The tragedy of the shifting centre.

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We are all the centre of someone's universe. But not forever. And that's not a bad thing.

For babies, their primary focus is their mother, and then their father. There is no disputing this. The one who sustains (by feeding) and the one who protects: these are a baby's world and make up his/her complete focus. This is instinctive behaviour and not a choice that the baby has to make. But things get complicated as the baby makes its transition into adulthood.

When young, our elder siblings and our parents are our world. We want to be like them one day. Happiness means spending fun times with the family. But, the axis begins to shift as we approach our teens. Suddenly, friends seem to have become the most important things in our lives. We'd rather spend weekends 'hanging out' with our buddies than our 'un-cool' parents and overbearing siblings.

As we begin to approach adulthood, our focus turns to our education and then, our jobs. In this phase, our pillars are still our friends and family but we might think more about our boss and colleagues than anyone else. This is the time when many fall in love and their focus shifts to their boyfriend/girlfriend. It's a strange phase to be in because Indian society still treats 'dating' like a distraction. It's hard to prioritise one's partner without facing some disapproval.

Once we pass the first quarter of our lives and begin to feel a desire for wedlock, our focus undoubtedly shifts to our life partners. It's not like we have stopped loving our friends or families. It is merely a matter of priorities. Once married, our focus shifts to the family we're going to create, although we are still a part of the family that created us. Nevertheless, it is like the baton being passed on - once our parents set up home, had babies and brought them up. Now, we're about to do the same.

Would this task be possible if our parents insisted on shifting our focus back to them instead? Not in the least. Yet, that's what a lot of Indian parents insist on doing. The trouble with parents is, once they have children, their axis forever remains centered on their beloved offspring. Love is a great thing but it must also be tempered by an understanding of what it means to advance in life. The centre of our universe keeps shifting, but the other points do always remain. A man once married, is a husband first. But he is still a son, friend and brother as well. When this man has a child, he will become a father first. His love for his wife hasn't diminished at all but he must make it a priority to give his child a good home and upbringing.

Our parents have gone through the same tragedy of the shifting centre. The mother who's hanging on to her son for dear life - didn't she dote on her own mother once? Didn't she also expect her husband to support her above everyone and everything else? Why does she suddenly wish to deny the natural order of things? Indian parents who refuse to accept the reality of the shifting centre are merely perpetuating unhappiness for the very people they claim to love the most.

Sadly, our society encourages this kind of unnatural behaviour. And strangely enough, in the ancient times, it wasn't the case. For Hindus at least, life was divided into four stages: the student stage, the householder stage, the hermit stage and the ascetic stage. To be honest, renouncing life at the age of 50 is pretty unrealistic. However, the general trend of this practice is admirable. Stepping back from the affairs of others (even your kin) once they have begun their own journey is not only advisable; it's a direct product of maturity. Yet, today, to be a good 'daughter in law' means to put with the demands of ten people other than your husband and your children for as long as they are around. This is certainly not what our customs and traditions dictated. This is what generations of controlling and materialistic individuals have perpetuated and condoned.

Yes, it's human to feel attached to the ones we love. But it's also human to allow our loved ones to live their lives with the freedom they deserve. Let's not cloak our insecurities in the name of 'love'.

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