Author Archives: Janaki

It’s time.

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I met someone recently who has had a kidney transplant, is under 40, and lives with the threat that the organ will be rejected at any time by the body. Other than that person’s ordeal which has affected every aspect of life, I came away convinced of two things.

One, I will do everything to ensure that I do not ever need such palliative care that neither makes me a vegetable nor sets me free.

Two, I will donate as many of my viable organs as possible. The donor lists in India are so long and scary that you constantly have to wait for people to die, to get a chance at life. Please donate your organs and convince people around you to do the same.

Is the mirror your friend?

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I recently encountered someone with an eating disorder. Her name is Anaya. One reads and hears and thinks, like most things unpalatable, that it could not happen to someone you know personally. I want to help her and I also don’t want to help her. I see behavior in her that raises so many red flags and all her friends do is shrug it over. “She has always been like that,” is the most common refrain I heard. What I was hearing was she has always been eating so little and experiencing blackouts and deleting pictures she did not like and exercising like a fiend and yet never being satisfied with how she is. In typical style, Anaya is an extremely successful businesswoman who runs her own outfit, negotiating, managing, and achieving scary-sounding targets. But her entire worth is linked to how she thinks she has to look.

Someone had once said a very important thing to me, about looks. She had said, “Janaki, it doesn’t matter how I look. It matters what I see in the reflection. I was a chubby girl who was a daughter to a very beautiful mother and for the rest of my life, I will always see a chubby girl in the mirror.”

Anaya, too, suffers from this, am sure. I do not know her well but have seen up close the effect her mother’s comments have on her. Mothers often and as a generalization, are always critical of their daughters. It is usually “to improve them” but rarely does it lead to any so-called improvement.

She hardly eats any food, pops pills which occasionally take her to the hospital, survives on caffeinated drinks and exercises like a fiend. And constantly berates herself on how she looks and yes, has been known to delete photographs from cameras that do not flatter her, according to her.

She is surrounding by people who, though never disparage how she looks but also never want to intervene and see that she gets some help. As I recount incident after incident I realise the situation in her case is so dire. She never listens or hears things that do not suit her way of thinking (who does, after all) and she perhaps has a confident shell that does not let others approach her for an intervention.

Being around her makes me feel grateful often. Grateful for the disregard my brain had for the obvious dissociation I faced all through my growing years for being fat. I am grateful I didn’t succumb to peer pressure into feeling shamed and starving myself. I have friends who did. (Maybe going to a really nondescript college helped?) I also didn’t have friends who thought it necessary to take it upon themselves to “make me thin”.

Or maybe I was just the default  ‘fat girl’ in the group. You know that every group has one? Especially one with women? This default fat girl usually has no say or no opinion worth considering and always has  dates and outings thrown her way since we know that men would never voluntarily seek out a fat girl right?

Today there are days when I suffer pangs of low self-worth or worth that are linked to an outfit not fitting me well or me not looking a certain way and then, thankfully, it passes. I have no issues looking into a mirror and even scrutinising my flaws. I know I can change what or how I look whenever I want and it will not change what is on the inside.  I will not change if more people ‘like’ or ‘approve’ of how I look.

Maybe something will change with Anaya too. She will meet someone like me who is stronger than I am today. Who will have the strength to pull her out and help her find balance. Till then, whenever I see her, I will push a plate of food toward her and keep reiterating how great she is.

Gaining independence but losing ground

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I have always loved and read this blog. And no, this is not a feminist blog. It is a blog with strong opinions. But if being honest and having strong opinions means a feminist, you need to read up on what feminism today has evolved to. I read the earlier post  and a girl’s email to it some days ago and it got me thinking.

It is true. We are slowly gaining a lot more ground in terms of economic independence and the capability of making decisions.  I look around and see most of my colleagues and friends who are single which is fantastic as they are taking their time and exploring various nuances to find the right person. When one says right person, I assume, that person means right in nature and thought. Someone who would not want to change you. Someone who would respect your space, especially in a economic context and so on. The manifestations of these (what should be normal but are quite rare) thoughts are things like respecting your parents, not patronizing you, considering your input while making a decision, not forcing  to do anything you wouldn’t want to do. This should also hold true for women I assume.

But what I see instead is that women want all these fabulous traits in men but can rarely spot them. Not because they do not exist but because women might not like how the wrapping looks. Women still want rakishly good looking men who were bad boys till they met these specific men, then, the women would change them and make those men what they want. That is worse because, at least, earlier women were clear on what they wanted and went after what they wanted. They spend their lives changing men (muttering about wars and battles) and that was life for them.

For a single woman, in a society not ready to handle single women after a certain age, this fake  feminism and liberalization can be cloying. Because, then every year someone who knows someone is getting married at (Oh my god! lucky her) 34, the predominant sigh of relief is “Thank god, HER search is over”. Because there are liberated women, as a friend calls them, in control of their shakti, but reduced to all manner of pandering for finding that divorced man, because she herself is now divorced!

Because brides, now, in the midst of their mehendi, turn around and announce that feminism is bullshit, forcing other potentially strong and speaking-their-minds women cowering into a corner. Women who run businesses but struggle to lose weight and achieve the shape they think they should be and wonder why are they unmarriagable. Women are labelled divorced (likening it to something bad) because ‘she feels so strongly about men’.

Have you ever encountered these women?

What it means to be you.

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You are not your mother.

You are not your sister.

You are not your family.

You… are just you.

 

You are not your friends.

You are not the friends you left behind.

You are not your enemies.

You…are just you.

 

You are not your job.

You are not your salary.

You are not just a number.

You…are just you.

 

You are not your manicure.

You are not your tires.

You are not your wrinkles.

You…are just you.

 

You don’t have to compare to live.

You don’t have to barter for love.

You don’t have to fish for compliments.

You can be just you.

 

You don’t have to be afraid of reflection.

You don’t have to be afraid of failure.

You don’t have to be worried about opinion.

You can be be just you.

Opinion or truth?

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Sometimes when I want less clamour, I come to my blog. Which is perhaps not how blogs are projected. But hey, it’s my space.

Recently Twitter and other offline forums have been talking about The Goa Think Fest by Tehelka. So it got me reading.

Here are some links that show you one side of what are presumably many sides.

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

Link 4

Link 5

Do remember that these are all opinions, not the entire truth. Remember that when it colours your opinion.