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?

‘Bill seeks to let 12-yr-olds have non-penetrative sex’. Does it really?

I would watch any intimacy – even if it’s not very obviously sexual, between an adult and a child. I have blogged about how I had made sure my kids knew they had a right to complain if an adult’s touch, behavior, jokes or just looks made them uncomfortable. [Link] But if two young children (say ages 12-13 or younger) are found to be involved in non-penetrative sexual activity I would rather question the parents and other care givers than ask for the children to be treated like criminals.

There is a chance that they have been exposed to sexual abuse or some activity they do not quite understand. And even if it is felt that the children do understand (ages 12-15), I wonder if it’s a good idea to empower ‘the authorities’ to handle young children at this sensitive stage in their lives.

One has seen enough examples of how our police and some of our media handles any activity where sex is involved (Not to miss how this news has been reported, and on the front page). I remember the time when some of our media, used one such opportunity to ‘recreate the scene of crime‘… and their TRPs.

Here’s more reasons.

1. We are averse to Sex Education, so we refuse to guide children about anything related to sex. We’d rather change TV channels. Most Indians learn about sex from rape scenes in Bollywood movies, cheap porn and through their peer group.

2. But we are fine with 12 year olds being seen as criminals for something we are not comfortable even talking to them about?

3. And so, we are unhappy with the idea of decriminalizing an activity they are too young to completely understand the implications of being involved in. (taboo; social stigma for girls; emotional, cultural and moral issues involved; family-honor; responsible behavior etc).

4. Criminalizing such activity increases the risk of children being blackmailed into sexual abuse (by adults who ‘catch‘ them, like teachers, drivers, neighbors, ‘authorities’ etc) with threats of not just parental anger, but now also, legal action against them.

And this when they don’t really understand how seriously our society takes any activity related to sex. 🙄

Aparna Bhat, a Supreme Court lawyer who was part of a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights group that drafted the latest Bill said the gradation of age down to 12 years was to decriminalise sexual exploration by two children.

I don’t think the ‘Bill seeks to let 12-yr-olds have non-penetrative sex’, it simply wants to ensure they are not treated like regular criminals for something they can’t completely understand.

Under the existing law, if two 12-year-olds get physical and if one childs parent complains, the other can be pulled up by the Juvenile Justice Board. The panel felt such minor things should be decriminalised, she said.

This does not make 12 years the ‘Age of Consent’. An adult will still be seen as a rapist if they have sex with a 12 year old, but if two 12 year olds are involved, they will be seen as two 12 year olds, not as regular criminals.

Raaj Mangal, chairperson of Delhi Child Welfare Committee said the Bill could prove “disastrous“ if it comes into effect. “Twelve, given the mind and maturity of a child, is not an age to give consent, be it penetrative or non-penetrative sex. In the name of decriminalising, you can`t keep sexual acts between children out of the notice of the authorities,“ said Mangal.

Should the likes of those who see Sex Education as ‘Blue Films’, have the power to judge sexual activity between two 12 year olds? Why not let the parents deal with non penetrative sex,  just like they deal with most other issues related to their children? (including Sex Education)

 

Related Posts:

Teenage Pregnancies – not our culture.

Sex Education is not Blue Films.

It’s child abuse, not an affair.

When life ends at 12.

My wasted advice!

I was driving and Daughter was gushing over how much she loves the vibrant colours of the ethnic wear we had just bought for her, and then Radio One plays this beautiful song, “Aaj din chadiya tere rang warga…”

The beauty of his plea was striking after the post about Stalkers and Losers yesterday.

IHM: ‘”Wo jo mujhe dekh ke hanse, pana chahoon raat din jise, rabba mainu naam kar use, tainu dil da wastaa…” (The one I meet in my dreams, the one I want to be mine, God, give that one to me, my heart is breaking…) I never noticed the lyrics before!  …this is a lovely song.

Daughter: I would be scared to ask God for something like this, … what if God grants the wish and I realise he wasn’t the right guy?

IHM: You can add a clause in your prayers, ” God, only if he is the right one, then and only then should he be mine, if he isn’t, then may I feel nothing for him, and may he feel nothing for me.”  😉

Daughter: The best I like are the yellows! Mustard would go well with red.

My advice is wasted on them!

How is a dog your best friend?

[Edited to add: This 55er is easier to understand if you realise how amazing is a… A DOG”S VOCABULARY...]

8:30 PM.

Son’s engrossed in IPL. I ask, “Aren’t you hungry?”

Thump goes an eager tail.

Nobody asked you!

Looks away sheepishly.

There’s…

Ears perk up.

“…daal and bhindi.”

Ears look bored.

Bhindi?!! Can’t we order Pizza, Ma?”

Tail’s all ears!

Two legs slide back, two stretch in-front…

Time to get up and lend support.

55 WORDS FICTION

A literary ;) work will be considered 55 Fiction if it has:

Fifty-five words or less (A non-negotiable rule)

A setting, One or more characters, Some conflict, and A resolution.

(Not limited to moral of the story)

He ain’t my best friend!! 🙄

Here’s another cricket fan I know, he also forgets his dinner when it comes to the IPL…Vote for him, and support him 🙂

2d81cgi

No Education For The Fashion Conscious?

We had tried everything from nail-polish remover to Kerosene oil to fade the henna from my daughter’s  palms in 1999, she was in class III then, and her Delhi school forbade Henna on hands. We had just come back from a wedding and I understood that the school had its rules, if I did not like them I could take her out of the school.

She had seen another girl  being told not to come ‘dressed like a bride‘ and being made to sit on the floor. The eight year olds had discussed that God was going to punish the teacher who did this. (Is that what the rule aimed at?)

Now even though nobody noticed her henna, she was terrified for days. All I could do was give her a letter requesting the henna be excused, to be shown if someone checked her.

I have no idea how these students benefited from not applying henna. Clean hair, sparkling uniforms, shining shoes, confident smiles, a love of learning, and also a love for the school were what I valued. I would have added henna application as a fun-filled extra curricular activity.

My son has a mark on his forehead, so when he was young, I got him a haircut that covered it. He has gorgeous, straight, silky, shining hair, and a mushroom cut was most convenient and neat, kept his ears, neck, and eyes clear in hot and humid Delhi summers, but then we moved to Kerala and a school didn’t agree with kids being made ‘fashion conscious‘. He was in class III. His parents were fine with his looking like one of his favorite Westlife boys. The school wasn’t.

An older boy’s parents were ‘called to school’ because his mother allowed him to colour his hair.  Again I wonder if students do not have a life outside the school. Was it really that important? How does one be an all-rounder but not wonder how they might look with ear studs or coloured hair? Should the parents have a say in this?  How does long hair in boys mean lack of discipline?

We could leave our hair loose in my school, (meaning we could get away with taking off the hair bands and slipping them into our skirt pockets), and some of my friends who plaited their hair all through the school years complain that now they find hair left open very uncomfortable after all the years of two tight plaits.

Many schools have switched to traditional salwaar kurta for girls, but continue western wear for boys. How do they explain this bias to the students? They don’t think they need to explain. Is this discipline or authoritarianism ? How does this help with discipline? I know girls who resent this and have much more to say than the girls in class three mentioned above.

I consider grooming as important as being able to speak on stage, being good at sports or being polite. A lot of people look at taking care of oneself as the opposite of being ‘simple’. I feel well groomed (not necessarily good looking) people have an edge over those who aren’t. And grooming requires discipline too.

What schools seem to disapprove of is ‘fashion’  and a desire to look attractive. But why do we look down upon any desire to look one’s best?

So I was pleasantly surprised to read this morning on the front page of ‘The Times of India’,  ‘Supreme Court Raps school for beard issue’.

“…a Bench comprising Justices B N Agrawal and G S Singhvi expressed its deep anguish at such ridiculous rules framed by schools.

Agreeing with Salim’s counsel senior advocate B A Khan, the Bench said: “How on earth could a school disentitle a student from pursuing studies just because he has kept a beard?” 
“Then there will be no end to such prima facie ridiculous rules. Tomorrow the school authorities would say they would not allow entry to students who are not fair in complexion,” wondered the Bench.

What I liked even better…

“These days it is a fashion for youngsters to sport an earring. Can these boys be denied admission to a school,” the Bench asked before issuing notice to the principal of the convent school and directing it to allow Salim to continue with his studies there.

Note: Personally I would be most irritated if my 17-year-old coloured his hair or kept a beard, but then why should I decide how the rest of the world chooses to look? And what has acquiring basic education got to do with neat beards, washed and coloured hair, or ear studs in ears that have been scrubbed from behind?

Is Hard work Overrated?

Maybe…

A friend was trying to tell me that I was wrong to think that some students were not cut out for some subjects or careers. (For example Science and Math). She insists that hard work is all that is needed to do very well in any line.

I am not convinced.

The same student who excels in Biology effortlessly might find Mathematics a problem. Another student might excel at writing essay but may be only average at sports, no matter how hard they try.

This young man I know, was an average student (and considered lazy though he was devoted to his guitar), but has a successful career as a pilot today. Another one whose mother was forever complaining about his mediocre grades and time wasted in reading, is studying law at one of the best Institutes in the country. Although he is extremely well read, he would still be considered lazy by conventional standards. It seems hard work is hard work only when you hate it.

Another girl did well as a sincere student, and scored well above 90%, she wanted to be a Journalist, but has now joined a little known, private Engineering College. The parents feel she must be financially independent and writing (or being a Journalist) can only be a good hobby. They are sure that being hard working she will find success in any field. I  wonder if that could be considered taking a chance.

When we were young a brilliant scholar refused to join any (much coveted) medical college, because she wanted to study Food and Nutrition. I have no idea if she made a career at all, but at the time everybody thought she was being foolish.  Then there was this third year IIT student who left IIT and decided to study Literature. (I feel he was rebelling against his parents), I also thought he was a little mad, he had only one year left, and he should have finished his course. These two could succeed in any field it seemed, without much hard work. So far as I know they did nothing much, but seemed content. (No contact, so not sure)…

I wonder if in most careers you need PR (people skills, public relations) along with hard work. Some people succeed purely on basis of PR and sometimes (sadly) back stabbing! Though these might take some hard work too.

I would say there are many different kind of intelligence. Some are great at subjects that are never graded and these are the ones who surprise us with their success.

Determination, perseverance, memory, retention ability and discipline are all graded (some indirectly) and help up one score but People Skills are never graded, yet this one skill can make life and success come easy.

Attitude (another magic word) is not accurately graded in our board exams. More than even people skills I think attitude is what makes you happy or miserable or successful.

Those who are doing what they like to do appear to be having a lot of fun, so much so that their hard work is almost invisible or camouflaged by fun, but I guess they still need the right attitude and people skills (PR etc) in most careers to succeed (whatever their definition of success is).

I wonder how far hard work can make up for lack of genuine interest or aptitude or attitude or PR skills…

What would Taliban say to Juno?

This video can be very disturbing.

\”Please stop it,\” she begs, alternately whimpering or screaming in pain with each blow to the backside. \”Either kill me or stop it now.\”

A video showing a teenage girl being flogged by Taliban fighters has emerged from the Swat Valley in Pakistan… The two-minute video, shot using a mobile phone, shows a burka-clad woman face down on the ground. Two men hold her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned fighter with a flowing beard, whips her repeatedly.For being seen with a man.

The girl in the video is 17, same age as a girl studying in class XII. How old is that? Girls at 17 are giggling and gossiping about which boys they think are cute, and if the giggling is reciprocated maybe they go out. Sometimes without the parents’ knowledge. They might bunk school or college, maybe deceive the \’authorities\’ and ruin their future either by neglecting school work, or by getting into ‘serious trouble’, and since we do not live \’abroad\’ they cannot hope to have the baby and find her loving adoptive parents like Juno could.

(If you have not seen the movie yet, please do.)

There are chances of their being put in a situation where they take their own lives, because we believe that for girls there is no life after dishonour. Nothing happens to the boy.

Without getting into how wrong or how unacceptable it is for a girl to behave so immorally or irresponsibly, I wonder if WE have the moral right to have such control over another human life and body, for any reason, even for ‘ her own good’?

And then how is it good for her that she can be beaten in pubs, flogged in public, or offered the option of marrying her rapist.

How is it good for her that we have created a society where another rapist declared the victim ‘too used’ to marry his son.

We have made so much of a girl’s virginity and her reputation, that she will not be able to tell if the rapist is not a stranger, but her own father? Malayalidoc, a doctor in Kerala, wrote a post about incest leading to AIDS here. And we see how we have enough control over her life to decide if she is better dead.

Don’t fall in love NOW!

(One of those 104 drafts.)

I am on my laptop, Daughter (17), is sprawled diagonally across the bed, finishing an school assignment. Son’s practicing guitar in his room. Contentment is this.

Suddenly, “How do you know when you are really, reeally in love?
I thought madam was studying!
When the guy wants to see you as successful as your own parents do, because nobody can care for you like your own parents can.”

Maaaaa.”

“Okay. But this is not a good time for love or even for minor crushes!! You have so much to do, you have seen how your friends waste their time, first celebrating, then crying, break ups, moping, making up or making out and they have no time to think of their future … you get emotional about a guy at this age and at this crucial stage of your life and all your dreams will go kaput.

That’s why I think you just say you won’t mind if I had a boyfriend! If I really had one, you won’t like it. Now I know why they (her friends) don’t tell their mothers.”

(Feeling terribly guilty and wondering if what she says is true …)
Okay, being in love, really in love, would be a best friend cum crush, with maybe some chemistry thrown in?

Yeah, and someone who likes me the way I am, I shouldn’t need to pretend …

“Meaning he gets to see how you keep your room? Okay, someone whose parents you like, someone who can come home, and walk into the kitchen and discuss my blog with me ? You saw ‘Jaane tu ya jaane na’ – that’s a cool relationship.”

She can see ‘he’ is not that kind. I am just not sure I have said the right things. Maybe my confused Indian values make me wish she’d stay away from any boy friends until she’s settled with a good career … we are fed with so much t, c & mv ( Traditions, Culture and Moral Values) that when a trusting heart wants you to be a friend you are not sure what to say.

SOME ADVICE PLEASE!

Girls!

Two pretty, silly girls are giggling in the back seat. Son, sitting in front, is wearing a dignified, disdainful look. I am driving and trying not to hear a (not so) private, whispered conversation.

(Giggle giggle) “It’s him!” (A loud whisper)

“No it isn’t him.” (Whisper, giggle, giggle)

“It’s his car.” ( giggle, whisper)

“It’s turning inside, I told you it’s him.” (Whisper)

(A sudden burst of delighted giggles) “That’s where he stays!” (giggle)

“I told you!” (Giggle)

“He’s so skinny….” Whisper and giggle, more whispering, more giggles.

Some things never change.