Revisiting Saathiya

The phase from 2000-2005 was arguably one of the best phases Bollywood has seen; it’s just not given enough credit. The industry churned out some pretty amazing films before the mindless south-indian remakes and Rohit Shetty took over. Films like Hera Pheri, Mission Kashmir, Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, Kal Ho Na Ho, Munna Bhai MBBS, Swades, Yuva, Hum Tum – and many many more amazing films were made during these years. I think the above films pretty much sum up my favorite films of all time (minus the terrific 90s of course)

I will probably re-watch them all and dedicate one blog post to each film. This one is about Saathiya – one of a very, very, very few bollywood romantic films that I have loved. Bollywood has always been about formulaic stories when it comes to the romance genre with little variations and tweaks here and there. Up until now, which I consider to be bollywood’s transitional phase, we have hardly been served any truly moving romantic film. Saathiya, however, is a major exception to that norm and stands out in the past decade and a half as a game changer in it’s genre. Perhaps not to the same degree as DDLJ, but a strong voice nonetheless. Mani Ratnam, who is undoubtedly a genius when it comes to the romance genre, is not surprisingly the architect of the screenplay (the original Alaiyapayuthe was directed by him as well) and owing to his solid writing and the presence of a strong reference point, Shaad Ali pulled off a brilliant product.

Films that explore the dynamic of marriage fascinate me. It’s not an easy feat. I assume that’s the reason why bollywood has always chosen to drop the curtains when the hero and heroine are galloping away into the sunset. No one wants to talk about what happens after the grand finale; when the cheers die down and the celebration ends – that’s when the actual journey begins. Saathiya does exactly that. The romance is cute. The chase is fun. The chemistry is great. The passion is scorching. All of that adds up to rosy dreams about a gorgeous future filled with nothing but happiness and togetherness…but when those dreams start to become reality, the couple realize that it isn’t as rosy after all.

The beginning of every romance is exciting, it gives you a high like no other and makes you feel like you could conquer any problem. But the excitement can only get you so far. Real life isn’t exciting all the time. You can’t be romantic and passionate when there are bills to be paid and food to be cooked. Marriage is in the mundane things of life. It’s loving someone even when you don’t like them. It’s about seeing the same face for years and years and still finding some magic. It’s about fighting over issues like laundry and wall color and grocery lists. It’s about supporting each other through thick and thin because not supporting is simply not an option…and it’s not always a pleasant journey. It’s not always as appealing as popular culture would have you believe.

Saathiya is about a young couple who fall madly in love with each other and elope away after their families don’t accept their marriage. They make a vow to never turn back as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives. Afterall, what could be worse than being kicked out of your respective homes? The worst is already over, right? Apparently not. After the first few blissful months of matrimony, when the chase is over and there are other problems waiting to be addressed, cracks begin to appear in their relationship. The guy isn’t the romantic goofball the girl had fallen for. The girl isn’t just a challenge anymore. They aren’t always there for each other.

One of the important scenes in the film that highlights how much of a thin ice their marriage is on is when Suhani has had a bad day at work and hugs Aditya in the balcony of their house, not caring about all the eyes. But apparently Aditya does, and squirms as she clutches onto him. She realizes how emotionally distant they are from each other and that he cannot even understand her state of mind, leave alone being supportive. That is also the moment Aditya realizes – shit, I didn’t know I would have to be emotionally available as well. 

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Everything starts to spiral into a downward abyss after that. They can’t seem to put their marriage above their personal interests. A love that had survived the resistance of society begins to crumble under it’s own pressure. They reach the breaking point when Suhani’s father dies unexpectedly and their marriage is not able to take the strain of that setback. Suhani blames herself for his demise and Aditya feels resentful about his perennially sad wife who can’t seem to put her mind anywhere else. These are the times when a solid partnership, mutual understanding and maturity are the need of the day. One person needs to take a step back and allow the other person to take as much space as he/she wants, because he/she is the one going through a hard phase. Unfortunately, Aditya doesn’t put Suhani’s needs above his own and they reach a point where they can no longer stand each other.

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The film captures the failing marriage brilliantly. Their immaturity was one of the major reasons why their relationship was always on uneven grounds and that fact is highlighted many times. They were too young to be able to have a successful marriage. Like I said, love and passion can only get you so far. After that, it’s being selfless and truly wanting someone else’s happiness more than your own that matters.

Despite their immaturity though, they still try to hang onto small threads. Aditya’s attempt to reconcile Suhani’s sister and ex-fiance is endearing; more so because he knows it would mean something to Suhani. It is this event that both becomes a boon and a curse for them. It makes Suhani realize that Aditya isn’t a completely unsupportive husband afterall; but it also leads to her getting into a fatal accident, that puts her at the verge of losing her life.

The film is beautifully interspersed between the present and the past and slowly merges into one. The one thing we know about the present is that Aditya is looking around madly for Suhani. What we get to know from the flashbacks is that he is looking around madly for her despite all the problems in their marriage. Her absence makes him realize her worth and importance in his life; and how much he took her for granted. It is only when he is at the point of completely losing her that he tries to hold onto their relationship with his life. As he says at Suhani’s bedside – “Sach toh yeh hai ki, aaj samjha hoon main humara rishta. Ab tak to bas khud hi ko dhoond raha tha” – being with Suhani was also one of his attempts to find himself. It wasn’t selfless love until she was about to be snatched away. It always takes a life changing event to make us realize the most obvious things.

Another wonderful arc is the highlighted relationship between Yashwant Rao and his wife, Savitri (brilliant cameo appearances by SRK and Tabu). The way Yashwant supports his traumatized wife and acts as a strong anchor even in the most tense of times is heavily contrasted against Aditya’s casual approach to his own marriage, thereby also establishing the difference between the commitment of a man and the passion of a boy. He is there for his wife to fall back on when she is crumbling down in a way that Aditya never was.

In the end, a dialogue from Alaiyapayuthe sums up marriage perfectly – “A young tree might look beautiful with it’s lush green leaves and blooming flowers; but can’t sustain a storm because it’s roots aren’t thickly embedded into the ground..an old tree might look ugly and rusted, but it can sustain hurricanes because it’s roots are so firmly sewn within the earth. That’s what a strong marriage is”

Crash & Burn

“I swear to god; I will kill myself!” she cried whilst holding a sharp knife to her wrist.

“Mom, please! Don’t behave like this! Sambhalo apne aap ko!” screamed Vikas frantically. He couldn’t believe how quickly things had spiralled out of his control. At the outset, he had been so sure that he would be able to handle this well. He had been so sure that he would be able to get through to his mother. Little did he know that he hardly knew his own mother and how inaccessible she had become, surrounded thickly by her own grief and sorrow.

“Don’t you dare tell me what to do! You have betrayed me all along! I trusted you so much, I thought you would listen to me!”

Hair unkempt, dupatta having slipped down onto the floor, tears streaming endlessly down her face, the frail and tiny woman shivered as she screamed each word. It did not seem as though her son had confessed that there was a girl he was in love with and wanted to marry, it seemed as though he had proposed to disown her. To her, perhaps, there was simply no difference between the two.

“Mom, please calm down! You’re really scaring me! At least try to understand what I’m saying. I’m your son!” Vikas screamed the last three words in a desperate attempt to make his mother understand.

She let the knife linger at her wrist a for a few more seconds before her knees gave in and she fell down on the floor, the knife slipping away from her hand with a loud clunk. She immediately started sobbing like a baby and held her head between her palms. Vikas slowly walked towards her and sat down next to her. He grasped her hand and said, “I’m sorry mom, I know I have hurt you. I know a lot of things have come as a shock to you. I lied and that is hurting you the most. But you must understand why I did it. I did it because I knew this is how you would take it. I cannot see you like this”

“T-t-hen wh-why dd-id you-u d-do it a-at all?” she asked in between sobs.

Vikas sighed, “I’m in love, mom. I don’t think that’s a crime. I do have the right to choose my life partner, don’t I?”

Although tears continued to stream down her face, she took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself down and said, “You’re doing your masters right now. Don’t you realize how much pain your parents have taken to be able to provide you with such excellent education? How much money we have invested in it, so that you can make a good life? How can you even think of marriage right now? All these things are a distraction!”

“Whose talking about marriage mom? All her family is suggesting is an engagement so that the commitment is final from both sides. We can get married whenever we want. I will focus on my career and so will she. This will validate the relationship, that’s all. Besides, I’m not a baby. I’m 25 years old. You do realize that we both have already committed to each other, don’t you?”

At this point, her temper rose and she said in a raised voice, “So is that my fault? Did you ask me before committing? Why should I bear the punishment and pain of something that I didn’t decide?!”

“That is not the point!” said Vikas in a slightly irritated voice, “I just told you that I have the right to choose my life partner. We fell in love. We didn’t decide to, it just happened. That does not mean that it will ruin my career or I will not be able to make a good life. We lived together when we were in US, mom. I think that speaks a lot for itself”

“You should be ashamed of yourself. How could you do that? How could you take such a step without thinking twice?” she asked as she suddenly got up, “Is that what I have taught you? Didn’t you think about the family’s respect? About us?”

“I know that it sounds wrong to you, but what I’m trying to say is that we were able to take that step because we are so sure about our future. There is no doubt in our minds that we will marry each other one day. It was not a casual deal; it was a mark of our commitment. Please try to understand that”

Once again, she shook her head and said in any icy tone, “No, I don’t want to know. This engagement is not possible. We didn’t send you abroad to do all this. How can you get engaged to someone without even getting a job? Without standing on your own legs? I cannot allow you to make a commitment like that without having a financial backbone!”

“What does my financial backbone have to do with this? I’m not being asked to financially support her or spend money on her in anyway. Honestly, she wouldn’t ask for that even when we’re married! The commitment is already there and has been there for the past one year! That’s what I’m trying to tell you! Her family got to know that we lived together in US, they know that both of us have to go back again, so if we went as an engaged couple it will simply make them feel reassured. Come to think of it, it should be reassuring to you as well! Would you want me to lie to you again?”

Vikas was feeling drained. Their conversation was simply going in circles. She was looking at what had happened in the past and what he proposed should happen in future as two disconnected events that were both crimes in her head. She simply wasn’t trying to understand that the natural progression of any relationship is to take a step forward, especially when the two involved are on the same page. He had hoped that she would at least understand, if not respect, his decision. But he had not even been able to get past the ‘acceptance’ stage.

Living together under one roof is an accepted norm overseas. In India, however, it’s a blasphemous idea, enough to make the immediate society shudder. So naturally when their parents found out, all hell broke loose. Her parents, however, came to the conclusion that if they had to be living together then might as well make the commitment official. “Let us feel safe and not unsure all the time”, was their argument.

Vikas had been apprehensive when that happened. He knew his mom would not take it well, but he also knew that he wanted to spend his life with that woman because she made him happy. She made him feel content. He had given her his word and he would keep it. It was the thought of her that gave him strength in difficult situations.

“My decision is final Vikas. If you want to be with that girl, you leave my house. I will never see your face again. You can do whatever you wish to with your life. I am already dead inside, so what’s the difference? How does it matter to you, whether I live or die?”

Tears started streaming down her face again as she continued to mumble to herself. Vikas realized that there was no point in trying to talk to her right now, he would have to try again later when she was saner and more mature. He took a deep breath and said, “We’ll talk about this later mom. Why don’t you have dinner and sleep?”

“I don’t want to eat anything. I won’t eat until you give up on this crazy idea!”

And with that, she got up and went inside her room, banging the door behind her.

Vikas sat there staring after his mom, trying to blink away some of the tears that were threatening to roll down his face. He was caught in a situation where he had no idea what to do. He wished his mother would stop reacting in such a childish way and using threats to manipulate him. He felt stuck and helpless. If he were honest to himself, deep down in his heart he knew what the permanent solution was. But he also knew that it would take a lot of courage to put it on the table. At that moment, his phone rang. He wiped a lone tear off his cheek and picked it up, “Hi Dad”

“Hi beta, is everything okay?”

Vikas let out a sigh, “No Dad. Nothing is okay. When are you back?”

“In about 10 minutes”

“Okay dad. I need to talk to you about something”

Vikas kept the phone down and tried to arrange his scattered thoughts. If he could convince his father, then he would be one step closer. It would be tough, but doing the right thing was never easy.

15 minutes later, when his father had arrived and had had his customary cup of coffee, Vikas sat across from him at the dining table and said, “Papa, we need to discuss Mom’s state of mind”

His father let out a defeated sigh and said, “Beta you know how she is. I have tried to channel her thoughts in the positive direction time and again, but she simply doesn’t want to. She is mentally very weak”

“Papa you can’t find a solution unless you identify the problem. The way she is right now is not something that has happened overnight. It’s the accumulated effect of all the years she has spent feeling wronged and cheated by everyone around her. She has started looking at herself like a victim in every situation Papa. Can’t you see what is happening here? It’s gotten to a point where she has started to threaten suicide!”

Vikas was trembling as he spoke. They had become so used to his mother whining and complaining all the time that they had accepted it as a part of who she was. “That’s just how she is”, was their usual refrain. They either tried to avoid triggering her or architected their behaviour to suit her wishes. They never really tried to tackle the root of the problem. This situation, however, was one too many for him to handle. It was neither avoidable nor designable. They would have to look at it for what it was and take a small step towards finding a permanent solution instead of band-aid ones.

“I know why you are suddenly saying all this. It’s because you don’t want to lose that girl”

Vikas shook his head lightly and said, “That’s a part of the reason, Papa. But mom’s behaviour has been raising red flags for a while and you know it. Do you think she has a problem with the engagement? No! she thinks that she will lose me in some way if that happens. She’s insecure and that’s why she’s lashing out. This is her fear talking, not her. She is trying to keep me clutched to her chest in whatever way possible. She will behave like a child, threaten suicide, will stop eating – anything to avoid facing that fear. And I can assure you that her passive-aggressive side will come out tomorrow in the form of depression and silent treatment”

His father processed what he said for a while and said, “So what are you suggesting?”

Vikas continued, “Look this situation seems to be the problem now, but it’s not. Today it’s the woman I love and tomorrow it will be my career choice, later my decision to buy a house or how to raise my kid. No matter what it is, she will react in the same manner. Except that it’s getting increasingly worse. She has no faith in either of us. She thinks if I don’t walk the path the way she wants me to, I won’t be successful in life. If you don’t comply with her wishes, her old age is doomed. She needs professional help. She needs someone who can make her face the fact that the real problem is inside her and so is the solution. She needs to stop expecting other people to fill the voids in her life”

“Are you suggesting that we put her in a mental hospital?” asked his father curtly.

“No, papa. And I’m not suggesting that she’s ‘mental’ either. All I’m saying is that her behaviour is alarming and scary, and we should get her some professional help. We can start with counselling sessions in either group or personal. Trust me, finding identification is a huge step in the healing process. Later, if it works, we can try suggesting something she can get involved in and commit her time and space to”

“You know she will never agree”

“I know, which is why we need to give her a dose of her own medicine and show her the mirror. We will suggest this idea to her and get it done the way she would get it done if it was her idea. Refuse to eat. Refuse to talk. Refuse to go to work. Keep complaining about everything. Tell her how dead you feel inside, how people in your life have used you. Be passive-aggressive. I will do the same. At some point, maybe a day, a week or a month later, she will realize what we are trying to put across. She will realize why we are suggesting this. She will accept it herself, Papa” said Vikas earnestly.

His father drummed his fingers lightly on the table and said, “Are you sure this will work?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that we need to do something drastic to get her to see what she is doing to herself and this family”

His father let out a sigh and said, “Okay then. Let’s do this. I am with you”

Vikas smiled and said, “Thanks Papa. We need to do this as a team”

His father smiled and nodded, “Yes we do. And what about this situation? Will you go ahead with the engagement?”

“Yes I will. If we want to find a permanent solution, we need to stop enabling her by giving in to her blackmail. There are healthy boundaries in every relationship, and its high time I defined them. If we do this together, I’m sure we can get through to her”

“Okay, beta. I trust you” his father said with a smile before patting his shoulder twice. Vikas smiled back and let out a sigh of relief. That’s one level down, he thought to himself. He picked up his phone and messaged her:

Baby, we will get engaged. I am happy this happened, because I could finally find the courage to do something I should have done long ago. I love you : )

 

 

 

She got up with a jerk and wildly looked around. She was in her bed, in her room, in her house. She quickly checked her phone for any messages. It reflected nothing but the time: 9:30. She opened her whatsapp contact list and scrolled down to V. She was still blocked by Vikas. It had been 7 days since they split because his mother threatened suicide and he couldn’t take a stand against her. She spent each day dreaming the same dream and waking up expecting the message she so badly wanted to read. But reality offered her nothing but the same disappointment every day.

She sank her head back into her pillow and let a tear roll down the side of her face. They were happy and content. If only he had done the right thing instead of the easy one. If only he had tried to fight the problem instead of giving into manipulation. If only he didn’t let her go so easily. If only.

All she had now, were her dreams that crashed and burned every single morning, taking a piece of her with them in the flames.

Reasons why Indian men are pigs

..And the best players in the world. Really. If you can work your way through their web of emotional manipulation, you can pretty much earn a degree in corporate and war espionage. I don’t understand why scientists and researchers across the world are still in doubt whether Dissociative Identity Disorder is real or not; Indian men have thousands of personalities, each extremely distinct. The worst part probably is they use each identity to their advantage. A lot like Edward Norton’s character from Primal Fear.

Anyway, here is my list of the top 10 reasons why Indian men are pigs.

10) They use the victim card to hook you in emotionally – Oh yes, they’re artists when it comes to using the victim card. As human beings, it is our natural tendency to feel sympathy towards someone who we feel has been wronged in some way. So they come up with ingenious stories about how their previous girlfriend was horrible to them, how their parents don’t understand them and how lonely they are, etc etc. Now an interesting fact about women is that we’re nurturers by birth. We have a biological instinct to ‘care’ for someone. It is that instinct that gets activated when a man seeks sympathy. We feel sorry for him and think that in some way, we will be able to lessen their pain.

Pokeballs, that’s a sure shot winner move! It works every single time.

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9) …But they hate it when women mollycoddle too much: Hypocrisy at it’s best. Once the lady is reeled in, they hate it when she mollycoddles too much or feels entitled to his personal space. Well, the entire basis for your relationship with her is your emotional needs. Now she’s there for you, and you don’t want her anymore?

And they say women are crazy while PMSing.

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8) …And they don’t like it if you get too friendly with other men: If you start getting closer to your other male friends, they turn into the male counterparts of Komolika (ref: Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki) and consider it their birthright to violate your personal space like your phone, social media profiles etc. They don’t rest until you either stop talking to other men or pass a custom made agni-pareeksha. They also use tactics like manipulation to make you feel guilty. “You have no time for me anymore!”

Eh, I thought you were sick of me constantly fretting over you? Cunphuson, son! 

7) …They want a ‘modern’ girlfriend, but a domestic wife: Something that probably angers me more than Twilight and 50 shades of Grey put together. It’s hypocrisy in it’s purest form. Indian men love hanging out with so called ‘modern’ women who can smoke, drink, wear sexy clothes and have pre marital sex without any moral redflags. They go around claiming to be extremely open minded. But when it comes to getting married and settling down, they want a virgin, who is as pure as Ganga Maa, and will be adored by his mother. So the ‘modern’ woman is the test drive that never culminates in a concrete deal, while the wife is the family car who doesn’t even need to be tested.

Applause! Drinks all around!

6) They think every woman is available: Any woman who does not bear any suhaag ki nishani is open and available. They think it’s okay to hit on a woman in almost any situation. They would hit on their colleague, their boss, their friend, their teacher, their sister’s friend, their therapist – no one is out of bounds. Anyone who catches their eye in the unmarried category is fair game. Even if the conversation begins in a different space, it ends up with the man hitting on the woman in one way or the other. They have the talent to steer the conversation from aliens and crop circles to how beautiful the lady’s smile is within minutes (hours, at worst)

Tulent, man!

5) They don’t have the balls to admit that they’re not serious: They will keep you on tenterhooks until the very end, but will never admit that all they want is sex and a good time. They’ll keep you hooked with false promises and distant dreams, and then drop you like a sack of hot potatoes when they’re done.

Yeh hai #mardaangi!

4) They don’t have the balls to break up with dignity: They would prefer sending you a text saying, “hey jaan i thnk itz nt wrkng out btwn us nymore..we shud move on” or updating their facebook relationship status to ‘single’ rather than saying it on your face. Neat job, fella, really chic.

Yeh hai #mardaangi vol. 2!

3) They hate it when their partners earn more than they do: The ever expanding male ego doesn’t let them live with the fact that their partner earns more than they do. This pain is worse than the pain when kicked in the balls. It makes them less of a man, somehow. It makes them smaller in comparison to the woman. And how can they let that happen?

Kya kar raha hai yaar? Mard ban, be a man!”

2) They hate it when their partner disagrees with them publicly: They take everything personally, even a disagreement about Akbar’s hundred wives. They probably wouldn’t care if it were within the four walls of their house, but hell, if she disagrees openly and manages to make fair arguments, his brain catches fire like LPG gas. The pain is real, pokeballs!

“Khud ko kya samajhti hai? Itna akadti hai”

 

1) They make fun of their wives among friends: They think their wife is their personal property or trophy, something they can flash around unabashedly among their friends and pass comments openly. To be fair, it may not always be with an intention to cause hurt, but it still is an infringement of her personal space. She isn’t a page 3 celebrity to be discussed openly. It’s insulting and demeaning, whether intentional or not intentional.

Gifs from: https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/pokemon-gifs

Eating disorders as a response to Rape/Abuse

We all have our set of defense mechanisms that we use to cope with our problems. Some of these defense mechanisms are built consciously, piece by piece. Others are put up by the sub conscience. In the face of a traumatic event, for instance a metro/train accident, a person consciously might make extreme behavioral changes to avoid the triggers that set off memories of the accident. He/she might avoid taking the train altogether and opt for a longer, more tedious route instead, might avoid people who were directly or indirectly associated with the incident, might not even travel for a very long time. These are also known as ‘coping strategies’.

Sub conscience defense mechanisms come into play without the individual realizing it. In the above mentioned scenario, one of the first mechanisms to get activated would be denial. Denial enables to the person to reject the entire incident. One is able to convince himself that it couldn’t have happened to him. The aftermath and the avalanche of emotional upheaval  becomes much easier to deal with. Denial is a fairly common defense mechanism that helps people to deal with small issues like failing in class to big ones like alcoholism/drug abuse. Escapism may/can be considered a consequence of denial. Other mechanisms that might get activated at a later stage are repression, dissociation, compartmentalization etc.

But recently, I came across someone who developed an eating disorder as a response to the abuse she had experienced as a child. She developed anorexia in response to the hatred that she felt towards her own body as a consequence of rape/abuse. It left me wondering how the emotions one goes through during abuse, manifest themselves in so many different ways at a later stage. She seemed to be focusing all her energies on getting rid of anorexia, because it was interfering with her day to day life, but I realized that the root was the abuse. If she could resolve the repressed feelings related to her abuse, she could resolve her anorexia.

While this is a really disturbing example of how rape and physical abuse can wreck an individual’s life, it’s also fascinating to know the different ways in which our mind protects us from psychological damage. Because she could not channelize her anger towards her abuser, she redirected it towards herself, blaming herself for letting something heinous happen to her. In case of rape and abuse, it’s not just the body of the victim that is abused, far greater damage is inflicted upon the mind. An individual’s self-esteem,  dignity and most importantly the sense of ownership is ripped apart brutally. Every inch of your personal space, that no one but you has a claim upon, is accessed and abused. An incident like this, is bound to leave the victim feeling less than human. In the example mentioned, the victim must have felt like she was stuck in a foreign body. After having that personal claim snatched away from her, she could not love it the way she loved it before.

I always thought of anorexia as a developmental response to body image and social pressure. After having watched endless movies portraying dancers and gymnasts adopting anorexia as a ‘lifestyle’, I had pretty much come to the conclusion that only a niche category of people could develop anorexia. It’s true that people who are required to be thin are probably more prone to it, but it’s not exclusive to them. Believe it or not, overweight people can be anorexic or bulimic too. The struggle is very real.

For more information: http://www.aftersilence.org/eating-disorders.php

Faith, an endangered emotion

Whenever I watch movies like Million Dollar Baby, Chak De India, The Soloist or read Harry Potter, what moves me most is the faith that the mentors show in their respective protegees. Frankie Dunn, who saw potential in the raw but passionate boxer, Maggie and stuck by her until the very end. Kabir Khan, who believed in a team of underdogs who, on the outset, looked like they were getting nowhere. Steve Lopez, who even took a solid punch from the schizophrenic musical genius Nathaniel Ayers because he had faith that he was something special. Albus Dumbledore, who put his entire faith in an awkward and bad-tempered young teen, Harry Potter, to finish off the darkest wizard of all times. These are mentors who put everything at risk just to see their pupil/protegee/friend succeed.

And then I look at reality and realize that this only happens in fiction. It is very difficult to find someone who will have unequivocal and undemanding faith in you, and will believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. In fact it’s just very rare to see a person having faith in someone else at all. As our society and the world around us becomes more and more jungle like, with the ‘survival of the fittest’ motto creeping even into families, self-preservation is becoming our no.1 priority. We put ourselves above everything and everyone, and trust no one. Practically, this works. It keeps you from being pushed around. But that being said, relationships and family have lost their meaning, because a relationship cannot sustain itself without trust and neither can a family. All I see now are fake relationships where everything exists for namesake, without any true emotion. 

I’m a dancer, on my way to become a professional one. Despite my passion and talent, I have my baggage and it comes along with me with each step I take. I can’t get rid of it, I just have to figure out how to reach my goal despite it being a part of me. But there are times when I can’t always shove it aside and it comes to the forefront, and those are the times when I long for someone to show faith in me. I long for my mentor to not, for once, think about the future of the company or the outcome of a show or what the other members are saying – and just tell me that I rock and I will make it. Because honestly, I have enough stuff bringing me down already. 

But that has never happened. I have never felt supported. I’m always left feeling guilty and clutching at straws to not lose my spot. I struggle harder, apologize more, make promises I know I won’t keep and plough on, thinking that I’ll work it out eventually. After all this time though, I’ve realized how deep I’ve sunk in my pool of guilt and it has become my staple response to everything. I now believe my talent isn’t worth anything, and have considered giving up more times than I can remember. 

Anyway, this is not a rant. Even if it’s something personal, it’s not exclusive to me. I’ve come across too many people who gave up on something because no one showed any faith, or lost all self-esteem because no one would believe in them, or constantly double-questioned themselves because no one took their word for things. If I trust a friend, I trust her/him with my life, or I don’t trust at all. Anything in between is convenient and a survival tactic. So I choose to have one true friend instead of fifty half-true ones. I have faith that my worst won’t deter our relationship, have faith that my friend will trust me when no one will and that she will tell me that I have it in me even when I’m a loser hiding in my bathroom. And that, folks, is enough. 

Loneliness, an unidentified addiction

It is my personal belief that every individual needs some form of an addiction to survive. It can obviously be one of the more common ones like alcohol, drugs and sex, or it can also be subtle and undetectable, something that doesn’t set off the red alert at first viewing. At the end of the day, every one of us needs something or someone that we can indulge in, that makes us forget reality and provides us with a false cushion of security. Hell, bollywood does that for some people.

But what part of being alone could possibly provide a sense of security? Isn’t being alone one of the primal states of being vulnerable? Yes, if you’re a big fan of the Scream film series or have watched The Blair Witch Project far too many times. But in reality (which is far worse) being alone can actually be comforting for some people, can actually make them feel safer than being in a room full of familiar people. Falling in love with being alone is a very slow process, and one that often does not start with the individual’s own choice. It is like AR Rahman’s music, it grows on you slowly and gets under your skin. Most psychological patterns can always be traced back to childhood – it’s the dark place where everything originates and sticks until you step foot in the grave. Classic example is of children who are born and bred in nuclear families where both parents are professionally driven people, or of children belonging to broken families where the spotlight is more on strained ties than on the children themselves.

Children require a lot of attention. Up until their mid to late teens, they need someone to hold their hand and walk them through the murky lanes of life. They need to know that someone will be there to congratulate them when they come first in class or scold them when they bully someone. Teens need to know that their parents will be there to pat them on their backs when they score well on boards and spank their backsides when they have unprotected sex. In short, kids need to know that someone has their back and cares about their well being. But in cases where parents are MIA (missing in action) – things in the kids’ brains go haywire.

When there is lack of adequate attention, it can lead to two types of behaviors – a) Reckless behavior where the kid might indulge in risky behavior patterns (Drinking, driving, stealing, sex, tattoos, failing in class etc ensue) or (b) trying too hard to be the “perfect” kid – where the kids might ignore all their needs and wants and put the parent’s needs and wants above their own. They might start detesting themselves for having flaws and try to fit into their parents’ version of themselves. All these behavior patterns arise out of a need for attention. They want their parents to turn towards them and notice them for either their imperfections or their perfections. They either want to be spanked or want to be put up on a pedestal. Either way, they want their parents to chuck whatever it is that is occupying their attention and maneuver it towards themselves.

In cases where this sometimes works, parents start viewing these behavior patterns at the kid’s entire personality and subsequently their attention is altered according to that. In case of the reckless kid, they may spend years worrying about how to correct it and don’t focus on any other trait (In Indian families the solution is to get them married, which only makes the soup messier. How messed up are Indian families?) and in case of the perfect kid, the parents become even more MIA because they believe the kid is good enough to take care of himself/herself.

But in cases where this does not work – and parental attention still eludes the kid, in my opinion they simply resort to finding happiness in loneliness. Once they grow out of the hormone driven teenage, at one point they simply sink into the darkness and voluntarily detach from everyone. People who come across as anti-social or develop social anxiety disorder, do so over a period of many years (unless it is a chronic case of PTSD) of neglect. The idea of being with people, socializing with them and making new relationships scares them. It’s too much of an effort. They cannot be around people for too long, it suffocates them and very soon they’re seeking their own company. That person loves being absolutely alone at home – not because they get to drink beer and play video games, but because they will finally be in a state that makes them happiest, a state in which they don’t have to pretend to be either perfect or “bad” – they can just be themselves.

One day, they come back home and declare that they failed in the final year of their masters – and suddenly the family is worried about their future. Well, the attention now is pointless and unnecessary, because they no longer crave it. Even then, they just want to be alone where they can be away from their worst enemy – attention.

Hog’s head: Siphoning off thoughts to make my head a bit emptier – I

I observe a lot, which ensures that my brain is always overpopulated with thoughts. Most of these thoughts are disconnected and transient – they evaporate or flicker away pretty soon. But nevertheless, they exist, even if it is for a fraction of a second. So I decided to make an attempt at constructing a train of cohesive thoughts – organization out of chaos, basically. Over the past few days, owning to the experiences in my life, I have made a few observations about people who can be functional only when they believe that the world is lined up against them, or when they play the victims.

Lets address the first aspect first – people who believe that everyone is against them in a discriminatory and prejudicial way. To them, every situation is unfair, every individual biased. Believing that people hate them or are against them helps them make the difficult situations a little bit easier. For example, a person experiencing this syndrome (Also known as ‘persecutory delusion’) will categorically believe that the only reason he/she was asked to stay back late for work is because the boss harbors a personal grudge against him/her, or if someone else was chosen over them for a job then it was probably because the management is jealous or afraid of their capability or intelligence. Like I said, these delusional beliefs assuage the feelings of hurt or humiliation that arise out of these situations.

The second aspect – the “victim syndrome” is a complex bit of thought process which leads the person to always consider him/herself as the victim in every situation. They like to believe that they were wronged unjustly in situations that they had no control over. Classic example of people suffering from victim syndrome are domestic abuse survivors. While I have a lot of respect for them to have come out of abusive arrangements, I have to say that they are the prime example of a group of people breeding and perpetuating the victim syndrome. Because they were subjected to abuse for such a long time, and because they for a long time they could not do anything about it – they attribute all the problems in their life to this one particular experience. Lack of independence, excessive crying, not shouldering responsibility of their kids or loved ones, emotionally isolating their kids, emotionally and sometimes physically abusing their kids etc are all symptoms of this syndrome. As someone from the Indian subcontinent, I have come across such women far too many times in life.

People who play the victim love getting sympathy from people. They love it when people mollycoddle them and join them in justifying their actions (as a direct result of the injustice suffered by them) They find it hard to digest that there may have been another solution to the same problem that could have yielded better results. They usually consider themselves to be “helpless” and “without any choice” . Another important characteristic of a chronic victim is the tendency to play the ‘blame game’. Whenever something goes wrong, the victim needs someone to be their scapegoat. When they don’t find someone to blame, they turn into victimizers and victimize other people by unloading or venting on them, They channel all their frustration and anger on someone else whose connection to the problem at hand was probably remote. This is because the idea that they could have done something wrong is just too much for them to assess. Blaming or unloading helps them feel better and less guilty about their mistake.

Another trait that I have observed, while it is not widely published, is that people suffering from victim syndrome usually have anger issues and have trouble letting go of things. Their anger is like a silent volcano that erupts when the inner self can no longer contain it. When something wrong happens with the victim, instead of processing it objectively in their minds and rationally attributing guilt, they keep the incident raw and unprocessed in their mind, automatically blaming someone else or their past experiences. They convince themselves to not think about it. But when such problems keeps occurring over and over again, their resentment gets too much too handle and they burst out in violent ways.

They also have trouble forgiving others and letting grudges go. If you come across someone suffering from victim syndrome and ask him/her to recite some of their worst experiences, they will probably be able to give you a long lecture with rich detail.

Finally, if you know someone who struggles with persecutory delusions or victim syndrome – I know that living with them can be extremely difficult and frustrating, but know that they’re your loved ones and need help. Self victimization is learned process and can be unlearned through a systematic process. But it needs patience and time.

But if you still can’t deal with it, just leave them to their ranting and whining and go watch something awesome like The Amazing Spiderman, or any of the Marvel movies really.