Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Dubare - Coorg

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bloopers of the World - Unite!

Blooper - an embarrassing mistake              :-))

(blunder, boner, boo-boo, botch, bungle, flub, foul-up, fuckup, pratfall, bloomer, error, fault, mistake - a wrong action attributable to bad judgement or ignorance or inattention)

So, as you must have guessed by now, today's topic is bloopers committed by ....  Who, you ask?  Me, obviously to begin with :-)  and then we can move on to nicer stuff, like yours, for instance? He, he!

Let me start:

  • my colleague copied me in a mail sent to a client.  I happily responded to him with plenty of snide remarks about the client - little did I realise that I hit the "reply all" button and it was sent to the client and copied to my colleague!  :-((  Needless to say, we did not get the business.
  • My partner brought a gentleman to me at an event saying "look who's where!".  Our eyes met, I looked into his eyes earnestly and asked sweetly :"hi, have we met before?"  The person's eyes became frosty and pat came the answer with a frown - "Yes, I had dinner at your place last month"!  Gulp,  I didn't know where to look. 
  • Yours truly introducing two persons to each other  as Mr. X please meet Mr. Y , and actually doing exactly the opposite, i.e. telling Mr. X to meet Mr. X and vice versa.  Yikes. :-(
  • Now the best for the last - I  recently  sent  a mail to a friend of mine assuring her to not worry too much about  doing what her heart wants, as the  public memory is very short, and ultimately it does not matter, etc, etc.  She sent a response saying she could not stop giggling ever since she received my mail and she quoted:    "Please don't worry, pubic memory is very short"    please note the figurative, literally and existential connotations.  
Ladies and Gentlemen, I rest my case.

And now from some others:
  • my dear ex-husband once introduced his mother to his friends as his "mother-in'law".  Predictably, my mother-in-law was not amused at all. Thereafter she never left any chance to loudly broadcast the evil influence that her daughter-in-law had over her dear son!
  • one of my dear friends sent a mail to me last night - it was a very intense, very personal, very private mail.  And in her anxiety about ensuring that the mail reached me, she sent it to multiple mail i.ds of mine, albeit with an additional sprinkling of i.ds of other people with similar sounding names.  As a result, her private world was revealed electronically to a much wider audience than she would ever liked them to be. 
what are your bloopers?  Would you like to share?  :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do we know who we are? Really?

"I seem to see my self from his eyes while i have always possessed the
intelligence and politics to know or perhaps i should say interpret
who i am as a woman. But this knowledge i cannot assimilate in me, the
experience is of being in ruin, ............ "

mail from a dear friend to me, in response to an anguished mail sent to her.

Says another vivacious, lively, intelligent, perceptive woman, to me, on her first meeting with me as a therapist:

" I am so sorry that I have cried.... I mean this is a first meeting with you and all that".

"Why the shame?" I ask her.

"shouldn't I be calm and composed and not really show my emotions at all? I mean isn't this what the world wants from me, from you, from all of us?" she responds, albeit a bit surprised that i am even asking her this question.

"well you are here to meet a therapist, and you are talking about your distress and while you share all that, you would feel emotional - most of all, this is not a social visit" I try to pose another exploration point.

She pauses for a while ... and then she talks about her aspiration of wanting to be someone who should take all the shit coming her way and not flinch, not react but remain calm.  and her "role model" is a person who actually looks down upon the whole world and their cousins, has cholesterol problem, not able to have a healthy conjugal life and so on.

when i point this out to her, she agrees quickly but is not really convinced about being who she is really.

As I look at two of these instances and many others including myself at times, I often wonder, do we really have an idea of who we really are?   Or has this "me" become an amalgamation of images and perceptions generated and received from people around us, images which have provided a temporary relief, images which have saved us from many embarrassing moments,  images which tell us who we "should" be and not who we "are"?

for many of us, the inner being is shrouded in shame for being too alive, too impulsive, too demanding, too verbose, too sensuous, too argumentative, too questioning, too much to take.

for some others, it may be that the inner being is held back lest others make fun of us, lest others take advantage of us, lest others desert us, lest others make us feel weak and so on and so forth?

so what is our stance of being who we are?  how do we experience ourselves internally?   What is our politics of who we are?

The world  of relationships is totally made of perception.  We never really see the other person as who he or she is, but what we perceive he or she is, through our unique and individual looking glass made up of our world view, our biases and our values.  In other words, it is humanly impossible to see the person as it is.  What we can gather are only the objective data about name, family name, degrees, work, education, etc but can never be objective about the person.  We look at the world through perception and it is always subjective.

So, in all these, how do we perceive us?  Do we look at ourselves through these looking glasses as well?  is there a difference between me perceiving myself and others perceiving me?  what happens when there is a difference?  Is there a struggle to say this is who I am?

When I look at myself, I see myself and I quote from a mail that I have written to a friend, below:

"like i was telling you the other day, i feel very masculine internally, so my first descriptors of myself always are that I am intelligent, tough, quick on my feet, analytical and highly action oriented.  the next level would be that i am sensuous (not the way a woman is described) i.e. my senses are strong, i hear keenly, i smell keenly, i see keenly and i am quite aware of touch of any kind.  i am also very intuitive and am aware of the bodily sensations that i experience.

all these are devoid of other people, i.e. I look at myself irrespective of how others see me as.

the trouble starts from now on - any other descriptors of me such as:

loving, gracious, accepting, rude, scary, generous, pretty, ugly, argumentative, petty, kind, irrational, intellectual, stubborn, giving, caring, loyal, sexy, unsexy (can't think of anything else at the moment that describes me) are all other people dependent.  If they see me like this then i am like this, otherwise, i don't see myself as scary, petty, rude, etc, etc."


I wonder what is it for others?  do we even ask these questions or do we tell ourselves, oh well, I have no problem in declaring to the world who I am and if they can't take it, it is their problem?  Really?

or do we tell ourselves, actually I don't even want to know who I am as it is too much of a bother, or it is of no use.  Too much of intellectualisation.  Really?

I don't believe people actually like to imprison themselves in either of these two extremes, most of us perhaps live in the in between world.  what about you?

The Story Of Cosmetics

It is a must watch for every person, men and women.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nature, us and the education system

Posting a link to a video done by my friend Tess Joseph on natural learning.  it is a beautfully woven moving story. watch it and you can write to her if you feel like at, or at

You can watch the video by clicking on the title on this post

The intro and the credits for the film go like this:

Me and My World (Documentary) [HQ]


Natural Learning is a part of every child. School systems fail to understand the importance and relevance of 'natural learning' and euthanize it within formal curriculum.

The Biological Diversity Act (BDA) of India fails to protect and promote the rights of traditional knowledge of Adivasis (original inhabitants). BDA believes that formal education is the key to all-round development of the Adivasis. Currently, state-run schools in remote villages boast quantity but fail to report the majority of Adivasi dropouts.

Director:Tess Joseph
Cinematographer: Siddharth Diwan
Stills & Production: Dyu D' Cunha
Editor: Mehvash Husain & Kshitij Rajkumar
Music: Tajdar Junaid

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Amazing women in my life (part 3) - the story of J

J was born into a trading community in undivided Bengal.  She grew up with a unstable mother, a nervous father and five or six siblings.  As was the custom in her community, she was married off quite early to a man twelve years older to her in the same community.  Barely did she attain puberty, she was pregnant with a child and from this point on, her life took an altogether different turn.  Her mother and her husband both died suddenly in an attack of small pox, which those days was endemic; J flabbergasted by this turn of events, lost her mind and was locked up in a room probably under advice from the local medico. She gave birth to her daughter but could not look after the daughter due to her illness and her mother in law looked after the infant.

It is not known to me for how long J lived in that hazy, misty world of hers, for when she came to our house, she was nearly forty years old.  All these stories about her is her recollection of her past, which would be presented to me by her differently at different points of time; sometime with a bit of spice and sometimes in bitterness, in anger and in utter deep anguish.

But I could guess how she may have passed her time, what did it take for her to get out of that strange world of depression, part manic, part delusional world of hers.  She says when she felt better, she resumed her husband's money lending business to local traders, looked for a suitable match for her only daughter who was in her early teens and got her married off.  Since she came from a middle class family(not educated much but with enough money from trading in the joint family business), life should have sailed smoothly thereafter for her;  but it was not to be.  

One fine morning, her daughter's father in law (who was a small trader) disappeared leaving his family in debt and despair.  Her son-in-law took to drinking and drugs, her daughter came back to J with a little baby boy.  While J's brothers in laws were supportive to begin with, over time they started making their displeasure clear to J that her married daughter with a child were not welcome here, especially when her costs are being shared from the joint family kitty.  By this time, J's money lending business was usurped by J's mother in law and that left her with very little money of her own.

So, for the first time in her life, a housewife and totally unaccustomed to the big bad world outside, J decided to work to support her daughter and her grandson.  The only work that she could find was of domestic help, cooking, etc.  Her first job was in Bihar in a older gentleman's house and his joint family. J learnt to cook, to sweep, to swab, to do all household chores that she was not required to do back at home.

Three years passed, J settled down in her job and was able to maintain her daughter and her family who now had two kids.  But life had other plans for her.  Her toddler grand daughter passed away and her daughter became distraught, unstable and left home never to come back.  J decided to come back to kolkata to look after her grandson and take up the job of a domestic help here.  This is how she came to our family as we were looking for someone to cook and live with us as I was expecting my daughter.  I was working at that time and having someone at home to cook and look after the house was a necessity.

J entered our lives twenty six years ago and she is still around - I am so grateful that she is around although living with her is both a  trying as well as a comforting experience.

J is the pillar of strength and the source of irritation that I have always had around me.  Her being around meant my never having to worry about the safety and nurturance of my daughter, about the maintenance and upkeep of home, about taking care of my father, about our three pets and the rest of the household, i.e. me and my husband.  She knew exactly who needed what and what needed to be done when.  She ensured that the part timers were doing their job well and she had the best interest of the household at all points of time.

She made my life hell through her over demanding, over inquisitive and over dominating nature.  She had the answers to all questions asked, she offered advice to every problem that we ever faced irrespective of its personal or private nature, she wanted to take leave the minute she knew I had to attend some important meetings, she decided what was best for home and for my daughter whether I agreed or not and she constantly sniggered at my attempts to be a good mother by trying to read up on child rearing or seeking advise from others or trying out something new.  In other words, she filled all the voids for the "fault finding mother-in-law", the 'over nosy aunt", the "very critical aunt-in-law" and all the stereotypes that one can ever imagine.

In fact, if I were to write all the stories about J, it will fill up an entire book and will make good reading too I guess.  But my point of writing about J is to not make fun of her or to show her in a bad light, but to write about a complex and a very simple individual whose lust for life makes her fight against all odds, even if some  of them  are brought upon by her own anxiety, who offers a whole lot of love and affection to people she considers her own, who can be a pillar of support and whose life's motto is  "I will do my best for people i care about till I die, and they better love me for it, or else ..."  

I have not had too many supportive women in earlier part of my life and during my married days, had very little support from my in laws in all sense.  While I could manage not receiving emotional or any other kind of support from them during my marriage, managing home and a child without any help was very difficult.  This was the time when J turned out to be my biggest support and strength.  She was always there with me especially when I was confused, afraid, distraught about being a new mother, about being a 'bad' person in my fragile relationship with my husband, about being a 'anxious employee' in my marketing job, high work pressure, late nights and frequent travel and tours.  She would stay up the night if needed and in the morning would take charge of the kitchen without murmuring a single protest.  It was as though I could always depend on her and she showered us with her love, affection, attention and her demands.  One small example of this is that J comes from a Vaishnavite faith; the family i married to were christians and naturally the food habits were very different.  J's family did not touch even onions, and at our home, beef and pork were much loved.  Since our daughter loved meat, J decided to cook whatever she wanted even it meant that she had to do penance every time she went back home.  J did not do this because she wanted to show off how great she was but because our daughter loved them, and her wishes ruled J's world.

I don't how much else can I write about J; she is nearly 70 years old and she still works.  I have offered her to sit at home and get a pension from me but she chooses to work for my ex-husband as it still offers her a place that she can call her second home.  Her life has not become better despite her hard work all these years, building a house for her grandson, getting him married off, taking care of his family and his two kids  with her hard earned money.  Her grandson has turned out to be like his father, an alcoholic and a waster.   While my heart bleeds for J, I also know how much is she responsible for not letting her grandson become a man on his own, how much she spoilt him, how much control she had of his life and when predictably he has given up,  she feels angry, helpless and sad both for herself and for him.

I keep telling her I am there for her, and she knows it too, but I can never replace what her heart's desire was; to have a home of her own, to be owned up by her own people, to be looked after  and respected by them in a peaceful and stable set up where she could call the shots but need not  be the bread earner. 

In all of these twenty six years, J has become an integral part of our lives much to the chagrin of many of my relatives who thought I was giving more important to a servant as compared to them.  But to me, J was and still is part of the family despite her over dominance and her annoying self.   She in many ways is my only relative or a family member who has taught me how to make a family, she taught me how to unabashedly own others, how to shower love and affection with all its associate irritants, and how to expect the same things in return and to not feel ashamed because you want them.  She taught me what it means to claim space, to make people belong to you even when they were not one's own, how to belong with a passion and with a commitment that only a home maker can do and how to make a brick and mortar house into a space called home.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

when we can not make up for lost times anymore!

Just finished watching a lovely movie called "Everybody's fine".  It has great actors like Robert De Niro,  Drew Barrymore, etc.  Pretty simple story of a widower father living in a small town in America all by himself, his four children spread all over the country.  He sets off to give them a surprise visit when they fail to appear for a pre-scheduled holiday.  The storyline then moves through his children's lives, some untruth, some tragedy, some re-union, his illness, his coming face to face with the kind of father he has been to them, re-visiting the moments that could have been ....

I felt very moved while watching the movie - identified a lot with the father in the movie especially when  one of his daughters asked him about his ambition in life and he responded saying "I just wanted to be a good father, that's all".  His realisation of moments lost with his wife and children and what could have been and how those moments can never come back and how what is lost is lost for ever.  Yet he does not break down, does not turn bitter, looks at life squarely in the eye,  and earnestly admits that "ultimately one has to say that everyone's fine".

I identified with the pathos of aging, of being lonely, of lost moments, of continuing to hold the children as little ones even when they are in their twenties and thirties, of a desperate attempt to see them happy and fulfilled and not quite knowing what could have been the right action that one could have taken as a parent ... that in a way, all that one can do is to stand afar, watch and just be there in case they need you to be there for them.   I identified with the intense longing of seeing their faces, to spend time with them, to hold them tightly just as one did when they were little, to offer the best nourishment so that they are taken care of, to see the smile and laughter on their faces and to feel good that all is well with the world - and at the same time, to recognise that they have grown up, that they will have to take care of themselves no matter what, that in their lives the priorities have changed, that they need their own space and time, that togetherness is at a premium now - so unlike the past.

I also identified with accepting what life has to offer on face value and not grudging it, not fighting it, not praising it, not bowing down to it, but simply accepting that this is what life has been and if changes need to be made, they can be made from the moment that is now, and not in the past.

Tears rolled down my cheeks even after the movie was over and my daughter kept asking me why was I crying as she thought the movie was a nice feel good movie!  I just could not explain to her about how I felt towards the father in the movie or the world of parents.  I hope she would understand one day as and when she decides to become one.

Till then darling, I can say to her,  like most parents, I too would be waiting for you in your heart, for you to come back home, whenever you need me.

Friday, July 09, 2010

self absorption - the favourite game

One of the thoughts that I have been with in the recent past is the thought of self obsession (and I am a master at it :-) .  Self obsession is quite a funny thing, it creates a make believe world which tells you all kinds of things about yourself, good, bad and ugly, but the one thing that remains constant is the delusion that you are the centre of the universe not only for yourself but also for others.

One of the ways this delusion works with us is in creating our image of ourselves in myriad shades and hues.   One such image is that no matter how much love or affirmation or assurance we receive, there remains a nagging doubt that we were not really welcome into this world either at the time of conception, or birth or to the people we were born.  Obviously this image is totally subjective;  there can not be any argument about this being right or wrong nor can there be any  moral judgements about its desirability, etc.  People who have a self perception like this do not really enjoy it, nor do they go around showing these off as  medals to the world.

So then what is my point? My point is that this alleged dislike of self is actually a deep love for oneself and it is so intense that this negative perception is next to impossible to give up. People so deeply care for this image of the unloved and uncared for self, that they find it very difficult to give up irrespective of the way their lives turn out to be or the innumerable acts of courage, passion love and commitment that they may display. The belief here is so absolute that it becomes imperative to crave for more love for this "unloved and unlovable self" hoping that at some point of time this need will be totally fulfilled by someone somewhere; but it never does. For this need to be fulfilled, one has to feel satiated, and in order to feel satiated, one has to accept the notion that one is lovable. However, this acceptance will then destroy this well nurtured image of the "unloved and uncared for self" and a new "self" would have to be created. This new self then will have to give up all the old habits, all old longings and and all old ways to be and for a while one has to live in a vacum of not knowing what is next. This is the most difficult path for most people to trade, the fear of loss of the old self and old ways to be and most of the time, this is where we stop and become stagnant and get caught with a frozen image of ourselves. 

The other kind of delusion that I often experience is when people talk about being in love.  Some people talk about being in love with someone special and they describe how the other person becomes the centre of their lives; how without the lover their world will become bleak, meaningless and empty!  How without the person, they would not be able to live even for a day and the world would lose it meaning!  I have often wondered whether it is the love for the other person, or is it the love of the idea of being in  love with the other person?  Aren't we in love with the "self which is in love with the other"?  Often when I hear lovers killing the other, I doubt whether the killing was for loss of love or was the killing for loss of status in the lover's eye?    This is also another form of self absorption when everything else and everyone else cease to exist except the image of "self" as the centre of the universe.

the third kind of self absorption that I come across is when people talk about sacrificing their need, their desire, they wants for others and when it has become a steady pattern of their relatedness with others.  I am of course not talking about extreme situations here nor am I including instances when people sacrifice  their needs for others in dire need.  I am talking about people who have made this into a steady pattern of relating to the world and who firmly believe that this is what is expected out of them by others.  In other words, their sense of self worth is derived from the extent of "sacrifice" they make for others, irrespective of whether it is needed or not.  Often the others are helpless spectators or are unwilling victims to this blackmail as the "sacrificing' one has to be given his or her dues and would almost always have the superior position in the relationship.  This too is an intense self absorption where the others are merely entities in a drama that are needed for the drama to be enacted over and over again.

How does one deal with this?  well, perhaps the first step is to accept that life exists as sets of opposites, i.e. we are simultaneously good and bad, loved and not loved, accepted and not accepted, liked and disliked, courageous and cowardly,  loving and despising, efficient and incompetent, and many many such contradictions.  Life is but a set of contradictions and these contradictions are what  make life worth living for self and for others.  If this is accepted, one may then can look forward to move out of self absorption and relate to the world afresh and anew.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

article from Tehelka magazine- the Nowhere Children

it is a heart wrenching article .. made me feel angry, ashamed and sad.  When will we see any change?  This is not only political or economic, it also talks about who we are and what our attitude towards women and children are.  In some of my work with NGOs who are working with children and women in red light areas are so similar.  

While there is a larger context of political, economic, sociological changes, complexity, exploitation, corruption, inefficiency, etc are involved, I feel upset about the so called educated and affluent class most of who, in my experience at least, come across as blissfully unaware of what is happening around us and therefore, can close their eyes to any responsibility to bring in any change anywhere. 

When will we change?