Many moons, Many purposes

Someone recently asked me the purpose of my life. The one purpose that makes my life meaningful. I frankly had no answer.

Life is not constant. It changes every time you breathe, with every thought you take and with every act you do. Then how does life have one meaning and one purpose.

I have often thought of life as a moon. A journey from new moon to the full moon and back to the new moon. Each phase of life comes with its purpose and all you need to do is to allow yourself to accept it.

Think of the new moon. The darkest phase of your life. When nothing is visible and all you can see is the darkness all around you. It is a phase from nightmares, where the ghosts of the pasts haunt you. Seemingly mundane things take ominous scary meaning simply because I lack the sight to interpret it correctly. I feel lost, alone and hopeless. So what purpose does this phase serve?

On the darkest of the night, the stars are brightest. The purpose is to appreciate these stars. Small insignificant things which we ignore when there is too much brightness around. These stars may seem insignificant, but they are not. They are huge heavenly bodies which are suns to their own solar system. Small experience in our lives, conversations with random people, a small gesture and sweet smile, all of these are the stars of our life. They are millions of them, uncountable, we just don’t see them when things are going well. And then there are the shooting stars, sacrifices of people which helped me fulfil a wish. When else do I see them but on a darkest night.

Ask an astronomer, he will tell you that you are most likely to see the constellations and planets on the darkest nights. The collective wisdom of mankind, the learnings from our elders and the knowledge of the world makes sense to us when we are not blinded by the lights of our arrogance and intelligence. The darkness makes me humble, it makes me realise that there is so much to learn and so much to experience.

And then the legends say that Goddess Lakshmi comes when the night is dark. Success comes to me when I accept my lows and use it to work towards my goal.

The new moon phase of my life is probably the most difficult but has a bigger purpose than we give credit for.

Then comes the crescent moon. The phase of the new beginning. Learning new things, starting a new relationship, finding a new job or even the prelude of a favourite song. It stirs up excitement. It gives a feeling of hope. This phase is probably like that of a toddler’s life. So many things to learn and explore without the burden of responsibility. Just learning for pleasure and not for mastery.

The crescent moon is also the much awaited Eid ka Chand. A new beginning after hard work and sacrifices. A time to celebrate and rejoice for the life is going to take a new turn from here on.

The moon slowly continues to grow and so does life. I am not talking about growth in terms of years but in terms of experiences. Each passing day we meet new people, undergo different experiences and look at life differently.

Sometimes the life looks monotonous. We feel as if we are at a status quo. That we are stuck and are not moving forward. At this time remember the moon. The moon continues to change every day. Sometimes the change is not obvious to us. Not because it is too small but simply because we are not looking at it carefully enough. Or maybe we are so looking forward to the full moon that we forget to appreciate the smaller changes in life. But these small changes continue to happen and they continue to fill our life with more light and more meaning. We only we could stay awake a little longer and observe with an open mind.

Then comes the night before the full moon. The Chaudavi ka Chand. The epitome of beauty with promises of more to come. The most awaited stage in our life. The hard work that we put in, the sacrifices that we made have finally borne fruit.

 Yes do enjoy this phase of life. But in this phase of life don’t forget the millions of stars who are doing their best to shine. Yes they are not as bright as you but they are still trying the best. Maybe you outshine them but they will outlive your brightness. These are the people around us. The one’s we consider are ‘lesser’. The one’s we believe we are superior to. But they teach a lesson to us. They are suns to their solar system, they give light to others. Your success is a reflection which changes each passing day. This phase teaches us to respect the people who seemingly are lesser than us but have the strength to light up the world. No one is insignificant in your life nor are you insignificant in anyone’s life. You may not be the moon to someone but you could be a distant star to them. Say a kind word, do a random act of kindness you may just be lightening up someone’s new moon night.

The full moon. The point of completeness and wholeness. The inspiration to many. The success of my life. The point of life when I am at the brightest. I have the power to inspire, to guide others and to show them the way of life. Life has reached its fullest. It has come a long way from despair of the new moon.

This is the life we dream of. But the full moon is bright only if it doesn’t hide behind the clouds. These clouds are our fears and insecurities. They stop us from revealing our true potentially. These clouds are not letting me see the purpose of my life. I need to set them aside to come forward not only to shine bright but also to inspire others.

There however is a flip side to the full moon. It brings out the werewolf in seemingly normal people. Our success will bring out the evil. No I am not talking about jealousy. I am talking about the evil monster in us. The one who is so full that he/she can cause the harm to others. The purpose of life then becomes to destroy just because I have the power to. Remember the full moon is the closest to earth and that is the reason it appears bright. I need to build relations in this phase of my life. I need to come closer to people who need me or are looking up at me. The moon appears lower in the sky when it is full. I have to go down and bend forward. I have to listen to the unheard and the underdog to illuminate their lives with my light. It is the purpose of the full moon.

 I believe the people around me are so blinded by my beauty and success that they will not see the faults in me. How wrong we are. It is during the full moon when I can see the dark patches on the moon. At the height of my success, people will criticise me, point out my faults. They will tell me that I am there because of the sun and I have no brightness of my own. Just remember that the sun shines on all heavenly bodies only a few choose to reflect it back.

This phase is marred with anxiety. The waning is going to start. I will slowly spiral into nothingness. To another phase of new moon. But this new moon is different. This time I am armed with the learning of last time. I know that life comes a full cycle. This time I know my despair also has a purpose.

The moon has no light of its own. What it has is the will to absorb the light from the harsh sun and reflect it in milder ways. No one can look at the sun.  It is up to the moon to pass on the brightness.

The purpose of my life is to absorb the happiness and wisdom from the world and reflect it back to you.

 

Gauri

Gratitude Unlimited….

I recently read a post on social media: “I used to complain about not having shoes till I saw a man with no legs”. Roughly interpreted it means that we should grateful for what we have because there are so many who don’t even have that.

A very thoughtful message but I have a question. Why is gratitude a matter of comparison? Why do I have to be grateful for having something that other people don’t have?  What if I never meet a man with no legs, should I not be grateful for my shoes?

This attitude starts right in childhood; ‘drink your milk because there are kids who don’t get milk’ or ‘finish your food because there are children who are starving’. And most kids would willingly give away their milk and green vegetables to these children. I met a child who asked his mother why she was stealing the food of the children who wanted it and giving it to him when he did not even like it!! How does that make them appreciate their food?  If everybody in the world had food, should I still not be grateful for it?

I have seen a lot of mothers compare the grades of their children with others. It does not matter how much you score as long as your score is not less than that of your friends. And then the children are motivated to study because they have ‘everything’ and how others don’t.  So do I study because I have a separate room and lots of books or do I study because I want an education?

A lot of people try to comfort a person undergoing depression by saying ‘there are so many who suffer more’. How is that supposed to cheer me up? I would feel even more depressed. How does hearing that someone else is suffering more than I am help me cope with my suffering? Should I not focus on learning to cope with my problems and then help someone else with my experience?

It is really sad that we have to learn gratitude from someone’s misery. I know the intention is to make one understand and appreciate smaller things in life or maybe even develop empathy for the less privileged. But can that not be done without the comparison?

Imagine this situation, a child whose plate is full sees a beggar child on the road and gratefully eats all that there is on his plate and another child who sees a beggar child and shares what is on his plate. A child who studies harder because there are kids who can’t go to school and a child who comes back from school and plays with the maid’s son sharing his crayons as they both draw together. A young woman putting up with sexual harassment at office because she is grateful she is not a rape victim or a young woman reaching out to others who face harassment and putting a stop to it. Who has more empathy? Which one of them has learnt gratitude?

You don’t have to have more to be grateful. If seeing someone in pain takes away your pain then you need to search within.  Gratitude is being thankful for what I have and not what others don’t have. I am thankful that I have a healthy body, a sane mind and basic comforts not because I meet people who don’t have any of these. I am grateful because I can use all these to help people who don’t have what I have.

Gratitude is another word for being thankful and not another word for guilt. We don’t need to guilt trip someone into being grateful. I appreciate what I have because it helps me and not because someone else is deprived of it.

Next time you meet someone without legs use your hands to help them and then be grateful for your hands…

Next time you eat use the energy to better the society and then be grateful for the food on your plate…

Next time you see orphan hug him and then be grateful to your parents who taught you how to love…

The sound of silence

Ironic it is that I choose to write about silence when there are crackers bursting all around me. But it is in the midst of chaos that we crave for method and it is in all this noise that we appreciate the sound of silence.

If I were to ask you what your greatest fear is, what would you say? If you were faced by a boggart from Harry Potter what form would it take? Most of us would probably fear being lonely the most. To be away from our loved ones or those who comfort us is a very scary thought.

Man is essentially a social animal. We need people around us no matter how annoying they are. Isolation and solitary confinement are used as punishment and are known causes of depression. A house full of people chattering away noisily, kids laughing and women giggling is how we picture a happy family.

But can we be happy only when we are around people? How would we fare if we are to stay alone for a while. I know this idea may appeal to many, especially to harassed mothers but most of us are not comfortable with it for an extended period of time.

We fear being alone because we are scared of loneliness. What we fail to realize is that being alone and being lonely are two different things all together. People suffering from loneliness often complain of feeling lonely even when surrounded by people they love. One of my all time favourite gazals aptly puts it as

“Dekhiye to lagata hai ek bheed chalti hai,

Sochiye to lagta hai bheed mein hai sab tanha…”

(When you see you see a crowd, but if you think everyone in that crowd is lonely)

 Simply put it means that what we see is very different from what reality is. A lot of people envy others who they perceive as surrounded by loved ones. Nobody ever peeked into their minds and saw them being jealous of us for the same reason.

Why are we so scared of being lonely? I have seen many people stay in abusive or non- fulfilling relationships just because they are scared of being ‘alone’ or lonely.

Since childhood we have grown up on this romantic concept of ‘someone somewhere is made for us’  or that we are a part of the jig-saw puzzle called family and we need to fit in to feel whole. I do not deny the need or even the importance of a partner or a family. My point is an incomplete part can not complete the whole. A broken jig-saw piece will leave gaps in the puzzle.

A person who is not comfortable within himself/herself can’t provide support to others. Why are we so scared of being with ourselves? Whenever we are alone we need to have gadgets or books or music around us to keep us distracted. Why do we run away from being alone with our thoughts?

So how do we become comfortable with being with ourselves? Let us try some simple tips.

  • The Dictionary tip: Amitabh Bachchan in the 70s gave us very valuable insightEnglish is a funny language. Not just English any language for that matter assigns different meanings to similar words. The first step is to accept that ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’ are two such words. You can’t say “Leave me lonely!” instead of “Leave me alone!”, right? Then why assume that they mean the same things. A person who is alone is not necessary lonely, a person who is alone is not necessarily alone. Being alone at times is beneficial to your physical and mental health. Try spending time with yourself. And by yourself I don’t mean with your gadgets. I have seen people getting restless in waiting rooms if they don’t have any ‘distractions’. Why do we need to have external sources of entertainment? The computer was inspired by the brain. The human brain is capable of amusing itself if you just allow it to. Sit alone, create a story, paint a picture, sing a song. Just because it is happening in your head doesn’t mean it is not real (I really need to stop reading Harry Potter)
  • The Narcissist tip: Try falling in love with yourself. If you can be a fun company to others, if you can comfort others, if you can advice others, you can do all that to yourself. Yes we all have weaknesses and we all have shortcomings. But so do our lovers and best friends. If we can put up with their annoying behaviours why can’t we put up with our own? Try going out with yourself. Have you ever eaten a meal all by yourself in a restaurant or watched a movie alone? Do it! No one to question what you order, no one to laugh at you when you cry at silly dialogues and no one to complain when you spend more on popcorn than the movie ticket. It does not mean that you have no friends it only means that you are complete within yourself.
  • The Drainage pipe tip: Have you had a chocked drainage pipe? How do you deal with it? Do you ignore it? Do you change the house because of it? No you just pass the water through it till the water pushes out the waste. Our mind is like a drainage pipe, we all have waste in our brains. Unwanted memories and thoughts which block the free flow of our thinking. Ignoring them or looking for external distraction will not help. Just allow your thoughts to flow. Let them pass. Eventually they will clean themselves out. Maybe through tears maybe through logic but they too shall pass. Once you start spending some time alone, you will appreciate the silence because in this silence will lie the solution to all your worries. All of have our most brilliant ideas in the loo don’t we?

We don’t have to fear being lonely when we learn how to be with ourselves. Sometimes all we need for peace of mind, is some alone time. Let the silence envelope you. You don’t need people to be happy or to have fun. All you need is imagination and a little someone called you.

Why search for peace in the sounds of noise

If I listen in silence I will find a voice.

Listen to the sound of silence that originates within

All your answers you will find herein;

 

I will never be lonely again because I have me for company always…..

This Diwali be your own lamp, brighten your own life and see how beautiful the world looks…

Happy Diwali!!

 

 

For the love of the husband

The biggest kid in my house is my husband. Every single married woman will agree to this statement. The man you want to throttle on a daily basis but at the same time pray for his long life every day.

Traditionally there are many rituals and prayers that the woman does for the long and healthy life of her husband. The feminist scoff at them while the traditionals swear by their importance. Let us not get into that debate at all. Maybe it works maybe it doesn’t.

Let us look at this from another perspective. My husband’s physical and mental health is important to me. Chiefly because a sick husband is a nightmare to handle ;-). But on a serious note, is there something I can do to ensure a happy and a healthy man?

Now there are millions of advertisements on television which talk about the type of oil to the type of soap that can keep your man healthy. Let us not focus on those. Let us focus on the ‘happy’ and mentally healthy hubby. Are there any tricks that can ensure that my man remains sane?

  • The healthy wife trick: I have said this before and I will continue to say this. Only a healthy woman can have a healthy man. You can’t make your family healthy by ruining your health. I have seen many women not eat the vegetable they cooked because it was ‘not enough’ or eating stale food and giving the husband ‘fresh’ roti. Why? Isn’t marriage about sharing? You not eating good, fresh and healthy food and subsequently developing health problems will not improve his life. You can’t manage the house and the husband without being a healthy wife.
  • The partner wife trick: Marriage is a partnership and not a competition. I have seen many couples compete with each other over trivial matters. “He goes out with his friends twice a week so I need to do it too?” This from a woman who does not enjoy going out. Why do we need to compete for sleeping hours, number of clothes, amount of money spent and earned, time spent with the kid, household chores etc etc? “The division of labour needs to be equal” argued a woman. Yes, so does it mean that he fold 10 clothes and you fold the remaining 10. Or does it simple mean that you share work? Choose and divide the work rather than insisting that he do the same work that you do because ‘it should be equal’. Marriage means moving forward together and not trying to out do each other.
  • The non Catch 22 wife trick: Most of us love testing our husbands by asking trick questions. The one’s where he is doomed if he says yes and doomed if he says no. One woman insisted on asking her husband’s approval for the kind of clothes she wore and then complained that he disapproved of her wearing western clothes :-0. Poor guy then started saying ‘it’s nice’ to every bit of clothing. He was then accused of ‘not even looking at me properly’. Avoid questions like these which act like a mouse trap. If you ask for an opinion learn to accept it or else don’t bother.
  • The degrees of comparison trick: “Is she prettier than me”, “do I cook better than your mother”, “who do you love the most in the world”. No worse form of psychological torture. These can guarantee panic attacks in the husband. Spare the guy, how does he honestly answer such questions?
  • The non calculating wife trick: If you ask a married man what he hate most in life I am sure the answer would be “ I have done so much for you” statement. Making him count his blessing every day, forcing him to realize that marrying you was better that winning gold is so unnecessary. If you have to force someone to appreciate you then it is not worth it. Getting married was a conscious decision let it not be seen as a favour to mankind.
  • The tit for tat trick: Please let us not become characters from children’s stories. The reason marriage is the union between two adults is that we deal with issues like adults. He criticized me so I need to do it too will only make it uglier. Getting back at him will not solve any issue it will just give rise to new ones.
  • The family no.1 trick: The ‘whose family is better’ debate is a never ending one. Is there even an answer to it? Praising your family and criticizing his will not make a pleasant discussion. Now I now most of you will jump too ‘he does it too’ argument. Please refer to the tit for tat trick for a solution. The best family is the one you will make together.
  • The critic trick: “Oh my husband cooks so well but he leaves the kitchen in a mess.” “ He cleaned up the house but not upto my satisfaction”. Can we give credit where credit is due? Don’t we want appreciation? Don’t we complain how people never are satisfied with what we do? Do unto others what you want others to do to you.
  • The scissors trick: Most men get caught between the wife and the mother and almost all are unable to find the right way to deal with it. What we fail to realize is raving and ranting about the bothersome mother-in-law in front of her son is not going to change her. We spend most of our precious free time together cribbing about the in laws to the husband and then we complain that he never spends time with us. I think we are capable of dealing with our problems on our own. Our whole struggle is to become independent isn’t it? Then why demand that our husband supports us while dealing with your in-laws. Take control of the situation and find you own support.

Pray for your husband’s long life don’t make it seem longer…..

Ek chutki sindoor ki kimat

Marriage has been a point of discussion ever since Adam and Eve (who ironically were never married). It  has inspired movies, books, debates and what not. It has been the cause and effect of both agony and ecstasy in all our lives.

Let us not deny the role that marriage has in our lives. Irrespective of whether you are married or single, this word has a huge significance in our life.

In our society the discussion of marriage begins early in life. A father who was blessed with a beautiful daughter once told me that from then on he would buy some gold every year for her marriage. Proud as a peacock of his foresight. What about her education? Oh that still has time!!! I just can’t wait to see him in the admission queue for nursery ;-))

All of us grew up listening to our mothers and grandmothers rant about how “this” kind of behaviour would not be tolerated in our sasural. A mother once came to me with her adolescent daughter who had “anger issues”. “I will tolerate her temper but not her mother in law!!” was her main concern.

Of course make friends with a boy and he suddenly becomes a prospective groom. Does he come from a good family? Does he have enough earning capacity? Never mind the fact that he might not have started shaving yet.

We grow up dreaming  of an ideal marriage. The one from fairy tales and Yash Chopra movies. The one with romance and adventure and happily ever after. We all want a husband who loves us and respects us and cares for us but not one of us can define what those words mean.

There is no denying that things change after marriage. I have heard many men comment “She is not my girlfriend anymore she is my wife.”

So does marriage demand a price? What is the kimat of the sindoor? To begin with let us accept that there is no such concept of an ideal marriage. Secondly the concept of ideal is different for the man and the woman. Thirdly the concept of ideal is different from one house to the other.

What do we expect from a married woman? She is suddenly expected to bloom from a girl into a woman. She has to accept the new role, the new house and the new family with grace. The new parents and the extended family have to take precedence over her “old” family. The customs and traditions of this new family suddenly become the right way of doing things. Of course these are just the bare minimum expectations.

Beyond this we have to be thankful for the fact that our husbands help us at home or that we allowed to dress the way we want, that no one stops us from doing the things we want to do.

So how do I deal with the price? How do I decide whether the price is something that I want to pay?

The first thing is to accept that the marriage or for that matter any relationship comes with a price. Not just for the woman but for the man too. Let us not get into the debate of who has to pay the bigger price.

I think the root cause of most problems in a married relationship is this debate of who invests more in the relationship. Each of us talk about how ‘ I am the only one working on this marriage’ or how the effort put by me is greater than that of my husband. We can argue about this till eternity and still not get an answer.

Women have been brought up to believe in sacrifices. Our stories, our folklore, our movies have taught us that to be a woman means to sacrifice. And we get tangled in this web. We stop considering ourselves as good wives till we have a sheet long list of the price we paid for our marriage to work. What we don’t realize is that the more we talk about “how we had to do something” the more helpless we make ourselves. The more helpless we make ourselves the more trapped we feel. A trapped animal is never healthy. It either gives up the will to survive or fights back unnecessarily.

This is what we tend to do in our relationships. Either we give up and ‘accept or destiny’ or fight for irrelevant issues. I have seen many woman just rebel against something just because the husband asked her to do it. When you fight the battle on so many fronts you probably will lose the ones which are really important to you.

The other problem is the psychological jail that we have created for ourselves. Most women talk about feeling guilty using their husband’s money. Is it not your money? Does he feel guilty of eating what you cook, living in the house that you cleaned? No it does not even cross his mind. Why does it cross yours?

I am not saying that you must accept everything. Choose your battles wisely. Fight for what is important to you. If something has too high a price, don’t pay it. However this decision is not based on what feminism demands but what is important to you. It is not about what the world considers modern but what is unacceptable to you.

A relationship is not a balance sheet. What you put in is probably not going to be the same as what you get. It is more like a mutual fund which is subject to market risks ;-). But if you invest wisely you will get substantial returns.

Line of Control

No I am not trying to solve the border issue though I wish I could.

The Line of Control is a pre decided boundary between two countries, violation of which is forbidden. Crossing this boundary requires permission from the country and only a select few get it.

How often have you wished that there was such a line in existence in our real life? A point beyond which no one would be allowed to enter.

In absolute sciences there is a concept of threshold beyond which the matter or substance will change. We know the absolute point where water will boil and the solid will break. Unfortunately there are no ‘absolutes’ in our life.

At which point do we decide that we have had enough? I think therein lies the problem most women face. We do not have a reference point where our tolerance ends.

Take the point of sexual harassment. Ask any woman from any place around the world and she will tell you that she has faced some form of harassment. From boys whistling at you to being groped in the bus most of us have faced it at some point of time. So at what point does eve- teasing become harassment? Who draws the line at harmless flirting to offensive behaviour? Where lays the threshold? Is it defined by the legal system? Or is it defined by the norm of the society? If it has happened to most of us is it then normal?

Another example is that of domestic violence. When do we say we have had enough? Which is the right point to fight back? When does a push become abuse? Is violence only physical? Most women may not face physical violence in their home but that does not mean that they don’t face abuse. Belittling the woman’s looks, capacity or intellect are forms of abuse too. Controlling her actions and questioning her acts are humiliating too. Why should they not be above the threshold?

The threshold has to be defined by all of us. Each one of us is different and has a different view of what is ok and what is not ok. We need to have our own point of reference and respect it too. We often come across a girl who is upset by  some boys who passed lewd remarks as she walked past. Most of us would react by saying that it is okay I have had worse. So? That was our limit, this is hers and we need to acknowledge that.

A young woman filed for divorce because she felt that her husband did not respect and value her. Most of us would judge her. We put up with so much more!! This is how most men are!! Just because you put up with it does not me someone else should. It also does not mean that she has no tolerance. It just means that her boundaries are different than yours.

It also work the other way. We tend to look down upon women who tolerate more than us. “She has no sense of self respect”. “She is old fashioned”. No she just has a different threshold that you do.

However more than respecting the boundaries of others we need to respect and honour our own boundaries. Imagine if your country had a new boundary every day. How confused the world would be? And how prone to attack would we be? Why? Because no one will have a clear understanding of where your limit starts.

I have often heard women talk about how they put up with a lot of things initially and how things just got worse. Whose fault is that? How is a person to understand that this behaviour is not acceptable unless it is made clear the first time it is done and then every time thereafter? What is wrong is wrong from the beginning. Our teacher did not accept 2+2 as 5 in the first grade and then whack us if we wrote it in the second grade.

We often tend to keep pushing our boundaries too. “I will react the next time”. I will raise my voice if the whistling actually becomes a remark. And when it becomes a remark we wait for the next step. We wait for the push to become a slap and a slap to become a repeat till we are not sure of where to draw the line.

Let us today decide where our limits lie and respect it. Let us not wait for the next attack.

The Goddess within

I have often been asked why we worship a woman in the form of Goddess yet treat our women miserably. Truthfully I have often wondered that too. Irony or hypocrisy?

I remember this one incident when we visited a temple where women were denied entry. My little one asked me “Are there any temples of Goddesses where men are not allowed?” This innocent question had so much depth in it. Someone overheard the question and replied “because women are more accommodating, they welcome everyone.” This was said with a tone of pride. How proud we are of being all accommodating and accepting.

We have glorified womanhood. A loving, caring, forgiving super woman and the best of us try to fit ourselves into that role. How often have we had conversations where we talk about how men are simply not capable of playing certain roles? How it takes a woman to run a house, raise a child, feed the family, heal the sick etc etc.

Fact of the matter is that we somewhere enjoy the role of a martyr. We have a sense of pride about all the sacrifices we make in our lives because we are a “woman”. I once asked someone “What will happen if you were not at home for a week?” Somewhere most of us are afraid of this answer.

My sense of pride comes from this template of woman we have in our brains. I may crib and cry about how I have to manage everything but I secretly need it to feel a sense of fulfillment. I met this woman who complained about how she had to do everything in the house. “Not one thing will be done if I am not around”. She felt exhausted and worn out. So we got her admitted in the hospital for a few days. Guess what? The family did not die of starvation, there were no plague rats in the house and the kids did not flunk school. Was the woman happy? No she cried because no one needed her.

A woman’s sense of self worth seems to have become directly proportional to the sacrifices she feels she makes. “I sacrificed my career for my house” feels so much better than “I chose to look after my house.” Imagine you go out for a day out with your friends. You come back to see your husband and kids had fun all day, ate well, kids did homework and no tornado hit your house. Can you in all honesty tell me that you not a wee bit jealous? Did you not walk around the house to find a reason to complain maybe the packets of chilly flakes that did not go in the dustbin or the clothes that your husband did not hang?

A woman is the manifestation of all nine forms of Durga.

Shailaputri the daughter the one who is capable of looking after her parents but still has a desire to be pampered and taken care of. When was the last time you pampered yourself? Just made coffee for yourself and watched some movie without feeling guilty of all the pending work left. The daughter in you craves for pampering not from the father but from you. She wants you take care of yourself and spend time being a free spirit.

Bhramacharini who realizes that the world is not an easy place but will do all to make it work. The stern and firm attitude that we use to run our house or manage workplace; let us use it to look after ourselves. Let us use this inner austerity to live a healthy and beautiful life.

Chandraghanta, the one who brings peace and tranquility. What did I do for my inner peace today? What did I do to feel a sense of pleasure?  A lot of women have told me that they stopped pursuing their hobbies because work and home took priority. And you forgot that all work and no play make you dull. Let us find pleasure and let us find peace for ourselves. You can only give away what you have.

Kushmanda, the creator of light, while you light up the life of those around you, don’t forget that the universe includes you too. Learn something new even if it is not useful for career or family. Keep the light of knowledge on forever.

Skanda Mata, the fighter of evil, the protector. Fight the evil that surrounds you. Protect yourself too. Just because you are a woman does not mean you need to submit. Learn to say no and respect it. Choose your battles, find what is important to you and fight for it because no one else can fight for you.

Katyayani , the daughter, the one who makes the world realize that life can’t go on without a daughter. Be the one who respects the little girl within. Laugh at silly jokes and cry at stupid movies, we are after all the pond of these emotions.

Kaal Ratri, the dark skinned Goddess. The beauty that lies within all of us. Stop your body shaming! Respect your body, the colour of your skin, the weight of your body, the length of your hair does not matter. What matters is the shine in your eyes and the radiance of your smile which will only come when you accept that you are beautiful.

Gauri, the loving one. Love the way you are. Whether you work at the office or the home, whether you hold a doctorate or with no formal education, whether you can participate in master chef or can’t boil water, what matters is that you love yourself.

Siddhidatri, the healing one. Heal yourself before you attempt to change the world. The bitterness we carry for the world that does not treat us like Goddesses is ultimately destroying us. Treat yourself like the Goddess that you are. Offer yourself the prasad you like and the clothes you like. Healing starts from accepting that life is not perfect but it is still mine to live.

Change begins from within. Change the way you treat yourself.

These nine days let The Godddess within us realize her worth and change the world like only she can……

The mard ka dard logic

I know what you are thinking (keeping true the ridiculous myth of what psychologist can do). You are thinking of Amitabh Bachchan on his horse fighting all those villains. This dialogue was definitely met with applause by most men and eye rolls by most women.

The almost instantaneous reaction to this statement is what do men know about pain when they can never experience labour pain. True but they have to endure women go on and on about labour pain and that must be painful enough!!

The basic requirement of a psychologist is the ability to empathise. To put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their point of view. So here is me trying on those ridiculous socks and shoes of the men around me and feel their pain.

So what pain do men go through (apart from wearing shoes and socks the whole day even in the summers 😉 )? I think their primary pain is the pain of being misunderstood. Talking about women issues has become equivalent to abusing men either directly or indirectly. In our bargain of fighting for women’s rights we forgot that it is unfair on men to label them as wrong doers all the time.

Let us look at the statement “Women in short clothes will get raped”. Boils my blood not only because it is offensive to women but isn’t it offensive to men as well? Men are not creatures with no sense of control or logic. They are not untrained savages that are not responsible for their actions. This statement is as unfair to them as it is to women.

Talk about marriage and we have our swords pointing to the throats of our husbands. Dig deeper and most women will tell you that their main problem is not the husband but the mother in law (either her or his)!!

Actually if we honestly look around our society the main enemy of the woman is not the man but other women. From frowning at short clothes, to judging someone because of choice of fun or restricting independence, women are perhaps more likely to all of the above.

We talk about how girls face discrimination since childhood. I believe it is true about boys too. There was a small boy of five years crying after falling off his bicycle. What was his mother’s way of consoling him? You are a boy don’t cry like a girl. Poor kid! Imagine not being allowed to express his pain. Tearing up in response to pain is a natural biological response. Why are the little boys expected to have control over it? And how else do you express pain then? by screaming or kicking the offending ground or punching someone? How do you expect this little boy to grow up to be a sensitive husband and understand why his wife is tearful during her periods? Are we not being unfair?

There is this universal belief that girls are more sincere than boys. A guest in my house with two adorable boys saw my daughter helping me around the house. “You are so lucky to have a girl, boys are of no use. They don’t even keep their school bags after coming home.” And whose fault is that? My daughter did not learn helping me in the womb. She was taught to do it. I would have done the same with the son if I had one. Or do you mean to say that the male species of humans is not trainable?

A male child who hears day in and day out that boys are insincere, careless, unhelpful will suddenly by the swish of a magic wand will become caring helpful husbands who put the wet towel in the laundry bag?

All of us talk about the importance of girl education. We talk about reserving seats in colleges for girls, free education for the girl child and financial aid for them. All excellent and very important steps after all an educated woman is the key to a stable society. Both men and women should have equal opportunities after all. Just one question though are we as accepting of a man without a job as we are to a woman without one? You will willingly get your son married to a girl with no job but will you allow your daughter to marry a man without one? So are the opportunities really equal?

We talk with pride of a girl who is a tomboy but we would ridicule an effeminate man.

Ask any mental health professional and they will tell you that over involvement and excess pampering are as bad as ignorance and ridicule. We teach our boys to be dependent on us. We teach them that women are weak. We teach them that they are superior. We make them feel that doing small household work is a favour to the wife. And then one fine day we expect them to be loving, sensitive and helpful.

Let us be fair to our men. Let us teach our boys that it is alright to feel pain. It is alright to cry and it is alright to gossip.

If we want an equal society let us accept that mard ko bhi dard hota hai!!!

 

The hues of life

I was watching the carpenter repair something in my house. As he selected one piece of wood over the other, I asked him the inevitable “ Is it not good” questions. And he replied without even looking at me “No, madam this piece of wood is perfect too, it is just not right in this place.”

Now the problem with being a psychologist is that you tend to find gyan everywhere ;-)) but his statement makes so much sense. We do tend to categorise our world into good and bad. Something that doesn’t fit in our grand scheme of things is automatically pushed into the bad category.

Remember the story of the “Fox and the grapes” that we heard as a child and how we laughed at the silliness of the fox? Do we not do the same thing as well?

A friend of mine recently went through a break up. Everyone around her tried to point out to her how “bad” the person was and how she was lucky without him. Now I know the guy too and he was definitely not bad, they were just not compatible together. When I tried to point that out I was accused of making her feel worse!!

Then there was this family which discussed from dawn to dusk how engineers are doing badly and have no scope because their ladla son did not get through the field. Ironically the father was an engineer too. Wonder if he quit his job after that?

A choice that doesn’t suit us is not necessarily a bad choice. It is just a choice which did not give us the expected results. Why is it incomprehensible to us that two good things don’t need to necessarily get along together?

All of us have faced this issue of having two friends that don’t get along. You apparently can’t love one without hating the other!!! It is a proof of loyalty to hate your friend’s enemy. I would rather not talk to both!

It is not just friends you need to choose, it is as if the whole world is out to test your loyalties. You can’t be a true Shahrukh Khan fan if you like Salman Khan, you can’t support one sports team if you praise its rival team and you can’t be a true patriot if you don’t hate your neighbour country.

Why do we need a villain in our life? Can there be no hero without the bad guy. Someone told me that it is easier to place the blame on someone other than yourself. So in a broken relationship it is easier to move on if you convince yourself that your partner was the wicked one. Apparently it helps in moving on?

I never understood how that works. Will that not make it difficult to love again? Or trust again. If I just accept that both of us were good but we were not good together you not only trust your judgment but also retain your self esteem.

Another reason we want a bad guy is to make us feel good. If I admit that the partner was good, the job was promising or the result was fair then there has to be something wrong with me. That is so unfair. It is just not about good or bad it is also about compatibility. Let us use my favourite analogy – food!!. I might love biryani and I might love strawberries but I definitely don’t want a strawberry flavoured biryani. And I don’t have to hate biryani to love strawberry.

The point I am trying to make is very clichéd yet ignored that the world is not divided into black or white it has shades of grey (and not just fifty 😉 ).

Life is not just about black, white and grey it has a lot of hues. Some look good together and some look awfully mis-matched but they are brilliant hues in themselves. And ironically black and white look best together. Your favourite colour may not look good in all situations (imagine a baby pink car!!)

Love every hue of life without judging its character after all they are all part of your rainbow.

A different kind of kindness

How would you define kindness? Someone who helps the sick or the one who feeds the stray dog? Someone who helps you in difficult times and holds your hand when you are down?

All of us perceive kindness differently. Recently I was talking to my kid about kindness and she asked me something that made me reconsider what I understood of kindness. We were speaking about how we should do some kind act daily and she asked me what if there is no opportunity for a kind act? What if no one was in trouble and did not need help? How can I be kind then?

Seriously, what then? In our pursuit of doing a kind act we forget the importance of a kind word, a gentle touch and a loving smile. It is possible to be kind to someone without them being in a problem situation.

We often underestimate the value of our words especially compliments. We as a society tend to disregard the value of compliments. We tend to believe that compliments may spoil a person or make success go to “their head”. We hold back on these kind words not realizing that they could be our kind act for the day.

I remember having this debate with someone who absolutely did not believe in giving compliments. He argued that the rose flowers without anyone complimenting it and the trees grow without kind words, so why do humans need compliments? Well science has proved him wrong hasn’t it? Haven’t biologists and researchers proved that the plants and flowers too respond more to kind words and complimenting them improves their blooming?

Psychology has forever emphasised the importance of positive strokes or positive reinforcement. It has been proved time and again that positive feedback is more likely to increase the desired behaviour. Yet we ignore these simple gestures of kindness.

How often do we compliment someone and not just the girl/boy we wanted to impress? Often we tend to believe that not criticizing something is equivalent to complimenting it. Most people believe that eating the food served to us without complaining is complimenting the cook.

The need for appreciation is an inherent need in all living beings. Plants, animals and humans all respond to appreciation. A sudden decline in positive reinforcement is often known to cause low mood and disinterest. A simple compliment can lift our mood is a known and experienced fact. Why then do we deny this basic need of others around us?

Imagine yourself coming back home tired after a long day and you are greeted by your child’s bright smile or your dog’s wagging tail. I can almost see you smiling as you read this. As children we give the most genuine compliments and animals show unrestrained appreciation and we as adults loose the simple act of kindness.

I have often heard people talk about how it is not in their nature to appreciate and how their approval and appreciation is silent and in their actions. Yes most of us understand silent acceptance as a form of appreciation. All of us have come to accept lack of criticism as appreciation. Many would argue about how self appreciation is enough and you don’t need others to compliment you.

But let me ask you something, we can survive on fruits and water. We will live a long and healthy life just on that diet but would you want to live that way? Just because something is sufficient for survival does not mean it is enough for happiness.

Yes I agree that the need for appreciation should not become our sole source of motivation. It is unhealthy when it becomes all powering and all consuming. But having no need for appreciation is also unhealthy. Don’t our sages too seek appreciation from the Supreme Being?

Remember how a simple star or a smiling face from your teacher made your day as a kid. Remember how a simple cheer from the crowd pushes an athlete to perform better? Remember how a good feedback boosts the employee.

You could be a painter or a teacher or a priest, a compliment will definitely make you happy. Then why not extend the same to others. We don’t hold back an opportunity to criticize then why do we hold back the appreciation.

Giving a compliment works both ways. It makes both the sender and the receiver happy. Try a simple experiment today….compliment your maid, appreciate the autowala who got you home, thank the person on the road who allowed you to overtake and appreciate the one who cooked your food and tell me you don’t feel on top of the world.

We can’t all be Mother Teresa and become saints but our little acts of kindness can definitely make the world a better place.

And don’t forget me in your list of people to compliment today 😉