The Leftover Pizza

Daily life Pizzazz, some nuggets, some fun

Archive for the category “Women”

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 ūüėõ


If women should be like Sita, men should be like Ram (i.e. when he met Surpanakha)

So I get back to my desk after the field work¬†and the TV is blaring about Mallya Jr.’s comments on the woman who was molested. The first headline to scream out at me was that she was drunk. Oooh wow, so it seems even Page 3 foreign educated personalities also defy liberalism, despite their so called exposure.

Women are generally blamed for asking for it. The woman of course threw herself at someone else, so this means she is cheap. So women are taught how to avoid attention, how to be coy, how to attract only the right type of men, the list goes on. And of course, she has to be like Sita.

But I wonder why no one ever asks the guys to be like Ram. No, not the Ram who sacrificed his wife to appease some tattlers, but the Ram who rejected the advances of Surpanakha, who transformed herself into a beautiful damsel. Legend has it that Surpanakha fell in love/lust with Ram’s good looks. So she tries to entice him by transforming herself into a beautiful young damsel. And what does Ram do? He finds it funny but at the same time seriously tells her he is taken and not interested. And just in good humor asks her to try her hand at his brother. Laxman gets way too angry and cuts her nose off. That’s the legend.

So how come, no one teaches young boys to deal with women throwing themselves at them like Ram did in this case? Why aren’t boys taught to make it clear that they are taken (or are waiting for the right one)?

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.

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?

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 ūüôā

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 ūüėõ 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 ūüôā

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.

Confusing empathy and victim profiling

A significant confusion in the minds of most abuse victims arises when a once beloved person, who was so attentive and loving, turns on them. This is generally the first step in the escalation of abuse which could take any dangerous turn later on. The shift confuses the hell out of an abused and everytime he/she thinks of breaking free, the memories of these ‘good’ times come to haunt them and they think that the abuse is just a temporary phase and the abuser will treat them better if only they did what the abuser wanted.

The initial show of empathy is what is known as victim profiling. Abusers need to hook the victim and for that they need to know the victim’s weaknesses very well. Just to give you an example, say you meet the abuser in a party, he (I use the male gender just for convenience, there are female abusers too) will probably be the first person to notice that you are uncomfortable there. Normally you would feel grateful that there is someone to chat with you at a party where you dont know too many people. So the talking begins. The abuser might be very charming, trying to draw you out. Mind you, he might even have the reputation of being someone who is very chivalrous towards women. So you think wow what a gentleman.

After the party, the abuser will be the first person to add you on to facebook or any other social networking site along with some ‘cute’ or witty message. You are flattered despite the niggling doubt that what makes him so friendly to you (yes, yes, every victim sees the red flags and dismisses it). This will be followed by days of being all pally with you, being there for you, helping you out when you are in a sticky situation, giving you ‘surprise’ visits and all of this will happen pretty fast. They would want to speak to you everyday, they would use words like you are valuable to them etc etc. During all this time the abuser is actually noting down little points in his head so that he can push your buttons effectively when the abuse starts. This is also a smokescreen so that when you question the abuse, you can be reminded of how good they have been to you. There are also these little nuggets they let you in on their life, some lost love, parental oppression and the like. In most cases, only those issues which they know the victim is also going through are let out. This is the phase where they railroad you into trusting your emotions in their care. Big mistake but one that many of us make.

Most victims are empaths or codependents who have been brought up with the idea of self sacrifice. So these acts of extreme chivalry actually look natural to them. They feel they have found a kindred soul. And this is exactly what the abuser wants them to think. But once the abuser knows that the victim has started trusting them, the game begins. It takes the victim forever to then differentiate what is the truth and what is just an act. This just escalates the abuse and makes the victim feel trapped.

The only remedy to this is to approach dating a little conservatively. Yes, love at first sight might exist, but its always better to trust someone after they have consistently proven themselves to be trustworthy. One or two acts of being ‘helpful’ in the beginning are no indication. The real test of abusers generally is when the first instance of disagreement comes forth, if they can view it as just a disagreement and not make it a relationship make/break deal, there might be hope. But if the person shows severe mood swings and a sense of being the only person right in the relationship, run with all your might.

Seeking validation

Always been my downfall this trait. I slogged my you know what off to always be acceptable. School topper, girl who followed all conventions, traditional Indian girl, the works. Got out of home to get to the cosmopolitan big city and all that had to change to be accepted to the new definitions of acceptable. Now acceptable was pseudo-modern, pseudo-liberal and all other pseudos you can think of. One has to be very careful about not becoming truly modern, liberal and all that, because then people called you communist or rebellious or all talk and no action etc etc. The key word in the corporate world is status quo, all progress, all development, everything has to happen without challenging the status quo. The status quo stays, you may leave.

The trouble with seeking validation is that you are living your life for others. What’s in all of this for you? The moment you have reached a particular point, the goal posts are shifted. You are forever adjusting yourself, forever trying to fit in and nothing is a right fit. Most of your life is spent in trying to seek approval, parents’ approval, boss’ approval, spouse’s approval and the cycle goes on. You pass through each day with a distinct feeling of having not done enough. Oh, by the way you are not supposed to think this much either, its not cool.

Question is, is this the way it will always be?

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?

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