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.

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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.

My struggle with body hair acceptance

I looked at my forearms in the mirror to see if my body hair was visible. I used to shave but because of my sensitive skin and PCOD, hair removal became extremely painful and stressful. Since the day I heard about waxing and other methods of hair removal, I felt there was something wrong with the compulsion (not the hair removal itself) and shaming of women’s body hair. I never understood why men were not shamed for body hair. My intuition always posed these questions but the peer pressure was just too much. I mean, I didn’t want to be mocked and alienated but at the same time, I wanted to listen to my intuition. The inner conflict made my life hell. There were times when I cried.

It was then that I discovered Feminism. I read about Harnaam Kaur and other body hair activists. And since then I haven’t tried to remove my body hair. This is extremely risky…in both professional and personal life but when you have so many awesome women for inspiration, there’s no looking back.

Shaving or waxing is not wrong. If you want to do it, please do. But think before shaming women who don’t shave/wax. Ask yourself why you don’t apply the same rule to men. Why is that male colleague with hairy legs normal (in a creative ad agency) but a female colleague with unwaxed hands, filthy and disgusting? At the end of the day, it’s about choice: some women wax, some women don’t. Both deserve to live without being shamed. And if you wax because of peer pressure…you deserve to live without being shamed too.

Some things that some feminists do that completely baffle me

1. Use ‘dick’ as an insult. If you get angry when ‘pussy’ is used an insult then you should also stop using ‘dick’ as an insult.
2. ‎Mocking men who are “girly.” It’s 2018 and some women are still stuck with gender stereotypes. (Yes there are feminists who do this!)
3. ‎Say that trans-women are not women
4. ‎Expect feminists to live up to the feminist ideals ALL the time, which is not possible.
5. ‎Laugh at jokes involving violence against men (example: When Kangana Ranaut “jokingly” said that she should have beaten her ex-boyfriend up)

Disagreement

If you grew up with a parent who acted like a dictator and didn’t let you express your opinions freely, then five things happen:

1. You become a people-pleaser because that is the only way you could escape the wrath of your parent and get love from him/her. Children need their parents’ love for survival and so, you learn to keep your opinions to yourself because it is a question of survival.
2. As an adult, you will start believing that any kind of disagreement with your friend, your partner, your colleagues or your boss is a threat to your relationship when in reality, disagreement is a part and parcel of any relationship. You start panicking during any kind of debate/discussion because you have been conditioned to believe that to be respected and loved, you need to agree with the other person.
3. You live an extremely stressful life because on one hand you want to be authentic as a person but on the other hand, you feel as if your survival is under threat (no, disagreeing someone shouldn’t feel this way). You don’t want to have any conflict outside but oddly enough, you cannot escape the conflict WITHIN you (the conflict between authenticity and people-pleasing)
4. You become vulnerable to manipulation. When manipulators know that disagreement scares you and that you are a people-pleaser, they will try and get the things that they want by employing cunning tricks.
5. Sometimes, you start behaving like your parent! You cannot stand disagreement and bully others who have a different opinion. But the problem here is the same: You didn’t get a chance to express your opinions freely and so, you want to inflict the same pain on others.
If you are someone like this, then here’s something that you ought to know:
1. If someone threatens to break ties with you merely because of a disagreement* or merely because you have a different opinion then most probably, this person is manipulating you.
2. Mature people disagree in a healthy way. They don’t abuse or shame others while disagreeing. Some people start personally attacking you while disagreeing, which is a sign of insecurity.
*There are some conditions though. Sometimes,the opinion is too extreme. For example if someone says that rape is a victim’s fault then maybe, I will break ties with him/her. This can be tricky so use your judgement and intuition.