Skeletons in the closet

We all have our demons that we battle with, every single day. This battle takes away a fair share of energy and mental peace. We live in times where it seems everyone is at unrest. Everyone is struggling with too many things humanely possible to handle. But somehow we do. Every single day.

I have been dealing with anxiety since I was a kid, been taking medication for almost 8 years now. I was also recently diagnosed with Borderline personality disorder – an illness that is debilitating and draining at the same time. Needless to say, I live with a lot of weight on my chest every single day. This weight doesn’t just come from my illness and anxiety though – it comes from certain bad decisions that have stayed with me like ghosts under my pillow. Their shadow follows me around everywhere, never letting me forget the error of my ways.

Certain situations become so messy and complicated that they render your ability to differentiate between right and wrong completely useless. You feel numb, almost like an inanimate item being flung around without truly understanding what’s happening. It’s only once the dust settles that you realize what the storm destroyed in it’s wake. What can you do then? Besides looking around and lamenting at the fact that things went wrong? How do you undo a bad decision?

This is very hard to write about, but I need to start acknowledging what has happened so that I can find ways to overcome it. Also because – hiding and living under a rock does no good when you’re trying to deal with the ramifications of something. It’s best to face your fears, actions (good or bad), feelings and thoughts head on. Fearing them will only make the burden worse.

It’s hard living with this burden. After years of mulling over it and thinking about what to do, I finally decided to do something to undo that bad decision. Will it work? I don’t know. I am not sure. But I will go to bed every night knowing that I tried to retrace my steps and fix it. If there is a silver lining, it it this – I don’t stop fighting for the right thing until the right thing is done. It has been long overdue. If I want to shed some of the weight off my chest, I will have to make sure the right thing is done.

I will keep trying.

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Dear Indian Parents, why so entitled?

Now this is something I feel I need to talk about, especially in the context of our society. I haven’t written in a while and my writing skill has become quite rusty, but I have been feeling extremely confused, hurt and misguided lately and I needed to vent. So, coming to the question I am trying to pose – Dear Indian parents, why are you so entitled? Why do you think that you are entitled to your kid’s love, respect, obedience, compliance and support? Why do you think that your kid, in some way, is obligated to make you happy?

Because you went through pain to have them? Because you invested time, money, emotions and energy into raising them? Because you made sacrifices and compromises? Because you fought with others to keep them happy and safe? Because you put their well-being above your own? So now that they’re a little grown up and have a mind of their own, you expect something in return for everything you did? Wait. Was this arrangement supposed to work in this investment-ROI like fashion? Why wasn’t I told?

Before addressing the core issue here (which is extremely unhealthy and screwed up) I would like to pose another question – Why do people decide to have kids? Is it because you are already in a happy place in life, and feel emotionally, mentally and financially secure and strong enough to be able to share love with another human being without expecting anything in return or is it because you’re extremely unhappy with your life and feel that a kid will make it better? or because you’re lonely? or because you’re too bored in life and want a ‘project’ to work on? or because you can’t stand your spouse and want a reason to stay in the marriage? or because you are concerned about your old-age? or because you want someone else to fulfill your incomplete dreams? or because you want to fill a void in your life?

What is it?

I truly feel that people don’t decide to become ‘parents’ for the right reasons, especially in our country. Even if we exclude the people who are pressurized into having a child, the remaining percentage don’t have very healthy reasons either. That is where the dysfunction begins and keeps spiraling out of control. If you decide to have kids for any reason other than unconditionally sharing love and raising a healthy human being who will be (and should be) independent enough to make his/her own choices, then you my friend, have a problem. You are invariably going to download all your problems, issues and sorrows onto your kid and expect him/her to somehow a) either give you a solution or b) be the solution.

There are so many parents who tell themselves – we will not end up being like our parents. Well, bullshit. You are your parents plus more issues. It is so difficult to dissociate ourselves from our parents’ identity and personality in our culture – it takes a lot of awareness and almost an entire lifetime’s work to achieve that. Why? Because most of us are brought up within enmeshed relationships. Boundaries? What are those? Our parents have a right to know and interfere in everything. Free will? What’s that? I can only go out with friends that my parents like and marry the love of my life as long as my parents approve. Questioning parents’ decisions, opinions and beliefs? Prepare for a crash landing, kids. That’s never going to fly.

We’re never taught to be individuals with our own separate set of beliefs, opinions and principles. We’re always an extension of our parents. Any form of disagreement is seen as disrespect. (Because ‘respect’ is gulping down your opinion and putting your parents’ happiness above your own) Respect is a concept that only works one way, because parents will never respect our choices and decisions. And if those choices fall way beyond their radar of “what’s ok” – then you’re officially a rotten kid and have given them so much pain you should die in a pool of guilt. In short, the term ‘Indian parents’ should officially be synonymous with ‘insecure’. They’re so insecure about themselves that they cannot stand their kid being too different, or else – a question is raised on everything they did based on their belief system so far in their life, and they cannot be in that uncomfortable position of accepting that they might have been wrong at some point. (The horror)

You see, part of being a secure and mature human being is the ability to empathize and accept your mistakes when you make them (everyone does). In my understanding, Indian parents are neither. But the blame isn’t just theirs, it’s a dysfunction that has been passed down generations.

Coming to the core issue – if you think your kids owe you anything in return for your love and care, then you have issues that need to be dealt with before assuming that you deserve to be parents. Love, respect and care are mutual emotions that should be given unconditionally without expecting anything in return. If you are going to guilt trip your kids about your sacrifices and financial investments – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to use the victim card to get what you want – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to expect your kid to support you emotionally – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to shove your beliefs and opinions down his/her throat – Don’t be a parent. If you have a problem accepting your kid as a separate individual who will have different opinions – Don’t be a parent. If you cannot accept the fact that your kid will not always agree with you – Don’t be a parent. When you bring a child into this world, he/she needs you and depends on you for physical, mental and emotional well being and continues to need you until he/she becomes an adult. You do not, and should not, need or depend upon your kid for any of those.

You don’t have the emotional bandwidth or maturity to be a parent. Please deal with your issues first. Also, if you do your parenting right – your kid will shower you with unconditional love and support, without you having to ask for it. A child’s first impression of the world is his/her parents. If you have truly loved your child without emotionally fucking him/her up – he/she will always stand with you and before you. Try it.

A kid’s love is a precious gift. It’s not your right. You chose to have a child and bring another human being into this world. If you’re putting your best foot forward to take care of him/her, it’s not a favor or a debt the kid has to repay later. If you have problems, they’re your responsibility, not your kids’. In US, if you put undue pressure on your kids or raise them in unhealthy households, the social security services will come and take your kid away. They have an accountability system in place. Raise your kid in a healthy environment or lose your right to be parents. Unfortunately in India, just having given birth to a child is enough criteria to qualify to be a parent. You can do whatever the fuck you want with that child. Because maa ke charnon mein swarg hota hai.

If a kid is being abused emotionally and physically in a house, there is absolutely nowhere he/she can go to seek safety and protection. We just have to wing it. And the number of kids being raised in abusive and unhealthy homes in our country is shocking. What is even more shocking is that most of them don’t even know they’re being abused.

I may not be a human child’s parent, but I am a pet parent to a wonderful and amazing dog called Brownie, who I adopted out of my own free will. It is my responsibility to make sure that she receives care, love and a safe environment. I didn’t do it because I wanted a watch dog or because I was lonely. I did it because her being there truly made me happy. Sometimes I have to put up with messy situations, she poops and pees anywhere, she tears everything apart, she whines for no reason and doesn’t listen to a single command, she demands too much attention, interrupts work and hardly shows any affection in return – I get annoyed sometimes. But I have to remind myself that I signed up for this. If I wanted a picture perfect dog who would sit when I asked her to sit, stand when I asked her to stand, mingled only with the dogs I liked and showed affection to me all the time – I would just sit and watch Scooby Doo on TV.

Even after 4 or 5 years, if I give her too much stress or take away her sense of safety, she will either show me aggression (biting) or simply run away, and I wouldn’t be able to do a single thing. She felt threatened and left to preserve herself. Is she obligated to stick with me despite the stress and abuse, just because I took care of her for so long?

NO.

I am just glad that I have a dog who will bite me if I cross her boundaries, as compared to a human child who will continue to suffer in silence thinking it’s okay just because I’m a parent. Nothing scares me more.

 

Choices

The power of choice is not given enough significance in our country. People attribute their predicament to almost any factor except the one that matters most – they chose to be where they are. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but everyone always has a choice. People like to look at themselves as victims in a lot of situations to escape the burden of that fact. Saying “I had no choice” is a defense mechanism we all use to make ourselves survive the night. Coming to terms with the gravity of the fact that no one is to blame for who, where or what we are besides ourselves can be overwhelming.

I have come across different sections of people constantly using the “I had no choice” card in our country – specifically middle aged women who are disappointed with everyone and everything in their lives. They’re miserable and blame people around them for their misery. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone from my family say “I couldn’t leave him. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t continue with my job. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t follow my dream. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t take a stand for the right thing. I had no choice”…and on and on and on. They paint such a sad picture that even Nargis from Mother India would watch their lives in awe. Hearing their tales of sorrow makes me feel sympathetic for a while, even pitiful. But my sympathy and pity only extend so far. Letting things happen without taking control of your own life is nobody’s fault except your own. You chose to be powerless. Period.

The other side of the coin is the never ending blame game and guilt tripping. They blame their husbands, in-laws, children, relatives and even neighbors for the smallest of their problems. Had to quit working? Husband’s fault. Had to be submissive? In-law’s fault. Had to work like a slave in the house? Children’s fault. Your child is more interested in movies than studies? Relative’s influence. There are mosquitoes in the house? The neighbors probably didn’t drain the water from their cooler. They’re simply the helpless victims who are at the epicenter of everything evil. What is unfortunate is that their children perceive them as victims and grow up believing that everyone around has wronged his/her mother in some way. They tend to develop a very skewed idea of what’s “good” and what’s “bad”.  The absolute worst is when their mothers use that perception to guilt trip them all the time. Ever heard the following lines?

“I did so much for you. Is this how you repay me?”

“I went through so much pain to raise you. All those sacrifices. For this day?”

“I work like a slave every single day, just to provide you a good life. What do you do for me?”

“You will take care of me when I’m old, right? I have no one other than you”

Etc. Etc. If your child is your investment – you’re doing something wrong. If you’re child is your emotional punching bag – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is obligated to do things to make your life better – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is not doing enough things to make you happy – you’re doing something wrong.

It was not your child’s decision to be born into your family. It was yours.

Which is not to say that men don’t act the victims or don’t play the helpless card. I have come across my fair share of men constantly cribbing about how destiny has failed them at every account. How they had to do what their parents demanded of them and how they had to marry a girl of their parents’ choice. These sad, miserable men then dump all their unfulfilled wishes on their children and then start the blame game all over again. It’s quite the vicious wheel that can keep on spinning for generations if we don’t stop and see what we’re doing. Are we parenting or are we just finding ways to channel leftover resentment through kids who had nothing to do with it?

What I’ve also seen is how people tend to fall apart when it comes to making a choice. They may appear strong and decisive through words, but when push comes to shove and they actually have to choose between X and Y – their whole graph crumbles. Life is a journey that is full of difficult choices. We can try to dodge such crossroads all we want but they will keep coming back unless we make a decision. We can take a longer route to buy time, or try to find an easier way out; but it never really works. Passion or money? Relationships or career? Kids or no kids? To fight for what you believe in or settle for a comfortable life? To voice your opinion or swallow it to avoid hurting someone close? To be honest and get hurt or lie and be safe? To do what’s right and stand alone or to do what’s easy and stand in the crowd?

It’s not easy making a decision. We may talk all we want about what we would do if we were faced with a situation hypothetically – but honestly we don’t know how we will react until it hits us in the face. You don’t know how you’re going to dance unless the music comes on. But you do have to dance; their is no avoiding that. Unfortunately  most people leave the dance floor despite having made tall promises about their ability to be courageous.

In the end, there are two universal truths: 1) You’re always looking for ways to sleep better at night. 2) You always have a choice. Make it.

A Leap of Faith

I sometimes wonder if I walked into this world with a special type of kismat – one that guaranteed non-stop action and chaos. I feel like I’m constantly on a roller coaster ride, and even though I enjoyed it in the beginning, now it’s simply wearing me off and making my nauseous. In Geet’s words in Jab We Met, “Bahut excitement ho gaya ab is raat mein. Boring bana do ji is raat ko ab”

A boring life would be such a relief. I wish I didn’t want to be a professional dancer. That way, I could do what my parents wanted me to without the burden of that choice. How simple and straightforward life would be, if all I had to do was follow a pre-laid, well structured and 100% positive-results-guaranteed wala plan towards success and happiness. Then I could build my life around getting good grades/a high flying degree and then getting a well-paid job that would give me just enough liberty to take a month off every year to go an exotic location like The Maldives or Bahamas and take endless selfies for my jealous colleagues to see. In a nutshell, how I wish I wasn’t someone who endorsed and practiced the idea of ‘choice’, because it comes with a truck load of responsibility and accountability that can suck the happiness right out of you like a dementor.

This post isn’t about how pathetic my life is. It’s about what I’ve learnt, time and again, from my experiences. A lot of people advocate the idea of free will (just like me). But there are very less people who are willing to face the consequences of their choices. These are the ones who shout “Mah lyfe, Mah rulezz” until reality kicks in and they scurry away like rats. Life is unfortunately a bitch and even though in an ideal world, the ability to make one’s own choices would be celebrated, we live in a far-from ideal world and even farther-from ideal country. A country where a 15 year old student does not have the liberty to pick the stream that he/she wants without the consent of at least 51% of his/her (existing) family. A country where a woman does not have the liberty to wear what she wants without the entire city ogling her. A country where a couple cannot decide to marry without the 100% consent of their (even the dead ones) families. A country where a person does not feel supported or encouraged enough to follow his/her passion. A country where a director cannot make a film with the following – sex, drugs, smoking, drinking, history, religion, politics, poverty and cows – without having either the censor board or some political wing/religious fanatics/people who have nothing to do with their lives and are sexually frustrated, jumping down his/her throat.

A country where someone cannot express his/her opinion without the fear of being physically attacked.

Even then, people who strongly believe in their choices and beliefs, stand by them no matter the cost. Whether it is a gay couple fighting for section 377 to be scraped off or a straight couple fighting with their families to let them get married – These are people who make their choices and stick to them for life.

Then there are people who make their choices and later chicken out because of the fear of (a) family, (b) extended family, (c) society and/or (d) failure. Interestingly I’ve seen how the combination of ‘fear of family’ and ‘fear of failure’ works wonders when it comes to someone changing their stand. Our society has manufactured some very standardized templates of “success” and anyone who strays too far from them risks the chance of ending up a loser AKA not earning enough money and a ‘respectable’ job. Let’s just make it simple.

Success = Money {jhooti izzat + commendable social standing (AKA foreign return) + expensive clothes + tons of hypocrisy + PROPERTY (oh, heaven)}

Just multiple everything with money. I took it common.

As a dancer, I’ve come across many people who give up on their passion and talent simply because the idea of taking it up professionally scares the heebie jeebies out of them. It’s a risky career in terms of every parameter. There is absolutely no guarantee of success and even if it does come, it does not fetch too much money. It is a life full of uncertainty, disappointment and lack of money. People don’t take our profession seriously and think we’re wasting our lives. That kind of pressure is too much of a burden to carry apart from the challenges that the profession has to offer. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting along with being physically demanding. Most people want to keep doing it “on the side” along with their mainstream profession. Some people choose to go ahead with it, but crack under the strain midway.

And then there are people who sail through despite all odds. They may have been kicked out of their houses, looked down upon by immediate society, faced failure multiple times, been discouraged by peers and colleagues – whatever the situation may have been, they make it out alive. And there is only one driving force behind them – conviction and commitment.

This is the kind of force that enables us to make decisions and stick to them in all areas of life – career, relationships, friendships and even the commitments we make to ourselves. Whether it is to lose 5 kgs in 20 days or to begin a start up with a small idea. If we believe in what we want and where our heart lies, then we would find that mustering up courage is not such a difficult thing to do. We just know that we’re doing is right. The end.

Unfortunately, nowadays people “know” a lot but stand for nothing. They have a lot of information but no knowledge. They have degrees but not real education. They want many things and forget about what they need. They make money but not wealth. They invest in property but not in themselves. I remember reading about the difference between a “crowd” and a “group”. A group has a face; it stands for something. A crowd has no face. Just people scurrying around trying to nab the closest possible gratification.

I guess that’s what all of us want now – immediate gratification. If something doesn’t fetch success immediately, it’s useless. If someone doesn’t make you happy anymore, they’re not worth it. If a relationship is causing trouble in your life, drop it. If a job is putting you under too much strain, change it. If your wardrobe isn’t getting you any attention, get a new one. If your profile picture on facebook isn’t getting enough likes, click a new one.

We have nothing worth fighting for in our lives. We have nothing we would put our necks out on the line for. There is no commitment, passion, loyalty and most importantly, love for anyone or anything. None of us know what we want, or why we want it. We just know it will make us instantly happy and therefore it is something we are willing to take a step forward for. Taking a leap of faith for something though? No, that’s just not practical anymore.

 

We all have ideal families, don’t we?

I just checked the date and it seems it’s been a month since I updated my blog. Clearly I need someone with a hockey stick right on top of my head, threatening to bludgeon me to death to make me work…which is a matter of serious concern for my future prospects.

I’m visiting my extended family this week, which is almost always an overwhelming experience. If the fact that I sit behind a computer for almost 8 hours a day wasn’t enough to prove it, let me say this out loud: I’m not good with people. Sometime a year ago, I figured out that I’m quite the detached person. I find it very hard to empathize with someone. I can sympathize, hell yes, because I love being the ‘savior’ in every situation, but I can’t empathize. Clearly, I’m a product of an extremely dysfunctional family.

Any who, a lot of jumbled up thoughts, feelings and emotions led me to write this. We are brought up to idolize our family. We are taught to respect every member and every relationship. Everything is perfect, hunky-dory and beautiful. Our families are so great that even Suraj Barjatya could take inspiration. I grew up believing that too. Unfortunately, I did not have the tools to cope when that illusion shattered and reality showed it’s big ugly face. The truth is, no family is perfect. Every family has it’s share of dark areas that they try to conceal, not just from the kids but from each other as well. We all want to live believing that everything is okay. Denial is one of the most common types of defense mechanisms. Hey, ignorance is bliss.

India as a society is very uncomfortable with displaying negative emotions. We try to brush sorrow, anger, dislike, disappointment and hurt under the carpet. It’s all about putting up a front. We’re never really taught to deal with any of these emotions, which is why most of us are clueless about how we should express them when we feel them ourselves. We don’t know how to channel our anger, how to deal with our sorrow, how to express our disappointment and dislike and least of all, our hurt. We bring in our own permutations and combinations of defense mechanisms to deal with our emotions, but never really confront them.

As long as you are going through and dealing with these emotions on an individual level, it’s fine. At least your family is happy, at least the bills are being paid, the food being cooked, the clothes being washed and the dog being fed. You feel safe despite everything. But what happens when that structure shatters, and a lot of realities that were brimming under the surface, come out? Say the family is struck by a financial crunch. You suddenly find out about the debts your family is under. You suddenly discover that that uncle who used to be over every weekend is nowhere to be seen. Your mom has so many resentments that it’s hard to fathom how your parents ended up married. Your paternal and maternal grandparents only have insults to throw at your mother and father respectively. Your father isn’t as strong as you thought. Your extended family wants nothing to do with you.

What happened to the perfect family picture? Weren’t you all supposed to be the big happy Indian family? How are you supposed to react now? Are you supposed to accept what you see or continue pretending that things are just perfect? Until yesterday you were being taught to do Namaste to every relative that enters your house, and now suddenly your parents are heartily bitching about every Chachi, Maasi, Bua, Phoopha etc they’re associated with. The truth is it takes a pretty bad bump to reveal the realities of the perfect car. We can’t get rid of the bumps, but I do wish that we were brought up to believe that our family isn’t perfect, everyone doesn’t love us, everyone isn’t great, but we’re making through each day with effort and that’s how we plan to do it for as long as we can. I wish that we were taught that respect is earned and not offered to just anyone on a platter because they’re ‘elders’. I wish we were not taught to feel obliged to greet people we didn’t want to. I wish we were given the freedom to explore our relationship with every single member and discover how much we would like to be associated with them ourselves.

It takes a lot of time to realize that not every word that comes out of your parent’s mouth is a gem. Not everything they do has to be idolized. Not every part of their life is an inspiration. They’re human beings too and make mistakes. Those mistakes have carved their experiences and have led them to where they are now. They’re a part of who they are, for better or for worse. We all grow up telling everyone that our parents are the best, that they’re simply amazing and that they always do the right thing. Not true. There should come a point in every kid’s life when both the parents sit down and explain where they went wrong and the circumstances that led to it. No matter what happens then, it will only make the kid respect them more in the long run – for showing trust, confidence and vulnerability. It will make the kid a much more independent person, and will make him or her realize that they need to think and make decisions for themselves, and stick to the consequences.

Let’s start accepting that mistakes happen. Both intentionally and unintentionally. Instead of teaching kids to not make mistakes, we should be teaching them to be strong enough to deal with the consequences, and to learn from each mistake and move on. Let’s start showing our vulnerable side to our kids. They can handle it. They can learn from it. There is no such thing as the ‘Perfect family’, but there can be a happy family if we all stop pretending and be real for a change.

Arranged Marriage vs Love Marriage

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V/S

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This is an age-old debate, much like the tussle between men and women. However, with changing times perspectives change too, and so does the meaning of relationships. Back in the day, an arranged marriage was a pretty strict affair. It wasn’t a union of a man and a woman, it was a union of two families who were economically, socially and caste-wise matched. All the dendaari was discussed between the parents in the absence of the two people who were actually getting married. It was a business deal camouflaged as a wedding.

Love marriage, on the other hand, was not completely accepted because as they say, love is blind and does not see caste, economic or social status. The families were eternally torn between allowing their kids to have their way and log kya kahenge. Countless Bollywood movies have mirrored this situation. However, what they have also done is romanticize the idea of a love marriage and made it seem like saccha pyaar is everlasting and transcends all mortal boundaries. The ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship is the one that needs to be taken least seriously, but unfortunately, couples are blinded by their saccha pyaar to the extent that they take the plunge while their hormones are in an overdrive and decide to get married after only a few months of courtship.

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Guy says: “I love you!” Girl says: “Let’s get married!”

As times have progressed, the idea of ‘love’ has slowly been condensed to a few factors – the relationship status on facebook, not ignoring whatsapp texts, cheesy late night discussions about future plans (about a beach house, a dog named Rosy and kids called Shona and Shonu) and saying “I love you” to each other at every chance. This sentence is now being thrown around so casually then I fear very soon people will start greeting each other with “I love you” instead of “How are you?”. What is love? I don’t know yet, but I know that it’s none of the above either.

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Marriage is the ultimate commitment, and cannot be made on the basis of a few stray dreams sold to us by companies like Hallmark, Archies and Bollywood. It’s easy to stay together when the world is pink and emotions are raw, but the real test is when you hit a rough patch and still find the strength to be with each other. Everyone has a temperamental and weak side that they hide, especially in a relationship. Occasionally it does come to the surface, but the thing about being in “the romantic kind of” love is that people ignore each other’s faults. They keep telling themselves “Oh he’s not like that, he would never shout at me infront of everyone again” or “She won’t flirt with him again, it was only this one time..” But this can be ignored only for so long. Eventually it creates resentment and hurt. This is usually the time when most relationships fall apart, and partners claim that only recently saw each other’s “true self”. The truth is, it was always there, albeit hidden or ignored. The question that then arises is – Didn’t you know the person you loved and decided to get married to?

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Check: if you can hear violins playing each time you see your partner, then it’s not the right time to make important decisions. However, if this continues then you probably have schizophrenia.

Which is what brings me to the next part – why this generation needs arranged marriages. Arranged marriages are not what they used to be. Now they’re progressive. Although the family still looks for the potential partner, an individual has the right to say no if they don’t click. What happens here is, that people skip the honeymoon phase completely. They know they have been brought together by their family for marriage. They haven’t met each other before. They aren’t in love (as defined above) so they give each other a real chance. They don’t overlook each other’s faults because they aren’t blinded by saccha pyaar. If things work out, then the relationship follows the logical path and the two people fall in love after getting to know each other. If not, then they can amicably say goodbye.

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I’m not against love marriage. In fact, I used to be an ardent advocate of it. But then I realized that what’s important is free will and personal choice. Dowry deaths in arranged marriages are still happening and so are honour killings due to love marriages. One should have the freedom to choose. Of course, given the rate at which the meaning of love is being compressed to fit a Karan Johar song raises quite a few concerns about the sustainability of a love marriage in my mind, but there are people who do give their relationship enough time before making the commitment. They do spend years being in a relationship, gauging their compatibility, before getting married, which is something I respect and admire. As far as the concept of chat mangni, pat byah is concerned, I’d rather just watch a Bollywood film.

The role of a mother in her son’s life

We’re all aware of how deeply our parents affect us. All of us are shaped by our childhood, and carry some part of it with us until we die. It is my personal belief that most of our behavioural patterns, traits and flaws can be traced to something or the other in our childhoods. An authoritative environment will yield traits like low self-esteem and shyness for years to come, while an overly casual environment will yield over-confidence, narcissism and recklessness.

This is the reason why parenting is a tougher task than waging war on an entire country with the help of nukes. Every little thing matters, and adds up to what will eventually turn out to be the child’s personality. Trying to be too perfect as parents will make the child wary of ever making a mistake, while being completely irresponsible will mess up the child’s life in numerous ways. Both the father and the mother have to be equal participants in the process of parenting. This article, however, focuses on the unique relationship between that of a mother and her son. It has always been pointed that a man looks at other women the way he looks at his mother. Consequently, he expects the women in his life to live up to the same standard. This is very much true, even when he may not be aware of it consciously. A mother’s influence over her son is so subconsciously ingrained, that it affects the smallest of decisions without either of them even knowing. For example, a son may not like bright colors because he never saw his mother wearing them during his childhood, He may be inclined to follow a particular religious ritual (without knowing why) because he saw his mother doing the same, He may not understand why smoking is proclaimed to be a ‘bad habit’ by everyone else, because his mother smoked too.

A mother also has a deep impact on whether her son grows up to be inherently strong or weak. If a son is brought up by a weak mother, he will tend to be weak, even if he becomes successful career wise. He will always view his mother and consequently himself as a victim. His consistent lack of being decisive, confrontational and courageous will make him identify even more with his mother, and instead of fostering a healthy relationship, it will breed a co-dependent, toxic relationship. On the other hand, if a son if brought up by a strong mother, who knows how and when to set limits to her affection and spoon-feeding, he will grow up to be an independent individual himself.

In the Indian society, men are known to be more inclined to follow their father’s footsteps, mirror his opinions, beliefs and thoughts about world, religion, politics and life. A son born into a businessman’s house will continue the business, a son born to an engineer father will become an engineer, a son born to a father who supports BJP will support the same party. So on and so forth. This may be true, but these are choices that a son is conditioned to make by the family and society in general. A father always wants his son to be 10 times the man he was when his son grows up. It’s natural progression and evolution. However, these are not subconscious decisions. Like mentioned above, a mother’s influence affects the smallest of things in a son’s life.

Specifically in India, where mothers treat their sons like kings and hold them dearer than their own lives, and fathers are not as deeply involved in the day-to-day upbringing, sons tend to mirror their mother’s likes, dislikes and choices much more. This is the reason why an adult son may get caught up between his wife and mother. I have observed that Indian mothers find it hard to let go and accept the fact that their now adult sons are capable of leading separate lives. They cling onto them, because their sons were their only mission and accomplishment. To let go would be to let go of all meaning behind their lives. The consequent effect of this coddling is that the adult son finds it hard to view any relationship in his life objectively. Every relationship in his life gets coloured by his mother’s opinion in some way or the other, just like his relationship with his wife. He might be deeply in love with her and respect her choices, but if his mother’s opinion of her isn’t as good, then he will doubt his own feelings. He needs validation from his mother for everything.

And as heinous as it may sound, most of India’s mistreatment of women (rape, molestation, violence, domestic abuse, eave teasing etc) can be attributed to the women themselves. A mother can be a role model for her son on how he will grow up to treat other women. If she herself lets herself be treated badly in her marriage, then the son may think it’s ‘norm’ for women to be treated second class, and that they encourage it. If the mother doesn’t use negative reinforcement when the son commits a mistake or crosses a boundary, then she ‘enables’ him to think that it’s okay to behave in that way. All these factors and behavioural missteps combine to encourage a man to commit violence against women, and even more alarming, to think that it’s alright.

In conclusion, our mothers are a vital part in our lives. It doesn’t matter whether you share a healthy relationship with her or an unhealthy one, whether you are in touch with her or not, she will continue to affect and impact you in a multitude of ways for a very long time.

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.