Sunday, 12 November 2017

Equality For Men.. WHAT??!!

Gender equality and men?! Gender equality is about women, right? No. This time it is about men. But then what do men have to do with gender equality?

Through the eyes of a sensitive man, this world is a harsh reality. It is difficult to survive for them as our culture is built around masculine insensitivity. We live in a performative society where a man’s identity is something that he needs to generate.

Men don’t pursue manliness directly rather they pursue the duties designed by nature and while pursuing those duties as men they develop certain virtues which are “manly virtues”. But over the years, the society has formed stereotypes around genders where a man is always (always!) expected to project certain characteristics which prove him man enough, failing which his masculinity is questioned. There is a great deal of insensitivity and insecurity around masculinity.

Most of the world’s wealth and powerful positions and almost half of the population belongs to men, yet they are predominantly dependent on women for little things vital to one’s existence. Whereas at one hand we prepare our girls in every possible way to face the world, we don’t give enough thought to develop our boys. We cripple their few aspects to make them only financially sound. Our society is witnessing change in education and financial independence of girls, with the cumulative effort of parents, family, government and society at large, making them strong in every sphere of life. However, little has been thought about making men strong in all aspects of life. Most men remain dependent all their life on women, be it his mother, sister, wife for things as essential as cooking. Things are changing for sure where it is not a taboo for a man to be seen inside the kitchen yet there is a long way to go.

All the energies, resources and efforts for men are aimed at their financial wellbeing because being a man they have to run a house; but to run a house in entirety, a lot is required than just money. In the absence of a man, a woman can work, earn and run the house but the same does not hold true for a man if there is the absence of a woman in his life. He can surely work, earn but he finds himself incapable of managing the house, and if we talk about managing children, one can imagine the scenario. We have made women strong where they were lacking, should not we make men strong where they are lacking?

Another aspect where I feel men need equality is to allow them to remain in connection with their normal human sensitivity. Joe Ehrmann, coach and National Football League player says “The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy is when he’s told to ‘be a man’.”  

Privileges are invisible. Being a woman the privilege I get, it is really difficult to gauge what a man or a boy goes through when he is asked not to feel vulnerable, not to feel insecure, not to feel sad, not to vent out crying. It is sad and it is brutal to any human being, being denied the feeling of feeling like a human. The process of disconnecting boys from their natural human feelings is criminal. Criminal, to abdicate half of his humanity from himself.

Babies start off their journey almost equally expressive and emotional regardless of their gender. The only difference, if any, is that baby boys are slightly more emotional and desirous of affection than baby girls. This is where parental and societal conditioning comes into picture and plays a spoilsport. Since early childhood boys are told to suppress all kinds of emotions except anger, for anger is masculine! So that is the only emotion they are allowed to remain in touch with. As early as 3 to 5 years of age, they start learning the essentials of the game, that it is not a good idea to express themselves.

 ‘Why are you crying like a girl?’ I have heard this ‘n’ number of times since my childhood being said to ‘n’ number of boys. Is crying only a girl’s business? Isn’t crying a normal human phenomenon like breathing, walking and thinking? One cries when feels sad, hurt or frustrated. That’s it. How come does it relate to girls? Why do we tell our boys that it is not normal for them to cry? We condition them right from their childhood to negate, to repress their emotions, then how come we expect them to understand a woman’s emotions when they grow up. Isn’t that a concern that every woman, every wife has? ‘These men don’t understand our emotions!’ Did it ring a bell?

To be a man, and not to sound feminine, they hide their sensitivity which does not mean that they feel less. Men hide a lot of their true feelings inside from the fear of being humiliated, for the fear of being shamed. Anytime a man tries to be remotely loving, caring or heartwarming, he is made fun of and teased by another man. This is how it works in our society.

Boys don’t need to be turned into males. They already are males. With aging into manhood, they eventually will acquire the virtues of a man which does not mean that they have to develop their masculinity by crushing their social and emotional functions. Denying them the access to their emotional side leads to serious consequences, what is clinically termed as toxic masculinity. The effects of toxic masculinity are both myriad and measurable. It’s more specific manifestation is seen as anger, violence and alcoholism, making it rightful and masculine for a man to vent out through anger and not accept that he is feeling weak emotionally and needs help getting through it. Anger has a negative approach whilst crying is healing, it’s high time we understood that.

Boys who feel deeply emotional do feel that they don’t fit in the cruel boy culture and have a really hard time growing up denying their true selves. They have to showcase certain society adjudged masculine attributes to be accepted. Sometimes they end up playing rough sports even though they don’t want to or simply act rough just to portray that they are men enough, not wanting to be humiliated, not wanting to be called names.

A man is asked to be strong, to be a man. But I think the real strength of a person is in being himself, acknowledging who one really is, ignoring what others think of it. It takes the strength of a warrior for a man to admit that there is an emotional crisis. For a man to be man enough, first of all, he has to be human enough for his own wellbeing.

While women tend to internalize pain, men externalize it and tend to act out, against themselves and against others too. It is a way of masking their emotional vulnerability. Their depression and frustration largely go unchecked, undiagnosed and often end up having problems in their relationships, their work and their health. For them revealing their pain is tantamount to failing as a man. They feel more accepted walking with unattended open wounds rather than having anyone tend to them.

At the end of the day, men are humans. They do feel sad, do feel nervous, do feel like crying. And why not?! They too have a connection with their nervous system!

This severing that we do to our little boys is a serious issue that we all should think about. The brutality that turns emotionally whole little boys into emotionally debilitated men, I have been witness to this in every phase of my life. And witness to this as well that when a man has tried to express his sadness, has cried, has expressed his weakness, has been put off by another man saying ‘you are reacting way too much, be man enough’. How sad is this, how terrible, how inhuman!

Why my teenager brother didn’t feel free to cry his heart out when our father passed away, why was he meekly sobbing? Was he lesser hurt than me? Didn’t the heaven break loose for him too the way it did for me? He was equally in pain like me if not more. But he was not supposed to set his pain free. The poor boy repressed the way he was expected to. Ahhh! Cruel society.

One more instance from my world I would share here that pertains to my husband which many of you might find relatable. At one point of time while he was going through a rough patch in his career, rather than sharing and discussing his problems which could have made it easier for him to cope with and in a better way, he found it easier to vent it out being agitated and angry over every little thing. Then it was for me to understand that his anger was not directly related to the situation, but just a way to ease down his emotional disturbances. We can bring a change in these behaviour patterns only if we make a mental shift.

The person ends up losing empathy, compassion, and kindness when he is asked to supress. For their violence, for their indifference, we tend to turn individualistic and blame them for their aggressive and insensitive nature. But then we need to think about the root cause. It is us who have taught them to be indifferent to emotions. It is us who have left them with anger as the only accessible emotion. It is us again who blame them for all the unjust behaviour they have for situations, for people in their lives and most importantly, themselves. I don’t think it is fair on our part as a family and as a society collectively. One needs to think why the prisons are filled predominantly by men and not women when this journey called life commenced for both of them from the same emotional phase.

“Be a strong boy” and “be strong like a boy” are two very different things and it is really important for all of us to understand the difference. I find my little boy way more expressive than my girl. He is one emotional little being whose little, soft, emotional, vulnerable side I ought to preserve, I ought to nurture, for him to be a strong individual. I take it as my responsibility that the strong connection that he has with his emotional world is not severed by the society and make sure that his expressiveness matures because he is growing into a teenager and an adult and not because he is turning into a boy, a man!

Men and their sensitivity need to be recognized, validated and celebrated. It is time we infuse masculine sensitivity in our culture and bring about a change in the upbringing of our children where duties and responsibilities are made equally important for all regardless of the gender.

I believe change starts from home. If we all do our little bit, we can form an equitable society, empowering both the genders rightfully. Men and women are made to work in unison, one cannot do well without the support and understanding of the other. So, let’s not typecast them in certain roles, let’s set them free from the stigma of being strong every damn time, let’s set them free to acknowledge what they really feel, to feel free to be what they want to be!

Friday, 4 August 2017

Is Travelling With Kids Important, Yes I Say!


Whenever my heart says, lets go.. travel... Budget, time, schedule, etc etc always say No. But there’s this undeterring attitude which always raises its head and asks why so?!

There's more to travel than fancy pictures, shopping, taking a break from the monotony of life. It is this desire to wander, experience, observe, absorb and learn!

In my version of existence, travelling comes with a deeper meaning. As I have moved through life, with each trip I have found myself a changed person, no matter how slight. I have found a deeper connect with this life and this world.

Travel. The word itself is music to the ears! The excitement to see a new place, new people, the food, their way of life, language they speak, their culture..everything seems to ignite a spark. It is like each and every place in this world has a different sunset and sunrise. As I stand and witness the beauty of the surroundings, I feel I have come a step closer to Mother Nature.

Having these overwhelming experiences myself, it is sheer pleasure to see my children reflecting a positive bond with the natural world. Rivers, animals, trees, birds and even the insects, my little one says are his friends! They have loved the shades of orange with the glow spilling across the horizon with the rising sun. The encounters with the tiny creatures making their way out of soil after rain while building little mud structures have given them lessons to understand the natural order of things and admire life irrespective of size and origin.

But it had not always been like this. There was once a time when I perceived travel a hassle with kids. Having travelled as an independent adult, no wonder the added responsibility of a toddler seemed to create a lot of chaos. The diaper changes, the feeding patterns, stomach upsets.. upset me a lot. I started to think that it wasn’t the right thing to travel with kids and maybe we could pursue that after kids had grown up a little. But thanks to the die-hard traveller I am married to, he did not let this happen to us. He was always there to push me out of my comfort zone and that is what travelling is all about, moving out of the comfort zone. We wandered around different climates with the little kids. Forests, seas, mountains, deserts..our kids have trotted all along.

Travelling is a great learning experience for children besides adults. It ignites their curiosity world of why’s n how’s. At a young age, they get to see the glimpses of the bigger picture of life. That life is not just confined to the school, to the house, to the parents. There is a lot to be explored. There is a lot to be learned.

Though school education is very important, there are certain things that cannot be learned in a classroom setting. While planning and packing to go on a trip develop their organizational skills, visiting different places gives them an insight into different cultures. They become flexible individuals, respectful of others. Collecting seashells from the sand, listening to the sounds of the rainforests, they learn to admire the beauty of life that lies in simple things. It also makes one learn how to be tolerant if something goes wrong, to let it go and look at the brighter picture.

As a parent, it is my preference to instill in them an adventurous streak, to go for it, just do it. Travel makes you a strong, fearless creature. After all, life is all about risking, taking chances, following your instincts. Travelling offers endless opportunities to explore ourselves, pushing us to our limits. And I have experienced this myself. Having had developed aquaphobia as a child after a drowning incident, it is with travel only that I have been able to overcome my morbid fear of water, wherein just a scant amount of water pouring over from the shower was enough to make me gasp for breath, gathering all my strength and courage, much to my surprise, I did manage to pull off a sea walk!

Quietly watching the sun go down or a mere walk in the forest sometimes prove to be a life changer. And believe me, this writing bug, which gives me immense pleasure and creative satisfaction, nowhere to be found in years’ of working in an office setting, bit me only while travelling. So explore and let your children explore the endless opportunities that are out there for you to discover!

And as they say, fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show!

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.
                                          John Muir

Saturday, 8 April 2017

My New BFF: Fibromyalgia

Doc: “Fibromyalgia. You have fibromyalgia! All the headaches, stiffness, fatigue, it’s because of that. What you can do is not take stress, eat healthy and exercise, rest I will take care of.”

I: “I do walk almost an hour a day, 5 days a week, eat healthy as much as possible, don’t worry about things happening in life..but then how come this?!”

Doc: “Mam, given the anxious nature of you mothers and the stressful, complying-to-every-minute-of-the-clock routine we have these days, you have enough source of anxiety which of course you can just shrug off like that ONLY IF YOU TRY and I say YOU MUST.”

Welcome to the world of new-age illnesses!

If you experience generalized pain and tenderness all over the body, especially upper back, neck and head and bilateral joints for long periods of time with no medical condition to explain the pain, debilitating fatigue and sleeplessness, chances are that you have fibromyalgia.

Lately, I found myself fatigued all the time, having throbbing headaches starting from the base of the skull, waking up in the morning feeling having not slept at all, turning extremely sensitive to sound and light; symptoms worse on some days and better on others but pretty much omnipresent. Trust me, it is a nightmare when you don’t know what might possibly be causing it!

People who experience physical or emotional trauma are at a higher risk of developing fibromyalgia. With no known cause or objective tests to diagnose coupled with subjective symptoms, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as another disease. I have been treated for throat infections and cervical spondylitis for many years when I should have been given anti-anxiety treatment.

But then someone above thought I had had enough, so He sent across my way a marvelous doctor. Having the right people in your life is surely one blessing in disguise. I have found solace in homeopathy in Dr. Gurshabad Singh’s hands, where my treatment is based on individualistic characteristics, with no adverse side effects. This doctor identified all the symptoms at the very first visit and reassured that I no longer will have to suffer and he did stand true to his words.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. The treatment for fibromyalgia focuses on reducing symptoms by helping in sleeping properly and reducing the sensitivity to pain. And with experience I can say that there is nothing better than homeopathy if you find the right doctor.

But the reigns of treatment of a fibromyalgic patient lie in the hands of the patient himself because medicines can only help alleviate the pain, making the lifestyle changes, being conscious about the food one eats and maintaining a healthy weight is all that only the person himself can do. Though my medications have helped me tremendously, I sleep soundly and wake up not tired, without a heavy head which for me is a miracle of sorts, a little credit needs to be given to my shift of focus towards myself too.

I have realized very deeply in these few months that no matter how many people stand by your side during your illness, the only person suffering the suffering will be You. The one and only person who can be worried about your well-being and your health issues is You. So why not make it utmost priority and take proper care of it. Hence began my battle against this menace and the journey of seeking true health involving physical, mental and spiritual well being.

I didn’t even know when anxiety crawled into my life. And it is there every day. Every hour of the day!  And believe me, it’s there at night too, subconsciously working its way.

There have been a lot of factors that maybe said to have contributed to it. Becoming mom second time to a child who had evening colic almost since birth gave sleepless nights for months in a row. Feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, deep fatigue, agitation, feelings of isolation and rage prevailed. Being away from husband, parenting the elder one and the newborn created havoc in my life and maybe I was into postpartum distress which went unchecked. There were days when I used to cry, on what my life had become.

And nowadays it’s a different kind of maddening, “homework abhi tak kyu nahi kiya, don’t smash your toys on the TV, why have you left all the veggies in pasta; get off the dining table, NOW; water is coming out of the bathroom Goddammit, don’t splash it on every damn thing you two; it’s already 10, please go to bed!!” Just a little trailer of a usual day at my home.

But to be honest, it’s just not only the kids making me anxious, these symptoms were there before them too though not this gruesome. It took years to get correctly diagnosed because the manifestations of fibromyalgia are such that one gets confused easily. Analgesics and antibiotics were a routine, the prolonged and frequent use of which resulted in irritable bowel syndrome. Such has been my stint with this deeply-embedded disorder. And I got concerned and scared when it recurred frequently, intensified and was not ready to leave my body.

Actually it so happens that we humans have the tendency to worry, worry about everything. We want our lives to be perfect. We want our life to go by our plans. But seldom it happens that plans turn out as planned. At least that’s the case with my life and my plans! So here comes the endless worrying. This worrying-about-things thing can affect you to an extent that you don’t even know when it becomes one of your personality traits.

As far as I can remember, I used to be a hard working, quiet girl at school who put in her 101% in each and every test but never did I care for the marks that I would score. Whereas my friends would be busy counting their probable scores, I would say “itna tension kyu lena yaar.

But then what happened which changed my outlook towards life. As I look back and revise events in my life, I recollect I changed as a girl and as a human being with my father’s demise. It was a lot for us teenage siblings to cope with. My mother, the rock-solid support system, slipping into depression was another jolt we had to deal with. It was then this anxiety said Hello.

I remember my mother telling me even years later, “what’s wrong with you, you don’t look like the same girl who managed home in the time of crisis, helped me recover from depression; why do you overthink everything, worry about every little thing.” I used to dismiss it saying, “nothing has happened to me, it’s you who’s overanalyzing.”

Now all of it makes sense. I had imbibed anxiety in my everyday existence. At one point of time, I was scared of even laughing. If something made me happy, I would instantly be scared from inside that now something bad would happen. Every good thing that came my way scared me, because I thought life is going to trade this happiness by snatching something dear to me. These thoughts were the grassroots of my fibromyalgia!

The way I behaved and reacted to situations at that time was natural. Seeing my mother shattered and devastated was one hell of a thing. But what killed me literally, which now I understand, was my loneliness as I gave up my work too to make sure things were smooth at home and made her continue her job as that’s in the best interest of a depression-stricken person. All my thoughts and emotions were packed up inside of me. If I had had friends or people to talk to or share my feelings with, what now I understand, things would have been way better. That’s what I tell my husband how lucky he has been to have a huge circle of friends, but then life as ruthless as it can get, did snatch his dearest belonging too. But this guy never let this overpower his life. He kept moving on in life and didn’t drag the baggage along. A lot yet to be learned from this man!

So basically, the point is that Life will have enough chances to pull you down and smash your life like a tomato, but the choice to whether to turn it into ketchup or leave it to rot and stink will always be with you! I have learned how to make ketchup after my share of rotting and stinking, just looking for some preservatives so that it stays with me forever!

Life is no fairytale yet it is meant to celebrate!

Though haven’t seen this movie till now, waiting for an auspicious time maybe ;)  Just love listening to this song from Dear Zindagi (on repeat mode sometimes!)

Saturday, 3 December 2016

A Back-to-the-Roots Experience: The Dadhikar Fort

Just like that he popped this question, “any plans for this weekend??” I said “not really, but I just want to go somewhere..take a break.. disconnect from everything!” Hardly had I known that I would be taken by surprise, not by his plan but by the place he has in mind!!

The Dadhikar Fort in Alwar, Rajasthan turned out to be a blessing in disguise, a terrific place to unwind and relax. I have to admit I don’t get euphoria every now and then, but the kind of feeling that gripped me when I first stepped my foot on its entrance is something I won’t ever forget!

It took us roughly 2-1/2 hours to reach the fort by road from Delhi and thanks to the GPS, it was a fairly smooth and traffic free drive with the exception of the last few kilometers of rough stretch through a village leading to the fort, quite a kick to my adventurous soul.

As we reached the fort, I was simply jumping inside, as what lay ahead of and around me was sheer beauty. The fort sits right at the center of the splendiferous skirting of the Aravalis. The gigantic main entrance, the d├ęcor and that first feeling when you stand and breathe in the surroundings while check-in formalities are being done, it is all so beautiful!

I could feel the crude, tranquil atmosphere taking over me as we headed to our room, Kalanjar, pathways surrounded by the fragrant Plumeria (Champa) trees and colorful Bougainvillea, treat to the concrete-sick eyes. Our folksy room took us back in time while did provide the privileges of modern amenities like mini fridge, AC, rain shower. Thanks heavens, there was no TV or wi-fi and we spent some real time connecting with nature and with each other. The entire resort was quite airy and light with a number of places to curl up with a book, grab a cup of coffee and soak in the beauty of the Aravalis!

After a quick freshening up, briskly we headed to the restaurant. Food is served buffet style here, but we were a little late for that so we had a waiter at our disposal, one of Team Dadhikar’s several niceties. The food was served in the trademark big Rajasthani thalis, filled with authentic regional flavors and surprisingly was super-duper hit with the always-drooling-for-junk kids!

All fueled up, we left to explore the fort. Running after the kids on those inviting stairs, reaching the terrace was a remarkable sight with a bunch of people flying kites and several others screaming and clapping, the splendor of the place coming to a greater high at this height. I just couldn’t control falling in love with the rusticity omnipresent in the fort.

It wasn’t a surprise seeing crews of cameramen and photographers shooting for pre-wedding shoots and for magazines, the picturesque fort turns out to be a hot destination.

High tea awaited us in the outer part of the fort with a captivating sunset view to witness. It was a warm evening, at a place not crowded much, but still people with friends, kids and couples cozying up. Jangal mein Mangal sort of feeling!

There was a cultural show later in the evening. Only a handful of people were present. It was neither crowded nor secluded. The show wasn’t something that I hadn’t seen earlier but the way the guests were made to participate in the dances and entertained did make it extra special giving it all a personalized touch. And yeah, kids did get awestruck by their fire and balancing antics. Came out to be a night of revelry!

Dinner time! We headed off to the restaurant with the hunger clock ticking badly. Again a lovely spread was laid out at dinner, nothing being repeated. Kids loved having pasta while we again gave in to the delectable Rajasthani flavors. Though not much of an ice-cream enthusiast, I simply loved all the flavors and yes they were all made in-house.

Next morning, as planned we both left for an early morning walk around the fort while the kids were asleep. It was an unforgettable experience with the mesmerizing views, cool fresh air brushing past the skin and the magnificence of nature where you discover how small your identity is and how overwhelming and overpowering nature can be. There is so much more to life than the business of the routine zindagi, instantly making you realize that there is something larger than life throbbing inside of you, what an immense blessing it is to be alive!

Just when all these thoughts were crossing my mind, we walked past our car in the parking area and then suddenly he walked a few steps backwards with horror on his face as if seen a ghost or something, pulling me back to the physical world, there was a pool of engine oil under the car, flowing downhill..!!! Lo beta.. ho gaya happy birthday!! Mechanic kahan milega.. Aur aayo jungle mein..!!!!

Much to our surprise, the staff turned out to be very helpful in a situation like this where they took it on themselves to get the car fixed, it’s another thing that our till-now-smooth trip came to a halt and my guy had to accompany the vehicle to the workstation, stranding us at the fort, err… rather he was the one to get stranded ;)

Our trip to Abhaneri stepwell and Sariska wildlife sanctuary as planned got stalled. But that’s life, nothing goes as planned! It was quite a vexing situation but we tried to be a good sport and take it in stride.

A little dim on our spirits, we went ahead for breakfast, there were families with kids to newlyweds to a group of boys looking forward to an adventurous trek in the hills. The sight that I loved the most was of a group of ladies in their 70s having that all girls time together. It was a delight watching them eating and chitchatting, going sightseeing, again reassuring that age is just a number, one should have the right kind of attitude to live it!

Afterwards, kids went on a photography spree around the fort, played carom board and hide and seek taking full advantage of the place where within a few meters a staircase goes up to the terrace while few others down to the basement. It was a pleasure watching them play happily in the outdoors, for once I didn’t have to play referee!

We had to check out because they had a pre-booked-houseful, no doubt it was weekend. At the reception, I came across Mr. Ram Kaushik, founder of the fort, busy taking details from the staff. Just while exchanging greetings, he asks me if our car has been fixed yet leaving me stunned! How the hell does he know about the car or for the matter of fact that it belonged to me!! Leaving me to my own synthesis how closely he is involved in the affairs of the fort and especially involving the guests. Do you expect an owner of a resort to do that kind of a thing??!! I was speechless and touched. Later on, I was informed that the lunch was on the house for us!

Meanwhile, I got quite intrigued and was lucky enough to have a word with Mr. Kaushik and what I learnt about him and his life is a story full of inspiration and determination.

The Dadhikar Fort stands as an epitome of courage of an ordinary man with an extraordinary approach towards life. The place, remnants of the royal property, was bought and brought to life by Mr. Kaushik himself, the visionary behind the idea of The Dadhikar Fort. A post graduate in Hotel Management, he has formerly been associated with Neemrana Group for 18 long years which shows in the way he has managed the entire place complying with all the functions of a luxury hotel and what has made me write this is somewhere connected with this man’s humble attitude and his involvement coupled with an observant eye in the daily activities of the resort.

He has been the architect and designer for the fort himself. He surveyed and researched almost 100 odd forts to get the intricacies right, bringing the essence of an authentic fort to Dadhikar, with an idea to recreate the aura of the old times.

It hadn’t been an easy path for him, breaking the social obstacles which always turn a normal man down from realizing his big dreams. He used to visit the place through the jungle on a motorbike. There was no electricity or even a road to reach the site. Getting all the required resources at the point of construction and convincing the construction workers to work in a place untamed like that was quiet a task too. His family and especially his wife stood by him putting everything possible in realizing his dream. In fact, the fort turns out to be quite instrumental in creating rural employment, lighting up the lives of the nearby villages.

Whoa! Looks like a Bollywood story, isn’t it!!?? With the car now back, we left around 3 pm for Delhi. Vijay Mandir was an enthralling sight on the way out to highway. Siliserh lake and everything else in Alwar, laters baby!

The little time we spent there left me with so many feelings and emotions that I revel in reliving it in my mind time and again as often as I please! Nature has that effect on me and I guess on every human being which makes one think, reflect back, purify and I think it is very important for all of us to take a break from our daily routines to connect with ourselves and our lives in a better way.

Just a weekend had been a really short time! Heading towards Delhi felt like moving away from a cozy den, as if some part of me had been left behind. Well, I am surely going to go back and figure out what it was!!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Dear Zindagi! A Letter to My Life..

Dear Zindagi..

It is 5th November. I turn 34. 34! I believe that age is just a number, but then it also means a little more time has been spent from what I have been allotted! I so want you to stay with me for long as it turns out that I have learnt just recently how to live you and I want to make most out of you and the fact that you do end and unpredictably so scares me. You have always amazed me. You do that all the time.

Once upon a time I failed to understand you. I cursed you. Now that little bit of wisdom that you have gifted me with, I have come to understand what you are all about. Now, I thank you. I love you.

As I grow older, I do get worried that my share of living is diminishing day by day but I also appreciate the fact that with age you have given me the ability to discover your true beauty.

You know what Zindagi, I have always complained about the fact that you have been unfair to me, because no matter what I planned for, you always had something else in mind for me. I have hated you. You heard me right. I have hated you! When you took my father away from me. No matter how in many more ways I now appreciate you but this stab is going to stay in my heart always. You have no idea how my ears long for his voice to call my name, how badly I long for one hug from him. You have been so cruel! So ruthless!

But now I know, you are beautiful too! That’s the way you are..

You have given me the strength to fight the odds, courage to stand up for myself, ability to forgive, made me capable of giving love and above all your greatest gift to me is Realization!

You have made me discover my inner self. What I am. What I stand for. You have given me the vision to identify beauty and miracles in little things around me. You have been kind enough to let me realize the things that really matter and eventually realizing that those things aren’t actually things. Somewhere I read “there is a purpose for everything that happens in your life.” Now I know exactly what it means. Positive experiences give you happiness and negative.. lessons. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

Dear Zindagi, you won’t see any more complaints coming from me. You have taught me to be thankful for what I have rather grieve for what I don’t. How beautifully this Persian poet, Saadi, has summarized one of your intricacies “I cried when I had no shoes until I saw a man without legs!”

Our lives are full of blessings, sometimes we just don’t know how to value them. Now I just count mine and thank you for all the priceless things you have blessed me with. Every morning as I wake up I feel fortunate that I am able to breathe, walk, smile..

I now know what to do with you. LIVE. Live every single moment. Because Passing is your another name. As in the words of Adlai E Stevenson, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

What I have come to understand of you is that you are all about fighting back, dedication, motivation, perseverance, believing, having faith. You are full of pains and gains, joys and sorrows, beginnings and ends, celebrations and remorse, rewards and challenges. One has to live you, experience you. You are really short and that’s what makes you invaluable.

Dear Zindagi, you have also been the Best Teacher. As I reflect back, I realize I wouldn’t have been what I am today hadn’t you thrown those tough times my way. You have your own ways of making us better as a person which we often don’t understand. Like a joystick, first you break to only let us shine! What I am today is all because of you and I am really happy and proud of my new self.

I have also learned through this journey so far is that sometimes it’s okay not to think, not to imagine or to plan. Sometimes it’s okay to go with the flow while putting best of our efforts and hard work and have faith that everything will work out for the best.

I have already spent almost one-third of my time living others’ lives. What others would think, would they approve of it, thinking about all the what-ifs’. But I do that no longer. I no longer seek approval from others. I fight for what matters to me, no matter what. I follow my heart. I live for myself. I do what makes me happy. And all this ease eventually makes my soul happy. Please be the guiding star and take me where my happiness lies.

There is no better way to live than make yours the way you want it!

With Love,

Your Courageous Child

                "I am writing a letter to life for the #DearZindagi activity at BlogAdda."

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Parent Child Saga: Twist in the Tale

Picture this: After hours of interactive games and rides in a certain kids’ zone, rounds of pizzas and ice-creams, the elder one is still whining for another something when we are heading to the car park. Irked and annoyed, I yell at her. She immediately takes a U-turn, tears in her eyes and joins her father who is walking a few steps behind us accompanied by our little man. I instantly feel sorry. Sorry for what I did to the happy state of my kid. But I was tired and overwhelmed, so I yelled, I justify. Okay, acceptable. But she was tired too, she whined. Not accepted by me, a parent!

In the quiet of the night I am left with some moments to reflect, to reflect back on how in certain situations involving the children I reacted with a conditioned mind, with a preconceived notion. If only I had had a neutral view of the situation, I would have been equipped to manage the situation better. I think. I regret. I learn. Better equipped to manage the flow of children’s emotions and my own.

When I said sorry today to her where my emotions had gone unchecked, I found myself receiving more love and respect from my children. I stood more connected to them. Apologizing for my wrongdoing, neutralizing the age and position factor, I modeled for them how to be courageous enough to admit your mistakes and say sorry!

I feel we new-age parents have more responsibility as compared to what our parents had had as we all happen to live in nuclear settings. Earlier the grandparents and other members of the family had crucial roles to play in such situations and in building children’s emotional foundation. But now the entire onus is on parents and more so on us mothers if I may say so.

We live in a world full of mental and social pressures. And children’s needs, particularly emotional ones, are not given much importance. Children need a patient and compassionate listening to their outbursts and feelings of tumult. Punishments, yelling being the least needed while we end up doing the very thing more often.

Children though little but still have real identities. Like adults they feel hunger and thirst, likewise they also need to vent out their feelings of anger and frustration like us adults. What best we can do for them in such situations is to give them a patient ear and a shoulder to cry on. Yes, CRY!

Because crying is perfectly normal! If somebody stamps on your foot, you let out a scream. If somebody stamps your mind, you scream, you cry. Crying has always been stigmatized as weak and unmanly for boys and sensitive and dramatic for girls whereas in stark contrast it is a sign of an individual strong enough to accept his or her emotions and express them freely showing lesser concern for social expectations. I see crying as a means to offload stress before it breaks you!! Well, it does work for me even though my better half doesn’t approve of it. However, it doesn’t make me feel weak in any way although does help in letting my pain out, making me feel light, with a clearer state of mind, accepting my situation better and getting back up a stronger person!

And today when I write this, I discover why women are emotionally strong beings than their male counterparts. “Don’t cry like a girl” is self-explanatory and hence proves our theorem. So next time my children cry and especially my son, I am going to accept it as a normal human phenomenon.

Children are fragile not only physically but mentally as well, lesser equipped to manage their emotions. The negative emotions, if we may say so, are as integral a part of a whole individual as positive ones. If I shun or shame the child for her negative emotions, I am putting her whole identity at risk. They are the saplings which need a lot of care unlike the grownup trees.

If I couldn’t help taking my angst out at my daughter in public, it isn’t fair on my part to expect her to be well behaved and conform to social standards at all times. It is unreasonable of parents to expect the little ones to control and manage their emotions on their own. I identify it as my role, as an adult and as a parent, to not only control my emotional state but to validate their experience and help them come out of their state of outburst.

Children learn from a very young age that saying ‘shut up’ is meant as an insult if not intended in a funny way. The last person who should be insulting a child is their parent. But there are times when I want to shut all that noise out and scream ‘shut up!’, fairly easy for me. Again patience check! Instead I try making them familiar with the situation that why I don’t want noise at the moment maybe because I have a headache or I had a long day and I want some quiet. And of course they do get some time off and on for screaming, yelling and messing around!

With the birth of our first child, a mother was also born, eager to learn effective ways to nurture a child. One thing that I have learned is not to scold a child when there is an audience. This is as humiliating for a child as for an adult. Of course there are certain decencies they have to maintain when there are people around but if they happen to do something by mistake, let the situation go and make them understand the importance of good behavior later on.

I don’t want my children to be scared of me. I would rather have them respect me. According to Pam Leo, a human development scholar, “The level of cooperation parents get from their children is usually equal to the level of connection children feel with their parents.” These words stayed with me and I shifted my focus on making my communication and connection with the children so strong that they do it out of care and love for me and not out of fear of punishment. If my kids do something for me out of care, love and respect, I stand winner as a parent. 

In certain interactions with the kids, I ask myself whether my words will strengthen or weaken my connection with them. If the answer is weaken. I pause and think again. If the words have already been spoken, I apologize and move forward in a way that restores our connection. I perform a mental check and ask myself if I would speak to a close friend the way I am about to speak to my child. If the answer is no, I pause, take a deep breath and rephrase what I want to say.

There are certain family acceptable naughty things that my children do and say at home but once in public they know what they can and cannot do.

How we see them, they see themselves. Their image of self is formed in our seeing. Can it get more connected, more divine! That is the importance of being a parent..

Friday, 23 September 2016

“Happily Ever After” After Children

Once upon a time, this is how I recall, there used to be this kick ass-couple, well excuse my French, always on the go, fresh, lively, energetic, in-the-moment people who did whatever it took to make each other happy, the cheerful companions. Backpacking for a trip on an hour’s notice, watching movies, having friends come over every now and then, sleepovers and of course work but  enjoying their youth and freedom was everything there life was all about.

Then Life moved on. They were blessed with a baby, their world filled with this new found love and joy. The euphoria of having a baby is so strong that it overshadows everything else in one’s life and the very person is put at the second best who made this baby possible in the first place, all the time and energies consumed by this little miraculous being. Bestowing with their intoxicating charm, babies also mean more work, more stress, less time and lesser energy. Then very gracefully the doting couple and their marriage are put on the back burner. They take their relationship for granted thinking it is strong enough to withstand any challenge, not knowing that this most important relationship can be the most fragile one where absence of proper attention can have devastating consequences.

They seemed to be doing a fairly decent job adapting to the lifestyle around the baby. The baby, now toddler started going to playschool and the trained adult minds got the better of them and they started brainstorming for the second child.

And it was only after the second they realized they had started drifting apart. They had been living like strangers for long under one roof with two adorable kids, the only thing common between them. Everything started and ended with kids in mind and just kids everywhere. She became the caregiver and He became the bread earner, doing everything possible they could to give them the best. Their sole purpose of Life. Our sole purpose of Life!

The little cracks when not tended to can turn into colossal chasms and that’s what happened with us. It took us a while to realize that our relationship with each other was as important, if not more, as with the kids. There was a void. Looking at each other, we smiled less, appreciated less. That companionship, that connection lost somewhere.

Then one day giving everything a thought, the intricacies of Life storming in my mind, I asked myself if this was the sole purpose of marriage. If it was, then I felt quite incapable of taking it to the very end. I felt incomplete and lonely in spite of having an adorable family. Something not on the right track, something which needed attention and I had no clue what.

And then just a general conversation with a very dear friend gave me a jolt making me realize what I had been missing. I had missed Living with the guy I got married to all these years in spite of being together under one roof. That was the day I made myself a promise. Not letting this relationship being overshadowed by anything else, worldly or otherwise!

Having had the diagnosis made, we both started working on its course of treatment and now here we stand, tall and proud, with all the vital stats within their normal limits and relationship immune for life!

Once babies happen, they become the center of our universe and raising them, no doubt, a tedious task, but what I later came to realize as a parent was that for them parents are their world. There is nothing better for them than the joy of having a set of happy parents. Keeping the very fact in mind and to revive our own bond as partners, we started nurturing our relationship with the same intensity as we did with our kids.

Ours is just a decade long relationship. I have seen couples splitting even after spending longer, as much as 20 years together. There must be something very deep, very infuriating and offensive that goes into making such hard and ruthless decisions. After all, putting a beloved family, nurtured painstakingly with love and care, at stake is not an easy affair. The rocky terrains can catch us unawares anytime, just right after the bend on the seemingly smooth path. It is that time when our faith and trust in each other is tested. And sometimes we consciously have to put efforts in making that connection right. In rough times, instead of fighting and blaming, hold on to each other more, forgive each other more. We are all humans and in difficult times may act or behave unexpectedly. No matter how serious the issue is, don’t give up easily. Putting your egos aside, talk, try finding a solution to the problem, to overcome it no matter how grave it is.

Be that little grass, firmly rooted, steady and unhurt even in the storms. But for that one needs to be rooted, rooted very strongly. So stock up on that trust and bond with your partner as much as you can and from the very beginning because that is one thing you will need in the face of whirlwinds.

A lot of soul searching and experiences, both positive and negative, have made me learn a few lessons of Life which I am sure would help me stay in my marriage happily united.

Communication has always paved the way to solve a lot of issues and often communication of love, joy, anger and doubt is not given its fair share once there are kids running around the house. The two of us made it a point to let each other know about even the little things happening in our lives even if we had to make a phone call and talk and this really worked in our case as somehow we were left with very little time for ourselves given the pressures of our lives.

Getting weighed down by the endless responsibilities that come with raising kids, we often reminisce the past when life was less complex. Comparing the freedom we used to have before we became parents led to nothing than mental strain. Accepting that life is not going to be the same again after children helped us in adapting and thus truly absorbing the happiness and magic that came in the form of children. And no wonder we all four have become the partners in crime, the youngest one being the deadliest!!

Not taking either the person or his contribution for granted and appreciating each other was another thing we adhered to. After all appreciation, little gestures of love and care, saying thank you never harmed anyone. Letting your partner know about your love reinforces that although things have changed between you two but only for the better. Reminding ourselves of the earlier days let it be through recreating an event, a surprise note or a late night-out did rekindle the sparks! The twinkle in his eye at my unexpected visit at his workplace and the same reflected in mine was all just so worth it!

One thing of note is to set your emotions free. I accepted my negative emotions with the same grace as I would a compliment. I started sharing my feelings of anger, loneliness, frustration and insecurity with my husband. This further helped build understanding between the two of us. Storing them inside never worked for us and always led to an explosion. “So say it, say it loud! Accept and let go!” is the mantra followed in our home now, whether it’s me, him or either of the monkeys!

Cleaning, groceries, laundry, repairs do wait a little longer now at our place, with the not-so-prim-and-proper house. We have started overlooking all the chaos as it is inevitable and do not strive to control it all the time which makes us more relaxed eventually. The walls in our house now boast of scribbles and doodles in every color possible. When these little creatures fly out the window to make their own lives, there won’t be anyone to mess everything around. So we are making a lot of memories to cherish with the two sugarplum candies we have as there will be forever to make that house look up-to-date. And yes, we do CREATE TIME for ourselves and have made spending some quality time with each other a HIGH PRIORITY!