Malevolence of Family Conflicts

Life in Kashmir is difficult. Every family seems at war within, a war between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, between the daughter-in-law and groom’s sisters and between the husband and his wife, as an aftereffect.

There are tragic stories to narrate in almost every house. Only exceptionally, will there be a Hash (Mother in Law) blessing the Nosh (Daughter-in-law) and vice versa.

Divorces are increasing. Parents are often the worst victims of this conflict and there is pressure on limited resources for accommodating new houses.

Individualism is the ‘cancer’ of the soul that is eating the vitals of our society. There is universal mistrust about groom’s family. Brides don’t feel that new house belongs to them. They think only their husbands or children are really theirs.

Enormous popularity of Soap Opera culture and perception regarding black magic attributed to either party is seemingly becoming a norm.

Explanations and counter-explanations from either side are such confusing and ineffective that it makes possible truth and reconciliation impossible. We talk of State level or national level or international level dialogues on various issues but miserably fail in intra-family dialogue. Evil is within us.

And everywhere we see reflections of this evil of mistrust. Fundamentally all conflicts, especially intra-family conflict may be traceable to ego tussles. However for contemplating any solution to seemingly irresolvable conflicts between perceptions of house vs home, mine vs others,   we need to dig deeper.

Let’s try to get some facts right. Simon de Beouvaire in her famous book Second Sex discusses psychological change in Hash (Mother in Law) immediately after she gets a bride. Mistrust is unconscious if not conscious as well. Even if we don’t consider Freudian argument for jealousy between same sexes we can easily conceive strong psychological and other grounds that lead to certain distrust.

There is no question that love does get divided after marriage. Previously parents were the sole object and now there is wife and then children and all kinds of pressures to settle in life. And the deep drive for separate individuality and family in the bride further complicates the problem.

We often curse the Western society for such institutions as old age homes. Fair enough! But what about the huge neglect that overtly or covertly our parents are subject to, generally speaking? The Western solution has been embracing total autonomy. Our dilemma is we are neither able to embrace values of extended family nor autonomy of nuclear family. It seems there is not going to be any easy going solution in given conditions. Perhaps we don’t need simple social engineering or legalistic approach. How tricky and problematic can be mere legalistic view is evidenced by the following anecdote recently narrated by one of the most respected muftis of the Valley.

A woman with her husband came to Mufti sahib and asked where in the Qur’an it is mention that daughter-in-law should serve her mother-in-law. He replied nowhere. Then she said why my husband doesn’t understand this point. The husband had nothing to say. The Mufti requested the husband to have separate audience with his wife for few minutes to discuss a point. He was allowed and he told the woman that his husband is legally entitled for a second wife and he may do it for serving his mother that you are refusing to and it is nowhere in the Quran written that you can stop him. The woman was speechless and told him that she will continue to serve her mother-in-law as my husband requires but he should not marry another woman to serve his mother. And immediately the couple went reconciled.

 It speaks both of wisdom of Mufti Sahib and fragility of purely legalistic paradigm and need to invoke principle of ethics, of Ihsan to run the family.

It has all been said that a mother’s love prepares 2.5 billion breakfasts everyday for children. If there is love there is no need to ask for reward, for recompense. There is no blame. There is no strain. One can serve, as saints do, even strangers, not to speak of husband’s mother. The question is how we teach people wisdom? Wisdom is love applied.

Philosophers and saints agree that no man or woman is willfully bad. If one really knows what is good for one’s soul one will never harm it. So if we teach people philosophy and ethics and help them to know their own selves, it demands nothing but love and are sustained only by love we solve the problem of Hash Nosh conflict and other similar conflicts.

The question is how do we propose to teach people what is really good for them as sermons don’t prove to be effective these days? I propose making philosophy essential at every level in education. That is time tested mechanism. Ordinary education is not helpful . Lesser educated rural women are reported to be more loyal and ethically  better in these kinds of issues. Those who read Plato or Lao Tzu or Confucius or Ibn Arabi or Nagarjuna can’t ask for reward for virtue. They know virtue is its own reward.