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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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 h...