Getting ‘in line’ for the ‘On-line’ World

Probably the most ‘trending word’ doing the rounds in the world today.

From the humbler days of when ‘being online’ meant – Yahoo Chat or MSN Messenger, to the current day when an avatar just isn’t enough to distinguish you from the rest, hiding behind a computer screen with only a user name – today, the person himself has come ONLINE. (not out of choice, but more out of necessity)

From our very homes directly to board meetings in conference rooms, we are to be accessible at all times, from different locations from a simple electronic gadget.

Life has certainly moved gears overnight, and we have to move with the times.

Much before the whole ‘Life coming aboard Online’ thing happened, we had this beautiful connection that came into existence to people from around the world, better known to us as Yahoo Chat rooms, where people just clicked on random names, started chats, and started getting to know each other from around the world. Who says two perfect strangers cannot make great friends?

Sometimes opening up to a Stranger is much easier than with a friend.

While life has graduated from chat rooms to friendship/dating sites, to blogging platforms, we’ve all come across people who we never knew existed and forged great relationships, some of which may have overridden relationships that we have with people who we meet every day – that said, there are two sides to everything. A ‘Friend’ is of course a relative term and it depends on each one, on how they perceive friendship and what do they expect from the relationship.

In the Era of Whatsapp and social media, we are constantly bombarded with information, telling us the importance of communication, relationships, and un-explored opportunities between people from different nations – the more we’re willing to go searching, the more we come across different kinds of people. I stumbled on one such opportunity of being part of a community called ‘7 cups’. 7 cups is a website that provides online therapy and free support to people experiencing distress by connecting them with trained listeners. Like I said earlier, sometimes it is just easier talking to a stranger than a known person.

So while the whole debate of Online strangers turned friends in a virtual space is good or bad, is for every individual to take a personal call – Online connectivity and the fact that the world is slowly coming together is (or rather are) steps in the right direction.

I am part of 4 WhatsApp groups, members of that particular group who I personally do not know, but share similar interests with – is an opportunity to share knowledge, build connections and who knows where it could lead to… and that is where I’d like to bring in a different aspect of how online connections can get you to places you’ve never been to, money in currencies you don’t earn in.. and an opportunity in a country you’ve probably you’ve never heard of…

Over to my co-writer who will enlighten you further

Further to what Savio mentioned about how we’ve transformed from Yahoo Messenger to the current state, let me personally tell you that being online has transformed me in more than one way. Work-wise, I belong to a shared service industry where I support regions other than India. And over the last 12 years, I have built some excellent professional relationships only by being online. While I work from home these days due to the pandemic, I keep 2 dedicated hours in the morning only to talk to my Kiwi and Australian counterparts. All this happens over hangout messenger and calls. It doesn’t stop here. We finalize financial reports, sales numbers, and profit numbers all through the same medium. And you will definitely agree with me that this is common in the IT industry as well!

Coincidentally, I developed my passion by writing too by being online. This made way to some beautiful relationships that blossomed through the online medium. To mention two, in particular, Savio and Charlie, even though I have never met either of them in person, I am very comfortable talking to them and picking up writing from where they have left off… this post from Savio and many previously written story relays from Charlie.

I am also a part of a wonderful blogging community, again, I have met none in person but on the virtue of penning down my thoughts, I got the opportunity to evolve my passion of writing into a second profession. Presently I am coordinating with many people via regular online meetings to understand their requirements and write content for their website. Now, isn’t this awesome?

I think being ‘in line with the online world’ is the futuristic way to life. We all need to do it in different proportions and capacities. Today everything is available virtually – schooling, banking, hobby classes, jobs, and professions, and thanks to this pandemic, catching up with parents and friends also happens through the same online medium.

Cheers to this new way of life!

Like Aditi said earlier, it’s not in the physical meeting but in the connection that is formed between individuals that one can take off from where the other has left. With coming onboard with the whole ‘getting online’ situation, the world has gotten closer inter-state and within countries – no doubt, but have the offline connections suffered at the expense of excessive screen time?

The lessons have been many throughout this past week, a couple of them more with this post. (for everyone who can point out the lessons learned through this post, gets a virtual date with an exclusive ‘Aditi-Savio’ meet [yes! that’s a THING now])

If you’ve paused even for a few seconds to think about what you’ve just read, we’d consider ‘our’ job well done. It isn’t always about the information imparted but our abilities to self introspect after reading the views on various topics presented through this amazing platform, how the mind works, what makes us tickwhat is that one particular word/ phrase or sentence that helps us ponder, heal, smile or even at best go and reach out to that person you’ve always wanted to.. but never ended up doing.

Cheers to life! Cheers to relationships! Cheers to what’s ahead – we’re all doing our little bit to contribute to the bigger goal, making this world a better place and as long as we’re doing that, we have nothing to worry.

My fellow Candles, and all you lovely readers – this one is dedicated to all of you.


Also if I may add, being professionals in our respective fields, Aditi & myself both felt this little post of ours was dished out more like a presentation, you know the kind that people stand on the stage and deliver?

So, if you are more of that visually inclined person and see words come live in front of you as you read – this is right up your alley, you are free to visualize us on a stage speaking the same, suited up, smiling and holding on to that mic as if it were the most precious thing ever.

Collaboratively written by Aditi Ranade & Savio Paes

ARE WE RAISING A BRITTLE GENERATION?

When the popular Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput committed suicide I was shell shocked. Only question in my mind was WHY?

I mean as a typical middle class person we all aspire for the success, fame and money. And he had it all… So what went wrong?

He is not alone. Recently there was news of a 17 year old Tik Tok star committed suicide. This social media star enjoyed a huge following on various social media platforms and had gained immense popularity due to her dance videos. So again the question – WHY?

Another actress of the ‘Balika Vadhu’  fame and contestant of Big Boss too committed suicide couple of years back.

These are just a few famous people we know so their deaths have made headlines. There are thousands others – students, housewives, patients etc who give up on their life and it is just a small news item in some inside page of the newspaper. And a notable trend is that the number of young people giving up easily and choosing death as a way out over the struggles is on mercurial rise. And many a times the reasons too are quite absurd.

* Problem – Failure in exams; Solution – Suicide.

* Problem – Didn’t get the new iPhone; Solution – Suicide.

* Problem – Parents denied night out with friends; Solution – Suicide.

* Problem – not enough social media following; Solution – Suicide.

And I can go on with the seemingly funny reasons that we can laugh away but serious enough for this generation to take the dreaded decision or at least emotionally blackmail their loved ones into accepting their clueless demands, as well as jetting them in deep sorrow because of their weakness to confront issues or simply lack of trust on the bond they share with their close ones or simply because of their low to no comprehension of life and its value.

The question that looms large is why? We have a big hand in glove in raising such a brittle generation. See how:

  • The primary reason I understand is the parenting styles. I have seen parents of the mindset that “I will provide everything that my child desires. He /she will not suffer as I did in my childhood for small things because heck I can afford it“. This mindset of new age parenting is actually denying the children their right to evolve and grow strong. The struggle is cut short by providing everything readymade in platter hence snatching away from them the entire exercise and experience of knowing the value of things and they end up taking life very lightly only to be hit hard in the real world. When they grow up and the world does not fulfill all their demands like their parents used to they are at a loss on how to handle the situation. This is the point where they succumb easily to even the slightest of pressures.
  • Not being able to handle a loss is also another major cause of breakdown. Be it a breakup or death of a loved ones; be it a failure in an exam or business or career, some people really struggle hard to cope with it. As parents we need to make a child emotionally strong also. I personally as a mother tell my kids that it’s ok to fall, to fail, to lose because be it a game or life situations change. Not every moment or person is same. You might get hurt but you must know the art of self healing. And I firmly believe that this mental grind must start at young age. Usually we see parents intentionally losing to kids so that they see them happy and as they grow up parents want kids to win for their (parents’) happiness, irony isn’t it? Efforts must be consciously made to make our children understand that losing is not a big deal but not trying again or losing hope surely is. I see rather an alternative approach where winning, coming first, excelling in every sphere for the recognition purposes, being perfect is being encouraged. That is creating an immense pressure on young minds.
  • The prevailing education system sadly is not creating great characters. Our curriculum is on great deficiency when it comes to imparting good value in its students. It’s more or less a system following “demand and supply” theory. The occupation in vogue in the market decides the curriculum of the young ones. Educational institutions are no more a character building laboratories but factories mass producing robots having no substance / knowledge when it comes to their inner mechanisms (read mind and soul) in the face of extreme life situations. Surprisingly a lame man from a village is far more tactical, holding more wisdom and knowledge about life than a Masters degree holder just out of the college with no exposure to life outside the campus. And rightfully he is not the one to be blamed. In the first case life has given the needed lessons but in the second case the education on which the students rely so much for their betterment must have enough material to train the young minds. It’s really appalling that world history has witnessed numerous great personalities whose patience, hard work, perseverance, never say die attitude, humility we can swear by are either never a part of the text books our kids read or simply mentioned as a blink and miss chronology just to add the volume of the book. To put it precisely our education system is actually churning out literates and not educated ones with strong minds.
  • Wrong concept of “space” has doomed us. 10 years of age and we fear saying something to our own kids. They might get hurt, their space might get encroached, they might feel ashamed of our involvement in their lives… give me a break!!! These are the guidelines on which new age parenting is working on. This extreme fear of “we might hurt them” is actually making kids overtly sensitive. Imagine a baby is crawling towards an electrical switch board, what would be the immediate action of the parent , stop the baby or he/she will get hurt, isn’t it? Then why parents of young kids fear the reaction and go to inaction mode? Wouldn’t that harm your baby ? Is the world outside so considerate? It is our responsibility to train our children into a strong personality by telling them wrong and right for our grey hair isn’t just age but experience too. Its absolutely ok if they feel bad now but have the last laugh when life puts them in a tricky position for they know the solution. Giving space doesn’t mean dancing to their unacceptable whims and fancies but respecting their opinions, giving a thought to their ideas and thought processes, providing an amicable environment for their invidualities to prosper in a fruitful manner.

The crux lies in how we nurture our gen next. Right from the beginning one thing must be made clear : Life is not a bed of roses and world is ruthless. Whatever results your choices bear, own them up and don’t kneel down for we have your back!!! And one thing we must remember : Attachment and Love are not synonymous. Attachment with our kids impedes us from being strong whereas our Love for them groom them into a strong personality; an individual with an individuality even if it means being adamant or painted in bad light sometimes.

***Not a parenting tip but an emotional note: I think what a troubled person genuinely needs is empathy and a listening ear. There are already demons inside their heads telling them that their lives are not worth living. So they don’t need any more judgments or rationalizations they need someone to hear them out, pay attention and understand.***

COLLABORATIVELY WRITTEN BY KALPANA VOGETI AND KULJEET SAINI

 

IS HATRED THE WAY TO DEAL WITH THE NEW NORMAL?

Today, HATE has become a new normal in our societies! The Christchurch mosque shootings are still fresh in my thoughts. Close to 50 people lost their lives in the peaceful land. There were kids, foreigners who had no connection with that hate crime what so ever in those 50 people. New Zealanders picked up all the pieces left over by that brutal crime with extreme pain and suffering. The whole world paid tributes., There are many such instances happening all over the world. Many are affected directly, some lost their loved ones. Peace and tranquillity are at stake. 

Recently came across an article regarding increase of hate crimes during the Corona pandemic. The analysis was that there could be stereotyped conclusions that people belonging to certain countries or regions or race don’t follow hygiene practices. This is the time when humans should have more compassion towards each other than hatred, yet, we are slowly drifting towards hate. Hate is not new to us. We have come across several instances even inside a family about how hatred can destroy lives. Close to 5K hate crimes are reported every year across the world. 

There are religious hate crimes, racist hate crimes, homophobic hate crimes, crimes against the LGBTQ community, sectarian hate crimes we hear about on an everyday basis. Makes me wonder if we have set some strict boundaries for normal? Anything that does not fall into this category bothers us to an extent that it won’t matter if a life is lost? Nine out of ten hate crimes have violence, often the offender is armed. Hate speech is also considered as one of the factors for a hate crime. Maybe, it develops from thoughts to language used. 

Does hate crime have more impact than the regular crime? Most probably the answer to this would be a yes. 

  • Victims are left with fear even after they survive the attack.
  • There is always a threat of attacks in the future. 
  • On a larger scale, this could affect a group of individuals. 
  • Hate crimes also give a strong message that the victim is not accepted by society.

Hate crimes not only cause physical pain, but they also leave a mark on the mental wellbeing of the victims. It is a negative emotion to handle when the situation is not very favourable. People might even feel threatened to leave the city or country they live in to save themselves. 

Well, in the hate stories why can’t a perpetrator sensitize the pain of the victim? How come the monstrous look of brutality does not haunt the perpetrator?

Unknown to me but someone has rightly said,

“Insecurity is an ugly thing, it makes you hate people you don’t even know.”

HATERS ALWAYS PLAY THE VICTIM CARD. Haters always feel insecure about reasoning, sacredness, righteousness, love, and truth since they have concealed themselves of deceptions. A deceived mind believes lies and as a result of it, they consider anything that is good and reasonable as their opponent, and the only way to secure yourself is taking a notorious way out. To deal with haters (victims of deception), the Bible teaches,

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling but on the contrary,

bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

An untamed horse is of no use but a well-tamed horse crowns you with glory so is with human passion. Passion for money, sex, luxury, and power is natural for both the rich and rags but it is always the unbridled passion disrupts our character. THE UNTAMED PASSION OF HATERS convinces our mind to strategies for prey and the evil of hate in our heart-mind bridles us for a hateful crime. Every 15 minutes, a girl is raped in India, and every second crime is organized and loots are legalized around the globe today. Hating something/someone is obvious to the human mind and the passion of hate serves as bait and for which the Bible advises us –

“Nail your passion and sinful desires to the cross and crucify them there

before it entices you to shameless acts, later receiving the due penalty for it.”  

Hate is always by a person for a person, so the personhood is intrinsic in every hate crime. The endpoint of the haters in every hate crime can be better understood by recalibrating The Wolf In Sheep-skin story –

A wolf was walking in the countryside. He found a sheep-skin spread on the ground. He thought, “If I wear this skin and get mixed up in the flock, the shepherd will not suspect me. At night, I will kill a stout-sheep and then take him away with me”. As he had expected, the shepherd took him as a sheep and shut him also in the pen. The wolf was waiting for the night. The shepherd had a feast that night. He sent a servant to fetch a fat sheep. The servant saw the sheep-skin covered wolf by chance. That night, the guests had the wolf for supper.

Responding to hate against hate gives the starting point to another hate crime. But God in His goodness never withholds justice from the unjust victims of hate crimes. There is always sunshine after darkness. Therefore, God in the Bible says,

“The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear! Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scripture say, “I WILL PAY THEM BACK, says the LORD”.”

COLLABORATIVELY WRITTEN BY AASTHA AND AVINASH

CARING FOR THE CAREGIVERS

Being a caregiver is not easy. It necessitates commitment, sacrifice, compassion and patience as the chief virtues. Whether or not one has the attributes needed to be a caregiver and whether or not one is prepared to be one, sometime across the lifespan one has to play the role of a caregiver.

You don’t have to think too deep to figure out who a caregiver is! Isn’t there a wife or a husband, a mother or a father, an aunt or an uncle, a brother or a sister who is a caregiver in each household? These are routine caregivers. And then, there are specialist caregivers – nurses/ paramedics in hospitals, people trained (either professionally or by virtue of experience) to take care of differently-abled people or terminally ill patients, nannies/ babysitters, etc.

While they provide the much-needed care for others, who takes care of them? Do we realize that the caregivers around us need to be cared for too?

Be it a routine or a specialist caregiver, s/he is also a human in need of care in ways not necessarily overtly evident. As care-receivers or simply as observers of caregivers, what are the things we can be vigilant about:

  1. Caregiver burnout – Committed caregivers have the tendency to continue to care even when they are drained out. And so, it usually escapes cognizance that the caregiver also needs a break from care-giving. A burnt-out caregiver might continue to provide care, but the efficiency gradually starts going down the hill.
  2. Caregiver anxiety – Just because a person is into the role of care-giving, doesn’t mean that s/he is a confident juggler against all odds. Just because a caregiver might wear a caring smile most of the time, doesn’t mean that she is not mentally battling with issues. A caregiver’s anxiety may be due to the care-receiver/s or purely personal.
  3. Caregiver finances (if s/he is a paid caregiver) – Though professional caregivers who are hired from Consultancies are secure about the remuneration they receive, not all have such assurances. At times, caregivers in dire need of finances offer their services for petty sums.
  4. Caregiver emotions – Caregivers are not robots. They have emotions too. Their emotions might go unspoken and unexpressed many times. At other times, their spoken and expressed emotions might go unheeded.
  5. Caregiver needs and wants – Caregivers often render sacrificial service ignoring their personal needs and wants. This is an area that requires sensitivity by significant others.

To sum it up Caregivers are In, Among, Around and One of Us. So our responsibility towards them gets all the more enhanced because at the end of the day we are only helping ourselves. Ironically our selfishness is actually our selflessness, working towards a greater cause and a token of gratitude towards our Caregivers. Let’s take a deep introspection :

  • Talking about the caregivers and their services towards the society and the country, this pandemic period has brought forth how our front line service providers – Doctors, Nurses, Sanitation Workers are risking their lives to provide care for the ailing people and help them fight the dreadful virus and reconcile with their loved ones. It’s not that we are oblivious to their services but these testing times have made us witness their courageous, selfless side. So how can we do our bit to help them win this contest against an unknown enemy? Simple, follow the hygiene and sanitation rules to the T and making sure every individual (family) continues to do the same. This simple act would make sure that the splurge of numbers in the hospitals is contained giving a breathing space to our caregivers to focus better on vaccine trials which could mean a solution to this humongous problem and not just a hide out. And aren’t we helping ourselves at the end of the day?
  • The above mentioned way has a non linear correlation between our action and the ensuing result. But there are other more linear ways of exhibiting that – “We care for our caregivers”. Own their families like our own, in the absence of the warriors (they are indeed warriors shielding us) take care of their needs (can be deep as emotional or momentary need of groceries) or at least as a helping hand and a generous word to be around. That makes a lot of difference. To know that their family is not alone in their absence goes a long way in fighting off their anxieties on one front (even superheroes have families to look after, isn’t it?). Not every help is necessarily financial. Every small and intangible gesture too matters. When caregivers are busy caring for our families, let’s be family for their families.

This is just a bird’s eye view of how we could reciprocate for the selfless service we are receiving (especially in reference to the current situation). We need to ponder harder over this.

Identifying the psychopaths, very important!!! Society isn’t free of black sheep. When the entire world clapped and lit candles in respect of the great service our caregivers are doing to the mankind there are a certain clan of people (of rotten mindset, nothing to do with any ethnicity whatsoever) who not only denied to accept the role our front liners are playing but went an extra mile to insult them. From spitting to pelting stones; from beating to demanding evacuation of their rented accommodations; from hurling personal insults to torturing their families – few sick minded people have done it all and sadly all around the world. Such people with their shallow comprehension of life bifurcated the caregivers for simple reason of their close liaison with the effected people albeit they might get infected too. Fear is justified to an extent but foolishness and cruelty can’t be. “What if that patient is from my family?”,”What if the caregiver doesn’t come forward to my aid?” – simple questions that needs to be answered individually before venting out venom. There is also a creed of people from whom life is a mere Profit & Loss statement. Their crude mentality comes across in the absurd manner they put across this statement – “so what, don’t they get salaries?, they aren’t doing any social service?” Though a slap is an appropriate answer to such gibberish talk but holding the civility together few questions to be fired at them “would you risk your life for the same amount of salary they get?”, “would you forgo your family time to shield hopes of a stranger?”

Coming back to our focal point of discussion – How to show / convey to our caregivers that we care – Act responsibly – it sums it all. Every citizen taking care of themselves reduces the undue burden on our caregivers that might arise out of our recklessness. And for rest they are there anyways!

Special mention: They might not be counted as Caregivers but the service they render can never be discounted – Police Force & Security Forces. Irrespective of the situations prevailing in the country these forces are on their toes to make sure that we are safe in our safe havens. They dare the weather, sacrifice their family time, face the bullets and lay down their lives with a sense of pride. Don’t they deserve our recognition and appreciation?

  • So what can we do to help our police personnel. Just be alert! This is the minimum how we can help them. If something antisocial is going on around us we should inform the concerned authorities in time. No tolerance of injustice is actually justice served. Even a single case less in our police stations is our way of showing our respect to our caregivers (from a different perspective) – our policemen.
  • Just like our policemen are keeping us safe internally our security forces are guarding us from external forces. What is our responsibility then – we must stop fueling hatred within the boundaries in the name of caste, religion, language. Is it too much to ask for?

An orderly stable financial support is definitely an added perk to our caregivers but what brings forth their zeal to shower their care is – A bright smile, A warm embrace, An assurance of being together and around, and A responsible behaviour, period.

 

COLLABORATIVELY WRITTEN BY RAJNANDINI SAHU AND KALPANA VOGETI

I DON’T SHED TEARS BUT I CRY…

A lot has been spoken about men not being allowed to cry, gender bias related to it and many other things. I personally feel that even though there could be a social pressure on men for not shedding tears, it is more of a choice and poise of the man.

How do we define crying? Crying means expression of grief and pain with or without tears. So, is it that men never feel the pain or they never grieve? (Please don’t quote the filmy dialogue “Mard ko Dard nahi hota”). I have seen men in my life cry, like really cry with tears in their eyes. And no single person ever shamed them.

The first man I saw crying was my grandfather. He cried his heart out when his first daughter was going away with her newly wed husband to start a new chapter of their life. My father did the same when I got married, though in a lesser intensity. But he did cry!

I have seen my husband cry quite a few times in these 10 years. I have seen him grieving when my father in law passed away. He was crying so bad that his whole body was wobbling. I have seen him cry with me when I was in tremendous pain because of losing pregnancies before we had Aarnav. I have seen him cry when he saw me going through the medical turmoil that I had to just to conceive Aarnav. I have seen him cry when we made a wrong decision of chucking a job before having another one on hand and then later facing unemployment for a long time. Every time his crying was not accompanied by tears, but I could see he was crying within.

We have a tradition that someone from the family accompanies the new bride to her new home, makes sure she is comfortable in the new house and then return. I remember my maternal uncle had accompanied me to my new house. At the time of “Grihapravesh” I turned back one last time just to feel assured that he is around and yes, he was there, with a heart full of happiness and eyes full of tears that his little niece is stepping in to a whole new world and will be on her own.

In spite of the fan fare of this social pressure, do ask yourself if men don’t cry ever? I am sure you have seen men cry too and there is no big deal about it. Earlier generations many have set standards for shaming men for crying but hey, we can change that, can’t we? I tell my son not to cry. Yes, I do, but NOT because boys don’t cry but because instead a crying he must learn to tell what is bothering him and what can be done about it.

Next time you see a man or a boy cry, just let him be. Don’t think what society will name him. Don’t suggest him whether he should cry or not. Just let him be. Instead, try and identify many other men who cry within. Do something to shed their grief. Do something to make them comfortable.

EVERYONE HAS TEAR GLANDS AND SO DO MEN

This famous toothpaste ad pops up onto my children’s favourite channel frequently. It’s an ad where some boys are playing football and a girl comes in. One of the boy says- “Ladki hai, chot lagegi to rone lagegi” (She’s a girl, if she gets hurt, she will cry) . 

If any of those 7-10 year olds get hurt badly, they will cry for sure. What’s the point in giving a statement like it’s the birth right of every girl to cry! And making it air on the kids’ channels so that the gender fights begin from childhood only is just ridiculous. 

It’s a very common notion that is imbibed in most of the boys- “Mard ko dard nahi hota” (Men doesn’t feel the pain) or Men don’t cry. 

Why? Does the pain comes only to girls? 

Doesn’t every child cry the moment it is born?

Does the pain sees the gender first and then decides – “Ok,  it’s a girl, so let me hit her”? Ouch! 

If the God hasn’t reserved the crying part for the girls only at the time of birth, then why is it so that as the children grew, there are such statements in many homes- “Don’t cry like a girl” or “Boys are strong, they don’t cry”. 

Well, really? 

The answer is NO. Boys do cry and so do men. It’s just that as the boys grow up, they start hiding their emotions because of the social stigma and don’t shed tears, at least not in front of anyone! 

When you are a child, crying is easy. As soon as you grow older, you realise that crying is a big no-no, at least in front of anyone. Obviously, when an adult cries, something seriously is meant to be wrong, that’s what I felt as a kid. When our mom used to have wet eyes in a movie, my brother and I used to laugh! And now look at me- I cry during movies or watching my sons perform on stage or even when I am mad with anger, as I mentioned in “Let them fall”.

Men tend to get emotional which is perfectly normal. Otherwise the feelings will vent out in anger or abuse. So, tears are always better. 

My dad skips every “Vidai” function after marriages, just because he can’t see the bride and her relatives crying as he can’t control his tears. Though he couldn’t skip my ‘vidai’, he cried his heart out. And the person who made me cry during childhood, courtesy sibling rivalry, was weeping loudly when he hugged me as he bid me adieu after my marriage! 

Our society doesn’t lack stereotypes who believe that dolls are for girls and cars are for boys. One of the psychological column that I read mentioned that it’s important for the boys and girls to be introduced to every kind of toy, not being gender specific, as this improves their creative and problem- solving skills and develops empathy. I realized this when my elder son went to play at her cousin sisters house, where he found all sorts of dolls . He was amazed on seeing and holding Barbie dolls, their dresses and shoes. When he came back, I asked him if he liked playing with the dolls, I will get him one, but he refused and wanted a kitchen set instead. 

I bought him a kitchen set and obviously faced statements like- ‘why did you get him a girl toy‘, etc. Trust me, he enjoyed playing with it so much and now my younger one also likes to play with it. I got them a miniature pressure cooker and they now want me to add more cookware to their kitchen. In real life, they watch how their father helps me in the household work and so they also eagerly lend me a helping hand in drying the laundry, unloading the dishwasher or even dusting. My elder one loves to prepare tea (under my guidance) and younger one rolls a Chapati when he wants to. My younger son has a ‘Masha’ doll from his favorite show Masha and the Bear and both of them fight over aeroplanes, lego blocks, cars and plush toys too. 

The other day my sons and my husband were playing in-house cricket when suddenly the game had to be paused as the latter had to attend a call and said- “Play with mummy now.”

 “But, she doesn’t know how to play Cricket,”  my son said confidently.

And what makes you think so?” I asked. 

Because girls don’t play cricket“, he said. 

My husband laughed and said, “They do and our country’s women’s cricket team is a strong one.”

Really! Then why don’t you play mumma?” My son asked. 

Because I don’t like it too much. I hardly played cricket when I was young. I preferred skating though and learnt that on my own. No game or sport is specifically either for boys or girls,  just like colours. My favourite colour is blue which doesn’t mean that I am a boy.” I replied in a hope to make my sons unconventional.

MEN ARE HUMANS TOO

A day such as International Men’s Day makes us stop on our steps and give a deep thought to men. Women do need that extra bit of attention because all the world over, be it in developed or developing nations, they are the oppressed lot – in different but many ways. However, men are calling out too – their voices being doused by the stereotypes and mutilated by the rigid societal frameworks that have defined gender roles.

The theme for International Men’s Day 2019 – ‘Making a difference for men and boys’ made me think whether any difference is needed for men and boys, and if so how can we (men and women) contribute towards it. Some stereotypes definitely need to be revisited to be modified.

#Men are supposed to be strong

What does ‘strong’ mean exactly? Well, in the context of men, ‘strong’ means physically, emotionally, financially and socially strong. A man who is well-built, is able to steel his emotions, has good source of finances and has social contacts to get things done, is considered to be a manly man. By this definition, a man who is thin and frail or displays his emotions or is unemployed or is more of a social recluse, lacks what it takes to be a man. Are we expecting superheroes out of men?

Few years back, a boy of fourteen was walked into my Counselling room in the school where I was working. He was contemplating suicide and had shared with a teacher with whom he was a bit free. It took me two and half hours to talk him out of his plans, while I was all the while praying for God to intervene. When I spoke to his parents a couple of days later, the mother panicked while the father laughed it off saying, ‘is this how a man should behave? He is my son. He should roar like a lion, and not resort to all this depression-anxiety-suicide drama.’ The father refused to mend his ways (he was part of the problem) or acknowledge that his son needed help. He never turned up for the parental Counselling sessions that I called them for (in fact I got to know that he was waiting for the boy to pass out of school so that he could confront me 🙂 ). The boy was aware that he needed help. And so, apart from regular sittings with me, he used his pocket money to consult psychiatrists for medications which were needed for extreme trigger situations. It has been five years since! I received an elaborate letter from him last week only to say it has been five years that he is alive, that he is part of an accepting peer group, is doing well in college studies, has been off medications for a long time now and is no longer prone to depressive spells and panic attacks.

Would the boy have not been spared of all that he went through, had his father taken cognizance of his son’s need for help? A baby boy is not born strong. He is as tender and vulnerable as a baby girl is. If we stand by our boys and men during the times of their frailities, to lend them an understanding ear and a supportive shoulder, we can be agents of strength in their lives.

#Men don’t feel scared

Don’t toddler boys cling to their mothers when they perceive danger? Aren’t men supposed to be afraid of gun-weilding men or snakes or tigers or lions? They are humans after all! Just because they are men doesn’t mean that they are supposed to play with their lives. Men are portrayed as protectors and so have this attribute imposed on them. A man walking with a woman means, the woman is safe. Who says? So many rapes are committed while women are with men – either by killing off the man or by restraining him. And, the man ends up nursing a guilt all through life that he wasn’t able to help prevent the wrongdoing. Any person, man or woman would have such a guilt. But for men, the level of guilt is escalated by people just because they are ‘men’.

Men feel scared too. They need protection too.

A boy of seventeen rushed into my Counselling room one afternoon (while I was taking a session with another of his batchmates) saying that he had given it back to a bunch of bullies and they have threatened to ‘see him’ after school hours. He was very afraid to return home alone as those guys could go to any extreme to bash him up. I, then calmed him down and made certain arrangements for him to be accompanied home that day. The other boy with whom I was in the counselling session was observing all this. He said later, “Ma’am, is he a man? I really doubt it! He is as scared as a girl. How will he protect his girlfriend or wife in future? I know the guys he is talking about. I will talk to them. Tell him to go home without fear. But, also tell him to behave like a man and not be a sissy.”

Here was a macho boy-turning-to-be-a-man sitting before me who had been booked by the police for playing protector few days before by bashing up a guy who had looked at his girlfriend!! He had no regrets for what he had done. In his words, he was protecting his own dignity by protecting his girlfriend. And, he expected men to behave similarly without fear.

Men, it is alright if you are afraid of spiders, cockroaches and lizards. There’s nothing abnormal about it. You don’t have to be ashamed. It is alright to desire protection when you feel unsafe. Don’t be burdened by society’s pressure to play the protector all the time.

#Men better not express their emotions

This stereotype especially holds true for the sad emotions. Anger? It’s normal for men to be aggressive and angry – we hear. Happiness? A man can laugh out loud – no problem. But, the problem that society has is with the emotions that are considered grim. If a man is hurt, he better learn to be thick-skinned. If he is anxious, he better not wear his anxiety on his sleeves. If he is sad, he better not show his tears. Why not?

A young boy of eighteen in the final year of school had a broken relationship with a girl of his own class. Though he was crying out inside, he continued to portray his macho face for all. But, such emotions do need a vent and they often find one. So, what did this chap do? He spent hours at the gym till his body ached and his veins swelled up. He shared with me how angry and sad he was at the turn of events. But, he thought it best to take out his hurt and anger with gym equipments rather than on people around.

This is called ‘catharsis’ in psychological terms. Though it is considered to be a much-accepted way of giving a vent to one’s anger, sadness and frustration, it doesn’t help solve issues from the root. And when men internalize their emotions, they take to addictions – alcohol, smoking, sex, drugs, binge-eating or they go on a destructive spree or develop suicidal tendencies.

When God created humans to be emotional beings, he did not segregate certain emotions for men and certain others for women. Over centuries, stereotypes have crept into almost all civilizations of the world and have percolated down even to the present digital age. It’s time to encourage men to share their emotions and to seek help when needed.

Being learned men and women of this age, we need to let men be humans and not simply cage them under the brand ‘MEN’.