Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 33, Tuesday August 26, 2008

 

 

Dear Doctor,
My son is fourteen years old and ever since his father passed away three years ago, he has become very fond of his uncle. Although it seemed natural at first and encouraged by the family recently he has told family members that he wants me to marry his uncle. I am not ready to marry anyone, let alone the younger brother of my deceased husband. But I also feel for my daughter. What can I do?

There is a discrepancy in your question. You've started it with your son and have ended it with your daughter! I'm not sure whether it is a simple mistake or something else.

Anyway, I'm choosing to think it is the same child you are concerned about. It is very natural that a child will look for a substitute of his/her father figure. The more resemblance the other person has with the deceased person, the easier the substitution process gets. This internalised, idealised figure also works as a role model for the child to fulfil the developmental needs. On losing the primary mental object (here, by death of father), the mind tends to search for a similar one (e.g. uncle) to bring and maintain some stability in the shattered internal environment.

Your child has developed some extra attachment with his uncle to cope with the loss of his father. However, fear of further loss (either by separation or death) is probably still working strongly inside him and is driving him to act the way he is acting now. Financial and other day-to-day co-dependency, or living in a joint family with boundary enmeshment can also lead to this kind of role confusion.

Some cultures and traditions support this kind of marriage to maintain family dynamics. Some support it for inheritance issues or to prevent further loss of family members. Fear of an unknown man coming in future and stealing the mother, fear of rivalry over mom's attention/love, fear of falling out of the loop, etc., are some common reasons why people look for this kind of intra family marriage. A child of fourteen years already worrying over these issues is also a manifestation of his inner insecurity and need for assurance to deal with the future unpredictability.

I don't know how are you coping with the loss of your husband and what are you doing to fill up that vacuum. The two-parent family structure of our society can't accommodate the needs of a single parent let alone the needs of a widow or an orphan. For social and financial security and overall partnership in life, two-parent family unit is idealized.

What are your thoughts around this issue? You've mentioned that, “I am not ready to marry anyone, let alone the younger brother of my deceased husband”- do you feel strong enough to carry this responsibility of raising your child alone? If so, then I would suggest that you assure your child about your competence and confidence not just by words but also by actions. Make sure you are helping your child to differentiate between reality and fantasy. Is there any possibility of getting emotionally involved with this man if he were not your in-law? What is the underlying reason of this inhibition? Is he going to be a constant reminder of your deceased husband or is he just not your type?

You don't want to get married again- is it because you think you had it all or is it because you don't want to mess up your life again or something else?

If you decide to marry someone against your personal choice just to make your child happy, then you'll have to live with this predicament for the rest of your life even after your child leaves home (mind you, it won't take long for a 14 year old!). Besides, what role is your brother-in-law playing in it? Is he a silent observer (testing your reaction?)/Instigator (using the child to make his way)/caught off guarded (confused)/martyr (ready to sacrifice his dream for family cause)/people pleaser (can't say “no” to others), etc. It would be wise to clarify your position to your child to prevent false hopes building up and fantasy thoughts taking over. Enabling by silence even with good intentions can actually bring bad results.

In order to make a decision, it would be wise to explore your unconscious/preconscious issues (e.g. denial, projection, reaction formation, etc.) with a therapist. Marriage is a co-commitment between two adults; I suppose the primary gainers should be the adults. A child can surely express his/her choice but it is up to the adults to decide whether it works for them or not. After all we all have only one life to lead, live the life the way you want to live. This will also save your child from being blamed later on for a failed marriage. So, act on your behalf, don't just react.


A Different Candidate

It's been over 18 years since I came to the USA for my first visit…not to stay but just to touch. I didn't know then that sometimes all you need is a touch and you transform forever. It did, the ones I met two weeks back. They transformed with that touch.

It was yet another random encounter. This time it was at the zoo, I was with my Ma, both of us thirsty, after watching the pandas trying to survive the DC heat.

We were people-watching, catching up, drinking leisurely when an older woman in a shalwar kamiz with a woman in her mid-thirties walked by pushing a cute little five year old girl in a stroller. They were of three generations Bangladeshis, we later learnt, mother, daughter and granddaughter.

The grand-ma sat down next to us wanting to find out more and in the process also telling her whole life story. Within five minutes we knew she came over to the states over twenty years ago, her daughter six years ago and her grand daughter is a smart little kid who is about to start first grade. We also found out she cooked ilish, daal, bhaat and beef keema that morning and packed it for lunch to eat at the zoo and now she was in a hurry to get back home to cook for her son who works a night shift and can't leave home without his mother's home cooked meal.

We found out her husband died thirty years ago, her children were raised at her father's house. She was a teacher once, and her daughter who spoke less and smiled more told us she doesn't have legal papers and works odd jobs as well.

The conversation continued and I decided to talk to the daughter a bit more, I liked her smile. She told me more than I could have imagined…she told me how she came here, how she had an arrange marriage, how her husband called her ugly and left her when she was three and a half months pregnant with her child and since then how she has been working two jobs from dawn till mid-night.

She doesn't drive, she can only rely on public transportation and even coming to the zoo was quite a hassle for them, as they had to change buses three different times. I didn't know how else I could appreciate her. She was still a stranger, someone who didn't really exist in my realm even a few minutes ago, but now she did and she was blowing me away. How do I relate to that? How do you comprehend, console or help someone like her? I didn't know.

She went on to telling me how she is trying to give her daughter all that she can. The bright little young one is already learning three different languages besides English and Bangla, she is learning ballet and third grade math.

“Are you raising a president?" The Bengalis say to me, she said. “They don't understand why I spend so much money behind my daughter.”

I tell her, “You should say that maybe you are raising a president, she is an American citizen, she could become one if she wanted to”.

She smiles, I know she will never answer back, she will just keep working two jobs, maybe even three during holiday seasons while her mother cooks up a storm at home every day, meat and fish, veggies and rice.

I saw three generations of sadness, first an oblivious one that created a chance, the second who took the chance that the first created but luck didn't agree and a third who is taking no chances but is the real thing herself…. she is solid, her life will be prosperous, not because of a chance but because of certainty…and she will become bigger than her past, her mother, grandmother, and definitely her father. She will be celebrated one day, you will know her… and who knows maybe she will become an American president one day…and that's a candidate worth voting for!


Check It Out

A Taste of India

The Spice and Rice restaurant of the Radisson has carved a special niche for itself in the Dhaka restaurant scene, with its appetizing South-Asian and Pan-Asian menu. The 16-items menu that is called 'The Journey' is changed every day to cater variety to the palate of food connoisseurs, with authentic sub-continental dishes prepared by Chef Shaker ul Alam. Spice and Rice restaurant has now brought the exotic taste of India in its buffet dinner through the Indian Food Festival that started on 19 August this month and will continue till the 26.

The week-long food festival will consist of specialties from all parts of India, from the colourful North to the flavoursome South and everything in between. The menu will be changed every day to accommodate as many unique dishes from India as possible. The highlights of the food fiesta are the various kebabs marinated with fresh condiments and grilled to perfection before being served piping hot. Worth mentioning is the Mutton Kebab that is packed to the brim with delicate flavours and is an excellent complement to the Raayta and Peshawari Naan which is made with almonds and cashew nuts and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Some of the other mouth-watering delicacies on offer are Bombay Aloo curry, Lemon Rice with mustard seeds, Tandoori Pomfret, Alu Gosht, Prawn Nargisi and the Istewhara Masala, which is essentially a mutton curry cooked in a thick gravy made from spinach paste. One of the most popular items on the menu and the chef's personal recommendation is the Chhupa Rustam, a spicy kebab made with chicken and mutton.

The appetizers include cold salads made with pineapples, potatoes, bean sprouts, capsicum and the lot while the warm appetisers include rolls stuffed with cheese and nuts and richly fried in ghee. After the hearty main course, you can opt for delectable desserts that include Halwa, Gulab Jamun, Chomchom, Roshogolla and a lot more.

One of the most interesting features of this buffet is that you don't have to stand in line for the food; the buffet will come to you. All the dishes will be served to you in the traditional Indian Thaali style, but you have the option to ask for more and eat all you want, just like in a traditional buffet. Vegetarians can enjoy a separate 16-items menu consisting of palatable meat-free dishes.

The ambient atmosphere of the restaurant perfectly suits the Qawalis and Ghazals being played in the background. While you wait for the food to be served, you can also have your hands decorated with complimentary henna or watch your food being prepared sitting right at the open counter. Or, you might prefer interacting with the chef who takes the time to mingle with the guests and collect valuable feedback. You can also walk away with colourful trinkets and complimentary special Paan. All this comes with a reasonable price tag of Tk. 1250 per person.

So, if you are planning an evening of recreation complimented by great Indian food, drop by at the Radisson tonight for a true taste of India.


By The Way

Removing odours from plastic containers

Plastic containers of different sizes are an essential item around the household, especially when storing leftovers from last night's supper. And in case of our deshi cuisine, where ingredients such as garlic and garam masala are a must, odours in plastic containers can be a problem. However, the best way to deal with it is simply stuffing them with crunched up old newspaper pages, after washing and drying and leave like that until the next time they're used. Not only will the paper absorb the unwanted smell, but it can also be a good way to re-use all the newspaper that keeps piling up at home!



 

 

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