My dad and I have had a number of conversations about my paternal grandmother.My paternal grandmother is an extremely headstrong person and as far as I can recall she has never been the grandparent who gives love unconditionally.
Being an only child I have always craved love from wherever I can get it and I also have a lot of love to give. But I never have felt any love from her side, and moreover never have I felt an urge to reciprocate love.
Dad always tells me that I need to talk to her more often to understand her better. But I wish it were that simple. Every time I have tried to talk, it always is followed by a gesture or call to shut myself up. Then I tell dad that she never really has done anything for me, how can I develop love-lost overnight?
There was this one time when I was 11 years old, when I went walking to the market (2 kilometres away) to get her a surprise gift for her birthday. It was a Ganesh poster made on handmade paper but not framed yet (all an 11 year old could afford). When I gave it to her, she told me the colour was drab and that it didn’t go with the setting of her house and that I should return it to the shop. There were many such incidents like this. I did keep trying to find a common chord to at least talk about, but in vain.
I keep quoting these incidents to dad in my defence, but the argument he has left with him is that, she is an elder and a part of our family and hence whatever said and done I have to respect her.
But let me make one thing clear to everyone who thinks that way. No one is obligated to love every single person they call relatives. One is born into a family completely by chance, with absolutely no fault or choice of theirs. And they have the discretion enough to chose whom to like and whom not to like. In my case, I have an enormous amount of respect for my parents and my aunt who have done everything possible to bring me up and give me every happiness I have wished for, and they have done so much for me that I can never fall out of love for them. But why do I need to respect someone like my grandmother who has never given me love wholeheartedly? Well for the least someone who hasn’t ever reciprocated the love I have tried to give.
I’ve always gone by a simple principle about giving respect. It goes something like this, “My respect is something very personal and special to me. Initially, I will give it to everyone alike, no matter who they are, where they belong to or what age they are. But to retain this respect in me I would need it to be reciprocated alike.” As simple as that.
I’m not saying love conditionally or be selfish about whom to love. But at least when you respect someone it should be mutual and it can be to everyone alike if they deserve it and not just family.
Maybe someday dad will understand. He does understand to some extent, but he also faces the eternal male dilemma, and I completely understand his plight too.
But the point I’m trying to make here is that just because X or Y belongs to my family I don’t have to respect or like them just by the mere virtue of being my relatives. For that matter, till the time I don’t share that special bond with someone I cannot call them ‘family’ in its truest sense. And sometimes there are a certain people who are not even remotely connected to you genetically in any way, but that special bond of so called ‘family’ just comes naturally.
At the end of the day it is you who matters and you who’s respect and love is in question and no social norms or set rules of obligations can chalk that out for you. It is completely up to you whom to like and whom not to. Let ‘society’ frown upon it, it is society’s job to do so in most things. But you know you have a reason for your discomfort with the person and no societal norms can judge you for it.