Dark is lovely too

I opened the pack and took out the tube. I thought a lot before doing this to myself.
 
I had given in. I applied the Fair & Lovely fairness cream. As an impressionable teen, I was quite influenced by some female relatives of mine who applied the cream regularly. I was quite influenced by the advertisements I saw on the TV. I was quite influenced by the way the society treated dark-skinned people. When I played the WWE game on my PC, I selected the fair players because those with darker skin were clearly ‘inferior’ in my eyes. They were like second-class citizens who just played supporting roles in the movie called life where fair-skinned people were the “stars.” A lot has changed since then. I ultimately got back to my authentic self and threw the fairness cream in the trash.
 
Few weeks back, a colleague opened her heart to me and told me about the discrimination that she faced within her own family because of her dark skin and it transported me back to my teenage when I got my hands on Fair & Lovely.
 
If you are someone who is in a similar situation then here’s something that you should remember: You don’t need to be “repaired.” You won’t become more “presentable” if you are a few shades fairer. Fair skin is not the default condition for being beautiful. If someone tells you otherwise, then it is better to stay away from that person.
 
All this is not going to be easy but fortunately, we are in an age where people have started accepting their authentic selves. Find those role models and don’t give a damn about society’s beauty standards.
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What if your dreams won’t come true?

I have always been a dreamer. When I dream, I have absolutely no limits. I found strength in various books that talked about believing in your dreams and never giving up. I fanatically looked for people who pursued their dreams. But off late, I’m exploring a territory I have never dared to cross: I am opening up to the possibility that my dreams might never come true. And somewhere inside the depths of my subconscious mind, I have an intuitive feeling that it is okay. While I feel a sense of emptiness and fear, I also (surprisingly) feel a sense of freedom. Since my adolescence, I have been carrying these dreams and honestly, sometimes they get too heavy. And more often than not, I’m under enormous pressure to fulfill them.
Maybe, positive thinking and acceptance of reality can sometimes co-exist [Like Mark Manson says, “Accepting a negative experience in itself is a positive experience]. Maybe, we need to question the motive behind our dreams every now and then. Is our dream a way of proving ourselves to those who hurt us? Are our grandiose dreams a way to heal our childhood trauma? Our culture talks about dreams but rarely do we question why these dreams exist in the first place.
Opening ourselves to the possibility of our dreams not coming true is extremely painful. But strangely enough, you start finding happiness in the so-called small pleasures of life.

Power of conventional beauty standards

I always knew that I am not beautiful. I was okay with this fact. I also accepted the fact that I am not thin. It is not a big deal. I thought I had accepted myself, successfully, but conventional beauty standards are so powerful that they influence you in subconscious ways. So even though I never obsessed about my looks and my weight, I obsessed about other things…I obsessed about how creative I am. This might look harmless on the surface but after contemplation, I realized that I was overcompensating. Deep down, I believed that I am ugly and that the only way I can find acceptance is through my work and my creativity. So I constantly put myself in a race…I always wanted to be better than others when it came to creativity. While there was a desire for self-improvement and passion at play here, there was also insecurity: If I’m not beautiful and if I’m not thin, then I have to be good at something else, so that people don’t mock me. There was a fear that if I’m not beautiful or thin, people might not love me. I wouldn’t admit this to myself at first but this is the truth. And this is the truth of many women. While men also face different kinds of pressure, there is more pressure on women when it comes to how they look, how they dress up, how much they weigh etc. Even if we are not thinking about the way we look, we are thinking about it, subconsciously. Centuries of conditioning won’t vanish in a few days, so I guess the first step is to be aware. And it helps to remember this kickass quote from someone: “Pretty is not the rent you pay to exist in the world as a woman.”

 

 

 

I’m also responsible for rape culture

As I read about the horrific rape incidents and the politics being played around it, I somehow feel ashamed of myself. Every time I keep mum when someone blames the victim for rape/sexual assault, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I say, “Why is she speaking about the abuse/rape now? Why didn’t she speak up earlier?”, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I say, “Boys will be boys”, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I keep mum when rape jokes are cracked, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I come under family pressure and watch movies that objectify women and normalize sexual assault, I’m propagating rape culture. The outrage against the rapists is important. But it is also important to ask tough questions to yourself. The easiest thing to do would be to say that the rapists are different from me and that I’m morally superior. But the toughest part is to pay attention to the small things that we do everyday. When your boss cracks a sexist joke, the easiest thing would be to laugh along with him. When your male colleague jokes about sexual harassment seminar at workplace, it’s easy to just laugh along with him.The toughest thing is to speak up. I hope these horrific incidents will be a wake-up call to all of us: it’s time we look at everyday sexism and rape culture. Yes, in my own way, I have contributed to the rape culture in this country and I don’t want to wash my hands by saying “Sorry”. I hope I remember the face of the innocent victims every time I choose to laugh at a sexist joke or every time I watch a movie that is being made by a domestic abuser.

Joy

As a child, I was a compulsive reader. I would read anything that I could get my hands on. I remember reading Pinki, Billu, Chacha Chaudhary, Tinkle, Champak etc. I also remember reading obscure detective novels and many other such books. Reading was pure joy.

When I entered college though, I read because I wanted to stand out. Being a victim of bullying in my school days, I had this desire to impress people around me, so that they would accept me. I read more and more so I that I became the most well-read person in my college.The joy of reading was still there but it certainly took a backseat. The admiration that I saw in my classmates’ eyes made me want to read more. Reading became a race.
As I navigate slowly in the fast-paced professional world, I get less time to read but when I do read, my focus is more on being productive in my profession. I stopped enjoying detective stories because my mind told me that I should rather invest my time reading non-fiction. The joy of reading is still there but it is sitting in the backseat, waiting for me to become aware of it. Reading has become a means to an end.
As children, we follow our intuition. We are naturally drawn to activities that give us joy. But as we grow up, we are told that pursuing things that give us joy is a waste of time. Ironically, we work hard and earn a living so that after we retire, we can do things that give us joy. Perhaps, life doesn’t work that way. Technically speaking, even sleep is a waste of time (because we are doing nothing) but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it! In the same way, doing things that give us joy is essential. Not everything in life has to be a race or numbers or productivity. There has to be a place for things that we do, just because we enjoy them.  #LessonsLearned #Reading #Books #Joy

Fat-Shaming

‘Fat’ is not a derogatory word. Fat-shaming is dangerous for your mental health. Anybody who mocks you, laughs at you, body-shames you and says that his/her intention is good is fooling you. Do you really think that shaming someone can help them lose weight? Even if that person takes it up as a challenge and indeed loses weight, what about his/her mental health? Bullying and body-shaming may be the tactic used by the previous generation, but in today’s world, it has negative impact on our mental health.
Scientific studies and science doesn’t exist in isolation. Society’s bias often creeps into it. For example: There was a time when homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder but Psychology doesn’t say the same thing anymore. Obesity is unhealthy but being fat doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy (Science keeps finding new facts from time to time so please have patience). BMI is considered important but its validity has been questioned. Even if we assume that being fat is unhealthy, remember that fat-shaming is unhealthy too. Have some compassion. Stop laughing at fat-shaming/body-shaming jokes. Stop being a bully. And if you are REALLY concerned about people’s health then why don’t we see you shaming smokers in the same way?
P.S. Please don’t comment that I’m against losing weight, because I’m not! All I am saying is that what people do with their bodies is THEIR business not yours!

Traffic Jam in my mind

The other day, we were stuck in a traffic jam on a road that had no traffic signals. The reason behind the jam was people (in the vehicles) refusing to let the others pass. Everyone wanted to the the first one to go and that resulted into chaos. Then, as it happens often in a traffic jam, few people came out of their vehicles and started leading: They asked few vehicles to stop and directed others to go. Thanks to them, the problem was solved. I don’t know why but I started comparing the traffic jam on the road with the traffic jam in my mind!

There are people who say that we shouldn’t think negative thoughts (as if we can stop thinking negative thoughts instantly!). There are some thoughts that I just don’t want to think. There are some thoughts that are so overpowering that I just cannot suppress them. However, I am egoistic and I want to be in control…so I try my best to fight the unwanted thoughts and replace them with the thoughts that I want to think…which ultimately results in a traffic jam in my mind! Perhaps, the best way to solve the problem of a traffic jam is to lead: Let the unwanted thoughts come…and pass ( In most cases, the intensity of the thoughts reduces after some time). This doesn’t mean I will just accept whatever my mind throws at me. The difference is AWARENESS. Being aware of what I am thinking means I am neither accepting nor rejecting my thoughts!

Toxic Masculinity in Sports

Toxic masculinity, wanting to succeed at any cost and the enormous pressure to live up to the image and reputation can make us cheat.
I, like millions of people across the world, have grown up admiring the way Australia plays its cricket. The Australian cricket teams of the past never gave up…no matter how tough the situations were (or atleast that’s what I felt while watching them on my television as a teenager). There was a pride in the way they played and most of them were champions who would stretch their limits to redefine what’s possible. People like Adam Gilchrist inspired me to take on challenges in my life with aggression and passion. But after reading about Steve Smith’s and other Australians’ account of ball tampering, I’m wondering if it is a case of toxic masculinity.  When there is a culture of toxic masculinity, you don’t accept failures with grace…because you want to be always “macho” and ” be in control”. You are not allowed to feel vulnerable because that would be “weakness”. You have to succeed at any cost because failing would mean that you are not worthy. This kind of a culture works when success comes your way but when you are no longer at the top, you feel ill-equipped to deal with the reality.
It’s good to have the passion to win but when you are down to cheating, there is something wrong with the culture and the mindset. Maybe it’s time we stop admiring toxic masculinity in Sports.

Abuse and logic

#Abuse can be systematic but it is not logical. Unfortunately, the victim of the abuse tries to tell himself/herself that what’s happening to him/her is logical. At first, he/she feels that that there he/she is doing something which is “wrong” with him/her and therefore, he/she deserves to be abused (that’s the logic in his/her head). If he/she is lucky enough, he/she will realize that the abuser does the same thing that he/she supposedly doesn’t “like” in the victim. For example: A husband may say that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and abuse the wife for a messy house but the wife may (luckily) ask herself why he pisses on the roadside if cleanliness is indeed so important to him. If the victim is lucky enough to reach this stage, he/she will realize that there is actually no logic (that doesn’t mean there is no pattern) to abuse. However, he/she will start looking for reasons behind the abuse (logic again!) and try to sympathize with the abuser. While there are many reasons that turn a person into an abuser, the victim needs to ask one question: “If bullying/insert any other reason is indeed the reason behind his/her abuse, then why hasn’t that reason turned every other bullying victim into an abuser?” The answer is of course, complex. People react to pain in various ways, one of them which is abusing others. However, using logic to justify abuse is dangerous. It is good to empathize with abusers but it’s dangerous to believe that it is your responsibility to “change” them. Most abusers don’t change because they are irrational or to put it in other way, they have their own “logic” which is mostly illogical/irrational. If you are a victim of abuse, the best thing you can do is distance yourself from the abuser. It is not your job to change the abuser. You can of course try to get them into therapy and make some efforts but remember that abusers don’t understand logic/have a twisted sense of logic.

Human Library Mumbai

Prejudices are everywhere…they are within and around us. What will you think about a man who was born in a Kotha? How will treat a lesbian who had a crush on her class teacher? How will you perceive a 23-year-old woman who tried to kill herself multiple times and failed? Yesterday,I listened to these amazing stories at The Human Library’s event at Barrel and Co. The concept is that of a library where humans are books who tell their life stories to people who want to hear them. These are ordinary people…we don’t know their names. But like each one of us, they have a story of fighting against the odds stacked against them. I walked out blessing the person who thought of this amazing concept, the wonderful organising team and the people who have the courage to share their stories with strangers. Thank you for challenging our prejudices. Thank you for embracing the weird and the unconventional. Thank you for the openness.