The Leftover Pizza

Daily life Pizzazz, some nuggets, some fun

Archive for the category “Drama”

Heartbreak, abuse and suicide

So I have been following/covering this case of a young Bollywood actress with a not-so-promising career, Jiah Khan, who committed pizzaheadersuicide, after what has now been widely reported as ‘heartbreak’ over her relationship with actor Aditya Pancholi’s son Suraj Pancholi. Strangely, the opinions I hear on this case are so divided that it seems like Moses and the Israelites could walk through the gap.

Everyone agrees, Jiah was young, beautiful and she shouldn’t have chosen to end her life so. That part is easy. But the sea parted after Suraj Pancholi was arrested for abetment. Suddenly, even the most vehement of feminists were heard saying how can you blame him for what she did? I partly agree with the theory that suicide is your personal choice, but there are sometimes circumstances of abuse where the victim is driven to suicide. Suicide is all about the feeling of having no options and has little to do with weakness or foolishness. The alleged suicide letter, if taken into account as the original sequence of how things had gone down, does support the talk of abuse. But that is still for the courts to decide, all I wish is to debunk some random theories spouted by misogynists and feminists about why Suraj can’t be responsible, all of this, of course, is on the basis of the recovered suicide note being true and on other commonsense things.

Argument No. 1 : Suraj Pancholi is young, only 21, how could Jiah expect him to marry her?

Umm, that still doesn’t take away the responsibility of having a healthy relationship away from Suraj does it? And I don’t think our society is as forgiving of an 18 year old girl who made the ‘mistake’ of dating some guy. We expect her to take full responsibility of her choices, so why not ask the guy to shoulder those too, irrespective of his age. The most irrational arguments I have heard when I said this – well its not like he raped her, she agreed to it too and the best I’ve heard yet, well you women are born with it (vagina and uterus) so you have to deal with it.

Argument No. 2 : Why didn’t she walk away?

She had it all, beauty, what seem to be like somewhat concerned family. Why didn’t she just walk away, if she had started to know that Suraj was a loser? People who say that have clearly never been in an abusive atmosphere before. Yes, the abused can walk away, but it is not always easy. There is what is called a cycle of abuse in every abusive relationship. The first time the abuse happens is mostly when the victim has slowly shed all inhibitions and trusted the abuser totally. It shocks the victim, logic kicks in and they try to distance themselves. When the abuser realises that he/she may lose control over the victim, they return with more promises of change, of special love, all honey suckle and dew. The reconciliation is followed by a honeymoon period until the abuse happens again. It being human nature, the first few times, we tend to forgive, because we are so in love and all of us have at some point or the other given in to irrational rage of some kind (not physical always). Now say when it first happens, the victim confides in friend A who offers support and advice to immediately move out. But victim is still in love so when abuser returns, victims takes them back and feels ashamed at judging abuser and speaking ill about them to A. It happens again, now victim might be too ashamed to confide in A, could maybe go to B, or say even if A is the only person the victim has, it will be only so many times before A throws hands up in air in disgust at the victim’s inability to just walk away. So what happens? Victim gets isolated. The only source of validation remaining is the abuser, who is the most unreliable source and also the source of the misery in the first place. Left with no one, where does the victim go?

I also feel that it is a classist argument to say that unlike common housewives, Jiah had access to better services and finances. That is totally discounting the impact abuse has on self esteem and the person’s belief in a better, safer tomorrow. That doesn’t come from money or resources, you generally get it from the people around you and when you have atleast one primary relationship other than the abusive one that is fairly unconditional.

Argument No. 3 : Jiah’s mother was divorced, that childhood trauma made Jiah unstable

Yes, parents’ divorce does affect children, no doubt about that. What I objected to were the not-so-subtle jibes at the way Rabiya Khan, Jiah’s mother, must have brought her up, for her to be so weak. Whoa! Why doesn’t anyone question the atmosphere that Suraj grew up in? Suraj’s father, Aditya, has been known to get into brawls frequently, he has had multiple very public affairs all throughout his marriage and has publicly beaten up some of the women he was allegedly going out with. When questioned about his alleged public affair and fallout with Kangna Ranaut by Telegraph, Pancholi’s wife, Zarina Wahab is quoted as saying if you marry a younger man who is good looking also, then you have to be prepared for such things happening. One can excuse this even, saying that maybe they had an open marriage. But as far as my understanding goes, in the Indian context, an open marriage, is generally open only for the man. But of course, no one asks whether Zarina Wahab taught her son by staying that abuse is ok and the woman just puts up with it when you do it. No one questions what values of stability did this teach Suraj, but I forget, the over arching argument in this case is that the marriage is still intact, unlike Rabiya’s. Our society’s emphasis on marital status over its quality is amazing.

Argument No. 4 : Dying over heartbreak is irrational, breaking up is not abetment

Agreed. Wholeheartedly. But let the investigation and the courts prove that this was just heartbreak and that the alleged suicide note and its contents were false and had no bearing on Jiah’s suicide. Till then, let us not say categorically that it was mere heartbreak and not abuse. But what about an innocent man’s life, you may ask? Well, our society is very forgiving of men anyways, I am sure, Suraj, if innocent, will come out stronger, do some great Bollywood movies (which he may end up doing even if he is not innocent) and get married and live happily ever after some day. After all, jaan hai toh jahaan hai.

Shall write some other day about suicide, the various emotions and circumstances behind it and responsibility for it. This post is only about how abuse could lead to hopelessness which could translate into suicidal tendencies.

P. S. Male rights activists, I eagerly await your comments about how I am just a bitter ole feminist who is rather lonely too 😛


Waity Katy and other relationships where women are blamed

Commemorating the 1st anniversary of the grand Royal wedding, CNN had a special show on Kate Middleton aka the Duchess of Cambridge. The royal wedding was the biggest wedding spectacle since William’s parents got married ages ago. And a lot was written about Kate and how she got her prince.

Kate has been held up as an example of a modern woman who would hold out for the man she loves and almost every one of these reports mentions that all this waiting earned her the infamousmonicker ‘Waity Katy’. Basically the fact that she waited 8 years for the man she liked seemed too much of a stretch for a modern woman. She was dubbed as someone who didn’t have any other aim than marriage. And whatever work she did was automatically called meaningless. Damned if she did, damned if she didn’t.

Now I don’t know the couple nor do I think all the report writers knew them. But even so, I have a huge problem with the whole description of Waity Katy. Apart from a brief interview with the couple, where Kate herself said their much publicised break up was because of William’s immaturity, no one seems to have ever questioned William much. Of course, he is the prince and he could obviously string a commoner along.

No one seems to talk of the fact that even if he was a normal man, the attitude towards the woman would have been the same. She would be questioned for waiting too long. She would be questioned about why she can’t just move on if marriage is so important to her. She would be asked todevelop other interests and have a life. If she moves on, she would be called impatient and someone who didn’t have the emotional understanding to hold on to a man. If she doesn’t she would be seen as a weak woman whose life revolves around this guy. If after spending years with her unlike William, he dumps her and promptly gets engaged/married to someone else, then the first woman would be jeered at. People will show fake sympathy towards her while at the same time saying that she should have known he would never marry her after so long. There would also be the typical statements like why would be buy the cow if he got the milk for free (yep, please cringe some more).

No one seems to talk of the fact that the guy is equally responsible for the relationship. If a guy can’t commit, the girls are asked to exhibit behaviour that encourages him to commit. No one tells the guy to just man up and be genuine. Some people I know are going through similar things and all of us being around the same age, we keep hearing of something or the other. But rarely does anyone talk of how the guy needs to step up too. Then there are movies like He’s is just not that into you that teach women the right balance between desperation and going for what their hearts want. Yes, gag me already.

The business of deconstructing romance and writing self help books on it is very lucrative. Almost every celeb marriage is analysed in great detail and nuggets of wisdom are given out to women (and some men) on how to conduct themselves to get a mate. But most of these books are targetted at women. Very few if ever talk of men doing their bit to change their expectations and roles as per the changing times. For all their empowerment, in the dating and marriage game, women are still considered at the mercy of the timelines and convenience of their men. If she asserts too much, she will pressure/scare/nag the man away. Its like men are the helpless, dimwit damsels whom women have to rescue all the time with patience/understanding/maturity. Left to themselves, the men are incapable of making any decisions because they can’t/don’t want to talk about it/are overwhelmed with work or whatever other tower that they are lodged in. But they also love this tower of bacherlorhood and do not want to leave apparently. So the woman is also seen as this evil creature who shall take them away from the comfortable familiar into an unknown land, one where they will have to deal with themselves. And oh my, they are overwhelmed.

A lot of the above is just rant, I shall admit. And I know some of those who will read will have some of the same questions to me and may even suggest that I should just stay single (such a convenient defense against so called feminists no?). Some others will probably try to draw inferences to my personal life and wonder if I have such strong opinions because of my own experiences. To them, well, you have the liberty to think what you want.

I have some questions to everyone though:

Is it bad if a woman wants to get married and she follows through on that with consistency? Why is that termed as pressurising, being a gold digger etc etc.

If a career woman also values marriage does that make her weak? And what’s with asking her if she wanted to get married, why did she end up doing some fancy course?

Conversely, if a woman is dragging her feet on marriage and wants to wait, why is she unnatural, but if her boyfriend does it, he is just being sure she is the One?

Why doesn’t anyone ask the guy any questions about when he will get married or get any pointed questions at some random acquaintance’s engagement?

Why does marital status have such a halo, that it makes you suddenly the ‘chosen’ one, the ‘complete’ one?

Lastly if Kate Middleton was called Waity Katy, why didn’t the tabloids call the prince Waffly William?

A relationship is about two people, so the success or demise of it should not always be blamed on the woman. And at the same time, each relationship is different, so judging anyone’s choices of whatthey endure for that relationship should be seen as a personal choice. There cannot be an ‘If I were in her place I would’ because, lets face it, you are NOT in her place.

How couples fight (and make up) :-D

There’s a friend of mine, married for close to 10 years, who tells the most entertaining stories of her fights with her husband. What is entertaining about the whole conversation is that she laughs at the absurdity of the whole fight. Sample this :

Being the girls we are, we were on one of those trips of ‘these men na.’ Any girlfriend/wife worth her salt will have atleast one story of how she found certain things about her boyfriend/husband only after a full commitment or living together. So her husband is a baldie, which she of course knew, but what she found out in the first week of their marriage was that his two front teeth were false! They had been knocked off during his playground days. She recalled between peels of laughter how she ended up calling her father in law jokingly asking him for the husband’s birth certificate. No hair, no teeth, will he now end up saying he is 60, she had asked. She had dated him for almost 3 years before marrying him and the love has survived.

My mother when she was married was told dad had a transferable job. Mother, who had never set foot out of her home state in South India, did not want to stay far away in Naarth India forever. So a transferable government job seemed like an ok option. Till I was about 15, I remember mom bringing up sometimes jokingly, sometimes in a fit of disappointment, during my parents numerous fights, the point that dad had hidden the fact that his job was with the state government and hence non transferable (actually dad’s family had hidden this, dad had no clue of the promises made). She would sometimes affectionately joke about how had she known she would have never married him (now how many wives have made this statement since Eve?)

And then I was talking to another guy friend this morning as part of research (won’t hilarious instances of silly marriage fights make a good book?). I was asking him how they solved their fights. Sometimes he said the silences would go on, the maximum it went on was a week and his wife was the one who would just not talk. So who breaks the ice, I asked. And he says, well, sometimes I get some favourite thing of hers home, sometimes she cooks something for me and the reconciliation is slow and steady. So by the time we are fully reconciled, we don’t remember who made the first move, he concluded. Aah to reach that kind of zen feeling.

Then there is the sleeping on the couch fallout, made famous by various American sit-coms. The Indian version of it, says my colleague, is when the wife doesn’t cook food and he is forced to go hungry. The show where I loved the way conflicts were handled (yes I know it is fiction, not real life) was Home Improvement. Just loved the way the couple would use the neighbour as a sounding board but eventually come to their own conclusions based on their love for each other.



However this is one couple (I vote for gay marriage) whose fights have entertained us always :



I have always been curious about why people behave the way they do, including yours truly. So help me people with funny/not so funny stories of your fights with your significant other, I gotta book to write 😀

This happened to me…

A lot of blogs are doing commendable work in bringing out various issues about the traditional oppression of women and the ills of our patriarchial society. While I see the point in talking about these things and the awareness that is necessary, what I fail to grasp is the increasingly complaining attitude that characterises some of these blogs.

Some parts of our society are far more backward than others. I understand the need to educate women/men who didn’t even know that they had such rights. That is something that needs to be done. Many in our society don’t even know they are being manipulated because they are conditioned this is the right thing to do. However, a regular reading of a select few sites, presents a different problem in my humble opinion. That of painting everything with the same brush.

A few of the sites I read had examples of women, who were educated and capable enough to make their own decisions, holding back for whatever reasons. In these cases, the women themselves knew that they are bowing down to tradition, they hate it, but for whatever reason they are doing it for now. There are also sites which talk about men suffering for whatever societal or other constraint, men who are perfectly capable of making decisions, even have the freedom to do it, but not doing so. The underlying theme in most of these cases is ‘this happened to me’ so I cannot do anything now to improve my situation. I feel this is the worst attitude someone can have.

Most of the times when presented with a problem, we all go through a cycle of denying it, minimising it and then a period of despair where we feel we are stuck. In this phase we become whiners, complaining, raving and giving away all our power to our circumstances. The truth is the power is always with us and if we choose to not use it, we should be conscious that we made that choice. I would understand if a sense of helplessness is conveyed by a woman or a man who did not have the kind of exposure and knowledge to even know what their rights are. A significant part of the public lives believing fate and external circumstances are the determinants of our life quality.

But what about the rest of us, who are supposed to know better? Do we just blog about what all is wrong in the society and how that has bound us from doing anything constructive? Or do we talk of how this feeling of being stuck needs to be transcended? What is the point of all that studying and all that exposure if when faced with the same problem, we present the same fatalistic view as those who did not have such opportunities as us? The woe is me attitude needs to change. Also we should be very conscious that we are not enabling someone. It is necessary to acknowledge that one was treated unfairly, but it is much more important to stop making that the only reality of our lives.

What I mean to say is, where do we draw the line between acknowledging the problem, educating others about it and enabling someone to stay stuck in the same pattern? How does one decide that, if at all it is possible?

The month’s up and some random musings about family soap opera

I had given myself a month to do my best for something. Now the month is over. Though I don’t know what all happened, I feel I have given my best shot. So now, its all up to God. I can’t say how I feel right now, the hangover is not completely gone.

Time to regroup. Was just having random conversations with people about idiotic arguments that sometimes family comes up with. It was hilarious all the madness that we inflict on each other in the name of protecting the family, really. So R and I were discussing the wildest things our families must have told us to dissuade us from doing things and surprise, surprise, seems all parents are alike.

One thing I keep telling my parents is to stop watching TV soaps, no wonder their imagination runs wild. R was telling me about how once a simple incident back when R was 13 was taken to the extreme of being thought as life threatening, what it really was just an innocent teenage prank. With me, the examples are countless. Just yesterday I got told not to help a friend with their problems because that could land me in police trouble (this when my parents didn’t even know the exact trouble my friend was in). I didn’t know at that time whether to laugh or to just tear my hair out.

Parents, they all do love us, but sometimes their protectiveness can be hilarious. Especially all the time they keep worrying about us landing up in jail or kidnapped or abused by some imaginary goons (and those of you parents reading this, I am sure you are rolling your eyes and thinking of telling me wait till you become a parent yourself, that’s the n raised to infinityeth time I have heard it so go on :-P). I know they do this because they love us, but sometimes it just makes one wonder what’s the point of living if you are forever going to be scared of living. I know that they haven’t done so many things because they were just being careful. I haven’t lived that way, I would rather feel the pain or disappointment of things not working out rather than live a life wondering what could have been.

R and I had a great time yesterday laughing about how filmy our families could get, heartening to know there are others going through the same drama. When you grow up isolated and limiting your interactions to stay safe, you limit your experiences and also limit yourself from getting the feeling of brotherhood or sisterhood. And that’s when you start taking everything seriously and because you don’t know there are others going through the same shit, you tend to feel victimised as if you are the only one. So not true. And in any case, as Bugs Bunny would say, don’t take life too seriously, no one gets out alive anyways.

Letting go of the story

They say everyone has a story about themselves and of the world they inhabit. For some of us the world is a curiosity and we are forever marveling. For some its a dangerous place and we are forever scared. For some others its a chaotic place and we are forever trying to make sense.

But we also have stories about ourselves. We define ourselves by these. We may think we are victims treated unfairly. We may think we are too clever for everyone else. We may think we are weak. We may think we fall short of expectations of others. We may even think we are responsible for all the bad things around or that if only we could change things somehow.

All of these beliefs, these stories, keep us awake at night, worrying about how what we said or did under the influence of these stories affected the rest of our lives. Every once in a while, we come across someone who would challenge us and make us look at how we tell these stories about ourselves and hurt others and ourselves. This person could be a rival but most of the times is a loved one. We then step into the eternal dance of blaming ourselves, our habits, parents, God even to confirm how our stories are true. We love our stories so much that we don’t give them up even in the face of evidence. Some of these stories are passed on to us, some we develop over time.

But the thing I have realised now is these stories play out only if we believe them. Someone may accuse us or imply something about us, that hurts us only when we believe it in some part. We needn’t even have done such a thing, sometimes our own goodness or habit of giving things a benefit of doubt may make us think that’s what others thought of us. I have seen brilliant and compassionate people think that they were not doing the best they could. Probably they bought into someone else’s story about them. The key is not believe these stories. Maybe the person who said that was just momentarily upset. Maybe that person was projecting their flaws on you.

What also hurts is when your story affected someone you cared about. Its tough to forgive yourself for hurting someone. Yes, you learn for sure this time that your story about yourself was utter rubbish, but is it worth it if it comes at someone else’s cost? You cannot change what happened, you can only apologise, but you may not get restitution. Time to throw the story away totally. No story is worth hurting anyone.

Confusion to clarity

Dear IHM’s blog has become some sort of an advice column these past few weeks and it is helping a lot of people. However I wish, she had this post about a confused youngster 2 years ago when I was going through the same situation. One of the comments by Suranga, is how I see the dark years now. I wish I could read all this advice back then and I would have been spared of the constant fights with my parents who didn’t really understand the dynamics of the world in my generation, while I kept on crying to them about it.

When things are muddled, they are very muddled. But when you gain clarity, suddenly you see how you have been contributing to your own negative feelings all this while. 2 years ago, I had just completed a couple of years as a journalist in this big vast city. It had been 4 years since I left the confines of home, wanting to do something different. In these 4 years I had been through a cosmopolitan college where I got judged because of my clothes (yes it happens) and my naivety. Looking back it was like one of those Lindsay Lohan type chick flicks, my college life, but back then it all felt very serious to me. This feeling of being disconnected remained with me even at work. At work in this metro, I was the only one left now who was from a different city, living here alone, without family. If not family, others had boyfriends or girlfriends or a huge troupe of friends. I had always had difficulty making friends, some strange feeling of otherness would make me think that no one really wanted to be friends with me. Maybe it was this thinking or maybe it was just a flawed interpretation of events, I used to be in a lot of situations where I was the one left out from some group meeting or get together. I took it all to heart.

No surprise then that the person I got involved with was someone who seemed to be struggling too. Only I didn’t know that this person was going to be abusive. When I finally got out of that relationship, I was staring at a mess called my life. My career wasn’t going the way I wanted. Love life was not up to the mark. And as I had started analysing my life, staring back at me was the imperfect relationship with my parents, the feelings I had suppressed since childhood and all the pent up anger since teenage. I wanted to quit, run away. I wanted to go back to my small town because things were so much better there. People were not so mean as they were here. But then I would be reminded of all the reasons why I left my hometown and I would feel miserable, sorry for myself.

What most of us dont realise while recovering from grief, in the initial period we start questioning everything. Everything seems wrong, everyone seems to be conspiring against us, the world seems to be unfair (which it is to some extent) and there seems to be no solution. And at the same time that we question everyone else and deride them, we hate ourselves. We think we can never do anything right, that things will remain the same, that no one cares about us so there is something deeply wrong with us.

It was during one such rant with a top management person that he calmly told me that the world is not as bad as I think it is. People are not that bad. It struck me but it wouldn’t sink in. But I remember thinking I will heed this advice. It took me some more time and meeting some new people before I realised things are not as bad as I felt they are. Even in the worst of times, something or the other was working and not just that, I was doing fine. I could have ended up as one of those eternal victims or the addicts or anything worse.

It took a lot of effort, a lot of crying, a lot of blaming to finally get tired of it all and realise that even if no one else did, I had to care for myself. I won’t say I have fully understood life, but I have realised what is important atleast. There will always be someone who seems to be doing better, but the fact is you don’t really know where are they having to work hard. At the same time there is going to be someone who is doing worse. The key is to stop feeling bad about yourself, to stop expecting perfection from yourself. Things are not perfect, they never will be. But like someone told me recently, what are you going to do about it? Cry about it or see how you can manage the bad situations and get a good enough outcome?

P.S.  I had initially thought of going into all that led happened in the last two years, who did what and how I arrived at the conclusions I have now, but then I felt, all of that happened, doesn’t really matter. Looking ahead with hope 🙂

The princess who couldn’t sleep

Remember that old story? There was this princess who couldn’t sleep. The king said whoever would be able to put her to sleep would get a grand prize and maybe even marry the princess. Many people came and tried singing lullabies, telling her stories, getting her potions etc, but no one could get her to sleep. Finally this young man came who simply rearranged her bed covers and found a pea amidst the soft cushions which was making the princess uncomfortable enough to lose sleep.

So why am I retelling this story? Since morning today, I have been getting drawn into some drama that I had thought I was long over. Its not my drama anymore, but I hadn’t counted on the fact that its manifestation even in a stranger’s life, could make me react. This could be the pea I am talking about.

But then that’s not really the case. I am not the princess here, neither am I the young man. I am that mirror in the princess’ room, the voyeur, who is just looking in. So what is the problem? Like any drama addict, I can’t seem to look away. I have to keep looking, keep analysing and try to figure things out. Only there is always something new that comes up.

You are free to do what I feel is right

(Disclaimer : This is a general rant and might lack coherence, names are representative.)

Couldnt resist laughing out loud when I saw this cartoon on the Tam Brahm marriage market. Though it talks of a certain community, I believe it is true of most Indian families. Parental approval holds a vice grip in the lives of children. The most common ways in which this quasi modernism is thrown at children come up in the treatment of women and choice of marriage.

From personal experience I can say that most Indian parents want their girl child to be well educated, but this is just so that she is eligible for the marriage market. Oh but there are perils of being too well educated, then she wont find anyone you see. Also she will start having ideas about freedom and identity which will be dangerous. You see in the marriage market, they want a ‘homely’ (oh how I loathe that word) girl who also earns. So what is the typical requirement for a new age Indian bahu, the one that the IIT/IIM guy’s family wants? (note all these points are courtesy the I-am-looking-for-a-bride-for-my-son maami’s checklist)

1. She should ideally have a post graduate degree but should be ready to throw it all and work from home once she gets married.

2. She should be comfortable wearing western (strictly jeans and tees, maybe a long skirt occasionally) and traditional clothes (after all she has to look Indian when she meets the elders na?).

3. She should be able to converse in English fluently but not better than her husband, she certainly shouldnt be the kind who has independent thoughts and ideas. (a blogger? surely she must be too modern)

4. She should know how to drive, after all when the guy is busy earning the huge money, someone should chauffeur the parents to the temples and all na? (yes, someone I knew had this rationale)

And well the mamas who are looking for a good mappillai, well they have only the IIT/IIM requirement. Other jobs are not jobs you see. Also beyond a point the maamas know that the mapillai is doing him a favour by marrying his hapless daughter, something he acknowledges in the kashi yatra ritual in the wedding (a ritual in the wedding where the groom pretends to be going off to Kashi to live a celibate life but the girl’s father persuades him to stay on and marry his girl instead, yeah comical I know).

But the interesting part is that most Tam Brahm kids grow up with an illusion of freedom. While they are in school and college, they are given all the freedom to pursue the best of educational qualifications (of course studying the arts is out of the question, that is against the basic DNA of a Tam brahm, you can do that if you are a girl though). Tam Brahm parents take great pride in ‘encouraging’ their children to go out and study at the best institutes and actually dont mind even when the girls go to a different city to study or pursue a job. But that is where the freedom ends.

The poor Tam Brahm kid becomes aware of the invisible Laxman Rekha much later, probably the first time he or she returns home after a stay away from the nest and gives innocent accounts of the hostel life. Shiva, shiva, this foreign culture is destroying our children so much no? And God forbid in the illusion of freedom the child actually chooses a life partner for themselves. Then all hell breaks loose. And hey this happens even if the child chooses a fellow Tam Brahm, trust me on that. In such a case there might be some silly excuse like horoscopes or even the plain we just dont like this specific boy. You can marry who you want, but…..

Its very interesting to see how Tam Brahm parents expect their children to be an adult and fulfil all other responsibilities on their own. They are known to brag about how their child has never borrowed any money from them after moving out. They also brag about those oh-such-a-charade corporate awards the child gets in office (yes maami I know all about that silly looking gold medal your son gets every year just like everyone else in the company). They brag about how independent the child is in making career decisions. And yet when the child broaches the topic of marriage, he/she is suddenly told they are too young to think of it. God forbid, the child has a different time table for their conjugal life than what the parents deem as the right age (yes, yes, I have even got the which child tells their parent about their wish to marry?) Suddenly the child knows nothing, is being fooled by the girl/boyfriend. The child whose rational thinking in career choices was praised is suddenly reduced to a hormonal teenager. (You didn’t do it, did you, is the question many of us have faced the moment we indicated an interest in a member of the opposite sex or even are you thinking of marriage because something happened). If none of this works, the guilt tripping starts. The whole nine yard of ‘we let you stay on your own because we trusted you’, ‘you dont know the ways of the world’, ‘we have done so much for you and you cant do this much in return’, the list is endless.

The Indian definition of liberty is freedom within limits, which is actually no freedom at all. There is this constant fear of what the ‘duniya’, ‘log’ and that maami in a kancheevaram who gossips at every wedding will say. Most of these maamis are nowhere to be seen when one needs a word of encouragement or any kind of help and yet, lives are dictated by the fear of their wagging tongues. And oh, whatever version of evil she is, this maami will always get an invite to every function just because of nuisance value. We Indians I think are gluttons for punishment, the ones who say the vilest words are the ones invited everywhere.

And God forbid you made a wrong choice of life partner, you had a breakup or worse a divorce after a love marriage. Then you are done for. You will never hear the end of ‘I told you so’. On the other hand, dont even think of questioning the fact that the cousin Ambuja who had an arranged marriage also split up from her husband. That has got nothing to do with anything. The villian is not compatibility, the villian is love marriage. Ambuja’s parents might have made a mistake but look at Triveni, Ramya, Bala etc etc, all of them are so happy. (Never mind that these three arent as bright as you, havent studied as hard as you, oh hell, that is the problem isnt it, you studied too much, so this argument wont click).

The guys, well, the guys will always be told that the girl is after their money and status. And anyways, who marries a girl who is so ‘forward’ that she has a boyfriend? He will also be told these modern, city girls don’t make for good family girls. Don’t you want someone to be at home when you come tired after that board meeting? Don’t you want someone who makes that beautiful rangoli every morning, does one nice poojai and never raises her eyes in front of us, your parents? So what if she does not gel with the rest of your modern lifestyle, she can always learn to adapt, but these city girls, they never adapt.

And occasionally the girl will be shown this ideal Tam Brahm girl who is managing home and career and making so many compromises. Look she also studied in a different city, but she never had an affair (umm was she too boring or just scared of aunties like you back home?) Girls are supposed to be ‘well adjusted’, after all in our times (sigh) we also made so many ‘sacrifices’. But what makes you think what worked for you, will work for me too? Its not as if there were no broken marriages back in ‘our times’. What about Lakshmi maami and Velu maama who after years of pretense finally stopped talking to each other after the children married and settled abroad, each now stay with a different child?

What angers me is the pretense, the whole warped idea of modernity, clothes, luxuries, degrees, etc are considered to be indicators of modernity. What about the modernity of ideas? What about true education? What about an enlightened outlook? Baah, that is ‘too modern’ for us no? And well the ultimate lame excuse is of course, ‘Athu ellam Naarth Indian families pazhakkam, namma Tamizh culturekku otthu vaaraathu.’ (All of this modernity might be happening in the North Indian families, it wont work in our Tamil culture).  

As I finish writing this piece the TV is playing that oh so funny Salman Khan song – Main karun toh saala character dheela hai 😛 Kinda apt, dear maami?

Are you capable of helping an abuse victim?

IHM’s last post on victim blaming had a lot of people talking about their views on what victims should and shouldn’t do (note the use of should and not can or cannot). There were people who were accused of sympathising and thereby enabling the victims, there were those who claimed to be angry at how weak some people are and why they couldn’t just get out and there were a few who chose to be objective empathisers. There seemed to be some people who seemed to feel that they had burnt their fingers by helping an ‘ungrateful’ abuse victim who disappointed them by going back to the abuser. Now this is where I want to elaborate about how, when and whether you can help an abused. There are certain things one must keep in mind before going on there brandishing the sword of goodness 🙂

1. Why do you want to do it?

You might say what kind of a question is that, of course I want to help the abused. But while our conscious mind gives us this reasoning, what is important is to know what is going on within us. Some of us have a Mother Teresa syndrome. We think that God put us on earth to sort other people’s lives. But what differentiates us mere mortals from a Mother Teresa is that all the help gives us some sort of a high. It makes us feel important and we do it more to be perceived as a good human being rather than to help the other person. In this case, we could become over zealous in ‘helping’ the other person, only to realise that there were many dynamics that we missed out on. We may even blow out of proportion certain instances as abuse. So determine what is in it for you. If there is nothing and you find that you care about this person and that’s why want to help, please go ahead.

2. Are you over the abuse you faced?

Some of us feel strongly about abuse because we have gone through it. But if we still carry the wounds of the abuse, we may not be able to objectively assess the situation of the person we are trying to help. Also if we are not over the abuse yet, seeing something similar happen to someone else could trigger some leftover depression and helplessness within us. Please remember you can only help someone else when you are sound enough. Also never help someone at the cost of your own peace of mind, that is counter productive and reeks of codependence. Self preservation is not selfishness.

3. What is your level of patience?

Helping a victim requires a lot of patience, because you are dealing with someone whose self esteem and basic concept of life has been twisted around by the abuse. It may so happen that they may not get what you are trying to tell them. It may so happen that in their confusion they may lash out at you. It may so happen that they take ages and ages to realise the truth of their situation. Are you ready to stand by their side, seemingly helpless or unproductive and lending only an ear to them? Will you be able to not take it personally if things don’t go well? If so, go ahead and help them.

4. Will you be able to handle failure and uncalled for blaming?

Though you may have the best of intentions, sometimes you will not be able to extricate the person from the abuser. For reasons best known to the victim, the victim might decide to go back to the abuser and nothing you say might help. Infact, the victim might resent you for pointing out the obvious problems. The abuser might gang up with other family members and blame you for being a ‘bad influence’. Is your self esteem good enough to handle this objectively and also to know that this is not your fault and that it is problem of the abuser and those who enable him? The victim herself might blame you for ruining her family unit, will you be able to handle this uncalled for criticism and know that you did your best? Or else things could go horribly wrong while you are trying to help the victim. Often abuse escalates when the victim tries to leave. At such times it is important for you to know that the victim was not harmed because you tried to help, the abuser would have harmed the victim anyway. Often abusers also end up maligning those who help the victim and they could start a smear campaign against you. At this point too you have a choice, whether you want to stick to helping the victim or preserve your reputation and there is no harm in bailing out.

5. Are you ready to lose the friendship of the victim?

Helping an abused is tricky. Some research says that it takes about 7 attempts for a victim to leave and everytime the victim returns, things start once again from the honeymoon phase. During this phase the abuser might convince the victim that they will be treated better and that they don’t need people like you. The victim also might feel embarrased about facing someone to whom they have badmouthed the abuser. In all such cases, the victim will now avoid you and may even cut all ties with you. Even if the victim does leave the abuser, you might end up as a reminder of those bad days for them. Sometimes victims try to move on by cutting contact with everyone connected to that period of their life. So either ways there is a chance that the victim might not want to be in touch with you, will you be ok with that? This is a possibility you need to consider before jumping into the fray.

6. The victim may not act grateful

After getting out, the victim may not act as grateful as you think they should be. The victim might acknowledge your contribution in helping them get out of the relationship, but they may not act ‘indebted’ to you. They may even rationalise that in the end it was they who got out (which is true in a way). Do not expect the victim to act like Nirupa Roy in a 70’s movie blessing someone who got her a piece of roti. Infact, treat it more like Neki kar kuve mein daal. Don’t expect the victim to help when you get into something similar either, like I said above, for the sake of not reliving those days, the victim might not be very empathetic towards other victims. Also though the victim is better off, they have not settled in the new life yet, so when they hit a roadblock there, they might end up blaming you for making their life difficult. Don’t take this personally.

7. The victim might get more praise for getting out than you might get for helping them out

Ok, have to admit, this one is inspired by Emma and the various screen adaptations of the novel. Sometimes people around you might applaud the courage of the victim and not talk about your helping the victim at all. They might do this for their own reasons or it might be that they believe everything boils down to the individual. Also victims who get out might find a new strength in themselves that makes others respect them a lot. There might also be people who give them more benefit of doubt because of sympathy. Will you be ok with being a stage hand when the victim is enjoying the spotlight? This again boils down to whether you helped the victim for the sake of helping or to feel nice about being a do-gooder.

The most important thing to remember while helping is to be objective. Also help is about the victim and not about you. And there is no standard type of victim. There might be some who appreciate your help and there might be others who dont. Just because someone rejected your help, doesn’t mean they are weak or bad, neither does it mean that every other victim will reject your offer, the reverse also holds true. Every person is different, so its best to take these things as they come. The best way to help is by spreading awareness in whatever way you can, that in itself might create a subconscious impact on victims. And last but not the least, do not judge anyone else’s life by your perceptions. What holds true for you, will never be true for others.

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