Updated: March 21, 2021 8:40:00 am
A staggering 61 million people tuned in to watch Oprah With Meghan and Harry, which proves more than anything, that the world is desperate for a conversation on something other than Covid. After the year we have had, the travails of an exiled Duke and Duchess are a welcome diversion. For the boors among us, sneering that we care too much about a bunch of entitled Richies who have no bearing on our lives, I’d like to say, neither does Perseverance landing on Mars. We are invested in the stories because they pique our imaginations. It’s entirely fitting that mankind conquering space runs parallel to the Windsor feud: human beings may have the ingenuity to colonise new orbits but they will always struggle to stave off unhappiness.
Dark days come in all our lives. There are unpleasant phases that are unavoidable but it’s how we deal with complex relationships that define our overall success in life. The Sussexes’ first loser move was to run, as though trading the cloudy moors of England for sunny California would solve anything. Leaving things behind and restarting somewhere new is a way of coping with problems. Sadly, we can’t rewrite our fate simply by changing location, or many more of us would be in perpetual motion. It is worth remembering that whenever migration is thrust on people, it is considered a catastrophe. We pity the Syrians the loss of their homeland because an instinct tells us our country is a critical link to who we are. Besides, even Mars isn’t far enough to outrun memory, and it’s futile to try.
Since only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches, one must believe the Sussexes when they say the misery of royal constraints is too big a burden to bear. There is no doubt that if you can’t live free and unencumbered, all the wealth in the world loses meaning. However, the question to be asking is, can one be alienated from the tribe and also be free? Estrangement from family is a psychologically traumatic experience, as bad as divorce and cancer. I have a friend who cut off ties with a toxic parent. There is an emptiness in the freedom he so yearned for after the rupture became permanent. Almost like he has had to amputate a part of himself as a cost of closure. After all that, those same irksome relatives who were so hard to shake off continue to occupy a frustrating amount of headspace.
The saying ‘Don’t burn your bridges behind you’ comes from a battle plan. In warfare, there is always an option to retreat. In civilian life that translates to exiting jobs and relationships on good terms. It’s not being wily, it’s being mature. Most of us realise too late we don’t have to tell people exactly what we think of them. It is tempting, certainly. Who doesn’t relish the idea of making a tormentor squirm? When you have the power to create a furore on a public platform, it’s doubly fantastic, albeit briefly. Because there are repercussions you couldn’t possibly foresee, years and decades down this long life. What is said is there for posterity, resurfacing at inopportune moments, much after anger has evaporated and issues resolved. Unfortunately, American ideals have infiltrated all our lives. It’s very trendy, this business of embracing one’s vulnerabilities and pouring them out on Oprah, or in therapy. It really makes one nostalgic for the time when the simmering resentments people carried beneath the surface were expected to stay there.
Nine times out of ten, a quiet out achieves more than drama, with none of its side effects. But the human capacity for self-delusion is apparently infinite: it’s too easy to mistake a craving for oneupmanship as a desire for escape. And what you are left with is a prayer, that not everything is lost in the end.
This column first appeared in the print edition on March 21, 2021 under the title ‘The rules of estrangement’. The writer is director, Hutkay Films
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.