Frank Talk: The Wages of Sin [Archives:1999/45/Culture]

November 8 1999

Dr. Pramod Kumar 
Taiz University 
If you are dealing with a Yemeni, do not despair. He is among the most cultured, prudent and profound humans on earth. The ancient values of shared compassion and fellow-feeling abound in his heart. If you happen to ask a Yemeni what his top priorities in life are, he will look at you deep and after a moment’s lapse give you a whimsical smile. Hang on a wee bit, do not despair. If you are still there, you are his confidante. He has revealed his passionate longings: a residence in a posh area, a customized car and a second wife. These secrets cut through all classes and all manner of people with small variations in details. 
The first two desires confirm to universal norms. They relate to comfort and social status. As an alien to local custom and aspiration, you may be left wondering what to make of the last one. A middle-aged person as an exception. But when a not-so-long-ago married young man with two children opens his heart to you, your heart cringes. If only he had the resources, he tells you, he would get another wife. Do not you think your current wife will be traumatized. Of course not. Rather, she will be pleased. Pleased? Yes. She wants me to be happy and if I am happy, she is happy. 
Conceded. It is perfect reasoning. You cannot beat it. But a doubt lingers. What about your children? What is wrong with the children? What have they to do with this?. Will they not suffer an emotional stock? No, no, why should they? This is usual. Look at me, I was six years old when my father married again. I am the same. It did not pinch me at all. You are left speechless with no counter-arguments, maybe a bit wiser. One thing is clear, even though the option may never be exercised, it is a deep seated desire rooted in the male psyche. 
Children are strangers to the grown up world. They are unable to explain a lot of things taking place around them and cling to us for emotional and psychological comfort. Our presence is reassuring to them. They need us not merely for emotional support and as role-models but also for their intellectual growth. It is a well-known fact that a child in close physical proximity to its father grasps the intricacies of its learning tasks much more easily than in any other learning environment. 
Times have changed. The current trend is towards a breaking up of the joint-family structure. There is very little support base left for a child in a nuclear family set-up other than its parents. Even in the best set-up in a two-spouse arrangement, physical and emotional fracture is inevitable. A child caught in such a situation may find it being taught to cope with the increasing demands of modern education. It may silently slip into depression and despair and turn into a laggard. 
We have seen this happening in the West. With broken homes and single parent families becoming the norm. The worst-sufferers are the children. They feel forsaken. The violent incidents indulged in by the adolescents may serve as warning bells. It is time we sit up and take note. In the final analysis, fidelity to a single spouse may well turn out to be a virtue worth rigorous pursuing, both in mind and body.