A wonderful rapport


“With the growth of the individual, a series of similar relationships of varying intensity and duration develop and at no point of time do Indians assume full individual responsibility. Even marriage marks the development of a new set of relationship instead of independence. Indians cope with stress in a manner quite different from societies that preach independence and autonomy of individuals.”  From a study on multiculturalism in psychology.

How does one reconcile this very legitimate view of people being responsible for and/or toward each other without the difficult trap of blame? One of the things that was an issue for me was my perception that JJ was unable to take responsibility for his feelings. In all of my experiences, blame causes problems. It is a way of shrugging off your own responsibilities. JJ said he was afraid of responsibility, although I cannot remember a time, in real life, where I saw him shrugging it off. I heard him many times saying he could only rely on his family, that he wanted his mother’s help with something or even that home was where he slept sound. He also held the view that there were certain things my family should have protected me from. My response was that they had raised me to be a competent person, which meant taking care of myself. That did not mean complete autonomy to me, it meant that was what I perceived my contribution to the well being of my family to be. Just like I believe that taking responsibility for my own feelings and myself is part of my contribution to the well-being of a relationship. But sharing the burdens of life is also a contribution to the well being of a relationship.

Is it possible that his other relationship (and mine) worked because we had the support of our families and not only because of the strength of our personal attachments? Maybe. Is it possible that his fear of “responsibility” came not from a real lack of desire to be a support but from an unconcious feeling that his family would not accept me? Did he feel somewhere deep down that he needed that structure of family acceptance to be able to bare the burden of self-responsibility? That in binding himself to me in any real way would have meant there was no going home? There would be no return to India, and that the comfort of family would be replaced by strife? Fear makes us assume so much.

He had said he wanted me to lead him but I wanted him to talk responsibility for himself. Maybe he really did need me to lead him in a way that is completely alien to me. American men who want you to “lead” really want to be carried. Perhaps there is a different way to lead and that is to know that there is someone right with you who has your back.

As for my family, my mother was quite prepared not to like him, because he was too young mostly, but also because she could not imagine how he would “fit” in our family. She discovered that she liked him in spite of herself. I saw the look on her face when he and I ran off on one of our ubiquitous conversational tangent at dinner because we could never seem to shut up when we were together – it was a look that showed her understanding of the kind of rapport we had.

One thing I do know is that the necessity of family support of a relationship is not particular to any culture, even here where we often pretend it doesn’t matter, it really does. I do know that the uniqueness of our relationship would have had it’s share of difficulties. Did he feel somewhere deep down that without that family support we would have hurt the people we love and failed together as well? That may be correct. Do I think that our families would have stood behind us? I think they would have. One other thing that is also not exclusive to culture is the look on a parents face in the moment that they realize their child’s real happiness, whether is it the path they would have chosen for them or not.

I’ve watch this movie a dozen times and I always thought that Matt’s monologue was a statement confirming the western ideal of romantic love. Today I think perhaps it is more a statement confirming the truth of parental love.  Maybe I was wrong about Matt Drayton…

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Tournedos and Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 beef fillet steaks, about 6 ounces
  • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat. Season the fillets with salt and press the coarsely cracked black pepper onto 1 side of each fillet. Place the fillets pepper-side down into the skillet and sear until golden brown, turn the fillets over and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Remove the steaks to a plate. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the fat in the pan and return to high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown and their liquid has evaporated. Add the shallots and cook until soft. Add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the broth and cook until reduced by half. Whisk in the mustard and butter and cook for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place each fillet on top of a crouton and spoon some of the sauce over.

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