25 November 2010


Read something interesting today.

Ever wondered why some childhood friends got into physical fights or threw tantrums all the time? Why some children are argumentative and rebellious while others are perfectly docile and malleable? Well, the difference is passion. What is passion? Passion is a powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, anger, enthusiasm, etc. It can also be an object or something that we love or desire.

Some of us are gifted with an overabundance of passion. If it does not find an outlet, it manifests as temper tantrums and physical violence. It can be understood if seen in children, but we see it many times in adults too.There can be several outlets for passion. Once you have figured out which one works best the road to a peaceful and calm existence is paved. Indeed, if passion does not find expression, it can turn inside and become destructive. The trick is to leverage it constructively.

For some, it takes a lifetime to discover what they are passionate about, while others become aware much earlier. Sometimes we are astonished by the sweeping change in a childhood friend. Where did she get this angelic 'halo' when she was a fire-brand rebel while growing up, you wonder! You can be sure that this person has learned to harness her passion creatively.

20 November 2010

Formality in relationships - is it so bad?

Indian upbringing has very little respect for formality. True, we are brought up to respect our elders and to do their bidding unquestioningly. We are expected to touch their feet everytime we meet them. But other than this, formality in relationships is usually absent. When you move to a new neighborhood, a nosy neighbor drops in with a piping dish and does not hesitate to ask every last detail about your family. Are you married? How many kids? Normal delivery or Caesarian?! When a girl is first introduced to her husband's family, she is interrogated about her life so far. If she fails to respond warmly to this kind of informality, she is immediately branded as aloof or snooty. This works the other way too. If there is an older parent living with you - you want to know where he/she went, whom they met, are they dressed appropriately? You basically forget that these are the folks who toilet-trained you, taught you how to tie your shoelaces. And suddenly, you treat them like another child.

Basically there is no room for privacy or 'space' in our culture. And cultures that have it in abundance viz. America - well, we look down upon the family structure they have. "The children out of the house by age 18! Not staying with or supporting old parents! Old age homes! In our country, we have mother's day and father's day everyday of the year..." These are the judgemental cracks you get to hear regarding the Americans - this includes NRIs. Divorce used to be an ugly word. Every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to express an opinion on your marriage. Whereas in the States, no one thinks to question your marital status unless he is intending to propose/date you.

Indians pride themselves on their informality. When they travel abroad, they sing praises of the natural and man-made beauty there but at the same time they wonder at the 'cold and distant' behavior by the natives. Reserve and shyness are negative traits as far as Indians are concerned. Any relationship that does not have passionate outbursts is alien and suspicious to us.

Yes, US. For I too belong to the category that abhorred reserve and formality. I have always found it hard to put my faith in people who cannot or will not express their emotions openly. But over the years I've learned that there is no correct way to demonstrate one's feelings. Some people are good at it, some try to be, and others suck at it or just won't try. It doesn't mean that they do not feel anything. Of course, anyone who has heard of emotional intelligence knows that its good for your relationships, and your health, to be able to communicate your thoughts and emotions effectively. We Indians set a lot of store by intelligence quotient (IQ),  but unfortunately, very few of us understand the importance of emotional intelligence quotient (EQ). Those who have high EQ have mastered the art of LIFE.

There are various factors at play here. No two fingers of your palm are alike. In the same way, every member in the family is different and has been through different experiences. If people accept these differences and learn to live with them, there would be very little friction in families. Besides, its more peaceful when various members in serious disagreement voice their opinions in a more civil, if cold, manner than resorting to harsh, unforgiving words or violence. As long as the invisible line of civility is not crossed, relationships can survive a lot of strain. However, when the basic civilities are forgotten, then in the long run resentment and bitterness set in. What is the point is carrying on such relationships even if you share the same roof as family? It is better to part and be civil than stay and hate each other everyday. There is a certain grace in formality and giving each other space. There are some decisions that need to be taken as a family and some that are very personal. The trick is knowing which is which.

10 November 2010


This happened the other day while we were visiting my SIL's place for Diwali. I was enjoying an afternoon siesta whereas my hubby was babysitting our 10 month old since she refused to sleep. His sister too gave them company. I was awoken to my baby crying loudly. When I rushed out to see what was ailing her, she started smiling on seeing me and clapped her hands. As I picked her up in my arms, she slobbered my face with wet kisses - so overwhelmed was she to see me! I cannot even begin to express how that made me feel.

Its fun watching the play of various expressions on my daughter's face - her joy on beholding something she loves, her fear on encountering strangers or loud noise, her inquisitive look when she finds something new and interesting, her disgust when she tastes something she doesn't like, her anger when she is in the middle of a tantrum and her hurt when I scold her.... The expressions of a child are so refreshingly transparent. They leave nothing to read between the lines.

Why can't we, as adults, express ourselves this openly? When do we lose the capacity to mirror our thoughts while growing up? With the disappearing transparency of our expressions, we consciously lose transparency in our speech and actions too. Somewhere down the line subtlety, tact and cunning replace the innocence of our childhood. We are afraid to show our hurt, we bolster our fear with bravado, we mask our love, restrain our anger and abhor public displays of affection. We do all this under the guise of etiquette and social norms. Unfortunately not only does this increase our stress, it also leads to a lot of miscommunication. And yet, we are touched by the simple manners of village folk or those urban folks who have managed to salvage their innocence.

It is true that society demands all this so that people do not hurt each other through thoughtless speech. And its true also that most negative emotions are hidden due to fear of rejection by society. But perhaps when we teach our young ones to become less transparent, we should also tell them why it is being taught. This may help them to discern when to mask which feelings and when to express others.

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