BLEND IN IS WHAT THEY SAY …

I cannot stand snakes. I hate them so much that even a picture of them makes me sick in the stomach. Lizards are very close in resemblance to snakes, but I somehow developed an interest in them. I might have been very young when I started reading articles and watching national geography documentaries. They can stick to any surface and crawl. Lizards are very interesting to me 🙂 

Lizards are the most common species on earth, found at every possible place including our houses. Antartica is an exception. They live in rain-forests, deserts, ponds, rivers, and even on trees and shrubs. There are more than 6000 varieties of lizards. Of all these, I am very fascinated by Chameleons. Chameleons are the variety that changes color in a jiffy. pink, red, orange, green, blue, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise, and purple. If you won’t get scared of watching lizards, then please watch this.  

There are certain interesting facts about lizards. Broadly, lizards are characterized into three color groups. I believe they are yellow, blue and brown/black. Each of these colors means compassionate, playboy, loyal. Interestingly the females mate with the species that are low in number in their vegetation to prevent extinction. By doing this, they preserved all three species successfully for the last 200 years. 

Lizard is the species which has the highest tensile muscle among all living species. It’s their tongue. Like snakes, lizards also smell with their tongue and do not have ears. To catch the prey, lizard lets out a small portion of its tongue to smell the surroundings. Once it finds the prey, it releases its tongue at a speed of 225mph. I would recommend watching that in slow motion 🙂 Lizards come in various sizes. The ones that are larger in size are the ones considered to be harmful to humans otherwise lizards are harmless. 

I can go on and on writing about them, but, let me tell you a funny encounter with lizards. I am not sure if it’s funny because it is going to have a sad ending. End of last year I went on a holiday for two weeks. By the time I returned home, there were not one, not two but three lizards in my kitchen. I was not scared when I saw them, somehow it felt very weird to be cooking in the kitchen where lizards are moving freely. How many days can I go without cooking? I had to find a way to get rid of them. I have no idea how to get rid of them. What’s the one thing that usually saves us? Google. Yes, I started googling to find out how to get rid of lizards. There were several remedies like peacock feathers, camphor etc. After failed trials for two weeks, I had no option but the forcefully send them out. I cleaned up the entire kitchen counter, placed back all jars into the cabinets. I tried using the broomstick and duster, but it was another failure.. 

Unable to find out any remedy, I contemplated if I should kill them. This fight went on for two days. I had no clue how to kill them either. Trust me, I tried various cleaning solutions, sprays possible. At last, what worked was cockroach spray. It worked but I had to see the lizard suffer. The tail portion of the lizard separated from its body and just like octopus tentacles it was moving even after it was separated for more than a minute. Trust me, it wasn’t easy killing those. I couldn’t sleep for a few days but I had no other option. 

If any of you are petting a lizard, please excuse me for killing them. I feel sorry for them as well. As much as possible I am not going to do this again. From next time I would be careful to not let lizards than having to get rid of them later. Any ideas for this would be appreciated. I like lizards but I don’t think I would ever pet one. Though what I could learn from them is to adapt to situations around. It makes a lot of sense considering how bad the world around is now-a-days . Either we should stand out or blend in. By this, I do not mean that we have to do bad things to fit in. Lizards only do that to not get noticed and become prey to their predators. 

“The trick to not being discovered until it is too late is to become part of the expected surroundings. Stealth is more the art of blending in with the background than sneaking through dark shadows.” 
― Raymond E. Feist

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DO NOT CONCEAL YOURSELF

We’ve got a new teacher for English when I was in grade 10. It was only a few months left for our public exams, so most of us were worried how the new teacher would be. She was slim-built and had a squeaky voice. She had an interesting way of teaching which made a lot of us happy because our earlier teacher was not so good. Once I noticed that she had some bruises on her hand during our catch-up session in the teachers room. When she is on the dais and delivering her lecture it is difficult to notice those cuts because she had a fairly dark skin. The marks were not distinctively visible from a distance. This repeated 2 -3 times in the six months she taught us. Our schooling ended and we moved on with our lives. 

Few years later, I accidentally met her in a mall. Yet again, I noticed bruises on her hands. I asked her if we could have lunch together. She sceptically agreed for lunch, we took one of the corner tables at a restaurant. We ordered food and were talking about other students from our class. The food arrived, we had our lunch and that is when I asked her about the bruises. I admitted I noticed them earlier too. She seemed surprised. “Mam, I understand you may not be able to share it with me. I hope things are not as bad as they seem. Please Mam, do something about it. Talk to someone. I have a feeling you are hiding your pain from everyone around you and that is surely not going to help much“, before I could finish, she started to cry. That was the first time I had some one elder than me crying before me. I didn’t know what to do. She paused a bit and said, “Aastha, life isn’t what we think it is. My husband is abusive but I don’t speak about it because if he decides to leave me, then my son would be the most impacted one. So, I keep it to myself”. She left and I never met her again.

Hiding is something we all do. During childhood hiding is for the sole purpose of not getting scolded for our mischief, but as we grow it is mostly because of the fear of being judged or misunderstood. If we observe carefully we would see numerous examples. But, is hiding good? Well, it is a very broad question. Obviously, we do not want to share every information of our life with every other person. We have close pals and not so close ones. Mostly our close pals are the ones who know the most because we trust them. There are certain times in our lives when we feel not to share some particular part or an episode of our life with anyone. Trust me this only works if that information cannot cause harm. Like in the case of my teacher, there are many men and women who fall prey for abuse. Especially in these situations keeping what happened to ourselves in no good. I can vouch for this because of my own experience. 

I can give a million reasons why I haven’t shared that I was suffering with my parents, friends or anyone. No matter how much I convince myself that what I did was fine, I know it is not. More and more I buried myself, the more people did not care. Usually when people hide, most of them expect someone would come and help them out of the situation. Unfortunately what happens is the opposite. If you want to hide, the world will let you do so and forget about you. No one would come to help you unless they really care and of course if you had someone who really cared may be you would have opened up? Is that what you are thinking? May be.. but this is a vicious circle, that has no ending. Do not blame yourself for the abuse or embarrassment. We have to speak for ourselves when in need. Hiding under the shell does not bring anything good. It is like a closed container which would never see light unless someone makes an attempt. 

Some wise man told me, “If you have decided to hide something, you should take full responsibility of the consequences and should have the courage to fight alone“. This is very true. Say, someone is in an abusive marriage, only if they share with someone, they would find solace, help and most important of all someone who can vouch for the suffering if need be. Most of the cases that are pending in the court regarding abusive marriages take a long time only because no one ever knew about that. It takes time for Honorable Court to do justice. Hiding information from our loved ones is called protective buffering. Though it might help in short run, it only creates stress and distress in the long run. 

This week we are going to write on various aspects of ‘hiding’. I am sure each one of us are going to present a unique perspective of hiding. Keep reading… 

IT IS THE ONLY DOOR WAY TO UNDERSTAND SOMEONE…

Me and my sister have our own worlds. We always had our respective friend circles and very little overlap. We talk, crack jokes, and have a lot of fun time. Irrespective of the comfort we have with each other, we seldom share important events of our lives. My mom talks for hours with her sisters, and always says that me and my sister don’t talk as much. My sister’s reply is an epic one, “Amma (Mom), we do not need to talk as often or as much as your sisters talk. Our bonding is stronger than your bonding with your sisters..”. Few months back when I went home, I noticed that my sister was dull. All her friends were getting married, so, she is left with very few with whom she can talk. I started chatting with her, send news articles sometimes or just listen to her complaints on my parents 🙂 She started to open up and share few things with me. I cannot replace all of her friends, but something is better than nothing.

There is a lot of power in communication, well, effective communication. Communication is not just about talking but listening too. I feel listening is more important than talking. I have been craving for someone who can listen and understand my feelings. The main problem I faced is there are many people who are just hearing to what I say. There are many who ask me questions for the sake of asking or for courtesy. For example, someone might ask me regarding my work. If my response is positive, they would say, “good“, if my response is not so positive then it would be, “every where it is like that” :-). Further to this there would be no more discussion about work. This is a very trivial example. For someone who cares, my expression of problem would make them check back on me. It is a rarity to find such people.

Imagine your kid waiting for you to return from work. He/she would have a lot to speak with you about how their day was. Their world is small and all they are asking for is some attention towards them. Unless we listen, we cannot understand how their thoughts are changing. The more we remember about them, the more they feel connected to us. Teeny tiny details of their friends are very important to them. Hearing is not at all sufficient when dealing with kids. 

I am constantly finding it difficult to express now a days because I am not sure if the other person is hearing or listening. There is always a thought if they are judging me. Some people do not let me complete my sentence and say, “I understand/know what you are talking about. You don’t have to explain it“. I wonder how they know what my feelings are. Feelings are distinct from person to person. To truly understand what the other person is talking about, we should have the patience to listen. 

This habit of interrupting or ignoring what other person has to say is not confined to personal space but also prevalent in professional spaces as well. Undermining what the other engineer has to say is a common phenomena I noticed at work place as well. Sometimes, it feels like plain arrogance which is making them immune to other people’s ideas. It can also be demeaning and demotivate anyone from expressing further.

Listening is an art. It is time consuming to listen but trust me it is a worthy investment. There are a lot of people yearning to be listened. It can be anyone around us. Having a listening ear towards their problems is all they need. Listening requires us to give undivided attention. Listening improves our compassion too. All of us cherish those friends who are there with us through thick and thin, and the only way to achieve that is to listen, listen and listen. 

Poor listening usually leads to problems in relationships. If we do not listen, the chances are two people would fall apart and eventually may not feel the need to talk. This can sometimes lead to separation or dissolving of otherwise good relationship. Effective communication is possible only if we listen. Without a self-centred agenda of biases, judgements, advises we would be extending our empathy when we listen. 

“It’s not at all hard to understand a person; it’s only hard to listen without bias.” 
― Criss Jami, Killosophy

WHY WE BELIEVE IN THE UNBELIEVABLE?

I am born on the 13th and couple of years ago it happened to be on a Friday. One of my friend was teasing me on the week of my birthday saying coming Friday is the 13th and considered very unlucky. He said that the whole day, and finally was tired when I wasn’t really considering that bad luck. He was just making fun of me. But honestly there are people who consider 13th bad luck to a great deal. Some tall buildings don’t have 13th floor, some airlines don’t have 13th row, some corporates do not make any announcements on 13th, so on and so forth. I don’t consider myself bad luck or have a worse life. Sure, there are problems but who doesn’t have problems in their lives? Likewise, number 4 is considered bad in some Asian countries because the pronunciation is similar to word ‘death’. 

superstition1

It amazes me when I see people following certain superstitions. There are a plethora of superstitions. We would have seen many around us touching wood, or say ‘touch wood’ to prevent a confident statement from bringing bad luck. Is redirecting bad luck so easy !? Saying bless you when we sneeze is said because the assumption is that by sneezing we are expelling evil. Fingers crossed – this one is very popular. Starting from students to sports teams we see people standing fingers crossed while waiting for the result for good luck. Itching hand, twitchy eye are considered good luck as well.

 

Superstitions2

Seeing our face in a broken mirror, crossing a black cat, walking under the ladder, combing hair at night, cutting nails at night, sweeping the floor after sun sets, spilling pepper, singing while cooking might leave you single for life are all considered bad luck. If we bite our tongue then someone is thinking about us 🙂

These superstitions are our beliefs which have been around us for a long time. Most of the time we follow them without even thinking if that is going to help or not. Irrespective of what we do, what science says is if someone believes in a certain superstition, they feel better when they follow it. It might cloud their judgement to make some irrational decisions but still keeps them at peace. However, if they forget to follow, then it causes anxiety. They would be worried if anything bad might happen or link whatever bad happens to that particular superstition. 

Common superstitions are still alive today. We never know what can bring good luck to and why miss it? :p Do you refuse to walk under the ladder? Do you worry if a black cat crosses your way? Do you have any such superstitions and follow them? 

“What the mind doesn’t understand, it worships or fears.” ― Alice Walker

IT’S RELAXING AND REJUVENATING …

Trust me when I say this, each and every one of us need that spot in our home where we can be ourselves. Not bothered about what others are thinking or what’s happening in the world around us, that sweet little spot has helped us to be us. It is not a hiding place or our secret corner. Everyone can see us, yet they try not to disturb us when we are in that spot :-). Are you wondering what it is? That is our favourite spot in the house, where we find solitude and the much needed me-time. 

I would have been around 10 when we moved to that house and it is that place where I lived until I moved out for my job. We lived in a colony, and that building in which our house was is a 3 storey building. It was a corner lot, and if I go to the terrace, I could see almost all of the colony. I could see the park, the badminton courts, the playground, the cycling track and the skating rink too. If I was too stressed or needed a break from playing with my friends, often I used to go on to the terrace.

It was that place from where I could watch the flaming sky, watch flocks of birds return to their nests, moving clouds during the rainy season, oh. that reminds me – have a warm cup of hot chocolate on a rainy day. It used to calm me down when I felt so close to nature. 

I also used to have deep introspection with myself on the terrace. I had the freedom and time to think from all perspectives of a problem without being interrupted. There is yet another favourite thing I did,  watching our garden from the terrace. There were a variety of plants and trees, planted usually in groups by their type. I used to design the landscape of our garden from the terrace because I had a very clear view from the top. We had a big mango tree and during summer time, I and my sister used to count mangoes from the terrace. It was like counting stars and we would debate if we have already counted a particular mango 😛

Our terrace was the place where most of my science projects were conceptualised. From drawing to making a list of required materials to building the project, our terrace served like my own lab :D. That was the same place where I would start reading a book, and forget to return home even when it’s late in the evening. My sister was the one, poor girl, who used to climb all the stairs in search of me. She knew if I wasn’t at the playground, that’s the only place she could find me. 

Coming to the present, the apartment I live in also has a terrace. In a city like Bangalore, my apartment is surrounded by huge trees. It gives me so much pleasure to see the trees and also a variety of birds on the trees. Still, I find myself go to the terrace to find the me-time. Some times it surprises me because I live alone, and I should have found that me-time anywhere in the house but it is the terrace. 

My favourite spot is thus terrace. What is your favourite spot? What do you do there?? 

WRONG DECISIONS OR WRONG PERCEPTION?

Today, I am going to share a story with all of you. It is story of one of my friend. I have known her from our Pre-University days. We stayed in a hostel to pursue our pre-university course. It was an all girls college, so we were at our luxury to do whatever we want but not breaking the rules of the college. Though most of us missed home, as days passed by we realised our parents are not going to succumb to our demands to move out of hostel. We enjoyed our two years of stay there and the bond we have made is as strong as the one’s we have with our own family.

Let’s call my friend Nidhi. Nidhi is very very pretty and a soft spoken girl. She has light brown colored eyes, almost of honey shade which added to her beautiful smile made her look gorgeous. There was a tinge of childishness in her. Her overall personality made us wonder how she would survive in this world. She graduated, got a job right after leaving college and was happy in her own world. Her parents arranged her marriage with a boy who is from their circle of friends. Her marriage invitation was not the only one that was grand, her wedding was a grandeur too. She looked very happy during the marriage. 

Marriages do not change friendship but they surely change the way we interact. Hour long calls prior to marriage become few minutes of interactions. The distance may not increase but there is some gap in communication with friends. Two years after her marriage, I accidentally met her on my commute one day. She looked pale with scars over her face. On asking, she said she met with a small accident a month ago. Casually I mentioned this conversation with another of my friend, who shared the truth with me. Seems Nidhi’s husband has been torturing her physically for sometime and also was the cause of her scars. Nidhi was admitted to hospital after surviving head injury from a bike accident. It was a deliberate act of her husband to hurt her. I wonder if he wanted to kill her.

I phoned her on an office working day so that I can talk to her. Her long list of problems in her marriage were way too much for one person to handle. Her husband used to beat her, also burn her on the skin using cigarette butts. Apart from the physical abuse, he also was insecure that she was having an affair. I did not even know how to react to her, but I encouraged her to file a compliant against him and that would be the first step to making her life better. She separated from her husband and is now fighting a case in the Honorable court of Law. 

So, what’s so bad about separating from her husband knowing he isn’t worth giving a chance? If you ask me, then my answer would be, no problem at all. But society does not see it in this way. In typical Indian households, woman who leave their husbands are considered bad women and have low tolerance levels. Many fellow women often say, “Every house hold has this problem. My husband isn’t a loving man either, did I not live with him? “. I fail to understand why they compare. Every one’s life is unique and so are their problems. If this is what society was discriminating her against, her parents felt they should be in sync with the society. 

Nidhi’s parents expressed their disinterest to support her in her marital matters. They were more worried about the repercussions of Nidhi’s seperation on Nidhi’s brother who is all set for marriage.  Her brother went to an extent to throw Nidhi out of the house declining her shelter. She moved to a paying guest accommodation and had to fight her depression all alone. Her parents stopped talking with her. What kind of a family does that? Many of her friends bothered the least to be with her. Some even said Nidhi made wrong decisions and is now suffering because of them. I wish I was in the same city as her which would have made it easier for me to support her. If parents, siblings, friends, relatives and society – everyone turn their backs, how is a person supposed to survive alone? Why is it so difficult for us to understand? Why don’t we let others live their lives? Poking our nose into other’s lives is a biggest problem in places where society domination is high.  Wrong decisions? How do we know if her decision was right or wrong? Ok, even if the decision was wrong, does that give us power to leave her to her fate? Why cannot we extend our gratitude? 

Nidhi is not alone. There are several groups for single women, single mothers, separated women, divorcees etc. Many of those women didn’t find support in their own families. I feel sorry for Nidhi and many others girls and women like her. Without an iota of doubt I am very well aware I cannot help everyone of them, though I wish I could. It saddens me when I talk with her. 

So, what’s going on with Nidhi now? Nidhi’s parents met with an accident, her mom passed away, her father is left bed ridden with spine injury. Nidhi is taking care of her father now as her brother has settled abroad. Some people are just too good at heart and unfortunately those people suffer the most. May be that’s just because they do not know how to deal with others they same way they dealt with them.

This week we are writing about feeling sorry for those who we cannot help. Do you have anyone in your life who you want to desperately help but cannot? Do you feel sorry for them?

THANK GOD!! MY LEGS ARE STILL INTACT 😜

I am a fearless person when it comes to adventure. My father used to warn me many times when I had to go for sports tournaments or bicycling tournaments with the same sentence every time, “Do not attempt any feats.. please“.. Such was my interest in doing different stunts.. Jumping from the top of water tanks (12 – 15 feet), running down slopes that are made of rocks, stand on the window shade of the top floor of our school building, walk on the roadside parapet wall overlooking a steep valley, I can go on with a big list.

Several times I got wounded. Most of my summer holidays were spent in hospital or at the least making rounds to the hospital for dressing of the wounds. There was one incident, that has changed the way I thought. Many of you in India may have used or seen a teak cot. The double cot in our home is made of teak, a type of wood considered very strong and durable. One day, me and my sister were playing a game which required us to jump from over the head board of the bed. I am pretty sure I would have invented that game only because I wanted to jump :p In the process of jumping, or should I say playing (LOL), my leg hit the head board, right in between of the knee and ankle. It was a very small bruise. There was not much of pain either.

4 or 5 days after this incident, I started to experience pain, followed by swelling. I kept this to myself for a couple more days thinking it would subside on it’s own. Well, no, it came to a stage that I could not put on my school shoes. My father noticed this and as usual performed his duty of taking me to the hospital. The doctor said the wound is infected and covered it with some medicine and bandage. She said we should come back the next day for dressing and she would attempt to remove the puss. The next day when she opened the dressing, there was a fist sized perforation which was red. She started with the puss removal process. It was quite painful and lasted for more than an hour. She dressed my wound again and asked me to come back after 3 days for dressing.

This puss removal and dressing cycle continued for 3 more rounds but the doctor could not understand why the puss formation wasn’t reducing even after the medication. We got an X-ray done and there it was, a tiny piece of wood in my muscle. She cut open the wound and removed the piece of wood. Are you wondering what changed me? The simple ritual of using the restroom at home took as long as 20 minutes, to get off the bed, drag myself on the floor because I couldn’t walk because of the pain, then a struggle to hold whatever I can so that I can get up and do what’s needed and get back to the bed. My parents are very caring, but come on.. I cannot ask them to help me use the restroom because I wanted to try a crazy act of jumping off the bed. I felt ashamed as that situation of mine, it aroused because of my ‘adventures’.. All of this is mischief as a child but a lesson learnt to be very careful while having fun.

So, should I stop trying anything new? I keep doing adventures even now, I tried sky diving when I was injured. Somehow adventure brings life into me. Usually when I am going to attempt an adventure, there are two kinds of feelings in me. The first one, of course the excitement and the second one, the fear.. What if, this adventure leaves me disabled physically or even mentally? It is extremely difficult to find someone who can care without criticizing me or I might end up spending my entire life cursing myself for attempting it. Weird feeling I must agree. All of our body parts are very important, but mobility gives us freedom. I lived without using my hands, my eyes, my mouth, my legs etc (substantial injuries you know :D), out of all these lacking mobility was difficult to manage. When we can balance our body on our legs and move forward everything seems a little simpler or so I feel..

I use my legs a lot. I usually stand in all my meetings at office unless the organiser wants me to sit. One of my colleagues used to joke that some day I might get varicose veins.. Of late, I have become very lazy and uninterested in exercising making by body unfit especially my legs. I realised it after practising Bhangra (a Punjabi dance form) for couple of days. I could hardly move my legs for four days post the practice sessions. This motivated me to start going to gym again. You notice the fear? I told the trainer I would come back when I get fit enough to attempt tough Bhangra steps 🙂

Mobility is an important part of our day to day life. If we imagine our life without legs or even decreased mobility as per norm, we would notice that it takes two to three times the time to move from one place to another. Compared to a normal person, an amputee or a physically disabled person would have to invest time to plan their commute, considering the places they have to be and also the extra time that would be needed. A sore knee can set us back by a good amount of time. Please take good care of your legs. My mom says, several glands and organs of our body are connected to our legs. If we maintain healthy legs, then automatically our body would be healthy.