The book ‘The Guest by Suneetha Balakirshnan’ prompted thoughts on transformation of a person through marriage. And I don’t let a chance to dwell in philosophy go by, do I? 🙂 So first, for the philosophy:
In the original Greek, there are 3-4 words that translate as ‘love’..all with diff connotations.
Eros is romantic or sexual love.
Phileo means brotherly love, warm, affectionate fellow feeling, like you see amongst friends. This is a more emotional, impulsive kind of love, felt for those you like.
Agape is the highest type of love, an unconditional, sacrificial love that flows out of who you are. Bible mostly speaks of agape love, and occasionally of phileo (like the friendship between David and Jonathan). God’s love is agape because love is not something He does, but He is love, Christ’s sacrifice is prime example of agape. Agape does not look at whether the other is deserving of it or not. It flows out of your intrinsic self.
Marriage, I feel, is the best invention by man to provide a platform for love to evolve from eros to phileo to agape.
A couple may come together due to the romantic love of Eros. But Eros by itself cannot nourish the love, not for the long term at least. And therefore perhaps most marriages are solemnized based on the second type of love – Phileos.
When we look for a partner, we look for all signs of compatibility in taste, thoughts and manner. If we are lucky, we like this person spontaneously and feel emotional about him or her. In most arranged marriages, the phileo love develops from eros. Because of phileo, there are fewer disagreements and life together flows smooth.
But what if the partner betrays you, abandons you or turns out to be different than what you had thought he or she’d be. Then the only type of love that can save this marriage is agape. There are no question marks, no expectations in this kind of love. Agape is intrinsic to who we are and has the power to transform a person intrinsically. A marriage, at its worst crises, can survive only based on agape.
When you try to change a person through the conditional love of eros and phileo, it will be more or less physical or emotional blackmail and the change therefore will be superficial and temporary. But if the change is brought about by understanding the root cause of the behavior, and by giving the other space and time while maintaining your love, it will be permanent and intrinsic. Usually this type of love is best seen in a parent-child setting. When it comes to Indian marriage, the agape and phileo extend to the extended family too, if you know what I mean 🙂
Coming to Suneetha Balakrishnan’s The Guest, the synopsis indicated a woman’s mag kind or a story and I run miles away from anything that deals with the trials and tribulations of holy matrimony. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that the story was really about one of my favorite philosophical topics – transforming people.
In the story, the two intelligent characters of wife and mother team up to try and change a seemingly simple straight-forward ‘no-problem’ man named Sameer. Such men are not hard to find. They appear easy-to-manage in workplaces, make trust-worthy, faithful friends. The exasperation starts only when you live with them. If they ever seek to find a wife all by themselves, they’ll fail because men like Sameer can’t lift a finger to get themselves out of their comfort zone. Even in their own homes, they behave like guests. And yet, these men are in top demand in the arranged marriage market because they look safe, are usually workaholic, and bereft of any vice.
The wife has an inkling of the kind of unexciting man he is at the time of the proposal and hesitates but the phileo love she feels for the mother in law makes her decide in favor of the marriage.
Here is help for wives and mothers of men like Sameer I thought. The story brought the hope that the two women will succeed in transforming Sameer through love and logic. It also brought an awareness of complex male characters. (May the Sameers who read the story know thyselves.) However the help was not so imminent.
While the characters of the wife and ma-in-law show depth, Sameer’s fear of uncomfortable situations is not well-analyzed through a more expanded character point-of-view. Like most Indian wives and mothers, the wife and the mom appear only to tolerate Sameer although they do give him space and time.
A more intrinsic love would help them analyze and understand people like Sameer better and help them improve. But let me tell you this is very very hard for mere mortals and only people with the highest form of love can succeed. At the risk of sounding retro, it might justify why such a wife are often exalted to the position of a goddess. No, I don’t mean the filmy wife of yore, who indulges in self-flagellation by tolerating a husband’s excesses, and craves for sympathy with her songs of self-pity. That’s a victim, not a goddess at all.
Ultimately, it is someone else, who makes Sameer see things. But the story does leave you with the hope that the couple will evolve to agape.
The book is currently a kindle version. So the author might explore the excellent potential of the story in the paperback version. I look forward for more stories from her.
Lata Sony, author of The Ray Synchronicity.