Exploring Self Worth…

Sitting at the airport for a few hours the other day, I was consumed with one prevailing thought. Everyone seems to be trying to be someone. You have the business suits, the cool teens, the frequent fliers, the first timers, the couples, the families, the backpackers. Some people dress nice but look so depleted, so sad and forlorn. And that got me thinking about what they really think of themselves vis a vis what they want to be seen as.

The concept of being born for something. A reason. A purpose. To make a difference.

Does there always have to be a reason for it? What about being born to just be?

People talk about making a difference to the world, adding value to it. They say you are born for greatness. To accomplish. To help. To make something of yourself.

What if all of this was nothing but a bunch of lies, possibly invented to comfort someone. Only somewhere along the line, it has now become a universally accepted belief; one that does nothing but put an enormous amount of unnecessary pressure on each of us to ‘achieve’ something. A thing that will justify one’s very purpose of existence!

What if all one ever wants to do is live a life full of peaceful existence? Away from the crowds? What if all that matters most to someone is to love someone – child or partner or… Does this make one less worthy? Less significant? Less deserving? Must the stamp always be on a sheet of paper, that can be framed on a wall, hopefully preserved by generations that follow, as evidence of purposeful existence?

I almost find it alarming that almost everyone on this planet is expected to have dreams – dreams of things they want to achieve. Why should they?

What if one’s dream is to never become a parent? Or what if one’s dream is to be the most supportive, eternally loving and understanding spouse to their partner? Why does that automatically raise eyebrows or make people assume that this person is weird, submissive, spineless? Is it not an ‘accomplishment’ to love? To love for loves’ sake? No boundaries. No motives, no hidden agendas, no divisions. To just be the greatest giver of love (without intending to be)?

Why must we be ambitious about goals and materialistic things? I may be perfectly happy living my life without fighting for things and attention, reducing this constant need to struggle, to push, to compete; in order to be or have something deemed fit by society. Does that make me a loser?

We seem to have forgotten a most essential thing to our core – we are not defined by things we have/got/made/accomplished. Or in today’s world, by how many likes or followers we have. We are defined by who we are.
So really, who are you?

-Ramona Arena 2015.

Where shall I point my finger?

‘Congratulations!! It’s a perfectly normal and healthy baby girl!!’
Most people would be thrilled to hear that. But then again many would consider that to be a disappointment, a burden, a result of bad karma, a tragedy or a reason to get pregnant again, hoping this time the Gods’ won’t curse you with another girl child.
I’m not here to judge, I’m just thinking out loud and trying to understand – why for generations, a girl, a woman has been seen as an inconvenience, not just by men but by women too. So this time, I’m going to place the ball in your court and ask you 6 questions. Take your time and think about it. I would love to hear what all of you – male, female, young, old etc have to say. And of course I know I am generalizing here – there are exceptions, but we’re looking at the larger picture.
*Please don’t reply with it’s our culture/tradition/religion; unless you have actually read up on your culture and can send me facts to back up your statement. Facts don’t include what your parents, teachers, guru babas said.
1.     Why is it expected that a good wife will cook, clean, look after the house, bear children, attend to them, to her husband, his family and tend to every need each of them may have and go to work whilst a good husband will go to work – all else is beneath him?
2.     Why is this ‘good’ wife an even better one if she quietly bears the brunt of his stress – be it emotionally, sexually, physically or mentally?
3.     Why is a single woman frowned upon and called a slut if she enjoys sex, but a single man is patted on his back and called a stud if he does the same?
4.     Why is it so hard for single, independent women to find apartments to rent whilst if there are men, it’s no problem at all?
5.     Why is she a bad influence, not a fit candidate to take home to ‘mother’, if she wears clothes that show skin, lives her life her way, has lots of male friends, tattoos, parties, smokes and drinks?
6.     Why is she too much to handle if she isn’t afraid to stand up for and be herself? Why is her opinion not worthy of being voiced?
I know most urban women will relate to at least one of these questions. We have all experienced these situations directly, seen it second hand within families, amongst friends and with house-help too. I know a lot of men who seem very liberal and open minded but when it comes to their own wives, sisters or daughters, something kicks in and everything that was acceptable suddenly isn’t.
If you could help me understand why we as a society (again not just men) discriminate against our own, I would be able to find peace and make some sense out of what we are doing to ourselves. It’s easy to point fingers, bash, blame everyone and the government!
But before I choose sides in a seemingly never ending blame game, I just want to ask –
How many of you mothers have knowingly defended the wrongs of your sons, husbands and fathers; how many of you have oppressed your daughters; secretly favored your son over your daughter – yet she is the one you expect to look after you in your old age; taken abuse silently – verbal or physical; judged other women based on their appearances?
How many of you women have thought it was okay for your mothers to behave this way? And let it continue?
How many of you men have treated women badly even in the smallest way? Accepted parents/ in laws hitting their grown daughters? Thought certain women need to be taught lessons? Told a woman how to behave/dress? Asked for dowry? Expect her to do all the housework? Watched women get teased, tormented, harassed in public and just walked away minding your own business?
I state again, I am not judging or condemning anyone here. But if there is an inner voice that (despite the obvious external discomfort) identifies with an ‘I have’ to even one of these questions, I think it’s time that we remember to look deep within each of ourselves, before pointing fingers outwardly.
There is no denying – A change must begin.  But it only begins within – regardless of religion, education, social standing, wealth and gender.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…

Hello India,

I write and speak straight from my heart. I am no one, just an ordinary citizen writing to you… my fellow citizens – old, young, rich, poor, Hindu, Musilim, Jew, Brahmin, Dalit whatever… I hope I can touch you and make you believe in everything I feel and believe.

I write this from a purely human and emotional space after going through, seeing and hearing different stories from so many girlfriends of mine about abuse, threats, violence and teasing. It leaves me shocked, numb, upset, angry and in fear. Fear that it could just as easily have been me. So bear with me.

Yes, India has a corrupt government, the police, municipal corporations are understaffed, not motivated and justice – it may come but it’ll take at least a decade thanks to the backlog. So yes, India has problems. Big, major, serious problems. But then again, which country doesn’t? Who in the world doesn’t have problems?

I’m not justifying it or supporting it. Thing is, what are YOU – in your capacity – as a citizen of a country with so many problems doing about these problems? It’s easy to feel like your hands are tied. I’ve felt like that a million times. I often think of how tedious a process it will be to clean and fix things, for some sort of change and order to come about – and I confess I sometimes feel like saying forget it, let me just get the hell out of here so I don’t need to deal with this anymore. No one cares, if they want to rot, let them. That maybe its best I just keep living in my own little bubble to have some peace. But then again, I can’t. It is my country. If I want a change, I have to be the change. In my own way, in my own capacity. And it will take time.

If we look at the all the negatives and then also balance things out and look at the positives, we will find there are TONS! So many amazing selfless people, giving up their careers to help others, others volunteering and helping. I have been fortunate enough to meet just a handful. 

I recently met Sonal from Magic Bus India. What a lovely lady. Once heading Channel V, she’s now given up her career to help our children. Her argument is we have the infrastructure in our country, we have laws but no one bothers to know what they are, how we can improve things, what our basic rights are even! In this respect, she has opened my eyes for which I am truly grateful.

Magic Bus has been doing great work – read up on them. See how they are using sports to teach children who do not come from posh backgrounds about gender sensitivity, treating women as equals, manners, politeness, hygiene etc. Its amazing! Read about Mathew Spacie. A foreigner doing SO much wonderful work – again giving up his job for Indias’ children, Indias’ future, Indias’ development as a ‘whole society’. If you want to go play football or whatever with kids and brighten their day, see how they are taught about life through sports just go to any one of their 12 centres across India. (http://www.magicbus.org)

Apoorva from No Nasties is another amazing soul. The farmer suicides in Maharashtra bothered him so much, he quit his job and started an organization that makes Tshirts custom made that everyone – you, me, every company can customize prints for. I can personally vouch for the quality, color and feel of these Tshirts. If you can’t be activley involved , go buy a Tshirt from them. Sacrifice a coffee with your friends and just do it!! (www.nonasties.in)

There’s Muktangan who are trying to change the way children are educated in government schools. Amazing selfless people devoting their time and skills to help children and parents learn and grow. If you sing, play an instrument, paint or have a skill, just go to one of their schools and spend 2 hours there showing it off and inspiring their kids. (http://www.muktanganedu.org/www/)

There a million other stories, people and organisations that are doing a lot of good. But they need to be backed. They need our support.

The biggest problem in our country is education. The lack of it and the way in which it is given. Everyone knows the 2 biggest influences in our country are Bollywood and Cricket.

So when one is in a powerful position to influence others & can make a difference on a larger scale, one HAS to be nothing less than responsible. It is disappointing to see the kind of messages sent out – maybe not directly by them, but via them as at the end of the day, it is their names that are on the project. I’m referring to the outcry about RaginiMMS2 and its official FB page.

I reacted and was most upset when I first saw it too. But I’ve had time to think about it – I’m guessing being as busy as she is, Ms. Kapoor has a marketing team that has been hired to take care of the content. I’m sure Ms. Kapoor must not be aware of the things being written on the page by her marketing team, because as a woman, a citizen and a human, I refuse to believe that she could allow something like this to be written. Especially at a time where a verdict is the topic of discussion for a horrific sexual crime and the Mahalaxmi gang rape amongst others is still fresh in our minds. Besides, there’s no denying she is an intelligent, smart, educated and well brought up person from a good home.

The text, seems to be encouraging men to ‘tease her’ ‘being a little flirty won’t hurt’ and that ‘a dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste. So, use it’. THAT is what is atrocious! The pictures are fine, lingerie is fine and being sexy, feeling sexy is all great. I have no issues with pornography even.

Theres another pic on www.facebook.com/RanginiMMS2Official that says ‘Fear is the new sexy’. 

NO!!!!!!! Nothing about fear is sexy! And yes its a horror film and a sexy film but you cannot combine the two to create tag lines like these!!! We know the demographic that is being targeted with these pictures & accompanying texts – they will think its fun and cool to instil fear in a woman – that women want it!! We do NOT! 

We do NOT want men to use their dirty minds – hasn’t every woman suffered enough for that? 

Is it not possible to have tag lines that are separate, instead of trying to use fear and sexy together? For example: ‘Sexy has a whole new meaning’ for one and ‘Get ready to scream’ for another etc. I’m not a copy person but you get the gist.

So please Ms. Kapoor, there are countless selfless souls who have given up careers, and lives to put in hours of hard work for education, awareness & gender sensitivity. Without keeping a check on what your team is doing, there is a very serious and horrid message reaching the lesser educated people, endangering the lives and safety of even more women. And with the reach and power of Bollywood, this message just erases all of the hard work and sacrifice these amazing souls have made and keep making.

Change starts with each one of us. You, me, mother, father, brother sister, aunt, uncle, friend, lover, child. Let us all be responsible, a little more alert, a little more attentive to the things we say or do. We live in a land where most people aren’t taught, they don’t know better and are easily influenced (Eg: Asaram). We can help and as educated citizens of this beautiful land, it is our responsibility to reach out & help each other in the smallest possible way. 

Let us all take baby steps… all of us together. For Indias’ sake, for our sake. Anything, in any capacity is a start. I have faith and I love my country.

Thank you for reading this, I know it was a loooong one.

R xoxo

12th September 2013, Mumbai.