Editor’s note: This is an updated article originally published on 26 October 2012.
Yesterday’s (October 21st, 2012) program in Vijay T.V. ‘Neeya Nana’ on friendship was an excellent one and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire show. All the participants, in sharing their experience on friendship and about their friends, reflected the reality of life and glory of friendship. Throughout the program I remembered my close friend Kannan.
My point is not about the program but the comments by Manushyaputran, who always seems to give rhetorical criticism on traditional values and tries to present some intellectual/objective/rationalistic analysis on every issue in life. Thankfully, life is not lived on such intellectual/objective/rationalistic reflections, particularly in the area of relationships. Though there is a place for intellectual understanding about relationships, relationships are lived based on sentiment, emotion and experience. For example, the wonderful principle in friendship is that a ‘friend is one to whom you need not explain about yourself’.
Another rhetorical modern discussion on friendship is about having ‘boy/girl’ friend. Manushyaputran reasonably raised the question that after marriage, why can’t a boyfriend remain a boyfriend (or girlfriend)? Why should they now be addressed or introduced as ‘brother’?
Several values and views in human life are not decided by two individuals alone. Above all, the inherent weakness and perversion in our mind—if not between two sincere boy/girlfriends, but among others who are related to them also decides the definition of every relationship. Above all, what is wrong if a boyfriend becomes ‘brother’ after the marriage of that girl? I see it as a promotion rather than a shame on friendship. Particularly in India, where an individual is not treated as mere individual but only in relationship, I find nothing wrong if a friend becomes a brother or sister before or after marriage as well.
For example, in the West, if a divorced person marries again, his/her child will call the new partner only by name and not as ‘Uncle’ (chittappa in Tamil or Chacha in Hindi) or ‘Auntie’ (sithi/sinnamma in Tamil or chichi/mousi in Hindi). The stepfather is ‘the husband of his mother’ but not his ‘uncle’ and vice versa. But in India even strangers will be addressed as ‘uncle, brother (annan, bhaiya), akka (didi), etc., and not just ‘Mr. or Mrs. or Sir and Madam’, though addressing strangers in these terms now become a common trend. Even the two close friends in that show who live together, their children are going to address their elders not by name but only as ‘uncle, auntie’ etc.
Another point that Manushyaputran raised is the friendship between Duryodhana and Karna in Mahabharata. Here is the excerpt entitled “Karna plays a game of dice with Duryodhana’s queen Laksanai (Bhanumati)”1
One day Karna was playing a game of dice with the queen. She lost the game. When she was about to go without paying the stake, Karna caught hold of her sari. The bracelet (mekhala) of the queen gave way and the precious diamonds in large numbers fell helter skelter. Just as this happened, king Duryodhana entered the chamber. Karna was stunned. Duryodhana said smiling, “Shall I pick up the diamonds?” Should Karna desert such a friend? “No, he would happily die in the service of such a great king” as Karna said to his mother Kunti.
Manushyaputran’s question was “Why was there no such incident recorded after the incident in Mahabharata?” However I like the response given by another invited guest Sri Trichy Siva, the Rajya Sabha M.P., who said, “Our desire is one thing but practice is different.” In other words, mere idealism never reflects the reality of life. All the stories in such epics are either imagination or idealism with some mixture of real life.
For example, can Manushyaputran raise the question: “Why can a woman not be allowed to have five husbands like Panchali?” I am not sure the above story of game between Karna and Bhanumati is actually recorded in Mahabharats by Vysa. It is found in the Tamil version of Mahabharata by ‘the second Peruntevanar who composed it between 850-859 A.D. under the patronage of Nandivarman III of the Pallava dynasty.’2 This work is known as Bharata Venpa.
My point is that people like Manushyaputran, who acclaimed his fame as critic of certain tradition and also promoters of rationalistic, intellectual, objective analyzer of human life, cannot come out from their stereotype of rhetorical views. Once they gained some image about them, they think they should be critical on every views and values, particularly related to human relationship on the same pattern that they have established. Here they remain orthodox and un-rationalistic about their own image and approach on various issues in life.
The view of every writer, speaker, poet, artist etc. is only a systematic presentation about the complexity of life. Every systematization has its own inherent weakness; it never reflects the real picture about which it tries to present a systematic view. All our views (including my sharing through this article) never reflect the complexity of friendship. Relationships defy any kind of definition. Naturally, ‘friendship’ too cannot be defined with any categories. Of course true friendship is possible even among the relatives. This is entirely a different issue.
My point is that any definition or explanation of friendship (or on any other human relationship) is again idealism. As I say, ‘friend is more important than friendship, because without a friend, friendship will remain only a concept’. Once we understand this, we can celebrate all kinds of relationships that we have with fellow human beings, nature, animals and god. And such program celebrates that relationship rather than analyzing it rationally.
Gurukulam. October 22, 2012
- A. Manavalan, ‘Tamil versions of the Mahabharata: a study of reception, in Passages: relationships between Tamil and Sanskrit, ed. By Kannan M. Jennifer Clare, Institute Francais De Pondichery, Tamil Chair, Department of South And Southeast Asian Studies, University of California At Berkeley, 2009, pp. 313-332, p. 320.
- A. Manavalan, ibid. in p. 319.