I went looking for balm and found a treasure

Don’t give me your secret

It’s not a treasure

But an unconsenting, unforgiving bond

Demanding one like itself in return

What if I have none or don’t want one?

 

Keep your secrets

You’re not sharing them with me

You’re depositing poison in me

So you have reprieve; what of me?

They are not mine to have to survive

 

‘Of a sensitive nature’ they say

Of things meant to be kept secret

If that’s you, look elsewhere

I’ve not offering asbestos services

Treasure your secrets. By yourself

 

Ramya Pandyan

 

This poem captures exactly what I have been going through for some time now. Nice blog. Visit it and you will find good stuff. I have gone through only a few of Ramya’s post but I am impressed.

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Baby steps in Meditation

The decision to give meditation a shot came when I saw an image in Pinterest that said, “You’d never know what you are missing in life until you meditate 20 minutes a day.” It was the beginning of January when I was eager to clean up my act so I thought “Why not?”

I did not exactly take to meditation like fish to water. I was (and am) suspicious. So here is what I learnt.

The beginning was the easiest. Pick a place, wear comfortable clothes, dim lights to a certain extent, make sure you are happy with the fan’s speed and the air conditioner’s settings and off you go to the land of deeply breathing in and slowly breathing out. You breathe slowly and all you think is “Woo hoo, look who is meditating” but with a calmer quieter inner voice. This is simplicity itself. I was sure that this is one of those things that I just did naturally well. The next day was even better but I was getting slightly aware that my lungs were not used to this workout and was asking me what the hell I was playing at.

But soon the power of concentration and meditation decreased. I don’t quite know why this was so. Maybe I was not approaching meditation with sufficient reverence anymore. I started getting hungry during meditation time. I hardly found the time and when I did find the time, it did not feel good anymore. I was losing the meditation mojo I already had.

I had to add a few more rules like light snacking before meditating and not attempting meditation when too sleepy. But what are the tangible benefits that I can speak off? Is it really worth my time to spend close to 20 minutes?

Frankly the main point of meditation seems to be that you are not checking Whatsapp messages or twitter feed or Facebook feed, so instead of the outside world telling the mind what to think, the mind is permitted to be itself. At this time my mind doesn’t become less active. It becomes more active and reviews the parts of my life that needs more thought. I remember friends I need to catch up with, I remember that it is high time I visited my dentist and I remember that it has been some time since I returned blogging. But I also get time to reflect that what someone said was probably not what they meant. I take time to read between the lines. Delightful parts of my childhood pops in and in this process the thoughts get in line and the innards of my mind appears to be clean and dust free.

Is there any practical use? Yes. As I was saying, commitments you have been procrastinating and pushing aside will haunt you more and you will get more done. You’d review yourself and that will result in small changes. Perhaps you will find that you consciously drink more water or that you consider keeping away from someone who has been a gossipy presence in your life. Or may be you’d decide to enroll yourself in a Karate class after all these years. I am not sure what you will change after you start meditating. But something will change.

The dog-lovers and the rest of us

I was listening to a conversation between a mother of a 3 year old daughter and the owner of a 3 year old dog. The conversation was held most amicably but I could see how different their stances were. I was not a part of that conversation but could identify strongly with one of them. If you think your dog is like your child, here are a few things that I would like to tell you.

Firstly, I teach my daughter to behave herself and teaching her manners was not easy. She learnt to say hello, please and thank you when appropriate when she was very young. If your dog non-verbally displays similar manners, I will pat its head and be nice. If not, admit that you are a bad parent/owner. I have seen very well-mannered dogs that will understand the guests and come to cuddle only if invited. Teach your dog that. Child-rearing is not about buying toys and cutting birthday cakes and running on the beach sand. It is about helping the child make sense of the world she is brought into and if you are a dog-owner, the same is expected out of you too.

Don’t say “Dora is not a dog”. Of course she is. She is a canine. She barks and howls and has four legs and a tail. You love the dog like a daughter and that is your right. That does not mean that the barking is a cute sound or that the growling dog has to seem less than intimidating in my eyes. The dog does not become an honorary child in the view of the world and it doesn’t have to. Dora probably likes being a dog.

Don’t feed the dog with your hands; it freaks the rest of us out. Tell the dog that begging for food at the dining table is not a decent habit. Think how you’d feel if I did the same with a komodo dragon and expected you to be cool with it. That is the extent to which dogs freak us out.

I can’t talk on behalf of the rest of the non-dog-loving population, but I personally do know and understand that dogs are intelligent and sweet and loving. Anecdotes about how Dora loves nail polish and begs for it will not make me an instant dog-lover. It is possible to expect a decent distance even after appreciating the complexity of canine (or feline) behavior.

Think twice before you say “Children are more annoying and I hate them.” I understand that you love your pet like a child and most people are not going to give heartfelt condolences when you lose your pet to old age or illness. They will not understand if you take the day off when the dog is sick. But just don’t say “I hate babies” to a parent of a human baby. It is incredibly rude.

Maybe it is different in other countries, but I think here in India we have neither got the hang of managing our own pets nor respecting the pets of others.

* The whole “I hate babies” brigade should probably be a separate topic. So many people like to say that they don’t like babies, that it is almost a trend now.

The acid question

I recently noticed this. Whenever I have the mildest disagreement with a man and then go ahead and discuss it with a woman her response is always, “Please be careful, he might turn spiteful and throw acid on you”. I don’t mean a specific woman but women in general.

I am almost always amused at this reaction. It can make sense if I had a huge public row with the man in question and insulted him in such a way to hurt his pride or if he has shown any evidence of having obsession towards me. But often this is about very mild disagreements the way a human person disagrees with another human person.

Have we really gone too far in teaching women that men should be kept at a safe distance? Do we vilify men too much? Where do we get the “Aiyayo ethavathu pannira poraan” from?

Judgments and other things

I have met a certain type of women who seem to go all out for male attention. It may be because of the conservative circles that I typically move in, but it is almost always never done by revealing skin or the physical touch. It is done by implying to the men that they are the boss, that they are actually the gentler sex and that they are much more reliable than women can ever be. And it is also done by actively avoiding female company, judging them “bitchy”. It is done by turning a little bit mean in the presence of women and changing oneself into an angel when the first man walks in. It is kind of like how Sridevi’s daughter in English Vinglish was a sweeter person when the dad was around. But these women apply this to more than just one man.

Then I heard the term “Daddy Issues” and though I was initially loathe to let that term become a part of my vocablary, I invountarily applied the criteria to these women to check if it threw light on the people these women have turned out to be. Initially it was a near perfect fit. The women in question had absent father figures. It was almost as if that judgemental term was the answer I was looking for to explain what was initially completely incomprehensible to me. And sometimes it was the opposite. It was more regarding the father having been too present in the girl’s life to the extent that the girl started to see the father in a much better light than her own mother. I also saw that the male equivalents (Mommy Issues) existed in droves too. And sometimes the family seemed quite alright from where I was standing. In short, on good scrutiny, the theory did not hold as much water as I was initially crediting to it. Slowly I started to learn to keep myself from wildly making judgements on families that I hardly knew. A hundred judgements made, a lesson learnt.

This entire episode happened within my head. I did not discuss this theory saying mean things about people’s parents though the opportunities were a million. Also, the judgement would have been simplified by the minds of those who were listening to me gaining color that did not initially exist in my own theory. My problem was not against those who have more friends of the opposite sex. This was a different, more specific sort of attitude. But what if someone did not fully understand what I had to say? Would that not make me sound like a particularly mean-spirited person?

Something to this effect is what happened to the terms Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Cool Girl and yes, the judgements are almost always on female behaviour. In fact, the archetype I am describing above may be a sort of “Desi Cool Girl.”

But my question is this. Is it possible to become a unjudgemental person without ever taking a shot at a few quiet judgements initially? Is it wrong to navigate our world by making a few presumptions about people based on our own prior knowledge?

Are we using the words “Judgemental” and “Disapproving” interchangeably? If so, why?

Note: Check out how the “Cool Girl” described by Rosie Waterland and Gillian Flynn aren’t too similar. I may be judged a Cool Girl by Rosie but not by Gillian.

Those who know how it is done

I have a met a few people who seem to have done things just right.

You got married at 24 and they at 27? They ask you “why so soon?” and immediately turn to ask someone a “why so late” if they weren’t tied up by the golden age of 27.

They know that couples should ideally have an age difference of two or three. It goes without saying that men should be older and thereby earn more. It is REALLY recommended that men are taller so that the photos look good and the men are darker so that the women look fairer. Did I mention that men should pass an extra post-graduation course as men should always have that extra degree? Never mind if that MBA course is not going to be useful at all.

They know the exact number of children a happy person should have. Two. And though they know that you can’t choose it, they believe that a boy should come out first and the girl should follow three years later. That, apparently, is the natural order of things.

“Remain in the first company for 2 years and the second one for 3 years and stick to the third company forever”, they tell you. Yes, that is exactly what they did. Didn’t I tell you that they always get their stuff right?

Such planned lives. I am glad this works for them. But I also wonder. Do they know that there are other ways of going through life?

Questions that deserve answers

Have you seen starry eyed moms (and sometimes dads) talk about their fast-growing quick-learning bundles of joy? More often than not, I hear about their questions. You know what all he asked? “Why do cars need petrol? Why do we feel hungry? Why children need more sleep than adults? Why fever? Why vaccination? And why fever immediately after vaccination? Why soap? Why shoes and why not chappals to fancy places? How do birds build nests? What is a stray dog and how is it different from other dogs? Why do beggars choose to beg outside places of worship? What were the British doing in India? Why this and why that.”

I hear the questions and usually presume that answers would have been given. But it is when I actually hear parents converse with their children that I realize that the children almost never get the answers to the innumerous questions they pose. In the great rush of parental pride and joy they forget that they have not explained to their child why cars need petrol, why we feel hungry and what the British were doing in India.

The child receives inadvertent answers. “You ask nice questions but there are no answers”, “You are more intelligent than I am”, “You ask silly questions that are worth a good laugh but it is not worth my time to answer them” and the worst of them all, “You are an arrogant child and these are not questionable things. You just do as I say without questions.” Heck, some of these answers are sometimes even verbally given by tired adults.

I do understand that some questions really don’t have convenient answers and are too amusing to not chuckle at. I mean, who gave Chithalai Chathanar his name and why? Did they mean it as a joke or was it a trendy name during his time?  I don’t presume to know and don’t know anyone who does. But usually a question raised by a child can be answered by a sensible adult without too much difficulty. It is just that most of us are too clueless about the world of dinosaurs, uncomfortable about the traditions we pretend to believe in and pretty much unhappy about our own thoughts and stances about important issues. Constantly bowdlerizing our replies can get exhausting. But do we not owe our children sensible answers? Is there any point in placing the blame on the teachers when parents should play a significantly big part in the development of our child’s morals and standards? And please, do not give them circular answers like “It should not be done as it is wrong.” When you deem something wrong, have an honest reply to what is wrong about whatever you are talking about. It maybe something small like using your left hand to accept a gift or it may be as big as doing recreational drugs. Be clear and specific. “I said so” is not the answer to important questions.

Do not teach the child that accepting adult behavior and aping it cutely is a sweeter thing to do than questioning and exploring and being willing to think. It is nothing of that sort.