Needs of women and children should claim higher priority
Reposted November 29, 2004
You must have read by now the painful accounts of our marriage written by my wife Rambhoru prabhu.
Her letter reveals the pains of a wife whose husband was preoccupied with institutional concerns and services, traveling and preaching, while ignoring the needs of his family.
Some of the factors marring our relationship have been compatibility problems, the troubles of arranged marriages of the early days, lack of understanding Vedic Culture in terms of marital relationships and family life and the attitude of marginalizing the needs of women and children in the past, which we as a society only gradually seem to come to terms with.
But the even greater factor is that I am emotionally quite disconnected from myself and as such to others, as a husband, father or as a friend. Gradually I'm starting to understand how inconsiderate I can be.
I asked Krishna Kumar Prabhu -- a former disciple of mine -- the following question after he was shocked by reading my wife's letter:
"Is there at all a middle ground possible for you to see that here are two people who mutually hurt each other for 30 years, or do you really believe it was myself alone as the only person who hurt, and my wife was just responding to the pain I caused her. Hard for me to believe."
His answer was:
The thing is, I know "your side" of the story. I've heard it many times. That's not really the point here. Also, who's right or wrong is also not so much relevant. What I am trying to express to you is not dependent on that or any other "evidence".
Ever since I know you, you have been pretty much insensitive in how you deal with people. Not in an evil or deliberate way. Just you have been emotionally oblivious to the people around you. Like a man wearing a large backpack who knocks someone over every time he turns around without realizing it. And this is still going on.
Only now is it dawning on me the terrible implications that that would inevitably have in relationship to women and children.
So, based on my personal experience of you and how you deal with people, I have no doubt at all that you have much more responsibility in this matter than you are willing to admit.
If I would act in such a callous way toward my wife, she would also be extremely unruly. That I know. I am also just starting to understand what are the natural and unavoidable duties a man has toward his wife and children. It seems to me that you don't really understand to what extreme a woman's good attitude and surrender is dependent on the empathy and affection of her husband, as well as his providing her some elementary facilities for raising a family.
As I said, I understand that a lot of your attitude toward wife and family has been influenced by "upbringing" in the movement. When I sit down and imagine your situation, I can really understand the difficulty you were in. But that doesn't lessen your responsibility in any way, and it doesn't do anything at all to remove the pain of Mother Ramboru's experience.
So here's the point: Mother Ramboru's experience can not be changed. But I'm suggesting that you really need to connect with the emotions there, that you need to feel her pain and allow yourself to acknowledge your essential role in creating that.
And she needs to experience that deep understanding from you.
I really feel that you haven't gone there yet. Your whole response to this issue is quite cold and disconnected, and that is what is so frustrating to me.
Years passed by as such, my wife and myself remaining strangers to each others, myself being absorbed in institutional works in other parts of the world while paying towards the basic needs of the family such as rent (my financial means being slim), she taking care of the children and working to finance the rest.
Only gradually it sinks in how it must feel to be at the receiving end of my institutional preoccupation and emotional remoteness. It is this area where I am facing the painful realization of human failure, for which I feel very sorry and for which I realize to have to take responsibility.
That I recently resigned from various responsibilities in the Society allows me to re-think and shift from immediate societal works towards their needs with the idea to get to a better place. Where I go from here in terms of direct services to our Society will take some time to work out.
Being so insensitive it is not surprising that I have offended devotees at times. If you were one of them, please communicate with me so I can rectify the situation. Also, if you wish to give me any feedback, please do so. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org