The Leftover Pizza

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Archive for the category “Karma”

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 😛

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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.

The dichotomy of the ‘liberal’ Indian parent

Just read this piece on parents of daughters and their attitude towards marriage by IHM. Triggered a lot of things I have concluded about Indian family system till now. Will be talking more from a girl’s perspective only because I am a girl, but I do know a fair number of guys also face similar attitudes with respect to their work or other life decisions.

A ‘liberal’ Indian family is mostly a dichotomy (exceptions might be there, but they are rare). Post feminism, educating one’s daughters has also become part of a status symbol. For many first generation feminist ideology inspired mothers, the drive to see the daughter as a very successful career woman is higher and while this is a good thing, the problem is the increased expectations from the child. The girl not just has to be a good girl (read sanskari, agyakari etc etc) but she has to excel in studies. To justify the fact that she is a worthy enough human being she has to try twice as hard as the boy next door or the mamaji’s son to be the absolute best student. The messages she receives right from childhood are that when it comes to career and education she is as good as any boy. The girl generally grows up in a bubble of equality.

But just after she becomes an adolescent the bubble suddenly starts going pop. Suddenly there are restrictions about what she should do. She could study yes, but not that particular course, its manly you know. When she questions the equality, she is told that well she was always brought up to be an equal, but there are some things that haven’t changed in the outside world and so this is for her safety.

Then she grows up, sometimes rebelling and going on to do the job or course that her parents thought would make it tough for her to get a husband later on, stuff that renders her less ‘homely’. Now she has more competition to handle, that from the ones who didn’t rebel and lived on to marry someone and have happy marriages. God forbid she is having problems at her work, she would be told you were the one who chose it (this I believe happens even to boys who choose a career that their parents didn’t like). What parents fail to understand is that the child made a mistake and is not asking you to clean up his/her act, all they are saying is to have the confidence that they have the unconditional love of their parents in whatever they do. Of course, conservative parents (read control freaks) would say that what the hell are you talking, we are parents, we don’t want the child suffering later and that is why we are asking him/her to stay put or do whatever we deem is right because of course, we know better. Lets get one thing clear the parents are not wondering if the child might not be able to handle it, they are more concerned that they might not be able to handle the so-called societal glare. It is about being called as ‘failed parents’ because the child is not a super star.

Also all ‘liberal’ thoughts vanish when it comes to marriage. If she has had a love marriage then she has to bear the consequences. If she married someone of their choice, then she has to ‘adjust’ and many times she is told how ‘education’ has turned her head or has made her expect too much. Even when it comes to the job, it is not easy if she says that she made a mistake and wants to quit and figure things out for a while. The whole discussion in both the cases is about how they have grinned and borne everything that life threw at them and so the daughter should also.

The biggest fear Indian parents seem to have about their children is about them ‘failing’ to live up to some social expectation. It doesn’t really matter if the child is happy there, but the ‘appearance’ of happiness or success is what is important. Log kya kahenge rules everyone’s lives. It is also the tragedy of the abused that they become as insensitive as they accuse the abusers to be, by asking others who are being abused to just grin and bear it. This is praised in our popular culture as resilience. We  look for that one fairy tale where the ‘patient’ victim finally managed to change the abuser and we pay no heed to the actual reality of the abuse. We infact encourage the victim to live in denial because we ourselves want to live in denial, its the only thing that keeps the status quo intact and after all if the victim goes through the same shit and remains there, it will be easier for us to justify why we remained there. It will be easier to say the world is unfair and ‘accept’ it and live isn’t it?

Karma and vindication

When we are faced with troubles, when people are being mean to us, we do one of two things, we strike right back or we stew about it, the inner critic sometimes telling us that we deserve it or sometimes digging our heels in trying to take on as much as possible all the while blaming the other person or wishing they would change, sometimes working even harder to please.  At some point however bitterness takes over and we realise that we are suffering while the other person is enjoying their life. That is when we entertain revenge fantasies and one of the things that prevents us then is probably the old theory of Karma – like begets like and that one has to pay for one’s sins.

All religions talk of this in one way or the other, if not on earth, then punishment in the fires of hell. Now we have two ways of processing this. The first way is of reacting to every situation with the other person, with a sense of moral superiority. We are nice to them, we do everything the same way, we smile, take care of their kids, pick up slack for them, everything just like before. But now, we are secretly smiling. We are trying to prove ourselves as the better person. Its like revenge by proxy. We know someone up there is keeping count of all the bad things the other person is doing, just like we are. And we also mistakenly think that for every good deed of ours, the other person is getting a negative marking. We enter into a phase of spiritual pride and pride, even if spiritual can make one a hideous person. One of the best examples of this is in one of Agatha Christie’s short story The Edge. It is about this plain woman who secretly loves a gentleman, but he goes and gets married to much younger pretty girl. The woman later finds the pretty girl having an affair with someone. The rest of the story is about the woman’s feeling of vindication and how it plays out between the two women. Read it to know how the woman’s superior sense of self righteousness brings a gruesome end. The point being that one cant live a life being self righteous about everything, thinking we are better than someone else just because we follow all the rules.

But what if we dont get self righteous while banking on Karma? Then we could fall in to the next trap. We do live our life, but we keep waiting and waiting to see the other person suffer as we have. We could be the most successful person in the world, but we are not happy, because till the other person is miserable we think we are a failure, that God has been unkind. We get many gifts from the universe, we could be content with our lives, but instead we choose to look at how the other person is still standing. We want to see them get the fruits of Karma, just the way we have imagined it should be. Many times, we dont even have any contact with that person anymore, our lives have taken us to far better places, we dont even hear much of them, yet we are waiting for that one off-chance remark by someone we know about how they are suffering and are now regretting what they did to us.

My problem with this second approach is that it does nothing for us. Say the jerk who robbed you of all your money or the one that broke your heart does come back and beg, full of regrets, how will it help you? Yes, you might feel vindicated, you might feel that satisfaction for a day or two, but what after that? Are you going to get back those days you spent feeling miserable? Is this person’s apology going to have make any lasting difference to you? And now that this person has apologised, are you sure, you will now be happy always? Most of you would have answered no to these. And yet, our ego tells us to look for that vindication that we were the ones in the right. Think again, does it really matter?

I wouldnt say that we need to forgive the ones that have hurt us. That is a little too high and mighty. What I do mean is that we need to build our own life, move on from all of that and focus on us. By focussing on the karma payback what we are doing is still focussing on their life. We are still comparing our lives with theirs and finding ours lacking and even if its not lacking we would swear it is till they get their Karma.

Also there  is a high possibility that we really dont know if the so-called cake walk life they have is just our perception and not the truth. Maybe they are getting the Karma paycheques every other day, but its just not made of the same stuff that we imagined it should be made of. We dont know what their conscience, if they have any tells them. And if they havent got any, that is actually the fun part. I do believe that what goes around comes around. But if a person doesnt have the conscience or the empathy to know themselves or others, when karma hits them, how would they even know why something happened. And when you dont know what the cause is, you probably cant take any remedial measures can you? How is that for Sweet Karma, you dont know what hit you, so you dont know how to proceed further too.

See, you will have the last laugh, never doubt it, provided you focus on building a life focusing on your laughter, rather than on whether they are crying or not.

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