Opinions

The beautiful bullet journal community

As it often happens in cyberspace, I am not sure how I stumbled upon the Bullet Journalling community. Did the videos start turning in my YouTube recommended section because I was looking for tips on Journalling? Or was it because of my endless quest to find unique cute background pictures for my “Guess the Song” game?

I can’t be happier about my discovery. It is a community filled with creativity. Gentle feminine creativity related to Roses and Bunny Rabbits and Feathers and such like and not the ugly type that passes for creativity these days.

Even the comments section is a delight. It is a generally accepted dictum that you don’t read YouTube comments section. Even the most benign videos can harbor insanely ugly fights, insults and bad behavior. And the BUJO community is a welcome exception to the rule. I hope I am not jinxing this heaven on earth but the Bullet Journallers seem to hold each other in high esteem. The commenters are encouraging. And nobody starts “My-idol-is-better-than-yours” fights.

But the Bullet Journals are not actually about increasing creativity. They are about productivity and being organized. They are essentially to-do lists, with extra-attachments like Expense Trackers, and Birthday Trackers. People uninterested in doodling, have more utilitarian Bullet Journals. There are good videos for that too.

But it is this world of Sunflowers and Snowflakes and everything in between that is my go-to to brighten up the days.

So do I personally indulge in bullet journalling? Well yes and no. I have excel sheets that track any habit that I am struggling to keep up. I got the idea to do so from the bullet journallers. I don’t always keep up. But then that is me. I also journal in the more traditional “Dear Diary” way and over time I started to give a little more importance to the legibility of my handwriting and overall neatness of the journal. However, I don’t hope to keep up with these superwomen. I just admire them for their neatness, aesthetics and talent.

https://femininetosh.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/bulletjournal.xlsx

I am only highlighting 6 bullet journallers that I absoultely love.

Gold and Black Theme by “My Life in a Bullet” for July

Feather Theme by Christina77Star for August

Roses Theme by Bella Rica for September

Halloween theme by Christine MyLinh for October

Crystals Theme by Dutch dots for November

Christmas Tree Ornaments Theme by Amanda Rach Lee for December

 

Advertisements
Opinions

Have we stopped believing in ‘Unity in Diversity’?

I once heard an urban legend that when White Americans first heard Elvis Presley on radio, they assumed him to be a black man because of his obvious Black influence. When word got around that Elvis was actually a White dude, there was a marked increase in his popularity.

While I have not been able to verify this claim in any article about his initial rise to popularity, it intrigued me all the same. Is it true that we gravitate towards art and entertainment created by those whom we deem to be our own? Is our choice in entertainment media just an exercise in jingoism?

This is a very depressing thought. Do we take our differences so seriously that the merit of the art matters so little to us?

I liked Ahaa and found Kanda Naal Mudhal passably entertaining. But in general, I found that my Brahmin friends like both movies a lot more than I do. The church wedding scene at the climax of Minnale certainly put a smile on my lips as church weddings were not depicted very convincingly until then. It probably makes a difference only if you are familiar with church music. And all this is in a very forgettable movie which had not convinced me to be invested in the characters at all.

We all love it when an actor gets our dialect right. Vairamuthu consistently used the names of cities and towns in his lyrics as people got much attached to those songs. So we got ‘thenmerku paruva kaatru Theni pakkam veesum pothu‘ and ‘Maanamadurai mamara kilaiyilea’. We adore it when our specific culture is depicted on screen. This is the closest most of us are going to get to seeing ourselves on the big screen.

I strongly remember thinking “A woman wrote Vaseegara? So that is why it sounded so refreshingly different.

All this variety seems to have come only after Barathiraja burst into the scene. Movies pretended that caste did not exist and only class distinction existed at all. They always seemed so whitewashed to remove all traces of caste. This is of course based on my own reading of Black & White movies. I am not all that knowledgeable about movies.

But we need more variety. The movie making elite should never be a homogenous group. We need more directors, writers and lyricists who come from minority populations.

We need more Muslim directors. The movie scene is incomplete when such a large group of people are represented only as foil and not as their own agents. I have never seen a nice rom-com with a Muslim Jodi. I have never seen a casual scene where a Muslim woman wakes her son up saying that he is too lazy and should not be late to the mosque. We don’t see their life. And it really is high time, no?

All this yearnings for heterogeneous movies does not make the reduction of someone’s taste in Maniratnam and/or Kamalhassan movies to merely sharing their caste, any less absurd.

I mean, I’d have understood it if they were 2 obscure filmmakers long forgotten by the general public. But Maniratnam? And Kamalhassan?

Consider the Illayaraja top 100 albums that I collected as a tribute. A good 40+ songs of the 100 pictured as screenshots can be tracked back to K.Balachander, Maniratnam, Kamalhassan or the very prolific Vaali. Would I have been called casteist or classist for the very same choice had I been a Brahmin? It just doesn’t seem right.

We don’t think of class when we call 2 friends a “Deva-Surya” pair. We don’t think of caste when we use a “Nee Azhaga Irukanu Nenaikala” quote. On the same note, we don’t think of Vadivelu’s caste or Goundamani’s caste while laughing at a Kaipulla joke or All-in-all Alagaraja quote.

Caste is not continually on our minds while we interact with each other unless we permit some people to deposit poison in us. We need to learn to give space to a truly heterogeneous group of filmmakers without taking away from the achievements of those who came before them.

Opinions

On Gaining Emotional Stability

How does a normal person handle depression when it strikes? I have been asked to answer this question at different times by different people. Apparently I come across as stoic and they’d like to know how it is done. The secret to having a stoic exterior is to have a stoic interior and the secret to having a stoic interior isn’t something I had pondered upon much. So I am not of much use when it comes to these topics. I am not hiding the secret pill. It just happens that there is no secret pill.

But hey, I naturally have had my bit of life experiences where I people ruffled my feathers and when life wasn’t the cool breeze I’d want it to be. But never in my life have I remained depressed for weeks or months on end with no hope in sight. I do want to help those who deal with this a lot. I don’t consider myself particularly well-equipped to give advice in this. But I let us ponder on a few relevant points.

So here I will give you a list of the thoughts I entertain when things are not going well enough for me, the precautions I take while I think I am not as stable as I’d like to be and what I notice about people who seem prone to depression.

Have a good relationship with yourself

Do you like yourself? If you were somebody else for a day, and you met yourself on the hallway, would your face light up in joy? Get the answer to this straight. It isn’t about your looks, your social position, your intelligence, your reputation or even your sense of humor. You meet other people 1 or 2 or 8 or 16 hours a day. You are the only one you spend 24 hours with. You don’t get to escape from yourself even during your sleep. So enjoy your presence and make your presence enjoyable.

This doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people and it seems to need effort. I don’t have the professional qualification to tell you why this is so. But one thing I know for sure. It is not good to wait until you are depressed to deal with your relationship with yourself. You need to nurture yourself even on a day when everything is going right.
You are not of significant importance in most people’s lives and this is actually a good thing. Be of significant importance in your own life. Get yourself a hobby that keeps you going. Make sure it is not just tuning to a TV show or an online game you login to every night. It should be something you actively look forward to every week, if not every day.

Build yourself up

Nobody can eat for you. Nobody can drink for you. Nobody can sleep for you. Nobody can deal with your depression for you.
The feeling that someone should step in and rescue you can be overwhelming. Think of a pot of water that you need to carry. Other people can lift it up and put it on your head. But if the pot needs to remain there, you need both the strength and the stability to handle the heavy load.

Sometimes you can feel let down that someone you trust and love isn’t offering to take up the load. You feel that you’d have surely helped if the situation is reversed. But this is an illusion. The load is inside your head and this is something only you can handle. This one can’t be put on someone else’s head.

Existential Crisis

The big questions like “Why am I here?” and “Is that all there is to my life?” strikes all humans. It is just that some people get involved in religion or charity and find peace through their own preferred channels and others seem to get sucked into a whirlwind of self-loathing and disappointment which they are not able to escape.

Like most people I do wonder about the impermanence of life when I attend funerals or when I hear of accidents. However, I never get sucked into those thoughts. Some suggest that I have not grown enough philosophically. That is very good. I am not interested in that growth anyway.

But one thing I do know. If the big questions bother you too much, you ought to talk to people and get it over with and take a clear direction in your life that makes good sense to you. Taking any direction is better than taking no direction.

Don’t underestimate the power of good sleep, a sensible diet and exercise

Most people think they are depressed and that the world is out to get them, when in truth they are merely slightly sleepy and a tad hungry and a bit stiff in the joints. However, instead of fixing the obvious root causes, they’d have to aggravate the situation by killing their own sleep time and by eating junk that would worsen their good hormones.

And exercise. As a society, we have convinced ourselves that working out is something you’d have to do if you are unhappy with the shape of your body. We have also convinced ourselves that exercise is an unpleasant activity that you’d have to endure to shape our body to a socially accepted standard shape. This makes people look down on these activities as something shallow people do for their own vanity.

However, physical activity helps you be in touch with yourself. Assess your strength, flexibility, balance and endurance and work on your body on a regular basis as the health of your body determines the state of your mind.

Seek Professional Advice when needed

Sometimes loved ones die. Other times loved ones disappoint. Life is not going to be smooth sailing and you can’t be happy and smiling and active and a ball of fire all the time. It is just that you should have the ability to pick yourself up and the stamina to keep going.

Clinical depression is not the same as these situation-based bouts of depression. Clinical depression is a more serious problem. Acknowledging that you have a problem is a very important part of solving it.

People who have headaches or tooth aches or arthritis have no problem seeking a doctor but just can’t imagine visiting a therapist to handle their depression. Psychologists and psychiatrists don’t get their college certificates to dish out mere conventional wisdom or to mindlessly write out a sleeping dose. A lot of research has happened in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. Professionals can and will help you a lot better than the agony aunts of magazines or sweet-voiced radio jockeys.

Opinions

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.

Opinions

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.

Opinions

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.

Opinions

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?