When we live too much in our heads, we start thinking in extremes because by nature, mind likes to think in black/white, extremes. In our heads, we communicate with ourselves with words, which don’t really capture the nuances and experiences. Maybe that’s why some artists/thinkers/loners/intellectuals find it difficult to form relationships because when it comes to most people/situations, everything falls into grey areas. When we become mindful of our body, we start a new relationship with reality. Unlike mind, body is rooted in reality. However, we are conditioned to think that being mindful of our body is a waste of time: For example: I feel that rather than “wasting time” in being mindful of my body, I can spend that time in thinking of new insights with my mind. But without mindfulness of body, we will be always having an incomplete grasp of the reality.
Because I was bullied in the past, I am often drawn to those who are different and are alienated by the society. One of such people is Alok Vaid-Menon, who is a gender non-conforming performance artist. While so many of us succumb to peer pressure, Alok makes themselves (yes, Alok wants us to use them/they) seen in the public. Everyday, they struggle in a world of gender stereotypes and bullies. There are times when Alok puts up pictures with unshaven legs/hands and there are people who leave extremely hateful comments. Some people click pictures of them without asking for permission and mock them for their dressing sense. Some people get up and leave when Alok sits on a seat besides them. I was afraid of liking Alok’s posts because my activity would show up on my friends’ feeds and they might mock me. But today, I want to say this: Alok is one of my heroes!
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.”
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.
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.
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!