Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Craze over Adult Colouring Books

A few days ago my two best friends came over and instead of chatting like we generally do, they started colouring in an adult colouring book. The next day I gave two sheets to my 7 year old daughter and her friend and they became obsessed as well. What is it about colouring that is so fascinating and addictive?
Humans have understood the power of art since time immemorial. Ancient history has been depicted through paintings on the walls. Culture and traditions have been shown through art and sculptures through the years. But art has always remained elusive to the common man.

Over the years painting, colouring and art was seen as something only really talented people could do as a profession or children would do to while away time. In this hectic world where achieving something is necessary, art for adults took a back seat to learning and earning.

In recent times art has suddenly become invaluable again with artists coming into prominence and art being sold for millions all over the world. And a seed was planted of could we ordinary people become a part of this great art world? But who had the time and energy to paint, or make art? And even if we did, where could we start? Not all of us have great imagination. And a blank piece of paper is daunting and overwhelming.

So when in 2015 Johanna Basford, Scottish illustrator and “ink evangelist” released The Secret Garden, and Enchanted Forest, colouring books with intricate patterns of birds, foliage and a treasure hunt, suddenly people realised that maybe they could be a part of this art as well.

It sold 1.4 million copies and replaced a fiction novel as the number one best seller. Since then many more colouring books emerged and flew off the book shelves as well. Sonal Gandhi Head of Merchandising and Buying for Crossword book stores says, “Sales of these colouring books is catching on in India as well, though a bit late for our market as any such trend takes a while to catch on in our market. Publishers were not prepared for this wild fire tend/ sales. We are seeing weekly growth of 20-25%. It is here to stay.” 

Suddenly colouring has become a fad. Colouring in to these intricate patterns not only resulted in a beautiful art form that one could hang on walls and be proud of, but what emerged was that people wanted to do it regularly and consistently because of how they felt while colouring.

Milu Chitrakar Gupta, photographer and housewife has been addicted to the Mandala colouring book, reaching out for it whenever she gets the time. “I find it calming and it takes my mind away from the stress of dealing with maids, cooking, and general life.”

Prerna Fogat, working woman and single mother said she didn’t have time for colouring but when she sat down with a colouring sheet she couldn’t stop. “It’s completely addictive.”

So why are hordes of people joining colouring groups and buying dozens of books?
Vivek Tejuja, Manager Content for Flipkart says, “I think it is because it eases people. It doesn't demand much like a novel would have. I think it helps relax people.” 
Sonal Gandhi of Crossword Bookstores says, “The factors that are driving the sales of Adult Colouring Books are Fun, Nostalgia, Relaxation and Creativity. It’s a new way to relax one’s mind in their crazy schedules. People are always scouting for new things to do and are rather bored of usual suspects like movies and shopping. Or smart phones or tabs etc.”

Joel Pearson senior lecturer at UNSW in the school of psychology, USA says, “When colouring-in you look at the colours and spaces occupying those parts of your brain that might normally be involved in anxiety”.
“There seems to be a greater drop in self-reported anxiety for colouring-in mandalas and patterns compared to just drawing colour on a blank page,” he asserts.
But the American Psychological Association have no claims that colouring helps in being mindful, meditative or spiritual.
Supriya Nair, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of AscendPsychology says, “There is no evidence of catharsis, closure or restructure from this colouring art therapy. Art therapy is not going to help in long term effects of the person.”
She believes that even going out to meet a friend, shopping or a spa for the time it is done can be calming and fun. Art therapy needs to be guided by a therapist. The colouring books are not lab tested. There is no validation for the claim that it is in any way spiritual or meditative.
Therapy is defined as something done by a professional to a person who is suffering to give them better understanding, find closure, offer structure or relieve the core issues that are affecting their daily life. Supriya believes that colouring cannot do that. It actually might hinder the process or delay it. “You can be calmer sitting next to a river as well,” She claims.
“If someone is colouring and thinks they’ve resolved their issues, it might actually delay them from seeking help and might worsen cases of depression, anxiety, relationship issues, etc. Colouring cannot help change the neuro pathways of abrasive personalities and aggressive behaviour.”
However, people have shown developing virtues such as patience, attentiveness to detail, and receptivity to truth after they colour for long periods. But is it because of the colouring or the fact that they’ve made up their mind this is what the result should be and hence believe so when they’re done?
Vivek Tejuja says “I honestly believe that colouring books will not stay for long. It is a fad which might last for another year or so.” Ultimately every fad wears off and people will return to novels or find a new wave they would like to talk about and be a part of.
For now, colouring in these books might be the common’s man’s cheap therapy and it is important to bring mindfulness and spirituality into everyone’s life. If the colouring makes you believe that’s how you will achieve it, then by all means please pick up those colouring pencils. However if there are deep issues which unsettle you even after you’ve finished colouring, see a professional about your problems without delay. Colouring is a reasonable way of diverting your mind for some time but the mind is powerful enough to bring you back to your problems that will need to be dealt with at the core level. And that needs long term solutions.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

10 Things Every Woman Should Know By 30


1.      Why You Don’t Need To Please Everyone - We’ve grown up hearing “Be nice to people.” We’ve been taught to keep our tongues in check and be polite to elders. This has led many women to be apologetic for their thoughts and a nature to please everyone, be it friends, family or co-workers. We can’t say NO. And we never disagree, thinking people won’t like us anymore. So what if they don’t like us? We don’t need to be rude but we can say what we feel like and sometimes it’s important to do things for ourselves. Realise what you want to do with your time and life and stop pleasing everyone at the cost of it.  

2.      When to Walk Away From Men Who Are Not into You - Some men want you, then they don’t, then they want you again. OMG. The constant back and forth of mind games that you’ll play with men and analyse every little thing they say and how you feel will leave you exhausted. We women over think relationships. Just because we see “potential” in a man doesn’t mean we give away our months, years and life to a relationship that isn’t giving us what we want. Walk away when you feel you’ve given enough to the relationship or give it a deadline. Believe me, there are plenty of good men in this world who will cherish you.

3.      That You Need to Speak to Your Family Often - You think your parents, grandparents and siblings may live forever but they won’t. The conflicts and misunderstandings you have with them should be finally put to rest. Understand that there are generation gaps, communication gaps, and cultural gaps that every family has. Every one you love may not understand you. But you can make an effort to love and understand them. When you start accepting them for who they are, they’ll start doing the same too. This is an ongoing process you need to do on a regular basis instead of thinking you tried once and it didn’t work. Make more effort.

4.      Have Your Own Bank Account and Save 1/3rd – Most women will get a job and start spending all their money or give it to their parents to handle. Start having a grip about your own finances. Open an account and start putting money in there. Speak to a chartered accountant or banker who can advise you about savings and mutual funds for the long run. You might think you’ll earn enough and can save later but with a volatile market and risky employment in today’s times, you can find yourself out of a job at any time. That’s when you’ll need savings. If you’re getting married, always remember to open your own account. Set the precedent from the beginning or even if you’ve been married for some time, open an account for yourself. Even if your husband asks “what is the need” and you want to keep peace and please him, still open one. You’ll thank yourself later.

5.      Travel is Important – Book your tickets and dates well in advance so you can save money and travel solo or with your partner or family wherever you can. Travel is an important part of getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing new cultures, food, and life. It brings perspective and makes you realise who you are. You don’t always have to travel internationally. There are magnificent places in India that are cheaper that you must have on your bucket list.

6.      It’s Better to Be Safe than Sorry with Fashion – If you’re not comfortable wearing something, don’t push your body into doing so because it’s in fashion or from peer pressure. You’ll stand out for being yourself. Instead of having malfunctioning wardrobes and shoe bites, you’ll have the time to think about what you want from life, instead of what people think about you! One of the richest men in the world Mark Zuckerberg only wears grey shirts and jeans because he believes that he can’t waste his grey cells on deciding what to wear since he has other important things to think about!  

7.      Building Yourself – Make a CV. What all have you done with your life? What more do you want to do? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What are you doing today to achieve that? Even if you just want to get married and have children, do enough to tell those stories later! Learn something new. Take up a course. Teach children. Help the elderly. Manage an event. Take up an adventure sport. Read a book a week. Pick up the Time magazine and read about international affairs. Friends will come and go in your life but what you do and who you become lies solely in the time you invest in yourself now.

8.      What Your Body, Skin & Soul Needs– Always use sunblock before you leave the house and remove your make up after a party no matter how tired you are. Maintain proper hygiene at all times. Get proper gynaecologist check-ups done once a year. Your body is going through a hormonal change and you need to understand and get treated regularly before it becomes a major problem! Get a massage done once in a while to pamper yourself. Spend time alone. Reflect. Introspect. Meditate. The balance you achieve now will help you deal with many issues later.

9.      How to Eat Right & Work It Out – Have a proper breakfast. Every day! Watch what you’re eating through the day. Don’t starve yourself. And don’t over eat because you’re ravenous. Choose your food and drinks wisely. It shows on your skin and your body. No amount of makeup can hide it. Even if you have a great metabolism and can burn everything, your internal organs will start deteriorating with too much fat and alcohol. Drink enough water. Work out regularly. Take the stairs if possible. Walk in the mornings for half an hour if not more every day. Do yoga, Zumba, pilates, boxing, anything that keeps you active. It’s not just to have a great body which you will, it will make your mind stronger too.


10.   Owning Your Sex Life – You don’t need to sleep with a man on the first date or even the third. You don’t need to have sex because you’re lonely or depressed or drunk. You don’t need to get back with your ex because he’s comfortable. You don’t need to get on dating apps because you feel “re-virginised.” By 30 you need to own your body and sex life. You can choose to say no or yes to a man as long as it empowers you. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Words to Live By


“Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.
Don’t allow the phone to interrupt important moments. It’s there for your convenience, not the callers. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.
Don’t burn bridges. You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.
Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.
Don’t major in minor things.
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. 
Don’t spread yourself too thin. Learn to say no politely and quickly. 
Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. 
Don’t waste time grieving over past mistakes Learn from them and move on. 
Every person needs to have their moment in the sun, when they raise their arms in victory, knowing that on this day, at his hour, they were at their very best. 
Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death bed, ‘Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office’. 
Give people a second chance, but not a third. 
Judge your success by the degree that you’re enjoying peace, health and love. 
Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly. 
Leave everything a little better than you found it. 
Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation. 
Loosen up. Relax. Except for rare life and death matters, nothing is as important as it first seems. 
Never cut what can be untied. 
Never overestimate your power to change others. 
Never underestimate your power to change yourself. 
Remember that overnight success usually takes about fifteen years. 
Remember that winners do what losers don’t want to do. 
Seek opportunity, not security. A boat in harbor is safe, but in time its bottom will rot out. 
Spend less time worrying who’s right, more time deciding what’s right. 
Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life. 
Success is getting what you want. Happiness is liking what you get. 
The importance of winning is not what we get from it, but what we become because of it. 
When facing a difficult task, act as though it’s impossible to fail.”
— Jackson Brown Jr.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Selfie Fame Craze: Are We Risking Too Much For "Likes"



“I got a thousand likes for my DP!” Squealed my 25 year old friend. She showed me a picture of her with a tiger who was yawning.

I almost fell off my chair, “Wasn’t that dangerous?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Nah. He was an old tiger. They said nothing could happen.”

I was still appalled. Something could have happened to her. A tiger is still ferocious and it only takes a moment for it to react and harm a person. Why was it was so important to her to take that picture and put it up on a social media site?

Recently an MLA visited a drought stricken area and took a selfie. The picture was widely criticised but the MLA wanted to get noticed, recognised and tell her seniors that she was actually there. In her moment of self-obsession, she didn’t recognise the gravity of the situation. She is not alone. There are many people who would say, “What’s the harm? It’s just a photo!”

But the need for the perfect selfie and the desire to be liked and appreciated can go to dangerous lengths.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the most number of selfie deaths in the world occurred in India. Of at least 27 “selfie related” deaths around the world last year, about half occurred in India.

In recent news, two youths were run over by a train while taking selfies on the railway tracks at Purushottampur railway crossing in Chunar area in Mirzapur district in UP state of India. 
In February 2016 a college student drowned after falling off of the Waldevi Dam in Nashik, India, while taking a selfie. In March 2015 seven Indian youths drowned while taking selfies on Mangrul Lake near Kuhi, about 20 km from Nagpur, India. Their boat had tipped over as they were standing up to pose. (Wikipedia)

Our lives are now recorded in selfies. Who we met, what we did, where we are, how we look needs to be documented and appreciated.

What is this need for fame that everyone is seeking?

There are more people who will go online to Facebook to like a new DP than look for a blog to read. In a world which is becoming more visual, the perfect photograph has gained importance. But it’s not just a pretty picture. It’s you in it. It’s how shocking, dangerous, thrilling and exciting it can be and how you look in that moment. It’s the moment of envy of others. Can you make someone else jealous? If you can, that moment is the perfect picture and hence the most amount of likes on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and every social media that you put it up on. If you can even “trend” because of it, or have people comment, share and discuss it, you’re a hit. And if you aren’t noticed, you’re nobody.

In this entire scenario no one really cares if it’s hazardous to your life or if it’s actually ethical!

Our lives are now documented online. Even if we take photos for ourselves, we have a desire to showcase it. To prove we did it. We can’t just go somewhere and enjoy the place, live in the moment or soak in the wonder. Why?

It’s our need to be famous.

Famous people make more money, live better lives, and have all the luxuries in the world. To be famous one need not be moral. One needs to always be in the public eye.

Recently during a TV actress’ funeral, there was much fainting, drama and sound bytes given to the media of how close they were to her. The media played out their stories with their photos and instantly these actors got noticed. In an industry where you need to be spotted, remembered, praised, you don’t think of the right or decent thing to do. It’s about fame after all. And fame that you can ride on someone else without actually paying for your stories, images, and photos to appear in the papers .

According to a renowned Mumbai psychologist Gitali Banerji of MindfulSpring.com and Inner Space Therapy says, “We have become a generation, an era of people who are so self-obsessed that we don’t look at the harm it can cause us later. There will come a time when not as many people will like your picture, or really care about what you do, where you are or how you look. If you’ve built your life on that appreciation, it will become difficult to adjust to normal living. That’s when you get depressed, paranoid, and obsessive.”

In a market that is making better cameras and people taking more photos of themselves and trying desperately to get famous, are we just losing focus?

Hollywood actor Jim Carrey put it succinctly when he said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.” 

The only way we can find that answer is if we ask different questions. And none of them have to do with being liked or getting fame. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Write India Winners for my passage Love Jihad.



The Rise and Rise of Priyanka Chopra


The year is 2000. It’s the final round of Miss World. The emcee calls a young girl from India, and asks her, "Who do you think is the most successful woman living today and why?"
Since all the Miss Indias’ are prepared with one answer –dead or alive, a nervous Priyanka Chopra answers, "There are a lot of people I admire, but one of the most admirable people is Mother Teresa, who has been so compassionate, considerate and kind." And she goes on to win the title. Lady Luck has been shining on her ever since.

Today, she is the most popular heroine not only in India but spreading all across the world. As she became the first South Asian to win the People’s Choice Awards earlier in USA this year she claimed, “I feel like Miss World again.” And this time she has all her answers well prepared. From being on the Jimmy Fallon show for her American TV debut Quantico to commenting on Trump and the Miss Universe fiasco, PC has a voice and people want to hear it.

Priyanka has come a long way in the last sixteen years. Her life has been coated with controversies of affairs with leading actors to plastic surgeries that she hides well to surrogate babies. Other Bollywood actresses never took a liking to Priyanka, an outsider in an industry that was ruled by camps and contacts.

Priyanka however was always a focussed woman who knew fame and fortune only lay in front of the camera. Coming from an army background Priyanka shone in her first year in Bollywood in the film Andaaz that won her a Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut in 2003. Instead of sticking to the traditional roles and typecasting herself PC went on to do a gutsy, negative role in Aitraaz that won her a Filmfare for Best Performance in a Negative Role.

While the industry was still gossiping about how she was so unconventional looking and breaking rules Priyanka’s life was a roller coaster of covers of magazines and winning hearts. Bollywood wives became insecure when she was working with their husbands on a film, often coming to the set to strengthen their presence in the hero’s life.

One director says, “PC is the perfect actress. She becomes who you want her to be. She can be desi eating rajma chawal and chatting in a Bihari accent with an extremely `Indian’ kind of director and she can have an American accent on how she loves Central Park when she’s talking to a director who loves shooting in New York.”

But Priyanka has been unfazed by gossip around her. Even when she was linked to Bollywood’s top married hero as his second wife, she continued to work hard and prove she was more than a WAG. (Wife and Girlfriend) She stretched her talents to spread into as many fields as possible. Unlike other actresses who stuck to simply acting, Priyanka was a host on Indian television in Khatron ka Khiladi and she made an international music video called In My City and Exotic. Quickly learning that her music and hosting career was not going to get her too far, she came back to choose films that would boost her acting ability further. Fashion, Barfi, Mary Kom, Dil Dhadakne Do, Bajirao Mastani, Priyanka has always selected films with great scripts, intelligent directors and meaty roles that would be promoted well. 

She understood how the marketing system works. It’s not just about the craft or the talent if no one sees it. Promotions were important and PC hired enthusiastic PR representatives to push her image and quotes wherever possible so people would see and hear from her continuously. She hash tagged herself into the hearts of people and several ad agencies who would start remembering only her when it came to endorsements – Bollywood, fashion, music, etc.

PC became the girl everyone wanted to work with and her filmography expanded to over 50 films and over 25 awards.

In 2015 Priyanka started working on Quantico, an American TV show. Rumours surrounded even this. Her rise in the last one year has been phenomenal. From being recognised on a global TV platform to presenting at the Oscars, winning a People’s Choice Award, being on the cover of Time magazine, having dinner with the President of the United States Barack Obama to winning the Padma Shri, Priyanka has left the controversies, and love stories behind. Her active PR agency makes sure that she is continuously in the news in India while still filming for Quantico and Baywatch abroad as she knows that out of sight is out of mind for most viewers.

Priyanka balances all her work with extreme poise and grace. While most actors are afraid of social media, she is the first actress to have crossed the 11 million follower mark on Twitter (currently at 13.9 mil) and 3 million followers on Instagram. This makes her imminently likeable and relatable to the ordinary person who feels they can connect with her at any time. 

She paves the way for showing how to respond to trolls and having a thick skin which makes her even more popular on social media. Recently, talking about Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigrants in US, Priyanka Chopra had said, “I just think you can’t put a ban on anyone. Generalizing a type of people is really primitive.” This did not go down well with one of her followers, Adesh Gundecha, who Tweeted to her: “Priyanka, politics is not your arena yet. Better just be actress for now. WAIT!!” And Priyanka has been winning the Internet with her reply: “You’re right @adesh_1 why should an actress stand for humanity... It’s not our place right?” (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/entertainment/bollywood/300416/taking-on-the-trolls.html)

From saying the wrong answer to being the most quoted celebrity in India, Priyanka is motivational to many youngsters who are trying to find themselves and become famous as well. “I think it’s great to be flawed. I am hugely flawed, and I like it that way. That’s the fun of life. You fall, get up, make mistakes, learn from them, be human and be you.(2012)” (http://www.hindustantimes.com/bollywood/it-s-great-to-be-flawed-32-quotes-by-32-year-old-priyanka-chopra/story-0HK7j9BcPHDhWk3K6YoZRP.html)

While there might be rumours about how she has used the popular black magician of Bollywood who seems to be helping many a star and producer, Priyanka has proved that her hard work and dedication to her craft and talent has made her globally admired and respected. “She is unstoppable,” says one of her directors.


But her every moment from the time she was crowned Miss World has been used to better her life. She now has a quote for everyone – magazines, newspapers, press, movie premiers, talk shows, red carpets. She’s left her contemporaries far behind and is ready to compete on the global scale. As she rightfully said she’s on her way to “world domination.” 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Review: Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


Before We Visit The Goddess
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Before We Visit The Goddess is a beautiful tale of three generations of women who have loved, lost, and misunderstood each other over a span of a lifetime. It’s a bittersweet tale of motherhood of three women Sabitri, Bela and Tara woven through a tapestry of different perspectives in first person and the people who were important in their lives. 

Before We Visit the Goddess is a story of immense alienation felt in myriad ways and the deep need to connect to the ones you love. Each mother has ambitions for her only child, only to be scorned and rejected until the final twist when redemption suddenly comes but it might be too late.

The novel may seem linear in format but through the narrations we flicker back in time to go more in depth with the characters’ thoughts and reasons. It’s a story of how small incidents can alter relationships and how time can manipulate your ego to hold on to grudges long after the memory has faded.

Sabitri’s mother is a master at making sweets, a talent that leads to her daughter getting favours from a rich household that allows Sabitri to go to school. Sabitri’s story is a heart warming tale of a young girl who is tenacious enough to learn everything her mother wanted, but falls into a trap, disappoints her surrogate mother Leelamoyi and must start over again; a theme that is repeated in different ways through Sabitri’s daughter Bela and her daughter Tara. Sabitri’s encounter with a stranger and her choices set off a series of events that are intricately related to the lives of her future generations.

Bela, Sabitri’s daughter is passionate and fiery, exactly like her mother but makes choices that break her mother’s heart. She lives a life full of love and loss until she finds small happiness in the unlikeliest of places through a stranger.

Tara’s story is one of a typical American Born Confused Desi with a fantastic new angle. Her desire to fit in, stand out and be accepted is told in a new way until again like her mother, it’s an encounter with a stranger and not someone she loves that sets her on a new path.

Each woman grows through the years and changes to understand herself better and as readers we see how similar they all are. Regrettably only we readers can understand how deeply connected their choices are and the depth of their immeasurable need for their mother who they reject until maybe it’s too late.

This book could have also been called Fortunate Lamps from the letter Sabitri starts writing to Tara: “Good daughters are fortunate lamps, brightening the family’s name. Wicked daughters are firebrands, blackening the family’s fame.”

Whether they are Fortunate Lamps or not, is left to the reader to decide.


Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a master story teller and she has outdone herself in this novel, weaving in narratives from a male and female viewpoint, leaping through decades and pausing for the moments that we over look in life but the ones that actually matter. This book is tender, sublime, beautiful and evocative. You are sucked into the worlds that seem familiar but are always out of reach. One is moved by the stories of each of the characters, not just the three main women. 

I truly loved Palace of Illusions and it was my favourite novel for a long time until BEFORE WE VISIT THE GODDESS came along and has toppled it. Kudos Chitra. Didn’t want this book to end though it has remained with me long after I finished it. 

http://www.flipkart.com/before-visit-goddess-english/p/itmefsp6dsspdvg7?pid=9781471146930

Friday, May 6, 2016

Why Women Judge Other Women


Recently an ex boyfriend of a successful actress declared in an interview that she used black magic and was violent. The post was put on social media. Surprisingly many men supported her while women commentated that she was a “psycho.”

Working mom and a close friend of mine Soumya Shankar went to her school reunion and met her old girl students there. Most of them were housewives and only one was working but didn’t have any children. While the mothers judged the working woman, my friend judged them all saying, “How can these women just sit at home and look after their husbands and cater to their families all day? Don’t they want to do something more with their life?” And when asked about the woman who was truly successful at her work she said, “Haan but then she’s sacrificed having children. She’ll never know the pleasure of being a mom.”

We are constantly bombarded with images of perfect women in magazines, the film industry, and various different sectors. These women have successfully managed their careers and their home life perfectly while looking like a million bucks. The media has planted the image of what a perfect woman should be in most of our minds. This remains in our subconscious so that when we meet women, our immediate reaction is to judge them according to that image.

How do we judge women?

Even while we don’t compare normal, ordinary women to the glamour industry, women most often gossip about each other. Some of the things they might say could be: She’s become so fat. She does nothing with her life even after studying so much. She’s so aggressive. Her hair cut is terrible. She’s got such negative energy. She doesn’t even know how to cook. What an awful attire she’s wearing. She looks tired, she should do something about those dark circles. She keeps blowing up her husband’s money. Obviously she slept her way to that position. Of course her husband would leave her; who would stay with someone who doesn’t want to give time to her husband? She works so hard that her children will suffer and become these brats. Look at how she dresses, it’s shocking.

Housewife Jyotsna Kirloskar says, “Sometimes I participate in judging women to fit in to a group. If I don’t, I’ll be a loner because everyone talks about each other.” We women have all known to say something about another woman deliberately and sometimes involuntarily. It could also be that there is truly nothing else to talk about. Sometimes it’s just a reaction to someone saying something about us as well.  

Where did it come from?

We have seen our mothers, grandmothers, aunts sit around and gossip about family members and other women. Sometimes we do it to build our own self esteem that we’re good enough. Most times we compare ourselves to other women to judge where we stand in life. And we tick mark the things in our invisible list of how to be successful that we have been able to achieve. Loving family, respect, appreciation, healthy body, good children, loyal husband, fat bank balance, powerful designations, etc. If in our head we’ve achieved the things we believe should define a woman or are at least trying to, then we judge other women for not following in those footsteps.

What is the harm anyway?

Gitali Chatterji, Senior Psychologist at Inner Space Counselling believes that when you’re judging somebody you get a temporary sense of happiness by comparing yourself. “It’s actually survival of the fittest. Everyone else is competition, everyone wants to be number one. Hence they judge to put the other person down and themselves higher in this evolutionary perspective. Self-reflection is rare. If you self-reflect and are absolutely honest you can take a step back and analyse is there a personal need that is unmet? And then you can develop that rather than judge.”
Most judgements of others are ego strategies to avoid uncomfortable feelings. (www.tinybuddha.com

Constant judging could lead to a personality disorder that could lead to emotional distress, anti-social behaviour or anxiety amongst other serious problems. Judging other women will lead to unhappiness, comparison and self-deprecation. Your behaviour, attitude and words will teach younger adults and children to perpetuate stereotypes and continue with the judgements and negativity.

It could also lead to a false sense of pride, arrogance and inflated ego that could crumble later in life leaving you with extreme depression. When we judge, we also compare and subconsciously compete. This fills us with expectations about ourselves and our lives, which when not actualised could lead to great disappointment.

Bestselling Author Chuck Palahniuk says, “We’ve spent so much time judging what other people created that we’ve created very, very little on our own.”

What Can we Do About it?

1.     Stop feeling envious or resentful – Understand where it is coming from – loneliness, being scared, anger, and insecurity. If you’re a shy person you might look at a woman and say “She’s so loud!” Or if you see a person with a happy marriage and you’re suffering you might say, “I’m sure he’s cheating on her.” Acknowledge what they have and what you don’t and abstain from judging either. Say to yourself, I refuse to comment. I let go of this thought.

2.     Keep yourself occupied – Most times an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. When you are busy trying to learn something new, reading, or have a goal in mind you will stop spending so much energy in judging people and focus on yourself.

3.     Consciously Stay Away from Commenting – Many women friends meet to gossip and comment on others. Try to stay away from these connections since you get sucked in to fitting in or speaking ill as well. Or you can try to change the topic to something everyone enjoys and discuss new ideas. Find friends who will inspire you, motivate you, teach you, listen, discuss and move you. Not just those who may gossip when you have free time.

4.     Realise it may not be your own thoughts – Access Consciousness states that 99% of the time our thoughts are not ours and they belong to something in the Universe that we can neutralise and send back. Like energy around us, we remove these thoughts, feelings and send them back to where they came from without it settling into our subconscious and become free of judgements. “Consciousness and Oneness includes everything and judges nothing. It’s the ability to be present in your life in every moment without judgement of you or anyone else.” (www.accessconsciousness.com )

Gitali concludes that “Every person’s path of self-discovery is different. There is a need that is not fulfilled within. So even when you do compare and judge, find the thing that’s lacking in you and be inspired rather than put down that person.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Inauspicious


Women Not Allowed.
That’s the slogan that most women have heard for centuries. Women Not Allowed. In voting, dargahs, male clubs, temples, sports, in schools, the army, the list goes on. But we’ve fought them all and recently with women entering the 400 year old male bastion of Shani Shingnapur temple, we’ve finally been able to let the world know that women cannot be banned from any place. 

But what happens in our own society? Aren’t we banning women from certain auspicious things in our own way?

Recently I was part of a group that was discussing a sixteen day puja where every day the woman following the puja had to give a certain amount of fruits to different women every day. I mentioned a young mother’s name and immediately I was shot down by a friend who said, “No! No she’s a widow. It doesn’t make sense to give to her. It won’t count.”

I was shocked. She was a widow for no fault of hers. I asked why it was so inauspicious to give fruits to her.

“Because a puja is about culture and giving and receiving blessings. What blessings would a widow be able to give?” Widows were meant to stick together and do pujas. Not mingle freely with married women. They were a bit of a curse.

The conversation went on to have a heated discussion where I vehemently opposed this thought but no matter what I could not change the other person’s view point.

Many weeks later I was invited by a friend for a religious function. I was surrounded by couples and their children and I was the only divorced woman there. This was the first time I was invited for an auspicious occasion. I brought a big present and greeted my friend happily.

But I overheard, “What is she doing here? Isn’t she divorced? What blessings is she going to give the girl? To live her life independently and not think about the welfare of her husband or family?”

I finally understood why I haven’t been invited for so many other occasions. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe in the rituals of India (most of which I don’t) it was because a divorced woman or a widow wasn’t really welcome in a group of happily married couples. I was and the widow was – 
Inauspicious.

In a country where tradition, rituals, customs, sanskars hold such an important value that they overtake logic, reasoning and feeling, how can women ever be allowed into sacred territories. The Varanasi widows weren’t even allowed to play Holi.

There is something suspicious about divorced women and widows. It’s like in the olden times when a woman wasn’t allowed in the kitchen because of her menstruation. She was simply not holy then. 

We’ve chosen not to be holy today by not sticking to a marriage or not remarrying after the death of a husband. But then if your husband has died, you’re already besmirched with a tag that the woman is unlucky! So for her to even date, find happiness, remarry and be invited to an auspicious occasion would take a herculean task of overthrowing old patriarchy, deep rooted chauvinist notions and already formulated stone clad judgements on her character. God forbid she doesn’t wear white and actually dresses up, has a drink and a smoke once in a while, it won’t be the men who will be shocked, it will be other educated, liberated women!

As a divorced woman, in this evolving society there are a few people who understand your choices. Just a few. But then to be a successful, independent, arrogant, funny, woman who is living life on her own terms is frowned upon. She is kept away from the husband at all costs.

Recently I needed to call a man to help him with a business proposal that I thought would be good for him. I stated to his wife, “Can you please ask him from my side? I don’t have any husband’s numbers.”

She replied, “Good good. Don’t keep only.”

So I realised that until we divorced women and widows state it, women will not be allowed anywhere. There are only 5 ways we can break the inauspicious curse:
1.     To all wives out there – no matter how handsome and successful your man is, we don’t want him unless he wants us. And we will never make the first move. We have too much self-respect to do so.
2.     All women are equal. Just because you have a husband and family doesn’t mean that we’re lesser than you. Give, invite, welcome, accept, understand and love each woman equally and you’ll get that back from a dynamic woman as well.
3.     Don’t look at women from your high seated perspective. One day you might be one of them.
4.     If you don’t want the blessings of love, nurturing, experience, abundance, security, intelligence, dignity, honour, and respect to your home, child or function, don’t invite a widow or divorced woman. Because that’s what she will bless you with!
5.     Please keep your views to yourself so you don’t pass it onto your children who will be laughed at for being regressive and old fashioned if they do the same tomorrow.

Hopefully we won’t need to resort to high voltage activists to change the thinking of women in our society. Hopefully the realisation shall come from within.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Effect of Divorce on Men


It takes a lot to make a commitment in the first place. You’ve found the person of your dreams and you hope that you’ll grow old with them. So when the marriage crumbles and the fabric of this dream of togetherness starts unravelling there are two people who are left bruised and battered. We rarely see it from the husband’s point of view. Here are a few things that are going through a man’s mind when he’s getting a divorce:

1.     What do I do with my Children? - There are many men who are concerned about their children and not being able to wake up in the same house as them. They want to provide for their offspring but they also want time and love from their children. Harish Mukherjee* is in a bitter court battle against his wife who walked out on him with his two kids. She’s only allowing access to them if he hands over the property in which he is living and a fat alimony to look after the children. But Harish can’t give that because he’ll be out on the streets. So he hasn’t seen his kids. He realises that this will affect the children at a deeper level later in the future but he is helpless. For other men they feel that their children will pick sides and before they can do that, the man has moved away so that he doesn’t get hurt. For others they suddenly need to find time for children because it’s not easy to meet them every day. This leaves a sense of imbalance in their life.

2.     What happens to my Finances and Property? – When the man was living with his wife and children, he was looking after one house. But when a divorce happens, he needs to look after two houses, his own where he has shifted if he’s not gone back to staying with his parents and the one where his wife and children are still staying. A wife may also demand property in the settlement and it could cause a massive ego tussle since the man has worked hard to have savings and buy property and he believes his wife wants to snatch that away from him. There is a deep insecurity about how he will save again.

3.     How did I lose my authority? – Most boys grow up to believe that they’ll be the “man of the house.” Hence they have a lot of power and authority at home, especially if it’s a joint family. So when the woman leaves it’s a huge blow to their ego. Divorce Lawyer Swaty Singh Malik says most men who come to her say, “How can she leave me? I can leave her!” Suddenly when they’ve lost the power at home, men find it difficult to concentrate on other aspects in their life and may try to find that power and dominance over others in other spheres, says senior psychologist Gitali Chatterji at Inner Space.

4.     Who will love me again? – As soon as he’s got a divorce, a man may feel free and liberated and date many women. But it isn’t easy for a man to be alone. After a while he realises that his mind set has changed from what it was when he was in his twenties. He is now so used to having a wife and a family that he begins to crave it. Gautam Iyer refused to give his wife a divorce for many years believing that she will get back to him. After he was convinced that she will never return, he promptly signed the legal paper, got on a marriage website and married the first girl he dated.

5.     Why are people judging me? – Most divorces end in ugly battles with the woman filing a 498A or a Domestic Violence case against the husband. And most times it is true. But in the rare cases when it’s not true, the man is automatically judged by his friends, society and the children’s school where gossip flows freely and he is condemned unless proven innocent. Lawyer Swaty Singh Malik says she has handled many cases where the man has just given away crores to the wife to have peace of mind. She said women can use children and the media to get back at the husband and people will be sympathetic towards her. In not so extreme cases, a couple does lose friends. During the course of a marriage, couples begin to meet collectively. When a divorce happens friends choose sides and suddenly a man’s social circle diminishes. For a man who is shy, reserved and has made friends through his wife’s friends, he finds himself alone and friendless.

It’s not easy for men to get a divorce. And even though they may not show it, they are heartbroken and insecure too. Most men should know that there are support groups who can help them in this difficult time. You must also reach out to your family and friends and talk to them, instead of bottling up your emotions. A good lawyer can also advise you on the correct steps to take. And most importantly don’t shy away from seeing a counsellor in your city who can help you deal with the issues at a core level. 
  

*(names changed to protect identity)