Disability and how it affects the family

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Disability comes with many names – autism, Asperger’s, muscular dystrophy, bipolar, Downs – basically any condition that interferes with day-to-day functioning. People with a disability are usually reduced to a bunch of letters and labels – ADD, ADHD, MS, DS, CP, and so on. Disability can be physical, developmental, or both and can vary in degree (mild, moderate, severe). But disability evokes ONE single emotion in the minds of every family hit by it. Fear.

Fear is what you first feel when your child has been diagnosed with something. Fear of what lies ahead. You feel the ground under your feet slipping away.

The general stages that many families go through are Fear, Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, and Positive Acceptance. They may not happen neatly(one at a time) and in any particular order. Just when you think you’ve gotten past the stages and progressed to Positive Acceptance, a challenging phase can trigger one of the earlier stages.

Each family must traverse it’s own individual journey. No two disabilities are alike, no two people affected are like. And no two families are alike. My younger son, 12, has autism. (I also have an older, typically developing son, who’s 16.) I do not have knowledge of disabilities other than autism and I will use that heavily in this post, in terms of examples. I will also write this from a parent- young child perspective (please translate the situation appropriately to other disabilities and other relationships such as caring for a sibling or a parent).

What I hope to share here are some thoughts, experiences, and strategies that may be helpful to all families with disabilities, regardless of the individual diagnoses or differences in the challenges they are facing.

Practical Considerations

1. Get a Comprehensive Evaluation

A thorough evaluation by a professional is not only important to understand your child’s diagnosis, it also becomes the basis for appropriate services.  Do some research and find a professional (such a psychologist, physician, developmental pediatrician, or other expert) that you feel comfortable with in terms of both knowledge and manner.

In the early days, my son’s evaluation gave me the first piece of clarity in all of the chaos – it not only captured his diagnosis accurately, it also summarized his strengths and developmental challenges, and recommended a list of therapies, tools, and services that would help address his challenges. Having something concrete in my hands was a lifesaver. I had a purpose. A sense of direction.  I needed to help him. Therefore I needed to be okay.

2. Research interventions related to the condition.

Beside’s the doctor’s or psychologist’s recommendations, do your own research on what is out there helping those in the same situation. Look for therapies, tools and technology that will help your child learn, communicate, and grow. Get trained in these interventions.

For my son, a host of therapies have been effective – Communicating Partners, Floortime, Applied behavioral Analysis, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Relationship Development Intervention. There are literally 1000s of apps on the iPad to choose from – I use the ones suitable to his needs. I also attend workshops, read books, and get trained on how to use specific techniques to help him learn and grow.  It also helped to teach my older son some play-based strategies so he could find ways to connect with his brother.

3. Start a Journal

Make observations about your child.  Keep track of missed developmental milestones. Also make note of your child’s unique traits, preferences, dislikes, and fears.  What motivates him?  What gets him too excited?  What calms him down?  How does he communicate?  How does his responsiveness vary, based on the environment?  How does he relate to various members in the family?

One of my journal entries from many years ago reads “he likes spinning balls”. Over the years, he was taught many things using various balls (some shiny, some springy, some squishy) as rewards. Now he has graduated to playing basketball with his brother and at school. The next step is to teach him to play basketball in the community (like a neighborhood league).  It all started with a spinning ball.

4. Do some research on funding.

In the US, insurance companies cover some therapies and services, while the government covers others. While at least half the services we use are covered, the other half have been out of pocket – because what is covered can often be inadequate/minimal or have many conditions attached or may not be appropriate for the child in question. Therefore, you might also want to set aside a separate fund for educational tools, supports, and medical appointments. There may be specific government grants and scholarships, educational savings accounts and living trusts, specific to each country. Yes, a disability can be a huge financial drain and requires smart financial planning both for the short and the long term.

5. Read up on Disability Law

There is generally a body of law governing the education of people with special needs. For instance, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law in the US that ensures that every disabled person has a right to an appropriate education, which must be provided by the schools. However, what’s ’appropriate’ can be wishy-washy. Therefore knowledge of the law is crucial.

One day, I was in a meeting with 8 other professionals whose jobs depended on denying as much funding as possible (a psychologist, a behaviorist, a lawyer who was mediating on behalf of the funding agency, my case manager, etc.). I felt so alone. They were all disagreeing with me, denying my son services that were helping him make progress. But I had done my homework and come prepared. I quoted cases, laws, precedents that were relevant. I also had detailed reports and records, videos and proof of his progress. The data spoke the truth. I got the services he needed.

Of course, I would never let them know that there was moment in the meeting when I came close to crying. We seldom realize how strong we are – until we are forced to be.  That was the day I realized – when you understand your rights, knowledge is truly power. You can advocate for a range of services that will help you child achieve his full potential and live as independently and productively as possible.

6. Make a plan for sharing responsibilities. 

Make a list of your new responsibilities and things that need to be done. Discuss with your spouse or other family member how you will share responsibilities and juggle your respective tasks.  Your workload practically triples when your child is diagnosed with special needs.  All of a sudden, you will find yourself becoming a teacher, advocate, therapist, behaviorist, and counselor (besides being a parent).  You will be making multiple appointments, doing a lot of paperwork, and driving a lot more – to therapies, playgroups, support groups, workshops, etc.

Planning, being organized, and sharing responsibilities is the only way to fit in everything and ensure all the important areas are being addressed.

Emotional Well-being

1. Allow yourself to Grieve

I researched interventions, recorded behaviors in journals, built spreadsheets for tracking goals and flowcharts to design his programs. What I couldn’t do easily was grieve.

I felt grieving was an act of betrayal toward my son. If I sit down and cry (even in private), will he sense it on some level? Will it sadden him? Which child would want to feel responsible for making his parents sad?

My husband, like many men, was also uncomfortable with talking about our son’s autism outside of problem solving.

It was finally on our first visit back home, (2 years after diagnosis) in India, in my childhood room that it happened. We were talking about his autism and my husband broke down. I was caught by surprise. I had never seen him cry. I too cried about it, for the very first time.

I realized I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t disloyal. I wasn’t weak. I just needed to cry. It was intensely cathartic.

The crying did not change our love or commitment to him one bit. It opened the floodgates for us. We’ve had many discussions since then about things we were uncomfortable broaching. About our fears. About his future. Giving words to the unknown makes it known. And the known is easier to deal with.

2. Start Building Supports and Networks

Recognize that you are in crisis mode, at least in the first 2 years, until you’ve figured out supports and services. Look to your family and friends for supportive people who are willing to help and can take on tasks for which you simply do not have the time or energy.  Sometimes having a cup of coffee with a friend can go a long way in relieving some of the stress. Form a support group with other like-minded parents in the same situation.

3. Don’t forget your child is a child first. His condition is secondary.

Your child still needs to be loved and cared for. He needs to play and have fun. For that, he needs a relaxed parent.

It was hard for me to be relaxed in the beginning because I had so much on my plate. But playing with my son and letting him be a child magically reduced my stress levels. If he does something annoying, I try to remember he could be doing it because he’s a child and not necessarily because of his condition. I try to refrain from looking at every action of his through the autism lens.

4. Build independence and pride for your child.

I also have been working on making him as independent as possible. We don’t have a handicapped-parking permit because I taught my son to walk safely in the parking lot, so others who truly need it may avail of it. We don’t use special passes at amusement parks because we have managed to teach our son to wait in line (again so these can be used by people who genuinely need them). I want him to know he will be given help and support but he does not need crutches. My son needs to help out with chores like everyone else in the family. I will not do anything for him that he is capable of doing himself. He has developed a sense of pride in himself. He will struggle with something for the longest time and do it himself rather than take help, in many instances.

5. Figure out ways to support the needs of other members in the family.

Siblings get the hardest hit. Make sure you dedicate one on one time with your other child/children. Be involved with them, partake in their activities, and be supportive and understanding of their own struggles. If they have negative feelings toward their sibling with special needs, you need to listen, validate, and teach them practical ways to deal with everyday problems arising out of their sibling’s condition.

Siblings of children with special needs can go in two very different directions. They can take on a lot of stress and break down under it and really “act out”. Or they can learn to deal with the challenges positively – in the latter case, they tend to become mature beyond their years.

Reading, running, and chess are three activities I share with my older son. When we discuss books or play chess, we are being friends and equals. When we run, he beats me every single time! The rest of the time, I have to be a parent to him, an adult, of course. But when we do something we both enjoy, we are building an easy bond that sort of helps us tide over tensions during other times.

6. Humor can be survival.

Humor is the best medicine, yes. In the absence of a cure, it’s the only one. Don’t forget to kid around. In my family, we all poke good-natured fun at each other. It’s our most cherished tradition.

7. Don’t get exhausted. Take breaks.

I religiously go for my Sunday morning hike with my friends. I also go to my monthly book club. My husband and I go out for Friday lunch dates, every other week. My husband likes to go to Fry’s Electronics to browse or watch the local baseball matches with his buddies. We stick to these activities no matter what. Taking care of ourselves is just as important as taking care of our children. Also the latter is ineffective without the former. (Remember the flight attendant’s safety mask announcement.)

8. Be an Effective Parent

Remember that no professional can know and understand a child to the degree of intimacy that a parent can.  It is only possible for a parent to deeply know his/her child due to the constant proximity and the very nature of the parent-child relationship.  However, many parents may be so distressed by the diagnosis that they may lose sight of this important fact – a knowledgeable parent can be an indispensable and powerful member of the child’s intervention team.  You truly have the power to help your child be the best that he can be.  You will not be able to do it alone – you will need help from professionals, family, and friends – but it all begins with you.  When you are able to set aside the ‘Why Me?’ question, when you are able to overcome your grief, you will start seeing how beautiful and unique your child is – you will then be a powerful force in aiding his development and shaping his success.

DEALING WITH STIGMA

I’m lucky to live in the US. My neighbors know my son and his issues but they don’t let it bother them. They find ways to connect with him (by casually asking, “Hey Ryan, wanna help me out here with this lawn mower?”) and if he’s not there, always check in on me and ask me how I’m doing and if they could help with anything. Same thing happens at our neighborhood cafes and restaurants. They know what his usual order is.  They don’t freak out if my son does something weird. I have been reduced to tears (in the beginning) at the absolute kindness and helpfulness of random strangers. The public spaces in this country are tremendously accepting of people with disabilities.

When I visit my family in India, I do sense a lot of stigma and silence on the issue, although I also sense it is slowly getting better. Still, some mean people ask rude questions or call him rude things. Once I was on a local flight with both my sons and the family behind us kept making rude comments about my younger son.

I put up with it until I heard, “If he’s mad, he should be in an institution, not on a plane.”

I finally stood up, turned around and told them “My son has autism. I have the right to inhabit this space as much as you do. He is not being disruptive. He is intelligent with a high IQ, sensitive, and a really nice human being, but I don’t expect you to understand that, not in a million years. He has the right to travel without discrimination. Please refrain from making rude remarks. If you continue to do so, I will not hesitate to complain to the authorities.”

I highly doubted that “the authorities” cared, but singling the offensive people out put the focus back on their behavior. It was sufficient in getting them to leave us alone for the rest of the flight (during which they maintained a deathly silence). While my boys and I calmly carried on with playing magnetic Scrabble.

The key is confidence. Do NOT be apologetic. It is NEVER the child’s fault. EXPECT adults to behave courteously and if they don’t, then DEMAND courtesy. I’m a veteran now at handling ignorant remarks about my son.  In the early years, my eyes would sting with unshed tears, my throat would catch, but I would gulp it down and pretend I was fine.  But ignoring comments is losing an opportunity to take a stand.  Remember Rosa Parks. Refuse to give up your seat on the bus.

And that’s how you deal with mean people, but what about good people?

Good people in India tend to avoid the subject altogether. Although this is well intentioned (they don’t want to hurt you), I feel this is not acknowledging the elephant in the room. Their being careful comes off as indifference. I start talking about my son’s autism. Once I share willingly and enthusiastically, they begin to relax and ask me more and try to understand more. It’s okay to ask. It’s better than being indifferent. The more we talk about this, the more we break the silence and the stigma around it.

The good news – autism schools and services are burgeoning in every Indian city and from what I hear, the quality is top notch, and the professionals are empathetic and dedicated.

IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS FACED WITH DISABILITY

If a friend or a cousin or a co-worker you are close to is battling a disability, you may wonder how you can be of help. Here are some ways to be helpful:

1. Ask how you can be of help.

When I was a student in Canada, one of my fellow students lived in the same building. He was in a wheelchair but incredibly independent. He drove a specialized car and worked a part time job to pay his way through school. We would sometimes run into each other in the parking lot when we returned home at the same time. We would be talking while walking, he wheeling next to me walking. When we reached the building’s entry door, I would always wonder if I should run ahead and get the door for him or not. What if he reaches a step ahead of me? Would it be rude if I insisted on getting the door? Does he see that as ‘forced dependence’? So, one day, I just asked him what he preferred. He told me he’d appreciate it if I got the door for him. Problem solved! I happily got the door for him every time after that. I also told him since I lived in the same building to please ask me if he needs help with anything else. He did ask for help with unloading groceries, so every Sunday, I would get them from his car to the elevator. Then elevator to his door. Such a small thing for me. But every little thing counts, when you are faced with something big.

2. Understand and read up on the challenges.

When I saw my cousin suffering emotional abuse, it bothered me quite a bit. Here was a guy who had followed me around like a little brother when we were both kids. Here was an aunt who had been kind to me in my early years in the US. What has happened to this family, I wondered. They are all good people, yet they are suffering. I found myself reading everything I could find on the subject, so I could start pointing him in the right direction.

One of my close friends (who has typical kids) began reading up on autism after she met my son for the first time. I was surprised and touched. She said she wanted to understand him better. Learning about something that doesn’t affect us, is, I think, an act of love.

3. Let them know you are there.

Don’t offer sympathy. Most families affected by disability are like any other family. They have their own challenges. They will find ways to deal with them. Challenges make people stronger, more capable, and more empathetic. Rest assured they will find ways to be happy and enjoy life. But letting them know you are there – to listen or to help – is meaningful and genuinely supportive.

4. Know that different doesn’t mean inferior.

Know that someone who may act strangely on the outside may be very intelligent on the inside. The intelligence is trapped in a body that is difficult to control. There may be great ideas inside the brain, but to be expressed, neurons must carry them from point A to point B, then to C, then to D. If the neurons misfire, the idea is trapped inside. It can only be brought out by providing supports (visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, etc.) And this is now being done through the use of various technologies (devices, apps and various software programs).

If I tested you in Mandarin today, you’d fail miserably. That doesn’t mean you aren’t smart. It just means I need to find the right language to test you in –one you are fluent in. With autistic people this “right language” is technology. Give them a multi-media way of learning and expressing and you will see that many of them are incredibly gifted. The giftedness is a result of overdevelopment in certain parts of the brain that seems to be a way of coping with deficits (neural connectivity) in other areas. Those autistic individuals who’ve had everything fall in place for them (a complex combination of supports, people, technologies and figuring out the blocks) show giftedness in math, programming, music, and poetry.  Notice how all four areas require excellent pattern recognition – little surprise since many autistic minds are obsessed with patterns.

Those whose ‘puzzles’ haven’t been solved, whose systems haven’t been ‘configured’, who are constantly battling sensory overload – although just as intelligent as those described above – continue to be trapped in their prisons – unable to demonstrate how much they know and understand.  It’s a little like suffering stroke.  You see a pen.  You know it’s s pen.  You just can’t get your mouth to say the damn word.  You are immediately labelled “not smart”.

You’d think most people instinctively understand that jokes about disabled people are in poor taste. You’d be surprised. President Obama himself made a derogatory joke about the Special Olympics. In case, you’re still using words like “retard” please wake up and step into the 21st century and refrain from using words that demonstrate ignorance.

Please, no matter what you do or don’t, DO NOT feel sorry for disabled people.  They don’t need your pity, they need your respect, and if possible, your help.

You can help disabled people in the following ways:

  • allow them to live with dignity and autonomy
  • ask them how you can be of help
  • give them ways to become independent and productive
  • give them ways to talk about their condition without secrecy or shame
  • accept them as human beings with human weaknesses, strengths and dreams

Related Articles:

Building Trust Non-verbally – https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/building-trust-non-verbally/

The Stories We Choose To Tell –

https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/the-stories-we-choose-to-tell/

Holding it in Letting Go –

https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/holding-it-in-letting-go/

Starting on Green – https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/starting-on-green/

The Road Taken – https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/the-road-taken/

A Day in the Life of a Family with Autism –

https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-family-with-autism/

Life with These Boys – https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/life-with-these-boys/

The Art of Asking for Help – https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/the-art-of-asking-for-help/

Light It Up Blue –

https://wordssetmefreee.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/light-it-blue/

Autism and Bullying

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/autistic-teenager-beaten-up-by-bullies-makes-them-watch-20minute-video-about-autism-10368201.html

 

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Being Single in India

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

My niece has often shared with me the troubles of being single in India. A couple of her friends are now almost turning 30 and pressure from their families is mounting. This they’ve chosen to ignore, but everyday life is not easy. The way neighbors and random strangers seem to treat them is reprehensible.

What are some challenges single Indians (both men and women) face?

Based on my niece’s experiences, and the comments from My Era, Neha, Cosettez, Simta, and Fem on the recent post on ‘women and friendship’, here are some –

Practical/Everyday Challenges

  • renting a place to stay
  • going out in one’s neighborhood (attracting uncalled for attention, especially single women from ogling men )
  • living in an apartment complex where everyone makes it their person business to worry about your future
  • for women, mild to moderate to severe harassment from some men in the building (staring, lewd remarks or worse)
  • getting mistrustful looks from some married women (being viewed as a potential ‘threat’) and not getting invited to family gatherings, pujas, festivals celebrated in the building
  • advice from family, relatives, neighbors and random strangers to get married and settle down and obsessive matchmaking that sometimes borders on abuse
  • Questions like, “Why are you not living with your parents?” (or at least with an aunt’s family)
  • being judged for dating or being in a relationship or pretending to be married when you are in a live in relationship
  • for women, being constantly reminded of your biological clock ticking
  • finding your name appearing mysteriously on matrimonial websites, without your permission, with the description, “highly educated, yet traditional, fair, beautiful, makes X amount.”
  • difficulty finding and keeping friends as most people get married by 30
  • patronizing attitudes from co-workers with families
  • workplace discrimination (“if you are single and over 35, there must be something wrong with you”)
  • questions on the person’s orientation, which is now everyone’s business
  • friends of the opposite gender forbidden from visiting apartment (because God forbid, they may have consensual sex. And we’re okay with marital rape, of course, that’s the poor woman’s problem, but consensual sex is everyone’s problem)
  • If you are divorced, you either did something wrong or you are unlucky. You no longer make the cut in terms of group membership.
  • Single women wanting to adopt a child face bureaucratic and societal challenges
  • Real threat to safety (when I go for my morning run wearing shorts in India, I feel safer if my hubby, brother or older son goes along with me. I’ve tried running alone but felt intimidated by the hostile stares and the lecherous grins. How is this different from the Taliban mindset? The man in your life may not be The Hulk but having one next to you seems to discourage unwanted attention.)

Emotional Impact

  • Feeling of being more visible – being singled out, more negative attention, every behavior/action attributed to one’s single status
  • A sense of being more invisible – ignored at or not invited to social gatherings/outings if more people in the group are married
  • Displacement from family – younger cousins, married with children are quoted as examples by sad parents, parents don’t understand how someone can want to be single, a feeling of collective rejection from family and extended family – being blamed/made to feel guilty for not making marriage work
  • Self-doubt and confusion – rejection and isolation leading to feelings of uncertainty, disorientation, and demoralization.

Some possible ideas to deal with this

  • Find other singles to network with. If you are divorced, find other divorcees. Start a support group. Sometimes these groups lead to friendships, sometimes they don’t. Even if this doesn’t lead to friendship, a group can be helpful for advocacy reasons – it is easier to fight for the right to rent without being discriminated against, if many people are involved.
  • Remain committed to the few people who are supportive. Keep in touch, make time to keep the friendship going without withering.
  • Join online groups and forums to get help/ideas for specific problems as well as to feel connected.
  • Start a blog on the topic as a meeting point for ideas and support. If there is a blog that focuses on the issues of single people living in India, please share.
  • Divorce needs to be made as un-intimidating as possible, otherwise marriages become prisons.  Many women stay in unhappy marriages because there is insufficient legal information and emotional support for taking this simple step – of walking out of an unhappy situation.  Therefore, please share resources/websites for divorcees, especially legal resources that explain your rights, procedures, property and custody issues.

Are we better off?

In the past, the only people who remained single were women who “failed to get married”.  They remained in their brother’s or uncle’s or male cousin’s house (after parents were gone) and served the families that extracted work and threw scraps at them in return.  They were ostracized within the family and held as an example of what happens when we don’t pray, fast, or train for a good husband.

Now, most single people I know (who are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s) got there because they made a choice. They chose to stay single.  They chose to walk out of unhappy marriages.  They chose to be in a relationship with someone without marrying them.  Boy, haven’t we ( a minority perhaps) come a long, long way?  Even if their % is small, there are probably now more single men and women in their 30s and 40s than there were a generation ago.  What does it mean – the fact that this is the first generation that we have more single people than ever?

  • this indicates that a few more people are putting off marriage to a later age (in my generation, many women got married in their early 20s and men by their late 20s).
  • this could also mean that a few more people are choosing not to marry
  • more people are opting for divorce when faced with unhappy marriages
  • at least a few women are no longer worrying about their biological clocks – they can choose to adopt (if they want children later) or choose to be child free
  • more women are able to work and hold jobs that allow them to make a living, so being married is no longer the only way to survival
  • being single longer and marrying later makes marriages more level playing fields – women who have lived alone and managed finances are less likely to be enslaved, men who’ve lived independently are not mamma’s boys, can take care of themselves and are not looking for someone to cook and clean for them, both women and men know what they want in a relationship)

The fact that a few people are making the decision to remain single or get divorced despite the challenges listed above means that our mindset is changing – that freedom and choices are now more valued – that they are pursued at the cost of society’s approval, acceptance, and the need to belong.

If you are single, please share your experiences and challenges with being single/in a live in relationship/divorced in India, and how you cope with both the practical and emotional aspects, and especially what has helped. It would be great to hear from both women and men on this.

If you are married, would you be comfortable renting out your apartment to a single/divorced person, male or female, if they appear to be honest, reliable people and have proper paperwork?  Would you rent to an unmarried couple?  Do you have unmarried friends who are over 30 or do you make friends only with married people?  Do you invite single/divorced people to gatherings/celebrations in your building?  Why or why not? If the answer to any of these questions is no, please elaborate why you are uncomfortable or what’s getting in the way of your friendship/trust.

Changing Someone (or oneself)

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

When I was a kid, I remember watching movies where a woman changes her irresponsible or alcoholic husband to become her dream life partner. She accomplishes this through forbearance, persistence, and faith, qualities that tended to glorify her and epitomized womanhood. Movies are just a reflection of prevailing social attitudes. Since our culture expects women to adjust and make marriages work at any cost, it follows that a woman trying to mold her husband is/was seen as a positive and proactive way to finding happiness.

In real life, however, is it possible to change someone? Is it even fair to attempt to change someone? What are some situations where we might wish to change our loved ones?

  • We might want them to be fairer (sharing house work and parenting for instance), more responsible, or more committed to the relationship. These are reasonable expectations.  Let’s call this the reasonable zone.
  • We might want them to exercise, eat better, and relax more, out of concern for their health. Although this is reasonable, we are now entering the sensitive zone of personal choices.  What if someone’s personal choices impact our happiness?  What if your spouse is overworked and constantly irritable?  On the one hand, a healthier, happier spouse does have a positive impact on our own happiness and the health of our relationship.  Yet, where do you draw the line here?  What if someone is happy with their excess weight or their no-so-great eating habits?  Do we worry about the future impact of their habits on their health (and consequently our happiness)?  Or do we let them be because it’s their choice?
  • Some of us may even be occasionally tempted to change their tastes and preferences, and may go so far as to tell them to change their feelings about something.  This is a clear cut ‘wrong zone‘.

Expecting one’s partner to be more responsible, fair, and committed is completely reasonable. Wanting them to modify their lifestyle or character (become more disciplined, more relaxed, or more diligent) is going to be somewhat problematic, even if it is well intentioned.

However, asking them to change their tastes and preferences is completely unfair. Expecting them to change their feelings about something is not only unreasonable, it’s downright impossible. People have no control over their feelings; they only have control over their actions. They may despise someone. They can choose not to yell at this person and they can certainly choose to not hit the person. But they can’t change how they feel (intense dislike/hate).

When attempting to change someone close to you, ask yourself, ‘whose problem is it?’ If your husband likes to get up late on Sundays, take a late shower, go unshaven all day, dress sloppily, then that’s what he likes to do. It is not your problem to own. Let him be. If your wife likes to watch a certain show that drives you nuts, leave the room. Let her be. In both cases, don’t attempt to change the other’s tastes or preferences.

So, let’s assume that we remain in the reasonable zone or venture into the sensitive zone – we want someone to change because it makes them healthier, happier, less frustrated, it makes our life better, and it makes our relationship better. Even this is extremely difficult to do. Many people resist change for many different reasons. It is therefore crucial to understand the factors that constitute change, before we attempt to change someone or ourselves.

Factors that Influence Changing Oneself or the Other

1. Self awareness

Change begins with self-awareness. The first step is for the person himself to feel the need for change. When I feel tired because I’m overworked and realize it, I’m aware that I need to take breaks. When I feel emotionally distanced from my loved ones and realize it, I’m aware that I’ve been spending less time with them and paying the price for it. Awareness is therefore an important prerequisite for change. If you want your partner to change, help him/her become more and more aware of the problem. When discussing this very sensitive topic, try to be helpful rather than judgmental. Focus on how a certain behavior or habit is impacting him or those around him. Stay away from offering solutions, because interfering with the process of self awareness and self-motivation to change can be counter productive. You can’t really GET someone to change, but you can help them LET themselves change.

2. Desire and Commitment

Awareness leads to desire (to change) and desire leads to commitment. In the desire stage, we start thinking about what we want. If only I could find time to go for a walk. If only I could enroll in that programming class so I can feel more adept at my work. If only I could practice my violin. Visualizing what we would like to do can be extremely motivating. As a partner, help the other visualize what he/she would like to achieve. Of course, dreaming can only take us so far. A practical plan is necessary to execute. Strategize on what can be done to make the change happen – what are some obstacles, what are some possibilities, is there a Plan B when Plan A fails, would intermediate goals and rewards help. Review the plan daily, acknowledge successes and don’t let your partner be intimidated by setbacks along the way.

3. Be the person/change you want to see

Gandhi was right. Modeling change can be powerful. If you want your children to read more and watch less television, ask yourself how much you are reading. Children who see their parents reading a lot also tend to become avid readers. If you want your partner/spouse to exercise more, offer to go for a walk with him. If he prefers to go to the gym, offer to go to the gym with him (at least initially, to get him motivated).

4. Environmental modification ( for children)

Removing temptations from the environment works wonders, especially with children. In our kitchen, we don’t stock junk food because we want everyone to eat healthy. There are tons of fruit in the fridge if someone wants to grab a snack between meals. We made a conscious choice not to have cable. We do have our DVD player to watch movies because it is so much easier to control movie watching than cable television with its constant transmission. (We get the news on our car radios on our way to work.)

Just as negative elements and distractions can be removed from the environment, positive elements can be added to it. When my kids were very little, they had 2 choices for their free time – they could stay in and read or do art or they could go outside and play. Our home has always been stocked with lots of children’s books and there are plenty of art supplies and a whole play area where they can really get messy with finger paint and other art materials. I took them on lots of outings – walks, parks, museums, aquariums, and read lots of books to them. As they got older, they willingly enrolled in team sports like basketball, soccer and cross country, which keep them pretty occupied. They’re not addicted to screens because they got so used to healthier ways to entertain themselves.

Please note that environmental modification can be used as a positive parenting tool, not a controlling tool.  It is not just about ‘removing’ things from the environment but also about giving children lots and lots of choices (positive ones).

The above are some straightforward ways to bring about positive change. But what do we do when change is hard to actualize? What if the person is resistant to change?

Some factors that create resistance to change

1. The underlying self-image and correcting it

Sometimes people are a certain way because that’s how they see themselves. We all carry these self-images of ourselves at an unconscious level. Sheela may see herself as inept at her work and feel like she’s getting by without really being productive. If she is offered a promotion (because her boss genuinely appreciates her diligence), she may see this as further confirmation of her fakeness. Ravi may see himself as an uninteresting person. If his friends ask him to go on a trip with them, he may see this as their attempt to rescue him from his boring life, as an act of sympathy. Children who are controlled a lot and have to fight for every little thing may soon get labeled as obstinate, difficult, or rebellious. Soon, they come to believe these labels, and may continue to rebel throughout their adult lives, even when it’s unnecessary. We hold on to our self-images (even when they are negative) because they are familiar and grounding.

As adults, it is therefore important to change our self-image if we want to change ourselves. Or help the people we love or work with change their self-image. If you want your co-worker to be more precise with numbers, praise her in the instances when she does demonstrate precision. If you want your son to be more considerate, notice and comment when he helps you clean up after dinner. If you want your friend to be more committed to your friendship, draw attention to the wonderful time you had together when she did make it. Complaining about what’s not happening confirms people’s negative self-images. Offering genuine praise challenges people to question their negative self-images. When you start noticing and drawing attention to their good side, they will begin to accept the idea that developing their good side is actually possible and doable.

2. Difficulty with taking input and being a ‘doer’

Some people are somewhat resistant to taking input. They feel cornered when you just “tell” them that something makes sense. Even a gentle suggestion may seem very forceful to them. Such people tend to be ‘doers’, that is they like figuring out things for themselves. It is much better to ask such people what they would like to do. Chances are they will choose the sensible path, once they are free of having a “solution” thrust upon them.

My older son is one of these people. He would typically waste a lot of time after he came home from school, then had to stay up really late to finish all his work. High school syllabus along with extra curricular activities demanded much more speed and efficiency from him, which he did not possess. As a result, he was sleep deprived and tired all day. To me, the most obvious thing to do was to start work early so he could get a good night’s sleep. But can I suggest something simple like this? Not with him (I now know that from many years of experience with him:-). Instead, I tried to nudge him toward finding his own solution. Our conversation went like this –

When he complained about being tired at school, I said, “Yeah I can imagine. You were up so late last night.”

He said, “These stupid projects and assignments! What are these teachers thinking?? How the heck can I get so much done in one evening??”

Me: “It’s certainly a ton of work!”

Him: “Yeah. It does require a lot of time.”

Me: “Uhuh.”

Him: “Maybe if I could start in the afternoon ….”

Me: “Hmm…”

Him: “I could eat my lunch quickly, then get started. Let me try that today and see how it goes.”

And it did go very well. He went to bed at a decent time that day and felt better the next day at school. He started doing that everyday and began managing the work load better. There would be days here and there where he would slip into the old habit of wasting time. But, once again, I simply acted as his sounding board. He would then self-correct himself and get back to a more efficient routine. I needed to accept that it’s simply his nature to be independent in the extreme, try out everything, and decide for himself what works and what doesn’t.

3. Simple for one is hard for another – being aware of differences in learning/abilities

Remember that what is simple for us can be hard for another. And vice versa. Being organized is easy for me but incredibly hard for my son. Making small talk and pretending to be interested in and managing large social groups is easy for my sister, but hard for me. Show understanding when the other struggles with change. Work with them. Help them find ways to problem solve. Don’t let them get discouraged when they fail. Keep reminding them that change is a process.

When my younger son wanted to play on the soccer team, it was incredibly hard for him to focus on his teammates directions and the ball simultaneously. His autism made it hard to separate or tune out the other team’s instructions to each other. Since he has autism, everyone around him is understanding and supportive of this. We solved this problem by assigning him a ‘buddy’ on the team who gives him instructions. The buddy works (practices soccer) with my son one on one before the game. This makes my son more attuned to his friend’s voice. During the game, he is better able to attune his attention to this single source of auditory input.

But how understanding and supportive are we of each other’s struggles when we don’t carry labels? We may be neurologically typical and yet, most people tend to struggle with certain skills. Being aware of this simple fact helps us persist with our goals without giving up and finding the right supports to facilitate the process.

4. Model willingness to change

If you want your partner or friend to change in one area, pick another area that is difficult for you to change. I wanted my friend to read more fiction and poetry (because that’s what I love discussing) and not just non-fiction (which she tends to enjoy). So, I began signing up for hiking up the hills more (I tended to prefer flat trails) because she loves making it all the way to the peaks (of some smaller, local hills). Once she started seeing me do things that did not come easily and naturally, she became more willing to step out of her comfort zone as well. Willingness to change ourselves motivates those around us to change. It also builds empathy in us for other’s struggles.

5. Assign responsibilities according to strengths/talents/interests

In my MBA class, we were part of team of 4 that worked together for the entire 2 year period. In my team, we had the analyzer, the (detail oriented) fact checker, the (big picture) strategic planner, and the writer/presenter/charmer/people person. Each of us excelled at our roles and tried to learn from the strengths of the others. Work environments frequently categorize people in teams along similar lines/strengths. At home, I hate doing dishes but I’m the better cook. When we share household tasks, I do more of the cooking while my husband does more of the dishes and laundry.   Many parents also divide child rearing duties to match their strengths – one parent may be involved with studies while the other manages sports and other interests/classes. Here, there is no necessity to change one’s style, and different styles can be complementary.

6. Ignore weaknesses by remembering strengths

There are some things that are either impossible to change in ourselves or are so difficult to change that it’s not worth the effort. It’s best to ignore certain weaknesses if they do not interfere with our lives or our loved one’s lives in a major way. My co-worker’s husband tends to be very fact oriented in his conversations. She wished more than anything to be able to have more fulfilling conversations with him at a deeper level. For him, her getting promoted would be just that, a simple fact that deserved to be celebrated. For her, it would lead to a discussion of the effort that went into it, a proper evaluation of the outcome, the dynamics of a motivating work environment, future career options, and change management. After several failed attempts at trying to change this aspect of him, and a lot of frustration for both of them, she stopped trying to change how he converses. She is now content that they do have a very loving relationship. He is always there for her and supports her in every way, in her career, in her personal life, in her interests. She has joined a book club to get those deep conversations that she enjoys (and while she is busy with her deep discussions, he gets happily busy restoring his 1960s Thunderbird in the garageJ).

Non-negotiable Situations – when trying to change someone is futile (Black and white areas)

It is important to note situations where we cannot change the other and the healthy/sane option is to leave the relationship:

  • in all cases of abuse, emotional or physical, it is best to leave – counseling can help in a few cases, but as soon as one realizes that counseling is not helping, it is best to leave
  • when you find out your husband is gay and you happen to be straight (No, you cannot change someone’s orientation, it is like left or right handedness. Your husband may have gotten married out of parental pressure; he may be fearful or in denial or selfish or good hearted or all of the above – it does not matter, just leave)
  • when your spouse is alcoholic (he needs counseling/help, and again in some cases, this actually helps, and when it doesn’t, you need to leave)
  • when your spouse is selfish, mean, is aware of this and is unwilling to change because it suits him – patience, understanding, and supportiveness have no place here. He is the way he is because it’s convenient. By staying, you are rewarding him for his selfishness. Nothing you do is ever going to make a difference because there is no desire or commitment to change.
  • finally trying to change someone’s tastes, preferences, feelings, opinions, and personal choices that have no impact on others’ lives is wrong, unfair, and when done with persistence, can constitute as abuse.

Most relationships may not be those non-negotiable black and white situations. They may fall in the grey area – where your spouse, friends, parents, children, or co-workers are not really selfish and have good intentions but may be making choices that either impact them or both of you in a harmful/negative way. In these situations, understanding what factors constitute change, being empathetic to the challenges in engendering real change, and knowing what expectations of change are fair versus unfair can go a long way in shaping our relationships to fulfill our needs.

Please share your thoughts and experiences with trying to change some part of yourself or someone you love or care for.

Related Posts:

I hope the following links drive home the point that change cannot be used to gain approval/validation, to alter one’s personality/preferences nor can it be used to make a failed/abusive relationship work.  Change is pertinent in primarily 2 broad situations – (1) when we ourselves are unhappy with the existing state and wish to change – and (2) when our behavior directly impinges on another’s rights.

Can a woman marry and change an uninterested man into a loving and responsible husband?

Taking responsibility for improving (?) men’s sex lives empowers women?

Does loving someone mean we should improve them?

How do we go about accepting ourselves just the way we are?

“I think most problems in life are when we look for approval and validation outside of ourselves.”

“10 years ago, the girl would have been counselled on how to change her dress sense for the boy, how to do as he says.”

Who would you never ask for advice?

What are you criticised the most for?

Recognizing Emotional Abuse

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

The last post and some recent emails brought up the subject of abuse within families.  I’m glad that the email writer moved out.  She is able to analyze her situation quite rationally, which indicates that she got out in time.  Although the majority of these emails tend to come from women, men can also be victims of abuse.  One recent email from an American woman detailed how her Indian boyfriend was being emotionally blackmailed by his parents.  Many commenters advised her to stop dating him because he needed to gain control of his own life before entering into a relationship.  In my own extended family, my cousin, who I grew up with chose to not get married.  After delaying his parents’ attempts to get him married for a few years, he finally came out in the open and declared he doesn’t ever want to get married.  He is an only child and  has been subjected to emotional blackmail (such as daily threats of illness and suicide, hysteria, self-starvation) from his parents.  Five years since he announced his decision, they are still around, but I do see that he is worn down, tired, and stressed most of the time.  He was a happy, fun loving child, always following me around (I’m eight years older to him) asking me to play hide and seek with him.  It bothers me when I see him become a hollow version of himself.

Emotional abuse is a potent method of damaging someone’s psyche, especially a person’s sense of self worth and dignity.  It is potent because it often goes unrecognized.  Its incognito status allows people to inflict substantial damage on victims – as much as that through visible forms of abuse such as aggression and violence.

Socially sanctioned forms of abuse are the hardest to recognize.  In many cultures, parents have unlimited authority over their children.  Any situation where authority goes unchecked is a fertile environment for abuse.  Another culturally sanctioned form of abuse occurs with other authority figures such as teachers, boarding school staff, clerics and law enforcement officers.  This is not to say that all parents, teachers, clerics and police are abusive; but if their authority is not subject to checks and balances, there is potential for abuse, and support when it does occur.

It is important to note that in the case of parents, spouses, and intimate partners, they may not always be aware that they are turning abusive.  Although it is difficult to empathize with the abuser, he/she could also be caught up in a destructive cycle that cannot be voluntarily broken, without professional help, and distancing from the victim.

In the Indian context, parental abuse often goes unrecognized because there is an entire network of constructs, rules and operations that have been built around it.  Recognizing parental abuse threatens so many existing power structures that cultural walls have been built around it to safeguard the unquestioned authority of parents.  Accusing one’s parents of the smallest wrongs is tantamount to treason.  There is so much fear and guilt surrounding this discussion that many sons and daughters don’t dare to broach their parent’s fallibility.  Any attempt at doing so is often accompanied with tremendous guilt and self-reproach on the victim’s part.

However, problems, especially when they are deep-rooted, cannot be pretended away.  It is important for us to recognize abuse.  People are often shocked at the word ‘abuse’ when it is used in the context of their loved ones.  Ironically, it is loved ones who are the most likely to inflict abuse – their increased proximity to the victim and their sense of entitlement, and in some cases, co-dependence make intimate relationships more prone to abuse than relationships that are one step removed.

Who can inflict emotional abuse?

– Spouses/partners

– Parents on their minor children

– Parents on their adult children

– Adult children on their aging parents

– Relatives on children in the family

– Siblings

– Bullies at schools, colleges, and in cyber space

– Police on people in their custody

– Teachers and school authorities on children

– Managers on their reports

What forms does emotional abuse take?

– humiliating, excessive judging/criticizing, shaming, slandering, ridiculing, being dismissive, labeling, condescending

– controlling, taking away choices (requiring permission for going out, controlling spending, controlling routine choices like dressing, showering, eating), infantalization

– accusing (being overly suspicious, reading into every move), blaming (holding victim responsible for abuser’s problems and happiness)

– unreasonable or impossible demands

– emotional distancing, silent treatment, alienating, emotional abandonment or neglect (withholding affection, love, support, withholding communication and expecting mind reading)

– excessive codependence (treating the other person as an extension of themselves, not respecting boundaries, knowing what is best for you, being constantly needy)

– threats and intimidation (loud voice and aggressive body language meant to induce fear, direct or indirect threats to the other person, her reputation, her children, her parents, her safety)

– emotional blackmail (threats of suicide, ill-health or becoming an alcoholic), hysteria (disproportionately intense reaction to mistakes), and self-injurious behavior or threats on self-harm (cutting oneself, burning oneself)

– baiting (deliberately provoking anger through false accusations, preying upon weaknesses)

– creating no-win scenarios (asking someone to choose between two bad options – “you either starve or you apologize for something you didn’t do”, “you either cut off with your brother or cut off with me”)

Some less common forms of expression

– Symbolic suffering (setting fire to a toy or favorite object) – inflicting suffering on an inanimate object or a small animal meant as a threat or intimidation

– Engulfment – showering excessive and suffocating amounts of attention, constantly checking whereabouts, inducing guilt (when victim enjoys something) and fear, exhibiting pathological jealousy

– Stalking – either physical or via phone/email

– Gas lighting/brainwashing – omitting or twisting information to favor the abuser and make the victim doubt their own memory or understanding of events

– Recruiting – making the other person an accomplice in questionable activities

What It Feels Like

The victim often feels confused, hurt, and frightened.  (I will begin to use the female pronoun but this applies to both men and women.)  She loses confidence and begins to doubt herself.  She may doubt her own opinions and beliefs.  She may even begin to doubt facts and her own memories.  There is a sense of one’s reality slipping away.  This makes the victim feel powerless.  Most of the victim’s energy is focused on “being careful” around the abuser’s moods, trying to “read” his signals, and working hard to earn his approval.  The victim is filled with a feeling of dread; there is always the feeling that something may explode (even when things are going well).  The victim begins to blame herself when things get ugly (“if only I had been more careful, if only I got home earlier, if only I cooked his favorite meal”).  The abuser and victim go through cycles of “good” and bad phases.  During the “good” phase, the abuser regrets his actions, tries to flatter or please the victim, and makes peace.  The peace is invariably temporary and is shattered for the smallest and most unpredictable “reasons”.   Initially, the “good” phases serve the purpose of locking the victim in the destructive relationship; however in later stages, the victim begins to understand the hollowness in the kind gestures, begins to recognize the pattern to the point of being able to predict what is coming next, but is unable to break out of it.

How To Cope

There is only one way to cope with abuse.  And that is by putting physical distance between oneself (victim) and the abuser.  At first, this might mean leaving the room and refusing to engage in abusive interactions.  Eventually, moving out of the abuser’s life is necessary for survival.  Leaving requires 2 things – planning and support.  A practical plan is necessary – where will I live temporarily, how will I earn my living, etc.  The victim also needs the support of another human being – a close friend or relative who will help the victim not give in to her fears and go back to the abuser.

Even after getting away from the abuser, many victims continue to suffer the effects of abuse – they will continue to suffer from a lack of self worth, make harmful or self-destructive choices, become close to people who are another version of their previous abuser, and continue to be unhappy.  Victims need to work with a counselor and take the support of strong, reliable friends/family and work on the process of self-healing.

The abuser can recover only through psychological counseling and doing the hard work of recognizing, understanding, and modifying his own destructive behavior patterns.

Victims of abuse cannot be told or expected to “snap out of it”.  Recognizing and dealing with abuse, and supporting the victim practically and emotionally are the only ways to authentic healing.

Loving husbands who devote their days and nights to maintain peace in the family.

Anju wonders if this man fits into the label of a ‘Maa Ka Ladla’ or  a ‘Joru Ka Gulam’. ‘Few days back I visited a patient and I was amused at the way the patient was being pampered alternatively by the wife and the mother. It was like who will take more care of the man.’

Anju feels for this man, ‘how tiresome it must be for him to pamper both the egos, to make both of them feel important and let both feel that he cannot do without either of them’

***

I wonder if women face this problem.

Are women able to take better care of  themselves on their own? We know they don’t. They need as much care as everybody else does.

So why don’t women have their mothers (or fathers) and their spouse competing to take care of them? He is supposed to be ‘Budhape ka sahara‘ of one and ‘Pati Parmeshwar‘ of the other.

What makes two family members almost fight to take care of this adult, male member? Is it because they each feel they must win a closeness to him? Are they insecure? If yes, then what makes them so insecure? Does this insecurity benefit the man in some way? (I don’t think so.)

Has tradition taught women that their lives must revolve around their husbands/husband’s family? Is the rest of the population given the same values?

Has the same tradition made mothers feel that while some of their children learn to take care of themselves (female children), some of them (male children) need to mothered all their lives?

Married daughters are encouraged to develop a healthy relationship with their husbands, but married sons in India are expected to ‘balance‘, which includes things like making sure their wives are respectful, subservient, obedient to their family etc.

Do I sympathize with this man? I feel I sympathize with the situation and with the families involved.

Indian mothers still look for and ‘bring’ obedient and pliant daughters in law for themselves when they arrange marriages for their sons. Often compatibility and companionship between the couple are not considered as important, as the wife being obedient and respectful to the in laws. Sons who feel this is unfair are labeled Joru Ka Gulaam.

Traditionally the society is fine with sons spending most of their time with their friends, but traditionally the same sons are not encouraged to see their wives as their best friends. Some sons have no real relationship with their wives for many years (often never). The mother remains the friend and companion (or male friends do). This would still be fine, if the daughter in law also had the option of maintaining a relationship with her own parents and old friends – this generally does not happen. She must make her husband and in laws her world, but she must accept that she is not their world.

Double standards don’t make for happy families or a just and fair society.

VOTE FOR THE JORU KA GULAM WINNER!

Please vote for 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice 🙂 The question we asked was

“HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE A JKG?”

All the entries received have been published. Some definitions were received via email, and I had requested they be submitted as a comment – in case your entry is missing, please email me.

# Entry Number 1.

I am not gonna nominate my JKG husband for this contest as I knew he would be the best JKG as I had the choice of choosing him for that :razz: The JKG’s I am gonna mention here is not one but a whole set of 26 males whom I call brothers. They made sure my life as a kid was hell in every way. They teased me, pulled my hair, set traps, stole my gifts and what not. Yet they loved me to pieces. When I broke the news to my very large joint family about the man I wish to marry and that he was not only a north Indian but from a different religion, the elders took a unanimous decision to almost keep me under house arrest and get me married off to their choice of groom. It was these brave brothers who stood by me even though none of them ever got a chance to live life as they wished in a brutally orthodox muslim family. With their support and blessings I am leading a happy married life with the cutest JKG I could ever hunt down :mrgreen: I owe all my happiness to the JKG brothers in my life who constantly seeks assurance of my well being and still bears the brunt and rage of the elders in our family for my happiness :sad: Did I ever say how much I love my cousin brothers for giving me a life worth living?

So to me a JKG is one who is not scared to stand up and willing to break all religious customs – just to hear a bubbling joy bursting out through the phone, to see a smile on their beloved sister’s face and bear all the anger and brunt from a society who is conditioned to keep a woman away from choosing her own life.

I love my JKG brothers to death and know for a fact that all my bhabi’s are the luckiest ones. 🙂

# Entry Number 2.

जिसका जीवन हो सिर्फ बीवी के नाम
बिवीके चरणों में हो जिसके चारधाम…
बीवी के कहने पर हो सुबह और शाम
कहते हैं उस्से हम जोरू का गुलाम…

:D

[A rough translation – on request from a reader:

One whose life belongs to his wife/At wife’s feet he finds his pligrimage/It’s day or night for him on his wife’s command/he is called a JKG.]

# Entry Number 3.

The ideal type of the Joru Ka Ghulam:

‘Joru ka Ghulam’ is the folklorish version of the ideal man. Some of the characteristics of a JKG are as follows. The list is only indicative and not exhaustive. The following mostly relates to conjugal role but a JKG can be anybody from a boy in his first childhood to the grandpa in his second childhood.

JKG is the ‘new man’ who laments that women in the country got a raw deal over the centuries thanks to religion, customs, tradition, role stereotyping, orthodoxy and fundamentalism. He does his best to introduce the reforms and begins with his own life and family. He is the socially sensitive, ethical man and his heart bleeds for the society. He has a feminine side to his personality; he is androgynous in many ways.
He hates dowry and can boycott his family and friends and revolt against the society that demands/promotes dowry. He prefers a simple marriage ceremony and does not want to torture the bride’s family by bringing a huge baraat and following other decadent customs of marriage.
He touches his wife’s feet in return when/if she touches his feet on the wedding night. He talks to her all night and is not dying to deflower her like the traditional Indian male.
He wants a baby after marriage and not a son.
He nurses her when she is expecting and prays while she is getting a c-section in the hospital.
He loves kids and spends a lot of time with them. He himself is a kid in more ways than one.
He loves his wife and is often tied to his wife’s apron strings and not to his mother’s. This however should not mean that he ignores his parents.
He loves his parents-in-law and can live with them in the same home.
He can quit his job for her wife and can become a domestic husband. He is never jealous of her progress and loves the fact that she has a higher status. Also, he does not have any problem marrying a woman taller than him.
He loves doing household chores, cooking food, mopping the floor and the like. A JKG is a husband, father, driver, cook, gardener, milkman, her man Friday.
He loves the label ‘Joru Ka Ghulam’. In the slavery of his woman lies his freedom, emancipation and salvation.
Other women are jealous of his wife and suggest their men to emulate her man.
He often shouts from the rooftops, ‘My Wife My Life!’ JKGs are the men for whom it is said, “Behind every great man there lies a woman!”
He loves combing her hair and pillow fighting with her. He is the best friend of his wife.
He writes poems on her and wants to immortalise her.
He is not the typical ‘mard’ and often cries on her bosom. He is her first child in a manner of speaking.
He changes his life, lifestyle for her, quits cigarettes and other vices. Also, he does not snatch the TV remote from her but watches whatever she likes. He loves what she loves and dislikes what she hates.
He often confesses to her that it is she who makes him do what he can.
A JKG despite his enormous love for his woman is not blind to her wrongdoings. He corrects his woman as and when the need arises.
A JKG makes an ideal son, brother, husband, lover, father, employer, neighbour, friend and whatnot. JKG is a real humdinger.

# Entry Number 4.

1.) For contest no 2 I can give you my photo to use as a badge for JKG. !!!!

lol :lol:

2.) What is a JKG !!

I really dont know… but well… lets give it a try… A JKG is not a joru ka ghulam literally…

A JKG would be some one who would treat himself and his wife EQUALLY.

He may make mistakes but he must be alive to situations and be ready to acknowledge his mistakes when he does make them and not hesitate if he has to apologise to his wife or make up.

Over the years many things have just become a tradition… we dont even realise how and where the female is being given a raw deal… many times even the female doesnt know….

But when this point is raised the JKG should be able to reaffirm the equality part everywhere…

Let me cite an example :

When we guys have a night out… and we all stay out till the cows go home… but there are all kinds here…. some have to go early… maybe their parents dont like… maybe their wives dont like… or something else….

But to stop them from going home we normally always say… Baap Gharme Ghusne nahi dega… (tats fine) The guys ego doesnt get hurt when this is said…. so to take some more leverage another cliche is used Biwi ghar me ghusne nahi degi… (suddenly the male ego becomes a lil dodgy.) Some just stay a lil longer to prove that he isnt a JKG

the real JKG as we have learnt actually come and tell us… ghar ka problem nahi hai yaar…. par bahar biwi sofe pe sulayengi… lol !!!! 😀 😀 😀

Please edit the last part if you dont want to publish… but I have heard it… from some one… who doesnt mind being called scared of his wife… coz he isnt… and he doesnt need to prove to us… !!!!

Joru Ka Ghulam is just a taunt… nothing else… but amazing effects it has on the male ego !!!

# Entry Number 5.

JKG defined strictly for married men:
A JKG is someone who believes in a woman even when she doesn’t believe in herself. He is the person who undoes the damage caused by years of social conditioning that makes her doubt herself. He is the one who makes sure that the woman in his life reaches her full potential..someone who instead of just letting her be ,makes sure that she reaches where she could be (again assuming inequalities took away some opportunities)Someone who rather than insisting on providing for her makes sure that she can provide for herself if there is a need. Someone who instead of driving her around teaches her how to drive (assuming society didnt give her that chance), someone who instead of giving her cash to spend tells her to go and withdraw from the bank, someone who refuses to even answer stuff such as ‘what should I wear at the party’ because she is grown up enough to decide for herself but always answers ‘How do I look’ with ‘ as good as ever’ :-) .

You talked about how a JKG fights inequality and thats what shaped my answer. A husband has the greatest chance to undo the damage caused by social conditioning, to wipe out traces of inequality and doubts from social conditioning without really fighting with anyone, just constantly pushing his wife to do better. Husbands can either reinforce the inequalities or do all of the above to shatter the ceiling that requires the joint force of men and women.

# Entry Number 6.

My definition :
JKG is a man who is madly in love with his wife and thinks of her as his best friend.
& Whose favorite sentence is : Duniya gai tail lene!!

# Entry Number 7.

Earlier a JKG was the one who used to say, “TUM DIN KO AGAR RAAT RAAT “>KAHOGE, RAAT KAHENGE” ” baith ja– baith gaya, khada ho jaa khada ho gaya”

even now a JKG is still the same
a man who fights against the injustice meted out to women ( wife), who stands for his wife may be called as JKG by his family members. but in my eyes he is a person who is aware of his duties and responsibilities as a husband and who takes his marriage vows seriously

# Entry Number 8.

For this contest, you will have to visit us at our Dahisar residence!

# Entry Number 9.

JKG: A man who has a fair, logical, rational brain of his own (i.e. not influenced by ma, pa, daadi, duniya etc etc), one for whom gender is never the deciding factor in any decision, one who wants to marry an ‘independent’ woman instead of a ‘homely’ one, one who voluntarily shares domestic chores, (and in a lighter vein) one who might hate chick flicks but watches them with her coz she likes them, one who ‘tolerates’ shopping trips with a smile ;-) and hey I forgot the all important chivalry bit ;-)

# Entry Number 10.

According to me in Indian society any man who has the guts to stand up for his wife, take her side, show little bit of concern towards her,appreciate her in front of in-laws, encourage her to find her identity, helps her in household work, takes care of her is definitely a contestant for the award.

# Entry Number 11.

IHM, I’m writing this about my hubby with some trepidation as he is one of those men that , on the face would never admit to being a JKG…but actions speak louder than words! So at the risk of him vehemently and completely denying he is one, I’d say:

A loving JKG may very well be a tough man on the exterior, may mouth slogans against ever becoming a slave to his wife, but his love is so strong that it shines through in his actions!

He instantly held up and offered his palm for me to puke into,when I had a sudden attack of food poisoning on our honeymoon (and we were in the lobby of a hotel)!
When he willing woke up to feed/change the babies for you , in the middle of the night! Willingly donned the role of “mom” when you felt down and out, needed some extra sleep and so helped cook the meals for the day before heading to work! !Rushes to clean the kitchen and wash the dishes if he sees you alone and sighing heavily at the kitchen sink! A habit that comes from helping his own mom when little!
Will fight tooth and nail with anyone that hurts you!
Wants you by his side whenever he is at home, and calls you just to unload and hear how your day is going!
Consults you constantly although he claims his independence loudly!

Dear sir in my life, admit it or not, I can see it and,…Thank you!Masha Allah…!

# Entry Number 12

This was not an entry but a comment on another post,  I think this is the sort a thing a JKG would say.

“Well lets see, to start of with I have never in my life agreed that women are the weaker sex, they are more tolerant, compassionate & definitely more resilient.

Then, comes the stereo type of women being emotionally weak or just simply being emotional which is more to do to empathy as a factor in women psychology plays a major role than in men, so being emotional has nothing to do with mental or physical stability in a woman.

And, also when you get married you are looking for a companion, someone who is intelligent, some one you can relate to, talk to, discuss your kids, you aint looking for a nanny or a nurse to take care of your kids & do the household. And, lastly of the Indian stereotype of men are the financial support and women the household slave is utterly stupid because sub consciously a lot of men know that their wives can earn more than what they can & thus are never allowed to work.”

# Entry Number 13 [ADDED LATER]

I am late…i hope u at least consider publishing this entry for JKG contest

A JKG is…

Someone who is willing to give the same “luxuries” which the Indian society happily gives to men/sons. Someone who treats the joru equal and understands that she had a life and family of her own before marriage and will continue to do so after marriage. Elaborations below-

Case1: Both joru and pati’s in-laws stay in other town/country –
Someone who is willing to share the trip into three equal parts – one where wife stays with him at his parent’s place, second where he stays with wife at her parent’s place and third where they stay separate at their respective places reliving the days when they were single :D

Case2: Hubby and Wife both earn, or one of them earns
Same as above, someone who is willing to financially bear responsibility of three distinct families – one his parents and his side of family, second her parents and her side of family and third their own family

Case3: Same Respect
Someone who does not believe that wife needs to “touch” his feet to please him or IL’s or the society, someone who does not believe in “kanyaadan” or dowry and vehemently opposes such acts

Case4: Household ghulam
Someone who “willingly” loves to help or own household chores, if wife is busy at work, is ready to cook up a meal just as the wife does when he is busy

Case5: Surname does (not) matter!
Someone who understands that his wife might not prefer to change her name or last name and lovingly agrees to this. Someone who wants their kids to bear a mixed last names and middle names which involves both mother’s and father’s identity someway

Case6: No Joint family
Someone who does not bully wife or condition his fiancee to live with only his parents after marriage. This JKG understands that the wife needs time with her family, her parents need to be taken care of as nicely as he wants his to be taken care of, her parents wants to spend time with grandkids as much as his parents want. Someone who stands against society and convinces his parents to stay separately, maybe a location which is equally accessible by both of their parents.

# Entry Number 14 [ADDED LATER]

Ok. A guy may grow up under different circumstances. He may grow up with a father who beats up his mother, his father may believe his word should be law…. so many things. Growing up with a father like that, he may think that is normal behaviour. So, I feel a JKG should be anyone who challenges the social conditioning he is brought up with.
This man may not be the kind who’ll give his wife breakfast in bed or even be ok with her wanting to keep her surname after marriage. But, he would still be one, simply for having the courage to question the social conditioning he was brought up with.

I feel there is this other side of India where boys want to get a higher education only to get a better dowry, those who think girls who wear jeans are sluts. When you are surrounded by such an atmosphere, any guy who has the courage to question or argue with such a mentality deserves to be called a JKG.

Please choose the best entry.

Feel free to add comments and best three entries (or all in order of preference).

Comments will not be published.

Results will be published only after polling is over 🙂

IMPORTANT: PLEASE VOTE BY COMMENTING, LEAVE YOUR FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD CHOICES IN THE COMMENT BOX. This is required because a reader commented very wisely, that “Voting by comments only could have been the best option. You know one can clear cookies and vote again and again [or just open the page in different browsers and vote more than once].”

So I removed the Polldaddy.com option. Sorry for the inconvenience caused guys, please do vote in a comment again!!!






What is a JKG !!

I really dont know… but well… lets give it a try… A JKG is not a joru
ka ghulam literally…

A JKG would be some one who would treat himself and his wife EQUALLY.

He may make mistakes but he must be alive to situations and be ready
to acknowledge his mistakes when he does make them and not hesitate if
he has to apologise to his wife or make up.

Over the years many things have just become a tradition… we dont even
realise how and where the female is being given a raw deal… many times
even the female doesnt know….

But when this point is raised the JKG should be able to reaffirm the
equality part everywhere…

Let me cite an example :

When we guys have a night out… and we all stay out till the cows go
home… but there are all kinds here…. some have to go early… maybe
their parents dont like… maybe their wives dont like… or something
else….

But to stop them from going home we normally always say… Baap Gharme
Ghusne nahi dega… (tats fine) The guys ego doesnt get hurt when this
is said…. so to take some more leverage another cliche is used

Biwi ghar me ghusne nahi degi… (suddenly the male ego becomes a lil
dodgy.) Some just stay a lil longer to prove that he isnt a JKG

the real JKG as we have learnt actually come and tell us… ghar ka
problem nahi hai yaar…. par bahar biwi sofe pe sulayengi… lol !!!! 😀
😀 😀

Please edit the last part if you dont want to publish… but I have
heard it… from some one… who doesnt mind being called scared of his
wife… coz he isnt… and he doesnt need to prove to us… !!!!

Joru Ka Ghulam is just a tease… nothing else… but amazing effects it
has on the male ego !!!

Joru Ka Gulaam Contest:Last chance!

Voting begins on 14th October, so if you haven’t submitted an entry redefining the term ‘Joru Ka Gulaam’ yet, here’s your chance!

Polling was postponed because I had to take a break.

So go  ahead!  Grab this second chance and submit your entries by October 14, 2009.

CONTEST ONE

Redefine the term ‘Joru Ka Gulaam‘. For more information and for submissions CLICK HERE NOW !!

CONTEST TWO

We are also looking for a BADGE for the JKG Award! Email your creations to – indianhomemaker[at]gmail.com by Oct 14th. If our JKG Judge feels he‘d be proud to display your creation on his sidebar – you win!! Need more information? CLICK HERE NOW !!

Do keep in mind that, “In India it takes a lot of guts for a man to take a stand against customs that oppress women. It’s worst if he is fighting in support of his wife (Joru)! All such acts of courage and love are rewarded by labeling him a JKG = Joru Ka Gulam. Literal meaning: ‘Slave of Wife’

What do ‘Modest’ women have that their ‘Immodest’ sisters don’t…

I read this article that teaches women how to dress modestly. The article recommends that women avoid wearing shirts that show anything below the collar bones, skirts and shorts that go higher than the knees, and tight fitting clothes.

The article says that women must not wear certain kinds of  clothes,  to prevent men (who may not be creeps or bad people) from being tempted to imagining what they look like beneath the clothes.

I am not convinced because I have read of many other men (who may not be creeps or bad people)  who will be attracted to the  sight  of a woman’s collar bones or ankles, or knees, or lips (with or without lipstick) or eyes lashes, or hair or the arc of her back. ETC.

If you read the comment section of “The way a woman dresses…” you will find capris or three fourths are also considered immodest by some men.  Jeans which the article says nothing against are considered suggestive by another commenter.

If you have seen Pakizah then you will know that even the sight of a woman’s feet is enough for some men to be  attracted to them.

Some other men think modesty is in the attitude and eyes, and not in the clothes.

So it does seem that modesty is a subjective term. It seems it is almost impossible for women to fit into everybody’s idea of modesty.

But more importantly how do women benefit from giving up free movement, comfortable clothing, the satisfaction of looking good, sunlight, fresh air, and a lot of personal freedom?

…In other words, what do modest women have that immodest women don’t?

They are told they have men’s respect.

Well, I am sure men’s respect is a very worthwhile thing. But seeing how millions of (immodest?) women are doing very well without this kind of ‘respect’, I really wonder if it’s time women stopped worrying about how men are imagining unprintable things about them, (because they find their clothing immodest) and started living their lives.

Thousands of women, (mothers, students, activists, nurses, athletes, journalists, engineers, construction workers, artists, actors, writers etc) are going about their daily lives without giving a thought to what every Tom, Dick and Harry is thinking when he sees them striding past.  They are all doing fine without fitting into every rikshaw-walla, coolie, clerk, politician, principal, army jawan and dhobi’s ideas of modesty.

I wonder who does a woman’s modesty empower… who do you think?

Related Posts:

1. What women ‘choose’ to wear…

2. Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.

3. She does not ‘ask for it’.

4. Provocatively Dressed.

(who may not be creeps or bad people)

Provocatively Dressed

To Moral Brigade(s) and their Supporters,
We should know that frivolous terms like Provocative Dressing might make a sexual assaulter feel that the responsibility of preventing sexual assaults lies with the victim.

Violent men are helpless victims of provocation?
Saying women must not dress provocatively makes us sound like Taliban. (Now we wouldn’t want that?)
We also need to keep in mind that we are talking about adult citizens here, they have the right to vote, they can get a driving license, and they can even own property or start an independent business! And often do and very successfully too. (I understand that can make anybody painfully jealous, it does seem wrong that they should do so well despite the major hurdles their gender faces … but women these days are like that, give them a chance and they fly, reach the sky, and even the moon. Accept it.)

Your over enthusiasm and interest in her clothes might lead some to believe that you are looking at women more than you should be. (Most women consider such unwanted attentions very revolting; they might suspect your morals).
Your insistence on deciding the correct code of dressing here is against the law. (I am assuming most of you offenders and supporters have not been to school, so I am simplifying it for you.) Instead we need to ensure that men are guided very firmly about the acceptable code of their own conduct. They need to get it very clear that tight jeans and noodle straps are poor excuses for criminal acts against other equal (even if they are better qualified, they are only equal) citizens. We need to concentrate on providing a secure academic and emotional foundation to create a nation of women who do not hold themselves responsible for any and every atrocity committed against them. Your own mothers, daughters, sisters and wives also will benefit more from this (much more) than from being taught how to dress.
I know of thousands of women who have not benefited in anyway, when they were compelled to cover themselves from head to toe in traditional attire. Their families, specially their children have suffered because these mothers were often made too weak, by such controls, to stand up for them in all so many ways children need their mothers to….so it seems wearing traditional clothing does not automatically make you a better mother, sister, daughter, citizens, wife, woman etc.
Strong mothers and strong women make a strong nation.You think it is only about drinking in the Pub? The drinking in the Pub is just symbolic
(Just like PCC is). You understand symbols? Like bangles for weakness? Like Duryodhan and Duhshsan for … if only you had some education, it would have been simpler to explain. But let me try …When a nation overlooks an act of violence against it’s citizen only because they are women, they are not creating a very confident generation of women. Let me try and speak your language again, …these women are going to raise the future of this nation… Please let us stop treating them like they have no thinking capacity!

And this is a nation where women are anyway having difficulty even being born. We make it tougher for parents to have daughters, and for those daughters who are born to feel safe, let alone feel free.
Women (and men) need to be able to decide for themselves how they dress, what careers they choose, when and to whom, if at all, they marry or live with without marrying. Because we have hungry families, and unemployed men, and no drinking water, and houses which flood every monsoon.

Tomorrow you might find even a girl’s face, eyes, lips or feet provocative? How are you guys going to survive?

I think we need a stricter code of conduct for men like you here.You will benefit from gentlemanly behaviour and discipline. Women are now everywhere. And we will see them as bosses, better drivers, being able to afford better recreation … (I understand the surge of envy, but you really have to work harder, just being born a male is not really important any longer, at least in their circles…). Many of them come from families where success is more important than marriage and children are. (Yes I am aware that this is all too much to digest, it seems these women come from a different planet, well in a way they do.) Many are happily married with children, oh yes and their husbands are aware that they drink, and talk to men in their office and also outside but no, they don’t drag them by their hair for that … (You ask, ‘Why not?’. Let’s just say, self confidence does that to men. And women too. You won’t understand …)

The world has changed too much while you were worrying about which caste or religion or language or region was being victimised.
But it’s never too late. You just need to understand that they are your equal. No matter how much better they earn, what fancy cars they drive, how much more fun they seem to have, how much better they look … they are only your equals.

As for their clothes, for all you know there is probably a future scientist behind that Rakhi-Sawant-dress-alike.

Related Posts:

1. What women ‘choose’ to wear…

2. Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.

3. What do ‘modest’ women have that their ‘immodest’ sisters don’t?

4. She does not ‘ask for it’.


Men Will Be Men :)

Some Joru Ke Gulam, JKG I am proud of : )
[Edited to add: In India it takes a lot of guts for a man to take a stand against customs that oppress women, it’s worst if he is fighting in support of his wife, or his Joru! All such acts of courage are rewarded by labeling them as JKGs i.e. Joru Ka Gulam. Literal meaning: ‘Slave of Wife’]

My grandfather in 1950s-1960s telling his four educated daughters that financial independence came before marriage.

My Dad at 21 in 1960s, traveling ticket-less to break a sister’s engagement – without letting his dad know, just because she didn’t like the boy and wrote to him from her hostel. (She lived a very happily married life, with my late Uncle. None of the horrible things my grandparents foretold happened to her because of the broken engagement.)

The look on my brother’s face when someone suggested he at least finds out if his unborn baby is a girl or a boy.

Also my brother saying, “… let me discuss with my wife before deciding.”

My husband, brothers in law, Dad, friends, friends’ husbands saying the same thing.

My husband putting his foot down when I attempted to serve him hot hot chapatties, the way my mom had been doing. (I really thought he was going too far).

My husband supporting my stand against the ritual of kanyadan.

A friend’s husband wanted to touch his mom in law’s feet, she jumped away, “Sons in law don’t touch feet in our side, they are poojya.” He touched her feet anyway, saying, “But Sons do? Right?”

My brother in law (Husband’s elder brother) asking a gathering of relatives of all backgrounds, “Anyone for tea, I am making masala chai for myself …?” – on my first day at my in laws place. (I nearly swooned.)

Dad rejecting proposals because NO girls in this family will be married into joint families.

Dad making sure all the married daughters and sisters attended all the functions/parties at their parents’ house. And once when he sensed some resistance, he landed there to pick her. (Of course he picked her, with the nicest smile too … )

All those friends’ husbands who pass tea to us while we are gossiping, just because they were making it for themselves anyway.

My son – well, everything about him, I guess. He has no idea he is in anyway privileged because he is a boy. He is a future JKG for sure!

Some favorite bloggers’ families : )

Some favorite bloggers 🙂

My nephew refusing to accept an Air gun as a gift (he was ten then), he wanted a guitar and didn’t care how unmanly the older generation thought it was.

Son sitting on the kitchen counter, passing me shelled peas, talking about this and that while I give tarka

Son making sandwiches.

Shah Rukh khan ; )

Feel free to add more to the list!

Edited to add: Read more about JKGs here 🙂