How your Islamophobia is helping  Islamic Radicalism. 

There are many people who will tell you that Islam is a peaceful religion. There will be some who say that it does allow some violence, in some contexts, but not terrorism. But here’s the catch: by being islamophobic, you are adding fuel to the fire and leading to more Radicalism. 

There are many ways that people will deal with attacks on the religion they belong to. One may be a practicing or a cultural Muslim, but when the conversation turns to terrorism and Islamic State, even the least practicing of us feel the need to defend ourself. 

The reason is simple. It is a part of our identity. Just like we would defend India in front of an attack from a foreigner,  despite not liking how we do things internally (Salman Khan, Dadri),  similarly, we feel the need to make people see that there’s more than one version of the story. 

However, there are people who are  unclear about religion and morality. These may also be people who are experiencing a void in life and who need something strong to make life meaningful. Given their current spiritual state, your hatred will only push them towards radical teachings. 

Why? It’s the logic of ‘let me commit the crime I’m already being punished for’. Since these young people are already facing discrimination, coupled with the wrong leaders and unclear principles and an empty life, they fall into the dangerous mix of radicalization. 

If you would like to help this global problem, stop treating each Muslim you meet as a stereotypical presentation.  There are varieties within. Even those on the precarious borders of violence, may yet be convinced with acceptance.

 It is up to you, whether you choose to scorn at the headscarf or try to know deeply the mind within. 

Love from the road #3

Tea In The Rains

Today it will be a month since I left. I don’t know when you will get this because I’m in a very remote coastal town. I actually have to travel quite a lot just to post this! 

Not that I mind. It’s green and beautiful! It rained here. I wonder if it’s rained there? I think not. It’s only when the winds move from here that they’ll flourish there. 

I suppose, everything has its place and time. 

Image Source 

It reminded me of one of those first dates. That auto with old hindi songs playing, the pitter patter of rain drops, and you. 

You were gently humming to the song, and in that moment, things were so complete. 

I never underappreciated your presence in my life. But I feel I could have been more expressive of my gratefulness. I’m going to actively do that when I’m back. 

The steam rises from my tea. I stopped on a roadside stall to have it. Some rain drops too are mixed with it. We will never be able to tell them apart. And I guess, we don’t need to. 

I’m much more content now. I think the decision to not take my phone along was a good one. But I miss the sound of your voice. Maybe I will have an inkling of that through your reply. I miss you. 

Expectations that kill: A case for parenting in India

I grew up in a home where girls were not really expected to soar to heights in their career, and were expected to be demure little things stirring the porridge in the kitchen. While that came with baggage of its own, I believe I narrowly escaped the catastrophe of what intense academic pressure could do to you.

My masters thesis was about the perception of school in children, and even in my current work, I come across children and teenagers facing academic and career issues.

The problem is not the stress they face, because each  situation in life will have stress, but it is the peculiar way that patentable expectations have become so set in stone that question their rationality is never a question.

‘Make my parents proud’ was written by almost each 9th std kid who answered my Masters thesis survey. This meant that he or she wanted to keep scoring impossibly high and end up in an IIT or an IIM or be an MD. Anything else was unimaginable.

The parent is a child’s first reference point of the world. We take our parents very seriously. In this country, all the more so because of the culture of obedience. It becomes very difficult for us to fathom that our parents have unrealistic expectations from us.

The result: We start to feel that the problem is within me. I must be dumb or stupid. Or else, why can’t I score like my elder brother or my neighbor’s kid?
Pretty soon, I start to doubt my self image and become a bundle of nerves. Extreme anxiety can make me kill myself. But I will not dare question my parents.

An important part of childhood is to explore and understand yourself. While we like sending our kids to expensive classes and buying world class toys for them, we do not let them be free and think. The result being that a 15 year old cannot answer a question as simple as ‘what are some things you have been good at since childhood?’

How can he, when all he was told is how bad he was, how he was letting everyone down, and how he must do better still.

India is facing a parenting crisis. Right from setting realistic expectations to handling failure to managing the sexuality of the child, we are not at all up to the task. While many parents, especially parents of children with special needs are in fact learning these things, the masses seem to still be following the age old rigmarole.

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Here’s some facts to wrap your head around if you are a parent: each child is not going to be an engineer or a doctor or an IAS officer. If money or a good career could buy happiness, 36% of India would not be depressed. 30% of young people have mental health issues.

The question before you is this, can you accept a child for his unique strengths and capacities or would you want your child to be a self-hating bundle of anxiety? Or worse, dead?

The Suffocating Effect of Guests That Makes You Question Your Existence

Guests are an obligation much like a loan, except it is not as voluntary a decision.

When guests come to my house, it is like other-imposed Hotel California-ness. Once they come, it’s like something supernatural prevents them from leaving.

The problem is not so much of shared space, because be it our trains, buses or Marine Drive, sharing space has never been a problem for Mumbaikars.

Then, the problem with guests come down to two aspects: The ownership they show around things that they do not belong to them (they often belong to me), and the judgment with which they view me and my choices.

They often voice vile and judgmental opinions, but the world is an exhausting space and all I want to do is find the nearest blanket to cuddle. But then, while I am trying my best to ignore what is being said, they then go out of their way to question MY judgement and opinions.. I mean, the nerve!

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And I do not really need to elaborate on the sense of ownership part, do I? They simply pick up and use stuff that is not theirs because they took ‘apna hi ghar samjho’ quite literally – whereas we, or at least I, never said it.

While I grow weary defending my belongings and my opinions, there have been moments of doubt – not that I thought I was wrong, no, but I did think whether I should have gone with the easier choice of just agreeing with them on their face, to make life easy for everyone.

But the answer has been a loud and resounding NO. How can I agree when they say Hell will be filled with women because they deserve it? While they condemn us before we can commit sins or good acts? How can I sit by and let them be unjust to each and every marginalized group imaginable? How can I sit while they pretend to be nice and abuse our hospitality? How can I pretend to agree while they perpetuate unjust stereotypes and systems?

While the tenure of guests is definitely overrun in this country, I think my doubts have helped me to not only sharpen my arguments but also to develop a thick skin when needed. Sometimes, even I am surprised at how, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

3 Tips To Choose The Right Career Direction

Wrote this for the company blog.. do check it out!

Metaphors of The Mind

Written by Sadaf Vidha, Psychologist at Type a Thought

It’s Result time and all boards like CBSE, ICSE and SSC are putting out their results. youngsters are now rushing from college to college, at least virtually, to secure admission.. it’s a highly competitive atmosphere right now, and all the fun had during vacations seems washed away!

We get many students on our online counseling website where we provide a free first session and career counseling, and they do seem very confused about what career direction to take! Everyone imaginable is giving them advice, be it 10th std or 12th std students. In fact, one of my co-counselors drew a parallel between the plight of our students and people who look for a change in career around the 30s. Regardless of whenever you want to decide a career direction, these three golden career rules can help you:

Skills and Interests: The…

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The solution to fundamentalism, wastage and mediocrity is the same.

Why are we wasting water despite the draught in Maharashtra?

Why do we continue to live in outdated ways that are eating up our environment?

Why do we keep becoming fundamentalists, and keep funding fundamentalism?

The answer is that because we are using our mind, our thinking capacities all wrong. Those aspects of us, like belief and the ability to ignore when needed, as well as to conform to social rules to help avoid crimes and chaos – we are using all of these qualities to turn a blind eye to prevalent problems, and to not change our ways. We grew up this way – don’t question, just cover your own interests, you are too small to matter in any way.

When you socialize the child in this way, and beat out all sorts of divergent thinking patterns in schools and other institutions as he or she grows, are you surprised that so many people take to fundamentalism, because it finally allows them to feel passion again? Or many become mediocre products of society just buying the mass products created by it’s markets? Or has such a hard time imagining anything without a video in front of it, that it can’t imagine the shambles that the world is coming to?

To save the pitfalls of the mind, which were twisted for various reasons to shut out voices of dissent, we have to develop two basic skills, and we totally have to cultivate in our children with urgen fervour – these are two skills more important than teaching language, math or science.

These two skills are: Critical Thinking and Empathy.

Recently, there was a mention of ‘a case against empathy’ because it marrs clear thinking. That’s more than a little stupid because humans are complex and so they can surely think critcally, and be empathetic, both together. We are not so droll as to be able to do only one at a time.

Critical thinking would help us question the logic of strange statements thrown at us, so that belief does not get the better of us and perpetuate a faulty decision. And empathy is required for basic human connection, which would be the motivating factor for any good change, for a person going out of the way to change a convenient habit, because it harms someone.

For example, if I child was taught critical thinking and empathy right from birth and it was just more enhanced in school, he would not buy it if someone told him, that his religion asks him to kill people of another religion. His empathy would help him understand the plight of those who are facing a draught, so he would change his ways to save whatever water he can. These two qualities would ensure that he makes people accountable for environmental damage. Imagination, an offshoot of empathy, would help him visualise an uninhabiltable world, socially and environmentally, and that would help him take all the steps needed to address these situations, without feeling robbed of ‘comforts’.

While some of us do manage to see things a different way, and develop these skills, even our efforts at convincing others will fizzle out if we socially reinforce all the wrong traits. We just need to correct what we are teaching and okaying. The real things need to matter now.