Monday, 13 May 2013

We must learn to discern praise and criticism

Praise and criticism are integral to our life. In order to grow and succeed in our life, we all need both appreciation and criticism in equal amounts. While appreciation is something that we eagerly look forward to, yearn for time and again and bask in its glory; criticism is something which we don't like let alone welcome it. In general, we see two different reactions and responses to praise and critique. Appreciation is welcomed, encouraged and propagated to the point of narcissism. Criticism is loathed, often discouraged and if at all accepted, it is done grudgingly.

Will such an attitude towards criticism help us in the long run? Obviously not. A person used to receiving appreciation alone and who expects to be showered with praises all the time is inviting defeat, failure and stagnation into his life. On the contrary, someone open to his/her own criticism by others is attracting positive changes, transformation, growth, strength and courage. If a person accepts criticism in the right spirit, he will end up becoming a person with a positive and bold attitude. Without a doubt, the latter succeeds and wins in life. The former is reduced to a life of weakness, ignorance, boredom and failure.

As people say, healthy criticism helps in the holistic development of a human being. However, in these days of cut-throat competition, envy, one-upmanship, criticism is seen as the best way to dent a persons's confidence and stall her progress. Be it in schools, colleges, offices, our interactions with people, we are constantly showered with scathing criticism. During such situations, the solution lies in understanding the different shades of criticism. A healthy critique of your work is something that pinpoints the faults, weaknesses and errors that you have unwittingly made without any damage to your self-image. Unhealthy criticism is the one that destroys your self-confidence, implants self-doubts and scuttles your development through literary forms of exaggerated level of satire, comedy and cynicism. The formula for success lies in accepting constructive criticism and ignoring destructive criticism.

For our own evolution, it is absolutely essential to praise and self-criticize ourselves, in reasonable amounts though. If we brag about ourselves overly, we end up becoming a boring narcissist and if we criticize ourselves unduly, we succeed in destroying our self-worth that can lead to disastrous consequences. Depression and suicide are a result of self-criticizing ourselves unreasonably.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A welcome verdict

The much awaited verdict of Kudankulam N-power plant is finally out, a judgement that is bound to leave the protesters red in their faces. The Supreme Court justified its verdict by commenting that "we have to balance economic scientific benefits with that of minor radiological detriments". The justification to me sounds reasonable, balanced and sensible keeping in mind the larger interests of the country's economy. Economic development and progress is usually always achieved causing minor discomfort to the dwellers in that vicinity and environment at large.

The hundreds of MNCs and corporate houses that we see in our cities today would not have materialised without having caused minor inconveniences to the environment. The positive side is that many of us have reasonably secure jobs, decent lifestyles and  pretty decent incomes. Life which was once a struggle for most Indians has now become a wee bit comfortable.

Kudankulam kind of protests are not new. Haven't there been protests when India's economy was opened up for global companies to establish their bases? Heated debates raged over the pros and cons of economic globalization and liberalization. Today, the same voices that protested have fallen silent probably startled by the high number of job opportunities available and tangible changes and advancements witnessed in the lifestyle of an 'aam aadmi'.

The establishment and operation of the nuclear plant comes at a time when Tamil Nadu is witnessing a severe power crisis. When there is no other alternative but the nuclear plant to power woes, it is only sensible to allow its operation and ignore the disadvantages or inconveniences it is likely to cause. As the Supreme Court said 'benefits outweigh minor radiological detriments', the protesters must realize that their demonstrations are not worthy but on the contrary are acting as needless and major impediments for the state's economic growth and progress.

The opposition has lost its credibility and only comes across as an unreasonable, stubborn, smug and immature group of teenagers in the face of overwhelming reasons and evidence of the nuclear plant's adherence to safety and environmental norms as well as its effectiveness to solve Tamil Nadu's great power crisis.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Overcoming problems

It is only stating the obvious when I say that life is unpredictable and throws problems ranging from the silliest to the most complicated ones. However, without difficult situations in life can we ever grow, evolve, excel and even understand the meanings of triumph, strength and courage?

Surprisingly, problems when viewed positively can cease to exist as difficulties. Many successful people in their professional and personal lives have always welcomed challenging situations because they felt that without challenges life would be dull and would only lay a foundation for stagnation and ennui. Of course, this does not mean we need to create tough circumstances and embrace them at the first opportunity. It is only to say that we should not shy away from uncomfortable scenarios, rather face them with a brave and positive attitude.

To overcome an obstacle, on our part, we need to recognize it first. The moment we recognize we have a problem half of it is already solved. Second, it is extremely important we identify and categorize the problem as it would help us in arriving at a solution rather quickly. Third, we need to stop denying that a problem exists in the first place. Next, it is purely psycological and we need to internalise it. Qualities like courage, optimism, a balanced temperament, healthy attitude and positive demeanour are essential to cross hurdles.

Having said all this, it would only be wise not to sow seeds for obstacles and it is wiser still if we don't escape from them, rather take the right approach and required skills to fight them. The next time you encounter a problem have the belief that it is just an exam to test your talents and qualities that are not something beyond your reach but only lay dormant deep within you. You will be surprised at your own strength, courage, wherewithal and the hidden potential within you. A new you is born and you will be thrilled to discover that new you in you!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A high-five to new age men

Ladies – Never underestimate your husbands. On a day when you are down with cough, cold and severe back ache like I was over the last weekend, your hubbies just like mine are indeed capable of surprising by dishing out some dosas for breakfast, mouthwatering sambar with subzi for lunch and decent upma for dinner.

Kudos to our new age men, who being increasingly open to new ideas and perspectives are doing their might to break gender stereotypes. Influenced by modern thinking, the urban metro-sexual man of today’s new India is seen participating with his woman in drab household chores and other mundane tasks, which were so far considered strictly a woman’s preserve. Whether it is preparing delicacies for his wife, attending to his mother’s health, mentoring his sister or even changing diapers for his baby, today’s new age men are not shying away from these ‘responsibilities’ and are significantly changing men-women equations.

It is not difficult to find out the reasons for this transformation. Globalization, liberalization, value-based education and exposure to social media have made the men in cities more aware and understanding to problems confronting women.

Only one hopes that this phenomenon isn’t restricted to urban India but percolates to low-income level groups and rural areas which in reality represent the real India. In urban India, low-level income groups constitute auto drivers/bus drivers, taxi drivers etc who reportedly have committed gruesome crimes against women. Rural India is notorious for honor killings and acid attacks against women.

If men in cities, just like their counterparts in villages having grown up in  conservative family settings with not much money and had once believed in gender stereotypes can change why not the men from Bharat or rural India?

While the waves of transformation begin to rise slowly in India let us give credit to the new age men, be it your fathers, husbands, brothers or uncles, who ushered in changes without whose support our lives would have been extremely difficult!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Free your mind from patriarchal thinking

(This article of mine is published in Deccan Chronicle - Chennai Edition on 26-3-2013).

At a time when crimes against women in the form of rapes, acid attacks etc continue unabated the least we can do is to discourage patriarchal thinking/values within a family and society. The Delhi rape/‘Nirbhaya’ incident has once again underscored the need for stricter legislations and the importance of sensitizing men towards women. While the law-makers may be busy formulating punitive measures to prevent crimes against women are we as men and especially as women contributing anything at all to end violence against ourselves? It is often said that women are their own worst enemies and it became amply clear when one of my female friends on FaceBook while taking cognizance of a random woman’s decision to separate from her joint family and go nuclear commented that as daughter-in-laws, we have responsibilities and duties towards our parents in laws. The post also went on to say that as a wife, we must do our duties towards our husband. Pray, who has defined these roles and responsibilities for women? A patriarchal society to suit its own interests?

Being sensitive to the needs of husbands and parents in laws is one thing and acting subservient to their concerns/demands is quite another. I am sure most of the Indian daughter in laws do care for their elderly and sick parents or parents-in-laws and would hate the idea of old age homes. However, let us not confine ourselves only to cooking and caretaking domains. We are great at handling not only our kids, our husbands and kith and kin but also our own aspirations, workplaces and individuals working under us. Let us remind ourselves that while we may have our ‘responsibilities’ prescribed by men we also have our rights. The woman in question may have opted for a nuclear family for a variety of reasons. Some of them that come to my mind are 1) proximity to her workplace 2) lack of privacy at her in-laws place 3) ii-treatment by her in-laws and  4) lack of facilities at her in-laws place. I find it completely outrageous to judge our own gender and have prejudiced views of working women, women living in nuclear families and single women existing independently especially at a time when right thinking women and men are striving not to see women through the lens of patriarchy. I am even more flabbergasted when women claiming to be modern by wearing short skirts and trousers, speaking impeccable English and holding post-graduate degrees make such atrocious statements.

Unless our perceptions towards these women change and unless we eliminate patriarchal thinking from our families, societies and our own minds, we cannot expect a reduction in the crimes against women. For it is our patriarchal values and thoughts passed onto posterity which mould and influence the understanding of men, women and the society at large.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Endless Strife for the Housewife

(This article of mine was published in The New Indian Express - Youth Express on Friday, Dec 12, 2003).

Bidding goodbye to her dear ones, she rushes to the kitchen to start on the unwashed dishes heaped in the sink. As she nonchalantly goes about her seemingly endless chores, she wonders if this is all she was meant to do with her life.

Once she does away with her domestic work, she plonks in front of the TV, watching all the soaps, all the other nonsense they show on TV. Weeping with the sob stories, laughing her way with the so called comedies, she is unaware of the punishment her mind is being subjected to.

After a while, she goes to gossip with the neighbors about the working women in the building. Or she sleeps thorough the afternoon, until one day, she wakes up and realizes she has turned into an obese woman, looking twice her age with diabetes and other ailments that plague her for the rest of her life.

This is the plight of the average housewife in India. In her bid to add that much needed zing into her drab, joyless world which mainly revolves around mundane tasks of cooking, washing, cleaning, (all of which we hate to think about) she finds refuge in mindless chatter, gossip and TV programmes. How does a housewife put up with her dreary existence. The unchanging monotony, the sameness of everyday life.

Indeed a housewife deserves kudos for the ritualistic acts she performs day after day – serving her in-laws, taking care of the kids, and attending to her husband’s needs while she herself is in desperate need for some attention. The spontaneous smile that a housewife wears everyday as she welcomes her husband and children home has to be given credit. Perhaps it is not really spontaneous though, and has become perfect after years of practice.

Housewives fall into two categories. The first one hasn’t had much education and is given away in marriage at an early age. This woman finds contentment by being a dutiful daughter-in-law, loyal wife and caring mother. She is blissfully unaware of her identity, individuality and a mind that is truly her own. In the other category are the degree holders who become housewives out of compulsion or ignorance. Compulsion and objection in the form of in-laws and husbands who choose to be archaic in their thoughts and outlook, yet want to live in a modern world with all its comforts and luxuries. For them, a married woman earning and supporting the family is unthinkable. Why should she, when the man gets a fat pay cheque? What they fail to understand is that a woman goes out to work not for the money but for the satisfaction she gets when her work is recognized. To carve a niche for herself, stand on her own feet, feeling secure in the knowledge that her identity and individuality are still intact, that’s why a woman needs to work.

Both categories of woman surrender to their fate, suffering in silent isolation. She takes care of the family’s smallest needs, offering comfort at the slightest sign of tension on their faces. An unemployed mother expects her children to lend an ear, so she can confide in them and share the joys in her life.

They have to understand their mother is a person like them, who probably has the same problems and takes joy in the same things as them. Children can be cruelly insensitive. Grappling with adolescent and teenage problems, trying to come to terms with their sexuality and busy as they are with their parties, dates and pubbing, they do not have time for their mothers.

As for the husband, the less said the better. His paunch is rapidly growing, and the frown has become a permanent fixture on his once loveable face as he is busy worrying over his promotion, bonus, arrears that are long overdue, and the care loan that has not yet been sanctioned. He pays no attention to her graying hair, the unpleasant dark circles, the extra pounds let alone the menopausal blues she is experiencing.

Left in the cold, a housewife becomes a non-entity for her children and husband. She doesn’t have a say. She slinks away, knowing her views and thoughts do not matter to them.

But they do exist. And she is waiting to be heard. So the next time you find your mother lounging in a chair, staring into nothingness, just put an arm around her and let her spill her thoughts to you.