One of the earliest lessons my family taught me was not to exclude people on the basis of *their* families. We were never stopped from befriending the helps’ children (although we were made to give away some of our new toys to them), our poorer neighbours, the much-maligned divorcee’s two daughters, the young Muslim didi who brought scandal and violence upon herself in the form of a Sikh boyfriend, or the white-headed grass-cutter who got mildly drunk every evening and told us tall tales of Jharkhand.
Lately, however, I find myself failing this sterling lesson. It is easy for me not to hold people’s families or friends against them — poor souls, they can’t help being born where they were — but I’m beginning to find it quite hard to be convivial with people who admit their exploitative social entourage’s many flaws, but say they’re helplessly bound to them by ties of affection.
Of course, I don’t delude myself that love is inspired by the loved-person’s merits; I am myself quite attached to several of my defaulting friends and family. But I do not let this affection or a sense of duty towards them morph into my financial or emotional exploitation at their hands. And with age and an inherited sternness, I find I have very little respect for, or patience with, people who do. Of course, people have said to me that standing up for one’s rights or beliefs is not worth it if they cost one the support of one’s loved ones.
I’m too polite to say this to their faces, but if your darling dear ones are holding your relationship ransom to continually undermine your own wishes and make you fulfil theirs, then the time to evaluate your loyalty to them is well ripe.