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!)