Tag: Judgmental

Friendship lessons

Friendship lessons

I spent over two decades of my life in a North Indian town with barely any exposure to the outside world other than the books I read. None of them told me what to really expect out there. However, when I left for a job in Delhi I had firm views on just about everything, hanging on to prejudices and preconceived notions that come with lack of exposure. 
That’s how I would have gone through life had the powers above not been on my side. Fate has, since then, worked overtime to systematically rid me of all my said ideas.
I used to dismiss Punjabis as loud and crass. And God gave me a friend born and brought up in the gullies of old Delhi. Her FB status once read ‘Punjabiayn di battery charge rehndi hai’. She was loud as the loudest yet she was also generous and thoughtful and always available when I needed her. Before I knew it I was borrowing from her memories of her grandmom and quoting in Punjabi, pathetically stilted Punjabi I might add, not everyone can get that endearing accent quite right.
I thought South Indians were closed and conservative. And God gave me a roomie straight from Chennai. Together we traipsed around the streets of Mumbai walking at Marine Drive or shopping at Fashion Street. She taught me that South Indian food went beyond idlis and dosas. She could talk books till the sun went down and came up again. She has since then, set up her own library. We could laugh at our respective accents and would compare how ‘love’ was pronounced in each of them – her luvv to my lau.
I thought Maharashtrians were stuck up and spoke weird Hindi. Along came a friend who was completely unstuck herself. I discovered that there existed a tumhi along with the tu and got a glimpse of the proud Maratha history, way beyond Bajirao. We argued about everything from books to religion over hot cups of chai at a different roadside joint each time. I found my Hindi turning into a taporier version – no longer chaste yet nice and colourful and way more interesting.
I thought army wives came with a chip on their shoulders and I got a friend who taught me to appreciate their discipline and the way they stood up for their own. I grudged them their ‘benefits’ but stories of hazardous postings, sad accidents and lost lives made their tribulations only too real. Another one would laugh with me at the Army Wives’ ‘parties’ yet go hunting for the right sari because it was ‘flower theme’ at the meet. ‘It’s crazy but it’s so much fun. I love it,’ she’d say.
I thought SAHMs were all about shopping and kitty parties and God turned me into one making me want to kill anyone who asked ‘How do you kill time?’ Oh and along the way I also questioned where’s the crime in a ladies’ day out or shopping (unless it’s excessive, and then the trouble is with the ‘excess’ not the shopping).
Finally there came the biggest, craziest most miraculous mind changer – I thought kids were a nuisance and God gave me twins. Nuisance they most certainly are, but they’re also the best thing that ever happened to me.
Dear people know that stereotypes may be true – after all they are stereotypes for a reason. However people are different in a million ways and are definitely more than just a bunch of generic qualities.
So make friends – all kinds – across ages, and sex, race and city and nationality if you can. Open up, meet, talk, debate, argue, empathise. That’s the very best way to remain non-judgemental and open minded.
God knows we could do with some tolerance.
Notes from a self conscious soul 2 – Beating the monster

Notes from a self conscious soul 2 – Beating the monster

It’s been a while since ‘Notes from a self conscious soul
happened and I’m beginning to feel a bit guilty about not doing the part 2. Anyway I finally managed to get it down.
Let me begin by saying you probably know all of this. But
sometimes it just helps hearing it from someone else or hearing it over and
over again.
We begin with the thought that we’re in good company, heck, great company. Take a look: 
I'm one of the world's most self-conscious people. I really have to struggle. - Marilyn Monroe 
Yeah that’s an original Marilyn Monroe quote, Marilyn of the billowing dress fame. Oh she well and truly decimated the monster.
Speaking from personal experience two things that worked for me were –

One – Growing older: There’s some serious magic in the way age puts things in perspective. I find myself trying new things and enjoying them. Don’t we often call old people eccentric? In all probability they are simply doing exactly as they please. I’m so looking forward to turning into an eccentric old woman.
and Two – Having kids: Seriously, the little monsters can scare the s**t out of the big one. Since they came along, the twins found so many different ways to embarrass me at so many different levels that by the time they had figured out what the word ’embarrassment’ means I had attained nirvana. I mean where’s the space for the e-word after being publicly subjected to raging tantrums, being made to fish out tiny transformer parts from public dustbins and I don’t even want to think about what happened in lingerie section of the mall. Yeah they pretty much did it for me.
Unfortunately all of that is not quite in our hand. Some friends swear by the good effects of the ‘spirit’ if you know what I mean – a drink or two and you’re good to go. The results however can be a tad unpredictable and if that’s not your style you need to try other ways. Here’s how:

Take on the monster full blast: 

The more often you trounce it the easier it becomes, a minuscule degree at a time – but better it does get. I well remember how utterly embarrassed I was when my first byline appeared in the newspaper. Happy yes, most definitely, but embarrassed as hell too. Yet I wrote and wrote and wrote. It helped that it was part of my job and that I had little choice. But on I went and here I am writing about the monster himself. Ah progress!!!

Know your stuff: 

Knowledge and practice is another way to go after it. Practice, practice and more practice. 

Relive your successes:

.. and store them away in your head. The next time the monster comes by you know you’ve kicked it once you can do it again. And remember that wonderful after-the-kick moment? Bliss, isn’t it? Savour it.

Focus on others: 

If you haven’t realised this already there are many people like us out there. It makes sense then to have each other’s backs. Watch out for that new girl in your class, say a Hello. See someone struggling with a machine in the gym – lend a hand. The friendlier you make the atmosphere around you the more comfortable you feel, as does your friend and that makes both your monsters decidedly uncomfortable. Two birds one stone :-).

Talk to yourself:

Remind yourself that others are human – just like you – and that nobody is the best at everything. Remind yourself of the things you’re reasonably good at. You might not be the best conversation maker but you may rule the research lab, you may not set the dance floor on fire but you may light up a classroom. It takes courage to do something you know you’re not good at, so if you’ve put yourself in that uncomfortable situation, you’re one brave person. Remind yourself.

Lighten up:

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself, admit your slip-up and ask for help if you need to.

Lastly, it really doesn’t matter: 

It helps to tell yourself that. IT DOES NOT MATTER. It really doesn’t. Your fashion faux pas, your clumsy dance, your tongue tied appearance at the party – it will all be forgotten. People do forget. Sooner than you think.
The other option of course, is to go through life, playing it safe, avoiding judgement, keeping away from situations that require you to put yourself out there. You can do it. I’ve done that, for a long long time. But life’s just that much more fun if you put up a fight and win, right?

Do give it a shot. Kick that monster (and keep kicking it) then watch how free, spontaneous and wonderfully happy you feel.
Confessions of a book snob

Confessions of a book snob

The mind changers

It really is true that despite years of living with someone, despite spending each waking-sleeping moment with him-her, you don’t really get to know them.

And so it was with me. After years of thinking myself a liberal, only recently I realised I am a book snob.

But first I must present my defence.

I come from a generation when we had few distractions – no TVs, no computers, not even phones to chat away with friends and no friends other than school friends. School was a good 10 kms away which by the standards of those times was pretty much in the ‘jungle’. 

So what did we do in the long summer vacations, Christmas breaks and weekends? We read, my sister and I, and we bonded, perfectly.

The other thing was that we went to a school run by strict Irish nuns who set high reading standards. The books we got were screened, I am sure. We had ‘age appropriate’ cupboards neatly labelled with the class they were suited to. We weren’t allowed comics till after class VI, not even Amar Chitra Kathas. We HAD to choose one book of fiction, one biography and one Hindi book each week. We HAD to have a book mark and a book cover failing which we weren’t allowed a book. All wonderful habits, I might add. Habits I cherish and I’m very proud of. Habits I wish I was better at inculcating in my children.

And so I grew up on Enid Blyton, Louisa Alcott, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and then – Georgette Heyers and Victoria Holts.

Later, I spent years at the news desk meticulously changing ‘color’ to ‘colour’, correcting language, following the ‘right’ way and getting more and more set in that right way, more sure than ever that I KNEW what was best when it came to reading.

I lost touch with kids’ books till I had kids of my own some two decades later. What a rude shock that was. Wimpy Kid, I am not a Loser, Geronimo Stilton and Lord my God!! Captain Underpants! Peppered with pictures and illustrations, arrows and diagrams, doodles and drawings with coloured text jumping at you from unexpected places, with font that changed like a shape shifter – an unwarranted assault on my senses! What were these? Half-comic-half-book-half scribbled notes? Mongrelised reads, all.

I saw Midsummer Night’s Dream as a comic and my heart broke a bit. When I spotted a Captain Underpants in my son’s hands I freaked. The spellings were blasphemous. How could I allow it?

I looked down upon them all. I pushed forward my favourites. Noddy, Faraway Tree, Wishing Chair, Amelia Jane. As if in retaliation, the children rejected the lot. Each of them. I was heartbroken and I gave up on my kids as non-readers.

And then, very recently, I stumbled upon this article that said to ‘Everyone Loves Reading – Just Find the Right Book’ written by Tanushree Singh. And I was forced to re-evaluate my attitude.

I wasn’t all wrong. However things have changed. 

Books are now not competing with other books. They are competing with television, the iPad, the PS-3 and the lure of friends at the door. They have to squeeze themselves between dance class and karate class, hold their own with Othello and Topple, fight off the Barbies and the Power rangers.

It cannot be easy.

What they need, desperately, are friends, friends not book racists, not heartless, judgmental critics. Friends, among parents, teachers and all sensible adults. Friends who would understand why they have had to change avatars, why they have to dress themselves up as graphic novels and comics. 

Besides, wasn’t Enid Blyton banned in schools in her time? Isn’t Roald Dahl irreverent and gory and yes, rude, in bits? Who’s to judge the good and the bad? By all means ban the obscene, ban the bad language, ban the overtly violent but stop there. Rather than choosing just the best, reject just the worst. Let more of them make the cut.

God knows our kids need them way more than they need our kids.

J is for being Judgmental

J is for being Judgmental

The other
day I was down in the garden. A bunch of kids were playing close by while some
mums and some maids stood by chatting. A fight broke out – we have one almost
every minute. One of the kids boxed the other one, only to be punched in return.
A mum and a maid rushed to separate their charges. The mother turned upon the
maid in righteous anger and gave her an earful. “Why can’t you keep an eye on him?
Do you come down to chat?” She said before retreating with her son. “This is
what happens when kids are left to the maids,” she added before admonishing her
son to ‘never play with that boy again.’
As if that
were even a possibility! Five minutes later, the kids are back again.
How quick
are we to pass judgements, and how wrong. Among many things motherhood taught
me – this was one valuable lesson.. 
People cannot be bracketed.

One of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books.. ‘To kill a mockingbird’

She’s a SAHM
– she’s a good mum.
She’s a working
mum – she doesn’t have time for her kids… wrong again!
She wears a
sari/ abaya – she’s conservative. 
She’s pushing her daughter to have fries – she’s a bad mum.
She’s fat –
she’s lazy (that one’s for me).
Oh it can
make you feel good about yourself for a while. But when you judge others you also
end up judging yourself. And sooner than later you will fall short. You cannot
possibly think you are the only perfect person on earth! If you do think you
are, well then you’ve reached nirvana and can stop right here. But if you do not, you will fall short of someone and will end up feeling not so
good about yourself. The first step to accepting yourself is to accept others
as they are.
This becomes
even more relevant in a country as diverse as India. People from different
regions, states and ethnicities, speaking different languages, dressing differently,
looking so very different… it’s as crazy as it can get. 
While I was working in
Mumbai there was just one other girl from my hometown in North India and it was
assumed that we’d be best friends. However my best friend came from the other
end of the country – from down South. We bonded over books. We ended up being roommates and are still
friends some 20 years later.
judgemental can make you miss out on some really good friends.
Over the
years I learnt to reserve my judgement. Oh I’m not perfect just yet but I hope to get there.

Linking to ABC Wednesday the grand initiative now in it’s 14th round.

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