Friday, February 26, 2016

"Protecting" our Gods

It is a topic that's been discussed and debated forever. Basically boils down to why do our Gods need our protection against those out to "insult" them. I mean they are Gods and you believe in their supreme power. If they did get insulted, wouldn't they simply smite down the person responsible without your help?! But, I am getting into a different angle of this discussion right now.
Lets start with this. Assume you know two kinds of guys, one can take a joke, knows how to laugh at himself, doesn't get insulted or outraged at the smallest funny remark and is just an all-round chill guy. So fun that most people like to hangout with him, laugh with him, laugh at him at times too knowing full well it would be taken in jest.
 On the other hand is the guy who is out looking for a reason to get insulted and then pick a fight, shout, argue, abuse and do all that classless warfare to "avenge" this " terrible insult".
I guess it is anybody's guess who you'd like more, who you'd chose as your friend and who you would be comfortable around.
Today I saw this post where Indian Gods or Mythological figures are depicted, sometimes in ways different than how we are used to seeing them. Not at all insulting or disrespectful, just different, like holding a phone using various social networking apps and so on. Maybe funny and cute to some, uncomfortable to others cos they aren't used to it.  And one of the most common reactions I see (I am only talking about the sensible, least abusive and most civil. Let's ignore the other kind of common for now) is "Try doing it to other religions and then you'll see", "Why only insult Hindu Gods", and such.
Now this is an extremely sensitive topic and I am not getting into the "insult/not insult" OR the point I started off with that is "do they need your protection" debate here. And for now lets work on your premise that " try doing this to the other guy" is a valid argument and it honestly does hold good, in which case (and this is the point I am mainly trying to make), shouldn't we simply feel good that we are that former kind of guy who is sensible, friendly, can take a joke unlike the other guy I mentioned and basically NOT a sensitive snowflake. I would outrage and defend any of my belief systems being demeaned and insulted, like any other (civil) person. But seriously, just because there is the word "God" (and His other names) and (s)he is holding a phone instead of his/her usual armament, do we then need to take up arms and defend and protect? Our Gods? 

I agree there has to be a line of respect that cannot be crossed. But that's also the point. There should be a line up to which we don't take it upon ourselves to get insulted or defensive where none was intended or apparent. 


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sacrifice or Joy.

Don't we come across one too many people touting the certificate of sacrifice and martyrdom they have faced in the name of relationships and love. If I were to give one piece of advice to them (Not that I am asked to give many!) it would be this - Don't!!! For the sake of yourself and the sake of those you think you are doing it for, please Don't. It is a very simple thing - if you see it as a great sacrifice that you do for someone else then it is making you miserable and that is making the others feel the same way as well - guilty and like they owe you something in return. These aren't really productive feelings when it comes to love and happiness.

I'll give my own example. When my kid was born I made the choice to not work for a couple of years. To spend that time with him. Now this is NOT a "SACRIFICE" I made for HIM. This is my life choice I made because I wanted to spend quality time with My Baby and that made ME happy. Why is this difficult? 

It starts from the moment people decide to have kid. Like it was a great sacrifice you made for the child to carry him/her in your womb for 9 months and bring him to this world. Really?  I thought it was a choice made out of wanting a child for YOURSELF. There are a lot many other sacrifices we hear about. For eg. one of the two spouses deciding to leave their jobs or change their jobs to move and be with the other. Again, if you see this as a great sacrifice you are making for your significant other, then you are making both of yourselves miserable for life and heading for some major troubles. However, if this is a decision one would make for oneself because for you being with the other is more important than that particular job in that particular city; Basically being with the family gives greater happiness than being in a job but away from the family; then you take that pick. Don't see it as a sacrifice and more importantly don't tout it on another's face all the time. If you know that leaving this job would make you miserable and unhappy then just don't do it. Seriously. The sacrifice value of that misery is really not worth the unhappiness and unpleasantness going all around.

I have always maintained that a happy healthy relationship is a selfish relationship, by which I do not mean that don't give a damn about the other person. The point I make is, if giving a damn about the other person gives YOU a sense of joy, then it is going right. If giving a damn about other person earns you, inside your head, only a certificate of sacrifices you've made, and you are planing to achieve your joy from knowing you are a martyr then it is just wrong. So bloody wrong. And so bloody sad.

Moral: Make compromises that make you happy to make them for the others. Not ones that give you pain and then you expect to feed off that pain and expect constant gratitude and super extra consideration from others all their life, cos you caused yourself pain. That just sucks to have to be around! 

P.S This one started off as a general observation post as nothing happened to piss me off while writing this. However, while I was writing this I thought of 2 - 3 characters in my life and just worked myself up to a frenzy. Hence the tone. :D

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Ill-wishers!

Why is there so much compulsion in the world to talk bad about others. 

Recently I have been reading conversations on a few whatsapp groups where everyone is super supportive of each other, helping each other when doubts and concerns are raised, complimenting each other on new looks, sharing recipes and movie reviews, being a support group when needed and genuinely being good to each other. These are people who met about 15 years back, then got on with their own lives and as life always comes around a full circle, have now come back together to find friendship, solace and lots of fun in each others' company. Seeing this gives me a lot of faith in humanity. 

Then there are my own precious friends. People, knowing that I'm a right klutz in making an effort to keep in touch, knowing that I am not very good at sharing my deepest, darkest, have still been around and have always shared the comfort to pick up the phone after months, even years, and start talking like the last conversation was yesterday. People that have such huge hearts, they support their friends through thick and thin, stand by and never judge. People whose convictions in me and my decisions have helped me way more than I could ever express to them in my very limited vocabulary of expressing feelings. And they strengthen my belief in humanity and kindness that much more. 

And then there are these others, the ones that motivated me to write this post. The ones who have really no place in our lives except for being acquainted by circumstances. I have seen a few of these people around among all the other caring, appreciative supportive ones. Not only can they ever wish anything good for others, let alone actually helping, they seem to take a lot of glee from when something sad (read that as 'newsworthy') befalls others. And if they can't find anything really sad or negative to talk about and judge, they will make things out of thin air.

I have gone through stuff in life that have brought me to a lot of junctures where I'd have been judged and talked ill about. And I am sure a lot of these people would have had a field day (or a few years) of doing just that. (Thankfully, I have the friends I mentioned earlier and of course my family, who helped that sailing be not-as-rough as it could have been.) But what's even worse is when these people don't have anything new to say. The unexplained hatred and the need to fuel this negativity is so great that they would even end up saying something as random as "What's so great about the photos she shares of herself with her kid! I don't see why she should put photos of her and her kid on FB as profile photos" (!!!!!) when someone happens to mention in their presence that this person's photos on fb are nice or something random like that. Erm...need? I mean what is this intrinsic compulsion these people feel to HAVE TO be so negative and hateful and mean? Is it insecurity about their own lives? Is it pure jealousy? Is it the need to validate their own lives and decisions by showing other people's as worse? What could be that factor, that driving force behind wanting and having to feel only bad things for other people especially who they really have next to no direct interactions with? It beats the hell out of me the kind of negativity and filth these people's brains might be filled with to always have such things on the ready. And also, isn't this kind of negativity festering inside their own minds bad for them? To nurture so much hatred and negativity and always say bad things, don't their own minds have to be a sad, dark, vengeful place?

Let me also just say this at the risk of being hated and called an anti-feminist(!!!), most of them that I have come across are mostly who us Indian kids identify as "aunties", ladies of a/or a few generations back. No I am NOT generalizing. I know a lot of really cool, awesome, caring supportive ones as well. I am sharing what I have experienced. (Basically, I am only saying the apples I have seen are mostly red, NOT that everything red is an apple.) Anyways, the very cliche picture of kitty party aunties bitching and gossiping and wishing only bad on others and deriving oh so much happiness after that is, like all other cliches, come from too much of reality. It is just sad to see. But, once again ending this on a high note, it really is so so heartening to see more and more people of my generation going the extra mile to be nice and positive and make that bond. (Lovely thought!) I really hope this is a changing trend of humanity and not just another cycle where a lot of us will eventually grow up into being those aunties. (Scary thought!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

At Home?

Have you thought about the feeling of displacement?

I was born to two Army Doctors. This meant that every two years we shifted lock, stock and barrel, to a new city, new climate, new friends, new school, new teachers and so on. I have always wondered about all the affects this lifestyle has had on me. I can vouch for a zillion ways this has shaped me; And a few more. But one of the things I wondered the most about was the feeling of belonging/feeling displaced.

While I was growing up, and probably because that is the only way of life  I knew till I moved to my last school in Kerala, I always believed I could not imagine surviving in one school in one city for more than two years. In fact, after I came to Kerala, I remember asking my mother repeatedly to change my school because "I just couldn't take it anymore". Now, there were several reasons why I could just NEVER fit into the school in Kerala. That should be material for another post. Or several. But at that time I assumed that my body clock just told me that my time here was up. Eventually, I realized that there were no more moves for me, at least not till I finished school and decided to leave on my own. Not the "my world moves with me" kind anymore. And I was miserable. I was convinced, my system was convinced, that I just had to set myself up in a new city and get a new bunch of friends.

Well, my point is, all this time I was sure that I was always used to moving and could get myself to feel like I belong there for however long or short duration I stayed there and not feel displaced. For me, wherever mom and dad were was home. No matter which city and what house.

Then Kerala happened. When I came to Kerala I never felt that I belonged here even though it is the longest I have ever stayed in one city till date. It simply felt like a long, torturous but temporary phase. Like an in-between to belonging. Like a transient uncomfortable place that I had to simply get out of to start being me again. This wasn't me. These weren't mine. THEY weren't mine. I could never belong. I was ALWAYS an outsider.

Funny thing, this displacement. I realized it has nothing to do with a place. So you could finally be living among "Your own" people, relatives, friends your parents have known forever, people who speak your "mother tongue", a home your parents have built for themselves finally, a place of permanence after all that moving about and here I was totally completely displaced. Totally completely. An alien.

Finally when I got to leave, this time on my own travails, I went to a few more cities, to study, or work; lived in college hostels and PG and my own apartments and wherever I went, I managed to go right back to being at "home". Yes, there have been instances when I have felt alone, once again like an outsider, like  couldn't stay anymore. But those were phases and they had specific reasons or incidences attached to them. I knew where those feelings were originating from. But the bigger picture was that I managed to more or less feel comfortable in my own  skin wherever. And then circumstances brought me back here, to where "home" is. Again. Once again, in the last 6 years, this has been the  2nd longest I have stayed in a city, the 1st being the same city. And once again, I am floating in this transience. Everyone is an outsider in my life. I just cannot let people in. I can't understand why people function the way they function. Why families, hate and plot and fail. Why everyone gossips about each other. And then get together and celebrate each other's joys and share each others' sorrows. And then goes back to finding faults. I really am not a part of this, of them. Once again, I am displaced. Not at home; At Home.

Friday, May 29, 2015

But Why...Part 2

Why are people so confused and complicated?
How is it possible for someone to be so self centered?

You walk hand in hand with someone down a breathtakingly beautiful mountain trail with the waves lashing far below and forest all around. It is one of the loveliest walks of your lives. You are both amazed and immersed in the beauty of the moment.

You suddenly, breathlessly claim you would never leave the other person's hand again even though the other person insists they don't need promises. Because they don't need expectations to spoil anything about this ethereal walk that has no name.

Then, as you walk by the side of the cliff with the beautiful waves right below, still holding their hands as if you would never let go, you suddenly give the other person a shove sending them hurtling down the cliff. The person is hurt, physically and emotionally. Confused and unable to walk for a little while, eventually the person decides to get up and start walking again. What else is there to do anyway. They need to get out of their slump. They need to get out of the prickly shrubs and rocks.

But the question would never go away. "But why". Not just "But why did you push me down and leave me here?" But also, "But why did you need to make these promises when you didn't mean them and more importantly you were not required to?" But Why?

Days passed, weeks. As you walk your beautiful mountain top path and the other person ascends through rocks and shrubs trying to get themselves back up somehow, you once again get a sense of them.
You ask "Hey you, down there. How are you?"

They are shocked. They are immovable with anger and hurt and disappointment (By now it is all directed at themselves for putting themselves in a vulnerable place like that. Again.) and speechless. They want to say a thousand things. They want to call you names. They want a zillion answers.

No.
They want to know one thing only. "But Why?".
So, for the sake of their curiosity, they tame their anger for a bit and reply " I am fine. Thank you. How about you?"

You reply "Why are you being so formal. Are you mad?"

Now the anger is simmering. The reply "No. Not mad. I was hurt a bit. And I wondered what happened, a lot"

You "Oh. But I am like this. I can't explain. I couldn't come rescue you because I couldn't explain why I pushed you down in the first place."

That's the answer? No reply from down below.

You "So are we cool now?"

Reply "Oh yeah. Sure."
The weird cryptic conversation continues in fragments with no satisfactory answers to either party, one being extremely vague and the other extremely sarcastic.

Finally you ask "So where do we stand now?"

The reply, quiet and thoughtful now, floats up from somewhere below  "I don't know. I really don't know where I am at this moment."
 (There is so much more to say. So much to explain. So much explanation needed. But are you worth it at all? I guess not.)

And then you say "But hey, everything is the same. At least, I am still at the same place always."



Of course you are. You were not the one who was pushed down the cliff, remember? Why wouldn't you still be in the same place up there?

I don't get it.
Why are people so confused and complicated?
How can they be so self centered about everything?



Saturday, May 23, 2015

But...Why?

I learnt this the Hard way. Very hard.

Now, when I say "learnt" it doesn't really mean that I have stopped making the same mistakes. It's more like I love learning so much that I keep making them over and over again.  

But, I am digressing.

So the thing that I learnt the hard way over and over again is this. We humans have a HUGE capacity to take pain. And by that I don't mean the physical kind. I mean the emotional, hurtful, really-don't-feel-like-getting-out-of-bed-in-the-morning kind. We handle bereavements, separations, failures, loss, everything. We cry a bit, we hurt a bit, we mope a bit and we let time do its thing and eventually shrug it off and move forward. And yes, though on the one hand it may be said this is because of a dearth of any other option, I still find this ability to take that kind of hurt and pain and sadness and still move forward quite remarkable.

So that is established, we can take Hurt, a lot of hurt, a lot of kinds of hurt. It's even sort of easy especially when you know why it happened. When you can explain it as "I saw this coming" or "This had to have happened with how everything else was".

And THAT is what I am writing about today. How the "Why" matters. So bloody much.

Only if we knew the reasons for why some things just happen. A lot of people find peace in explaining it as "God's mysterious ways" and so on. I mean, it must be a relief when you can believe in something that strongly that the unfairness of it all doesn't hit you in the face and there is this explanation that helps you heal quicker.

But a lot of us don't have that relief. We just don't know why a completely healthy happy young person would suddenly be taken away from us because just like that their heart stops beating. We don't know why a person who tells you they cannot imagine not talking to you all the time suddenly decides to just simply cut you off, no phones, no messages, no replies and worst of all, no reasons. That is just so not fair.

I truly don't believe life is fair. I, of all people, definitely don't. I know that at every turn, every cross way there is pain, heartbreak, waiting for us. I believe that everyone must face whatever they must face in this life, and I also know that no matter how unfair, we just don't get any explanations for a lot of them. Sudden, unexpected losses of loved ones is probably the most painful thing one must endure in this lifetime and especially so when they seem so totally unreasonable like when old age, disease or even a freak accident cannot explain it for us. 

And that is exactly why I believe that whenever possible, wherever the loss, the distancing is caused by the choice of one person, the other person definitely deserves a reason. Stop talking if you don't feel like it, don't reply if you decide the person you "Couldn't survive without" yesterday has become uninteresting and blah today. That is hurtful enough for a person to deal with and will take a few days for the pain to start healing and the void to even start feeling like there is a chance to fill it. Ever. Do not top that up with the confusion and hurt of having to wonder why and imagining the worst about ourselves and our actions that might have caused the other persons' disinterest.

Do not leave them to deal with a lingering "But what did I do" for all of eternity. I am not saying that this would be the most active thought in their head for eternity. At first it will be all they can think of for a log time and then it'll become a dull throbbing thought at the back of their heads. And even as they stop thinking about the loss of that friendship/relationship and move on with their life, the 'not knowing why' just never totally goes away. 

And life is tough enough as it is with it's unreasonableness of loss, that doing that to someone by choice is simply cruel.



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fight Clean. Respect Self.

The last day in the month of March. The month of International Women's day. The month of "India's Daughter". The month that ended with Deepika’s Video by Vogue; and I have a small story to share about why I am still skeptical about the future of mentality against women in this country. (Considering it was also the month when Anushka Sharma was blamed for India's performance in the World Cup Semis.) 

So, circumstances were such in the last few months that I found myself heading a committee of around 20 young (mostly freshers) Engineering Graduates, mostly male. The interactions started of well, thankfully. For more than two months, from their joining to the end of our project, the general rapport of the committee was lots of fun and friendship. I mostly felt like the lucky, very loved and respected big sister to them. With some, they'd constantly come to me for advice regarding girlfriend problems, to discuss personal matters, to discuss options about their future like next jobs or further studies, to borrow money and so on.

Considering they were freshers and had never worked anywhere before and were suddenly put in extremely difficult circumstances at sites, most of them went out of their way to complete the tasks assigned to them and I considered myself very fortunate to have been able to command that kind of respect, regard and support from the boys. (I sounded a little like Azharudin in my head with that). And I can seriously vouch for the fact that the support shown to me (or at least perceived by me) was definitely reciprocated manifolds, since my concern for their betterment, their hardships and challenges during the projects, their well-being and safety, their relationship problems and their future was truly extremely genuine.

Then something rather funny happened. These boys came back from their assignments and the general level of fun and camaraderie continued for another week. Everyone had stories of hardships to share tinged with lots of fun and laughter. But every basket has to have their share of rotten apples and the ones from this basket also returned one day. The good thing about these rotten apples from my basket were that before they all left for their assignments, these two never really were interested in this basket and hence never really spoilt anyone in here. This ensured that the basket remained fresh and un-spoilt at least till the end of the assignments and so that went well. Then the rotten apples came back and this time mingled with all the other apples in the basket.

Here is where the story turns.

The rot started spreading in the form of an idea regarding money. And where money is involved the "boss" gets blamed because, hey, the boss has money and it is his/her duty to share it! Who stops to think that he/she is as much part of the system as they are and has no say in the distribution of money; at least I had none. Well, without getting into more details, the rot spread to a point where they all stopped talking to me. Just like that. I walked into the office one morning and found them all huddled together away from me and the hostility was palpable. Not one word. Not one question even from the ones closest to me. Nothing. Just silence and cold war. 

Okay. Misunderstandings happen. Stupid ideas spread. I was hurt because there were at least 3 or 4 among the 20 who could have asked me anything or clarified this before launching the war, but I still took it in my stride. Fights are normal in any relationships. We get angry at parents, at siblings, at the closest of friends. That was okay. They would get over it, I figured.

What I hadn't vouched for was the realization that I wasn't their family or sibling or even friend (No matter how close a few of them were to me). No. I was a "woman" who hadn't helped them in some manner they thought I should have. And they were angry. So what is the easiest, most cowardly thing to do when a bunch of 15-16 boys gang up and get angry at a woman? Disrespect her as a "woman", of course. Talk about her cheaply. Talk about her morality and character. Call her a whore. Call her a slut. Every time you get together and get drunk, make sure all dirty jokes turn to her. Even involve people who have nothing to do with her or this committee into the joke, because hey, when you are insulting a woman, the more the merrier. New heads, new insults, new jokes, more laughs. 

Of course, the mistake was mine. It had to be. I am the woman here, after all. I was even told by certain superiors that the problem was that I was always "friendly" with the boys. (you can imagine the connotations behind that). It was my ‘not being "boss" enough’ and being more like a mentor and friend that caused them to turn. Aaha! Why hadn't I thought of that. Because if I had always treated them as a "boss" should (I think their definition is more "Hari Sadu" when they think ‘boss’), the boys would never ever say anything bad about me. Hmmm. How stupid of me to not think of that.

Anyhow, the point here is “Respect” and "Decency". Would they have done this if the person they got upset at was indeed their mother or their sister? They could get angry, not talk, show their temper in whatever manner, but would they disrespect and insult and make dirty stories and basically brand her a whore? The point is simple. We teach our boys early that if they are angry at their friend who is a boy, no matter how angry, they must try not to get into a fist fight. Try (even though that is just impossible to expect, but hey as a parent we will always try and hope) not to use abusive language, try not to lose their temper but to talk it out, solve, walk away or whatever else non-violent. But do we, consciously, teach our boys that if they are angry at a woman, no matter how angry, they simply shouldn't brand her a whore, shouldn't immediately think the best revenge is to sully her “character”? (That word is in quotes because Hey! I don’t even want to get into the whole ‘“moral character” of a woman’ thing right now) No, we don’t. 
Yes, we probably teach our sons early on that women are weaker so "You shouldn't hit a girl" (I am not so sure that when put like that, does that teaching do more harm or good). But do we simply teach our kids that the reason why you shouldn't hit or abuse or call someone a slut is not so much about Should" and "Shouldn't" as much as it is about Respect for another being and just decency? That anger, no matter how righteous, doesn't give you the right to be indecent and disrespectful and potty mouthed and abusive?

Yes, we need to teach our boys that it is just NOT OKAY to rape. Yes we need to teach our boys that it is just not okay to force or abuse. Yes, we need t teach our boys that it is not okay to eve-tease. Yes, we need to teach our boys that it is just not okay to get back at a girl by being cheap about her. That is as below the belt and as easy and cowardly a revenge as it gets anyway.

In one word, in order to get to all of the above, we simply need to teach our boys the concept of respect and being decent about their anger as well.

You may get angry, upset, you may disagree and argue; you may start a cold war or an open fight, but, no matter what you do, you cannot get cheap and disrespect another human being. Keep your anger clean. If we can only teach our boys this simple thing. To fight fair. That's it! Give another person enough consideration and yourself enough respect to learn to keep your fights fair, isn't that easy?

And till we don’t, and till we have educated, young, smart engineering graduates who actually justify this action as “Hey, when guys get together and get drunk they talk shit about girls. So what?” (Yes one of them actually used these exact same words to one fellow who actually stood up against what was happening), I remain very skeptical about the quality of “empowerment” women are going to get in this country.




P.S Incidentally yesterday was the last day for these guys at work, last day to work under me. Leaving behind a skeleton staff of 2 guys, the rest left yesterday. They say well begun is half done. Thank God for that. For the fact that the beginning was nothing like the end. At least things got done well owing to that. But it wasn’t a happy sight. It wasn’t a happy feeling that things ended in this sour note after the way they had begun.