I was thinking about the Mahabharata. This one work does address all of human relationship issues that even the great bard Shakespeare could not assimilate together. One incident stopped me to reflect on today. Why did the wives of Pandu when given the choice to mate with gods select the ones they did? Does this in some manner answer the kind of personalities the women are?
So by this logic can the defining character of an individual be seen from the actual choice of a partner itself. How in a pairing does the character of a person emerge? Does it at all? In a marriage or choice popularly called “Love Marriage” this may be clearer. A large part of Indian marriages are arranged. Here the choice of a partner may not be exercised by the individual. But it is safe to assume largely that even in such cases, the final approval is the individuals (boy/girl) alone. This is not a generic as in non-urban India this may not apply. Just for the heck of it let’s pursue this train of thought.
As we dwell on the characters an interesting fact arises. Pandu in his wives Kunti & Madri, the union as depicted, is a brilliant confluence of both; the arranged marriage with the King and the choice of a partner(love marriage) as exercised by the queens. Pandu was cursed to die the moment he would have a sexual union with his wives. Kunti had been blessed by the sage Durvasa with a boon in which she could invoke any god and be blessed by him (read have a sexual dalliance to beget a child). This could happen at the most five times. This is at once fortuitous for the situation and with Pandu's permission( he permits Kunti to use her boon) a moral dilemma is averted.
However It is in the choice of gods by themselves that the true character of the women emerges. Kunti, the sober dutiful one was young and impressionable when she was blessed by the sage. She wanted to test the boon. She lookeed up and the dazzling powerful Sun impressed her and she called out to him. She tried her nubile charms with her boon & once invoked, he cannot go away . The union is consummated & so she begets Karna. She has to abandon him in keeping with her unmarried status. Later in her choice of Dharma or Yama the god of Death it is almost as if she desperately is seeking the Truth to rectify her earlier mistake. Yudhishtira is born. She refuses to do it again after Yudhishtira but Pandu requests her to and she invokes the powerful Vayu ( God of the Wind ) and begets Bheema , and Indra the King of Gods to have Arjuna the warrior.
Madri to whom Kunti gives her last boon chooses to invoke the Ashwini Twins. The Twins Nakula & Sahadeva are born to her. Madri is described to be so sensual that Pandu could not resist her. In one version his death is attributed to their coupling and he succumbing to the curse he forgot about. He touches Madri after she emerges from the river after her bath.
Kunti’s character from her choices is responsible, strong, generous and a person who is committed to duty. The mates of her choice are also radiant, powerful fair and regal in their bearing. She is thinking ahead of the future in the sons she would have. Madri on the contrary comes across more as "here and now" oriented. She also comes across as highly sexed, a slave to her sensuality. She opts for twin gods or two men together and even later Pandu who is cursed to die if he makes love approaches her she doesn’t stop him. So physical satisfaction was important to her. So what if her ill fated husband would die.
Ones choices define ones character. Hence the mate also becomes another character defining or character reflecting choice. These are my thoughts as I run into my ex-colleague after a long time. In my memory he always was the bindaast (fearless) dashing corporate star. Never have I seen him outside the office and this is the image in my mind as I call out..Abbey saaley bhe….d kidhar gayab thaa re itney din? Naveen seems highly embarrassed. I never thought I would live to see the day, says hush..chup re..wife..missus saath hai. Hello I say to the woman beside him. She has a bland expression on her face quite pale regular features but her back is up and nods. In my enthusiasm I yet persist “Lets go get a drink someday and he looks around furtively then longingly at me and mutters “ummm..not now let me check” scared & indecisive Naveen..is this the same man? The wife has stretched her lips without the smile reaching her eyes and I give up.
We may have known a person for years in our daily interaction. But that’s only one part of the story, if he or she is married. There is another side to her/him as a life-partner. Somehow the complete picture emerges only when one observes the same person with their respective other halves. Stray thought this…I ponder on..