Today, one of my friends called me up. A young and successful businessman in a Bihar town, he calls only to share extreme states of happiness and sorrow. I felt jittery when his number flashed on my cellphone. He did not begin with the customary endearing abuses. I knew I had to hear him out.
“What’s the matter?,” I began.
“Wife is expecting. Want to bring Bhaiya-Bhabhi over,” he said.
“What’s the problem then?,” I continued.
“Their fights have not stopped. They wont come together. Now wife does not want to deal with that when we have the baby. I think I will manage without them,” he sighed.
After some useless advices, I promised to call him later and hear him out. The call brought back the memories of childhood. My friend was always timid, while his Bhaiya a fist-happy and vocal guy. I often wondered why siblings behaved differently. When we grew up, we had numerous instances of one being the bully of his friends’ circles, while the other looking totally unassertive. While some fought at all times, others gave in easily. “Keeping the peace” meant everything to the latter.
I wondered despite having the same set of parents and a similar surrounding, what caused the difference. During schooldays, I did notice the difference. But I did not know then that both approaches meant taking extreme positions. That both were wrong. During street fights, we banked upon the bullies for that edge. The “pappus” would never join but play the typical “maugada” by reporting the matter to the family.
When mohalla women whispered, during the afternoon gossip in the courtyard, about some neighbour being hit by his or her son or a bully “giving it back” to his parents, the listeners looked worried and derived some kind of sadistic pleasure at the same time. The women would also speak of the “good kid” in the same family, who would never speak up, always keeping to himself.
It was only during college did I see some kind of a connect. I began to understand the contrasting siblings were affected by a common factor. For various reasons, such as sheer madness, financial crisis, lack of values and discipline, some parents in our mohalla often fought. When parents fight, children get affected. Efforts to keep the conflict away from children seldom bear fruits. Children often sense the tensions and hostility.
Studies are the first casualty. Health — both physical and mental — is the second. Children often think they are in some way responsible for the fights and feel guilty. They suffer from low self-esteem. In order to get close to the warring parties at different times, the children get away from both. We also had the instances where the atmosphere at home was very peaceful. In those cases, parents got respect from children. Children did well in their life too.
Disagreement is one thing. Fights are scary. They drain you emotionally. Harsh words, yelling and physical assaults impact children badly. Memories of fights can stay forever. And when instances of suicide bid take place, children seek isolation. Because “it is like living in a war zone” with children being pulled in two directions amid an atmosphere of violence and disrespect.
Fighting is a habit. And it transcends generations. Parents fight. Then siblings fight with each other and friends. Finally, fights take place within the family with several members being involved. Irrespective of its effects, those used to it (yes, it happens) will find ways of fighting while not being very conscious about it.
Those, like my friend, who don’t fight feel sad. Ashamed, when friends and in-laws are around. Even being angry is quite natural. And it becomes a vicious cycle. Finding the courage to express concerns about the behavior is often the hardest part of it all. No wonder, he keeps giving in.