect, but a lot more ephemeral. You can see it in simple everyday things which you usually take for granted verses actually appreciating it. That’s because we all “expect” it from our partners, we don’t give them credit for being there all the time, if not physically but emotionally at least.




With due respect (Part 1)

This three part series aims to discuss one of the key cornerstones for any healthy relationship – Mutual Respect.


Scenario 1: Your husband returns from work in the evening. After he’s freshened up, you talk to him about your day or tell him something important that has happened to you. Mid-way, without telling you to excuse him or giving you any hint, he gets up and walks away to do something else. Or perhaps while conversing, you realise that he has a glazed look in his eyes indicating that he’s moved on to thinking about something else.

Scenario 2: You’ve had a hectic work week and waiting for the weekend so you can relax. Your husband says that he’s invited his office colleagues’ home for dinner on Saturday evening. You ask that he pushes it to the next weekend instead. He informs you that he’ll be travelling on work the entire of next week and wants to keep the weekend free to recover!

Scenario 3: At a party you’re all discussing about something and you want to share your point of view. Your husband shushes you in front of people, or reacts angrily at your suggestion or simply disregards your view by ignoring and continuing the conversation as if you hadn’t said anything important.

In each of the above scenarios, the prominent underlying factor is a clear lack of mutual respect between partners.

Mutual respect in marriage is one of the strongest bonds that keep couples united. The slightest put-down can push them apart. Even though love can keep a marriage on track, the feeling of being respected by your partner is crucially as important. Loss of mutual respect is not only painful but can potentially destroy a marriage.

Respect can be demonsrtated in various ways – being listened to, being acknowledged for something you’ve done, not being taken for granted, understanding physical boundaries, protecting each other and showing consideration.

Respect is subtle in expression. Doing things without thinking of how it might impact your partner or just thinking of your own personal needs and not compromising or adjusting to their needs even when they openly bring it up – all lead to feelings of being unimportant and worthless. You might do it unconsciously but for the partner it means being slighted. For example, your partner tells you a humiliating secret and without a thought you blurt it out at a social gathering.

During an argument not allowing your partner to express their views and opinions without judgement, ignoring their reasoning as baseless and just pushing your own agenda – are all signs of being disrespectful. It doesn’t necessarily need to become physical or verbal abuse to be made to feel like you’re nobody.

Sometimes not including your partner in the things that you do, or not sharing your day, thoughts, and feelings (even after your partner asks you), when you walk away to do your own thing by yourself even though your partner suggests that both of you spend some quality time at home talking, not necessarily about children, work or family matters – indicate a lack of intimacy in the relationship.

The questions that arise here are – do you fail to do as your partner suggests because you fear that this means participating actively in a conversation when all you want to do is relax? You feel you’ve done loads of work in office, or had to participate in unpleasant conversations there and now really want to be left alone with your own thoughts. Or is it that you have nothing to say and when your partner says ‘talk’ it feels like a task?

If left unexplained, then it makes your partner feel unsure of where they stand with you, or they struggle to adjust to your new ways and in the absence of anything tangible from you, they feel lost.

Relationships change over time and every now and then it helps to bring focus back to one another or else people tend to build walls and live in their own world, meeting only when they’re left with no choice but interact. Even then, you might not see eye to eye and communication might break down because all you’re doing is making assumptions and remaining expectant.


In With due respect (Part 2), Anuttama Dasgupta, part time urban design consultant, full time mother and soon to be pubished author, shares her personal understanding of respect in a relationship.

Love that wasn’t meant to be…

Everyone has a story to tell, rub the surface and out tumbles that hidden someone who made a world of a difference to our lives. Yet each of us has accepted the inevitable, that you can’t have it all or have buried the love stories deep below, only to relive them during those lonely moments.

Tom was diligent, hard-working but painfully shy. He met a girl on a flight and for the first time gathered his courage to approach her. She reciprocated and so began a friendship that changed him forever. He enjoyed her company, did things he’d normally never do and slowly transformed from a shy introvert to a confident young man. When their friendship blossomed into love, he proposed. For the first time he was willing to assert his feelings rather than do his parents’ bidding. Unfortunately the girl got cold feet and was incommunicado for the entire duration his parents came visiting to meet her.  A day before leaving, his father confronted him to say that since his choice couldn’t be trusted, he had to agree to marry the girl they had selected. In anger and frustration he agreed. A month after the wedding, his girlfriend got back in touch to apologise and meet his parents. But it was too late. Today he has a good marriage, he respects his wife and is a dutiful husband and father.

Dick is a successful young businessman. He had a live in relationship with his long time girlfriend for 6 years. They even adopted a dog to share their every day lives. When they broke up he was devastated yet 3 years hence he still writes to her every day. He connects with her at a level which he hasn’t been able to break free from. It’s just something he does, he needs to do.

Mary, married with two children recently reconnected with her erstwhile boyfriend. He was her first love and although their relationship had only lasted a year, they had shared some great moments together. Today she is happily married while his marriage is going through a rough patch. It had felt good to reconnect but soon their conversations became intimate leaving her completely confused about her life.

Jane is successful, charming and an extrovert who can chat up any person and make them open up to her. She fell in love for the first time 13 years after her marriage with someone who groomed her into the person she is today. He made her see herself in a new light, made her love herself, gave her the confidence to fly and explore the world. As much as they loved each other, they fought bitterly. Somewhere they wanted different things from the relationship and they broke up. Years later, she still yearns to make him see what they could have had together. Somewhere in her sane mind, difficult as it is, she has accepted that the relationship is long over yet during moments of weakness the strong pull he still holds on her heart plays havoc with her life.

Love is such a strange emotion. It can make us or break us, it gives us strength to face life yet can be equally debilitating and make us miserable. Love makes it all worthwhile. Love makes everything alright. And love is the only reason why it is so difficult to forget someone or what they did for us. No matter how much one hurts, somewhere it gives us the ability to always be there for the person when they reach out. Tom did just that when years later his girlfriend reconnected. She needed help and he was there for her.

How we adjust to these experiences of unrequited love varies from person to person. Some yearn for it, continue searching perhaps for a clone while some others try not to awaken those feelings lest they interfere with their every day lives. Some live otherwise ‘happy’ lives yet take time off (even if it is for a few days) to do what their heart truly desires – breaking the boundaries – consciously accepting that they do it because they can or perhaps it is what sustains them as they continue to live their otherwise routine lives.

Some unfortunate souls though are unable to break free from the clutches of this emotion and continue to compare their partners. They are either unable to love as unconditionally or resist any behaviour that remotely resembles that of their past lover. Author Elle Newmark in The Book of Unholy Mischief explains, “unrequited love does not die; it’s only beaten down to a secret place where it hides, curled and wounded. For some unfortunates, it turns bitter and mean, and those who come after pay the price for the hurt done by the one who came before.”

Everyone inherently wants to be loved, wants to love another and be happy. Yet it can be elusive and slowly everything simply goes awry. Why?

Is it because most often people are unable to deal with the strength of this feeling? Do they require constant reassurances to ‘feel’ loved? Do they feel compelled by the need for the other person’s love to be happy? Does this in-turn overwhelm the partner putting them on a pedestal they are unable to cope with or makes them feel insecure, inferior and incapable of reciprocating? Is love so fragile that it needs kid gloves to blossom?

The practical mind believes that when we know what impacts relationships we can change our behaviour and thereby our responses. But how often is that even possible? Every person is unique and every one reacts differently. In addition our myriad life experiences too moulds our understanding of similar situations differently and thereby how we respond to them. We might want the same things yet how we express it and our partners’ ability to accept and acknowledge that is what makes all the difference.

fb6491aebf7f60d5ad3257bd0de6a957Unrequited love is unattainable. Then how does pining over it help? Isn’t the sense of loss here over something one never actually had? Yet it continues to be attractive. Perhaps because it is untouched by reality. When things go wrong in real life, the heart tends to attribute certain qualities to the unrequited love, thereby glorifying our perception of the individuals and the experiences we shared with them. As author Shannon L Alder says, “the most confused you will ever get is when you try to convince your heart and spirit of something your mind knows is a lie.” Maybe this explains why Mary feels confused or why Jane still wants to make him see how their lives could have been different had they been together!

Or is it that holding on to the glimmer of hope, helps us make peace with the turmoil within?

After all, as James Patterson in The Angel Experiment explains “what’s worse than knowing you want something, besides knowing you can never have it?”





Let’s Face It, follow your heart but do take your brains with you!

This edition of Let’s Face It features mother of three sons and grandmother of six grandchildren, Sahana Chaudhuri. She was my colleague while we worked together at a diplomatic mission. Old enough to be my mother she was one of my closest friends’ and the mother-in-law I wish I had 🙂

Pottsandpan (PP): You’ve lived and living each day a wonderfully fulfilling life – how would you define ‘happiness’ within this context?

Sahana Chaudhuri (SC): Happiness is within oneself and not external to you. If you decide to be happy, no matter what, no one and no force on earth can keep happiness from you.

When I think of happiness this ditty always comes to mind:-

Life is what you make it
Life is what you will
You’ll find out that wheree’er you go whatever role you play
You’ll always find a piper
And that piper you must pay
So shall we change our parts again
Some other sunny day
Oh no! I’ll still stay me!

completePP: How long were you married before your husband passed away? What are the two things you miss the most about your life with him?

SC: I was married for almost thirty-one years. I miss his care and concern for me. I miss his comforting and protective presence.

Most of all I miss that he always felt I was the best wife he could ever have asked for!

PP: There was a time when you were concerned for your sons and their marriage – what did you fear the most then? Did it make matters easier that you didn’t have daughters?

SC: My fear then was the marriages would end in divorce. As luck would have it, they did end in divorce!

As a matter of fact, it would have been easier had I had daughters. Our marriage laws are slewed to favour girls and there is a stereotypical assumption that the guy is ALWAYS to blame!! The penalty is always paid by the guy and not the girl.

PP: For a long time you’ve lived by yourself, redecorated the house the way you liked and travelled with friends and colleagues – was it liberating to do all this without encumbrances or the need to explain yourself?

SC: Yes, though I wouldn’t say liberated as even in marriage I was never made to feel ‘caged’, if you know what I mean. My husband was liberal and trusting enough never to ask for explanations. Perhaps this was because while he was around I never really felt the need to go out on my own. I’d say, after his demise, I enjoyed going out with friends for the occasional meal and cinema or a weekend out to Digha or Darjeeling.

PP: I’ve always known you as someone who has faced life’s challenges with grit, determination and positivity. What would you attribute to this? Is it your innate mental strength or have you garnered this from a role model you’ve admired for how they lived their lives?

SC: I think grit and determination and innate strength is intrinsic in me though my Mum was a huge inspiration to me.

PP: You now spend time living with each of your three sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren – how has life changed (from your perspective) from the time you lived with your in-laws and extended family and now?

SC: First and foremost, I never really lived with my in-laws except when my mother-in-law came visiting on holidays. Of course there has to be a difference between living on your own and living with my sons and their families. The solution I have found is not to expect my DILs (daughters-in-law) to adjust and compromise for me. Rather, I have learnt to adjust and accept to the changes in my lifestyle to ensure an amicable relationship. I NEVER interfere in their personal affairs or disagreements!

PP: How has the mother-in-law in you evolved from the daughter-in-law you’ve been? Do you feel that try as you may; sometimes you’re unable to curb your expectations of being the ‘mother-in-law’ or perhaps having similar expectations like your own mother-in-law?

SC: As I said, I do not have any so-called expectations from my DILS. I see my sons happy in their marriages now and that is all I ask for!

PP: Being a grandparent, what advice would you want to give your grandsons and granddaughters when it came to selecting their partners? Is there something you would want your granddaughters to be aware of more than your grandsons?

SC: My advice to my grandchildren, both grandsons and granddaughters equally, is that it is wise not to rush into anything.

“Follow your heart but take your brain with you!”

There has to be compromise from both partners for a marriage to be successful. However, once you become a mother, you have to give more for the simple reason that there is an invisible umbilical cord connecting child to mother. A mother can never be replaced by anyone! So never be resentful when you need to take more leave when the child is sick or on a rare occasion when you need to give up a day out with your friends.

For the guys, I would say that helping out with housework or taking care of the kids is not demeaning. Share responsibilities and you will see how fulfilling it is to run a happy home.

PP: What do you think is lacking the most in the younger generation when it comes to commitment and marriage? Do you think they respect this institution enough to work hard at their relationships?

SC: I think tolerance levels have dropped to a large extent. The fact that women are also economically independent adds to this. These days it is easy to walk out of a marriage whereas earlier it wasn’t even considered an option. I always say that there is so much joy and fulfilment in a long and lasting marriage. For this both partners have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just happen!

mothersdayPP: You received a beautiful Happy Mother’s Day card. What are the two things you believe every mother should teach their sons about how to treat their wives?

SC: My main advice to them is to always treat their wives with love and respect. She is in no way less than you and has gone through a great deal in bearing your kids! Treat her like a queen for she is no less than one!