Tuesday, 11 October 2016

I think I have lost my home...


I think I have lost my home...

Laughing with my friends playing hide and seek, when love was pure and friendships sweet,

Somewhere in those lanes, I think I have lost my home...

When the days were gloomy and the nights were dark, and yet there was faith and hope in the heart,

Somewhere in my grandma's stories, I think I have lost my home...

Getting clean and dressed for the Sunday prayers, lining up to get my prasad's share,

Somewhere on the way to the Gurudwara, I think I have lost my home...

Taking to the stage to collect my prize, when I was proud and the apple of everyone's eyes,

Somewhere among that adulation, I think I have lost my home...

There were also days when I couldn't be consoled, when everything seemed dark and without hope,

Hidden somewhere in my mother's lap, I think I have lost my home...

The songs we sang and the tunes we grooved to, the ones that took you to a world so new,

Somewhere in the lyrics of those songs, I think I have lost my home,

And there you were sitting by yourself, listening to all but not eager to tell,

Somewhere behind that smug smile, I think I have lost my home...

Then there were dreams that made you fly, took you far too far into the night,

Somewhere beneath the wings of that flight, I think I have lost my home...

And then you came to be tested by fire, making something new from an old pyre,

Somewhere in trying to forge and carve, I think I have lost my home...

So far away in a place so foreign, where everyone talks in ways too strange,

Somewhere in that awkward conversation, I think I have lost my home...

Nomad I feel is what I am today, one moment here and the next away,

In all of this life's hustle, I think I have lost my home...

And yet there is something that brings me back, every time I feel I'm losing track,

Your love, your care, a bond so deep, that wakes me up when I want to sleep,

You provide me shelter and keep me warm, and bring me back to where I belong,

Somewhere in that loving embrace of yours, I think I have found my home...

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Oh the things we do on Facebook!


Are you one of those people who pick up their phones first thing in the morning? It goes everywhere you go, and it has everything you love. Life suddenly becomes meaningless if it were to hang or, God forbid, if the Internet would stop working! You, my friend, are not alone. Welcome to the smartphone age - where phones are getting smarter while people are getting dumber!

Chances are, you also have at least one or more chatting and social media apps installed, that keep you hooked. I recently deleted the Facebook app from my phone, lest it become an addiction. It doesn't stop me from logging in every few hours, but at least I'm not jumping in at every notification. I don't claim to be an expert, but there are a few things I have noticed about all that happens on Facebook and other social media sites. Here's a list of points that may come across as relevant to you while you're on social media. Most of you pros will already know them, and as always, this is an extremely subjective post, but still, here goes.

1. There is no such thing as privacy on the Internet
The moment you open your browser window, hidden programs start keeping track of what you do online. Being 'incognito' will be a bit safer, but still you can't claim your privacy. The only way to ensure it would be to abstain completely, but that's not really an option now, is it? Still, try to deluge as little information as possible when online. And make sure you have understood the concept of 'Privacy Settings' before you start posting anything on social media.

2. Your current relationship may not last, but your digital life will
What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. Forever. There is literally no way to undo what you have done online. Hence, be very, very careful about what you choose to post online. You wouldn't want to put up anything that you might regret five years down the line. Whether you like it or not, you will be judged by the profile you create, which is a continuous, evolving concept. Be sure to cultivate your virtual image responsibly. Just like you do in reality.

3. The restricted list is there for a reason
Don't accept friend requests from strangers. There are too many perverts and predators lurking around. If you feel you must accept a friend request but aren't comfortable letting that person in, keep him/her in the restricted list. That way they are your friends, but can only see what you post publicly. If you find that someone is bothering you too much, blocking them is also completely acceptable. Likewise, you can create your friend lists and choose who gets to see what.

4. Maybe you can't unfriend but you can always unfollow
Someone in your list posting too many photos of sick children? Maybe it's a cousin you can't unfriend. You can simply unfollow them. Their posts will stop appearing in your news feed, but they will still be your friends.

5. Just because you can, doesn't mean you have to tag fifty people
We all have that one friend who posts a selfie and tags everyone he/she possibly can. It's annoying, weird and rude. Don't be that guy. If you are tagging someone in a photo, make sure they are OK with that pic being seen by their friends.

6. What kind of a spouse are you?
Seriously? You need Facebook to tell you that? Do you know every time you take a silly quiz you grant it access to every single detail of your Facebook account? Please be wiser and refrain from taking these quizzes and granting access to any external programs.

7. Candy crush! Candy crush!
News flash - you can play games without inviting all your friends on Facebook. So please, play to your heart's content, but don't invite me. I have better things to do in life.

8. If u thnk dat dis is annoying 4 ur boss, dan posts lyk dese r annoying 4  every1
Do you know how frustrating it is to read a post written in this weird text? It takes hours to understand or make sense of it. So if u plan on writing lyk dis, tenkew vry mch, u wil b unfriended or unfollowed. Not to mention that people who use this kind of language come across as sloppy and incompetent. Please save yourself the embarrassment, and start using the phone dictionary or a spell check software.

9. I know what you ate last summer
Khana toh shanti se kha liya karo yaar. Seriously, do you have to post pictures of everything you are eating or post a 'check in' every single time you visit a restaurant? Once in a while is OK but not too often.

10. I also know exactly where you are right now
Did I need to know that? No. Thank you for providing first hand info of your whereabouts to some lecher. Check the location services on your phone. If it is set up to 'check in' every time you go some place new, you might want to change that. And if you have done it intentionally, well, God help you.

11. I love you so much my dear honey bunny
PDA on Facebook? Not cool. Not everyone in the world needs to know your romantic nicknames for each other. Same goes for the really long eulogies, birthday wishes and other sentimental crap. And no washing dirty linen in public. It is 'social' media not personal media. If you love someone so much, please make time for them in person instead of announcing it on Facebook. Facebook wishes are meant for people whose phone numbers you don't have, or those you would rather not spend time on!

12. Lightning fast Facebook accounts from the womb
I just don't understand this. How do parents do this to their children? Facebook accounts for newborns? Toddlers? Why do they put their precious children at risk by creating their Facebook accounts and putting all their personal information on it? For heaven's sake don't do that. No matter what your settings. A pesky predator will find a way to get through. And not just that, you are robbing your child of the opportunity to make his/her own social image. Everything has a time and place. Please don't disturb that order.

13. Kya? Ladke ka Facebook profile nahi hai? Oh God!
Looking for a soul mate on Shadi.com? Surely you have already checked the Facebook profiles of all suitable matches haven't you? You already have a virtual impression of who you are going to meet. And what if they don't have one? Good luck finding your partner without it!

14. Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire by donating money
Some people will have me believe that. Since, every time I type an Amen, Facebook gives the man in the photo a cent. Grow up people! That's not happening. And the 7 years of bad luck horoscope from the 90's is still doing the rounds. Unbelievable.

15. You are expected to reply when someone wishes you on social media
Etiquette and social graces are required as much in the virtual world as in the real one. If someone takes the time to write to you, make sure you reply back.

16. Photo sharing
Since most people are on social media trying to prove how awesome their lives are, they tend to use it primarily to upload pictures of their everyday 'adventures'. Although most of us know what current technology can do to digital images. Hence, I dedicate some extra space to this one.
  • Cover photos - Cover photos are by default public and this setting can't be changed. So it's best to choose something generic like landscapes or quotes.
  • Profile pictures - Profile pictures are by default public. But you can change this setting and choose an appropriate audience. I strongly suggest you do that. Try not to post drunken pics, pics in inappropriate clothing or in general, anything that could be embarrassing especially if you have co-workers and older relatives in your friend list. In many ways, it will be your first impression on social media. Make sure it's a good one. (On Twitter, everything you do is visible publicly, which means it requires greater care)
  • Photos of children - No. Just no. No matter how cute your baby is. It's not worth the risk. If you must, please choose your audience carefully. And for older children, no shaming photos as a means of punishment. It is cruel and emotionally damaging for the child. And definitely, don't mention exact names of schools or places that your child visits often.
  • Honeymoon pics - Remember the time when our parents used to keep even their 'very decent' honeymoon pics away from prying eyes? Not anymore. Nothing is sacred. Everyone has to put on a show better than the other. Unless you want a secret admirer to be jerking off looking at a digitally morphed intimate photo of you, I suggest you keep personal photos personal. A couple of pics at an exotic location are probably fine, but really, the world doesn't have to know of your romantic exploits. Same goes with other romantic getaways, and moments too personal to share.
  • God photos, photos of sick children and the like - Please refrain as far as possible. Sometimes even one strange pic is enough to spoil your mood.
  • Selfie mania - If you are an adult who posts a selfie with a pout/sunglasses every alternate day, you might need to see a shrink. (Selfitis isn't officially a disease yet, but taking and posting too many selfies is often indicative of poor mental health)
  • Tagging photos - Like I said before, it's always better to seek permission from the person in question before tagging them. You can prevent others too from tagging you by making changes in your privacy settings. You have an option where you can review the tagged material before it gets posted on your timeline, or you may even disable tagging by others completely.  
As the lines between our real and virtual lives get more blurry by the day, it is imperative that we work towards keeping these lives separate. Be wary of what people do/say on social media, as it is often vain, pretentious or downright fake. The real stories are almost always completely different from what is projected online. Of course you already know that, who am I lecturing. But seriously, stay safe. Ciao.

An edited version of this post appeared here.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Confessions of a 'Fat' girl

It was the third day of college. The ragging sessions were in full swing. Ragging in our college was mostly a fun affair, and a wonderful ice-breaking experience for me. All kinds of silly pranks were being played. During one such session, one of my seniors asked me to go and propose to her male friend sitting some distance away. Unwillingly, I went up to the guy pretending to hold a flower and blurted an 'I love you'. In return, this guy shouted back, 'Arre yaar kisse bhej diya? Size dekh kar toh bhejna tha!' I was mortified, angry and heartbroken. In that moment, it didn't matter if I scored above 90% in CBSE exams. It didn't matter that I was multi-talented. It didn't matter that I was kind and generous. All that mattered was that I was fat... Hello adult life - you sure are harsh!

Now let me clarify. I've been chubby since the time I turned a year old, give or take a few months. Partly genetics and partly an insatiable sweet tooth. Add to it the fact that I was always a bookworm with absolutely no interest in playing any sports. And there you have it - stereotypical bespectacled fat nerd with braces in her teeth. Let me also clarify - I've never been obese. Just cutely plump. By God's grace I've always been in reasonably good health. And to this day I do not fit into any definition of thin. I wear a size 10, have flabby arms and a mummy tummy. Today, I'm comfortable with how I look. But it wasn't always the case.

Teenage is a terrible time for everyone. You are going through so much. And you are beginning to feel things you never did before. You want to look good. You want to be cool. You want to be popular. At that time, like every good girl, I was immersed in my studies with no time for a love life. But I'm human you see, and I did crave male attention. Like my prettier friends used to get. Or other pretty people who were getting proposals from just about every other guy. So though I was performing brilliantly in academics, there was a part of me that had zero confidence. A part of me that felt like a total loser. Undesirable and unwanted. And I always blamed it on my weight. (I was never bullied though, thankfully)

It didn't help that the relatives were so happy voicing their concerns. 'Do you think it looks good? A young girl having arms like that! You look like your grandmother! How are your parents going to find you a suitable boy?' Thank you very much, I'm happily married to a very nice boy now. (And as if getting married is the sole purpose of a young girl's life. Maybe she doesn't, chill dude)

Thankfully my parents never put any pressure on me to look a certain way. My mom was happy to feed her children whatever they wanted and all my dad cared for was that we should be dressed modestly in clean, ironed clothes. What mattered to them was our career, our overall development, our well-being. There was no room for shallow things like fat or thin.

Today, I can look back at those times and laugh. But the stigma of being overweight tortured me for much of my life. It made me vulnerable. Open to emotional abuse of a certain kind that only fat people are aware of. It made me insecure. It made me try too hard to impress. It made me feel like a failure at times. It made me feel unloved. And a lot of my life was spent trying to fill the void that it created.

It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I realised I was beautiful. By this time, I had developed a sartorial sense of my own, and was never sloppy. I could feel that people took notice when I walked into a room. Girls in my hostel would pay me compliments. Guys much younger than me had mini-crushes on me. Random people would come up to ask which college I was from. Honestly, it felt good.

Security, on the other hand, has kicked in only recently, after several years of being in a stable marriage with a man who loves me beyond my looks. It has taken so long to realise that love is so much more than how you look, how you talk or how much money you have. That being fat has little to do with how desirable you are. So long to kill the 'fat girl syndrome' that I suffered from for so long.

Why am I telling you all this? Because our society puts so much pressure on us to look a certain way. No matter how much people are talking about body shaming, a fat girl is still a fat girl. As is a dark skinned girl or a skinny girl or a short girl or a hairy girl. I was one of the fortunate few who could overcome this to a great extent. I still get nervous triggers if the numbers on the scale go higher. But most women, don't get over their complexes and fears about such labels their entire lives. It saps so much positivity, vitality and enrichment from their lives.

It is strange when mothers tell me that they are taking their 12 year olds to a dietician, to help lose the 'baby fat'. Or to aerobics classes aimed specifically at slimming. She's a child for God's sake! Don't rob her of her innocence. If you are concerned about her health, introduce her to sports or to rigorous dance forms like Bharatnatyam. Something that is fulfilling and nurturing. By all means, inculcate healthy eating habits. I don't endorse being unhealthy. But don't push her into a crazy world with a negative body image. She has so much to accomplish in life yet without worrying about losing weight.

I have adored Kate Winslet since I first saw her in Titanic for this very reason. She endorsed her curves with such élan and continues to set a good example for women all over the world. And it was sad for me to see the 'Internet is breaking over Parineeti Chopra's weight loss' news. There was one good actress with a full body who could have been an inspiration to millions of young girls... She too succumbed to the pressure of the need to look svelte. We really need more body positive icons for young women all over the world. Without the Spanx and the air brushing.

Have you seen the completely idiotic Nerolac Suraksha ad where a doctor needs to prove his worth by painting his house? Body shaming is exactly like that! So please, for heaven's sake, stop body shaming your daughters or granddaughters or nieces or neighbours. Childhood insecurities travel way beyond childhood. They affect every dimension of our lives, especially if they make us feel undesirable. No girl must have to think that she is unlovable because of a genetic trait she has little control over. Tell her how smart she is, how strong she is and how much possibility the world holds for her. That she doesn't need a man to validate her existence. She is an individual in her own right. That it's ok to eat cake when she feels like it. If she gets fat, there will only be more of her to love!

With love to all the girls who have been called undesirable by people too blind to see their beauty.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

क़र्ज़

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
नम थी आँखें , हम रो भी ना पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
हमने दुआ करी किसी अपने को मौत आए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
लफ़्ज़ तो थे पर कुछ कह ना पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
दूर हुए इतने कि कंधा ना दे पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
दर्द हुआ पर महसूस ना कर पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
जागे ना थे और सो भी ना पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
हम चल ना सके पर ठहर भी ना पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
पंख तो थे पर उड़ ना पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी ,
सब गँवा के भी उनसे कुछ हासिल ना कर पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
माफ़ ना किया और भुला भी ना पाए।

कुछ तो क़र्ज़ चुकाने थे ऐ ज़िंदगी,
छलकी पलकें और लफ़्ज़ बह आए।

Saturday, 6 February 2016

A Business called Cancer

I was fourteen when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the first time in my life I had seen my iron man father break down and cry like a baby. Thankfully, it was an early stage and the prognosis looked good. I saw my mother go through surgery and grueling sessions of chemotherapy. There was not one side effect that she did not have. She would cry with pain piercing her bones due to the death and subsequent growth of white blood cells in her bone marrow. Her hair fell off. She was unable to eat anything. All her veins collapsed. Heparin was not much help. She received a chemo-port which got infected and gave her a blood infection. She survived the ordeal but never completely recovered from it. Sometimes I wonder if the treatment for cancer took away more of her health than the cancer itself.

In my best friend's mother's case, it actually did. Her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour by accident. She had fallen and injured her head. The pain refused to go. Imaging reports showed a tumour in her brain. She too underwent surgery and received radiotherapy, which, along with the cancerous cells, killed many of her healthy nerve cells too. In time, she became completely paralysed, and was bed ridden for many years before dying a slow and painful death.

My tayaji too was not very lucky. I was in the last year of college when he was diagnosed with stomach-oesophageal cancer. According to my father - the captain of all killer cancers. His prognosis was not good. The cancer soon metastasized, robbing him of his ability to eat. He could not even drink water when thirsty. By his last days, he had became frail, skeleton like, and sometimes you almost wished that his pain ends. He was one of the noblest, gentlest people on earth. I couldn't sleep for many months after his death.

I did not intend to spoil your day telling you my sob story. I barely wanted you to know that I'm one of those unfortunate people who have known cancer closely. And hence, it pains me so much to see how people are exploiting this fear of cancer to reap profits. Let me give a few examples.

Some time back, my mother-in-law complained of severe back pain. Imaging tests showed fibroids in her uterus. We knew that she has had fibroids for many years, we only wanted to know if they had increased or become harmful in any way. We decided to go to one of the most reputed Gynae & Obs specialist in Delhi. People from all over the country come to this doctor. She looked at her report, took her family history, and said - 'Please come tomorrow morning for surgery. Your uterine wall has thickened so much that you will develop cancer any day. We need to perform a hysterectomy immediately. Yours is a very high risk case since your mother also had cancer.' The world came crashing down on us. When a doctor of such high repute tells you something like that, you take it seriously.

Almost immediately, we made a few calls, and our family doctors were not convinced. We were told to take a second opinion from Dr. Puneet Bedi, who is famous for his conservative approach to gynaecology. (I choose to mention his name because he is by far one of the finest doctors I've met. Behind his Dr. House like personality lies an extremely caring, dedicated and noble gynaecologist who is also a very active crusader against female foeticide and medical malpractice. Needless to say, he will be my gynaecologist for as long as he chooses to practice). On meeting him, we came to know that benign, non-bleeding fibroids in a menopausal woman don't require any immediate action. She merely needed regular screening so that any changes can be detected. The back pain was probably due to her hectic lifestyle, totally unrelated to her uterus.

That day, my faith in the medical system was both shattered and restored. Shattered, because you can't trust a senior doctor to give you good advice. I don't know how many hysterectomies is she doing every day giving a cancer scare to gullible people. Minting money, sure, but putting people's lives at risk by performing such major surgeries. Restored, because there are still doctors like Dr. Bedi, saving a noble profession from disgrace.

The next instance came when I was about to have my baby. There were people floating around everywhere giving options for stem cell banking. 'You know your child could have cancer some day, or any other rare genetic disorder. This will save him/her.' Stem cell banking in India is not very expensive. Any middle class person can afford it. So naturally, any person would want to go for such a revolutionary, life saving technology. Truth is, it's almost a sham. There are a handful of very very very rare genetic disorders that can reap any benefit at all from stem cell banking. All just a way to make money. These companies must be laughing all the way to the bank.

I was recently surprised at a TV advertisement for a non-invasive blood test that can detect cancer early. A TV ad? Really? Obnoxious to say the least. Then there are tests for the BRCA gene. Made famous by Angelina Jolie. Luring customers for overly expensive genetic testing exploiting their fear of having cancer. And what about the HPV vaccine? It can only save you from a few strains of the cancer causing virus. It is probably more harmful than beneficial. And HPV usually affects women who become sexually active at a young age. So it's sort of ineffective if taken beyond 26 years of age. Do I hear the cash registers ringing?

Cancer has become a huge industry. Billions of dollars get pounded into cancer research. Numerous surgeries are performed, many of which are unnecessary. New tests are coming up every day. But, we are no closer to getting a cure for metastatic cancer than what we were a decade ago. There are only three options for cancer patients - surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy - which are effective only in early stages of cancer, and are as painful as the disease itself. Pharmaceutical companies drive the funding for cancer research, for newer chemotherapy drugs and have really struck a goldmine there. Most charities also give money to paid research. Some have even been accused of misusing funds. Cancer is so profitable that there are very few people interested in eradicating it. These companies have also ensured that any alternative therapies be labelled as quackery. There really is no cure for metastatic cancer in allopathy. You can only wish that if a person were to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, they die early instead of having a long and painful ordeal with the disease.

I don't know one person who hasn't seen a cancer patient in their close family. Due to its prevalence, most people know how much pain this disease inflicts. And how much toll its treatment takes on the patient. I am a worrier by nature and given my family history, I too worry that either me or one of my siblings could become afflicted one day. Or one of my moms could have it (a relapse in my own mother's case). But there really is no preventing the inevitable. If it has to happen it will happen.

There are some things you can do though. Adopt healthier lifestyles, cut down on carbs and processed foods, plan on having children early and breastfeed them for as long as possible, avoid popping pills unless absolutely necessary, and definitely go for regular screening if you know you are at risk. Early detection means good prognosis, better treatment, better quality of living. And please do not fall prey to the exploits of the cancer industry. As they say, 'No medicine is better than bad medicine'. And for cancer treatment, there really is no medicine, unless diagnosed early.

Signing off wishing all of you good health, more sunshine and more laughter. Cheers!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Being thirty - a little wiser, a lot stronger

So I turned thirty this January and honestly, I wasn't exactly enthralled - age is catching up. Sigh. Nonetheless, I had reason to be happy, with my super awesome family and friends around me. For me, my thirtieth has been a huge milestone and I feel a lot wiser than what I was just a couple of years ago. Here's a gist of what I've learnt so far. Surely, this list will get updated as I grow older, but so far so good.

1. Academic intelligence does not guarantee real world success
Well of course, I'd expect most people to have had this revelation by now. I was a very proud- almost arrogant- A grader for much of my life. Until real life happened. I realised that my pedantic knowledge was absolutely no match for the things that life throws at us. At the most, good grades will get you to a good college. But they will not keep you there, nor will they teach you how to tackle adult life. It's way more important to learn all kinds of life skills than to be immersed in books only.

2. Intention means nothing if not followed by action
You may be people's biggest well wisher and make all kinds of promises of helping them. And you really, really intend on doing it. But it means nothing if you don't. Just like Rahul Gandhi. He's a very well meaning guy. But he's also severely incapable of delivering. Thus making him a national joke. Don't be like Rahul Gandhi.

3. There is no such thing as unconditional love
A mother's love comes closest to being unconditional. But even she needs you to love her back in return. Everybody loves you for what you have to offer to them. So the expectation of being loved unconditionally is a rather heartbreaking one. Which is also why we need to make time and love ourselves. No one can feed from an empty cup.

4. A heartbreak isn't necessarily a bad thing
Unless you have been forced out of a loving relationship under parental/societal pressure, a heartbreak is actually good for you. It teaches you exactly what you don't want in life. And it also saves you from a lot of toxicity. A friend used to say, "First love is fool's love" and I feel it is quite true. I used to think people will settle down with their first sweethearts. I've seen only a lucky few follow through. And most people, thankfully, are happy where they are.

5. Failure is the key to success - if you learn from it
Mistakes are our biggest teachers. You can either cry over it or learn from it. The invaluable learning that mistakes provide makes us better equipped to be successful. Which is also why you need to let your child make mistakes. There really is no short cut to success. You have to do it piece by piece, taking each failure in your stride. Experience beats education - hands down.

6. Happiness lies in the small things
See that idiot posing in front of the Christmas tree at the mall? He's happy in this moment. You could have been too if you weren't so busy labeling him an idiot. By all means, pose for that photo if it makes you happy. Life is too short to be worrying about looking like an idiot. Also, enjoy your cup of tea, the beautiful flowers, the children dancing, the embrace of a baby, the cuddle of your love. Happiness lies in the simple things. For some of us, this will take some practice. But it will be worth the effort. There really is no need to overthink or be so serious.

7. Growing up means losing your innocence
Unfortunately it is true. Stepping into adulthood was a very shocking experience for me. I was severely unequipped to face the world out there. I made terrible life decisions and got duped several times. Duped by people who said that they were my well wishers. I used to believe what people said, take things at face value. Not anymore. I'm so cynical I can't even listen to a sob story without thinking, "why is she telling me that? Why does she want to disarm me?" But the truth is, life makes you such. Now I trust no one but my close family and a very intimate bunch of friends. Everyone else must prove their worth.

8. Be slow to judge, everyone has a story
It is so easy for us to label people based on what we see on the outside. Most people have been through great hardships to be what they are today. You never know what made them so. Hence, be kind. Everyone needs to be loved and forgiven. You are no one to judge. (Though some people are real scumbags. Do your best to stay away from them.)

9. The only job that money has is to make our lives comfortable
If you give more importance to money than this, you will surely make life difficult for yourself. If you have enough to lead a comfortable life and some extra for emergencies, you have enough. Being insecure and discontented will only rob you of your peace and your health.

10. There's no bigger wealth than health
This one doesn't need any explaining does it?

11. Sometimes it's OK to lie but mostly it's better to be upfront
If a small non-critical lie is making someone happy then it's OK to lie. But mostly it's better to be clear about your thoughts and intentions with people. There really is no need to be cruel by deceiving them. And nothing lasts on a foundation of lies.

12. Time heals (almost) everything
Time will not bring back the loved ones we lost. But most other wounds will heal with time. They won't heal on their own though. You have to choose to not play the victim. Not let them get the better of you. You have to get yourself out of the rut, and you have to let yourself heal.

13. The lesser you expect, the happier you will be and more will be your gratitude
Expectations hurt. Most people around us aren't even aware what we want from them. So it's better to keep your expectations to a minimum. A life of gratitude is a happy life. When you are grateful for what you have, there is little someone can do to make you feel sad, worried, discontented or angry.

14. The present is called present because it is a gift - and you are not getting any younger
If you keep spending time reminiscing about the past or worrying about the future, you are spoiling what you have now. Time is ephemeral. Enjoy this time while it lasts. Do what you want to now. It may be too late by the time you make time for it.

15. Being drunk is not an excuse for bad behaviour
Until a person is so drunk that they pass out, they know exactly what they are doing. All that alcohol does is make you less inhibited and less coordinated. If someone misbehaves with you and then tries to justify saying 'I was drunk', he's lying. He did exactly what he intended to. Such behaviour should never be condoned or encouraged. Also, a drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts. Don't dismiss them lightly.

16. If a man truly loves you, he won't be bothered by body hair.
It's one thing wanting to be on top of your looking good game. It's another thing to be under constant pressure to look good. If your partner can't see beyond your body hair, there's something wrong with the relationship. Such a shallow guy doesn't deserve your love. The one who really cares will tell you, "if it is so painful, why do you get it done? I love you just the way you are." True story :)

17. You can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink it
It's good to try and help others but always be prepared for disappointment. No matter how hard you try, people will do what they want to do, despite your telling them otherwise. Do your duty, but don't get attached to the outcome. And if you know that someone is a habitual defaulter, it might be better to keep away from their affairs. It is futile trying to change someone. The only person you can change is yourself.

18. Destiny is a real thing
Things that aren't meant to be, will not happen no matter how much you try. And sometimes things will happen as if you couldn't have done anything to stop it. People you love will suffer. You will suffer. But there really is nothing you can do to change it. At those times, it's better to accept fate than to try to fight it.

19. Children are God's biggest blessing
It's only when you become a parent do you realise what a blessing children are. If you feel you can take care of a child, please have one or adopt one. Not only do they fill your life with joy, they also drive you to become much better human beings. In trying to become a good parent, you acquire new skills, discover new strengths, give up bad habits, take up good ones. You are more courageous and driven while also discovering new levels of paranoia and craziness. It is truly the most rewarding experience of life.

20. Most of the things your parents said were right
Yes, it's true. Our parents have learnt it the hard way. So they know what they're talking about. Things that seem ridiculous at 22 suddenly become clear and lucid at 30. Your parents were right indeed.

21. You're stronger than you think
Now that you're 30, you have been through enough hardship to know that you are strong and resilient. No matter what life throws at you, you will always be able to adapt and face it. You've come a long way, and will stay steady when bigger storms come. Just don't give up or lose hope.

22. Laugh and the world laughs with you
This is an unfortunate truth of our lives. People are there in times of need but if you make being needy a habit no one will take you seriously after some time. You have to grin and bear it. No one has ears to hear you whine all day.

23. The microwave and the pressure-cooker are a lazy, amateur cook's lifeline
I'm indirectly implying that I've learnt how to cook. But really, these are such life savers. Don't know how people lived without them.

24. South Indian filter coffee is the best coffee ever
My final verdict on the most important thing in my life! :P I'm an ardent coffee lover, and have had all kinds of coffee. And I must say, so far, nothing beats the South Indian filter coffee. Do have it once if you haven't already. Enjoy your kaapi!




Monday, 4 January 2016

Let's talk about sex baby

I'm sure most of you have, at some point of time, heard this song. I'm also sure you have uncomfortably changed channels when it came on TV. Why do we treat sex as such a taboo? Why can't we talk freely about an essential human need which is the basis of all procreation and sustenance of life?

Like most of the people I know, I am a person who treats sex as something deeply intimate and personal. I'm also aware that many women discuss their romps with their friends, but I refrain from ever talking about my own sexual experiences out of respect for myself and my partner. But I have no qualms about it. And I really feel that by treating sex as taboo, we encourage our youngsters to engage in sexually dangerous behaviours, and it is about time we all started talking in a matter of fact manner about it. What prompted me to write this piece is the fact that children as young as fourteen are becoming sexually active, and if we don't educate them early, we might be putting them at risk. I'm not saying that your child is 'doing it', but he/she is definitely curious - if not active. And it's better that he/she sees you as a friend and learns about it from you rather than by indulging in 'exciting' unsafe behaviour.

Here are a few things I believe parents/guardians should be doing in order to ensure that their children are aware and make the right choices.

1. Talk to them about the birds and the bees
Calmly, and without laughing, sit down with your child and tell him/her about the whole process. If you're too uncomfortable doing it, you can take the help of a science book. But make it matter of fact. Please don't start giving a lecture on virtue and 'sanskar' or your child may feel intimidated.

2. Tell them that just having sex doesn't make them cool or a grown up
It is a popular belief, especially among men that having sex makes a man out of a boy. Or a person's coolness is measured by how hot his girlfriend is or how many chicks he has banged. Please tell your child that that's not the case. That it's perfectly fine to wait to be with someone who they really like. That to be really cool, one must be doing cool stuff like getting somewhere in life. That it's cool to love your art and your books. Just having sex doesn't make one a grown up, but taking responsibility does.

3. Talk to them about consent
No one, and it means no one, can have sex with them without their consent. Nor can they do it without someone else's. Neither their live in partner, nor their spouse, nor their good friend, no one is allowed to make them feel violated or abused. Teach them the difference between a good touch and a bad touch and that it's OK to raise an alarm if they feel that someone touched them inappropriately.

4. Tell them about the risks of being sexually active, not just the pleasure
Tell your kids about the importance of using protection. That despite being in a monogamous relationship, their partner might be a carrier from a previous experience, and they must use protection at all costs. Tell them about the risk of unplanned pregnancies and the effects of birth control pills. That those pills won't protect them against infections, and why it is a bad idea to have casual sex with strangers. Also that not all genital infections are dangerous STD's and can be treated with the right medical care.

5. Don't make vulgar jokes in front of your children
Most adults end up talking in innuendo or making sexually explicit jokes among themselves. Please don't do that in front of your kids. They should be able to respect their own sexual choices and those made by others.

6. Tell them that it isn't cheap or dirty if they feel the desire for it
Sexual experience is one of the most pleasurable experiences known to mankind. And when it happens with someone we love, it is also a greatly emotional and soulful one. Why must someone be made to feel dirty about having the desire to experience it. You can't stop your children from trying some stuff. But you can do your part by making them comfortable talking to you about it. If they are having issues, they should know that they can safely confide in you. The same goes for masturbation, menstruation and hygiene products. But do tell them that there's a time for everything. And it would be better for them if they focus on building a career when they are younger instead of spending too much energy in sexual pursuit.

7. Talk to them about gender identities and sexual orientation
Our country may have regressed and made homosexuality illegal, but it is an identity one can't deny. People are born queer. They are not perverts. Even Hindu mythology accepts it with the likes of Shikhandi. And believe it or not, but your own child could be queer. Teach your children to accept their own gender identity and sexual orientation, and of those who they feel are different. Each one of us is entitled to live a dignified and respectful life. Teach them about respecting each human being as a human being irrespective of their sexual choices.

8. What happens in someone's bedroom is strictly his/her business.
Unless you suspect someone of being a paedophile or a rapist, what happens in someone's bedroom is strictly their own business. A person's sexual fetishes and behaviour are his/her own secret, and we are no one to pry, mock, condemn or ridicule it.

9. Cheating may be common, but it's not acceptable
I grew up in an idealistic world where I thought adultery was a shameful sin. Now I know that it is a common behaviour among both men and women. It still doesn't make it OK. Unless you are happy being in an open or a polygamous relationship, a cheating partner will take a huge toll on you emotionally and even physically if he/she passes some strange infection to you. No matter how much you may love someone, you can not take this kind of insecurity and callousness. It is a form of emotional abuse no one needs to take. And your children need to know that.

10. Tell them that they will get hurt
The day we decide to get intimate with someone, we are investing a lot of us emotionally. We open ourselves up to getting hurt. Even if you are the best couple ever, there will be times when you will get hurt. And if your partner is not right for you, you will get hurt a lot more. Tell them that if they feel more hurt than happy, then it is OK to move on. No one needs to be stuck in an unfulfilling relationship that only drains their reserves. There will also be people who will want to be with them only for the sex, and have nothing meaningful to add to their lives. You must caution them against such people. And that it's perfectly acceptable to walk out if they feel that way.

11. Accept that your child is growing up
As parents it will be very difficult for you to believe that your baby has grown up. But you will have to accept it. Accept that they will be curious, that they will want to experiment, that they will go out with people you don't like and that they will get hurt. They will also need their privacy from you just like you need from them. You can only guide them in the right manner and love them unconditionally. You can't live their lives or make their mistakes. In order to learn, they must make mistakes of their own.

The more comfortable we are about discussing this topic with our youngsters, the more confident they will feel in trusting us with their intimate secrets. They will be able to come to us in case they are troubled and seek the right kind of guidance and support. They will also be more responsible than reckless. And hopefully they will respect sexual choices of all around them and not use it as a criterion to judge or ridicule others. So that a country with more than a billion people can accept how so many of them came into being :)

An edited version of this post appeared here.

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