Monday, 20 March 2017

Precautions while taking a selfie

If you are a selfie enthusiast, you may have often found yourself in awkward or life-threatening situations. Here are a few precautions you must take so that you can happily pursue your adventurous pastime.

1. If you intend on taking selfies while walking, make sure you aren't heading towards the stairs or the end of the cliff.

2. If you are taking selfies while facing backwards on the escalators, take note that they might end sooner than you think.

3. To avoid being beaten up in a movie hall, please switch off the selfie flash when the lights in the hall dim.

4. Remember to gloss over the tiles behind you. Almost everyone can recognise a public bathroom.

5. When taking selfies in the shower, ensure that your naked butt isn't visible in the mirror behind you.

6. Be careful how much you contort your face. You might be resembling an animal more than yourself.

7. Employ safe practices when taking selfies in a moving car. You do not want to fall out the window or hit your head on a tree.

8.To get a desirable value of likes, limit the number of selfie uploads to four a week, or fewer.

9. Carry some extra money for times when you drop the food that was meant to be eaten. Also make sure there's nothing stuck between your teeth before you post the selfie online.

10. Avoid taking selfies with people or animals who don't share the same passion for your art. They may bite you.

This was an inexhaustive list of guidelines to keep you safe while taking a selfie. I hope you are having a good day. Happy clicking!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A few good men

I am, and always will be a staunch feminist. But I am also traditional in many ways, rooted and God fearing. And as I grow older, I see the lines between the binary blurring, with many more shades of grey than just fifty. It is difficult being a woman in India, but it is not easy being a man either. And while feminism is a great ideal to pursue, we must not forget to acknowledge the good men who stand by us, and help us in our fight for gender equality.

I have, for long, been itching to write my views on feminism, but given that there are so many written already about it, I feel this is something that takes precedence over it. We feminists don't acknowledge our men enough. And that is not nice of us. It doesn't do us much good.

I was raised by two very educated parents who were working full-time. We always had the luxury of a cook and a cleaner at home. My mother, though a good cook, was not expected to spend long hours in the kitchen. If the cook was on leave, everyone pitched in, including my father. He used to make the most scrumptious breakfast, and would gladly be our teacher in the kitchen. On days when my mother had to leave early for work, he would patiently braid our hair, which were very long BTW, and make sure our tiffins were packed. Many times, he would attend to his patients with our younger brother sitting on his lap. He was super proud of his girls, who were star performers at school, and he never had a doubt that we would be career women. He would wake up at 5 am many days to tutor us, and emphasized that getting an education was top priority. He ensured that meals were served on the table, and talked to us about our day, about science, about the news, about religion and philosophy. Since we are practicing Sikhs, there was never any restriction on our entering a place of worship. Menstruation was not a taboo subject, and I always told him upfront the exact reason why I was feeling unwell. I feel lucky and privileged when I say, that he had as much contribution in my upbringing as my mother.

It should not take you long to realise that this is an unusual kind of a father by Indian standards. Most fathers in India contribute little to the house except bringing a paycheque. It dawned on me pretty late that my friends and colleagues weren't raised by men who believed in gender equality, and this was an exception rather than a norm.

In a country ridden by sexism and patriarchy, in which women are as guilty (or even more) than men, in keeping it alive, must we not be grateful for the good men? Must we not acknowledge their contribution in our lives. There are many things that privileged feminists take for granted, and easily dis, and it's not doing them any good. Don't get me wrong, I have been careless too, for I didn't know that the things that I thought were normal, others had a hard time perceiving.

It's only when I came in contact with women from myriad backgrounds that I realised how tough life is for most women in India. Despite being educated, a lot of the women aren't able to pursue a career or chase their dreams, because their husbands don't allow them to. Of course, independent women don't need anyone's permission, but how good can life be if two people living under a roof disagree all the time. Imagine how miserable my gynaecologist mother would have been if my father insisted that she always cook him three hot meals a day, or that braiding hair was not a man's job. Not even once in her life was my mother told that she couldn't have the keys to his cupboard, a reality that millions of women live with everyday. I was aghast the first time I got to know that men like this exist. The petty things they do to feel powerful, and suppress their wives. Most women have no say in the financial decisions of the house, even if they are earning themselves, and a vast majority are expected to provide details of how each penny is spent. Men portray themselves as Gods for being the 'breadwinners', while the women are treated no better than a bonded labourer. Many deal with domestic violence on a regular basis.

There was a recent post on the 'Humans of Bombay' in which the lady questions why does the society place men on a higher pedestal? As she rightly says, the husband is as responsible for the child's upbringing as she is. But you see, the truth is, it takes a good man, a courageous man, in a patriarchal society, who will agree to attend a PTA meeting, which has traditionally been the mothers' domain. If he got a round of applause from the other mothers, he deserved it. For, just like it takes a woman of grit to foray into a man's world, it takes a man of substance to foray into a woman's world. Please applaud him. Encourage him. So that others around him feel encouraged to do the same. So that he has something to look up to when someone shamelessly calls him 'Joru ka ghulam'. Why must we not be grateful that men like him exist?

So, my dear ladies, if you are a homemaker who is loved and respected by her husband for her contribution to the house, please acknowledge the good man. If you are a career woman, who can balance work and family with the support of her spouse, please take a moment to know how lucky you are. If you are a young girl who is encouraged to pursue her dreams by her father, please be grateful for his presence in your life. For it is good men like these who are helping us in making gender equality a reality. For these are the men who help lay the foundations of a society in which feminism is not a bad word.

With love and thanks to the three most important men in my life - Papa, VA, and PJ. Who have been real pillars of support, and never questioned my choices in life, no matter how ridiculous they seem.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

As March marches on...

March has typically been a high significance month in my life. It has always brought with it trials, endings and new beginnings. Sometimes, the trials of March would mark the completion of one thing, which meant the beginning of a new one-progress-as you may call it. Like when there was a change of class or a place of work. At other times, these trials of March brought with them intense grief and hopelessness. Like the time when you lose someone you love deeply, or when you decide to give up on a cherished endeavour, and the vast emptiness of life stares at you unblinking. The knowledge that things will never be the same hereon, and the fear of the deep void that you may plunge into without them. One March forever filled my life with joy, when I got to know that I was going to be a mother, and a big scare when I almost lost it in a freak accident.

March always brings out the most contemplative, philosophical side of me. This year too, it seems, will be no different. A part of me is completely dejected and mourning, as a task that I have put my heart and soul into, seems unable to reach fruition, and a part of me is super excited, wondering what all I could do when I start over on a clean slate. The realm of possibility that an empty canvas offers. A part of me is broken thinking of failure and 'what now', and a part of me is eager to let go and hop on the next bus to life's adventureland.

Every time I have wanted something desperately, God has tested me. No matter how much I struggle, burn or pray, God has played games and taken it away from me. Maybe I just wanted the wrong stuff. My effort though has never been in vain. I have emerged stronger with each loss, and learnt some very important life lessons along the way. And most importantly, I gave it my 100%, so I am left with no regret that I didn't try.

But, then, it always makes me think. What is the definition of success or failure? How much must one struggle, and what is the cost that we are willing to pay for it? We sacrifice our health, well-being, family to earn more money, get famous, achieve higher professionally. So that everyone can see our success and applaud. So that our egos stay fulfilled. What if my definition of success is being present for my children, and ensuring that my family is happy? What if my definition of success lies in raising myself spiritually and reaching a higher level of consciousness? These are not the things the world can measure. But  I can. Do you think Robin Williams was feeling successful the day he decided to commit suicide? I'm pretty darn sure he wasn't. What then is the price we must pay?

It is easy to fall into an abyss when you are struggling and everything seems to be going against you. But, we have all been equipped with a spirit that takes a lot to break. If we can find this spirit and detach ourselves from the outcome of our efforts, we can survive a lot in life. Never give up. Things will get better. We may not know it, but some things are not meant to be, and for a good reason. I'm sure you have at least once, looked back and thanked God for a wish that didn't come true. What a disaster it might have been. For a long time now, I have even stopped praying to God for specific things. I mostly just ask for good health for my family, and to do what is best for us. I do ask for strength to deal with it though ;)

Success and happiness are mutually exclusive. Being happy is a choice you can make everyday, whereas success is ephemeral. And in my experience, there are three things that are primal in staying happy. First is having minimal expectation from those around you. Then, everyone will be exceeding expectation, leaving little room for disappointment. Second is an attitude of gratitude. When we focus on the haves rather than the have nots, there will be much to be happy about. And third is to not compare. Social media has propelled us to a state where we are constantly comparing ourselves with the beautiful life of others. It's impossible that everyone has everything great in their lives. You do not know the struggle behind the smile. So stop comparing and start living.

And also, when we stop caring about 'log kya kahenge?', life becomes much simpler. Life is much so much more than that. So show the world a finger, and start living a life that makes more sense to you than it will ever make to anyone else.

To endings and new beginnings... Cheers.

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