If you did your civics classes as part of your social studies in school, you might remember that in the Indian federal system of government, governance is split into central subjects, state subjects and the concurrent list. There are things like defence that are solely the central government’s prerogative, others like public order and health are part of the state’s domain and yet others such as education and forests are part of the concurrent list. For the most part, these lists are fixed though there have been some changes over the last seventy years. For example, education was moved from being a state subject to the concurrent list only in 1976 - till then it was quite completely the state’s domain. Now, we have both state-directed education and centre-directed education co-existing.
Wondering what’s all that got to do with love and relationships?
The centre and states, in some sense, are in a relationship in its real sense. There is love and sometimes friction between the parties, and oftentimes, the friction is around the areas where the state wants something and the centre something else. The division of roles and the clarities help a lot, and yet, every now and then, there are major differences of opinion, especially with regard to the subjects under the concurrent list. The centre seems to go one way and one or more states want to go another. The rumblings when these differences come up can become quite strident. Even recently, we saw it with the National Education Policy that the centre announced, and how it was met with some resistance and even strident protests by some of the states.
In relationships between people too, there is some degree of role definition. Sometimes, it is just an automatic assumption based on social conditioning, and at other times, a well-thought out, discussed and planned matter even before the commitment to the relationship. There are clear differences between the parties, such as cooking and cleaning become one person’s and managing finances become another’s., and there are concurrent list items such as parenting or child-rearing, or other aspects such as planning for holidays and outings.
Do relationships work better when there are clear roles and responsibilities? Or do they experience greater intimacy and connectedness when pretty much everything is in the concurrent list?
People seeking efficiency might say clear division works, and people seeking long-term effectiveness might say concurrent works, but relationships are rarely ever such clear trade-offs between efficiency and effectiveness. Relationships are a muddle of matters, and we rumble around between roles and responsibilities, successes and failures, moving from “You never listen to me,” to smug “I told you so!” to sulks and protests and sometimes, outright conflict and fights. If too rigid, relationships might break under the pain of having very little in common or out of unequal distribution of rights and privileges, and if too intermingled, nothing gets done.
The middle path of collaborative federalism seem to be the much-vaunted ideal for both nations and relationships.
As written for The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.