BALANCE YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

For all the kids who are soon going to be entering adulthood, I just have this one advice. If you learn the art of balancing your circle of influence, you will grow up to be a really strong and mature adult.

This is something I learnt over the years of entering and maintaining adulthood. The range of emotions and experiences that an individual goes through while growing up is quite complex and the art of deriving learnings out of those experiences is not an easy task.

What is a circle of influence?

A circle of influence is a circle that constitutes all the things that can be controlled by an individual. When a baby is born, the circle of influence of that baby is really small – it constitutes crying for every survival need. That is all a baby can do. As the baby grows to be a child, the circle of influence grows. Now a child can control when he wants to walk or run or crawl or play. As the child grows up and starts going to school – he can further control his schedule, his habits, his relationships and many more things. The same child later has the freedom to choose his career and later his profession and his life partner. Life goes on and on increasing the circle of influence. 

The bigger the circle of influence, the higher are the stakes. Your circle of influence also depends on the kind of work you do. Shri Narendra Modi definitely has a much larger circle of influence than me because he can control the nation to a large extent. A number of social activists, politicians, industrialists have a big circle of influence. One must strive to increase his/her circle of influence to an extent that he/she can handle it peacefully. 

A mature human being knows two things 

  1. He has a defined circle of influence. He knows exactly what is within the circle and what is outside of it. He plans for the stuff that is inside and doesn’t stress over what is outside. This distinction is the key to happy and mature life. One who has the wisdom to understand the boundary of his circle of influence lives through every situation blissfully. When I was growing up, I was a much-stressed child. Everything used to make me nervous. The exams, my result, my image in front of people, my looks, my confidence and everything else. This is very obvious for a young adult. But over the period of time, I realized that I can only control what I can control. I cannot control people’s opinion about me. I can change myself in any direction but I need to decide the direction myself. Only this attitude turned me from a people pleaser to the person that I am today. 
  1. He knows how to grow his circle of influence at a slow and steady pace. He doesn’t want to grow his circle just in a day, if he does that – he knows that he won’t have the resources to control all that is inside the circle. He plans for it and slowly steadily expands his circle. While I was growing up, I was always in a hurry for making my circle of Influence larger. I was not aware of this concept but unconsciously I was trying to do the same. Many times I even made mistakes because I was in a hurry to influence the world. I lost friends and damaged relationships because I was in such a hurry to be a responsible person who is looked up to. These things take time. If we take our learnings and failures in stride, what we want will eventually happen.

People who fail in balancing their circle of influence usually make following mistakes:

  1. They don’t know how to control their circle. I have seen grown-ups who cannot handle their professions or their studies or their relationships. They get just too overwhelmed by things that they are expected to control. This is generally a disaster and leads an individual to all sorts of frustrations in life. These are typically the people who are depressed or have suicidal thoughts because escaping is eventually the only route they are left with if they don’t learn to control their circle. 
  2. They want a huge circle in a very short period of time. Have you heard of celebrities who grew up too fast and got too much media attention too quickly? Eventually they land up in some or other controversy just because they grew their circle too quickly and never learnt the art of controlling their circle.
  3. They cannot distinguish what is inside and outside of the circle. This is a very common problem that most of us suffer with. I know of few of a people who stress over every negative news that is sold to them on the News Channels. They get sleepless nights if our Indian Army men are getting killed at the border. They worry when they hear of robberies happening in broad daylight. They love the “crime patrol” kind of shows. I don’t want to say that you should not be aware of what is happening around the world or not have compassion towards people. But if you have over-compassion, it doesn’t help. It is something that is outside of your circle and it is best to let go off that feeling.
  4. They believe the emotions that they feel are outside of their circle. This is one of the key problem, many of us believe that a negative emotion that is stirred inside of us are caused due to something outside. “He made me angry or mad” or “She makes me feel really happy” – when we say such things, we give the responsibility of our emotions to others. We allow them to control something that should be inside our circle. The emotions that arise inside my head are supposed to be controlled by me. If I hand over my emotions in somebody else’s circle of influence – then I am practically like the baby with almost negligible circle of influence. 

Balance your circle and if you can do that well enough – people are going to appreciate your maturity wholeheartedly. 

TRANSITIONING FROM UNMARRIED TO MARRIED WOMEN

Marriage is a turning point for most people in their lives. No matter the reasons for marrying, its an event that leaves a mark and becomes a starting point for many subsequent events. Religious texts and rituals all across the world have spent much time and thought dictating how and why two people should marry. Biological reasons aside, when two people come together, they are expected to think or and maintain each other as one joint unit. It encourages togetherness, tolerance, an adjustment that paves the way to cooperating and adjusting in society. Our societies do not appreciate individualism or staying alone and it’s the reason why parents trouble themselves over their single children to the extent that they are willing to sell or buy happiness for them in the name of marriage. No matter what you may name it – happiness, a financial cushion, or gifts, this practice is called the dowry system and it’s prevalent in every culture.

Historically though, only one gender has been geared up since infancy to make marriage their whole-sole occupation in life – Females.

Take any patriarchal society in the past or even in the modern world, every one of them has treated daughters as only a means of securing a connection with a ‘good family’. The prospect of shouldering the burden of a girl’s marriage is so bothersome that girls have been either aborted, murdered in infancy or married off while they were still too young. Things may have changed some but till she is married, collecting a girl child’s dowry becomes her parents’ sole occupation. She thus becomes a ‘burden’.

This burden dictates how the girl is brought up even in her own family. It robs her of identity because she is being brought up only to take on the identity of another. It robs her of agency, her claims, her voice and the right to choose because she must only belong, first to her father then to her husband. She has rights neither here nor there. Because after all, she is a burden that must be pitched onto another set of shoulders in the end.

The transition from an unmarried to a married woman becomes the only occupation of a girl’s life. She is constantly bombarded by reminders that she must soon be married off. From the cradle up, she is taught, mostly by members of her own gender, that she must learn to detach herself from her identity, her roots, her history and adopt that of another family without any backlash. A young woman aspiring to marry into a ‘good family’ is expected to excel at managing a household, being servile, anticipating the needs of others and repressing her own desires.

How many of you women were subjected to this while you were growing up? –

Don’t raise your voice.

Don’t mingle with boys.

Don’t disrespect or object to your elders.

That’s not for you to think/decide.

Stay quiet.

Don’t protest.

Society is not the only culprit of a woman. Pop culture, media and literature like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Uttaran, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Hum Saath-Saath Hain, and many other examples exhorting the virtues of female sacrifice serve as reminders to young girls that their acceptance comes from their silence and sacrifice. Its what they are fed, morning, noon and night. Education and women empowerment have done little to efface these degrading practices because the idea of a woman being a slave to the family is deeply ingrained in our Indian ethos. Parvati, Sita, Kunti, Draupadi, Padmavati… there are too many examples to quote here of women who gave up their everything only to retain a place in history earned at the cost of self-effacement. This notion of a married woman being the epitome of self-sacrifice has become the ideal of the Indian Bahu. If she dares to want another identity than the one idolized by society, she is forced to change, shamed, shunned, divorced and called names.  

In the Indian context, the transition is defiantly skulking several centuries behind the present times. The most obvious change that comes in a woman’s life is changing her last name which is a practice observed worldwide. But in some communities in India, women are encouraged to change even their first names and it proves that our societies are not comfortable with the idea of a woman having her own identity.

The minute a girl is married she is required to bid adieu to her former way of living. Because for some reason it’s unacceptable for her new family to stomach the fact that she has a different way of dressing up, different ideas, her own preferences in food, movies, songs, clothing, ideals and philosophies. I wonder that if sameness is all that is expected out of a married woman, then why not practice inter-family marriages instead? That would ensure that the girls of the family remained and propelled the ideas and practices of the same family. There wouldn’t be an issue of painfully teaching the new bahu the ways of her new home. Right?

This isn’t an article approving incest or inter-family marriages. This is an article highlighting the unfair treatment of women who are forced to change their identities in the name of marriage.

I’m sure many women across the country have heard these barbs –

Your parents didn’t teach you even that?!

Bahus don’t laugh and cheer like that.

Change the way you dress up. Change the way you eat. Change your habits.

Change your company and don’t interact too much with your own family.

You can’t work after marriage. You’ll have to shift to our city/area. If you want to work, ensure that your chores are done before you go.

Why should we? What are you there for?

Who do you think you are without this family? Who do you think you are?

I’ve had to listen to ALL of the above. These are ALL my personal experiences. Surprised that an educated, forward-thinking, independent woman like me went through it? Like I mentioned above, education has done little to change the perception of women in this society. Education has become only an embellishment desired in an ideal bride. Often its women themselves who propagate the idea of being a slave to the married home and while out there, they might light candles and rave about unfair treatment of women, at home, they still want ideal bahus.

Some may argue that if women are trained for this transition since infancy, it should be easy to adapt to the married household. I’ll counter with a question –

“Can a plant from the tropics thrive in the tundra? Sure, it may survive; it must, because its being given the essentials to survive – earth, water, sun…but will it thrive?”

We’re kinder to the foliage we import from their exotic homelands. We create greenhouses, spend on keeping them moist and warm. We invest in the right potting mixes, worry about the soil being the right pH level. We’re kinder to the pets we adopt from other countries. The pet-food should be right, the water should have enough oxygen for the fish… the list goes on. And yet for a newly married woman, no one creates a greenhouse of her past life to ease her transition into the new one. The pag-phera ceremony, where a Hindu newly married girl goes back to her previous family, lasts only a day, after which she must come back to her new family. I did the same and did not see my family again for more than a year after that. Even when I did go back, I was told that I shouldn’t make the stay too long. I went only for ten days. So much for easing my transition!

I’ll pose a searing question to the families of the husbands now –

“When she came home, how long did you tolerate her ways of living before you or someone in your family told her to change them? Or did you do a barter – change this aspect of you and I’ll give you such and such thing or do so and so? Or did you allow her to keep her ways?”

This question will ruffle feathers. Some may even counter – we adopted her ways instead, or that, we gave her enough freedom. First of all, who are you to give someone their freedom or allow them to do something? That right must remain in their own hands. But I feel Democracy doesn’t apply to married Indian women. Some may have been generous in accepting their bahus’ ways, but I bet most didn’t. I wasn’t given much choice in whether I wanted to follow the customs of my husband’s family. I had to engage in practices I didn’t approve of. I had to teach myself to change or be quiet so I wouldn’t fan any fires. This isn’t an adjustment. This is coercion.

It is true that things have changed a lot for women. We have the vote now, a voice, we can dress up beyond ghoonghats and burkas. We can make choices in partners. We can choose to divorce, to work, to raise our children our way. But it is also true that while we can do all of the above, in many cases the choice is not in our hands. Or let me just put it this way, the circumstances surrounding us enable us to either make or drop the choice of making independent decisions. Often the choice is made for us and we are only to submit. If we assert independence, it’s not without resentment. Like I was asked, “who allowed you to study after marriage?” when I independently chose to pursue LLM post-marriage.

The message is clear – a woman’s choice shouldn’t be in her hands.

When I recall my own experiences, I am left with nothing but anger at how I was expected to change to fit into the lifestyle of my husband’s family. Subtle changes like changing when I used to wake-up or go to sleep, the kind of shows I must watch, the way I talked or laughed, how I dressed, preferring the company of certain type of people, chipped away at my own personality so much so that after a while, people I knew from my past life wondered why I had changed so much. The change may not have been expected overnight but it was definitely expected and while I did earn a lot of love and respect from my husband’s family, I often wonder if I received those only in barter for my willingness to change. I am left with a lifetime of bitter experiences that I wouldn’t want for my own or for anyone’s little girl.

While marriage is a transition that impacts both genders, it must be said that it impacts a woman more than it does a man. Would it be too hard on the ego of a husband’s family to let a woman be her own self while she becomes a loving, caring member for her new family? Would it be too hard to accept her family as part of your own? Why is it unconscionable for a woman to stick to her own ideas and philosophies in life, or to carve out her own path, or to be part of major decisions in a family, or to wear the pants in the family? Afterall, she is equally responsible for the well-being of the husband’s family, if not more.

Why must acceptance come at the cost of changing herself only for a woman?

If marriage is the merging of two families, let both families change to a better way of living, accept each other’s flaws and work around the differences to reach a consensus. While adjustment is a must in all relationships, setting limits on a human being is nothing but a form of slavery.

Coercion brings only a temporary change,

but it sows the seeds for a lifetime of resentment and hate.

Should that be the foundation of the family?

You decide.

DO WE NEED WOMEN’S DAY?

Womanhood – something  I don’t want to define with a feminist perspective but as a humanist. I feel womanhood as the greatest blessing on earth. Able to keep a tiny life within and be braver to endure any pain without a repent and do much more, which another many cannot even think about.

I am truly proud of being a woman – at this point of time.

It wasn’t this way, earlier for me. The moment I realised I became a woman, it was hard for me to accept, why God has given all the pain to women alone (all the Hoola hoops with periods etc.). I tried to be more like a man, which was again impossible for me. The more I tried, the more I was condemned.

Motherhood- kicked my brains

But, yes things changed gradually. When I became a mother, especially of two girls, I began to think in a different perspective. Even though my thoughts are always conflicting, I was just sure about one thing- I will never let my daughters feel sad or even bad about being a girl. I will let them celebrate the feeling of being a woman, rather than condemning them for just being a girl – making them feel brittle or even belittle them.

I am not a feminist, but I believe wholeheartedly, that every woman should work and be independent. It makes them feel bold enough to take decisions without seeking anyone’s support. It is not easy, but not difficult or impossible either. It is all about choices. Now, we women are getting much more things done, thanks to the changing (not completely though) mindset.  We can point out great examples in every field and they are the best in their field – accomplished and popular.

Watching women juggling with corporate work, household, children and much more -still smiling and enticing the crowd around.

But why do we again need to celebrate a day for it?

It is like we are celebrating, just to remind that women exist (seems like people forgot that women are around every other day or even every other moment). We need not celebrate a day, let it be every day when a woman is respected for what she is – not what others want her to be or even what they take her to be for what she does.

A woman – She is not just an entity who loves pink, red lipsticks, dolls and utensils to play with or just a shy bride. She is much more than that- if she decided to be what she wants to, accept her or take her as she is.

The day, she is not ignored, she stops demanding for being equal, the moment she feels she is not judged, not toyed or belittled – we all will stop celebrating this “March 8th – as Women’s day” .

As then on, she will be cherished, admired and accepted as SHE is.

Women are waiting for that day, when they will be acclaimed for their entirety .

It is not just about a man or a woman, it is how a human is supposed to be treated.

Let us all celebrate a “Human’s Day” rather than these gender biased days.

 

GROOM ON SALE!

“Rakhungi naino huzoor, Laado ko main dur na dungi
Bangla bhi dungi, aji Motor bhi dungi
Sona to dungi zaroor, Laado lo main dur na dungi”

My granny used to sing this song when she was overwhelmed with love for me; I would be sitting in her lap, thinking WOW! Someday I will get married, and granny would give me so many things, but not get me married far off. This is the psychology of most Indian parents. They are ready to shower the groom and his family in all the riches but want to see their daughter’s happiness at any cost. But sadly, more often than not, the exact opposite happens. Instead of buying her the love of her husband and in-laws, they buy her misery, torture, pain, exploitation, not just physically but emotionally and mentally.

Usually, when we hear any case of dowry killing, burning of newlywed brides, etc., we curse the in-laws, call them names, do some tut tut, and then sympathise with the girl’s parents. But has anyone ever thought that they are no less guilty and involved in her death than her in-laws? Yes, Indian parents often start to think daughter as a burden right from her birth (which often leads to infanticide) because they know that at the time of her marriage they will be expected to give a hefty amount as dowry, which means lifelong struggle and even after she is wed they won’t be free from financial pressure.

Parents often come to know that the groom’s party is greedy right before marriage but decide to fulfil their demands in the name of honour and custom. After marriage they again come to know that their daughter is being harassed by in-laws, and yet again they try to satisfy the greed of the son-in-law, telling the daughter to keep quiet as well, as things will get better with time. The final act of her murder is committed when she comes back to them, seeking shelter and refuge, but instead of letting her know that they are there for her and won’t let her suffer more, they send her back to her in-laws in the name of society and humiliation. The result; they lose their daughter forever.

If the same amount of money that was spent in her dowry was spent in her higher education that was denied to her, she might have lived and lived happily. In the form of education, they could have handed her the weapons to fight any exploitation. They could have made her a self-dependent, self-respecting and self-sufficient individual. But sadly no, the ultimate destination for any girl in India is marriage. In other words, if she is married, living in her husband’s house, has kids, she is HAPPY! No one bothers to know if her husband beats her if she in-laws have turned her into maid without pay if she is standing on the precipice of insanity or suicide.

22292A total of 24,771 dowry deaths has been reported in the country in past three years which means 22 deaths per day and nearly one dowry death every hour. And often she is given the most painful and gruesome death; she is burnt alive.

Would you believe me if I tell you that dowry originated to protect the women? Earlier in India the British Raj prohibited women from having any rights over property, it meant that all her inheritance from parents would be given to the husband, this was the way parents gave her, her dues. The girl’s parents would give her enough land, jewellery, etc. to enable her to have an income of her own as well as assets in times of adversity. Soon it took the form of greed from the groom’s side wherein the marriage became a financial deal instead of a relation.

Today the sacred union called marriage has been reduced to the mere financial transaction; it has become just another business deal where grooms are on display, and the bride’s parents are the purchasers. The higher the degree of the boy, the higher the dowry. But the sad part is, even after paying the asked price, the buyers make a lost deal.

Now if you come to hypocrisy, We are the most skilful hypocrites in the world. All of us are experts at practising virtue at a distance. On first encounter every boy’s father invariably remarks – ‘we don’t need anything. Whatever you give is your choice. It will be after all a gift to your daughter. The demand is never openly made. Someone from groom’s family will innocuously ask about items being given to the bride so that they will not purchase the same for the bride’s room in their house. “What will be the point in duplicating the purchase of a Television, fridge, washing machine, play station, double bed, dressing table, safe, decorative items, modular kitchen, car, etc.? It would be better if the monetary value of these items is calculated and cash is given to groom to purchase items of his liking.” It’s like a naming a ceremony, replace the word “Dowry” with ” father’s gift to his daughter”.

For the sake of materialistic possessions, a woman is treated far worse than one would treat his animal. If I begin to tell you that in how many ways a woman is tortured, you will be amazed that god’s most beautiful creation, given the status of a goddess is subjected to such inhumanity. They will do just about anything to vent out their anger on her, break her will, drive her to suicide, and if she is strong enough not to commit that sin, they incinerate her. Starvation p, marital rape, imprisonment within the house, physical violence, denying her access to her children, taunting, demoralising, threatening, abusing them in front of people, suspending all social interaction and not allowing her to meet her parents.

b24f7c083ec4c102a481a8e4e360ebf1.jpgThe Indian penal court has clearly stated that giving and taking of dowry is a punishable crime under section 304B, that anybody found guilty of this crime will be convicted to punishment, whereas the cases of dowry death will be given minimum seven years of jail time to probably life time imprisonment. This custom is covertly but widely practised all over the country. In fact, it’s being consumed that this law might be altered as it is found that in 10% of cases, it’s being misused by women.

Marriage is the celebration of love. GREED has to be removed out of the equation. Let’s all take the Dowry Pledge.

1. If you happen to be a boy, DO NOT demand dowry. If your family happens to be the sorts who would, please make it clear that you do not wish to be part of something as lowly as THIS, in the name of tradition.
2. If you happen to be a girl, DO NOT agree to marry into a family that demands dowry. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘family demanding dowry’. The boy is the part of the family and if he wants he can put his foot down and disagree to any dowry being demanded from the girl’s side. If he isn’t doing that, show him the door. He is not worth it. If he can’t stand up for something right at this moment, he won’t play in the future as well.
3. If you happen to be the girl’s parents, DO NOT marry your daughters into a family that gives or takes dowry in any form. File a complaint against the family who makes a dowry demand – Ok. You have rejected the marriage proposal from the household who demanded dowry. Do not keep quiet. Your complaint may save an innocent from being harassed or burned to death.
4. If you happen to be the innocent onlooker, DO NOT be part of that wedding, boycott it. Say “I will not attend or support weddings where I am aware that dowry and extravagant gifts have been demanded and given.”

A father can give no bigger gift than his daughter, a piece of his heart.

Remember, Dowry Isn’t Gift!