Coexistence has always been a very controversial concept to me. Let us look at it from the scope of the earth. Humans, Animals, Plants, Bugs, Sea Life etc., coexist in earth. That makes us all some kind of unified system. If you scope it back to the divisions of each entity in the system, we know that coexistence is more of a territorial problem than a sharing problem. Ofcourse, plants dont do much to defend themselves. But, most entities that have life defends for its territory. After all, survival and reproduction are the two major commonalities among all living things. Now, let us scope it just to the extent of the humans. We all have our own territories (countries). We usually dont allow people from one country to another without a properly authorized mechanisms. Reducing the scope further, we have states and regions and what not. If you reduce the scope of it all the way to an individual human, what do we think about coexistence is a question to ponder about…
I always wanted my space. There have been trade-offs when I lived with my parents or shared rooms with my friends in college or elsewhere. But, I always wanted my own territory…:) Well, then, I got married..:).. Territory now took a different dimension. I had to share my space with someone else too. Since I was fortunate enough to get married to someone whom I knew before, it became a lot easier. But, coexisting is a lot more than just “knowing each other”. All of my habits had to somehow adjust and align with the other person and still keep us in “balance”. Given the uniqueness of human behaviour, it is very difficult to characterize what “adjustment” really means. But then, miraculously, we got adjusted to each other’s behaviour. I guess, time takes its own course in balancing the coexistential requirements.
Now, I am at a point of life where I have to let people to coexist with “us”. Either my parents or my wife’s parents visit us on an average of once in a year. The problem is, all models of coexistence that had existed between me and my parents have changed. Also, I am introduced to a new set of people (my in-laws) with whom I had to coexist. I hope you all agree to the fact that meeting people at a dinner party and sharing a “hi” or travelling with someone on a vacation is completely different from “living” with someone. Here, there is an added condition is that I should not screw up the relation, especially while they are here. What do I do?
When it comes to living with parents or in-laws, following are some of the common issues that I have faced. There is a generation gap which tends to create differences in the definition of what is rational or rather irrational, their perception that Indians living in US think that India is inferior (arguments comparing US with India and the talk about culture, tradition, values, relatives and all that… ) and the third issue, especially from my parents is that I have changed. I dont know why change is wrong… Anyway, I think, for some reason, they all like to argue and win. I have tried my own strategies to get around/through that. But, most strategies have been difficult to implement and almost always it failed at some point of time.
Based on what I seen and heard and experienced, I have realised one thing, coexistence is all about giving up one’s “self”. It not only applies to long-term coexistence (as in living together), but short term coexistence as well. I think, the moment you start talking to someone, there exists a coexistential cloud between those two. There is always a careful balance as to how much one can give-up their “self” and at times it fluctuates either way and thats what causes most of the confusions or lack thereof. I think our mind needs people with whom we are comfortable. So, it is all about giving up our “self” for the greater benefit of accomodating the other person in our mind or vice versa. As long as I dont have any long term negative impact, I am usually prepared to give up my “self” anytime…the key being, right set of people.