APPEARANCE CAN BE DECEPTIVE

Earthworms – Ketchuain (Hindi), Vaanapaamulu (Telugu), we used to call them. Have seen a lot of them during my childhood and their sticky, slippery, slender structure sent jitters and made me go Ewwww 😖. I have a few memories too associated with them.  My mother used to compare noodles (not the instant ones) to earthworms, especially when we used to demand during the rainy season. Creepy isn’t it? And when we kids used to spot them in parks we used to huddle around them just to ascertain the direction they were moving – coming or going 🤣🤣. Their bodies are such.

That was some nostalgia. Nostalgia because now it seems as ages have passed when I last saw them.  Not enough time for me to spend outside as well as no more open spaces available for them to thrive (at least in my knowledge). Connect the dots please 😁. So when the weekly topic was tossed I thought why not remember “Earthworms” in this week dedicated to “Creepy,Crawley creatures”.

Some Wikipedia Information as to what are Earthworms:

An earthworm is a tube-shaped, segmented wormfound in the phylum Annelida. They have a world-wide distribution and are commonly found living in soil, feeding on live and dead organic matter. An earthworm’s digestive system runs through the length of its body. It conducts respiration through its skin. It has a double transport system composed of coelomic fluid that moves within the fluid-filled coelom and a simple, closed blood circulatory system. It has a central and a peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system consists of two ganglia above the mouth, one on either side, connected to a nerve cord running back along its length to motor neurons and sensory cells in each segment. Large numbers of chemoreceptors are concentrated near its mouth. Circumferential and longitudinal muscles on the periphery of each segment enable the worm to move. Similar sets of muscles line the gut, and their actions move the digesting food toward the worm’s anus.[1]

Earthworms are hermaphrodites: each individual carries both male and female sex organs. As invertebrates, they lack either an internal skeleton or exoskeleton, but maintain their structure with fluid-filled coelom chambers that function as a hydrostatic skeleton.”

(Source: Google.Inc)

That was some basic information, anatomy you can say.  Now coming to the point that out of innumerable tiny little creatures what made me choose this literally two-dimensional reptile – my choice was simple considering the amount of good they do for the ecosystem, in short for us.

  • Earthworms help improve the drainage system of soil. When they burrow deep into the soil, they aerate the soil thus helping it to retain more water and hence enriching it.
  • Earthworms eat the dried up leaves, dead roots and break down the organic matter leaving behind the casts that work as natural fertilizers for the soil.   They are rich in minerals like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, calcium. They are farm friendly, to say the least.
  • Their digestive juices and even dead bodies are a rich compost for the soil.

That was a bird’s eye view of what enormous amount of good these tiny creatures do. And I hope there’s no need to explain how soil is related to plants and farm and how they, in turn, are related to the balance of the ecosystem.  Basic science folks that we all have learned in school 😁😁.

What Earthworms have taught me? Looks are not at all in relation to the good qualities and character embedded inside – this was basic and cliched but a truth nevertheless.  Well, that reminds me of one particular incident where I misjudged and feared a person, though just for a few seconds but I am guilty, no shame in accepting that. As I have already mentioned so many times in the past that my son is autistic and meltdowns are our daily visitors. I was out with him along with my daughter in a crowded area. And BAAM, meltdown knocked my son and he was lying down on road throwing his legs and hands here and there, not letting me get a hold of him and was very aggressive.  People were watching me, crossing by me, few stopped to inquire as well but no one lent a helping hand. And I was perplexed and perspiring. A homeless man, with his rugged dirty clothes, a beer can in hand, unkempt hair and nails, all sorts of tacky accessories all over him, swaying to the music walked up to me. I was apprehensive now “Why he is walking towards me?“. I just held my daughter, stood close to my son trying to relax at that moment. But it didn’t take me long to realize that he only meant to help me. He spoke to my son, caressed his hair, his presence calmed down the little one and he stood up and agreed to walk with me again.  I thanked him and left but this incident never left my mind. Appearances can be deceptive, period!

Parallels to be drawn: I always found earthworms repulsive for the way they looked – sticky and creepy, but that’s just the way they LOOK, meanwhile doing so much good for others in their short lifespan. In the same way, I  feared that man solely based on the way he LOOKED but he did come forward to help me. The flaw lies within me, simple.

For me, it’s more clear now – Appearance Can Be Deceptive. Think beyond that. And in the meantime let the earthworms grow 😊.

FIGHT AGEING AND LOOK YOUNGER! WHY?

I strongly believe that people who hide their age or are upset about growing up are the ones who are not satisfied with their lives. These wrinkles and the signs of ageing are nothing but a sign of a life well lived. The fact that people want to get rid of these wrinkles really baffles me. I wonder what these cosmetic companies are trying to sell when they come up marketing lines like – “Fight 7 signs of ageing”, “Get rid of the wrinkles”, “Preserve that sculpted look of 20s”. First question that most people ask is “Is it really possible?” and I wonder why on earth someone would want to fight ageing anyway.

I believe that every age has its own charm. The stress-free childhood, fun and complicated teenaged life, probably the best time of everybody’s life is the early adulthood, then the hard working mid age and beyond that the old age which is often connected with boredom. The lifetime till a person turns 25 is when he or she wants to grow up. Teenagers usually want to be considered adults. The lifetime beyond 25 is when a person wants to retain the same energy and the looks of the 25 year old self. I was watching a movie where woman in her late 30s tells her friend that she hates it when men of her age hit on the girls 15 years younger than her. That made me think that character in the movie already had her set of fun of getting attention from men when she was younger, why does she wants to retain it when she has passed that age?

Energy levels do go down with old age but it all depends how well your lifestyle is since the younger age. When I see people much older than me doing amazing social work, going for adventures and travelling the world, I look forward to that age too. Isn’t it amazing to have all that experience of life, nothing much to worry about and still have all that fun in life?

Anti-ageing techniques that millions of cosmetic companies and clinics are trying to sell to the world only work on single principle – make people hate themselves and when they do, offer them a solution perfectly wrapped in an expensive package. Fact is that all that they try to do is to make you hate yourself which not only makes you stressed out but makes you look even older. Mission accomplished!

Believe in yourself and your achievements in life. You have lived your life the best way you could. Whether it is about turning 30 or 40 or 80, remember life is only about being happy and satisfied. Being dis-satisfied about your looks not only damages you and your confidence but it is far more detrimental to your younger ones who look up to you. Don’t fall for this anti-ageing scam; it does nothing more than damaging your body image. Fighting ageing is like fighting time, and frankly would you really like a 40 year old woman to look half her age? Let a 40 year old you look like present you, not a younger you. Because younger you has lived her life perfectly.

One of my colleagues from Netherlands is an amazing photographer – Wim Corbijn Van Willenswaard. He has a great collection of portraits of senior people and every picture will make you think about it. Not only are those faces beautiful but they are also full wisdom and experience something that is always missing in the pictures of young people. Those eyes are still full of energy and curiosity not very different from a child’s, yet those eyes are a proof of a life well lived.

THE SELFIE MANIA

A couple of days back I read of a shocking incident that had happened in the October of 2014, in Italy. A female nurse was arrested for the murder of 38 victims. But what was more shocking was a disturbing photo seized by the police: a selfie the nurse took of herself (in her hospital scrubs) standing near the body of a recently deceased patient while smiling and making a thumbs-up gesture! The local prosecutor, aghast at the horrific nature of the evidence remarked, “In all my professional years of seeing shocking photos, there were few such as these.”

Sometime back, the Indian newspapers carried the story of a young lad who lost his life while taking a selfie on a railway track with a fast approaching train behind him! So sad. He didn’t live to share his daring act!

To make the mood of this article a bit lighter, how many of you have competed with family members and friends as to who can pout the best for a selfie?

Yes, the selfie trend has brought in with it pouty poses (horns, winks and V-signs were already there before). Be it alone or with a group of friends, to pout for a selfie is the in-thing. Sounds cool!

While clicking selfies for harmless fun captures good moments, an overdose of ‘taking selfies’ is really something to worry about.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has officially declared taking ‘selfies’ a mental disorder. The disorder is named ‘selfitis’ and is defined as the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy.

According to APA, there are three levels of the disorder:

  • Borderline selfitis – taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media
  • Acute selfitis – taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each of the photos on social media
  • Chronic selfitis – Uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day

Well well, if you are not in any of these three categories, you are sort of safe. But yes, the separating line is not impermeable!

When I started taking selfies, I really had to learn the right way to incline the camera at the right angle, place the finger at the right postion for the click, take a proper pose with the background in mind, smile and then c..c..click… After the initial clumsiness, when I sort of got used to it (haven’t mastered it yet), I had the urge to take a couple of selfies after I reached my workplace early in the morning and then later when I was about to wind up for the day – just to compare how fresh I looked as I started the day and how worn out I looked as the workday came to an end. I generally never took selfies at other times. Neither did I post them in any social media site. On a few occasions, I shared a couple of good ones with friends and family.

But each day as I took those selfies at my workplace and looked at myself, I wondered why I was doing it. Wasn’t it making me focus more on ‘how I look’ rather than on ‘who I am’? Yes, indeed appearance is an integral part of who we are. However, I felt that clicking selfies is making me focus more on ‘the me’ and ‘the I’ and there was a danger of slipping into an obsession regarding one’s looks. So, no more selfies in the workplace for me!

An occasional selfie with a group of loved ones or at a scenic place of visit is definitely something to cherish. But when we become fixated with our own image, it does speak something more than just a picture.

Our feel-good factor should not rest merely with how we look externally – in our own eyes or in the eyes of others. It is definitely much more than that.

The story is told in Greek mythology about a hunter called Narcissus who was known for his beauty. Once he saw his own reflection in a pool and fell in love with it, not realizing that it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died. Thus we have the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance or public perception. And, several decades back, the APA classified one of the personality disorders as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Some of you may feel that I am simply making a harmless selfie sound so terrifying. But, its important to remember that our gestures towards ourselves do convey a world load of meaning about our psychological state.

As I have stated before, an occasional selfie for a memory does not indicate psychological ill-health. Its only when we become obsessive about taking selfies every now and then, that it is something to worry about.

The need for appreciation, approval, acceptance, affirmation, self-esteem; a feeling of loneliness and depression steer one to find satisfaction in one’s own self. And these are the chief factors that unconsciously propel us to love or hate our own images.

The next time you incline your camera to click a selfie, do pause for a moment and ask yourself why are you about to take this selfie.

CHARM IS DECEPTIVE, BEAUTY IS FLEETING

beauty-355157_1280Physical beauty doesn’t necessarily indicate good character, and so it is not supposed to be preferred over capability & character.

We spent the last SIX precious days expressing our thoughts on being beautiful. I just want to sum up & highlight the conclusions of all the discussions of the week on “What Beauty Is” as under:

  1. HOLISTIC PERSONALITY: In the mega article on last Sunday, Prabhjot said, “Beauty is not just about your looks – it is about your holistic personality. So, be beautiful physically, emotionally and intellectually!”
  2. MORE THAN SKIN & BODY: Rajnandini in her snippet said, “We as a people surely need to rise above the beauty of the skin and the body.” “There is more to life than merely the beauty of the skin!”
  3. MORE THAN WHAT WE SEE: I loved what Samarpita said in her snippet: “Beauty is not just a visual medium but can also be auditory, tactual and olfactory. It symbolizes a sense of morality and honesty. It is possible that the little girl equated her definition of ‘beauty’ to someone treating her well, giving her time and space, and making her comfortable.”
  4. KIND WORDS WE UTTER: This is an important point which Ruth mentioned in her snippet, “What truly defines the concept of beauty is the words that we use. The way we talk, the range of our tone and usage of words exhibits the person in us.”
  5. HOLDING FAST TO DIVINE VALUES: Rajnandini in her snippet goes on to suggest : “If you adhere to the prescriptions of beauty mentioned above, Charming in heart and Beautiful in mind you shall be, and thus steal the hearts of countless many!” You have to read her article “BE A ‘HEART-STEALER” to know the prescription.

I don’t really need to describe anything more after so much of discussion but let me just conclude with what I started initially.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting.” The implication of this quote can be understood in two ways: Assessing & Possessing.

Firstly, physical beauty or outward appearance is always deceiving. So, it is better not to ASSESS anybody’s overall beauty by just seeing the outward look of a person.

Secondly, it is very important to POSSESS the inner values or the divine qualities to build our character & beautify ourselves instead of relying on our outer coating.

Keep reading, Keep discussing, and Keep learning…

Stay Blessed!  

Author’s Bio: Chiradeep Patra is a finance man who works in a NGO at Kolkata. He is a writer, motivator & counselor. 

ARE YOU A GOOD JUDGE OF BEAUTY?

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It was only yesterday that I came across a commercial for a popular face wash brand on the television where a 14 year-old girl was seen to be shifting her seat from the back to the front in her class at school as she was not embarrassed because of her pimples anymore. It was through the regular usage of this face wash that her pimples were disappearing. What struck me was that it didn’t occur to the so-called creative minds behind this advertisement that 14 year-old children are at the beginning of their puberty. Adolescents,  as they are called, experience a host of changes emotionally, physically, intellectually and sexually at this stage.

This is something that continues till our adulthood and later on as well. I don’t mean the changes the teenager experiences but our mentality gets shaped up in such a way that we tend to judge people based on how they look or what they wear. It has become a spontaneous affair in adults to notice the externalities of a person first and form perceptions according to their judgement. We overlook the behavioural tendencies of a person and deliberately alienate people who do not match up to our criteria of being beautiful. The softness in a person, the inner qualities like goodness, persistence, perseverance, congeniality etc. do not get noticed in the first place.

Our words are mostly judgmental. What truly define the concept of beauty is the words that we use. The way we talk, the range of our tone and usage of words exhibits the person in us. Just as King Solomon, the wisest man who ever walked on Earth says, “Our words should be like Apples of Gold in Setting of Silver,” our concept of beauty should also exceed the likes of materialism.

BEAUTY TRANSCENDS BODY IMAGE

Prabhjot at 16It was the night of 30th November’ 2000, it was me – 16 year old crazy teenager, glued to the television almost biting my nails in nervousness and praying to God for a victory. No, it was not India vs. Pakistan world cup match. It was the Miss World Pageant where India was represented by none other than Priyanka Chopra. My mom was sleeping next to me and woke up scared when I literally jumped with joy and screamed when the host said “And Miss World 2000 is …. Miss India”! I remember very clearly that I had  jumped with joy, I had tears in my eyes, I was super excited, I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. Oh, what an excitement that was.

The excitement did not last just one night, it lasted I don’t know – a few years. Next day when I went to my all-girls convent school, I realized it wasn’t just me jumping with excitement. We discussed every damn detail of the event. Remember, we did not have youtube at that time to relive and re-watch the golden moment. We just remembered everything by watching it once live on television.

Excitement and attraction towards beauty pageants just kept going up-hill with Diya Mirza winning Miss Asia Pacific and Lara Dutta being crowned Miss Universe, all in the same year. It was an intense excitement and I made up my mind to at least give it a try for Miss India. Without any Google, I managed to figure out the minimum requirements needed to enter the contest. And I was disappointed even depressed – my height wasn’t enough to go for it. Still I could give Bollywood a try, if not modelling – that was 16 year old me talking to myself. If Rani Mukherjee with that height can be as successful, who can stop me?

Needless to mention that my interest in studies declined. Though I had been a great student, I stopped taking interest in studies. All I did was to practice wearing long heels and doing model walk with bunch of my physics and chemistry books on my head. And instead of eating eggs, curd, tomato etc, I started applying those on my hair and skin. Skirts became shorter; visits to beauty parlors became a regular ritual at the cost of studies. My parents were definitely concerned about their teenaged daughter losing focus in life.

My parents convinced me to at least get a professional degree before I decide to jump into a career of that kind. So, I bagged a seat in a Government Engineering college. And things changed a bit from there on, my interest in studies came back and I topped the college. While I was in third year, a movie named “Page 3” influenced my thinking. It was a “Madhur Bhandarkar” movie and showed a reality of glam world. It was shown in such a way that it sounded quite believable. Young girls getting married to old men for money, deceit and infidelity in marriages, girls sleeping their way to the top of their careers – all that was shown as a part and parcel of that world. And I am the kind of person who had always wanted success and fame but more than that, I value the quality of my relationships and my peace of mind. I have heard that you can either have success or peace of mind – you cannot have both. Well, I believe it is possible. It just depends how one defines success.

As I have grown wiser and older over the years, I now believe that looks are only a small part of our personality which is given a huge undue importance by media. I feel sad when I see young girls posing in front of the mirror the whole day and mothers in law still giving more weightage to fair skin of their daughter in law than her intellectual capabilities. Beauty is not skin deep, it goes way beyond just your personality. Beauty is all about how much love you have for the world and how much you care. Beauty is not fair skin or good height or perfect features; it is the depth of your heart and your ability to touch people.

In one of the body image workshops, the instructor asked a group of young boys and girls – “How many of you disliked your body or your looks when you were 5 years old?” No hand went up. “At 7 years old”. Still no hands went up. “At 10 years old”, a couple of hands went up. “At 13 years old”, a few more hands went up. “At 16 years old”, almost all hands went up. It makes me wonder, what is it that we are doing with our kids today? What sort of a message is being passed onto them that make them hate their bodies?

Who creates these unrealistic standards of beauty? Media does. And that damages the confidence of our young teenagers. It makes them feel low of themselves. It leads to depression and low self-esteem. As adults, it is our responsibility to help these little adults feel good about them. We want them to value their IQ and EQ more than their looks (if not equal).

Remember – Looks are only part of your personality. It is as significant as your intellectual capabilities and your emotional balance. And beauty is not just about your looks – it is about your holistic personality.

So, be beautiful physically, emotionally and intellectually!

Author’s Bio: Prabhjot Kaur Saini, is a Software Engineer and is currently working in Bangalore. She is an engineer by profession and also a thinker and writer with a philosophical heart. She can be contacted at: ‘prabhjot.varsha@gmail.com.’ Read her Other Articles on this site.