Broken In Spirits, and Broken In Thoughts

Broken in spirits,

And broken in thoughts.

Deprived of every joy

Her mind is in knots

 

She was fooled yet again,

In the life she detested

Everything she ever liked

Was brutally contested

 

The pretense was too much

She wanted to break free

Keep going on without a word

Was her family’s decree

 

They sold the fairytale

Again and again

Years have gone by

She has only found pain

 

‘Help me!’ she tried to scream

But she was dismissed by all

Each night she cried herself to sleep

Curled up into a ball

 

She wants this to be over

But there is no escape

Everything she ever wanted to be

Is now a blurred ugly shape

 

What could she possibly want

They think nothing is wrong

She is the problem they feel,

Stubborn and headstrong.

 

Remove the soul from the body

It will still survive

Hollow, empty and deceived

She is still alive.

 

Image source

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty And The Beast Within

The cute child

“Bachche Chacha Nehru se pyaar karte the! Chacha Nehru khoobsurat the. Bachche har khoobsurat cheez se pyaar karte hain!”

I listened, admiring my beautiful Hindi teacher reading out a chapter on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.  The teacher was very fond of me. “You look like a doll!” She would say. I would blush.

An attractive teacher talking about a charismatic personality.  A reasonably cute looking child listening intently.  The beautiful atmosphere was interrupted as a girl in shabby clothes and slippers walked in along with our class teacher.  Her hair was brown, with knots, lacking any kind of nourishment.  Her complexion was dull.  She looked dazed as if she woke up on another planet. Her skirt looked more like a lehenga reaching her calf, matched with a miserable, baggy, shirt. It must be her father’s, I thought.

“This is Champa. She would be joining your class today.” The teacher said hurriedly. “Let her sit next to the class monitor for few weeks till we assign her another place. Meghna, you sit next to Komal for now.  Tanvi, Champa will be sitting next to you.  Please help her with the books, uniform etc.”

I was horrified! Champa’s admission was part of a reach out program, wherein a child from a nearby slum would be selected for education free of cost.  Some of us had heard about this proposal. We had no idea it would be implemented. I had no idea it would affect me. Directly!

The next few days were difficult for me.  But how difficult was it for Champa to fit in? Kids made fun of her brutally.  They asked her if she ever showered.   There was an outbreak of lice soon after she joined. She was alleged to be the origin. Guilty until proven innocent. She bought chapati or chuda for lunch.  She ate alone. She was different.

I was conscious of my behavior at school. I was never mean to her. But deep down I found her repulsive. I hated sitting next to her.

One day, after lunch I was playing with friends. Tag. Then on the Merry Go Around. The first bell rang as an indication to us to go back to our classrooms. As I was running, I felt a weird sensation. Within a few seconds even before I realized, I had vomited. In front of everyone.

There was some vomit on my perfectly ironed white shirt. And probably some drool on my face.

One teacher commented, “Such a big girl! Cannot even control herself!! Don’t you know there is a toilet?”

Some kids laughed. Others said “Ewww” and moved away in disgust.

I had tears in my eyes.  As I made the walk of shame towards the washroom, someone held my hand.  I turned in surprise.

There she was. Champa.  As expressionless as ever.  But holding me tight and safe. She held my hand and helped me clean up. She did not say a word. But stayed with me throughout.

Few days later, she stopped coming to school.  She disappeared as abruptly as she had appeared. Some people said that parents had complained about the reach out program. Others said the management felt it was not working out. Some said her parents had decided that studies would not do her any good. Nobody knew for sure.  I never saw her again.

The ugly duckling

Few years later, my father got transferred to the United States. I was a teenager by now studying in a junior high school at New York City. One of the poshest cities in the world. With people from all over the world.  All races.  There were blonde beauties. And Hispanic beauties. And Asian beauties. Girls my age had voluptuous bodies.  My breasts had refused to show up. My buttocks were also equally flat. I wore glasses. And braces.  I had round chipmunk cheeks. I was one of the shortest people in the class.

Kids were at the age where they bully. My school was no exception.  Some desi kids like me who did not fit in were told ‘You stink’  to our faces.  Some would express reluctance to sit next to us. While walking home, there was this once particularly big guy from a senior grade who would scream at me every day, ‘You are UGLY!!!’  just in case I had forgotten.

For the first time in life I felt what it feels like to feel inferior. In every way. I felt like I was at the absolute lowest strata of society.  Being popular, being liked by the opposite sex, getting proposals on Valentine’s Day could only be a dream. I would be grateful if the day passed without any major humiliation.

Is this how Champa felt..?

I became quiet.  I was still a very good student. Being intelligent was my pride.  The few people who got to know me said I was a ‘very nice girl’.  I had few friends.  But they would all vouch for me.

A transformation

Another few years passed.  I was back in India.  I blossomed late. But I finally blossomed. I looked much better in college and in my 20’s. I was now on the better-looking side. This ‘above average’ spectrum had its own set of issues. Women felt jealous and made mean comments, totally unwarranted.  Random people thought that if a girl  is  into her looks and puts on makeup it means she is dumb and shallow. I got attention from boys who were not at all serious and I had to deal with their obnoxious attitude at feeling rejected.  Some people found me arrogant when it fact I was just an introvert.

Was this still better than being on the other side of beauty…?

I have been on different sides of ‘beauty’ at different phases of life. Here are my thoughts:

Lessons learnt

Beauty is never isolated. It is not just about the shape of your eyes or the symmetry of your face. It is about what is considered acceptable.  It is a combination of other related factors such as social, financial, racial privileges. Someone who has features from another part of the world may be different therefore considered not good looking. People who have more money have access to fashion and cosmetology and end up looking the best possible versions of themselves.

When you HATE what you see in the mirror, nothing else matters much.  Most of the times you do not see what is truly there, but what others have told you about yourself.  You see your insecurities. For someone it is a big nose.  For someone it could a dark skin-tone.  For someone it is the weight. And it takes years, and years to become comfortable with it.  I used to pray regularly as a child, having studied in a convent school. The last wish in my prayers (after well-being and health of parents and sibling) was ‘God, please make me pretty!’ Like most kids, my prayer was memorized.   Even today, at 31, when I am distressed and start praying, this ‘wish’ repeats in my mind involuntarily in the sequence.

Champa’s face haunts me still

We may have been treated badly. But that is no excuse for how we treat others. A lesson I learnt from Champa.  A lesson I would like to convey to young people. Hang in there. There are people who will see you for your inner beauty.  But first you need to see it.  Be kind to others. And yourself.  The people we like to talk to, hold on to ultimately are the ones who are pleasant and positive. We also need to become that person first.

A happy face looks beautiful and is a culmination of peace with self and others.

Author’s Note

This article has been written for a contest organized by Women’s Web for the Naturals Salon.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Took Away My Confidence?

Dear Tanvi,

Would you be interested in moderating a panel discussion? We would be discussing how women are enjoying outdoor spaces.

Me?

Moderating?

I felt a slight fluttering in my stomach. I drank some water.

____________________________________________

At the age of 5 – Somewhere in a convent school in Patna

Mother looks at her daughter’s quiz answer sheet. 8/10. Match the following.

Question – Something to keep you dry in the rain

Answer written by the little girl: Ren cot.

It is marked wrong.

Mother: Beta, here you had to match the description in the left side with the options on the right side. Rain coat was not in the options. It was umbrella.

Little girl: Ma’am forgot to put ren cot. That is why I wrote it.

Mother: This was not Fill in the blanks. This was matching. Read the question properly.

Little girl: Maybe Ma’am does not have ren cot. Now she knows.

At the age of 9 – Same school in Patna

State level debate competition

And the winner is Tanvi Sinha….

The mother and the father are beaming, clicking pictures.

At the age of 11 – Same school in Patna

Teacher: Tanvi, we are recommending your name for representing our school at the Interschool Quiz competition, Manthan. It will be aired on local television after two weeks.

Girl: Ma’am! On  TV! If I don’t do well, everyone will make fun of me!

Teacher: Opportunity is knocking at your door. And you are saying no? You think we are asking all the students? We are asking only the toppers. You must go Tanvi. Prepare well. Give it your best shot.

The girl was terrified at the thought of failing on television. She backed out.

At the age of 13 – Junior high school in New York City

The teenager raises her hand to answer a question. She has just started talking. There is a giggle. Someone mocks her accent.

Teacher: Let her talk. Than Vee, go ahead.

The teenager becomes quiet.

It was not worth going through this humiliation. She decided never to raise her hand again.

At the age of 15- PTA Meeting. Creative writing class. High school in New York city

The father is dressed in a black suit and tie. Mother is wearing trousers and a blazer. They are at their formal best. They enter with  their gawky teenage daughter.

Teacher: Oh Tanvi is a gift! She is awesome. She has great story telling skills. She is logical with her thoughts, and articulates her thoughts very well. Her grammar is perfect. I just have one area of improvement for her.

Teenager replies meekly with a smile: Class participation!

Teacher: Yes! I would like you to participate more in the class discussions. You never say a word! And when I read your assignments, I am mesmerized. Imagine if you would say all of that in class!

Teenager: Yes. I know. I can write very well. But when I talk I feel conscious.

Teacher: Don’t be. With your intelligence, you cannot say anything wrong.

At the age of 23 – Mumbai at home

Click here to see the CA Final Results. Enter Registration number.

FAIL

As tears streamed down her cheeks, she wondered.

I was never the beautiful one.

I was never the popular one.

All I was ever, was the intelligent one.

I am not even that anymore?

Who am I?

She passed the exam a year later.

At the age of 24.. At an official training. Banquet hall of a 5 star hotel

She is sitting in the last round table. She is not making any eye contact with the trainer, afraid he may ask a question.  At the same time she is nodding, pretending to listen.

This is so boring. He mugged up all this stuff! What if I had to be the trainer? Nah.. they would never ask me. Imagine if the training was about something I knew. Or something I was good at. Then I would be the star. But what am I  good at…… There has got to be something… Think…think. Yeah. Bollywood! If there was a Bollywood training I could totally take it… One session could be on songs. With a quiz. Guess the movie from the song. I could also do a session on Bollywood relationships. Guess – Who was Riya Sen’s grandmother…
Name three sister duos from Bollywood. Yeah… I would totally rock it.

Same age. A random office lunch

Someone made a joke. Everybody laughed. The woman barely listened. She is lost in her thoughts as always.

“Tanvi did not laugh.” – Guy 1.

“She did not understand the joke.” – Someone else

“Don’t talk like that. She will get angry.” – Someone else.

“Is she angry? I can’t tell! She is so expressionless!!! Tanvi make an angry face!”

He has a hearty laugh.

At the age of 26. She qualified as a CA 2 years ago. Working in a reputed firm. Year-end appraisal.

Four people are looking at her like hawks in a conference room. One by one they start talking. About how she has not achieved the goals. How she is good for nothing. How she is a big, miserable failure.

She listens. In the beginning she tries to defend herself. But then she gives up.  She wants them to stop talking. But no. They want to make sure it is CLEAR to her, point by point. Every word is a dagger. It pierces through her heart, her soul and her being.

Don’t start crying here. Be dignified. At least control yourself till you reach the washroom.

Present day.

Who took away her confidence?

Was it those bullying kids?

Was it failure in a professional exam which is known to be so difficult?

Was it people from work?

From a little girl who was confident even when she was wrong, she had grown up to be a nervous woman who felt she was wrong even when she was right. Who gave the right to every person to take away her confidence. Who trusted others’ belief of who she was, more than who she knew she was.

____________________________________________

She read the email again.

Dear Tanvi,

Would you be interested in moderating a panel discussion? We would be discussing how women are enjoying outdoor spaces

Opportunity is knocking at your door. She remembered her elementary school teacher’s words.

With your intelligence, you would never say anything wrong. She remembered her high school teacher’s words.

Yes. She typed. Send.

Beyond the doors. Bangalore. March 9th, 2018

I reached the venue. A little nervous. A little unsure of myself. But super excited.

A woman with the sweetest face and the most contagious smile was talking.  She was not trying to inspire anyone. She was talking logically. She was talking about herself and her experiences. Smooth, natural flow of thought. She was just being herself. But the audience was mesmerized. And so was I.

Somebody asked her how come she is so positive all the time? Does she think about dark clouds?

“Why should I think of the dark clouds when I can think about the light clouds. This is me!” – She said flashing that beautiful, confident, ravishing smile matter-of-factly.

She was Dhanya Ravi.

I was overwhelmed with emotion. That one line uplifted my spirits.

This is me…..

 I am Tanvi. I  get nervous when I have to speak in public. My stomach hurts. My palms get sweaty. I tremble. This is me!

I say Umm and You know after every word. This is me!

I will roll my tongue over my teeth, while I am still talking to you to check if my lipstick has spread over my teeth. This is me!

I may mess up this discussion. But it is okay. This is me!

I had a great session. Enjoyed every moment of it. Loved talking to such accomplished women. The smiles, the nods, and the claps from the audience gave me a high.

Who gave me back my confidence?

Dhanya Ma’am, you have written in your profile, ‘All good things come in a small package.”

But let me tell you this Ma’am. You are not small.

You are bigger that our insecurities and our egos.

You are bigger than our inner demons and inner battles that we struggle with every day.

You are bigger than our shallow concerns and problems which actually do not matter, but we are too full of ourselves to believe it.

You are bigger than all of us who love feeling like victims, the moment the smallest thing goes wrong in life.

You are bigger than the people who try to make others feel small just so that they can feel big.

You are bigger than any person I have ever met in my life.

I love you Ma’am. You have made me wiser. In one day!  I have gained my confidence back after years.  I promise myself that I will never let anybody take away my confidence again.

Image source

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Parents, Your Child’s Divorce Is Not About You

Women’s Web shared this article again yesterday.  You can read it here. I had written it more than two years ago.

This article has been very popular. I receive messages from women who may be going through something similar. Yesterday, also I received a message from a woman who is in a horrible marriage.  Let’s call her Riya. Her husband and in-laws treat her very badly. She is extremely unhappy.

“I am always angry”, she said.

I know what that anger feels like….

To constantly hear ill from someone who you live with and his entire family… When all of them gang up against you. The abuses. The taunts. The disrespect. The humiliation. It is never worth it…

I asked her if she is financially independent. She is. I asked her then what is the problem. She said her parents are not letting her get out. It has been just a year. They believe she should make it work because anyway she will be miserable as a “divorcee”. Plus, everyone has “problems” in their marriage. It reminds me of the movie, Dil Dhadakne Do in which Shefali Chaya’s character tells her daughter, played by Priyanka Chopra , “Todna aasan hai. Nibhana mushkil hai,”. Or something like that. I do not have the patience to go through the movie on Youtube and find the exact dialogue.

Just like Riya, I am also very angry. Every time the conversation of divorce comes up in Riya’s family, her mother emotionally blackmails her by giving example of a lady who had a heart attack because her daughter got divorced. Riya asked me what if something happens to her mother if she takes such a step.

I do not have an answer for her.

Why are her parents behaving like this? Isn’t she going through enough? Is it fair that one of the considerations in this already complicated decision would be her mother’s possible heart attack? No. She is not even a heart patient!!

Riya is earning well. If she separates from her husband, she can afford to live on her own. She will not go back to her parents’ house. She already lives in a different city.  Why is her divorce so much about her parents, and not about her?

Probably because the marriage was also about her parents. We know how most arranged marriages work. The parents (girl’s side mostly) pay for the expenses. The jewelry. The functions. The photographer. The makeup. The grand venue.

I also remember a relative telling me four years ago, “Your parents have more stake in the marriage than you. They are the ones who spent their savings. You are so lucky they are okay to forego all of it because you don’t want to be with that guy anymore. “

I heard variations of this again and again:

Parents spend so much money on the daughter’s wedding. They would not want to lose it.

Second time around also they would have to bear! (if you are lucky to have a second time).

I am not even worried about you. I know you are a strong girl. I am worried about your parents who have to see this in old age.

You are not the victim here. It is your poor parents. They must be going through so much stress! Oh God.

Don’t be so selfish! Can’t you just make it work for your parents’ happiness? Do they not deserve peace in old age?

I don’t know how many of you know about the “Ring Theory”. It is a theory that helps you understand where you stand in a crisis situation and what you should do. Psychologist Susan Silk and her friend Barry Goldman wrote a piece about it.  Quoting,

“If the crisis is happening to you, you are in the center of the ring. If the crisis is not happening to you, you’re in one of the outer circles.

Here are the basic rules from Silk and Goodman’s article:Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person at the center of the crisis.Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In this ring, put the name of the person next closest to the crisis. In each larger ring, put the next closest people. As Silk and Goodman state, “Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones.. Here are the rules: The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, ‘Life is unfair’ and ‘Why me?’ That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.” 

The concept is ‘comfort in, dump out”. The person in the center is suffering the most. That person can say anything they want. The persons in the outer circle may also be very upset. They can share what they feel. But to people in outer circles.

So, in case of a divorce, the person in the center is the person getting a divorce. The parents would probably be in the very next circle. Followed by siblings, grandparents, bua mausi, chacha, mama, cousins etc. But they are not in the center.  The center is for Riya.

But it does not work that way in India. In the center are parents, grandparents, family, honour,  father’s pride, mother’s dream, grandparents’ last wish, sister’s chances in the marriage market, neighborhood aunty’ s uncomfortable questions. I do not even know where to find Riya in this. Somewhere under the dump. Lost.

Yes. I know. Any parent would not want their child to go through a divorce. Everybody wants their children to be happy. In any part of the world. But sometimes things don’t work out.

I will again come back to the movie ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, where Ranveer Singh’s character tells his mother that she did not get out knowing about her husband’s philandering ways because she had nowhere to go.  Yes, it is the harsh reality. Earlier, also marriages may have been bad but women had nowhere to go.  So please it is not about our “family values”, or low divorce rate or the fact that so many people adjusted.

I am sorry parents, but your children’s divorce is not about you.  Even if you paid 30 lakhs on the wedding and jewelry, it is not about you. (You should not have done that in the first place).

This is about their life. Your daughter need not suffer every day, be miserable and angry so that the wedding you attend once a year is free from uncomfortable questions. It is not about you. Or about your neighbor who asks, “Where is her husband”. Her marriage is not about you having peace in your old age. It is about the years and decades ahead of her  that she has to live through.

Dear sundries,

You may know of someone who is going through a divorce. Her divorce is not about you. You do not get to be disappointed in her life and then tell her about it. Please don’t tell her how shocked you are to hear about it. And how you cannot sleep at night. .  Remember comfort in, dump out. You should give her strength. You should try to help her. She is dealing with enough. It does not mean your feelings don’t count. Please feel free to tell other people, in outer circles who are not as vested as her.  But she cannot deal with your disappointments, your pain, your shock, and your horror. She has enough on her plate. 

I am sorry Riya. I am sorry you have to go through this. I feel for you. I am also feeling angry.

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year! A Time Of Gratefulness And New Beginnings

Wish you all a very Happy New Year!!

I feel New Year’s eve is the most overrated time of the year. We feel that we MUST do something. If we don’t, we feel we are missing out on all the fun.  When we plan a party, or vacation everything is overpriced, and may not even be worth it! Then there are safety concerns with people going crazy on alcohol.

For single people, the holidays and New Year’s eve is quite a downer! Torturous may be. It is depressing to see so many lights, love, brightness, buzz, life around which only further brings out the emptiness in your own lives, or memories of better days that are now over. No matter what you do – quiet, house party or loud pub party the connection that you long for with another human being is still missing!  Been single for long, became single recently, not single last year but found yourself single this year? I don’t know which time of the year is toughest for singles – birthdays, valentine’s day or new year’s. I would say, Christmas holidays till New years.

I know some of you were feeling very low during this time. I received messages.  Hope you are feeling better now. I was also feeling low little after Christmas. It was mainly because I was missing my niece who was visiting the week before.

I was not at home around the New Year’s time. I was out and my grandmother (who is very old and forgets a lot) kept asking my parents for me every time she heard any sound. Even when someone moved a chair. She did not realize how long I was gone or whether I had been out for a day or two. Whether it was a holiday or I was at work or sleeping or just locked up inside my room. She just knew she had not seen me for what seemed to her like a while (she does not have much track of time) and was asking for me again and again.

I remember showing one of my childhood photos with my grandmother to my best friend, a few years ago who lived in the US.. She had lived there all her life. She was not in touch with her father’s side of the family who lived in her home country. And her grandmother from her mother’s side had passed away. In the picture, I had just started walking, and my grandmother was pointing towards me and beaming.

“Wow,” she said. “She has loved you for so long!” I was about 20 at that time. When she said this, I had realized how lucky I was to be loved by my grandmother. It is one of those things we take for granted.

Coming back to the present, when I finally came home after New Year’s I gave a big hug to my grandmother. Her face lit up. Looking at her, and her eagerness to meet me, an image flashed before my eyes. Of a grandfather who lost his 28-year-old granddaughter in the fire in Mumbai. She was celebrating her birthday.  I could not read the article and had put the paper away. But the picture I could not forget. God can be so cruel?

The fire tragedy in Mumbai was unbelievable and cruel. My office used to be in Kamala Mills about seven – eight years ago.  I don’t know why nothing changes in our country. The families of the victims of Uphaar tragedy, and the Carlton Towers fire have dedicated their lives to working for fire safety. I have been following their work. Still, human life is not precious here. One preventable accident after another.. There were other horrible incidents around the country too around which I would not get into..

With so many negative feelings and mixed thoughts, I was pretty sure I will have a crappy new year’s. But to my biggest surprise, I ended up having a great time. Probably one of the best in recent times. Something I had not expected in the days before. It was like a roller coaster ride from very low to very high.  If I can sum up my thoughts, I would say this:

Be grateful for everything.  Cherish what you have. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Life can change any moment.

Keep hope.  Good things will happen. Bad days will not go on forever. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Life can change any moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Grief And Tragedy

A woman I know through blogging had lost her daughter who must be about 20. People were commenting on her post:

It is all destiny.

She is in a better place.

It is karma.

It is karma?? Whose karma? The young girl got hit by a speeding car who did not care to stop. He is roaming free. She is dead. She or her family has not done anything to deserve this. I guess the lady who commented meant that this had something to do with past life sins…

I hear some funny things about divorce too. A friend of mine is 28. She is in a relationship. She is not some child who cannot understand that sometimes things don’t work out. Whenever she hears about anyone’s divorce, she says:

Why did they get married if they wanted a divorce.

No, but what was the main reason?

Reason. Logic. Meaning. As humans we find it very difficult to comprehend tragedy and even more difficult to understand grief. We would like to think that there should be some reason. Haven’t we heard, Everything happens for a reason. We have also heard , Shit happens. But we do not like to believe it (for others). Because it defies our faith in the universe.

Another friend of mine and her boyfriend who is from another religion want to get married. They are facing objections from the boy’s family. She had asked the boy in the initial dating days if he intends to marry her. He had said yes. If some other woman gets dumped by a guy, she likes to say, ‘Told you so. You never asked him if he was serious.’ But when she is told that ‘You knew this was coming’, she says that since she had asked the man in the beginning, she was totally right about her choice.

Yes. Everybody’s grief is unique. It is therefore a painful and lonely journey. We refuse to accept that bad things simply happen… To people who did not deserve it!

A perfect couple who was together since college split.

We refuse to believe that one person outgrew the other. We put on our detective hats and try to analyze. Something else must have happened…. We do not want to lose our faith in ‘true love’

A nice caring girlfriend gets dumped without a warning.

We become therapists. She knew the signs coming. She should have known his intentions. She ignored. She was too foolish.

A young woman loses her life on the road.

We would like to think that there was some hidden meaning in it. We do not like to believe that something so cruel could happen just life that.  If it could happen to them, it could happen to us.

And that is scary.

Merry Christmas And Happy Holidays!

The holidays are a time of celebration.

But it is also the time that hurts…

For not everybody is with their family.

For some may have lost someone this year.

Someone may be alone.

Someone is learning to live without someone.

Someone’s family is incomplete today.

Someone’s landscape of life has changed.

But the holidays are also a time for hope.

Of happiness, prosperity and peace

For we are all so brave,

Through our struggles and fears.

 Another year is coming.

I hope this year that awaits you,

Is better than the year that was.

Merry Christmas to you,

And to everyone you care for.

 

 

 

What Did You Pray For Today?

My first school was a convent. We used to pray before every lesson (which was called period), before lunch, and during the morning assembly.  Other than this, my friend and I would visit the chapel inside the school before any exam. This was easily praying about 10 times a day. If a fellow class student was sick, we prayed.  If there was an earthquake anywhere in the world we prayed.  We also had a daily lesion of “Moral science” in which we were taught to become better human beings.  I therefore had a very God-fearing childhood.

The habit of praying for everything continued throughout my childhood and teenage years. The prayer would be very specific such as ‘Please God let me get a 100 on the Math exam.’ One of the strongest prayers of my childhood was when I prayed for my pet dog when he was sick. He died.  It was the first time my innocent mind had to come to terms to the fact that you could close your eyes, pray with sincerity, be a good girl and yet bad things happened.    The dog had died during Navratri. My aunt had told me he went directly to God. I believed her. Prayers continued.

During my teenage years, prayers became more and more shallow. From becoming beautiful and tall, to having my crush ask me out. One time,  I was taking part in an international drama festival on historical fiction in New York City. I was representing my school. It was my dream to win the award. This prayer was added to my list. In fact, it topped my list for few months. One day, I asked my sister (seven years elder) to also pray that I win the contest.

I wish that you win! But I am not going to pray to God for it!”

“What!! You don’t want me to win! It is just one small prayer!”

“I never pray to God for such things. I only pray for the life and health of our family. To keep us all well and safe. That’s all.”

“What do you mean? You don’t pray that you get the highest grade in college! Or that you get an internship in NYSE!”

“Absolutely not! I just pray that we are all healthy and happy. How do you know that winning this contest is the best thing for you?”

“What can be better than winning the international history day competition?”

“You don’t know anything beyond that! God obviously does! And anyway none of these things matter in life.”

This was a shocking revelation for me at 10 years old. Was this how everyone prayed? Non-specific prayer for life and health? What if everyone else listed everything in their prayers and I did not? Wouldn’t I be left out? How would God even know if I did not ask!

As I grew up I started following my sister’s way of praying. God knew the best. And I believed in him. In between I think there were some phases of specific prayers, in addition to the regular one for health and wellness. Please save my job! Please save my relationship!

But as life has unfolded, I have realized God’s plan has certainly been better.

Thank God I lost that job! Thank God I am no more with that person!

I hate preaching. I do not follow religion although I believe in God. But I am talking from experience.

For all those having a rough day, or going through a tough phase, this prayer is for you.

 

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Fight Your Inner Demons! Happy Diwali

Wish all of you a very Happy Diwali!! Some are celebrating it today. Some are celebrating it tomorrow.  But the festivities have started. I have fond memories of Diwali from when I was younger.

When I was growing up, and I think even when most of you were growing up we did not know / care much about pollution. We played with patakas, anaar, phooljhadi, and rockets in all its glory. Diwali was about going out with my dad and shopping for fire crackers. My mother would make me wear jeans, shirt and a jacket so that I am fully covered and safe from blisters. I would want to dress up in a pretty lehenga with a dupatta like the older girls. I was scared of most patakas but I would watch my dad, brothers, neighbors burst it. I would scream and run away when they would burst it, then look back, laugh and clap. Jump around like a monkey. We would also go the roof of the house from where we could see the whole town lit up. We would never be able to use up everything we bought. So the leftover patakas would be used up in the days following Diwali. If there was a cricket match coming up in the next week, then even better use of the leftovers. For me, it was a consolation. I did not want the fun and the excitement to be over. Leftover patakas meant that there was something to look forward to.

I don’t know what growing up does to you! No excitement for anything! Unhappiness, dissatisfaction, non-fulfillment, loneliness, bitterness, jealousy, regret!

Diwali is a celebration of victory and winning over demons. But what about our inner demons? Aren’t they the most difficult to conquer?

If you ever want to tame your inner demons, you must consciously choose never to become too attached to any particular life plan – and always remain open to the idea that there might be an even better life plan for you. –  Karen Salmansohn

                                                                 ***

I woke up feeling a sense of emptiness. It is hard to describe it. It is not the same as sadness. When you are sad, you at least manage to cry. When you are angry, you yell or be rude to someone. But it’s not that. It is a feeling of nothingness.  It just is. It is the fear of not knowing how you may feel the next moment yet trying hard to control it. It is trying not to break up. As if you are a balloon that can burst any moment.  There are so many triggers. It cannot be explained.

Me: Life is beautiful. Life is full of surprises. I should be positive.

Inner demon: Life is beautiful. Yours is not! You have nothing.

Me: Hey, can’t say nothing! I am doing alright.

Inner demon: It depends what alright means! In your case it means just surviving!

Me: I am very grateful. There are people around me dealing with so much more!

Inner demon: Like who? The ones who are earning more than you? The ones who have a family? The ones who are on vacation in some pretty place enjoying while you sit here writing some bitter piece which no one will even read! Hahha!

Me: We should never compare our life with others’.

Inner demon: Then let’s compare your life now with this time last year! Last Diwali you were so happy. You know why. This year started out well for you too. You had high hopes. You were doing well. But now? Nothing that you had planned for yourself turned out the way you wanted. And I think this is how it will be for you from now on. Worse and worse..

Inner demon was winning. I texted a friend. She is always understanding. She asked me to cheer up. She said I should meet her in the evening. But I knew that was not the solution. I would be okay when I meet her. But once I am back, it would be just me and inner demon.

I was sure I would break down. I was sure I would have an outburst. I felt helpless. Like my thoughts are not in my control. My emotions are not in my control. And ofcourse life is not in my control.

Then something happened. I thought of what I had written a few days back. Don’t underestimate the power of little things in life.  Little moments of joy help in healing. Be greedy and grab them all. When you laugh you laugh. It does not matter if you were sad a moment before.  

I decided to distract myself.

  • Saw a KFC styled chicken recipe on youtube and made it. (It was awesome)
  • Watched a movie on Netflix – The Invisible Guest. It was in Spanish with subtitles. Crisp and gripping thriller.
  • Tried out some tests online for improving my English. Brushed up on some mathematical concepts. Nothing helps heal like learning new things. It makes you humble. There is so much to learn!!
  • My domestic helper wore glasses for the first time today. I was surprised. She claimed that she always had it. She does not bother wearing it because she wants to look pretty. I teased her that no wonder her work is so bad! She cannot see dust and dirt! She laughed too. She made the Rangoli outside the house.
  • I took a picture of the Rangoli and sent it to my sister. Also sent to her a picture of my homemade KFC chicken.
  • Searched Halloween costumes online for my niece. Have shortlisted some. Will talk to her soon.
  • Got a call from an old friend. Shared a lame joke.

None of the above involved doing anything drastic. But I am feeling good. More importantly, feeling in charge of my emotions.  There is no outburst. No breaking down.

I have beaten the inner demon. She may be there. But it is my choice whether I listen to her or not. I am not her slave…

It is indeed a Happy Diwali! It is a victory of me over my inner demons. Wish you all the same!

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.

– Lord Buddha

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13 Reasons Why – Suicide Prevention or Suicide Manual?

The latest show that is creating a lot of controversy internationally is Netflix’s original series – “13 Reasons Why”. It is about a high school girl who commits suicide, and leaves 13 audio tapes about the reasons why she did it. (No there is spoiler yet. This happens in the first episode).

The tapes are sent to the people who in some way or another have contributed to her suicide. There are serious issues shown in the show such as bullying, rape, cyber bullying, and of course suicide. The show is based on a book. The intent of the show was to create more awareness about suicide and the importance of being kind and sensitive to others. It sounds like a great idea. But I did not feel that the show manages to achieve this. I felt it glorifies, rationalizes, and justifies suicide.

1. First of all, nobody can call out from the grave. In the show, Hannah Baker reaches out to people after her death through the tapes. The very premise is unrealistic. The show supports the thought that once she commits suicide, people would sympathize with her and finally accept that they did her wrong. It is like a revenge strategy. The people who did her wrong in this case were her classmates. Why does the show make us believe that people will care about us after we are dead? Even if they do, does it really matter once we are gone? The only people who will suffer endlessly are parents, siblings, immediate family members, who do not deserve to suffer. The rest of the world (including classmates) may care for some time. Then they will forget and move on.

2. Hannah tries to get help from the school counselor who is not of much help. Why could she not reach out to her parents? Her parents are loving and do care for her. What kind of example is this setting? That there is no help whatsoever and suicide is the only logical option? I know that this does happen.People do not believe or support the rape / assault survivor or undermine the feelings of somebody who sounds depressed. But they could have shown her atleast put in some more effort to fix things for herself. That would have set a better example. How would assault / rape survivors / bullied teens feel after watching this show? That killing themselves is natural? Something that is expected of them?

3. Throughout the show, there are a bunch of high school kids keeping secrets in an attempt to “honour” their friendship. I found this very annoying. Some of them have supportive and approachable parents who keep asking them what is wrong. Still, none of them reach out to any responsible adults. It would have been more balanced if at least some character had sense of right and wrong.

4. I don’t even want to get into the graphic suicide scene.

5. The show puts the responsibility of Hannah’s suicide on so many of her classmates (not just the rapist) who received the tapes. “We all killed Hannah!” Does she ever mention her suicidal thoughts to anybody? Is she suffering from a mental illness? Sure, they could have behaved better with her. But were all they supposed to just know, and help her?

6. People who have appreciated the show have said that it will help start conversations on suicide, being such a tabooed topic. No, I don’t think we are still at that point in time where we should applaud each other just for initiating conversations. We should not have such low standards. We should work towards finding solutions, helpline options, feasible support groups.

Teen suicide is a very pertinent issues in the US. In India, so many students commit suicide because of academic pressure. Female celebrities have committed suicide after a break-up. Suicide is horrific and the biggest pain for the surviving family members. Recent live streaming of the video of a young man jumping to his death on a social networking site death was extremely disturbing. It was a call for help. But no help can be delivered after death.

Some people may be suffering from serious mental illnesses and their actions may not even be in their control. They need professional help.

The last thing people should be made to believe is that if they kill themselves, finally people who ignored and hurt them will realise they were in pain all along. And this would be their justice.