Letting Go of Past Wrongs

Guest post by wordssetmefreee

A couple of weeks back, I received an email from J1289 that described some of her difficult /abusive childhood experiences. As a child, she was constantly blamed for things she had no control over. She was belittled, compared to others unfavorably, manipulated and controlled in ways that were a clear abuse of parental authority. She went out into the world, began to question and re-think many childhood misconceptions, and began to form a different (more coherent) view of the world and herself. Despite the abuse, she re-built her self-esteem, a remarkable feet considering many adults (who haven’t suffered abuse) may go through their entire lives without a clear sense of who they are and what they want.

But, how does one forgive those that let us down? How do we forget their meanness, their ignorance, and their selfishness? These lines from her email really stood out for me –

I do admit I have those horrid memories I have suffered in the past come back and it’s hard because you feel so alone in your thoughts, and think it’s only you.  It fills me with disgust, anger and hatred towards my family members and want to cut of relations with them. Sometimes it gets to me so bad that I have no idea how I can keep it in since I cannot vent it to anyone.

Experiencing abuse can leave scars that are difficult to erase.

Not everyone undergoes abuse – but many people face difficult, painful situations at some point in their lives, when they have been wronged in some way. We may have been betrayed by a close friend. We may have felt abandoned by a loving family member, when they failed to stand by us in a crisis. Someone we looked up to may have let us down, disappointed us. Such experiences can be unsettling and hold us back from seizing happiness.

It is common to harbor feelings of resentment, perhaps even hate, against those who were supposed to love us and be there for us. Over time, these feelings begin to take a toll on us. Negative thoughts can eat into a big part of our day. Our experiences begin to influence how we interact with others. We may find it hard to trust other people long after these harsh experiences. We may be wary in relationships, fear emotional intimacy and have difficulty forming deep friendships.

So, how do we get past our past? Simplistic advice such as ‘forgive and forget’ or ‘the past is past’ is not very helpful. Other nice sounding but unhelpful advice includes –

  • “forgiving is a choice”
  • “don’t cling to negative feelings”
  • “you can’t change the things that happened to you”
  • “it’s not worth it”
  • “you need to move on”
  • “put your energy into something that helps you”
  • “anger and resentment are unhealthy”
  • “start on a clean slate”
  • “focus on the present”
  • “change the things you can”

Let’s think for a minute about why this is not helpful. ‘The past is past’ sounds hollow because the opposite is true for the one who suffered in the past. For this person, the past IS the present. The past continues to haunt. It has shaped who he is today. It continues to shape current interactions and relationships.

‘Forgive and forget’ doesn’t make much sense either. How can we simply forget? We can’t just erase certain memories from our minds. They’re still there, whether we like them or not. How can we just forgive? Someone did something wrong. If you examine their actions today, they are still wrong.

And yet we know, all of us, that it is not healthy to constantly harbor negative feelings, to let past wrongs have a hold on us.

So, how do we free ourselves from this pain? How do we lighten our burden?

There are several things we could do to help ourselves –

Understand the past

Yes, this requires us to remember the past rather than forget it. Understand what exactly happened. Was it emotional abuse? Was it abandonment? Betrayal? Humiliation? Disappointment? What exactly happened and who is responsible for what? What was the other’s role in it? What was your role in it? If you were a child, you did not have any control over the situation. If you were an adult, you did have a role. This is not victim blaming, it’s trying to understand how you came to be victimized.

Acknowledge the past

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the past, acknowledge it. Burying it does not help. Acknowledge the fact that you were wronged. Remember how you felt – fear, shame, sadness, anger, pain, guilt – we try hard to bury these feelings, but the minute you acknowledge and accept them, they begin to become less burdensome.

Forgive yourself

Although it is irrational, we tend to blame ourselves (on some level) for the bad things that people do to us. Children often think it is their fault, when they are abused. They must be “difficult” or “bad”, and they deserve to suffer. There is no such thing as a “bad” child. Here, the responsibility rests with the adult, never with the child.

If you were abused/wronged as an adult, forgive yourself because you did what you could, given what you’ve been given. Not everyone is born assertive or spirited. Many of us learn assertiveness through experiences. Very few of us are lucky enough to have strong and supportive role models. Abusers also know how to tap into people’s vulnerabilities and cut off their support systems. So, give yourself a break.

Don’t erase pain

Pain is undesirable and we would not wish it on anyone. However pain has a role to play in our lives. Just as physical pain acts as the body’s warning system and protects us, emotional pain, when handled with the right perspective, helps us grow. It makes us stronger. Pain makes us understand what is really important. It simplifies things. Pain reminds us of the things we love and value. If you have gone through a lot of pain in the past, it may always be there inside you. You can never erase it completely. Therefore it is important that you use it to become stronger and more connected with yourself and others.

Separating your current self from your old self

A curious thing begins to happen if you have taken an honest look at your past, acknowledged it, and forgiven yourself. You begin to feel a separation. You begin to observe yourself objectively, like an outsider. You are able to finally separate the past from the present. That was you then and this is you now. This separation creates distance. You still remember the past events but the feelings associated with those events are less intense.

Let’s take a detour here and consider the example of an ordinary setback, removed from abuse, betrayal, or anything deeply traumatic. You are 5 years old and you just broke up with your best friend. You came home and cried as if your heart would break. For the next few days, you did not play with anyone at school. You stayed in your corner and sulked. By the end of the week, you were neither sad nor happy; you just went about your day in a cynical way. By the following week, you even laughed at something goofy someone did. By the end of the following week, you probably made a new friend. The anger and hurt may still be there. But alongside some positive feelings (new hopes, possibilities) crept in unnoticed and pushed the hurt into the background. Years later, you may even recall the good times you had with this friend you broke up with.

Our minds are interesting – they are geared to both remember endlessly and forget quickly. What we remember and forget depends on a complicated set of parameters such as our own nature, our perception of the event, our age, the context, the people involved, our feelings towards them, and our state of mind. What we remember also depends on what our conscious mind chooses to suppress in attempting to protect us.

Applying the ordinary setback and separation you experienced at age 5 to a more traumatic incident -as you begin ‘separating’, you will be able to recollect the incident without the same intensity, without the gut wrenching pain that you felt during the event or for many years following the event.

Being able to recollect a painful experience without the same intensity of pain is the first sign of freedom from the past.

Change in perspective

Separation leads us to start seeing ourselves differently (we are no longer victims, we feel more in control) and therefore we begin experiencing things differently. We now know what to look for in people. We are more trusting because we are more confident of protecting ourselves in relationships. We get better at drawing boundaries but we also get better at breaking through constraints and self-imposed limits.

Seek positive, affirming people

It is helpful to surround ourselves throughout these stages with strong, positive, supportive people. People who themselves have struggled with something but have come out strong make the most valuable friends. Avoid people who are insecure or tend to be dismissive of your struggles. Love (from a close friend or family member) can be a powerful healer.

Embrace nature

We use the expression “natural” to describe a picture of someone being unselfconscious or just being in the moment. A lot of our stress comes from being disconnected from nature, and therefore from ourselves. Pain has always been a part of the human experience but nature was a refuge, a haven of solitude that healed us, one which we are getting farther away from.

Nature can be your best friend. Take a walk in the woods. Spend time gardening. Hike up the hills and watch the world below. Nature is both calming and invigorating. Observe a tree. Notice how the branches are asymmetrical. The texture varies dramatically from the rough bark to the smooth leaves. Nature is imperfectly beautiful. Nature reminds us of our humanity and helps us accept our weaknesses.

Nature changes so imperceptibly that it is impossible to just sit there and watch the leaves turn red in fall. It is impossible to find the exact moment when the sky begins to lighten (just like one’s healing). Yet, you know these things will happen, with time. Thus, nature imbues us with patience and the confidence that time heals.

Seek new experiences

As you begin to trust people more and as you begin to enjoy your own solitude more, seek out new experiences. Travel if you can. Experience different cultures. Try something you’ve always feared. If you are uncoordinated like me, try a salsa class. If you are uncomfortable in water, take a basic life skills swimming class. New experiences challenge us to keep growing and evolving – and when we keep evolving – are we not moving ahead, are we thus not separating ourselves more and more from our painful past?

Forgive those who wronged you

Ah … the final step to freedom! Forgiveness is supposed to be one of the hardest things to do. Especially when the person who has wronged you does not realize it or admit it. But if you have gone through all of the above stages, forgiving someone is a natural progression. The stages may take months or years depending on the intensity of the pain inflicted, your vulnerability at the time, as well as your perception of the incident/phase. But once you’ve understood the past, achieved separation, undergone a change in perspective, and opened yourself up to new experiences and people with trust and confidence, you’ve gone a long way in healing yourself.

You are now strong enough to forgive. You begin to see the person who wronged you as being human rather than evil, as ignorant rather than malicious, as limited rather than insidious.

Remember, we are not forgetting our past, but we are finally able to look at it with different eyes, more perceptive eyes. It is no longer a raw, painful wound, but a scar that will always remind us of how far we’ve come. A scar that affirms our strength, so we can continue to go places.

Please share your struggles and experiences with letting go of past wrongs, disappointments, failures, disillusionment, and other painful experiences.

Women and Friendship – Building a Support System

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

The last post brings home a striking point. Lack of a support system allows abuse to thrive. And even in non-abusive situations, lack of supports direly impacts women’s happiness quotient.

Recently I was talking to my mother on the phone. She mentioned that Kalyani, her long time friend had visited after many years. I was excited and happy for my mother and asked her if they had a good time together. I was reminded of the times when my mother would visit her when we were very young.

When we were kids, a mother having a friend was a rarity. The fact that they were college buddies was even more amazing. Whenever my mother would visit her friend, we were so awed by this simple fact – that my mother is going out, and it is not to work and it is not to buy groceries, nor is it a visit to relatives’ houses for pujas and other obligations. She was going out to see her friend! How cool is that!

Even though she worked outside the home (which was rare for her generation), my mother’s role at home was pretty traditional. There were meals to be cooked, maids to be managed, unannounced guests, unreasonable in-laws and relatives to be attended to. There were many frustrating and stressful interactions with in-laws and the extended family. So, whom did she talk to, to find some relief? Who did she go to for support and answers?

Most of the time, support, once again, came in the form of relatives. HER side of the family – her sister, her cousins, her aunts provided some support. Because the visits to her only friend were a rare and special treat.

And when she did get together with her side of the family, I noticed a strange vibe. My grandmother, who had little patience for relatives, usually left the room. The women shared their problems and concerns. There were hugs and wiping of tears. But no solutions were ever offered. There was relief in knowing one was not alone. There was certainly a sense of belonging. But it came more from a sense of “we are all women, therefore we are meant to suffer”. My mother usually went home feeling as confused and hurt as she did before the visit.

Another thing I noticed is the one aunt who tended to be more assertive and less obedient was considered a “shrew” and “lucky to have a meek husband who would put up with her”. So much for support and inspiration. This is why relatives (in the Indian setting) cannot really be one’s support system. They are subject to the same conditioning that the rest of us are. They have nothing new to offer.

My grandmother, a free thinker, was the only one who gave my mother sensible advice, still, she was older, of another generation. My mother did not really have anyone her own age to see her point of view. An occasional visit to her only friend’s house doesn’t really count. In many ways, my mother was friendless.

This is probably the story of many women of that generation.

The Current Generation

So, what about us, those in our 30s, 40s, and 50s? I’ve noticed that in our generation, a lot of us tend to have had great friends and friendships in college. But once we got married or moved away, those friendships seldom lasted. Or even if they did, they did not offer daily and genuine support and involvement. To some extent, this is understandable. Many of us outgrow our college friends. We grow up, acquire different ideas, we change to some extent. We crave friends on the same intellectual level, rather than settling for people who happen to be in the same place at the same time.

But how many of us, after we got married, made a serious attempt to develop strong friendships? How many of us are truly committed to friendship – because friendship takes time and effort and interest. Here I’m not referring to “family friends”. Family friends are just that – they are usually friends because our kids are friends at school. Or because some of us work at the same company.   These are simply another version of our college friends – people in the same place at the same time. They are fine for sharing a meal or having tea together or discussing school/college options or the job/commute/elections situation.

But these are not the kind of friends I’m referring to, although they do have their place in our lives.

I’m talking about the kind of friends who share a passion with you. Who remind you of who you are as an individual. Who challenge you to explore your fears, open you to novel experiences, who help you grow. Friends who truly KNOW who you are. So they can remind you of what you are capable of, when you doubt yourself.

(I’m referring to married women here because that is the norm in India and they are the ones who tend to neglect their friendships. Single women are perhaps more likely to take their friendships seriously. They are better at building a support network of friends because the negative attitudes of their families and society have made such a system imperative, even urgent. Perhaps, they even feel frustrated with married women for not being committed to their friendship.)

Factors that Deter Support Systems for Women

So, why do several married Indian women go without real, strong, long lasting friendships? A few factors come to mind (there could be more) –

Parenting – in conservative cultures, friendships for young girls are limited in terms of where they go and how long they stay out and what activities they engage in. They may not be allowed to travel, hike, swim, partake in sports, go for a bike ride – simple things that friends do. These friendship-inducing activities are allowed for sons but not daughters. Early on, they are trained to put family first, and their own needs must be worked around the family’s rules, schedules, and convenience, if at all. Thus, daughters never learn the meaning of strong friendships. They never learn the methods. They haven’t experienced the highs of going camping with friends and gazing at the stars in the night sky. They haven’t experienced being lost in an unfamiliar town and helping each other navigate. They haven’t gone for a long drive with no destination in mind. They do not know what they’re missing, thus they do not seek it in later life either.

The unwritten rules of friendship after marriage – Friendships for married women are discouraged, seen as frivolous and selfish. Indian married men, on the other hand, continue to keep in touch with their buddies, even invite them over and have their wives cook for them. Many Indian women need permission to visit their friends, or need to ensure that they’ve cooked, cleaned, bathed their children, and anticipated every possible need in the next 48 hours before stepping out for an hour. Thus having a family strengthens men’s friendships while the very same weakens women’s friendships.

Complacence and the Illusion of Support – We are surrounded by family in India. We have our parents and extended family constantly in our faces. When we get married, we have even more relatives. Surrounded by all these people gives us the illusion that we are not alone. However, the truth is you can be lonely with a hundred people around you if none of them empathize with you, make you stronger, or help you find yourself.

Too late, we find out that when we really need help and support, we don’t have it. Women spend a good part of their lives helping strengthen their husband’s families. While their own supports are continually discouraged, ridiculed, and eroded.

Our Stories – Mythology, legends, and literature are replete with admirable friendships between men. While Lakshmana walked by Rama’s side until the very end, Sita stood alone. The Mahabharata brims with male bonding. There is the interesting friendship between Karna and Duryodhana. Even the friendship between Lord Krishna and Arjuna the warrior is telling. God bestows his friendship on certain worthy men, but not women.

In English literature, we are all familiar with Horatio and Hamlet, Tom and Huck, Frodo and Samwise, Gandalph and Bilbo. While we admire the friendships between these beloved characters, they do make us wish the world instead revolved around female bonding. This is why books like Pride and Prejudice and Little Women are so precious.

Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, says, “Princesses may confide in a sympathetic mouse or teacup, but they do not have girlfriends. God forbid Snow White should give Sleeping Beauty a little support. Princesses avoid female bonding. Their goals are to be saved by a prince, get married, and be taken care of the rest of their lives.”

Let’s not be that lonely princess. We can make each other strong. Let’s not give up on each other.

Finding Real Friendship

Friendship and bonding among women offers so many positives that no woman should have to go without it. A good friend –

  • respects you for your strengths and talents
  • supports you during challenges
  • doesn’t ennoble silent suffering and sacrifice
  • inspires you to be strong, to grow, to become who you want to be
  • listens to you when she can’t do anything other than offer her heart
  • gives you a hug
  • loves you for who you are
  • is happy to see you engage in other positive relationships
  • wants you to succeed
  • is proud of your accomplishments
  • reminds you of who you are, when you are in doubt
  • opens you up to new ideas and different perspectives
  • doesn’t judge you for your career and relationship choices
  • is overall happy for you because she is happy with who she is
  • is committed to you, spends time with you, and is there for you
  • doesn’t take your friendship for granted, understands that friendship is a like a plant, it needs watering, otherwise it can’t sustain itself
  • communicates through differences with honesty
  • recognizes her own need for friends and friendship time
  • keeps her interests and passions alive and doesn’t lose her identity after marriage
  • makes it clear to her family that she will need and engage in her friendships
  • can be a lifeline in cases of emotional or physical abuse

I did not realize this until a few years ago, when I hit my late 30s. My kids’ friends’ mothers were my friends. My husband’s co-workers’ families were my friends. I realized something was missing in these friendships. I forgot who I was. Conversations with our friends were always about our families, about our children’s or husbands’ needs, interests, and phases. And what did I do when I did meet interesting, intelligent, warm, humorous,  and independent women now and then? I did not treasure them.

I realized I had missed some valuable opportunities.  And if I wanted something, I needed to work toward it. I began to look for and find women who shared my passions – walking/hiking/running/nature, reading/writing. Women who took their hobbies seriously, who believed in preserving their identities and not be defined by their relationships alone. Although these common interests acted as a catalyst to start and sustain the friendship, we did not limit our friendships to these interests. One of my friends crafts jewelry and it’s fascinating to watch her work. Another friend, an engineer by training, loves to bake. After years of debating, she finally turned her passion into her living. I like spending time in her kitchen while she makes breads, pastries, and pies. I realized I needed to laugh like a girl, get silly, do different things, surprise myself.

I realized I needed friendship time without my husband and kids. I learnt to ask for it, advocate for it, and maintain it as an essential part of my life. I gave it a name – ‘health goals’ (as in emotional health) to make it tangible. I put my friend time on the calendar and committed to it rigorously. My family slowly, reluctantly, began to accept and work around it. If my older son needed help with a project or my younger one wanted to go to the park, it would need to be scheduled AFTER my Sunday morning walk with my friends. Same thing with my husband. In the past, I had worked around everyone’s schedules. Now, my activities were up there on the family calendar, for everyone to see, and my needs were prioritized, like everyone else’s.

I hope every one of us has or works on finding strong friendships and can make the effort to be a rock solid friend to other women. It is not as difficult as we think. It doesn’t require some esoteric skills. It is simply about knowing what real friendship looks like. It’s knowing what to look for. And understanding that friendship is a basic human need, necessary for us to thrive. This blog is a small example of the power of women supporting one another. Imagine what is possible with people we can meet and talk to and confide in and bond with in our daily lives.

And friendship with other women and having a good support system is the best defense against patriarchy. For feminism to thrive, friendships between women must thrive.

Please do share some of your great friendships. Or please share your challenges in finding and sustaining meaningful friendships.

A Woman Who Doesn’t Have to Fit In

A Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Khoobsoorat – Movie Review

(Warning – Spoilers, lots of them)

When my niece recommended I watch this film, I was skeptical. It sounded like a predictable Bollywood romance, replete with beautiful sets, fine costumes and jewelry, one dimensional characters with very little subtlety, and situations that are too easily resolved, usually through the use of lectures and bit of melodrama.

It turned out to be some of the above. But despite these predictable traits, the movie surprised me.

The Protagonist

What I liked about the film is of course the protagonist Mili (Sonam Kapoor). Or rather, I came to like her. Cautiously. Gradually.

Mili is silly, irritating, and clumsy. She puts up her feet on the dashboard, drinks from the wine bottle, and eats messy food with her hands. She takes selfies of herself everywhere. I thought, “And THIS is what they call ‘spontaneous/bubbly’?” I rolled my eyes.

But over the course of the film, Mili emerges as a woman who likes herself and is not excessively concerned whether others approve of her or not.

She is very good at what she does (physiotherapy) and she does it unconventionally and with lots of heart thrown in.

Mili has had 3 breakups so far (shown funnily in a little flashback) and even though she’s just had it with men for a while, she hasn’t had it with life. In fact, she’s enjoying life more than usual, with the complications of a relationship removed.

Mili dares to dream. She isn’t overly awed by Prince Vikram’s wealth or class. At first she’s attracted to him, and then she begins to like him when she sees his human side. As she finds herself becoming closer to him, her only worry is that he is engaged. Never once does she feel he is “unreachable”. It’s as if she’s always seen him as an equal, as another human being. She conveys an easy, natural sense of self-worth here.

Supporting Characters

Another pleasant surprise – there are two other strong female characters in the film – the Maharani, Vikram’s mother, played by Rathna Pathak, and Manju (played by Kirron Kher), Mili’s kick-ass, Punjabi mom. Both characters were portrayed reasonably well. Power does not make the Maharani evil and being middle class does not make Mili’s mom servile.

The Maharani, although strict and rule bound, never raises her voice or gets abusive as befitting her classy background. Her bossiness is restrained, her dismissals aloof, her rebuttals are often polite, and her language is impeccably clean. And there are layers to her. You can understand that she needs to be authoritarian in order to run such a large estate, several businesses, and keep an army of staff running smoothly. You also sense she is protective of the wheelchair-bound Maharaja. She will not let anyone cross the wall he has built around himself. She fears that it could be devastating to him. Gradually, their previous relationship is revealed. How they played polo and tennis together. How the Maharani had love and friendship and playfulness from her husband before one tragic incident brought their lives to a screeching halt. Theirs was (and is) an equal marriage, a rarity among older (or even younger?) Bollywood characters.

As a foil to the Maharani’s character is Manju, Mili’s mom – loud, bull dozer like, and calls a spade a spade. You can tell where Mili gets her guts and a bit of craziness from. Manju often advises her daughter to “go get “em” if she needs to and to “not take any crap from the guy’s family”. That really made me laugh with happiness!:)

And now, coming to the male lead – Prince Vikram played by Fawad Khan. The actor is smoky handsome and sexy (I can see why my niece was so hooked on this movie now:). When I say sexy, I don’t just mean his physical attributes. I think people who are good looking in an empty sort of way are seldom sexy. He has what attractive men and women have – an air of mystery, a certain aloofness, quiet confidence that doesn’t require loudness or aggression, a reluctance to easily reveal himself and yet he does so in vulnerable moments. And when he does reveal himself here and there unintentionally, you like what you see.

When Mili accuses him of not joining the party with the servants because he has to maintain his distance/status, he replies, “Yeah …. something like that.” He doesn’t deny that the class gap exists and he doesn’t have all the answers. And then adds, “or perhaps, they (servants) would prefer it that way (him not joining their fun).”

He is puzzled by Mili’s craziness. He is befuddled by her impulsiveness. He is wary of her inclination to say things without a filter. He is jolted by her tendency to act on whim, without the slightest though to consequences.

But when he watches his mother’s reaction to Mili’s wackiness, he is secretly amused. All of his emotions were subtly conveyed – a raised eyebrow, a shrug, a warning look, a little hesitation, a tensing of the shoulders, a bit of subtle sarcasm, or some delicate rephrasing of an otherwise crass situation.

There is great chemistry between the two characters. In both the kissing/hugging scenes, they are BOTH drawn to each other, the feeling is mutual, and Mili as the woman is a willing partner, and once she is also the initiator.

Vikram finds himself reluctantly but helplessly drawn to Mili, despite his rational understanding of the volcano he’s walking into. Mili, on the other hand, true to her character, courts fire, and gives no thought to the consequences.

Humor

There are several funny moments – some everyday situations, some contrived. When Mili asks people from the royal family to join her skype call with mom, her mother puts on a sweet smile, but once they leave, blasts Mili for doing this to her when “she’s cutting onions and sweating in the kitchen”.

When the kidnappers tell Mili they’re just getting started with their ransom “business” and she’s their first victim, Mili who is now high on something, says, “I get it. I remember being excited too – when I got my first client.”

Mili’s breakups are funny – one is with a clueless guy who has found his soul mate in another clueless girl. Another guy is just someone who couldn’t handle Mili’s feet on his dashboard anymore.

And Vikram’s use of “hum” (we) to refer to himself are greeted by irreverent Mili (and her mom) with a “Who the heck is We?? Hello?? I see only one person here!”

I chuckled when the Maharani (upon being confronted in the middle of the night by Manju) says with lovely poise, “I’m sorry but I need my 8 hours of sleep. Can we discuss these “interesting” theories of yours in the morning?”

Room for Improvement

I thought they could’ve balanced out Mili’s character a bit – she doesn’t ALWAYS have to be smiling or ALWAYS have to drop things – we get it – she’s a fun gal and a tad clumsy. But when Vikram tells her they cannot share a future because they are so different, Mili hardens and softens at the same time. She looks at him both angrily and sadly and says, “I agree.” This is where her character looks more complete, more multi-dimensional. I wish there were a few more of these contemplative moments for Mili.

The confrontation between the moms was unnecessary and Manju’s pettiness and arguing to the bitter end dragged down the last part of the movie a bit.

I also thought the Maharaja’s situation was resolved a bit too simplistically. While I appreciate Mili’s determination to do her job as a therapist and her efforts to bring fun back into his life because she believes it will help him recover, I wish she never explicitly TOLD him he is stuck at the time of the accident, and needs to start living again. I wish she had trusted his capacity for self-direction. And I wish he had taken that first step forward himself, with her support.

The Ending

Loved the ending though! It is the royal family that learns to relax and adapt to Mili’s crazy ways rather than Mili changing herself to fit into the clan’s honored traditions. This is not shown explicitly but implied through the Maharani’s humorous acceptance of Mili and the last credits song.

The movie is based on an older film of the same name starring Rekha. And it does have shades of the Sound of Music. I’m not sure if it passes the Bechdel test but overall, I confess I enjoyed this movie. Charming characters, three strong women, one dashing prince, a hauntingly beautiful palace, and lots of heart make this a warm, pleasant ride. Did you like it? Let me know what you think!

15 Things That Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do

15 Things That Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do [Shared on facebook]

Do read this amazing list – do you agree that emotionally strong people don’t do these fifteen things? Do you consider yourself an emotionally strong person?

I think some of our Indian Family Values might disagree with this list.

Take a look at points 4, 7, 11, 12 and 14 below. Many would consider these irresponsible, because we are expected to be responsible for other people’s happiness.

Happiness is also seen as something that other people give/owe us, for example by sacrificing their own happiness or by their display of respect for us, or by approving of our choices etc.

Are Indian women and men brought up to respect themselves and to take responsibility for their own lives and happiness?

I think many of us go out of ways to teach children to find happiness in what will people say (not all the people, but some chosen, more powerful or higher-in-social-hierarchy people) – when we tell children to score better than their class mates, or when we run (or dance, or create, or work) to win, not for the joy of running, dancing or creating. Even the definition of Success for many seems to involve competition with other people 😦

I think this list is about people who choose Happiness over Success (when success is not defined as happiness). What do you think?

4. They Never Stop Doing Their Own Thing

Emotionally strong individuals do what they do because they love doing it. They don’t plan on slowing down or stopping for anyone who deems their happiness inappropriate.

7. They Know Better Than To Let Just Anyone Into Their Lives

The emotionally strong are emotionally strong for a reason: They don’t expose themselves to people who break down their defenses and crush their morale. Most people in the world are lost and will be more than happy to take you along with them. Don’t let an awful acquaintance ruin your happiness.

11. They Don’t Do Things They Don’t Want To Do

We all do things that we don’t love to do, but we should never do things that we don’t want to do. The emotionally strong understand that and almost always manage to figure out a way to focus on what they love, which allows them to figure out what they need to do, in order to do what they love. Although they may not love every second of it, they like doing what they are doing because it’s bringing them one step closer to what they would love to do.


12. They Have No Problem Saying “No”

If you can’t say “no,” you will get abused. You’ll be considered a pushover and no one will ever ask you for your opinion or take it seriously when you give it. Saying “no” reminds people that they don’t have control over you.

14. They Don’t Feel The Need To Fit In

The stronger you are emotionally, the more independent you become. You don’t feel the need to fit in because you fit in where it matters: the world. People form smaller social groups that are often skewed and unhealthy. Wanting to fit in doesn’t say much more than “I’m afraid to be myself.”

And here’s why I loved this list:

You’re going to be with your in-laws for only a few days in a year so why can’t you live the way they want and keep every one happy?

Is it possible that the ones whose disapproval is dreaded the most are those who are most likely to express disapproval (and occasional approval)?

Display of respect to those in power, in Indian culture.

“But, my only motive in life has been my daughter’s happiness which is now in your hands. I beg you, please keep her happy”

“I had written an email about being a DIL in the joint family, I am happy to share my current state …”

“Wives..well they are awesome! They will cross heavens to make you and the family’s lives happy.”

I could not sing after my marriage and I am really sad about it, but women have to ‘adjust’ to see their family happy…

An email: He says what am I expecting out of this marriage if I cant even make him happy.

Some happy relationship rules. Add yours?

Eleven questions the family elders ask women in unhappy marriages.

An email: Is it fair for parents to say that their happiness depends on who their kids marry?

Let sleeping dogs lie.

On a parked car in Greater Kailash.

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Outside a pet shop in Khan Market.

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Another one in Khan Market… (Most dogs in Khan Market, wore jackets )

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This one is old but not uncomfortable.

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These aren’t the only homeless dogs who have someone who cares for them. Read about one in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi here, another one in 55 words here and take a look at how wrong it is for children to separate puppies and kittens from their mothers here.

And do they reciprocate? Find out here 😆

Not such a cold city, Dilwalon ki Dilli :)

In the middle of a crowded Lajpat Nagar market a dog is heard yelping. The market halts, everybody is turning, and half the market is moving towards the dog. One leg lifted up but without any visible signs of injury, the dog continues to cry heartbreakingly.

One outraged voice asks, “Kisne mara isko?” (Who hit him?)

And then another still angrier, “Kisne mara?”(Who hit him?). Whoever kicked or hurt him stayed silent.

A vendor unloading huge bags from a rikshaw says, “Aaaja aaja, idhar aaja…”  (Come, come here!) the dog stops crying and limps up to him. A woman offers him a kachori. The man unpacking his huge bags of woollen sweaters says (the way only someone from UP can say), “Yeh khayenge naheen!” (‘They’ will not eat!) The dog is no longer crying, wags his tail in response to the man’s proud declaration, and turns an adorably arrogant nose away from the kachori on the ground.

In another part of the cold, cold city somebody has wrapped this homeless dog in a cozy jacket 🙂  (Photographs taken by my daughter).

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Another dog who found a loving human …this jacket matches with Gabbar Singh’s jacket 🙂

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Somebody not only gave this dog a jacket, but also made sure it was secured comfortably.

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And this is Gabbar Singh enjoying a sunny winter morning…

[Dilwalon ki Dilli – Delhi is a city of people with warm hearts (or large-hearted people).]

Vikas Gupta blogged about homeless dogs in Delhi winters too, here.

What are you criticised the most for?

What are you criticised the most for? When I was young I was criticised for ‘reading all the time’ (bad for eyes), for being timid, for biting my nails, for not eating enough, for not being interested in cooking, and at one point, for slouching and for spending too much time on the phone.

Did the criticism help? I wonder. Some of the things were just a difference in opinion or interest. Some improved changed with age. And some didn’t. I still get scared of the dark, and still strain my eyes, now on the computer screen too. I still talk endlessly on the phone.

Can boldness be learnt? I guess so. But can criticism and constant checking make one bolder, more open, walk straighter, love cooking and eat better?

We seem to believe that people need to know what’s wrong with them so that they can improve themselves. I feel differences are not imperfections, and nobody is perfect anyway. And what is perfect? When we try to improve everybody we come across, we infringe upon their personal space. If we really can’t resist trying, then it’s good to know that encouragement and appreciation helps, criticism harms (and hurts).

Are we grateful to those who criticise us? Everybody knows we are grateful to those who encourage, appreciate and accept us as we are (and there’s plenty to appreciate in all accept some politicians).

Criticism can kill confidence. Most people feel bitter about those who nag or criticise them. Most of us are aware of our shortcomings. Like I know I bite my nails and Shahrukh Khan knows he smokes. Nagging and constant reminders are not going to help (unless requested for).

Criticism is also used to control. Too much criticism is verbal abuse. I feel those who accept others as they are are the happiest.

Do you think criticism helps ‘improve’ us? …but then who is to say the new improved us is a happier us?

What would you not change for love?

I have been receiving email links that accuse Indian women of dereliction of duty, when they marry men from other faiths. Indian women are solely responsible for the honour of all Indian religions and cultures so these accusations are not new.

Love Jehad [Do read this link] should not become another tool to control women.  As an adult, a woman should remain free to marry anyone from any religion. And if she chooses to, let her convert.

But my personal opinion is that love and marriage should not require either of the partners to stop being who they really are… simply because they can’t.

1. I feel one should not need to convert to a partner’s religion.

2. I feel one should not need to change names or surnames. It is inconvenient and unnecessary, but even if it was convenient, it’s based on the principal of ownership of another human. So the very premise, in my opinion, is wrong.

3. I feel one should not need to change feelings towards one’s own parents and family. Unfortunately girls are sometimes expected to do this; especially in joint families… Marriage should add to your life, not take away from it.

4. Friends and family are a support system, nobody should be asked to give them up.  Also isolation of the victim is common in cases of Domestic Violence. (Now, the Domestic Violence Act has made it an offence to stop a woman from meeting her family).

5. One should not need to change one’s Personality. For example, no extrovert should be asked to become an introvert. That’s controlling.

Everybody, including women, must have some interests of their own, and some me-time, so if she is asked to stop interacting with the world (to protect her!), she better watch. Insecurity and mistrust are not good signs. And…

6. Trust must include faith in and respect for her judgement. Giving in to the spouse’s unreasonable wishes does not improve a relationship. Such controlling might be the beginning of Domestic Violence – verbal or physical.

7. The woman should be trusted to decide how she must dress, and not her husband’s grandmother’s cousin’s daughter’s brother in law.

Do you think we should need to change ourselves for love or marriage? And how much? Is it true that we can find happiness in our partner’s happiness (after the first few months of a relationship), or do we need our own happiness too?

Bad? Yes. Worse than yesterday? No.

A friend said we are more violent today than we were in earlier times. I am not sure I agree. I feel violence was part of daily life in the past.

We had wars, riots, rapes, murders, suicides, dacoits, thefts, domestic violence, human trafficking, bonded labour, child labour, girl-child-killing, honour killings, highway thugs and more. But many of these were not considered crimes in the past.

We didn’t think much of the endless wars between hundreds of kings and their step brothers whose armed men demanded extortion money or food grain from impoverished farmers (they called it tax).

Their rivals were locked in dungeons, till the next coup. Craftsmen and artists were also thrown in dungeons, forced to create art work on the stone walls, some went mad. There are stories of how the tongues and hands of the artisans who worked for twenty years to create the Taj Mahal were cut off to ensure a monument better than the Taj was not created

Official punishments included crushing under elephants, pushing off cliffs, flogging, maiming, blinding and drowning. This is unimaginable today, though *beeped* etc might wish otherwise.

There were coups (Tintin style) where every new leader killed, raped or married the last leader’s family, only solution our peace loving minds could come up with was to burn the widows/women (and leave the orphaned children at the invaders mercy?)

We had bonded labour and little children instead of being educated were married off and sent to live with families that made them work like bonded labour (and asked them to believe their happiness lay in sacrifice and service.)

It was not seen as wrong that children could be tied up, beaten, locked up in dark rooms, starved, kicked at, threatened and kept in fear, or beaten black and blue. I know of a child whose father was so burdened with miseries of life that he threw the child from a height, I am told the boy became ‘slow’ because of that fall.

Neglect is still not recognised, as an abuse. It is understood that between a weak boy baby and a healthy girl child, the boy has stronger chances of surviving. To me death by neglect seems the cruellest, because the parents can watch this little person die a slow death.

But then we sell our babies, mostly girls, but if there are enough of them, then boys also. In 1991 fifteen little boys were rescued, they were being sold for camel races to the Middle East– Prince Charles also watched those races (now banned), so cruelty has no race, religion or nation.

Devdasis were minor girls given by the parents to temples, to work as sex workers. This had religious and royal sanction. Paedophiles are jailed today.

If the family was doing it, then being pushed and kicked on the stomach, endless criticism, abandoning and killing were not seen as a criminal offence until recently.

In recent past it was normal (and legal?) for brothers to beat their sisters if suspected of as much as looking at a boy and it was acceptable that the same brothers may have mistresses.

If a girl was kidnapped and managed to escape and come back home, it was accepted that she had to be sent back. (But the same family could accept her earnings).

Suicide was an accepted, even honourable option for women in many kinds of distresses.

Life of the differently abled was hell. They were laughed at, beaten, given no opportunity to learn, risked sexual abuse and abandonment and some were even kept isolated and locked. I met someone yesterday who has a 34 year old sister with a mind of a five year old. When her educated brother beat her, the mother asked him ‘not to hit on the stomach’. She said when she was young, her brother could slap her too, now he ‘takes out his frustrations on his wife.’ In the past this would not have been much of an embarrassment to the family.

We tolerated a lot more violence than we do today. We bullied everybody we could. We discouraged thinking, discussion or questioning, we valued obedience. When we had no answers we used custom and tradition to get our way.

Seeing that we see many of these forms of violence as crimes today, I think we can hope to leave foundations for a more civilised society for our kids.

With Nimmy’s permission…

There are many Indias in one India.

That some parents feel too much education might harm their daughter, would be difficult to understand for those parents who feel girls must be self reliant.

Nimmy and ‘A’ had a discussion on her blog, I couldn’t resist requesting Nimmy to let me answer some of A’s questions…

A: Girls should be married off by the age of 18-19…

Me: Not everybody is matured enough to get married at 18/19.

A: Early? Not at all…Bcoz by 20+, they will start making their own choices and will have own opinions

Me: Even when families are there to support, they need their own judgement to be good wives, mothers, daughters, and daughters in laws. Smart girls make better mothers. Children need to be guided by well educated, informed, confident mothers, and education gives all this.

A: So? So, parents should marry off girls before they start having firm opinions and start making decisions for them

Me: And god forbid if they ever need to support their families how would girls who can’t make choices or have opinions do that?

Will any husband not be happy to have a ‘partner’ instead of a ‘ward’? Someone who is a friend and a companion, not another child to look after?

Think Shahrukh Khan and Gauri. Rajeev Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. Obama and Michelle…. happy couples, and compare them to families where women cannot think independently.

A: Ha, what is the need for girls to have so much education. The role of women in a society to make a good family and bring up kids in a good way.

Me: Educated, intelligent, strong mothers (parents) are a strong foundation that every society needs. Children pick a lot from mothers, their values, their attitudes, and if mothers are educated – she’s a great support for the entire family.

A: All this ‘men-women equality and stuff is bullshit. Women cannot be equal to men.

Me: Happy members in a society make a happy society. Equality simply means if one member is suffering it is as bad as any other member suffering. A child, a woman, a man, an old woman – each one’s happiness is valuable to the society. Each deserves respect and consideration.

A: Let me tell you an e.g. Last day, there was an accident nearby, when a lady bumped into a sccooter-wala and he died..The lady was admitted to mental hospital for weeks..Have you ever heard of a man being mentally unstable just because he met with an accident? …you women are silly and emotionally weak, and let me remind you, they are physically weak since ages…

Me: Men and women both are needed in the society. Both are equally valuable. We cannot do without either. Children and senior-citizens also. If one is weak then they should be given extra support.

About mental stability I only know a large number of women commit suicide in all those societies where women are repressed. Men tend to react the same way when fired, during stock market crashes and during recession etc. Some other men start drinking, some become violent. Both need support.

A: Ok, let me tell you something. What if I sent my daughter to study medicine? Obviously, by the time she passes out, she will be 24 yrs and so, and she will not accept proposals from any men on a lower grade than doctors themselves.

Me: If a girl is a doctor and marries an engineer/MBA etc who does not earn as much as her, but is intelligent and well settled, there is no harm in such a marriage. Many men marry women more qualified and earning more than they are, and leading happy lives. Having a compatible partner does not mean they must earn more/less.

We want the best for our children; we must open our minds to newer better ideas, if it can give them better lives.

There was a time when any education for girls was considered unnecessary; some of our elders made the bold move of educating their daughters, now it’s our turn to do the same. We must evolve.

A: Its ok with her, but not for me, as I have find Crores of money for her dowry.

Me: Look out for boys who don’t ask dowry. You will be surprised to find many such families, who just want a compatible match. In our family we never give or take dowry, and I know many other such families. The biggest blessing of a marriage without dowry is you are sure the boy really likes the girl; he isn’t marrying her for money. There are also no fears of harassment for dowry.  Such families will also respect you and your daughter more than the usual greedy families do.

A: Such people exist only in theory. In practise, all people ask for dowry, and when it comes to higher grade boys ,as like Doctors, they ask for loads of gold and money..So tell me, should I let my daughter become a doctor and finally spoil my life in the name of her dowry, or should i marry off her to an average man, at the age mentioned earlier, when she is not so firm in her choices and opinions..On another note, there is no need for lady doctors…

Me: Some women are more comfortable with lady doctors and it’s a great career for the doctors. Parents can be very proud of a doctor daughter.

A: Yes, tell me what is the problem if there are male doctors alone? After all women are weak enough not to enter areas like surgery and such complicated stuff… Tell me how many efficient female surgeons and anaesthetists have you seen or heard?

Me: Although women are made to choose between career and home, women are doing very well in every field. Class X board results also show that although girls are made to help with housework, they still manage to do brilliantly.

A: That’s the only area where women can empathize with fellow patients..But even in that field, there isn’t a compulsory need. Labour and Caesarean will be fine in men’s hands too. Coming back to the topic I still stand by what i said,” Girls needn’t study much and should be married off early”…

Me: Well educated women, who are independent in mind and attitude, make matured and intelligent mothers and life partners. The whole generation, an entire family benefits.

A: You are wrong. In real time, it is the educated girls who come back to families, while the other end girls move on with their life, rather than shouting for divorce and such.

Me:

1.) If the girl’s husband is having an affair or is unhappy with her dowry and divorces her.  Or if he dies or looses his job – then what will happen to a girl who cannot support herself and her children.

2.) If her parents have no sons, and need someone to take care of them, then will she able to support herself.

A: You are wrong, good girls will find happiness where they go…

Me: Unfortunately this is proved wrong everyday…

Long-lasting marriages depend on compatibility and suitability.

Also happiness in marriage depends on both the partners. No amount of goodness will make an abusive man stop mentally or physically battering his wife.

Greed, violence, lack of consideration, cruelty etc cannot be cured by goodness. This can be somewhat controlled by endless supply of dowry and/or fear of consequences.

Parenting is a serious responsibility. Teaching a girl not to complain is convenient for parents, but it is also irresponsible. Daughters should be able to find ways to solve their problems and also take responsibility for their decisions. Guiding them and helping them achieve this is the parents’ responsibility and duty.

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PS: Please do not criticize the person and say anything bad about her/him, as I don’t intend to hurt the person…But her/his thoughts are surely worth discussion, aren’t they?