The British royal family may be far away, out of our league in every way, and really none of our business, but the latest goings-on there sharpen our sense of familial bonds, as also clarifying that this most micro unit of society can either be celebrated or censured. We can make a go of it or turn our back on it, it is up to us.
When blood turns against blood, as it frequently does in Bollywood productions as well as our own clan, there is much bombast and bruising. Words fly, rows ensue, things are said that can never be taken back, much damage is caused. Even with the intervention of the best mediators, nothing will ever be the same again.
Our perception of our immediate families gets a makeover following interactions with spouse/partner and their own families in turn. Suddenly, post-marriage, we have two daddies and two mommies. At first it is foreign - the tongue recoils from calling someone else father or mother, with ripe hints of incest hanging in the air on such utterances.
But this is also the time we begin to compare perhaps and find lacks, or fiercely feel protective of our own. The entry of a third party aids in identifying dissatisfactions, sometimes even actively helping to alienate.
Men can do it more subtly, with the woman happily taking his name and ‘coming into’ his family. They can easily play critic and corrector; by pretending to advise wives, husbands can sow doubts and cause existing fissures to widen permanently.
No woman is prepared for the vicious adjustments of marriage, however in love she may be or resilient she is. The bottom-line is this: a married daughter’s neglect of her pre-marital family gets little to nil attention, but a son who is anything less than a Shravan Kumar earns social contempt.
The truth though is that filial piety works both ways—for men and women. Turning away from families they are born into is an ultimately painful decision, the ache to belong never goes away. Which brings us back to the two princes, who lost their mother in a public blaze as young boys. Let's skip over Diana’s glamour and divorce.
It is her death that made her sons memorable mourners at her funeral. That Harry, with his comparatively new wife Meghan, is also linking himself to public charity makes their exits from both their families an act of interpersonal failure. Surely there is a path to walk between being a ‘people-pleaser’ and a ‘people-person’.
Following the Oprah Winfrey interview where much dirty royal linen was washed to the delight of bystanders, apparently the brothers spoke on phone. This conversation was immediately reported in the press as unproductive. Which cannot be aiding bilateral talks between the brothers too much, this constant drip-drip of personal info leaks.
Michelle Obama, former FLOTUS, said in this context: "The thing that I hope for and the thing that I think about is that this first and foremost is a family and I pray for forgiveness and healing for them so they can use this as a teachable moment for them all."
She added on public service: "The thing that I always keep in mind is that none of this is about us, in public service, it’s about the people that we serve... I always try to push the light back out and focus it on the folks that we're actually here to serve."
Perhaps that is the dissonance the latest royal saga brings into sharp focus. Here is a young couple who had to run away to another country to carry on their plans for charity, but their first pronouncement is against the family they just cut ties with.
Which bodes not too well for their future plans to shower the planet with acts of kindness. Charity begins at home, to quote a cliché. Just as vasudhaiva kutumbakam, so is kutumbakam vasudhaiva. Waiting sometimes ends the war.
As Pat Schneider says in 'The Patience of Ordinary Things':
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottom of shoes…
(The writer is an author and can be reached at email@example.com)