Shame and honour

June 21, 2015 at 5:48 pm (Poetry) (, , , , , , , , , )

To have depression,

What a shame!

To kill in the name of caste,

What an honour!

To be poor,

What a shame!

To be in debt paying dowry,

What an honour!

To spend on her education,

What a shame!

A wedding worth lakhs,

What an honour!

To help your wife out,

What a shame!

To ‘discipline’ her,

What an honour!

Middle Eastern woman wearing face covering

To marry in a different religion,

What a shame!

To plunder another religion,

What an honour!

To be childless,

What a shame,

Child marriage,

What an honour!

To donate organs,

disected!

What a shame!

To go up whole,

useless,

What an honour!

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Disenfranchised Grief

June 14, 2015 at 1:49 pm (Opinions, plea) (, , , , , )

I am not myself for the last few days. One of my cats has gone missing the day after I celebrated the 2-year anniversary of having bought them in. Did he slip out when my brother went to receive a guest at night? Why couldn’t my brother be more careful? Did anyone pick him up and sell him somewhere? Or is he hiding nearby and unable to come back? What if other animals attacked him? What does he eat? He only loved one kind of catfood.

Each day I would try something new after work: look all over in the building, post flyers, try and go around the area with a catnip toy, ask people. And then I get a lead that he may be in the school opposite my house: my dad sees a cat and we are allowed to search for about ten minutes before we are ousted. I have gone to the school twice after that and not allowed to enter. I understand security, but really, could you be that heartless? I am going to try and look in that school again today.

But what if he is not there? What if someone else adopted him because he was wandering? Can I manage to cover all the apartments in the area in case he is in a house? I have ordered a catnip spray to go around spraying in order to lure him, but that will take 5 days to come as it is not manufactured in India.

I have a national entrance test to give and so I need to study, but I am just not able to focus. I sleep with difficulty because I feel I failed yet another day in getting him back. And then I wake up in the morning feeling a stab of pain: he’s still not back. My other cat is lonely. I am distraught.

When will he come back?

scrnshot

When will he come back?

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Happiness is deep fried

May 10, 2015 at 6:24 pm (Opinions, Random) (, , , , , , , )

How often do you have deep friend snacks or food? Most people don’t have it very often. There could be various reasons which mainly come down to either health or expense.

The best way to have deep fried food, is sparingly, and preferably making it at home. Now, if you take shortcuts and have it from outside or have something crappy to satisfy the craving, then although you are done for the short term, you have eaten something that is difficult to handle and breakdown and will most likely give you aches and fat – or both.

Similarly, for happiness to be hand, you need to do certain things. If you cut corners, you maybe fine for now but there’s nothing to be had at the end and a sort of bloated feeling persists all along.

If you are eating right otherwise and indulging every now and then- that is the perfect formula.

If you are working hard most times and taking well-earned measured breaks from it, that’s nice. If , however, you start too late and try to take shortcuts just to fill in for the while, you are as far from happiness as it gets.

The reason I used this analogy is, as tempting as shortcuts are, you are the person who will be most annoyed for taking them, at a later point in your life.

Therefore, whenever you feel like cutting corners, think of a home made golden sizzled pakoda, that does not increase your weight because you had it right!

Seafood-Platter1

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Statistics, Stories and Storytelling

May 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , , , , )

So, at the end of my two year course of clinical psychology at TISS, I had to intern somewhere. In the absence of the full-time maid, Jyothi, I sourced a work-from-home internship with the Bapu Trust, Pune. I would analyze their community mental health data from home and submit reports.

I had to use SPSS and excel and basically a whole lot of descriptive statistics. Now, I have a sort of love-hate relationship with math and statistics. Such that, I do know these branches of science and measurement are vitally important to know how well we are doing a particular venture or project, but at the same time, feeling I might not be great at it. Now, I was marginally better at statistics than other math, but it was still rather elusive.

However, my internship turned out to be fun, because the actual calculating was done by the software. I had to call the shots. THAT is an empowering feeling. I had to say what units of measurement what would be used, what would be compared against what – and then I had to make a simple yet impressive report of it.

Because of being at TISS for two years, I have learned and engrained something – it is good to do good work, but it is as important to evaluate it. In our curious little world, we have more money for wax statues than real people. In the shortage of funds reeled towards social betterment, we in the field have to be thorough about producing results. And even if money were not a constraint, knowing how well you’re doing with an initiative is just good and honest practice – and you’d rather have that as a quality if you want to work for social upliftment.

Slowly, I started to not get befuddled by the humongous amounts of data, but actually find parallels between my internship work and reading a story. It was as if, a type of analysis I choose, is a plot twist I am choosing and it will eventually lead to an ending. Then I play with the numbers the other way around, and an even clearer picture emerges.

Working with raw data and making sense of it is also like story-telling. A whole lot of times, we are fascinated by one aspect of the story we want to tell – maybe the beginning, maybe the ending, maybe the protagonist. But we fill in the other details along the way and try to make the whole story appealing. Similarly, I know where my data comes from and what is expected of the results. Then I fill in with different analysis and voila – I see that in a particular community women with depression benefit better from group interventions than adolescent boys.

I have always pondered and advocated that psychology and therapy be bought down from its elite status to a tool of mental health available to everyone. Bapu Trust and the work they do is a dream come true in that sense. I see hope in wanting to freeing psychology from its elite status, because they are doing it day in and day out. And they are creating a mentally healthy community by doing so. You could claim I am saying that because I am just impressed, but I have statistical proof for it.

APA_Latino_MH_Guidebook images

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Why ‘men will be men’ is most damaging to men.

April 7, 2015 at 6:38 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , , )

So, if you google ‘men will be men’, you will find a million memes, videos and images that reduce men to sex boxes. Thanks to Imperial Blue’s ad campaign, this is reinforced all the more.

In the typical ad by this company, men are pretending to be fitter because they can only thinking of deceiving a person into sex when they see a woman, or they will ‘protectively’ keep a hand on the shoulder of their wives/ girlfriends to show another male that his is better, or at least he has one.

Apparently, men have the egos of five year olds and the mating rules of the animal kingdom.

I disagree.

I have had the most moving emotional conversations with some male friends of mine. Others have given me great intellectual insights. Still others, have engaged in philosophical debates with me, enriching me all the more with it.

My guy friends are good friends who are there for me, they are good at what they do, they are good at their hobbies, and they are great people.

I refuse to think that their brains do not function beyond sex, gaming and sports.

Most human beings think about sex. It’s normal. No need to make it a man’s domain. And women also like gaming and sports. And there are men who do not like gaming and sports. And even if they do, they do not suck at balancing their emotional lives along with their interests.

Although it is very convenient to want to say ‘men will be men’ for certain stereotypical male behaviour, it is damaging in the long term because it portrays men as some sort of one dimensional, unfeeling, sex boxes. They are so much more. This kind of understanding about how men are and supposed to be, is what reduces the chances of sexual abuse and rape against boys and men being reported, this increases the likelihood of domestic violence on men, as well as makes it possible to misuse women protection laws because men are always seen as perpetrators and strong – they can never be victims. If a person is craving sex all the time, of course they can’t be raped – this thinking is encouraged.

This kind of thinking makes bullying and ragging look like rites of passage and young boys growing up not reporting horrendous acts of violence because you are supposed to ‘take it like a man’.

It makes it very difficult for men to have fulfilling romantic relationships.

Lastly, it reduces women to one-dimensional beings who do not like their male partners to be involved in sports and hobbies and play hard to get. Redundant crap.

After so many years on this planet, we as people certainly have more depth than being the one dimensional man and woman. Even cave-people did.

It’s easy to use ‘men will be men’ to justify something you or your friend did, but it is not very different from when women are offered privileges due to patriarchy (date bills paid by the male partner), and by succumbing to them, women add to the status quo of inequality.

Next time you or someone you know wants to use the above justification, stop yourselves and give yourselves permission to be a complete human, not a one-dimensional sex box.

No, thanks IB.

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A Summer Art Challenge!

April 1, 2015 at 8:21 pm (Uncategorized)

This is the link to my weebly blog, where I will post artworks based on people’s sugestions. I am trying to be enterprising, and though I might sell some, there is free art to earn!

http://summerartproject.weebly.com/

art-palette

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TISSues

February 26, 2015 at 9:26 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been almost two years since I joined TISS as a Masters’ student. The course is about to end. I am not sure if I have really seen the TISS life – since I do not live on campus or even close by. So I have missed out on the hostel/pg stories and the *cough* vibrant night life. But I have been around for my fair share of TISS exposure and I do think I understand its spirit.

When I initially joined, I had put the institute up on a pedestal – because of what I had heard before. However, I have discovered that the place has its own flaws and paradoxes – one of the most glaring ones is how haphazardly masters level research is done by more students than not in a place that prides itself on research and field presence.

Another one was the kind of people I met. I think that just because I met them in TISS, I was expecting a socially conscious and humanitarian person in everyone. That doesn’t happen. Human tendencies are everywhere – in teachers and students. The base emotions of insecurity and jealousy cannot be done away with – even if you are a TISSian.

However, I also know that a lot of what I learnt would not even be accessible to me in a place like Mumbai University. This is not limited to the course content and how it was taught – but the way the two years in this institute have broadened my thinking – to the point that I can no longer have uninformed, one-sided viewpoints or opinions. This was compounded by a training in psychological therapy – which requires further stripping down of your issues and meaning in life – to the point where you are that you know yourself well enough to be secure to enter someone else’s personal psychological world.

I have met a variety of people. I am not going to keep in touch with all of them – but some I am going to treasure. People from diverse walks of life and who amaze you by the amount of good work they have done – as also how humble they are.

However, when I was still a novice, I put these people in some holy light, and would feel really bad if they stopped whatever was required of them professionally to draw out, compartmentalize and have time for themselves. I realize now that it is required – in a field as loaded as ours. You might encounter such grave issues in work that you have to force yourself to stop bothering beyond a point – even if it means drawing up artificial borders. The only difference is, some people still do it better than others and then it hurts less.

I always had a vague dream of ‘giving’ back to the society. Being at TISS has taught me where and how I can concretely do so. It has shown me the gaps where a mental health professional can be useful – community work, policy making, and so on. Even if you follow your ambition and want a comfortable life – it can still be a righteous one.

You learn that giving a fuck about things isn’t something special.It is also nothing which requires a lot of time and effort. But, if everyone did their bit, people who are into slimy stuff would never get away with it as easily as they do. Who can escape a million questions?

I think at the core of it, TISS is a hopeful place. They go all like ‘oh this is a gap in the community? we will create a course to generate professionals and research to understand this better’. And there you are. They are trying to do things their way, and it has its limitations too.

I have probably not lived the proper TISS life, but I think what I’m taking away is the philosophy of it. Being a TISSian is not about the time you spend there, its a way of life.

tiss pics -3

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Riot at the Strand

February 3, 2015 at 7:01 pm (Uncategorized)

Originally posted on Humari Matargashti:

The world has infinite possibilities. Once money enters the equation though, the possibilities suddenly become rather finite – no matter how noble your intentions.

In a hall full of people, Shaja and Maya braved the great unwashed masses, for one thing only – the books in the room outnumbered the people in the room. Yes, they were at the infamous Strand Book Sale. What would eventually become a yearly tradition, it was the second time Shaja and Maya had ventured to the Sale together; Maya to browse, and Shaja to buy. Obviously, Shaja was in a greater dilemma than Maya. Maya, whose Bengali family had a culture of reading, had only to worry about the space that the books would occupy take up, and when she would get around to reading them. Shaja’s family, on the other hand, didn’t really see the point of buying books, unless they were…

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God Is An Accountant

January 27, 2015 at 8:21 am (Opinions) (, , , , )

We can call life as ambiguous and incalculable as we like, but there is someone sitting up there with a lot of time to kill. And what is it going to do to use that time? Keep meticulous accounts of each and every miserable human being there is.

Yes, if you look at a pan-religion concept, ignoring all the differences, then the reason we are ‘supposed’ or ‘not supposed’ to do certain things, is because God is watching.

If you have ever come across posters or billboards on your way to college which go something like this- ‘(Relevant God’s name) is watching over you and has died for your sins!’, then you know what I mean. For someone who is supposedly the creator of the world, it does come across as nothing more than a petty stalker.
So does my mocking mean that I think that we can get away with doing anything and that no one is really there to see it? Well, yes and no. If I am right about believing in a creator, then that entity made everything – which means many planets like ours, and many solar systems and God knows how many galaxies (pun intended).

However, I believe that if at all anything is wrong (not religiously or morally wrong – because that will depend on the religion or moral code you follow) – if anything, any action, is humanely wrong, that the action itself has negativity – negative energy, and the way it makes you feel would – negative thoughts and guilt – is what would be the measure of wrongness you would induce. Those repercussions itself would make sure that you get your due for doing that.

At this point, of course, we can think of many people who get away doing supposedly wrong things. But this is because we determine the start and end points of their story. ‘So and so did not feel any repercussions within 6 months of doing that, so they have gotten away with it’. But who knows what happened afterwards? What pain they had to face?

As I am losing faith in the formal agents and institutions of justice like Law or Religion may be I am latching on to this concept of poetic justice – maybe very closely resembling karma – as something to get me by. I may be deluded.

But tell me, what seems more plausible – that someone up there is maintaining detailed accounts of our actions and will send us to heaven and hell accordingly as well as give us small spankings or blessings while we are on earth – or the fact that the nature of our actions (negative/positive) are what will determine the consequences they bear on us?

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How to: Feminism of convenience.

December 7, 2014 at 3:26 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , , , )

Many people I talk to, especially men of my age – from academic or social surroundings, have a very negative view of Feminism. They throw around the word ‘Feminazi’ without knowing it’s implications. I know that every woman who swears by this ideology would be fuming, and so would male feminists (yes – they exist). But I do not know if these men can be blamed entirely for their lack of knowledge.

I could fume about them being misinformed, but all of the responsibility does not lie with them. Their bad view of Feminism comes from men and women who have used the ideology to their advantage but have not stood true to the tenants of it. Instead of shaking my head sadly, I could inform them of what the ideology actually is, just like I have to talk to people about what Islam actually is. That is the one thing that has helped to do away with Islamophobia.

And when you talk to them, they tell you their negative brush with feminism or at least, feminism used as an excuse.The examples will vary from women hitting them and getting away with it because of their being women, to asking being let off from work with periods as an excuse. When it comes to splitting the bill on a date, standing for men’s right to emotional expression, or doing their bit towards a social issue or a workplace, the feminism disappears.

What allows for this misuse of the ideology to happen?

At the root of this is the one word we all hate fervently: Patriarchy.

Patriarchy will see men as strong and never in the victim role. This effectively makes sure that men who are victims of domestic violence or rape are never taken seriously. This makes sure that some women and their families misuse the Dowry Prohibition Act (498a) to meet their goal of getting out of a marriage.

In the short run, these people will get what they want or they will silence the victimized men, but it is sad that the women in these situations do not see the ultimate harm they do to other women by misusing feminism and pro-women laws. They do not see that the thousands of suppressed women will lose a chance of being taken seriously, for the few men and women who do not understand the ideology.

The question that follows after I explain that feminism strives for equal rights of men and women, as well as other genders, is – Why call it Feminism then? Why make it sound pro-woman?

Because of the history. When this movement started, women were the oppressed group, and even today, many women remain oppressed.

Which is why it scares me when young men and women either banish the term or misuse it.

So, to clarify, if you say you are a feminist, you CANNOT:

1) Ask a male partner to ‘man up’ when he is emotional, because feminism propogates the right of men to their emotional sides. If you cannot deal with them being emotional, say it’s something you struggle with, but do not call yourself a feminist and banish it.
2) You cannot look down upon grassroot workers, men and women who are trying to better the status of women, because they do not study in lofty universities like you do.
3) You cannot use it to cheat on your partner or keep sexual history hidden, unless you’re okay with receiving the same treatment.
4) You cannot hit ANYONE, unless it is self-defense. In our skewed society, men are struggling to be recognized at victims and get the required help. Do not add to the burden.
5) You cannot make fun of ANYONE. Men, other women, other genders, or people of different sexual orientation. Feminism says that people are equal regardless of gender, age, color, orientation.
6) You cannot criticize people for what they are wearing, it is their choice if they want to wear a burqa, a bikini, or nothing. You have no right to TELL someone they are oppressed. You can inquire.
7) You cannot enjoy the perks of patriarchy when they benefit you, and use feminism as a defense when that benefits you. Make up your mind and stay on one side. At least do not add to the dilution of the ideology.

Patriarchy, with all it’s flaws, may have some temporary benefits. A man might ‘pamper’ his female partner because that is what traditional gender roles would call for. But before anyone takes part in this indulgence, think – You may be getting an expensive wrist-watch in this transaction, but by accepting this state of affairs, what are you doing for the number of men and women, who have and are still suffering due to the restrains of patriarchy.

Yes, patriarchy affects men too. Their right of emotional expression, of being loving and involved parents is taken away. They are taught from childhood to view women as inferior, and they struggle forever to undo this learning, they get crippled in relationships because of always being taught aloofness. They face problems at work because anger has always been encouraged in them. They have to confirm to typically male roles and activities.

Patriarchy is limiting in the long run. Feminism is a way out of it, but if it is used to escape work when you are on your period, rather than demand health expense to find out why you get this pain and what you can do to manage it – it starts to dilute and succumb to misuse.

Regardless of whether you call yourself a feminist or not, regardless of whether you are a woman or not – before you indulge in the perks of patriarchy or use feminism to your convenience and dilute it, think what it will do to the number of people who are still not living in a world as advantageous or liberated as yours and could actually use a progressive ideology to help themselves.

Make up your mind.

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