Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gently Falls by Sudha Murthy (Book Commentary)

Gently Falls by Sudha Murthy (Book Commentary)
Sometime around 1985 (yes, about two decades back), one of my friends gave his wife a memento on their first wedding anniversary which reads thus:
"No matter how much a man criticizes his wife's judgment, he never questions her choice of husband". Apparent humor apart, admittedly there is a hint alpha male dominance, but if you take a software perspective, it is an eminently re-usable quote. Just change his to her and wife to husband etc, you can sell that card to the fairer side. Well, that was 80's - mostly dominated by arranged marriages with a hint of a few love marriages here-n-there.

In 90's, I recall another one of oft used cards which reads thus....
Marriage is relationship in which dependence is mutual, Independence is equal, and obligations are reciprocatory". Seems to be fair and equally poised - at least in that card.

Now, on to 21st century.....Rama Bijapurkar, in her book (book's name is "We are like that only") makes a telling remark: Women are more educated and enterprising now a days. It is true that, mother-in-laws are more tolerant and husbands are less repressing, but is it is not the social revolution that is taking place, but it is economics! The concept of family has changed from social unit to economic unit. Model is around pragmatic business relationship rather than around romance. Role of a woman would vary depending on the class of income and the idea is to maximize the unit's income not the woman's or any specific member.

Well, we can witness an interesting morphing that seems to occur every decade....... wondering what next decade has in store for the 20's something!

Happen to read the book, "Gently Falls, the Bakula" by Sudha Murthy. Story is set @ Hubli<>Bombay belt. No major complications and comes to an end in such way that makes you seriously think. Two classmates (Shrimathi and Shrikant) are neighbors separated by Bakula tree. Both make it to state ranks in the PUC exams, there by earning accolades for the school. Needless to say who was the first and who was the second rank. This man goes to IIT Bombay and the topper chose to specialize in History locally. Amidst much family's resistance from the boy's side and misgivings from the girl's mother, they anyway get married very simply. He gets a job in an IT firm. He rose very fast to a senior position in matter of just over a decade - of course, with truncated onsite assignment in USA. Upon returning he is even more entrusted with huge responsibilities (like NYSE listing) and the job consumes him nearly all of his mind share. Very subtle instances are narrated how her interests/aspirations (doing PhD in History) gets stream rolled. I am skipping Mother/sister in-laws episodes. Story ends, when he is back from USA with great news that he has become Managing Director of that firm - only to hear from her that, she is leaving for USA to pursue her higher studies and has no intent of returning :-(

In that book, author refers to the fascinating story of Bhamati. Long ago, there was a young sage who wanted to write commentary on Dharmasastra. He was so engrossed in the work; he has forgotten the outside world. His mother used to look after him and she realized she was getting older. She went to next village, selects a girl. As an obedient son would, he went to that village and got married. Even after marriage sage was fully immersed in his commentary work. One day, his mother died and this young girl took over the duties. She took care of him much like his mother. One night, when he is done with his work fully, he noticed an old woman sleeping on the floor. He tried to recall but could not fully recognize her and hence he woke her up and asked, "Lady who are you? And when did you come here?” Lady politely replied, "I am your wife and I am here for the last 40 years!” The sage was wonderstruck and then asked her very respectfully, "Lady what is your name?” She said "Bhamati". Sage went back to his work and wrote on the first page "Bhamati". Till today, the name remains famous and author goes on to say her sacrifice/contribution is indeed more compelling than anyone in the story - rightfully so.

Well, in the main story, per author, Shrimathi's threshold-of-indignation was not like Bhamati and that is why such an end was precipitated. Narration was very simple (is it because it was translated from Kannada?). Story line had enough scope of mega descriptions, but author kept them to a bare minimum.

My grandma used to say, "A man prefers his wife to be smart enough to understand him and stupid enough to admire him". Gee, there is a load of wisdom in that line and I would agree with her. To the same grandma, if I were to ask what sort of hubby she would have preferred? ....I am sure she would have said the same thing with the genders exchanged!

Thanks for reading this far......


பகலவன் கிருஷ்ணமூர்த்தி said...

Hello Madhu,

This story looks more cinematic than realistic (at least to me). But, your narration made it an interesting post. Keep it up. BTW, I loved your grandma's words of wisdom :-))

Mohanakrishnan said...

Good one Madhu. We live in interesting times. BTW, were you holding back anything when you wrote this?

Madhu Parthasarathy said...

I did not hold back anything Mohan.
As I finished the book, I was thinking about the slow morphing that is happening between generations.

Smitha said...

Madhu-san, I'm curious to know on what your take is if Shrimati and Shrikant had kids. How does a couple, with equally aggressive aspirations, manage to have the so-called "work-life balance"?

Madhu Parthasarathy said...

Hi Smitha:
Yours was a thoughtful and a profound question.
1. If kids were there, well it would have been a much more complex decision with out doubt.
In that case, tolerence level might have been even higher to the extent it might not have precipitated in a separation.
2."Equally agressive" by itself is one of the parameters in the relationship.It need not hamper if other key paramters are in place.
You may recall Leo Tolstoy's words " Happy families are all alike.Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". What he implied was that, there are many critical parameters like Money, Religion,Education,Child values, etc etc.Any serious failure in one can result in collapse even if other stuff are in shape.
In systems study also there is corresponding concept, "When the set of variables are so inter-dependent,the question of which is the seat of system's ID becomes less important" - For example, Pluse rate, Body temp and respiration. When one of such critical variables fail, others will occur so quickly that, observer is unlikely to argue about the survival.