Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Thank You For The Platitudes, Mr. Bachchan!

I want to begin by saying how much I have admired Amitabh Bachchan as an actor and is probably the only hero I want to meet in real life. Apart from his acting prowess, another thing that has always drawn me to him is his command over languages and the power of enunciation in his narration. 

But this adulation for him suffered a sizeable dent when I read his letter to his grand daughters - which he says is a must read for all girls. I've started writing this post in auto pilot once I saw the video version of since I have to get this out here. 

First of all, thank you sir, for the platitudes you have offered as advice to your children with the belief that it is going to be helpful to them. And then going ahead with so many contradictions that I am sure confused about what to follow in the letter. Although Mr. Bachchan says that his girls should make their own decisions and be people in their own right, he starts by drooping their shoulders with the load family honour! He tells them not to be bound by boundaries others set for them but begins by setting quite a decisive one himself! How is it liberating for any woman to be burdened by family honour? Why isn't the same letter written to the sons of the family recommending responsible behaviour to them? Isn't every woman in this country already burdened enough with family, societal, marital (among others) pressures to behave in a certain way? He does the same with his grand daughters by telling them outright that their behaviour reflects on the rich legacy they inherit. 

The rest of his advice seems like a list from a bad gender rule book that women threw out decades ago. Women have already fought the barriers of hierarchy and shattered them in a lot of ways. We know and no longer accept that the length of our skirts is a measure of our characters. (This could be the most cliche anyone can get!) Although he says it's a "difficult" world for a woman, rest assured that the family name his girls carry will indeed protect them from a lot of atrocities that common women struggle through.  

Everyone knows that the Bachchan family is a repository of traditional values even in today's times. It's the Bachchan legacy at play here too. How about starting women's liberation movement right from his house! How about letting his own daughter in law choose and decide if she'd like to have a home of her own that isn't run by others' rule? She is someone's daughter and she also must have been taught to speak her mind and not give in to others' boundaries. How about that? And he completely left out the mothers of these daughters and the legacy and brought up that they bring to the table. This just reflects on how hard the women in his own household will have to struggle to be considered people worthy of mention. 

I highly doubt that his advice will be relevant when Aradhya is old enough to understand all this. She will be a woman in a much better world. A world where women have paid to achieve unprecedented levels of equality. Not that Navya or Aradhya will ever ever have to fight for their place in society or the world at large. The very legacy that binds them is also liberating is a strange way. 

And in the end I want to say that women have had enough of people telling us what to to, how to behave, what to wear and what is at stake if we don't follow those rules. It is saddening and disappointing when such advice comes from a popular figure like Mr. Bachchan who has a fan following across the world and is held in high regard. 

Here is the text of the letter as published in The Times of India:

My very dearest Navya & Aaradhya
You both carry a very valuable legacy on your tender shoulders – Aaradhya, the legacy of your pardadaji , Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan…and Navya, the legacy of your pardadaji , Shri H P Nanda….
Both your pardadaji ‘ s gave your present surnames celebrated fame, dignity and recognition !
Both of you may be a Nanda or a Bachchan, but you are also girls…women !
And because you are women people will force their thinking, their boundaries on you.
They will tell you how to dress, how to behave, who you can meet and where you can go.
Don’t live in the shadows of people’s judgement. Make your own choices in the light of your own wisdom.
Don’t let anyone make you believe that the length of your skirt is a measure of your character.
Don’t let anyone’s opinion of who you should be friends with, dictate who you will be friends with.
Don’t get married for any other reason other than you want to get married.
People will talk. They shall say some terrible things. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone. Never ever worry about – log kya kahenge.
At the end of the day, you are the only one who will face the consequences of your actions, so don’t let other people make your decisions for you.
Navya – the privilege your name, your surname offers you, will not protect you from the difficulties you will face because you’re a woman.
Aaradhya – by the time you see and understand this, I may well not be around. But I think what I am saying today shall still be relevant.
This may be a difficult, difficult world to be a woman. But I believe that it is women like you that will change that.
It may not be easy, setting your own boundaries, making your own choices, rising above people ‘s
judgement. But YOU !…you can set an example for women everywhere.
Do this and you would have done more than I have ever done, and it will be my honor to be known not as Amitabh Bachchan, but as your grandfather !!
With all my love
Your ….Dadaji ….your Nana.

Monday, August 15, 2016

How Have You Made Your Country Proud?

We want her to make us proud but what have we done to enable her profession? (photo credit)
My Twitter timeline has been full of Dipti Karmakar. Tweets about her feats at the Olympics. The joy of her making it to the finals and the anticipation of her performance in it. And then comments about how she did and not winning a medal. While most of them have lauded her for her determination and attempt at the death vault, some of them are still unhappy about India not having won any medals in the Olympics.

As someone who has no interest in sports, I have a very objective view of things. I feel that expecting India to win medals once in 4 years is so unfair when we give zero encouragement to sports as a profession the rest of the time. We do have sports in schools and some parents also send their children to hobby classes. But that is more from a fitness or an extra curricular activity point of view. No one really tells their kids that they can be a Sachin or a Dipti when they grow up. Sports is fine as long as it remains a hobby. But serious careers are the ones that come from studies and degrees. And that is the attitude we have for sports in general.

But the irony is that while this is what we do to do our country proud, we expect our athletes to bring us that sense of pride through medals! We need to introspect and ask ourselves what we have done to make our country proud. What have been our efforts in encouraging even people who wish to have the best sporting facilities in the country to enable to bring back medals and make us proud?

What do you think about this?

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week and this is the final day prompt, pride. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Your Level Of Disgust Decides If You Are Tolerant

Disgust affects a lot of your preferences (Photo credit)
Disgust - a very strange emotion to write on! Who wants to think about disgusting things! And write a  post recalling them. So I thought, like yesterday, can talk about a less known aspect about disgust.

Did you know that disgust is not just an emotion, it also has a strong connection with our opinions of a lot of unconnected things. There are people who are tolerant of a lot of things. But some others are more accepting of others choices. Studies have shown that all this has to do,with the tolerance levels to disgust. In one of the experiments done to test this, a gas that smelled like fart was released in one room before the participants had to answer a questionnaire about their views on things like political views, homosexual etc. The other room had participants who weren't subjected to is obnoxious smell. The result: the participants who were disgusted by the fart smell were more conservative in their views.

In general, people who are easily disgusted are more conservative and less tolerant of others views. And reverse is also true. Disgust is responsible for your views on morality and politics.

Are you someone who is easily disgusted? Take this disgust sensitivity test. The results might surprise you.

This post is written for the blogging challenge, #BlogOEmotion by #CreativeCurves and this day 7 with the prompt, disgust.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Love Is Just Chemical Locha In Your Brain

Love makes the world go round!
Remember that rush of feelings when you first begin to like someone. All of us have been silly teenagers smiling secretly to ourselves and humming romantic Bollywood numbers. The blush of first love stays in our memories forever and the nostalgia brings back the same smile. Or a crush you have on someone new you meet. Wonderful feelings that makes the world a more beautiful place. It's all pink and full of balloons! You think about that person all the time. You want to be together all the time. It's just the most amazing feeling in the world.

But what if I burst your bubble and said that all it isn't really love at all. And that's the reason why it fades a few years into marriage. Or that crushes don't last forever. You don't have that heady feeling of love after you've been with people for a duration of time. And you have Oxytocin, the love hormone to blame for all this. Not just people, it's the same feeling of well being when you shop for new things. And this is the stuff that shopaholics feed on. The rush recedes and then they go and shop some more.

So the next time you feel silly in love, remember it's just some hormones acting up. It will wear off and that will be the true test of whether you really love someone or not.

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week and this is Day 6 on the prompt, Love 

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Woman Is A Woman's Worst Enemy

It's sad that a woman is a woman's worst enemy

I recently met an old, close friend who works in a school. She was talking about how some of her colleagues weren't allowed to go on school picnics because their husbands did not permit them. She said one of the teachers sometimes came to school with bruises on her face and arms. It was evident that she was a victim of domestic violence. A woman with a job and financial independence! When I asked my friend if she did anything to help her colleague out, she just shrugged and said that the girl's parents who lived in another city nearby also did know anything about her plight.

This set me thinking. A woman who evidently is going through something so bad and her colleagues just shrug it off. The woman herself doesn't want to confide in her parents - even her mother! And for what? To keep the 'married' tag intact? How would it affect her kids - she has 2 - to see their mother being treated like this? Isn't she setting the wrong example for them?

In this case, the colleagues who work together could form a bastion she could fall back on and confide. Their backing her up could mean the world to her. And maybe the only encouragement she needs to make that life altering decision, to choose to not put up with humiliation anymore, to take a step towards a better future for her children. But instead we just choose to ignore it like it's not none of our business.

Another friend had an arranged marriage at 24 and found that her husband spent nights out and refused to explain where he went. She confided in her mother hoping to find some support. But her mother told her to ignore it since men did what they wished and asked her to focus on bringing up the kids. By the time she was 30, she had 3 kids and husband who was least interested in her. If her mother supported her, I think her life would have been very different today.

Some of you might wonder why am I finding fault women who are already so helpless! For ages, we have held responsible for the oppression of women. Yes, the man who treats his wife like this deserves to be punished - severely. And I am not supporting him. But I am drawing attention to the fact that women themselves do not support each other. Women, who go through the same grind in our lives and should have the highest level of empathy and support.

Take another situation - the classic tussle between the mother and the daughter-in-law. History is full of instances about how they just cant get along. And the drama is played out in pretty much every household in the country that has them. A woman leaves her house hoping to find the same love and understanding from another woman who also left her family behind at some time. But it doesn't work that way. It isn't empathy that works out here. One unwilling to relinquish control to the new comer and the other hoping to score in other ways. 'Support' is not a part of this relationship dynamic.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth is a mammoth 1000 page book. But one of the things that stands out in my memory is about how a character comments that men can divide kingdoms but the women of the house will never be able to decide who gets the pots and pans in the house. And this is so true.

I can go on and on. But the sad fact will remain that a woman is a woman's worst enemy. It is us who keep patriarchy alive. It is us who keep whatever this hatred for each other is called, brewing.
Men just bond over simple things. But women judge! We do! Be honest to yourself and accept it. We bitch about other women, size each other up when we meet and are the first ones to condemn them when we are in trouble. A qualified mom who gave up her career for her children is judged as much as a mother who has a full time job leaving her kids behind. A mother teaches her daughter to keep her periods a secret. She passes on the legacy of being a good daughter in law. Which then goes on to the next generation. And the cycle continues. Haven't you sometimes found an empathetic hearing from a man and felt more comfortable sharing things with a male friend? And it felt better to do it since you knew your women friends would judge and in all probability blame you for your situation?

I don't think we should blame men for any injustice perpetrated on us unless women folk have solidarity amongst us. What do you think? Have you come across experiences that have made you feel the same way?

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week and today is day Day 5 with the prompt, Sadness. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

#BlogOEmotion Day 4: What Does Trust Mean To You?

Relationships: Is there someone you trust completely?
Tiny, soft and cute. No one thinks of new born babies as helpless. But think about it. A baby is completely dependent on the parents. Even though it is just born, it knows a mother's touch. It feels safe in the comfort of her arms. Through most of the first year of its life, babies trust their parents. Have you noticed how babies a few months old sometimes tightly clutch the dad's shirt while hoisted up on his arms? There is blind trust that makes them latch on to parents. There is no scope for doubting even for a bit that they'll let the baby down. But as we grow up, seeds of distrust are sown in our mind by the world. Our expectations are thwarted and we learn the precious lesson that everyone is not going to be like our parents are - people we can lean on without any doubt.

Research suggests that we need to trust and respect people before we build a relationship. And trust aways comes before respect. When we meet new people, the first question our instincts are trying to answer is if we can trust someone. Only when that is satisfied do we learn to respect.

Do you have someone in your life that you trust so completely even now? How hard is it to start trusting people? Easy? Hard? I'd love to hear your experiences.

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week and this is the post for Day 4 on Trust

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

#BlogOEmotion Day 3: Does anger help?

How does anger help if we do nothing to change the world! 
When Nirbhaya died of a brutal rape, the nation erupted in rage. There were protests and candle night vigils everywhere. Whenever someone cuts us to overtake from the wrong side, we are indignant at the lack of traffic sense among people. Every time a case of domestic violence comes up, we outrage on social media and launch attacks at laws. When someone insults sports people, we are angry at the ignorance of the one who commented. From the laws of the land to God and his invisible hand, we think we have the right to be rightfully angry about anything. We are a nation that loves to get angry and make our voices heard - which is made easier by social media.

But have we ever stopped to think about the use of all this anger? Are we not responsible for a lot of things that are wrong with the world? We live on this planet and aren't we the reason why so many things are screwed up? I know it will take us a few more generations to set things right. But meanwhile, if we were to do something about setting some things right instead of just ranting on social media, wouldn't the world be a better place? I can imagine some of you shake your head in resignation and think - how can I set the world right! It's too big and too many things make me angry. But humour me and read on.

Think for a second - What can we replace angry honking with? Maybe a little patience. One person at a time. How can we stop crime against women? I know this is a huge problem and not easy to solve. But how about respecting all women around you - whether she is related to you or a stranger in the street. How about treating every person with the dignity they deserve irrespective of their gender. How about helping one genuinely poor, hungry person you run into on the street instead of ranting about world poverty? Maybe we could do our bit to reduce global warming instead of discussing it as if it's not our problem and someone else should come around and solve it.

Anger is a good thing if it channelised in the right manner. And if we all used our resentment and disappointment at the state of things to make the world a better place, the emotion would be so much more worth it. What do you think? I'd love to hear what you think about my views. Go ahead, express your anger in the comments below! :)

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week. Today's prompt: Anger 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

#BlogOEmotion Day 2: What are you afraid of?

What are you afraid to face? (Photo credit)
What are you scared of? Cockroaches? Strangers? Darkness? Losing a loved one? Failure? We all have different rational and irrational fears. But what is it that we constantly live under the shadow of? Just think of what we teach our kids. We want them to do well, win competitions and work harder than the others. We celebrate success and disapprove of failures. We laud the A's and don't want to talk about the C's. As kids grow up, we teach them to aspire for the best universities, the most coveted jobs and a lifestyle that people can be envious of.

When I look around on social media - which is such an important part of our lives now - there are loud voices talking about individual accomplishment. We almost don't want to admit that we failed at anything. People will judge us and we will fall short in their estimate. There are quotes, memes, tweets all over the place about how we will reach success someday.

We only glorify failure and call it the stepping stone to success. We talk about failures of great people only to prove to ourselves that despite failure, it's their success that counts. And with some others, we don't even mention their failures since their success is a beacon of shining hope for the rest of us. For instance, we all know what a great inventor and presenter Steve Jobs was. But no one ever talks about him being thrown out of his own company at the beginning of his career.

We all constantly live under the shadow of failure. We all want to look back on our lives and be able to count the number of achievements off our fingers. We want to leave some legacy for our kids and have them aspire to better that. We, as a society, do not celebrate failures. We don't believe that it's ok to fail and admit it. We are not perfect and shit happens.

Don't fear failure. Keep going! (photo credit)
When I look back at my goals from 2 years ago when I started my training blog and company called Soft Skills Studio, I set out to establish it as a full fledged training and coaching outfit. Have I accomplished that yet? No. But do I bring that to people's notice? No. Instead I do a lot of other things that will eventually make the company a success. But does that mean I am a failure? No. I have achieved many other sub goals along the way. There is no specific benchmarks to measure success or failure. No one's completely one or the other. We have some things going well for us while some other balls might still be up in the air. So instead of fearing failure, we just need to accept that some things might not work but that doesn't mean we failed. Even if we did, there is nothing wrong in accepting it, picking ourselves up and get going along the way. In fact, the very fear adds to the pressure and may not work in out favour.

What do you think about the fear of failure? Are you plagued by it or are you able to take it in your stride and live one day at a time? Drop your thoughts in the comments and let's keep the conversation going.

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week. Today is Day 2 and the prompt is fear.