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THINGS DID WORK OUT

Trusting my own decisions has never come easily to me. I always rethink my decisions weighing all the pros and cons over and over again. Even while making a small decision of buying a dress, I feel more comfortable after taking a second opinion from a friend. I jokingly say that it is the aftereffect of being completely surrounded by Librans and their balance (My closest family members are mostly Librans and I am sure they will not forgive me for this statement 😉).

I guess living a very sheltered life and always having some one at hand to bounce my ideas off has made me dependent. 

Anyways so for a person like me to think of an incident where I completely trusted my own decision, I had to do a lot of deep diving.

When my kids were pretty small, the elder one was in Nursery and the younger was hardly a toddler. My life was all chalked up. My in-laws were staying with me. There was a full-time maid to help out with the kids. Me and my husband both had a good job.  I was actually working with a government organisation having a pensionable job.

Out of the blue moon things changed on every front. There were some family obligations because of which my mom-in-law had to shift to her elder son’s house. My husband got a great opportunity to work in Pune. He shifted base to Pune and suddenly the responsibility of handling my job and two small kids felt very huge.

We tried to manage for 6 months but then I realised that at this stage I didn’t want a long-distance marriage. He was tired  of travelling to and fro every weekend and kids were becoming very cranky and difficult to handle.

After a lot of deliberations, I decided to take a 1-year leave and move to Pune to see how things work out. To cut the long story short things did work out there and I left the government job.

People called me foolish to have taken such a decision… Others said this was a wise decision. The jury is still out on that.

But looking back all I think is things did work out for good in the end.

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I TRUSTED THE MYSTERY GUY

One phone call.

One mistaken identity.

A chat with an unknown person, whom I mistook for a friend of mine, costed me my time and emotions.

I received a call from an unknown contact. For the first time, I disconnected as a wrong number. But, the caller called again. When he asked me to guess, I assumed to be one of my friends as he posed as my known one. Later, when I realised my mistake, I stopped taking his calls. After a few weeks, I started receiving the calls again. He said that if I didn’t pick his calls, he would take the formal route by calling up my parents and seeking their permission, as he wanted to marry me.

Marriage! What me! No, way! I wanted to have a career first after finishing my course. Marriage for me was too early. I got tensed and used to get up very early in the mornings because of anxiety. The guy wasn’t known to me, but he knew a lot about me. How strange was that! He had unusual phone numbers, some ending with 888 and sometimes only 4-digit numbers. Yes, it was very strange.

One day I was too annoyed that I blasted at him for giving me a hard time and I was almost crying. He sensed and disconnected. Relief at last! I though. But I was wrong. He called again, saying that he tried not to call me, but he couldn’t stop himself and needs time. 10 days he asked. He said that on the 11th day, I wont get any call from him. Those days went with friendly conversations and I started actually liking him and our talks continued beyond 10 days. Though his name, his location, his family remained a mystery.

“Does that guy really exist?” “Are you normal?” Such questions were asked from my close friends whom I had confided. I wished to meet him. After a long time, he finally agreed and we met twice only, that too between long intervals. ‘Intervals’ here was a kind of hibernation. He used to just vanish, with no calls or messages and after a few months would return to his ‘calling’ self, as if coming out of hibernation. This was really infuriating as all his numbers would come out of reach. Mysteries around him increased and I started getting the pressure of marriage from my parents. ‘Either you tell, or we shall look after one’, used to be their favourite line. I confided in my brother, who talked to him. And the trouble began. He called me, shouting at the top of his voice. He was angry on me that my brother called him up. He said he would call me himself and no need to try calling on his numbers ever again. I tried my best, but couldn’t take him out of my mind. I trusted him. I trusted his words, but probably his name was also not real. At that time, there was no social media, yet I searched him all over the internet, trying to search with his phone number, his names. But I ended up in wasting my time.

All due to my blind trust on him.

Another lesson of life learnt.

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TRUSTING THE SELF – PEOPLE AND THINGS

As much as we want to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that – when we make a decision and trust ourselves to execute it, how many of us, can truly say – it has worked out?
…and yet we go about making so many decisions along our day – most of which are done at the spur of the moment, do we have the conviction to trust even the “smallest” decision made?

If trusting our decisions is the physical execution of a particular task, then self confidence is the driving force behind it.

Some of the very normal and everyday decisions we make are:

~ when do we cross the road in a country that do not possess traffic lights? #India

~ how much do we spend filling petrol in our vehicles – now that it’s touched INR 100 a litre?

~ Do we use public transport over private vehicles when it comes to safety v/s money?

~ Do we continue wearing masks & take precautions or go through life with gay abandon forcing ourselves to the “normal life” in comparison to that of the “new normal”?

These may be some of the more simple decisions in life, but that said – again, we still need to trust these decisions we make – however small or big it may be.

12 Reasons You Should Never Regret Any Decision You Ever Make

While all of us make decisions: some forcefully and some not – I personally gift myself with life altering decisions that make me put myself in situations that are new, the unknown but surely in places that I’d be better off than what the present situation finds me in.
Not even the closest member of my family would be able to decipher/understand my next move, my next decision – and ask me why? I’d have no answer, for I never thought it have ever been important enough to explain my decisions to anyone else.

I trust the decisions I make – and obviously there would be made only to help me be a better version of myself. <others may disagree but well….>

That said all my decisions haven’t always reaped benefits, BUT if there’s one thing that trusting my own decisions has done is: even if things went wrong, I am/was solely responsible for it and no one else had a hand in it. Success was ALL MINE so are/were the failures.

Listening to people have got me nowhere, other than confuse me more and to find myself back at square one.

To think of one such instance of trusting my own decision: was to decide to work out-of-state – a new place, a new line of work, strange people and a language I had no clue to speak. However, new things always excited me – and working out of state was never a new thing, many people had done it before me, so I was just one more. However, when it came to support from back home: it didn’t come in abundance besides my dad (who is always game for a new adventure – an advocate of the phrase: “you only learn when you put yourself out there“)

I got into the teaching line with little to no experience in the field initially, only for a crash course in the ‘do’s and the ‘don’t’s and a skill of the language that I possessed. I trusted my decision to go ahead not so much on the experience front, but on the skill front and of course, the fact that I knew I would do well because I backed myself with a whole lot of conviction and the trust in my abilities backed with confidence like that, its rare that things would go wrong.
The road wasn’t the smoothest but if ever I made a good decision in my life, that was surely one of them.

They’ve been other decisions too – some taken in the past, others in the ongoing present and a lot more to come in the future. My life has been a whole set of decisions that I set out to do, make, break, achieve & power ahead – I am bound to make a lot of people unhappy on the way; but then again the journey isn’t theirs, it has, is and will always be mine, if we happen to cross paths and a wonderful relationship comes out of it, be it professionally or personally (nothing like it). This has always been me – Plain, Blunt and TO THE POINT.

Making the right decision is one thing, trusting that decision and marching forward – no matter the judgements is a whole new level of awesomeness, that one needs to experience. I continue to feed myself with these experiences, maybe you could give it a try out yourself too.

I’d like to end with a piece of advice to all fellow readers:

If you think you aren’t qualified to make a good choice then you’re going to be afraid to make any choice.

May the Power be YOURS.

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TRUSTING MY OWN DECISIONS BASED ON MY INTUITION

Well, my intuition is one of my best friends. It guides me when I need it the most. It makes me feel secure and safe in this wild world. It makes me do the right things at the right times.

What is Intuition?

It is that tiny little voice that says – “Just do it. Everything is gonna be alright.” It is your own sixth sense that tells you if your decision will take you where you want to go or not. It is that gut feeling or the vibes that one feels when something is not right. Even without enough analysis of something, you sometimes just know that you should do something or not do something.

Is the intuition always right?

No. It has failed me many times so that I could only learn better from my experience. Sometimes I failed multiple times but that’s just life. Isn’t it? Intuition is not always meant to be right. If it were, then all of us would be Gods.

When do I use my intuitions the most?

In trusting people. About 6 years back, after a few unfortunate incidents of betrayal at the hands of my “so-called” friends I made a decision. That decision was to get away from any friendship (or relationship) that seems fake. If I cannot make any meaningful conversations with a particular person, then there is no point in being in touch with that person just for gossiping about rest of the world.

Since that point in time, I have used my intuition the most in choosing my friends. And I must say that I have been really successful. I chose the right people who brought out the best in me whether it was the group of my apartment buddies, or my office lunch group, or my Candles family, or my child’s school friend’s moms etc. I am so glad that I haven’t faced any sort of a discomfort from any of my friends since I started to use my intuition to choose my friends and to decide how much to open up in front of whom.

I recall one such incident where I really trusted my intuition and took a decision. And I really got what I wanted. In the year 2013, I suffered a miscarriage and at that point of life I was so upset about not being able to conceive. We had seen doctors, got a lot of tests done and even taken a few treatments. It was not working out. We changed doctor after doctor because I had a strong feeling that I am not finding a good doctor. Little did I know then that infertility clinics is such a huge industry and it is very difficult to find an effective solution. I was looking for a doctor that I could connect with, a doctor who listened to me and my concerns about my body.

Eventually I found a doctor, recommended by a friend. And as soon as I met this doc, I knew that she was the one. She didn’t talk too much, she listened, she empathized and she didn’t talk medical jargon. She just looked at the reports and said – “Everything’s normal. Let us not worry too much. We will just take the right steps and see how it works.” The calm way in which she spoke I just knew that I could trust her. My intuition told me that this will work. And it did. Finally we were blessed with our boy in 2015 and life was good again.

How to sharpen your intuition

This is something that I am not an expert in (I am still learning). But I know for sure that to sharpen your intuition, you need to do the following

  1. Keep your thoughts organized. Don’t let your mind clutter with all the negativity. Negative self-talk is the killer for a strong intuition.
  2. Meditate and focus on the process of life. When I say process of life, I mean focus on something that proves that you are living. Like your breath, or the movement of your abdomen when you are breathing, or just focus on one of your fingers etc. There are a million ways to meditate effectively. Use what works for you.
  3. Do not take decisions when you are angry or upset. Your intuition is simply shut off when you are in a negative state of mind.
  4. If you are in doubt whether you are taking a right decision or not, take time. Time to breathe and slow down your thoughts or time to just sleep over it.

Your intuition will always make you trust your decisions and stick to them. Use it wisely!

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THE FIGHTER IN ME

Getting panicked easily, worrying too much, getting nervous quickly…


Yes, the above-mentioned traits have been a part of me. I have been really trying hard not to get scared and face the situation bravely.


Recently, when I had covid, along with other members of the family, I was the most drained out of energy, too feeble to stand for long. As a protocol, we were checking our oxygen levels regularly. It ranged from 96- 99. There came a time when during one night, my level went down to 95. Even after deep breathing exercises, it didn’t increase. I got scared, but didn’t bother to wake anyone and tell. Instead, I kept on telling myself that I couldn’t let this virus overpower me. Just as in the image, the lion was a virus and the fighter was me. I kept on meditating and after 2 hours, oxygen saturation reached 97. ‘‘I did it’’, I said to myself.


I am a fighterYes I amI keep telling myself
Until all worries shun
I can fight
If I try
I can win too
Then why should I cry
Overcome your fears
Don’t distress
There’s a fighter in each of us.

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A NUDGE OR A PUSH

Look at the picture above and tell me what you see? I see the nudge or the push that mother elephant is giving to her baby to go on her own into the water. The little one is scared to move ahead on her own but the mother knows she is ready for the world. Similarly, we have heard stories about birds who push their young ones out of the nest. That is their way to make them fly. They know the little one is ready to fly and explore even though he is scared. Hence the push is required, it’s a necessity.


Do we humans also do the same? I guess not.. We hold on to our children for a long time. At least I can speak for the parents in India. We want to keep the children with us as long as we can. First because we think they need us and then we need them.


As a small child it is important that we protect our children from the harsh realities of the world. But there is a time when we should let the child explore on his or her own. When is the right time to let go of the umbilical cord is debatable but I guess it generally happens in phases. The boundaries of the child keep increasing as they grow up and then one fine day they grow up into young men and women ready to take on the world.
I have two almost adult boys who want me to leave them alone and let them decide on their own about everything. We have a tussle deciding the boundaries every day.


The other day my younger son was playing in an online chess tournament. He was having a tough match I could hear his frustrated comments in the other room. I so much wanted to walk into his room and hold his hand and calm him down. Tell him its ok. Relax… You are doing well… But no, I couldn’t. Firstly, because the camera was on and it would tantamount to cheating but also because he has to go through these emotions on his own and learn to control himself if he has to win the tournament.


I keep telling myself they are prepared. For their personalities to shape up they need to explore on their own. Even if they stumble and fall… they need to learn to get up and dust themselves and move on… not wait for help from Mumma… So, learning a lesson from the animal kingdom today… Something I knew but many a times forgot to put into effect. It requires courage on both the side. The parents who have been the protectors for so long need to courage to let go and the child who has to venture out on his own requires courage to do so.

Sometimes a nudge or a push is the right thing to do.

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A TRIBUTE TO OUR BEST COMPANIONS

Hachiko was a Japanese dog (breed: Akita) who waited for his master’s return for 9 years at the train station. His master died while he was at work and Hachiko tried his best to stop him from going to work that day because he could sense that something might happen to his master. Today, there is a statue of Hachiko at the train station as a tribute to his utmost loyalty to his master.

God bless these amazing creatures who are called “Man’s best friend” because they are the most loyal companions to us.

The poem below is dedicated to Hachiko and all the dogs who demonstrate remarkable loyalty to us and tremendous courage for our safety.

I run and I run coz I know my master is going to be in pain, 
I need to somehow stop him from getting on the train, 
He looks at me and finally stops driving, 
He pats me, kisses me and gives me a bone for licking. 

Bone is not what I want, 
My master’s safety is all I want. 
He doesn’t understand my tone, 
Even when I cry and howl. 

They say I am being naughty, 
But they can’t see I am doing my utmost duty, 
My master is my God, 
Even though I am just his Dog. 

He never returns, but I wait. 
It has been days and weeks, but I wait. 
It has been seasons and years, but I wait. 

They try to take me to a new home, 
But my master who gave me all the love is my only hope. 
I don’t need a new family, 
I am just content to be lonely. 

I wait for my master’s return till my last breath, 
Finally I unite with him after my own death. 

My master is my God, 
Even though I am just his Dog. 

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STORY OF COURAGE THAT INSPIRED ME

Sometime in mid-1990’s, there was a man who worked as a Scientist for a CSIR laboratory in a small city of Dehradun. He had limited resources but immense will and courage to make a difference to the society. He was deeply moved by the rag-pickers who would keep hunting for clean waste in the piles waste dumps. It was unhealthy and utterly filthy.

For months together, the sight of these rag-pickers troubled him. Somehow he had to help them get clean waste so that these people don’t have to hunt for recyclable waste and carry them to the factories to earn their living. They deserve a respectable life, they deserve a healthy life. This thought made home in his mind.

In 1990’s, there was no concept of waste segregation existing in our country. This man lived in Government quarters with his family in a Government colony. And he came up with the thought of waste segregation – it was just a thought to start with. He wrote articles on why we should segregate waste at source and how it can help the society as a whole. He wrote poems on the same. For advertising his thought, he even dressed his younger daughter as a rag-picker during the fancy dress competition in colony fete (she got the first prize for acting a rag-picker, reciting her father’s poem and conveying a social message).

He had already put his thoughts on paper which had become quite famous. Now he wanted to put his words on action. A couple of his colleagues supported him and he went to each household in the colony and educated them on waste segregation. The idea was simple, they had to keep biodegradable (food) waste in a separate bin that could go to a compose pit and they had to keep non-biodegradable (plastic, glass, etc) in big plastic bag provided to them. Every week he would arrange for a few rag-pickers to come in colony and pick up the non-biodegradable waste from all the households. It was win-win for all. Rag-pickers got clean waste and residents of the colony could now become 0 waste producing community.

He called it “Rag-picker” scheme. It was a huge hit not only in the colony but in the entire city. He got media attention and attention from educational institutions. In spite of all this, he stayed grounded. His team of rag-pickers was not huge but with time he saw a tremendous transformation in them. They were now in better clothes, had watch on their wrists and they were in a position to buy small houses for themselves. He did everything possible to keep the scheme going till he was living in the colony.


Union Ministry of Environment in India released Solid Waste Management rules in 2016 which called for Waste segregation at source as a mandatory requirement. But a common man made this mandatory under “Rag-picker Scheme” at least 20 years earlier in IIP colony, Dehradun.


To do an act of this kind is courage. It takes patience, drive, will and most importantly it needs courage to stand up for an ignored section of society and do something for them.

This man is my Father. And this one act, inspired me to the core. I understood at a young age that without making a difference to your society, your life is practically worthless. Courage is not always about swords and fights, it is almost always about using a Pen to put your thoughts in words and then to use those words to create an action that makes a real difference.

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COURAGE – WINNING OVER YOUR FEARS

“Courage is not about being fearless,
It’s about winning over your fears”

We all have grown up listening to fables, bed-time stories and fairy tales. These stories were not just meant to be for entertainment, but conveyed deep messages. Courage is what most of these stories have in common in some or the other way. There is this one character who demonstrates courage and exemplary skills of heroism.

I too had a big hardcover book of bed-time stories that I used to read before dozing off to sleep. Not because I didn’t have time during the day, but because I was so dumb (read naïve) as a child that since it’s cover boldly mentioned ‘Children’s Bedtime Stories’, I dared not read it until it was bedtime!

So, my favourite stories were many, but I really liked The Little Red Riding Hood the most. I admire the cute little girl in red cloak as she had the courage to go alone, through the dangerous forest, to her grandmother’s house. On realizing that the grandma she met was actually a wolf in disguise, she didn’t fret and bravely called out for help. Though she was scared, she overcame the challenges by showing courage. 

In any grim situation, it’s courage which helps us beat the odds and emerge as winners. Though Little Red Riding Hood was a little adventurous, as she didn’t follow her mother’s strict instructions of not wandering off the path and not talking to anyone in the woods, it takes courage to have adventure in real life as well. Isn’t it?

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SMALL ACTS GO A LONG WAY …

Act of courage need not be something monumental that you did. It also means the small but meaningful acts that we do every day. Like owning up our mistakes and saying sorry, standing up to someone who is bullying you or just saying a firm no.

Recently I came across the story of my colleague’s daughter who is in grade 5 and is being bullied by her so-called best friend in school.

Yes, even I was surprised to hear that. In today’s day of online classes, even when they don’t physically meet, she is able to bully her.

Let’s call her Annie and her friend Rachel. Rachel was a topper in the class and a favourite of her teachers. When Annie joins the same school and becomes her classmate, she becomes direct competition to her. Annie starts bagging the prizes which Rachel used to get. Annie is at the top of her class now.

Rachel is so consumed with jealously. She uses technology as her tool. Whenever Annie replies to any question in the class Rachel writes snide remarks in the chat box. Wonder how her teacher misses it. Then in the evening Rachel has set up a zoom meeting everyday to do homework. The rule of the meeting is that Annie will finish all her homework before that zoom call and share it with her friends in the zoom meeting.

Poor Annie thinks she is doing it for her friend. Her innocent brain does not comprehend that she is being used. Another instance of bullying is that Rachel tells Annie ‘You are an only child because your parents got so fed-up taking care of you that they decided they didn’t want any more children.’ ‘Look at me I have two other siblings to love me.’ With both parents working and she staying with her grand parents for almost the whole day Annie didn’t tell anyone about all this and was on the verge of a breakdown.

Constant messaging on WhatsApp that you are good for nothing. Your mother does all work for you. Really brought Annie’s self-worth down and she really started believing it herself. All along Rachel kept telling her that I am your only friend and no one else wants to be your friend. Friends do get angry with each other but then its OK to be angry.

Annie got so traumatized with the whole thing. On one hand she kept getting critiqued by her ‘Best Friend’ on the other hand she was scared to lose her only friend. Annie got fever and finally she broke down in front of her mom and told her the whole story.

My colleague was so worried about her daughter. Both the parents counseled her a lot. After a few days of explaining and counseling, my friend told me today that finally Annie got the courage to call that girl and tell her that she is blocking her on WhatsApp and she does not want to talk to her anymore whatever the consequences. A formal complain was also lodged with the Principal. Now that is an act of courage! Specially from a 10-year-old girl. She must have gone through a lot of emotional stress. May God give her more strength! She will bounce back I am sure, as children always do.

Standing up for oneself and being able to say no to things we don’t want to do, whatever the circumstances, not letting someone take advantage of you these are our day to day acts of courage.

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THE DAY I DIALLED 100, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER

It was a normal routine trip to the nearby market in Dwarka, Delhi. I was on my Scooterette and was going back home. As soon as I turned on the ignition and accelerated, a bike rapidly came from behind and the guy on it gave a little jolt near me and said something. We both were wearing helmets and so, I could not hear what he actually said, but I actually was shocked and it took me some time to gather myself. It felt as if he tried to scare me or rather teased me. Eve-teasing during those times was very common. With a flick, he raced his bike and sped away. My heartbeat was racing too, in anger. I didn’t know what to do.

In all this commotion, I forgot to look at the number plate of the bike. I was so shaken and angry that I took out my mobile phone and dialled 100. My call was responded to immediately, but due to lack of details, I was told that they won’t be able to help me. I asked if they could let me know if there’s any PCR van nearby. They refused. I guess GPS tracking wasn’t popular then! Anyways, I wanted to teach the guy a lesson, so I decided to chase him. I saw him taking a turn, so I also followed him. But the distance between us was so much that I lost his track. I kept on going further until I realized that won’t be of any help and I was wasting my time.

A moment later, when I returned back home, I thought it was stupid of me for not noticing the number plate of that bike. However, I felt good that I had the courage to follow him! Courage, that was fuelled by anger. From that day, I have started being more observant and now I do glance at the number plates of the vehicles around me.

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COURAGE TO LEAVE THE SAFE HAVEN AND BE INDEPENDENT

“Courage is not always a roar. Sometimes, it is just that tiny little voice in your head that says – I can do it and I will try again tomorrow.”

Just today I was listening to the Amazon music station “Best of Bollywood in 2006” and Alexa played songs like – Mitwaa and kya mujhe pyar hai. And I got transported to that year of my life that was one of the major transitions for me.

I passed out of Engineering College in 2006 and was without any campus placement as our small little government college in the middle of the Himalayas had no such opportunities. All of my batchmates were moving to Bangalore to look for a job but my dad didn’t believe in living in PG’s and searching for a job. He wasn’t ready to send me to a city that had none of our relatives who could help me. So, the farthest I could go to was Mumbai at my sister’s place. 

I spent a month in Mumbai only to realize there were no opportunities that could suit me there. And I was also aware that my friends in Bangalore were writing entrances all over Bangalore. I spent hours at the internet café applying for jobs on the job portals. I had no laptop, no internet and a basic Nokia 1100 phone.

Finally, I got an interview call from Bangalore and I jumped at the opportunity. I told my parents and my sis that I have to take this and I went. I stayed with my friends in a PG for 3 days and did everything possible to participate in as many fresher’s job fairs as possible. During those 3 days, I got rejected at least twice in the interviews. I came back to Mumbai to stay for some more time but not a single call in that city came my way. Fortunately for me, I got an interview call from GE which I managed to postpone by a week and arrange for the tickets. This time I was sure that I wasn’t coming back to Mumbai. 

I packed my bags and told my family that I have to do this. I cannot keep travelling between the two cities and it wasn’t helping. That was when my dad decided to support me. He arranged for me to stay in one of CSIR guest houses. While on the train (Udyan Express) that took 24 hours from Mumbai to Bangalore – I was a nervous wreck. I was too anxious and spent most of my time crying and getting panicky. It had been 3-4 months since I was on a job hunt and nothing was working out. I had been rejected a few times already. I had been the topper in my college and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t making it through. 

The CSIR guest house was an amazing place, a huge room just for me. I stayed in that guest house for 2 days and literally didn’t step out of the room even once because I was busy preparing for the interviews. Manipal Hospital on Old Airport Road was right opposite to the guest house and I just went there twice a day to eat food in the hospital canteen. 3rd day was my interview at GE which went inconclusive. 

After that, the challenge began as I had to find a place to live. I couldn’t stay in the Guest House for longer. None of my friend’s PG had a vacant place, so I just found a Working Women’s Hostel near my friend’s PG. The room had to be shared with 4 other girls and the first day I entered and saw my bed – there was a lizard on the mattress. But I had no choice now. I just drove the lizard away (it was a big deal because at home I wouldn’t sleep in the room that had a lizard) and slept on the mattress. I mostly ate at Shiv Sagar nearby which sold the North Indian meal Rs. 35/- then. It was more than enough for me. 

A few days later GE called me in again and the next round of interviews bore results finally. In those few days, I and my friends would travel all across Bangalore with copies of our resumes, dressed in formal clothes, travelling in local BMTC (non-AC) buses – we always bought the daily pass of Rs. 25/- and continued to hop from one job fair to another. 

Every night the uncertainty was killing. The next day was the same struggle. Even though we were going through a tough time, we found ways to keep ourselves elated. We sang to each other, danced at weird times in the night and did a lot to keep ourselves going. Life was tough, one night we had a theft in the hostel. Some random thief entered our room and took away all the cash and phones. That was the first time in my life that I felt terribly scared and felt like giving up. I didn’t care much about the lost cash and phone but felt worried about my own safety. All the stories of struggling girls getting raped were circling in my head. 

Finally, when the job came my way, it all got settled. I finally left that hostel and moved into a flat with one of my friends and life looked nicer and in control again. 

This is the story of 2006 and sometimes I just wonder – where did I get all that courage from to deal with this struggle? My parents were more than happy to just let me stay at home with them and arrange a groom for me. That would have been a convenient option, but that wasn’t acceptable to me. I craved to earn my own money and earn my independence. I didn’t want to live with family, I wanted to live that struggle because I really needed to know then – How much courage can I really muster? And I did surprise myself. 

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IT TAKES COURAGE TO GROW UP AND BECOME WHO YOU REALLY ARE

Courage is a necessity to overcome fears and achieve the desired goal. Fear is something that exists in all of us. There is no hero or any particular courageous figure that is without fear. Being fearless is not required to be courageous, one simply has to look past or overcome their fears. Courage does not mean merely physical bravery, it means, also, the moral strength which enables a man to do the right thing. Physical courage is good and useful, as it helps man to overcome difficulties, bear hardships, and do laborious work, but moral courage is a higher form of courage and is much nobler. A moral coward will not do the right thing, because he is afraid to be ridiculed by others. It is easy to say ‘yes’ to everything, but it requires a very strong mind to say ‘no,’ when one is really convinced that the thing is wrong.

For example, many great reformers would not have achieved the success they achieved if they had yielded to the threats of their opponents who were perhaps even more powerful than themselves.

Sacrificing one’s interests for the sake of others requires great courage. A man who risks his own life to save that of another, who rescues another from fire, or saves a drowning man, defines courage. Someone who stands up for what he firmly believes in when thousands follow the wrong path defines courage.

Someone who puts on a smiling facade while they may be crippling defines courage.

To everyone who fights every day mentally or physically, to everyone who fights every day in this pandemic as a doctor or a survivor, to everyone who pretends to be stronger than ever were, YOU are courage.

We start demonstrating courage since childhood itself but the form of courage gets deeper and more intense as we grow up. The situations and circumstances that we face in life also define how courageous one needs to be.

One courageous act that I have done is putting my foot down in the matter of career that I wanted to make. I will tell you a little story about it.

I was pursuing chartered accountancy and had set goals for myself. Unfortunately, I couldn’t clear the 2nd level of the exam in 3 attempts. Then I made up my mind to go for MBA. My mom was strictly against it…! According to her, it didn’t make sense to give up on efforts made for 4 years (3 yrs for the 2nd level and 1 yr for the first level). She was right in a way. Chartered accountancy is a tough exam to clear and it is common to take those number of attempts. But the hidden fear that she had was “log kya kahenge”… she thought our friends and relatives and acquaintances may call me a failure. The result was that she strongly opposed my decision of giving up on chartered accountancy.

However, my mind was clear and I knew what I had to do. I managed to convince her to believe in me. I explained to her why I wanted to make that shift. I told her that I wanted to get married at a decent age, earn x amount by that time and I was in no way going to meet these goals if I continued with my chartered accountancy stint. It wasn’t easy to convince her. There were arguments, emotional blackmailing and tears on both sides but I stayed put. Not sure where I gathered that courage from but I did. It’s never easy to go against your parents, especially if you want them to be with you on your journey.

By God’s grace, everything worked as per my plan. I was able to achieve both goals. Later in life, I was proposed to consider an alternative job versus my corporate job so that I don’t have much tension in life and I could give more time to the household. Someone has rightly said history repeats. But this time it demanded even more courage because it was not my mother but my mother in law against whom I had to put my foot down. Eventually, it worked. But I can’t tell you how much courage a newlywed needs to establish her dreams, aspirations and personal or career goals in a set of new family members. For me, that was the courage I showed, because I had a lot to achieve yet had a limitation on my behaviour and the methods I would use to explain, convince or persuade for that matter because once it was my mom and the second time it was my mother in law. There is always a line that you cannot cross when you are standing against adults.

Like I said above, we all show courage in different forms and magnitude right since we are born but some incidents leave a mark on your heart. What’s your memory of courage?


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HONEST LAPSES OF COURAGE DEMAND HONEST CONFESSIONS

The courage to be fully honest – tough one!

Much of what we do or refrain from doing is determined by the consequences involved. Having the courage to be fully honest comes in either of the two circumstances – when the consequence is so much your sole objective that you don’t mind the costs of being honest or when you don’t bother about the consequences at all.

In the year 2012, I got sick with dengue while my stay in Delhi. It had just been a couple of months since I had started working there along with pursuing other academic interests. Colleagues were worried since I didn’t have my family near me to take care of the sudden fluctuations in platelet counts. I was advised to have someone from home come over to be with me. “Platelet counts dip suddenly and people die. Don’t take the risk”, I was repeatedly told. However, I did not have the courage to break the news to my family members that I was sick. The daily phone conversations went pretty normal with me telling them that I was well and good. Why did I lack the courage to be honest with my family members regarding my health? I didn’t want them to be anxious for me from over the miles! “Families are meant to be anxious for their loved ones”, I was told. Eventually, I shared the piece of information with them after I got a little better with the assurance that I was completely out of danger.

There was a similar repeat of the above episode when I got infected with COVID-19 last year. My family members kept thinking for a week that I was probably getting too tired from work and hence was sounding exhausted, till I shared with them about having tested positive for COVID. Yet another instance of lacking the courage to be fully honest!

I would neither recommend anyone to do as I have done (since it involves immense risk to one’s life accompanied by the deep anxiety and regret of loved ones lest anything untoward happens), nor would I attempt to justify my lack of courage in being fully honest in the above situations. Rather, I would agree with the fact that there are instances in each of our lives in which we fail to muster the courage to be honest.

Does that make us cowards?

No. It simply defines us as having lacked courage to be honest in such and such situations.

Does that make us liars?

Yes. Anything other than the truth is a lie. There are no colours to lies!

Should there be a phase of owning up?

Definitely yes!

Yet another instance . . .

A granduncle of mine, grandaunt and their son were hospitalised in three different hospitals with COVID around two months back. Grandaunt passed away after a brief battle. With the granduncle and his son still in hospital requiring immense post-COVID care, the news of their loss hasn’t been shared with them yet. A lack of courage to be fully honest fearing the consequences! The news would be shared once they recover and reach back home. Till then, they would continue to think that she is alive.

I wouldn’t outrightly put such and other similar instances into a box with the label ‘lack of courage to be fully honest’. Rather, I would include situations such as these as ‘wisdom in decision-making to manage circumstances and get the best out of them for good’.

However, these do not in any way incorporate deliberate dishonesty or suppression of facts with malafide intentions.  

Honest confessions after sincere lapses of courage are must dos! Yes, God knows the heart. But, He hates deceptions!

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HONESTLY, HONESTY CAN TAKE A BACK SEAT, SOMETIMES

Honestly speaking, when I decided on the title for my article, before reading other articles, I didn’t realize that it will be similar to what my fellow writer Prabhjot wrote. Yes, honesty is the best policy, but not always.

A couple of days back, my little son was studying online about the five senses. His teacher drew the picture on her board and my son was copying her. Trust me, his drawings were hilarious and the nose he drew was nowhere near to the actual nose. My elder son reprimanded him, “What have you made? Is it supposed to be like this?” Obviously, my younger one started crying and I had to intervene.

“You should not have said like that to your younger brother” I said.

“But Mumma, look at his drawings.”

“Wow Abir, you made these?” I asked my younger one.

“Mumma, what’s wow in this?” My elder son asked in dismay. “Why are you lying?”

“I am not lying.” I replied. “These are good because this is his first attempt in making these. He drew them all by himself. Besides, no one is a born artist. We practice and get better. You also used to make such drawings and now look at you, you are doing great.”

My elder son immediately understood that some things aren’t to be said bluntly. He said, “Ok Abir, let’s try to make this nose more beautiful.”

It’s good to be honest, but some things, which we know might hurt the feelings of others, can be twisted a bit and told in a better way.

When it comes to a food preparation, my husband is always honest. If a dish tastes delicious, he will go on relishing it and will be full of praises. But, if its not, then he will tell 5-6 times that the preparation was awful. Obviously, I get angry, to which he says, “I can’t give false praises.” To which, I tell him, “No one asks for a false praise, but saying just once that ‘something went wrong with the preparation this time’, is a better way to say that you didn’t like the food.

Being honest is a good virtue and it should be followed but, on certain times, this virtue can take a back seat.

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TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

Is being honest difficult?

Ask that question to anyone who appeared in the court of law to be a witness or were fighting a case. (If we lie under oath, that is considered misleading the court and is a punishable offense.)

Ask that question to a kid who ate the ice- cream stored in the refrigerator without seeking permission.

Ask that question to someone who cheated at work or cheated on their partner.

The answer really depends, mostly on two things. One, Is being honest the right thing to do in this situation? Second, Is the person who I am going to talk to can take it? But, there is one more question we always consider before being honest. That is, Am I ready to take the consequences of being honest. If we think we are not ready, we resort to not being honest. Most people choose dishonesty for themselves more than others. This is my take. Whenever I feel someone is not being honest, the very first doubt that comes to my mind is, what is the fear that is binding them?

Few months ago I organized a virtual team event. One of the activities in the event was – “My friend at work”. Everyone in the team were to talk about a friend at work, what qualities in that friend they like the most and what is that one quality in that friend they would want to cultivate/learn as well. There were around 15 people in the call that day and 5 of them took my name as a good friend. All of them expressed the quality they wish they could learn is my ability to say whatever I feel is right, no matter who I am talking to. “The facts are x and y. Whether we like it or not there is nothing we can do about those facts than accepting them. This is what is doable and this is the impact.. When you say it Aastha, you are assertive asking them to take it or leave it. You are completely honest irrespective of how it might make all of us feel. Showing the mirror is not something everyone can do and you do it with ease. That honesty is not what we get to see often. It is rear and you really deliver the truth well. It is not easy to learn, but I would love to be that courageous“, said one of my very good friend.  After that discussion, I kept wondering if the team was trying to tell me that it hurts them. I started to be watchful about my communications.

Few days later to this, we were discussing some concept for our product which would make users life simple. From a user perspective it made complete sense to me. But, technically there is no such technology that is readily available. We spent few days dwelling all over the internet scouting for some answers. My concerns turned out to be true.  We weighed the pros and cons. The cons out numbered the pros by a large amount. Yet, there are some moments when data is not enough to convince the higher management. There are many who fear that being in good books is more important than being honest. Cannot blame them.

There is a regular meeting in which all core members of the team including business leadership meet once a week. This particular user ask came for discussion. By then, we have presented this in various forums hoping someone would understand why we cannot do it. There are specific standards that cannot be met with existing technology. My inner self could not bear wasting any more time on a feature that we know is practically impossible to build using the existing technology. We don’t have the luxury to do some research given our tight schedule. I was the youngest – both in age and rank in that meeting, yet I could not resist saying it out loud that we are wasting precious time hunting for the two birds in the bush, while letting go of the one we have in hand. I exactly used that phrase. The rest of what I said in the meeting is confidential. Two days later to this meeting, that particular feature was called off, which literally changed the direction in which the program was heading. A sigh of relief it was for me, yet, I was concerned if I overstepped. After this announcement, few people from leadership appreciated me for the candid feedback and being brutally honest, including the leader who made this proposal in the first place and strongly believed having that feature is extremely important. I scheduled a 1-1 with that leader seeking feedback. He explained it to me beautifully about how I was not thinking about likeability and solely my interest was in the products’ future. That conversation erased a lot of my worries.

I am definitely a take or leave it kind of person. It is so in both professional and personal life. Does that hurt others? Yes, in some instances. Does it help me? Of course.

I prefer to be honest with my articles as well and if someone asks me to write what I don’t really believe in, no matter how much I try I cannot write such article. Does honesty have repercussions? Oh yes. Honest trees are cut first. Yet, it is only better to be honest sooner or later. It is extremely difficult to explain dishonest choices than to face the aftermath of being honest. It takes lot of courage to be honest. 

“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”
― Shannon L. Alder

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HONESTY RUNS THROUGH THE BASIC LEVELS OF COURAGE

Courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. Courage is something which makes a person stand out in the crowd. Courage is one thing that makes a person face the danger or dare of any kind which most doesn’t put them into. But along with courage, a person needs mental toughness, physical strength and ability to face that amount of danger or risk and sustain instead of succumbing to the danger easily.

The above is the most generic meaning or higher level application of the word Courage which only a few selected ones possess. But as per my knowledge and intellect is concerned courage has THREE basic levels of application through which each and every human being on this earth gets an opportunity to go. And I have categorized those THREE levels of courage as under:

1. Sincerity – Do what is right level of courage:

With the presence of sin and corruption in our gene we are inclined towards insincerity in our responsibility often and we do try to justify our degree of insincerity with some reasons like sickness, weakness and so on. So according to me, when we display a sense of courage to do what is right despite of our excuses or say, valid reasons we succeed to earn respect and attention from people surrounding us.

How many of us are sincere at our workplace

all the time? Have we tried to do the extra hours just to finish what was due of us for that day? How many times we procrastinate and keep things pending. Oh, trust me, I am a biggest example of that, sadly. I may blame my ill health. But sincerity is essential to display the minimum level of courage I have to do things that I know to be right and essential.

Sincerity is an attribute which can be displayed at any point of time or place and is not limited to our workplace only. We need to be sincere with our household chores or duties pertaining to our house or families. We need to be sincere even with our friends.

This level of courage that we need is concerning our duties and responsibilities mostly which we display in our actions. But the next level of courage is higher and more challenging.  

2. Honesty – Say what is right level of courage:

Dealing with people is more challenging than just doing what is right. We face people at every stage of our life. To say the things which we know to be right and make them follow the same is really difficult. In the previous articles we have great examples of how honesty can put us in danger or at a risk. But the challenge of this level is to have the courage to be honest in our actions as well as express mostly.  

In the family while discussing something, I find it extremely difficult to say, “I don’t want to hear anymore, let’s discuss it later as I am feeling stressed.” That was the honest me. But if I say it honestly, then I become selfish, uninterested and escaping.  

3. Justice – Stand for what is right level of courage:

This level is tough as a person has to deal with both his or her responsibilities as well as the people around him or her. He or she has to stand for what he or she believes or does or says as right. Doing justice is one thing and protecting the same is all the more difficult and dangerous in a world where everyone tends to do things other than what is right.

For the fear of superiors, when we don’t stand for someone who becomes the victim of injustice makes us coward or having no courage. Standing for justice is deadly and risky. But I believe if I practice courage at the sincerity level and honesty level then it will be easier for me to display the courage to be just and protect what is right.

Interestingly, I see the courage of sincerity, honesty and justice working at all levels but honesty is predominant among all. Let me explain as I conclude this article.

In the first level of courage when we are honest with our own self we become sincere. In the second level, we display the courage of honesty when we are truthful to ourselves as well as with the people we deal on a day to day basis. And at the end, when we are courageous to stand for justice we are honest to our own selves, honest to the people around us and honest with the creator God who sees everything from above.

Tough? Really, really tough, I would say. But there have always been people who have stood out as ONE and ONLY from the mass and have proved that they can do – be sincere, stand for justice, most importantly be honest with everything and everyone. We just have to practice it in our day to day life to reach to their levels.

Stay Blessed!!!

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A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST

Musafir Ali (a recognized poet) meets Aslam Baig (a recognized wrestler) on the train from Bhopal to Delhi. They were sharing the same compartment. As they see each other, immediately Musafir Ali recognizes Aslam Baig yet he behaves as if it’s their first meet. As the journey is long and somehow both of them started to swap their professional and personal life stories. Meanwhile Musafir shows the ring of famous poet Gulam Nabi Azad which he gifted Musafir after watching Musafir’s performance. In response, Aslam shares the memory of his beautiful, gold-plated, and costly alarm pocket watch “Khusbakht”. For Aslam, Khusbakht was like his wife, it brought him fortunes but unfortunately decades back in a train journey someone stole Khusbakht and as result, Aslam started losing his fortunes. After their conversation, both of them goes to sleep but throughout the night Musafir was unable to sleep properly because a couple of decades back it was Musafir (previously known as Raju Shahwani) who had stolen Khusbakht from Aslam Baig and it was that of his guilt of stealing Khusbakht which was hunting him at present. As it dawns and the train stops at the outer of Delhi station, Musafir decides to quietly put Khusbakht in Aslam’s handbag in his absence, unfortunately, Aslam catches Musafir red-handed. Confessing his sin Musfair leaves the train at Delhi station but Aslam comes running after Musfair and handovers him Khusbakht asking him to hand over Khusbakht to the storekeeper at the Rooh-Saaf store on the next day at 3 pm. Accordingly, Musfair goes to the Rooh-Saaf store the next day to handovers Khusbakht. In response, the storekeeper asks Musafir the name for the record and Musafir mentions his name but the storekeeper says, ‘no mister, I need the name of the person from whom you have stolen Khusbakht’ but being embarrassed Musafir hesitates to mention Aslam Baig’s name. Angrily, the storekeeper asks Musafir to get out of the store and leave his coat of fake honor. Yet to hide his sin Musafir questions the storekeeper, “Why did people visit his store to return the stolen things instead of selling them?” And the storekeeper responds, SELF-RESPECT! Self-respect always bites our conscience. Whatever sins a man may commit he is, after all, a child of God and unless he confesses his sin, his soul remains blemished.” Realizing his sinful state, Musafir takes courage to confess Aslam Baig’s name. Then the storekeeper shows him the beautiful ring of poet Gulam Nabi Azad which Aslam Baig handover the storekeeper the before day soon after leaving the train. The storekeeper also mentions Aslam is one of his regular customers and shows many other pieces of stuffs and wrestling awards that Aslam had stolen before. Because like Musafir, Aslam was also suffering from Kleptomania disorder. The next day, Musafir comes back to the Rooh-Saaf store with a bag full of tiny pieces of stuffs which he had stolen from different people since his childhood.

Yes, you are rightly thinking, this is a story of the legendary Scriptwriter and Filmmaker Mr. Satyajit Ray which is filmed in the recent web series “Ray”.

How analogical is the story to each of our inner states! Isn’t it?

In the Bible, it is beautifully penned, “Our human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. No human can understand it. It is like a whitewashed tomb which looks beautiful from outside but inside it is filled with rotten stinky bones.”

My inside isn’t visible to others but I can see it. Its sinful state haunts me day and night. I blame people outside for my peace lessness whereas the reason is within me and it needs to be treated at the earliest. “If we won’t treat our sin today, our sin might become our graveyard tomorrow”. For the treatment, all we need is “A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to drop our coat of fake honor like Musafir Ali.” “A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to go for Rooh-Saaf, confession of sin makes us guilt-free.” A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to self and unto others.

In my case, I remember, years back I was invited to an NPO voluntary board as an Asst. Secretary. While we were organizing an event, we had to outsource our work. As we the board members decided to outsource our work, we gave tender for music arrangements to one of our team members. But before signing the tender approval, I asked the Music Arranger to handover all the Music tracks to the Secretary soon after the event since the NPO has paid for it and the NPO is the sole owner of it. Being the youngest member of the team and as well among the Board Members, I was quite sure the Music Arranger will surely retaliate and that might also affect our personal relationship. Even to the extent, of his retaliation I must be embarrassed before the seniors but keeping eye on the mandate of being a voluntary NPO Board Member, I need to be honest in each of my decisions. As I took courage and went honest in my decision, he retaliated, and being an elder person went a little bossy on me. His response made me feel bad and embarrassed. But the end product was remarkable – “the sin got exposed & till date it was the last tender for him from that particular NPO board.”

A little courage, to be honest, keeps us guilt-free and is strong enough to expose the sin.

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HONESTY IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST POLICY

Well, we have been taught since our childhood that we should be honest. However, as kids in school – nobody really tells us that being honest also has its consequences which are not always in your favour.

Something similar happened to Sharda when she tried to be honest at her workplace. She was working for an organization for 10+ years and she had learnt a lot from there. She had joined it as a fresher and managed to grow to a much higher position. Since the last couple of years, she had started to feel stagnant and wanted to move out. But no such brilliant offers were coming up.

She had realized that the atmosphere of her team had been deteriorating for quite some time especially since her new manager had joined a couple of years back. He was not only incompetent but also favoured the wrong people. This was causing a lot of politics at the workplace. She initially did not bother about it. She believed that if she continued to perform at her work, she could stay away from this politics. But she was wrong.

As she continued over the last 2 years, things were only getting worse. She finally got an offer from another organization which she readily accepted. But before leaving she went ahead and reported to HR, all that was happening to her team. Not only that, she even reported these things to the head of the business when she was asked the reason for resigning. The favouritism, gender discrimination, blame games, personal comments and everything that had bothered her in lately.

She expected action to be taken. But in the 3 months of her notice period, she saw no change at all, in fact, some of her team members turned hostile towards her. She left this job and joined a better organization and a better team.

One of her ex-team members called her one evening and told her that her superiors in the previous organization had defamed her a lot. She was incorrectly being blamed a lot for all the wrongs that had happened in the department. And that was all because her concerns were not handled in the right way.

Sharda was far away from that hostile environment but it still impacted her. She had been wronged.

This is a very common scenario especially at the workplace wherein subordinates are forced to move on when they really cannot deal with the unfair situations at work. Their honest opinions are used against them and power of position often wins.

___________________________________________________________________________________

A few years back, I had to face a similar situation at the workplace. It wasn’t as bad as what Sharda faced. I had issues with the way our Department Head was managing our team. He was always micro-managing and had no trust in the team. As the team lead, I was finding it difficult to keep him away so that my team could have space to work the way we wanted.

My immediate manager however understood the situation really well and was very well on our side. I was asked for my honest opinion and blurted out all my frustration in front of her. It was very clear to her that I saw our Department Head as the major and only issue in that team.

My manager was a genuine person and she once said – “You are not scared to call a spade a spade and that is really good.”

She genuinely appreciated my honesty and handled the situation for me. It was a huge risk that I had taken. The situation could have very easily turned against me but I was lucky to have the right person as a Manager to whom I could confide in. The moral of the story is – Don’t always give your honest opinion. Sometimes people just ask you for your opinion because they want to play against you. It doesn’t work. Honesty is the best policy only when honesty is used with the right trustworthy person.

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HONESTY CAN STAND ONLY ON THE PEDESTAL OF COURAGE

The question put to me today is ‘Do I have the courage to be honest?”

Oh not at all! I am the wrong person to kick start the week about ‘courage to be honest’. See, the thing is that I from my very childhood have been a people pleaser. I mean it mattered a lot to me to what others think about me. I have gone to great lengths to avoid conflict, to not rock the boat. Overlooked a lot many things to avoid argument. 

But over the years I have realized that going along with other’s plans even when we don’t agree with it usually back fires on us. Keeping quite at the start to avoid a conflict eventually leads us into a bigger mess.

For a long time, I have been part of the cultural committee which plans all big celebrations in our society. There have been times when a deco idea or dance idea doesn’t feel right but we still go ahead with it because the person who is suggesting it is very enthusiastic and we don’t want to break their heart. But then eventually when on the D Day there is a debacle or things don’t work out the whole team is blamed, we all become the fall guys. At that moment I realized that its better to be brutally honest right at the start.

Imagine you are in a meeting and your boss suggests an idea. You think it’s an absolutely bogus idea. Do you have the guts to say that to your boss? I have gone along with ideas suggested by my seniors or super seniors which I didn’t really like. And the end result is that if things don’t work out it’s the team which takes the beating and the senior gets away scot free. Why? Because we agreed with it. 

So in my personal opinion in the long run its better to be honest and tell the person why we thing that what he or she is suggesting wont work. I still don’t do it with brutal honesty. I put it forward with a little diplomacy but hey… I am trying…

What happens if your being honest could have an adverse effect on you or your work? Do you still have the courage to be honest? 

Here I will give you an example of my husband. He owns a start up company. Now imagine the scenario. Their company really needed a certification from a government organization. He applied for it and after the due process he was called to the office to collect the letter. The guy in charge said the letter is ready you may take it and also hinted that he was excepting an X amount as bribe… The bribe amount was not very huge and the value of that letter to the company was much greater. My hubby returned the letter to him and said that he will not pay a single paisa and walked out of the room. I can only imagine the dumbfounded expressions on the officer’s face. Not that’s courage to be honest. He put a lot of future contracts in line by refusing to pay but he didn’t regret it.

Eventually that courage paid off, our company did get that letter eventually and we benefitted from that also.

So I guess being honest and pointing out something wrong does feel like a negative thing to do at that time but in the long run it is better for our own sanity, our work and our relationships. And I feel when it comes to honesty, courage is required by both the teller and the listener.

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – FINAL

Arvind Sikdar, Shaloween’s immediate boss had always been the best for everyone. And that was the reason why he continued to be rated high by all his staff members every time there was an evaluation in the company. He could understand the state of his young and most beloved staff member, Shaloween.

“Will you just shut up and sit down, Shalu?”, he said sternly, pretending to be angry. Shaloween didn’t say anything but simply rubbed her cold palms to each other taking a seat.

“It is not very important how this letter came to me… But why did you write this…? That is more important for me, Shalu. Now, let’s go out somewhere, that’s urgent”, he said sternly and without a second thought he stood and walked out of his cabin asking Shaloween to follow. She was shocked and confused seeing what Mr. Sikdar was trying to do and where he was asking her to go with him even though she was aware of his nature. He always does things in a very mysterious way but Shalu was hyper because of the letter which she wrote against Mr. Chandra which Mr. Sikdar put inside his coat pocket.

When Mr. Sikdar’s car stopped at Shalu’s apartment she looked at him with teary eyes. “Why have we come here, Sir? Have you thrown me out?”, she asked in desperation.

“Let’s get inside then I am telling you, Shalu. Have patience and you don’t need to shed your precious tears”, Mr. Sikdar replied to her, mocking her seeing the tears in her eyes.

When they settled down at her flat, Mr. Sikdar asked her, “Now explain what really happened between you and Mr. Chandra from the beginning till the end. I came here because I didn’t want to deal with these things in the presence of all others. Everyone would have come to the office by now.” He looked at his watch as he said that. Shaloween adjusted herself and explained everything that had been happening to and troubling her.

After almost two hours, Mr. Arvind Sikdar returned back to the company office and was greeted by his colleagues and two of those higher officials, Mr. Mahem and Mr. Chandra.

“You went for a morning walk or what, Mr. Sikdar? And where’s Shalu today?”, taunted Mr. Chandra as he asked looking at Mr. Arvind Sikdar. But as usual the composed gentleman, Mr. Sikdar replied, “No, Mr. Chandra, Shalu was in a deep trouble. She has high fever and as her guardian in this city, I took her to the hospital for a RTPCR test. It is better we forget her now and discuss about the final report, right Mr. Mahem?”

Mr. Arvind Sikdar’s words reverberated in that hall way with all others around and both the officials had nothing to say. They simply nodded their heads and walked inside the meeting room to finalize the report before they conclude their trip.

Two days after, in the morning when Shaloween walked inside the office hall, all others felt a chill in their spines seeing her. But at that moment, Mr. Arvind Sikdar walked out of his cabin with a smile, “Welcome Shalu, I am so happy you were tested negative and your fever is gone.” Both smiled understandably at each other, knowing well the reason of her staying away from office.

“By the way, I have something to announce, I was just waiting for Shalu to be back in the office”, Mr. Sikdar said looking at all as everyone attentively looked at him. “Shalloween had done a wonderful job and the two visiting officers approved all our reports, appreciated our reporting systems and our coordinated working styles. So we will have a party this afternoon.” Everyone in the room stood on their feet and cheered, congratulating Shaloween and Mr. Sikdar.

When Shalu went into the cabin of Mr. Sikdar later that day, his first question to her was, “Did you burn that letter you drafted against Mr. Chandra, Shalu?”

“Yes, I destroyed it immediately after you left the other day, Sir. And thank you so much for what you did for me. The drama you scripted taking advantage of the pandemic situation was exceptional.” Shalu said with her hands folded.

“Shalu”, he said as he asked her to take a seat. “I would have done that to anyone in your state. And you are like my daughter. Don’t you think as a father I would have anyway protected my daughter from such viruses?” Shaloween nodded.

“But you should have immediately told me about the first message you received. You should not have allowed him to play with your vulnerability. He was very manipulative but I am more protective of my own, my office, my staff and you.” Mr. Arvind Sikdar said with a gentle and satisfying smile on his face.

Shalloween literally allowed her vulnerability to go wrong but at the right time, she was well protected by this man. She could not have asked anything more after having a father-like boss and that was the reason why she had such high regards for him.

Everyone enjoyed the department party during the lunch time.

THE END

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – XII

The discovery of not finding the letter in her bag startled Shaloween. She emptied her bag, checked multiple times every quarter, every inch of the bag but it went futile. Her thoughts ran haphazardly to every nook and corner of the house and office where she possibly could have put or slipped the letter accidentally. Nothing seemed to help her out.

She was very restless lest that letter finds some unwanted notice when things were on the verge of finding a solution. The regret was not about writing it but about unmindful, unintentional omission unfortunately. She decided to go back to office as her phone was also dead by then and without a spare charger that seemed to be a right decision to her. Was it just the charger that forced her to be out in the night in an attire which was a little bit more than that of pyjamas or something else? She brushed those thoughts back as she tied her hair in a ponytail and started the car.

It was around 9:45 PM that she reached her office. As she went to the building after parking another shock awaited her at the entrance. The guard refused to let her go inside for the reason – she forgot her ID at home in a rush to reach office and the night guard wasn’t familiar with her.

She pleaded with him for about fifteen minutes but the guard refused to budge. Heaving a heavy sigh in despair Shaloween was about to leave as she heard some commotion on the stairs. She turned to look in the direction of the sound and was a bit surprised to see Shekhar Chandra there at that hour of the time.

“Sir, you? Here? How? Why?” Shaloween spoke in broken words contemplating well her state of mind – puzzled. “Well that should be my question to you Shalu.. I mean Ms.Shaloween. Here at this hour, searching for something?” Shekhar asked in a rather not casual tone or at least that’s what Shaloween thought.

That questioner was for a moment bowled over by the question! With a small hiccup Shaloween gathered herself and said with a straight face, “I forgot my charger at the office desk and my phone is dead. Couldn’t have waited till morning and in a rush to reach here I forgot my ID at home, just messed up things”. Shaloween stood there feeling awkward at this meeting. Shekhar signalled the guard “aane do” and the guard did allow her inside.

Thanking Shekhar in a polite way she followed him. As silence ensued she chose to break it and asked “What are you doing here Sir?”

Shekhar cleared his throat, “Had some files to look at to ensure timely wrap up from here” and opened the door for Shaloween leading into the office. She took a paced stride towards her cabin and collected her charger as Shekhar fixed his gaze on her.

Shaloween checked her drawers thoroughly but couldn’t trace the letter. She stood at her desk running her fingers through her hair in utter desperation, thinking where it could have gone.

Shekar was watching her. And their gazes met quite dramatically. Shaloween felt uncomfortable and decided to leave the premise thinking I shall see it later.

“Did you find … the charger?”, there was an awkward pause in his words. “Yes and thanks” Shaloween answered in a decidedly less hassled tone.

What transpired at office remained with Shaloween all the way back to her home. It was almost thirty minutes past 11. She decided to hit the sack but the disturbed vibe came to haunt her again.

Next day as soon as she reached office she was summoned to Mr. Sikdar’s room. Her apprehensions were oscillating quite high.

“May I come in Sir?” she took the permission and entered and the first thing that caught her attention and blew her mind was the letter in her writing lying on the table.

“Shalu I need to talk to you about this”, Sikdar pointed towards the letter but before he could say anything Shaloween confronted, “how did you get this Sir?” She was an amalgamation of anger and anxiety at this moment.

Sikdar usually a composed and sorted person seemed to have dropped his fine judgement when he said, “this shouldn’t have been the way to deal. You simply can’t blame anyone and especially meddling with powerful people isn’t good for you. You are like my own daughter. Why…” And he was interrupted by Shaloween abruptly who by this moment had lost all her patience.

“Just one question – how did it land here?”

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – XI

That day things at office were normal. Shekar Chandra did not try to have any conversations outside of work with Shaloween. She was quite relieved. After long day at work, she returned home, made dinner and slipped to sleep as soon as her head touched the pillow. Shaloween woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. It was as if she got control over her life. She made her breakfast, had it along with coffee and later on headed to office.

Shaloween reached her cabin to find the office boy cleaning her desk.

Why are there so less people in office today?”, she asked him in a surprised tone

Madam, you came very early today. It is only 7.30“, he smiled.

She looked at the clock and he was right. She wondered how she never paid attention to what the time was. Now that she was so early, she went for a stroll in the park besides her office. It was a really nice park, and strangely she never even noticed it properly. She sat on the bench watching all the people over there. After an hour of so, she returned to her desk.

Today was the last day the officers are going to be in Shaloween’s office. Most of the work is completed and only the closing formalities were pending. It was post lunch. All the required people were in the meeting room apart from the officers. Everyone was waiting for them. Two officers walked in and they were late by almost an hour. Shekar Chandra was not to be seen. Mahem apologized for the delay. The team quickly finished all the presentations, details were furnished and the records were updated. The officers thanked the team for outstanding work. Mahem went round the table shook hands with everyone. When he approached Shaloween, he had an unpleasant look on this face. Shaloween disregarded those expressions.

Team, thank you once again. We are going to be around for few more days in this office with regards to something that popped up. We can catch up for lunch some day“, saying this Mahem walked out of the room. There was cheer and a round of applause in the room. Everyone was delighted.

Shaloween returned home. She was in a cheerful mood that all of this is over. She spent some time with Bhaskar. She took him for an evening walk, on the way she had a Burrito. The weather was pleasant, the stars were clearly visible. She gazed at the moon while Bhaskar was playing. After a long time she had a relaxed evening. The higher official visit has taken away lot of her lone time.

She lay on the bed with Bhaskar on her side. She was browsing on her phone. She deleted all the messages she got from Chandra. She so wanted to delete his number too but just left it so. The charge on her phone was almost as low as 5%. She was looking for her charger in the bag and could not find it. She searched again and it wasn’t there. That is when she recollected that she left the charger on her desk. She put the phone on charge before she went to the park in the morning and later on forgot about it. It was not just the charger that was missing from her bag, but the letter she drafted for ICC too….

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – X

Next morning as Shaloween put her alarm on snooze, still wanting to catch up those last 10-15 mins of sleep, she heard her phone ring. It can only be her mom to call her at 6 am, she picked up and lazily said – “Good Morning ma, I hope all is good with you.”


“Hi Shaloween” came a male voice from the other end.


She woke up straight on her bed and looked at the phone in utter surprise. It was Shekhar Chandra. She was at loss of words and just managed to utter “Hello…. Sir?”


“Listen I am sorry for what I did. I am feeling quite ashamed. You are right, this is indeed harassment. I am not entitled to behave this way with you. Please understand that my intentions were not wrong. I genuinely like you and would like to be a part of your life. However, if this is not something that you want – I will go away and not bother you again.” Said Chandra apologetically.


Shaloween was shocked. She didn’t expect this turn of action. She was almost prepared to shout out a few nasty words at him but he is really apologizing.


“Ok”, totally at the loss of words, she could only say this.


“So, are we good with each other now? Let us just keep our conversation professional from now on. I promise that I won’t come in your personal way now unless you want me to. If ever you change your mind and want to come into my life – you have my number. I would really love that.” Said Shekhar Chandra in a flirtiest tone.


“Sir, I hope you are not going to let any of this have an impact on my work. I have really worked hard in this project and I was thinking that you might just push all my due credit down the drain. I really hope that you won’t do this.” Said Shaloween a bit doubtful.


There was silence at the other end.

“Shalu, I am not that kind of a person. I feel hurt that you thought that I would stoop down to this level.” Said Shekhar in a low voice.


“I am sorry Sir. I hardly know you, I can only judge by little interactions that we have had.”


“Didn’t I tell you earlier – you like to judge me, isn’t it? Well, let us meet in a few hours at office.” Shekhar said without letting her complete the sentence.


He hung the phone. No goodbyes.

That felt really weird. Shaloween opened the letter she had composed for ICC. She read it multiple times and felt guilty about it. “Did I judge the guy wrongly? Maybe he is genuine person wanting to be my friend and I just… anyway. I am glad that all this over, hopefully it would be a normal day at work. I am tired of having these eventful days now.”


Was this episode of her life really over? 

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – IX

Shaloween locked her mobile screen, gathered herself and went on ahead to Mr. Sikdar’s chamber. She handed over the data and excused herself out. It was almost lunch time. She dropped a text to her superior and took a half day leave citing health issues and left for home.

Her head was throbbing. She quickly ate the lunch that she had packed on her way and lied down on the couch unable to get the happenings of the last few days out of her mind.

The ring of her mobile startled her. She opened her eyes only to realise that she had dozed off and it was almost evening.

Shaloween picked up her phone, read Shekhar Chandra’s message again and took the bold step of texting back.

“This is downright harassment. I have told you I am not interested in having to do anything with you outside the office. Please leave me alone. You are my officer, and I have to report to you in the office; other than that, I don’t need this from you. Please focus your sexual energy elsewhere.”

She pressed the send button and went to take a late-night stroll in her lane to clear her head. She played with the dog walking along with her and played fetch with him with wood. The dog followed her home, and she placed a bowl of milk and break in front of him in a plastic container. The dog lapped it up, and Shaloween watched him, enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

The dog slept at the foot of her bed and left her around the following day till she boarded the metro to go to work. She laughed at him as he wagged his tail in goodbye and decided to adopt that dog. She named him Bhaskar.

She reached the office and headed straight for her office. At lunch, she saw Chandra eating with Mahem, Singh and Sikdar in the cafeteria as she sipped a Coke with her meal. Chandra gave her a tight-lipped, stoic expression.

She ran her palm on her hair to show she was wearing her hair in a tight bun. The message was clear, ‘She was not interested in his advances and was ready to take a stand.’

Later, as she left the cafeteria, she saw Chandra say something to the other officers, which made the trio look her way with a distasteful expression. Her heart sank as she made her way back to her office.

She knew Chandra would get back to her, but he didn’t know that she was prepared. She took a clean sheet of paper and wrote a letter to the internal complaints committee (ICC) about harassment, abuse of power and a hostile work environment. She worded the letter strongly, signed it and placed it in an envelope, placing it in her bag.

She was resolute, one more inappropriate message, one more instance of office politics or one more incident of power abuse, and she will make Chandra pay.

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – VIII

Shaloween kept tossing and turning in bed for a long time before she finally fell asleep.

She woke feeling a bit relaxed yet quite disturbed. She looked at the Cuckoo-clock that hung on the wall in her hall. It was 7 A.M. – a little late than her usual waking time. However, she didn’t mind much. Just after she had finished her morning prayers, her phone rang. As she picked up the phone from the table to answer the call, she was perplexed to see the name of the caller. Shekhar Chandra it was!

A few seconds went by with the mobile still ringing in her hand before she took the call.

“Hello . . . Good morning, Sir”

“Very good morning . . . I hope you are awake or did I disturb your sleep?”, came the voice from the other end.

“I’m awake, Sir”, said Shaloween politely.

“That’s good! I need you to work out certain things before I reach office today. I will mail the details to the official email id so that you can access them”, said Shekhar Chandra as he went on to explain the nitty-gritties of the work before hanging up.

The urgency of work soon took over Shaloween as she rushed into her household chores in an attempt to leave home early that day.

“Shiva, I need piping hot ginger tea today . . . a lot of work . . . and my mind is in shambles”, she said to the office boy as she opened the door to her chamber.

“By the way, for how many days have the supervising officers been deputed to our office . . . any idea?”, she asked a seeming-to-know-all type subordinate who had just come in.

“They’ll be here for a couple of days more, probably. Earthquake assessment is almost over and with not much damage, there isn’t really a lot that they have to do here”, came the reply.

“C’mon, just focus on work Shaloween! Shed off your baggages . . . you have to perform for your office . . . Shekhar Chandra would leave . . . your work will stay . . . don’t let anything bother you”, Shaloween pepped herself as she started working.

It was a sultry day and with the air conditioning not working, Shaloween was sweating profusely as she worked. With no one in her chamber, she let her hair hang loose to the left side so as to let some breeze from the ceiling fan pass through the damp hair roots. She was so engrossed in work that she got startled when the door to her chamber was thrown wide open and in walked Shekhar Chandra.

She fumbled a “Good morning” as she hurriedly fixed her hair before he would get a chance to look at her properly.

“Is the report ready?”, asked Chandra matter-of-factly.

“Almost done, Sir”, replied Shaloween.

“Well, then I’ll wait in Mr. Sikdar’s room till you are done with it”, said Shekhar as he left the room with a bang of the door without much expression.

Shaloween heaved a sigh of relief. Alone in her room, she could focus better. The events of the last few days had been extremely unsettling for her.

“What do men think – single women are easily available for their perversions? Being single doesn’t make a woman an easy game for men to entertain themselves with. Doesn’t this fellow feel remorseful behaving the way he does? Huhh!!”, she had thought a while back in between the work.

Interactions with Shekhar Chandra had been purely official that morning. She thought to herself victoriously, “probably this fellow has realised that he cannot get his way through to me!”

It took two more hours for Shaloween to complete the task. She got up from her chair to show the report to Sikdar, Mahem and Chandra carrying her mobile and the pen drive with the data.

Walking her way along the corridor, she flipped open her mobile to view the unread messages. She hadn’t got the time to check any messages since the time she turned up to work that day.

“You look gorgeous with your hair open. I hope you won’t disappoint me!”

“Not again!”, yelped Shaloween in her mind as she stopped short of her steps, feeling weak in her legs.

That was a message from Shekhar Chandra.

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – VII

Shalloween had been rearing the thoughts of Anubhav for last many years and had never allowed herself to think about anyone else all these years. After his accident and death, she became extremely vulnerable regarding the topics of love, marriage and boyfriend even though she is well aware of the fact that she can’t live her life like this till the end. Yet, she really doesn’t like discussing it any time. She knows, Anubhav can’t return back to her and she can’t feel his loving touches. She knows his comforting words can’t soothe her anymore yet she has been haunted by his thoughts every time she is emotionally weak or down. It is only her work and the passion to do well at her workplace that had kept her away from those thoughts. But this man, Shekhar Chandra and what all that happened with her for the last two days literally made her unstable, vulnerable and haunted her with Anubhav’s thoughts.

Shalloween, I feel there’s something which makes you vulnerable and I think if you can talk it out to someone you can trust and feel close to, you’ll feel better.” Shekhar Chandra suggested with a gentle smile on his face.

‘Close? Trust? This man?’ Shalloween thought and scoffed in her heart but suppressed her feelings within herself. This man was seriously getting on her nerves with his creepy and cheesy behaviour. But out of courtesy and thinking about her position in regards to this man, she simply nodded and said, “Sir, I had someone close whom I lost in an accident. And that incident has literally shaken my life. Otherwise, I have nothing else that can make me underperform the tasks assigned to me.

You always take things very seriously. I have seen you at work, Shalloween. You never underperform. But are you not underperforming now, being with me for a night out?” Mr. Chandra grinned as he replied to her.

Shalloween smiled gently and politely replied, “Night out? Are you serious? I would prefer night outs with my own friends and family members, Sir.”

“So you don’t consider me as your friend?” He pretended to be upset and then grinned wickedly saying, “But I won’t mind going much ahead of being just your friend, Shalloween. And what’s wrong in this? Are we not both singles?

That was a big lie and a joke that this man always said to everyone. Even his colleagues were not aware of the fake information which he had provided in his facebook account. He is a man above 50 years and about his marital status no one knew much. But Shalloween still believed that he was single though she didn’t like what he said. She literally got upset though she controlled herself.

Sir, I respect you as you are a high official and much senior to me. Because of that respect and since it is your birthday, I agreed to keep your invitation. I am a little different from others and I don’t like such complicated statements. Please if we can keep our conversations professional I will be really grateful to you.” She gently and politely placed her feelings in front of Mr. Shekhar Chandra who was still wearing that wicked grin on his face.

I know Shalloween, you are different. That is the reason why I fell for your charm and intelligence. And I am not shy to express myself“, he responded as he waved his hand towards a waiter to come over to their table.

Shalloween could not believe her ears and what he just had told her. She now started to feel uncomfortable in this man’s presence. She realised she made a terrible mistake by coming to this restaurant keeping his invitation. She took time to gather herself as the waiter came to their table and to her surprise he ordered two glasses of whiskey. She could not take it anymore but said, “Sir, I don’t drink and I won’t like it if you drink in my presence, so please let’s keep this dinner simple or else I will make a move now.”

Have I not supported you in the office when your own bosses were against your report? And don’t you know, it was because of me, they kept their mouths shut and no one dared to speak a word against you? Why? Because you are a good woman and deserve the best in life. And I can give you the best which no one else can give you… Can’t we be…just… I mean.. Do you understand what I….” Mr. Chandra paused as he bragged about his power and how helpful he was to her while he attempted to get into Shalloween’s inner circle and seat on the throne of her heart which she has kept it empty for years.

I am very grateful to you, Sir. I will always be grateful to you for your support. But please don’t expect anything in return apart from work assignments. I think, it’s already very late and if you don’t mind, I will take your leave.” She was blunt and polite at the same time when she made that statement as she stood up to walk away from that restaurant.

Mr. Chandra could neither force her nor tried to compel her much, but requested her to finish eating before walking out. He thought he had to find a way to trap her on a later date, not today for sure.

That evening, when Shalloween returned to her flat, she wept holding her pillows thinking about all that she had to go through and how lonely and vulnerable she felt. She regretted accepting the dinner invitation and tried her best to sleep as soon as possible instead of brooding over all that happened that evening.

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – V

Five years since she last held his hand, talked to him, argued with him, touched him. He was such a foodie; she learned to cook for him. They used to go for long drives on his motorcycle in the middle of the night. He loved his bike, and the bike ended up killing him.

She was with him for five years, and it has been five years without him. But the love he gave her in their short eternity was enough to last her a lifetime. Today was his birthday. She spent the day doing things he loved in his memory, but she will have to go to the office as the assessment team will expect her, and she can’t afford a leave.

She thought about Shekhar Chandra again. She went over his profile again, on FB, on Twitter, in LinkedIn. She dug deeper this time and realised he was single. Except that there was nothing more on him apart from a few reshares. He looked much younger in a couple of pics on his social media in a stylish tee, running shoes, sans his glasses, suit, and salt and pepper hair.

She picked up her darts and looked at her dartboard. She saw the ugly face of Mr Mahem and chucked one dart; it missed the target. Next, she imagined Mr Singh’s face in the dartboard, another miss. Mr Sikdar followed, and she missed his face by the width of a hair.

She sat up straighter and saw Chandra’s face in the dartboard and let it fly. It was Bull’s Eye. She punched the air, whooping in delight.

She was mulling over and over about what Shekar Chandra said to her in the lift, “YOU LIKE TO JUDGE PEOPLE, DON’T YOU?” What was about the cryptic words he said? She was sure there was a hidden message for her in there, but she couldn’t decipher it. She wasn’t judgemental as far as she knew.

She racked her brains but couldn’t tell when or who, or why she had wronged anybody. She slept for more than a couple of hours before she woke up, got ready and left for her work. But the first thing in the morning she simply distributed Anubhav’s favourite Chocobar ice cream to poor kids on the streets and ate one herself on her way to her office.

She went straight for her desk and got to work when she noticed a rose tucked away in one folder on her desk. She opened it and picked the red rose when a thorn made her finger bleed. She used a tissue to wipe the blood and was sucking her finger to stop the bleeding when she saw a note on the file.

Don’t be sad. What’s gone’s gone. You are not alone. I am here.
Remember, I am watching you.”

She read the note; it was Anubhav’s handwriting. She had goosebumps erupt all over her skin, and she called her mother. “Mom, Mom!!!” she cried. “Avi Mom, Avi…” she said and heard a knock on her door. Shekhar Chandra was standing at her door with an odd sneer on his lips.

She hung up the call and closed the folder with the rose and the note inside it, stood up from her seat and nodded for him to come in.

She turned around and wiped her eyes on a tissue, and composed herself. She didn’t want to seem weak in front of this man. She turned around and saw him sitting in a chair opposite her.

She managed a weak, welcome smile. “Good Morning Sir,” she said.

A perfect morning to you too, Miss Shaloween Duggal. How are you this morning?” he asked, swaying in the chair, left to right to left again, while fiddling with a pen.

Very good, Sir, thank you for asking. How are you, and what brings you to my chamber?” her tone was polite but firm.

He leaned on her desk. “Today is my birthday. You can wish me if you like.” He wasn’t kidding; his tone was solemn.

She swallowed. It felt like someone had just tainted her purest memories with something sinister. The taste in her mouth went bad.

Happy Birthday, Sir,” she said with a pale smile.

Thank You”, he said, and a peon came in with a tray with two coffee mugs on it. He laid it on the table.

I hadn’t ordered coffee, Shiva,” she told the peon who looked at the man sitting in front of her.

I did,” he said, lifting one mug and offering the other one to her. He crossed his right leg over the left one elegantly.

She accepted the coffee, and he dismissed the peon. “I thought I could start my day on a lighter note”, he said, pulling out a packet of Marlboro from his pocket and holding one between his teeth.

Shaloween gave a disapproving look as he clicked his lighter. “Forgive me; I have a very habit of having a smoke with my coffee.”

Anubhav, too, had this irritating habit of having coffee with cigarettes.

What coincidences are these?

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – IV

The day started good, went to bad, then worse and ended on a fine note. Shaloween cleared her desk for the day and was leaving for home. She stepped inside the lift, and just as the double doors were smoothly sliding shut, someone jammed a foot in the door. Shaloween looked up with an offensive expression, but her features softened upon seeing Shekhar Chandra.

He stepped inside and gave her half a smile. She smiled back, and he pressed the parking button. Shekhar Chandra stood with his hands deep in his pockets and sighed. Shaloween couldn’t decide if she wanted to thank him or confront him. The silence was awkward.

She cleared her throat. “Thank you for showing faith in me back in there“, she said.

He looked at her as if he just realised he wasn’t alone and blinked. “Oh! Don’t mention it. I rarely form an opinion on someone too soon, unlike some people.” He winked as he emphasised the word ‘some.’

She gave a sheepish smile and tugged a loose hair tendril behind her ear. She didn’t realise, but she was sweating. “It was very unusual what happened today. My work is usually impeccable“, she said, trying to sound modest.

He gave her a beaming smile as he turned to her. “Look at you, eager to earn a cookie point and redeem yourself.” His tone was condescending.

Shaloween was suddenly simpering with anger. What the hell he wants? One moment he is rude, then nice, then rude again. It was getting hard for her to discern him, and that made her mad.

She carefully chose her following words, not knowing if he was a friend or a foe. “I don’t need redemption. The error wasn’t from my end. I took the heat for nothing.” She was breathing fast. “And have we met before?”, she asked, looking straight at his face.

He turned to her, and a corner of his mouth curled. “You really can’t reach a decision about me, and that’s killing you; you like to judge people, don’t you?” his voice was polite, gentlemanly, yet it was cold enough to send a shiver up her calves.

She opened her mouth in protest, but he went on. “And No, we have never met before,” he said.

Shaloween was about to ask about the text he sent her when the lift doors opened, and he stepped out, heading straight for his car, without a word or backward glance towards her.

She went home in a sour mood and kicked her shoes as soon as she was inside her house. Her head was heavy, like a watermelon balanced on her neck. She drank a gallon of water from her fridge and ordered enough food to feed a family.

While waiting for the food, she made some calls. She scolded her brother, Mohit, for not reverting to her, shouted at her maid for not coming for two days, yelled at the Zomato delivery guy for not finding her address and lastly cried out in humiliation and anger.

When the food arrived, she ate ravenously. She ordered much more than she could ever eat and kept it in the fridge for the next day. Night, she lay in her bed and jumped from OTT to OTT to find something suitable to watch. She settled on Arya and forgot her troubles, losing herself in Arya’s troubles.

After crying for Arya when she watched Tej die, she closed the TV and knew sleep would not be coming tonight. She was too listless to sleep. She opened the book she was reading these days, titled ‘Fountainhead‘ by Ayn Rand. She pulled out a picture from the book she used as a bookmark and looked at it for a long minute.

Anubhav smiled at her from the picture. She ran her fingers on the photo, longing for him to hold her hand, just like he used to, pulling her close to him and hugging her tight despite her trying to get away. How many times in one lifetime are you blessed with such unconditional love, she wondered.

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – III

Shaloween woke up to a growling stomach. ‘Mom is right.’ She thought out loud, ‘I shouldn’t miss dinner so often.’ Shaloween decided to pamper herself that day. ‘Afterall with these officials coming in I have been working too hard and with that message coming in I was thinking too hard.’

Shaloween made pancakes for herself. She ate to her heart’s content and then some coffee made her fit enough to go to the office. Had she not eaten the scrumptious breakfast she would surely have bitten off someone’s head in the office. Cooking always helped her relax and think. 

 Sipping her coffee, she made a resolve. ‘I will not pursue this Shekar guy’s message. If he recognizes me let him come forward and talk. Why messing with  my mind by sending such a mysterious message?’

She took her time to get ready and unlike her usual self, entered the office 15 minutes late. Since she was usually before the time she was sure that her senior Arvind Sikdar wouldn’t mind that day.

The atmosphere in the office looked a bit strained. ‘What is the issue?’ she wondered. 

As Shaloween got busy with her work Arvind walked in with a grave face. He informed her that one of the officers on visit Ankur Mahem was not happy with the data that she had submitted yesterday. He said there were some discrepancies in it.

Shaloween who was so thorough in her work couldn’t believe her ears. “That’s not possible Sir. I had double-checked all the data I had submitted yesterday.”

Her boss Surender Singh also walked in. “Ms Shalu this kind of sloppy work is not expected from the people of my department. I am cutting such a sorry figure in front of the high-ranking officers. They come looking for such discrepancies and here we are giving it to them on a platter. Mr. Mahem says that the data coming from the seismological agency and our reports don’t match and the report giving the destruction details is also not accurate. You were supposed to compile the data about the number of casualties. We are still waiting for it… When are your sources sending it? I want the correct reports on my table ASAP. “

As both Arvind and Surender walked out of the chamber, she sat down with her face buried in her hands. ‘I will not cry… Shaloween there is some misunderstanding… stand tall don’t cry..’ She was giving herself the pep talk, trying very hard to stop the flow of tears that threatened to come out any moment now. That was her problem if she was sad she cried, if she was feeling angry then too the tears threatened to come out. 

So much for the extra hours and efforts, she put in. One hint of a mistake and everything goes down the drain. This is a perennial problem in an Indian Government Office. 

Anyways she got back to her reports and rechecked everything. She had valid explanations for all the issues raised by Mr. Mahem. Post lunch they had a meeting. Shaloween walked in silently. Each and every point was discussed minutely. She had answers for all the questions backed by the data that she had complied. Mr. Mahem tried hard to pin the error on her. But surprisingly the other officer Shekhar Chandra took a stand on her behalf. Wherever he felt that she was being unfairly charged for an error she did not commit Mr Shekhar Chandra spoke up firmly on her behalf. 

She was really feeling grateful. Here her senior Arvind and boss Surender seem to have deserted her. Maybe they were under some pressure to agree with the high-ranking official. ‘But hey I am being unfairly persecuted. I need some backing up…’

‘Mr Shekar Chandra seems like such a genuine guy. He is not scared to call a spade a spade.’ He was being very vocal in her support for Shaloween’s work. The only support she was getting and she was very thankful for that.

By the end of the meeting, Mr Mahem agreed that there were in fact a far lesser number of discrepancies than he had originally pointed out. And the ones that were there were not their department’s fault. In fact, that was due to contradicting data being sent from the field executives.

That evening at home sitting on her sofa. She was reliving the roller coaster day in her mind. It started on a high note and then plunged into the depths of accusations and ended again on a high note when she was exonerated.

One thought that popped in her mind ‘This person Shekar Chandra indeed is a genuine honest man. Not at all the creep that I was making him out to be in the morning. ‘

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – II

Who is this guy, Shekhar Chandra?” 

What look is he talking about?

I look different! When have I met him earlier?” 

He is from Lojigarh. That’s what Arvind has said“, said Shaloween aloud. 

Shaloween jogged her memory really hard to childhood days, neighborhood, school friends, college friends, tuition friends, friends of friends, siblings of friends – but this name Shekhar Chandra was just not ringing any bells. 

She hopped into the bean bag in her balcony with a mug of cold coffee still staring at the message from him.

She dialed her mom’s number. After a little bit of chit chat with her mom, she asked her mom if she knew anybody by the name of Shekhar Chandra. Her mom thought for a while but replied in negative. 

No, I don’t think so. But you know when you were in Class XII and we stayed in that rented house in Shastri Nagar for a while, there were a lot of families that we never interacted with. Never got a chance, we were so busy building our own home and you obviously had your board papers. What a bookworm you were, always so sincere. I hope you don’t work through day and night now at least. These are the days to have fun and you know what all I used to do….

Ok mom. I really need to hang up now. Have to eat my dinner” said Shaloween in a hurry. 

Oh, it is already 10:30 pm. When will you eat? You need to take care of yourself naa. Ok, go eat quickly”, said mom in her typical motherly style. 

Shaloween hung up. Hunger was really far from her and so was sleep. She had to find out the next day who this guy is and why would he send such a mysterious message that makes absolutely no sense. 

Maybe she would call up her brother too tomorrow. Now, it would be too late in the night for him. 

Her brother was in South Korea since last couple of years, working for a Korean phone company. He was minting really good money but had somehow lost touch with her. She had a very deep connection with her brother – Mohit. But since he got married and moved to Korea, it has been really difficult to keep up that connection. Although she knows that whenever he would visit her, they would still talk about things through the night. That sibling connection is never really lost. 

Sleep still far from her, she thought of hunting this guy on social media. She searched Facebook and Instagram, found his profile. But there was hardly any info about him. Just a few pictures with some random cars, none with the family. She had to admit that he was indeed a very handsome guy and he looked quite well to do in his lifestyle. She had no mutual friends with him. It looked like he hardly used social media platforms. 

She downloaded Shekhar’s profile picture and sent it to her brother with caption – “Do you know this guy by any chance? He is Shekhar Chandra from Lojigarh

Finally, her eyes started to get heavy and she decided to end the day. Tomorrow she would observe Shekhar for any other weird behaviors and if required would confront him directly. This hide and seek game is not her cup of tea, she would rather have direct answers to her countless questions. 

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VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – I

It was one of the usual days at work for 33-year old Shaloween. A dedicated workaholic, she was engrossed in scrutinizing the pile of files before her on yet another hot May day. With not many performance parameters in public workspaces, she always felt her work to be less challenging. She was a go-getter and an eager learner with a hunger for achieving a lot. But, she had adapted to the work culture and had decided to give her best even if her work went unnoticed and unacknowledged.

A knock at the door made her look up from the files. The door opened. It was Rama, the office peon.

“Madam . . . Sir wants you in his chamber. Some higher officials have come to supervise the earthquake restoration works. Sir wants you there”, said Rama.

“I’m coming”, said Shaloween. She put her pen down, closed the files after carefully marking them with post-its and got up from her seat.

“Come Shalu”, said her superior officer Arvind Sikdar as she entered his chamber. How she hated it when someone shortened her name! But, by now everyone in the office referred to her as ‘Shalu Madam’. So, she had stopped correcting them.

Shaloween greeted the three men in the room and seated herself in a chair to which her superior gestured. She presumed from the appearance of the two other men in the room that they were probably the higher officials that Rama had referred to. They seemed to be in their mid-fifties. No introductions were made by anyone. Either it was assumed that each one in the room would be knowing the other’s rank and position, or it didn’t matter much to anyone. She set to work as Arvind Sikdar kept directing her, with the other men interjecting in between with their suggestions and proposals.

“So, Shalu where are you from?”, asked one of the officers after almost two hours had passed away. “Sir, Shalu is from Lojigarh – the same city as you belong to”, replied Arvind to Shekhar Chandra before Shaloween could answer. Shaloween nodded with a smile.

It was busy day with not much conversation beyond work in Arvind Sikdar’s chamber. Shekhar Chandra had given a few assignments for Shaloween to work on. The other officer, Ankur Mahem was passively present all through. Work dragged on till late evening, when all four of them got up to call it a day.

Exhausted from the day’s work, Shaloween skipped dinner that night and just threw herself on the bed and drifted off to sleep as soon as she had freshened up. She woke up around 3:30 A.M. and was unable to go back to sleep again.

“I might as well have an early start today. There’s anyway much to do at work. Boss should get a good name before the visiting officers. I need to perform well. They have entrusted so much responsibility on my shoulders. Probably, these senior officers would recognize my work too!”, thought Shaloween to herself as she sat up on her bed in the wee hours of the morning.

She reached office before anyone else did and started off where she had left the previous day. She called for some of her subordinates after a while and delegated certain tasks to them. After an hour, Shekhar Chandra and Ankur Mahem reached and assessed the work that they had assigned the day before. Shekhar seemed pleased with Shaloween’s work, much to her delight.

“Mr. Arvind, I am a good observer. In these two days, I have noticed that of all your staff here, Shalu is extremely sincere. As you know, a dedicated worker is often entrusted with more responsibilities. You could make use of officer Shalu’s dedication for many more works”, said Shekhar Chandra in the midst of all the work. It was a light moment, as both Shaloween and Arvind Sikdar smiled in acknowledgement.

Lunch break was just a formality. With a mountain load of work in front of her and a desire to make a mark with her competence, Shaloween took just fifteen minutes off to quickly gobble up some food and stretch her arms and legs a bit. She was back to her working desk in Arvind Sikdar’s chamber before the others could come in.

“We need the report on the number of casualties in an hour, Shalu. Start working on it immediately. Gather all the information and compile it”, said Arvind Sikdar as he entered the room after a while.

“Sir, I have been collecting information on this and we don’t have any casualties in our region as of now. I am yet to get information from three other sources, after which we can compile the data”, replied Shaloween. By then, Shekhar Chandra and Ankur Mahem had come in and gave Shaloween some indices to work on.

Soon it was evening and Shaloween excused herself out of Arvind Sikdar’s chamber to supervise the tasks that she had entrusted to some of her subordinates. After a while, her mobile beeped and she found a message from Shekhar Chandra –

“You look so different in office . . . for a moment I thought it is someone else.”

She was taken aback! Momentarily distracted, she was unable to comprehend what to reply.

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WHY DO WE BOTTLE UP?

When 12-year old Srestha* walked into my Counselling room, she had a stubborn demeanor. She refused to open up. She had been referred by her teacher for a few Counselling sessions owing to certain behavior issues. However, the girl’s deliberate attempt to bottle herself up, made things difficult for me. It was only when I told her in straight words, that her deliberate decision to remain obstinate wasn’t helping either of us, that she revealed her mother having told her not to cooperate with the Counsellor. Reason – ‘I don’t have any mental disorders!’ The girl continued to be referred for Counselling sessions for the next five years. Though I did succeed to get a breakthrough, it was a bit late, I would say. Erroneous preconceived notions are big barriers to vulnerability in professional set-ups.

Females won’t understand the stress we men undergo each day. The only thing they do is whine and crib about a whole lot of things all the time.’ This statement came from 38-year old Sunil*, a father of three boys. His long absences for supposed business trips were impacting the mental health of his wife and sons. Yet this man was under the impression that as long as he was providing for his family, they need not complain. He refused to open up and sort things out. Much later, my co-counsellor (being a male), succeeded getting through to him. Gender is often a barrier to vulnerability.

Vivek* is a 47-year old man with Mood disorders. Though he has made a mess out of his family life, he refuses to admit that there is anything wrong with him. Consequently, he and his family continue to struggle. Denial is an obstacle to vulnerability.

Ritu* turned up late to work every day. Her boss often reprimanded her as being lazy. Her colleagues knew that she wasn’t lazy. In fact, she was quite hard working. But, they were unable to know why she turned up late to work. She refused to open up. She was reluctant to make herself the topic of grapevine gossip.

23-year old Seema* kept her story of child abuse hidden deep down her heart for ten years, before opening up. Possibility of social stigma kept her from being vulnerable.

When 39-year old Susi* shared her ordeal about her husband seldom giving her a hearing ear about herself, I asked her if she has tried talking to her mother-in-law about it (some sons listen better to their mommies, even after marriage). She had. Only to be told by her mother-in-law that she has to learn to adjust and that that’s what good wives do. As a result, Susi* shut herself up. Role stereotypes are often obstacles to showing up.

25-year old Romil* had been battling with depression for long. He didn’t speak much with others. Fear of being judged and labeled was of course there, but he also didn’t want to be a mere storyteller entertaining others. He wanted workable solutions. Till he was sure that a person would really help him without simply being amused by his battles, he closed himself in a box. Lack of perceived genuineness is a barrier to vulnerability.

There are enough reasons why we all bottle up. The list above is an addition from my experience to all that has been written through the week.

At times, it is simply because a person is an introvert by nature, that s/he chooses not to show up. We may face such barriers that stifle our vulnerability. Yet, let us not be hindrances for others to open up and be themselves!

*Names are changed to preserve anonymity.

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PERFECTION + UNPREDICTABILITY = MAYHEM

** Names are hidden for confidentiality purpose.

As I am writing this my mind is clouded by many doubts and questions to which my heart is seeking an answer. Can self deemed perfection and unpredictability of a person’s nature restrain another person and force to go into a shell?

Its a story of a couple whom I know closely, husband and wife to be precise. Let’s name them X (husband) and Y (wife). X deemed himself to be too perfect. He plans his day meticulously. His life follows a set pattern like that of a flow chart in his office presentations. On the other hand Y was messy and easy going. Going with the flow was her mantra. She tripped, doing mistakes here and there but she never hesitated to reveal herself before him. She tried day in and day out to have a faultless day but never tried to hide her mistakes – trivial or otherwise but unintended ones nevertheless. And everytime she opened up herself he would go haywire, hurled abuses in the fit of rage, sometimes apologized yet some remain unaddressed. “It was a mistake, I will set it right, it’s not as serious as you made it out to be” none of those words would pacify his angst in those moments of swirling emotions leaving her tensed and questioning herself “should I stop confessing anything to him”

If this self proclaimed perfection isn’t enough to spoil the atmosphere the unpredictability of his nature that induced more shocks than surprises for her now started to scare her. One day he would surprise her with a beautiful dress and the other day all hell will break loose as she bought a ketchup bottle that she forgot to include in the weekly grocery list and that costed few cents extra than the regular one. And here goes again a big lecture on how he is toiling day and night to accumulate enough for the family and she will be in her mind “dude how much fortune you will make with 50p?”. Sometimes he would get along well and sometimes he would barely apply any common sense to assess the simplest words said and riding high on his egos would unnecessarily complicate the entire episode to sulk for an entire weekend.

She dared to confront him about his unusual behaviour and flaring rage. In his defence he said ” my only flaw is an uncontrollable anger and my idea of love is to provide a secured life to you”. She as it is imbedded in her nature took the defense in a positive stride but is being practical means being insensitive ? Does providing only suffice for a healthy relationship? And don’t the urge of being accepted the way one is necessarily give rise to the duty of doing the same? These questions always hover around in her mind.

She was always proud of herself that she seldom lied but years of taunts and unexpected bouts of extreme reactions over silly things like food served late by five minutes made her either remain silent or say a convenient lie just to scoot away the tense situation at home. And slowly she grew indifferent to his affection and raised walls of secrecy around her. Her feelings rarely finding an outlet – happiness and especially sorrow. She made sure he is aloof from what’s going on in her mind and heart. Be it a physical pain or emotional turmoil, she was slowly drawing herself in a castle which guarded her vulnerabilities from him.

Today I am not writing to offer any advice. Rather I have a questions that needs an answers:

  • They say communicate to solve the issues but what if speaking only getting difficult where every word is misunderstood?
  • Is pursuit of perfection a flaw in itself as it makes the person in question rigid?
  • How to ascertain the flow of tide when the person is unpredictable?
  • Is the other person wrong in suppressing his or her vulnerabilities in such a entangled scenario?
  • If yes then what’s the way out?

Please do care to answer, someone needs a solution to their ongoing agony.

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WHEN THE RISK TAKES THE VULNERABLE ON RIDE

Every time I think to show up my vulnerability, I get confused about finding the right person to open up to. If I am allowed to draw the picture it would be,

Walking in my dark dingy tunnel, I screamed for a help

but in the profound silence of the tunnel

all I could hear my own scream screaming me back.

In order to get rid of the pain, as I kept walking ahead

I saw a light shining at the end of the tunnel

asking me to keep walking since there is someone out there

to hold my hands and lead to my unknown.”

The honesty of vulnerability is showing interest to seek help from outside. In my vulnerability I always look up for help from 4 kind of people –

  1. A CONFIDANTE: Venting out your inner aches is always referred to as the initial pipeline for healing. Someone primarily shows up his/her vulnerability to a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others. It helps the vulnerable to find the relaxation of his inner wounds.
  2. AN EMPATHIZER: The prime reason a victim always finds himself in loneliness is that there is none to relate to his pain. The touch of someone who can understand or be sensitive to another’s feelings or ideas makes the vulnerable feel safe and important.
  3. A PROPONENT: Vulnerable is often lonely, victimized, and morally low they open up their vulnerability so that there would be a voice among many to advocate their case. Make them guilt-free and rescue their selfhood.
  4. A PATHFINDER: The vulnerable’ whereabouts is always at stake. They are confused about where to go from there. For a person to tread to a better version of life is always necessary. Their vulnerability tells they ask the person of experiential relevance to hold their hand and lead them ahead.  

BUT ALAS…

In my search of them, a voice from my past experience had always instructed – it is wise enough to get a background check of the person to whom I will show my vulnerability. Well, if I am asked to give a reason for my behavior. Honestly, it would be “the risk factor that is involved”. The risk of

  1. Being EXPOSED: How can a man measure the intent of another man? While outsourcing our project we are always concerned about the secrecy of our project information. Often, we sarcastically quote some of our outsourcing partner office’ as “Public Square”, we share them some information and the other day it becomes the talk of the town. That’s why the Bible warns, “A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers”
  2. Being RIDICULED: It won’t be wrong to say, we live in the most technologically connected age yet we always feel disconnected. Research says, “On social media, people mostly feel more disconnected even though they have hundreds of friends and followers on their channel.” It happens because “a 6 always looks like a 9 from the opposite end and a 9 always looks like a 6 from the opposite end”. This means we often connect with the vulnerable with a personal perception in mind. To become a perfect empathizer the Bible recommends, “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other. For encouraging and building each other is Godly work.”
  3. Being CRITICISED: Criticism always seems negative because of its use on the fallacy of context. Often, the talk is not WHO RAPED HER but WHY THAT PARTICULAR GIRL IS WAS RAPED, definitely, she wears shorts and has allured the man. The fear of being outcasted, criticized, and becoming a public disgrace has always squared the vulnerable exactly when he decides to open up his vulnerability to someone. Whereas the Bible teaches, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
  4. Being TAKEN FOR A RIDE: Human heart is extremely deceitful and is beyond measure. Probably, that’s why his world is framed with I, ME, & MINE. He gave him the power of attorney to lead the organization in his absence but when the owner return, he found the servant has built his own organization. The risk of being taken for a ride has always pulled me back from being vulnerable. The Bible counsels, “Take the pain to do what is right both in the eyes of the LORD and in the eyes of man.”     

Time and again when these risks involved in being vulnerable takes me on a ride, with sorrow I warn myself the quote of the Australian Singer Nicholas Edward Cave –

“If you’re gonna dine with them, cannibals,

Sooner or later, darling, you’re gonna get eaten…”

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MY VULNERABILITIES ARE MY STEPPING STONES

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents/elders forced you to dance or sing or do mimicry when there were guests at home? Yeah, our parents have a habit of bragging about their children and what they can do. And as always you were unwilling to display your talents in front of outsiders. But as soon as they leave, you start singing or dancing. “Yeah yeah, when you are asked you don’t show anything but now you show it“, that’s the usual dialogue we used to hear from our elders/parents, taunting us. This is a generic event which must have happened in everyone’s life, I guess. It had happened in my life too!

It is the fear of being judged or being shamed or laughed at that often make us unwilling to perform what we are good at. I have seen someone who sings so well and can sing in front of a big congregation but unwilling to sing in a close gathering. The reason is same.

The feeling of being shamed or judged have always dragged us back and have become the biggest blockages to our vulnerability. Our vulnerability is not our weakness but it is our way of exposing ourselves to others even when we are uncertain of their reactions.

When I was looking into my life and was assessing how I have been carrying myself through till now, I found, I dealt with my vulnerabilities so poorly in the first phase of my life. But in the later part of my life, till now, I used my vulnerabilities as my stepping stones to climb up. The feeling of shame and being laughed at, had jeopardized my mental health when I was young. I lacked confidence. But when I came to Kolkata, I learned how to be vulnerable and accept the reactions of people. Now, when I see or hear the reactions of people, I don’t feel anything, in fact, I can easily predict who and how someone can react in a certain way when I am exposed. I enjoy it now, unlike the way I felt in the past.

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Brené Brown

I loved the second part of the quote where Brown states, “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” I practically lived with all my vulnerabilities and now I see a quote from a psychologist confirming that what I did was right.

HOW DID I MANAGE TO LIFT UP THE BARRIERS OF SHAME OR BEING LAUGHED AT?

I recall, due to my physical inability I was merely a kind of spectator all through the years till I came to Kolkata. I never found a platform to get exposed. But once I sat in front of a screen and saw the humongous web world, I realised this is where I would love to be exposed. And it became easier for me to open up and talk about my vulnerability. And once I presented my case, voiced out who I am, handled my vulnerabilities with boldness, the feeling of being laughed at and shamed were wiped away from my heart and mind.

You know what? When I came out of the virtual world to the real or physical world, I looked and felt stronger than before. I was more confident.

When Aparna met me face to face for the first time, she made a statement which confirmed what I said above. She said, “Dad, you seem more stronger like this than on virtual platform“. That statement was such a mental booster that I can’t explain in words.

On Television, I have seen how a counselling care group functions. The counselor doesn’t sit separately or in a different chair but he or she sits alongside the people who usually come for counseling. And the counselor invites all to open up and share their hearts without compelling them even a single time. The counselor himself/herself starts with her/his life and then the most confident among all starts afterwards. Some people don’t speak at all for days but when they feel confident and comfortable they open their mouths. This is a western scenario, I wish or hope we have such facilities in India too.

Friends, are you worried about those many obstacles that make it hard for you to be vulnerable? Is it the feeling of shame or the uncertain reactions of people or the fear of being an odd man out or the gendered expectations or being considered weak that stop you to open up and be vulnerable? Use them as your stepping stones as I did. Prayerfully, try to understand yourself first. Secondly, identify the barriers to your vulnerabilities. Thirdly, try to figure out the easiest ways to tackle these barriers. Soon, you will find yourself at the point of being vulnerable easily in your daily life.

Stay Blessed!

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WHY DID THE VULNERABLE CHOOSE YOU?

According to the Clinical Social Worker and American Researcher Dr. Casandra Brene Brown,

What we know matters BUT WHO WE ARE matters more.”

Being a people person naturally many people get the ease to open up themselves and have shown their vulnerability. All most all the time, those sensitive conversations opening line is, “I TRUST YOU”, at times they say verbally and at the other time, I found it in their hypersensitive tones. Well, does it make me feel encouraged? Yes, but alongside I always felt more responsible and had always uttered a silent prayer – “God, help me not to break this man’s trust?

At the end of every conversation, their thank you note starts with the line “thank you very much for listening to my story” or some of them say, “sorry, I took so much of your time”. Does it mean did I favour them? No, rather giving all ear to their stories has always made me feel favoured by them since there might many like me yet they chose to tap me.    

A vulnerable person always shows their love in their vulnerability

Primarily, it is the honesty that we look in love. Vulnerability also looks for honesty. Years back, I was invited to speak at a three days conference and I was accommodated at my ushering family’s place. One evening one of the daughters-in-law of the family opened up and shared with me her story of being abused by her husband. Even she requested me to counsel her husband. But I denied her with reason.I was worried if I counsel her husband, there might be a chaotic situation happening after my leaving, even to the greater and possible extent her husband might doubt her character since she disclosed her marital relationship secrets to a completely new person to him. And lo, in her response to the reason for my denial, she confirmed my fear. She said, “Brother, you are right! Exactly this happened a couple of years back. I asked one mentor person to counsel my husband and it turned worse experience. Since the person was new to my husband, it hurt the sentiments of my husband and after the mentor person leaving, I was verbally abused and was thrashed by my husband.”

As they have shown their love in their vulnerability,

you show them honesty and wisdom in your whereof.  

Are you worried I left her to suffer? Sadly, and practically, yes to the near future because since then she didn’t have any human to whom her husband can listen and repent. I have certain limits to help her. But to her goodness, I did refer her a greater Guiding Light, who is Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent – God. Out of many of my personal experiences, I suggested her for endurance instead of giving up her marital vow and take things into prayer, seeking God to intervene in her situation because somewhat that she was lacking in her life. From an Atheist point of view, I might sound like a slacker. But being a theist, undoubtedly that is the greatest possible reference where a vulnerable can take refuge and strength. Since Jesus promised,

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

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UNDERSTANDING VULNERABILITY

If you’ve ever played the game ‘TRUTH or DARE’, you can well imagine how caught up it feels to be between the devil and the deep blue sea! Those less daring ones who choose TRUTH are often tested with questions that make them vulnerable. That momentary jostle within – to speak up the truth or settle for a half-truth or lie altogether – can be quite unsettling for some people.

In this blog post, I won’t go into the reasons why people hesitate to be vulnerable. Rather, I’ll talk about when and why do people make themselves vulnerable and how their vulnerability needs to be handled.

WHEN AND WHY DO PEOPLE MAKE THEMSELVES VULNERABLE?

Vulnerability is the pathway to intimacy. When we share our hearts out with someone, there develops a sense of bonding with that person. However, this heart-connection cultivates when one is naturally vulnerable. Making oneself vulnerable is a conscious decision. Forced/ simulated vulnerability create insecurity and discomfort. That is why most of the Truth-tellers in the game TRUTH or DARE report discomfiture.

THE WHENS

  1. People make themselves vulnerable when they trust. The trust might have been developed over the years (i.e., a familiar person) or might be instant (i.e., a stranger). A husband is vulnerable before his wife when he opens up about his infidelity. A passenger on a railway platform on a dark night might be vulnerable when s/he asks a stranger for a lift home.
  2. People make themselves vulnerable when they face crises. Making oneself vulnerable is one of the survival mechanisms of the human brain. No matter how introverted a person may be, crises are natural forces to make him/ her open up and seek help.
  3. People make themselves vulnerable when they are happy. A person winning a hefty sum in a lottery makes himself vulnerable when he shares his happiness with his family, friends, neighbours and acquaintances.
  4. People make themselves vulnerable when they are in dilemma. To do or not to do, this way or that – when the mind gets clouded with such thoughts, one makes the self vulnerable.
  5. People make themselves vulnerable when they feel to. Natural vulnerability is largely intentional. And so, there are certain people who make themselves vulnerable at all times irrespective of circumstances.
  6. People make themselves vulnerable in love. A person’s best guarded secrets are often with the people s/he loves. It may be a parent, a friend, a sibling, a spouse, a child or a romantic interest.  

THE WHYS

  1. Genetic predisposition – There are some people who are prone to making themselves more vulnerable than others by virtue of their genetic endowment.
  2. Venting pent up emotions – Unspoken words stifle the mind. Making oneself vulnerable helps unclutter the mind. A victim of abuse makes himself/ herself vulnerable by sharing his/ her emotions to a friend or Counsellor or social activist.
  3. Seeking suggestions/ advice – Often making oneself vulnerable is all about seeking suggestions/ advice. For instance, a lone explorer in a foreign land makes himself/ herself vulnerable by sharing with the localites that s/he is a lone explorer from another land while seeking directions to tourist spots, currency exchange counters or hotels.
  4. Socialization – Being vulnerable comes easily to gregarious people. They do not build walls around them and are adept at handling the consequences of their vulnerability.

Vulnerability researcher Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen.”

HANDLING VULNERABILITY

When someone makes himself or herself vulnerable before us, how do we handle it?

  1. Keep the trust – Most people make themselves vulnerable before those whom they trust. Hence, confidentiality is an unspoken clause that accompanies vulnerability. Gossip and spreading tales leads to breach of trust and might compel the vulnerable person never to express vulnerability before others.
  2. No blackmailing – Taking advantage of vulnerable persons victimizes them. Just because a person expresses his/ her vulnerability gives no right to the confidant to intimidate, threaten or victimize the vulnerable person for emotional or financial gains.
  3. Respect personal space – Though respecting personal space applies to all relationships, it is crucial when a personal is vulnerable before you. A foot in the door need not mean forceful entry indoors.
  4. No scathing criticisms – Criticisms taken and given in the right spirit build up the self-esteem and shape the personality of people. When a person makes himself or herself vulnerable, the least that is expected is scathing criticism to be heaped upon him or her. Vulnerability gives no license to criticism.
  5. Don’t judge – Judging vulnerable people often does more harm than help. It makes a gregarious person recoil, a happy person question happiness and a victim question self.
  6. Help or connect to a helper – Be a keen observer to notice if the vulnerable person needs help beyond being just vulnerable. Act smart and connect to professional helpers.  
  7. Don’t feel jealous – A person who is being vulnerable before you might also make himself or herself vulnerable before certain others – either because s/he is too open or because there is a desperate need to vent out. Hence, it is unwise to expect that you are the sole respite for the person.

Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. Internalization of thoughts, emotions and feelings might prove detrimental in the long run when a person resorts to repress them. To be agents of healing for people around, the art and science of being effective handlers of vulnerability needs to be mastered. If you feel you are a person who can handle vulnerability, create the ambience. Don’t impose vulnerability. Forced vulnerability is hedonistic! 

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I WON’T JUDGE YOU – IT’S A PROMISE

He was a colleague of mine and now a friend, thanks to the messenger services we are still in touch with each other after 12 years of acquaintance. We share common interest for writing. I share my blogs with him and vice versa and so is the case with mutual appreciation and encouragement.

One day during such casual chat about our lives, common hobby, national politics to office politics, weather and current affairs he opened up his heart to me. He was going through a lean patch in his marriage. And the issue that he mentioned was something I never imagined any of my male friend would ever discuss so clearly with me. Even now when I am writing here I am in two minds whether I shall discuss or not but the only thing that prompted me to go ahead with this story is “we all are mature adults”.

In his words – I don’t know whom shall I confide into and I don’t know if I am doing right or wrong by bringing up this topic with you. But since you are woman, you might understand well another woman. I can’t discuss with my male friends because knowing them well I know they will make fun of my dilemmas. The thing is I love my wife very much but unable to understand her sexual fantasies. It seems it is on her mind all the time. It is too overwhelming for me. I always believed marriage isn’t about just sex. Even if I want to just have a good time talking and knowing about her she simply have a different definition of lone time. I try to be a good partner in every sense she wants me to be but things are becoming overbearing. If things continue like this I am afraid I have to part ways and lose her which I don’t want. Do you think I shall go for counseling?

I had to be patient. One thing was quite clear from his situation and hesitation – we as a society still has many taboo subjects that we don’t want to or can’t talk about without a smirk on face or being judgmental. That was the exact reason my friend had been feeling insecure and going through a phase of mental pressure.

What I offered as an advice: I appreciate your idea of marriage and also the fact that you chose to open up yourself. See a woman also have sexual preferences and fantasies as much as a man have. But everything must have a limit. Just as she is vocal about what she wants you have the same right to be eloquent about how you feel about your relationship. Counseling is definitely an option but it’s more about both of you being open to the very idea of working it out. Patience is the key here. No marriage is perfect as people are not flawless but at the end of the day it is all about their willingness to age together. Don’t worry first talk to her, I am sure she will understand. Give it a try.

He thanked me and promised me to take the initiative of making his marriage work. Few days later when we were chatting I asked how things were at his end l. He responded “relatively better, we are taking things slow. Thanks for being understanding and not judging me. You are really a god sent friend to me”. I was overwhelmed and really happy that things were slowly moving in a better direction for them.

I strongly believe in one thing – as a friend the least I could do to help anyone is to listen to them as being heard out takes off a lot from the sufferers, isn’t it?

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WHEN WORDS FLOW…

“Hi, I’m Chandler, I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable”

I could easily pass the above statement as my own… that’s probably what I’d be saying in my head, the moment someone starts pouring out their… well… life stories to me.

Like seriously – me… Why?

The thing is, for some very strange reason, people actually do think I have that ability to listen – no idea where they get that from, something they see in me or… I don’t know.

BUT-What happens when someone opens up to you and becomes vulnerable, how do you handle it?

If someone were to ask me that question right now… I’m not sure if there’s any correct way to answer that – but I’d probably sit for a while, and end up saying something really stupid in the first 10 minutes – and then BAM! its no longer a heart-to-heart, but a fun conversation, and sometimes, yes sometimes – my guess is, it works FAR BETTER than any soulful conversation/serious can ever achieve.

Could I BE any more Un-comfortable?

Let me be very frank, Vulnerability is state of mind I can never understand, and for someone who does feel vulnerable and comes up for some kind of guidance, to me personally – it has to be the toughest thing of my life. That said, of late – I try to use real-life humorous situations as a source of defense mechanism and more so a welcome distraction. I don’t do serious, RATHER I cannot.

Speech bubbles spelling out the phrase "Start the Conersation" with reference to customer conversations

However, I wasn’t as lucky to escape ‘the talkers’ – to be specific one of each sex – male and female, the best part of it was these “talks” were that it happened on journey’s, which made it so much relaxing. Nothing like have breeze blowing through the window, just incase my head overheats with excessive data.

It was only 2 days ago, I wanted to back off from my commitment to write my dedicated post on the subject-here on this platform Candles Online, thinking that I might not have anything significant to contribute – but then sometimes, all we need is a little motivation – after reading Aastha’s contribution/post yesterday, I remembered 2 very similar instances, that I was part of – voluntary or involuntary not sure.

There’s something about travelling and not having anything constructive to do, that makes people talk. I’d probably sleep (only to be kept awake by a talkative seat-partner)

It was only an hours journey from Panjim to Margao thankfully.

On 2 different instances, I had the good fortune of a feedback (which ofcourse I totally did not expect), firstly from a friend from college who carefully explained a rough situation he was going through at work, and apparently it was something that had I said that helped him overcome it. Office politics and employee-indiffernt-relationships is nothing new in the workplace, especially if you’re not one of the rub-everyone-the-nice-way kinda person

In his words:Savio, thankyou was listening to me the other day, things at work are so much better. Thank you for everything”

This message came after a couple of months via whatsapp, by that time I had even forgotten all about it. I don’t remember what I said or what happened during that journey but yes, I had helped someone who had opened up to me. Crazy! but did I just go the extraa..aaamile to help someone?

Another instance was a girl (at that time we had just gotten to know each other through a chat site I think) after a few interactions, she got more comfortable (is my guess) in my company. It was on one day, we decided to take a drive around the village side (she being from the North side of Goa and myself the South) the most natural thing to do is gloat about how beautiful the place around you is-even if it is within the same state.

But girls are clever, I tell you – she needed to talk and for me, it was a chance to take a girl for a drive (who would want to miss a chance right?) What was planned to be just a drive with a pretty girl, ended up being a conversation that I’d not expected. The drive had ended, so did the day. A few weeks passed and we connected on facebook.

A message on facebook Pvt chat read:

In her words: That drive the other day, thankyou for everything. You have no idea what you’ve done. Thankyou again.

Omg! What did I do? Okay, this was beginning to get scary, I was apparently talking to people and I wasn’t even aware of what I was doing. But she was right when she said “You have no idea what you’ve done”. I hadn’t a clue. I have always enjoyed a conversation, but the two above instances weren’t “just conversations” they were deeper and yet I came out unscathed. Phew! <yes, I’m still thinking about myself>

I personally, would never talk my blues away to anyone, I simply can’t do that-but for some, its so much easier, and for their ablity to find out that “someone” who can give them a listening ear – wow! What is that about?

Listening may be one part of it, but being there and saying the right things is another. Did I possess both of those qualities? I don’t really know, but I don’t think I would want to venture down that road.

However, one thing I’ve noticed is that, if there’s a connection, there need not be a reason, season or a fear to be there for someone else – it just happens. Connections are not formed by relationships (friendship, love etc) but an invisible chord that probably brings 2 individuals together in a particular time and place.

We may not know what people are going through, but somewhere, somehow – we end up being there for them, not as a special effort, but just being at the RIGHT PLACE at the RIGHT TIME.

The keys to living a wonderful life, is BEING Ourselves, acting normal around people and going about life as if it is the last day of it – it is only then we would truly learn to appreciate every minute, every hour of everyday. Hope I do not sound too philosophical, coz that’s not what I’m going for. Remember – I am the casual one.

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WHEN THE BARRIER WAS LET DOWN…

Few months back, I met one of my friends (not going to name her). She is the most daring and hardworking girl I know. In her early twenties she left her home, was on the verge of a suicide, then she started her own venture and I must say she fought her way through and is successful today. After a long time we were catching up, so we had lunch together and saw a movie. After all the fun time, she started sharing her future plans, how she wants to live closer to her parents and she plans to leave Bangalore in a year or so.

You know Aastha, Pune is where I want to move. It’s closer to my home town. I can take a trip to home on every weekend. With the money I have, I cannot afford a house in Bangalore. May be, in Pune I would be able to afford one. Would you also move to Pune?“, and there was a pause. I did not think she was waiting for an answer. I reluctantly replied to her, “No, I won’t be able to move to Pune. That is far for my home town and not even a direct flight. I am afraid that is not an option for me. Bangalore is fine. At least for now. The only thing is I don’t know if I can afford to retire in this city. It is too expensive. Anyway, that’s for a later point of time in life. Let’s see“.

OK. Then you buy a house in Bangalore, I would buy one house in Pune. That way, we can still stay at each other’s place when we travel. I don’t know yaar, I don’t want to get married. I am not ready yet. In case, if I don’t get married, you are still going to be there for me right? I can stay with you right if I feel like it?“, there was a sense of fear in her eyes.

“Of course, you are always welcome to stay at my place. If you don’t want to get married, then you don’t. Period. Don’t succumb to any pressure from anyone. I see where you are going with this conversation. You are worried about future, the fear of uncertainty. There is one thing I want you to remember. No body is going to make you the center of their world apart from parents and partner. Partner is a very important role in every person’s life. It might sound simple to not have one, but in reality it is very difficult. There would be no go to person to have a conversation, crack a joke or dine out. Well, both of us became aware of how it would be due to lockdown, thanks to the pandemic. If you are not choosing to marry, that should be solely because you don’t want to. Not because you won’t be able to share a house with me or hangout with someone else etc. That’s stupid. If you find the right person and are ready, then you should marry. You should not think about me at that time. I am not your responsibility. Likewise I might move on too. No matter what happens we stay friends, and are a phone call away always. You have been through a lot. I don’t think I would have handled things the way you did with so much patience and perseverance as you did. You would buy a house and decorate it the way you like it. Take it slow. Take it easy. Everything would fall in place.”, I hugged her and left from her place.

A couple of conversations over phone after this and she was all fine. I don’t know if I have helped her, but in many ways, I have found answers to the questions that were lingering in my mind. I could not express the worries I have with anyone, because I thought they would be brushed. Who and why would they care was always the thought. May be, I had a better insight into the worry she had, and it helped. Otherwise maybe, I would have also made a  more general, “Come on. You would be able to buy a house and settle down, don’t be stupid” kind of an answer. Most of the times, if we listen with patience, acknowledge their feelings and be there, that’s all a person who is vulnerable needs.

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AND LIKE A MEAN PERSON, I SAID “I TOLD YOU SO!”

I was in my first year of engineering, the new hostel life, new friends and new college was a huge excitement. No amount of ragging could get my spirits down, we were always so happy about everything in life at that age. I made lots of friends and one of them was a girl with whom I just happen to connect right in first year. We spent almost all the time together – gossiping, studying, eating, going for walks, playing. It was a lot of fun with her in the 1st semester when ragging was high and we didn’t have much freedom.

As soon as the 2nd semester began, the ragging went down drastically and started enjoying evening time outside the hostel. Being young girls we started getting a lot of attention from boys of our batch and of senior batches. We totally enjoyed this attention, it used to be our favorite topic to guess which “Sir” was interested in whom.

I wouldn’t want to disclose my friend’s name, so let’s just call her “Sarah”.  While the last 2-3 months of second semester were left, Sarah told me that there was Final year Sir interested in her. As my interest grew, this girl blushed. But when she told me the name, I was shocked. He was known to be one of most notorious guys of final year batch. He had really a bad reputation and everybody knew that he could go to any extent to have casual fun with a girl in final days of his college. I told Sarah that I don’t have a very good feeling about this. But this girl had fallen for this notorious man. Apparently, they had already gone for a few dates and he had managed to catch her interest with all the sweet talks.

Not just me but many other senior girls in our hostel warned her too. But Sarah was too much in love with the wrong guy to listen to anybody. She believed that this man was a bad guy but had changed for her. All she wanted was to pass out of this engineering college and get married to him. This is how naïve she was!

They spent all the time together in college, she even managed to bunk many classes to be with him. Finally when he passed out of the college, we entered second year of engineering. It took Sarah a few months to realize that she was cheated upon. The guy never took her seriously after college, her calls were not returned or answered. Those were the days of landline STD booth and we saw Sarah standing at the STD booth for hours calling him over and over again.

During vacations she came to my place in Dehradun and this guy was also from the same city. We two girls managed to hunt his address and reach his place and when we did – he refused to even recognize us. Sarah was shattered so deeply, maybe I could never understand her pain because at that phase of my life – I never knew what it was to be in love. I could never feel her pain, I could only feel angry and frustrated with her for being such a nutcase.

All these months when she spent all her time with her boyfriend we naturally grew apart and I made other friends in the hostel. One evening in 4th semester when we having some silly celebration in the hostel – I saw Sarah sitting in her room crying hysterically. When I reached out to her, she said that she was feeling extremely depressed and had real bad thoughts. She said that she felt guilty and horrible about trusting the guy – such a wrong guy. While she was saying all this, I felt extremely angry at Sarah. All these months, we were trying to explain to her that her boyfriend wasn’t right for her. She never listened and now when it is the time to celebrate, she is crying here. I felt so angry at her that I screamed at her – “I told you so, Sarah. Not just me, the whole college told you so.”

For me, my own anger of losing a friend and seeing her in this sorry state was bigger than her own pain. I uttered these horrible words and banged the door on her leaving her alone in the room with her depression. That’s it. That day I lost her forever. She never spoke to me again as a friend. She did come out of her depression, did really well later in college and went on to be really successful. But she never spoke to me as a friend again.

Many months later, I realized my mistake but never had the courage to apologize to her. I had to let her go from my life but I promised myself to never ever utter these words – “I told you so” when somebody is sharing biggest regrets of their life.

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AM I A GOOD KEEPER OF THE PEARLS PLACED ON MY PALMS?

Have you seen pearls or diamonds or some very costly stones or jewellery? Do you keep them on a table or juggle them in your hands? Do you not try to keep them safely and securely in a safe or locker? 

Remember, the same way, our emotions and feelings are like those precious pearls which we need to handle or preserve or keep with utmost care and security. 

In 2013, I attended a 10 days Training program on Trauma Counselling. The trainer addressed us and warned us about one thing which impacted me a lot and I treasured that statement in my heart every time someone shares her/his heart with me.  She said, “Whatever we all are going to share here and pour out our hearts talking about our vulnerabilities, our emotions should not go out of these four walls of this room. Treat everyone’s emotions and vulnerable moments as precious pearls“. And I truly am very careful when someone shares his or her heart with me afterwards. 

A few years ago one of my friends who is a doctor and was in Kolkata at that time requested me if I can counsel a lady suffering from schizophrenia. I was 30 years old then and the lady was 42-45 years old. She was rich being a wife of a businessman. His driver used to come and pick me up from my place to her house and after the counselling, I was dropped back at my place.  

What I wanted to point out here is, why my doctor friend asked me, a man with no counselling background to counsel her own client? I asked her out of nervousness and fear, “What made you ask me to do that favour for you? I have no such degree or license to counsel a schizophrenic patient“. 

Because the way you helped me in my times of trouble, the way you made me feel happy and comforted when I was so discouraged, I believe you can do the same with my client. So I have trust in you and your attribute to make people feel important and comfortable.” She responded and that made me understand why I should sharpen my skills further to help many others in future. 

Lynn Carol Miller, at the University of Southern California, explored the psychological profiles of openers by creating a questionnaire to assess the degree to which people are openers.

According to her –

If you endorse the statements below, then you’re likely to be an opener:

  1. People frequently tell me about themselves.

  2. I’ve been told that I’m a good listener.

  3. I’m very accepting of others.

  4. People trust me with their secrets.

  5. I easily get people to “open up.”

  6. People feel relaxed around me.

  7. I enjoy listening to people.

  8. I’m sympathetic to people’s problems.

  9. I encourage people to tell me how they are feeling.

  10. I can keep people talking about themselves.

I see myself as an Opener after I went through the list given above explaining the character traits of the same. At my workplace, I always complain jokingly, “Am I a temple bell that whoever comes rings it? Why me always? Why do you people always try to go through me?” And I know the answers to those WHYs – because I never send anyone with a NO, instead, I make them feel comfortable. I am very approachable to all. That’s my nature which I further tried to sharpen it more for the benefit of the people around me.  

Sadly, it takes just one human folly that turns an Opener into a Gossiper. If we read the number fourth point about maintaining secrecy or confidentiality, we understand what I am trying to say. The attribute of keeping people’s secret distinguishes an Opener from a gossiper or a slanderer. Once people mistrust a person with the way he or she handles their secrets, all other 9 points become immaterial or useless to them afterwards. So an Opener’s credibility is based on that number fourth attribute before everything else. 

THREE things, I always remember when someone opens up to me: 
1. I make them feel Comfortable with me by not judging them.
2. I Listen to them with utmost Care by giving Importance to whatever they say. 
3. I maintain Confidentiality by preserving their emotions, vulnerabilities as precious pearls. 

I try my level best to be a good keeper of those precious pearls which they place in my palms with so much trust and belief. 

How do you manage? 

Keep pondering and keep reading the articles of this week…

Stay Blessed!

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RAGING BULBUL

The sea so serene and cool

Roared and raged with the storm Bulbul

Lashing upon land and ocean

Causing untold commotion

The trees that Fani left

Away Bulbul fiercely swept

Parts of poor men’s thatched roofs

Were blown away with whoofs

Leaving gaping holes

That welcomed in the heavy downpours

No man or beast ventured out

Fearing the fury of nature’s pout

The groan of nature is not its own

Behind it is the Creator’s leading tone

Havoc and destruction however are not His purpose

To amuse Himself with such gory circus

He calms the storm with His words

His majestic power rides over the waters

Who should men then fear – the storm or its Master?

(Written on the cyclone BULBUL that struck Odisha in November 2019.)

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There may be tiring times,
There may be troubled times,
There may be worst of times,
But remember that time won’t be the same
Just like a water wave.

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DON’T TAKE PEOPLE FOR GRANTED!

You are not allowed to enter
Everytime you see an open-door.

Every person that meets you with a grin
Doesn’t make him your friend or kin.

You can’t bother someone relentlessly
Just because they allow you access selflessly.

It’s not always right to ask for help
When you can do things yourself.

We tend to forget the very essence of life,
That is to live peaceably, without causing any harm or strife.

Life requires codependency for sure,
But not at the cost of people’s freedom at all.


We always make the mistake of taking people for granted but that is not good at all. When it came to me, I realised how annoying and disturbing it is when people take me for granted. The above poem expresses what I actually feel for myself and for others.

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WHOSE STRUGGLE IS BIGGER?

She came to our family as our daughter-in-law in her early twenties. Being an Indian village girl, she was very kind, loving, hospitable, shy, submissive, traditional, and naïve in nature. For her, our family was her entire world. But who knew that her happiness of marriage won’t last long? She lost her husband just after 7years of her marriage. Being the elder and only daughter-in-law of the family, she had to take responsibility of her aged mother & father-in-law and her two baby girls (one 3years old & one 5months old). She had to deal with all these when she was just a 26-year-old, typical Indian village girl. Words will always fall sort to explain the pain & struggle she went through. Often all our encouraging words and comforts were just momentary. We were just able to wipe her moist eyes but undoubtedly none of us was there with her in those uncountable dark nights when she soaked her pillow with tears. But hats-off to her courage and maturity, the way she dusted and rose up from each of her pain is incredible. Dealing alone with her struggle she reflected the crown of glory she wore. She bagged it all and we witnessed.

In the beginning probably, some of such perspectives in mind the LORD God said, “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” So, the LORD caused to the man to fall into a deep sleep and took out one of the man’s ribs and made the woman. And the man exclaimed, “this is the bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh!”

As growing kids, one of the sincerest prayers my Dad always taught us – “God, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the bread of my portion. Otherwise, I may have too much and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, profaning the name of my God. If you want strength in your struggle, learn from those who are in the worst situation than yours.” Well, such a prayer was contrary to my ambitious teen mind at that time.

At comfort zone, some good advice often sound sanctimonious.

We only realize when being squared by suffering.

One night while on the way back from that cousin’s place the LORD God was loud & clear questioning in my heart, “ARE YOUR STRUGGLES BIGGER THAN HER?”

That’s the reason, Jesus (the God of the Bible) said,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

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ARE YOU A PRISONER?

Imagine you are in a jail and you are desperate to get out of it. You try really hard. You cry. You beg. You scream. You hit your fists on bars. You shake the bars with all your energy. But nothing happens. Nobody comes to help you. Nobody even acknowledges your presence. You see people around you but they are totally oblivious to your situation. You are exhausted. You can smell urine around yourself. The jail is filthy. You don’t even want to eat at a horrible place like this. However, there is no help that you are getting.

Doesn’t it sound like a worst nightmare?

What if I tell you that in spite of your desperation, you haven’t chosen to walk around the jail. You haven’t chosen to look to your left and right. If you do, you will see that there are wide open doors in left and right side of the walls and if you take those openings and go out – you will be free forever.

Sounds crazy, isn’t it?

What if I tell you that maybe you did look at the openings on the left and right side walls but you ignored them. You know it very well that path will lead you to freedom but you don’t take it because you are scared of dealing with freedom. The jail, however filthy, is comfortable for you. And worst case is that your misery and crying is dear to you. You don’t want to give that up. You blame the whole world for imprisoning you but you still don’t find any jailors who could free you from this jail.

Well. You must be thinking what sort of weird story is this? Why would anybody want to be imprisoned in a filthy place and live a life of misery?

Let me tell you that a lot of people do. They imprison themselves. They are their own jailors. They love to live in misery and self-pity. Not willing to see the doors that lead them to freedom. The doors are just there, wide open. All they have to do is to take steps towards it and feel the fresh air.

Still not believing me?

Have you ever been chronically sad or depressed or anxious or stressed? Might be because some relationship that is not working, relationship with spouse, parents, siblings, and friends. Stressed because there is hell lot of work and you are not able cope with work-life balance. Sad because your in-laws aren’t treating you well. Anxious because you feel horribly guilty of the mistakes that you have done. Worried because your kids are growing up and have their freedom – you know that they can get into trouble. Grieving because your loved one died unexpectedly. Angry because a colleague is being a complete idiot and doesn’t listen to you. Jealous because your neighbors go on an international vacation twice a year and you are not able to save enough money for even one. Frustrated because even when you are putting in a lot of hard work, your management or customer doesn’t appreciate you or the money is not flowing into your business.

There are plenty of such situations in and around us. Frankly I have been guilty of almost all the above scenarios one time or the other. These feelings are the prison. They are filthy and you are always desperate to get out of them. You blame the rest of the world for imprisoning you. But the reality is that you are your own jailor. You have imprisoned yourself and you expect rest of the world to get punished. You are the only one getting punished by suffering. All you have to do is to look around you and you will find a door wide open, just walk out. World will be beautiful again.

This blog is inspired by the book “Maybe you should talk to someone”

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EVERYDAY COMMONS, INSPIRE

The Mr. Nobody who picks up rags from garbage heaps,

Exudes inspiration.

I watched him from my window

One day.

He walks with that big sack on his bent back with an eye of precision for exactly the type of stuff that can go into his backpack. He rummages through the scum and dirt and goes on adding to the weight on his shoulder, barely caring for the scorching sun or the lashing rain or the chilling breeze or the barking dogs that hound him. At times, the sack doesn’t get filled up in a day. He picks up from where he left the day before and rushes to his masters to deposit a sack full of rubbish in exchange for a pittance. He works hard for survival – mere survival – with no hope for dignity, recognition or affluence! He doesn’t have the kindest of words to utter or the warmest of smiles to share. Exchange of expletives and disdain, hunger and pain, a seeming lack of purpose and often a world of crime mark his world. Choice – he hasn’t much of it. He still goes on!

The widow who lost her darling at the prime of youth

Exudes inspiration.

I watched her pass by my house

One day.

With tears gone dry and emotions stifled in the heart, she went about spreading smiles and cheer to the tiny kids she taught at school. The decades of toil seasoned with sympathies, pities and taunts have brought her to a stage where her hair has turned grey and there is gloomy loneliness around. There is pain in the joints and vision fades before her. She doesn’t know how to transfer money digitally or place a video call to her grandson. No, she doesn’t wait for life to be over some day. She makes the most of it. The tasty sweetmeats of her frail hands have made a local start-up rise up to fame. She lives and teaches others to live!

The mango tree in the garden bearing fruit once a year

Exudes inspiration.

I watched my neighbour engage labourers to pluck the fruits

One day.

It doesn’t bear fruit all the year round. It only gives a season of joy. The tree stands tall covered with leafy branches overall without giving away signs of its potency. When its time comes, it showers joy from its laden boughs. The year round growth shows forth in just one season. It feels no need to provide assurance each month of a fruitful season ahead. It silently stands with its lofty head held high knowing well that all questions and apprehensions would be laid to rest once its fruits show up in the branches. It speaks silently!

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WHO I AM – WHY I AM ADMIRED?

One of the absolutes of human life is, each human being is intrinsically designed and holds a definite purpose. This definite purpose designs their life patterns. It also becomes the compass of their ethical and moral belief system. Probably that’s instigated, the American Author, Educator, & Activist Parker Palmer to pen,

“Before I can tell my life WHAT I WANT to do with it,

I must listen to my life telling me WHO I AM”

Recently I was asked by one of my board members to help him with technical assistance in a 2days seminar. I was able to help him on the first day but on the second day I had to go on my family vacation, so much prior to the session, I compiled all the information, made the presentation in a couple of formats, and handed him in a thumb drive. But alas, due to some technical glitch he was unable to make the presentation. The next day when we met, he said, “yesterday, if Avinash would be that Avinash whom I admire, I won’t have failed.” Going further he appreciated one of my leadership traits which inspired me to reason his words rather than complaining him of dicing the blame-game. He said, “to succeed in your work, you always come with a three-fold strategy. If one strategy falls apart, there are two more strategies to succeed. That’s why I admire you. He was right! That’s what I ignored, I didn’t use my other two options and as a result, he failed to resolve the technical glitch.

To understand “Being WHO I AM” and “WHY I AM ADMIRED”, I had an imaginative visit to a Potter’s workshop. I found too many pots there, each of them was of different designs, different shapes, different prices. I enquired about the difference and all that the Potter pointed me was “each clay pots are designed for a particular purpose. It is for that purpose people admire them, for that purpose I designed them differently, for that purpose they are of different shapes, and for that purpose they are priced differently.

The Bible says,

“You are like the clay in the potter’s hands, and I am the potter.”  – this is the message of the Lord.