As the Fan Creaks Me to Sleep

Sometimes I lie awake at night — well, I’m sorta border-insomniac so most nights I lie awake at night — and just ponder over stuff as the gentle hum of the air conditioner soothes my ears.

At times, I think about all the things I’ve gone through, all the weirdness that is my life and the way(s) I handled or manhandled the situation(s). Y’know, little ‘Notes to Self’ for the future, so to say.

At other times, I think about society – just people, in general. It’s funny how selfish the world can be  and yet, most fight anything anti-social tooth and nail to fit in. It’s astonishing how many people leave good sense and go along with herd mentality. It appears that the want to be appreciated by the masses swallows the desire to be internally fulfilled.

And, most are unaware of this cyclical battle between the Spirit and the Ego. Lives are recycled, souls reincarnated, aimlessly wandering, devoid of thought processes, ignorant of their reality. The world seems like a whorl of directionless souls. Even being mis-directioned would be a step towards the correct flow, a foothold to veer the black hole of nothingness into the Light.

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Still, there is a glimmer of hope. The outliers who look at themselves. The ones who really see their potential and go for their goals, sans everything, sans anything. There are the few who just have an idea, a goal or a fetish, even – all consuming desire or a willingness to do what they set out to, to complete the opportunity they possess. These are the people who bring the Light, bring life, bring everything a little bit more into line.

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Whatever I may be thinking, I always aim to look ahead as I drift off to the land of dreams (Some of my dreams are quite disconcerting, by the way).

So, let’s look ahead – we have a life to live.

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Virtue, Thy Name is Undervalued

Everyone everywhere complains about disintegrating society, the erosion of culture, customs and religion and the gaps between youth and everyone else. However, as pertinent as one finds the aforementioned issues, there seem to be deeper problems one needs to look at. Most of us have witnessed people cutting queues, seen a ‘hit and run’, vehicles speeding and not following traffic signals, the list is endless. Heck, most of us have indulged in one or more of the same!

The fact of the matter is that today virtues are largely forgotten, even mocked by most. Here are a couple of fast disappearing mannerisms, soon to become characteristics of the days of yore that are rarely practiced, seldom valued but, largely (and incorrectly) projected by most in society :-

Being Polite: Rarely do people bother to thank servers, cleaners and housekeepers. Scantly does one see a lady get up and offer her seat in a crowded public transport vehicle to a frail old man. Hardly do you see a young man let an old lady go ahead of him in a bank queue because he’s in a hurry to get his cheque cleared and go clubbing to celebrate his payday. Politeness is hugely undervalued, rarely encouraged and the polite are seldom respected and given the same treatment. More often than not, most polite folk are taken advantage of, mocked for being gracious and often considered easy targets for bullying.

The Polite, Kind and Humble Tree Shades the Weary Traveler

Kindness: A grossly under-rated virtue, kindness seems to be on it’s way to oblivion. Very few people are able to identify kindness, let alone appreciate or practice it. Most students think the ones who offer to carry something heavy for a professor must be doing it to butter them up. (The sad part is, most of them are.)

Gratitude: Few people are grateful (fewer can spell it right), more and more people are accustomed to privileges and think it is their right nay, their birthright, to have access to amenities like food (pizzas and such stuff), education (private colleges with dubious accreditation), transport (customized Hummers) and relaxation time (vacations to places which are ‘Facebook album’-worthy). However, a handful actually thank their parents, God, teachers or anyone with heart for giving them the opportunities they have. Perfunctory acts of gratitude such as the annual New Year card, Thank You note or hug are found aplenty but, real gratitude is hard to find today and, sadly is going the dodo-way. In fact, instead of feeling gratitude, most people feel obliged to help someone who has aided them in something at some point in life. Some don’t feel that either.

Humility: ‘If you have it, flaunt it’ seems to be the mantra today. One-upmanship rears it’s ugly head in even the simplest of things and keeping up with the Joneses is a matter of principle in most societies. Everyone is trying to make it obvious that s/he travels first class, dines at the best places with the creme-de-la-creme of society and has more visa stamps than s/he cares to count. Name dropping, brand-toting and showing-off are the current norms. Also, sometimes one wonders if people are trying to show themselves in better light or put each other down.

Knowledge and Learning Take a Backseat to Achievement and Winning

Knowledge: Perhaps the saddest case of all, knowledge or learning is an extremely undervalued virtue today. Schools train to achieve rather than learn, parents coax the bewildered student to get into a top institute as opposed to following her/his field of passion and peers deem a dedicated classmate as a nerd and bully her/him to no end. Most students score well but, application-wise they’re somewhere near zero. Rote learning rules the roost today. The majority of school and college goers have no idea what they’re studying, why they’re studying what they’re studying but, they’re all running to outdo the other.

Wisdom: Not many care about what the wise woman/man has to say but, show them a cunning woman/man and look at them run to get her/his counsel. Sadly, wisdom is considered as outdated as the IBM PC. Experience and learning leading to wisdom resulting in holistic development is fast being replaced with acquiring and manipulating leading to profit, corruption, cunning and exploitation for singular gain.

Wisdom Looks On as Youth Barely Notices

It is time to take a good look at the mirror and see where we, as a global society are headed and give virtues the emphasis they deserve in our lives. A strong society is made of more than high-flying corporate honchos. A virtuous woman/man is truly the only thing that has ever saved society in times of dire consequences.

A world with those who hold scant value for values will be of little value. It’s time for society to pull up it’s socks and look at leading holistic, meaningful and fulfilling lives as opposed to comfortable yet, empty existances.

Five Insufferable Things To Be Passionate About

1. How You Look: You’re freshly tanned, very nice. You just got RiRi’s bleached blonde ‘do, very hip. Flashed everyone your perfect pearly white grin? Very cool. Just gave the plumber a booty tooch to show off your taut ass? Very in. Now stop it. You’re coming off as ridiculous, not to mention fake. FYI, nobody’s thinking about your ‘wonderful’ assets. They’re all thinking how humongous a loser you are.

Frankly, you’re not that great looking. You may be the beauty/hunk of your family and/or workplace and have these folk fawn over you (or be ‘jealous’ of your fantastical features) but, here’s the truth, honey; Though you may qualify for a second glance (based solely on your Kith and Kin’s evaluation), that’s pretty much where it ends, ‘kay?

2. How Others Look: Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and you my dear, have Madras Eye in that case. No one asked you if XYZ looks nice or not. Don’t dump your inaccurate and condescending beauty scale on anyone patient enough to listen to your cockamamie. Who’re you to decide if the ‘traditional’ looking girl you saw looks like a country ho? I doubt even Anna Wintour stands a chance against your caustic (and inaccurate) tongue.

Oh, and not to forget the ones who go to great lengths to stress how much they do to look better than you. Their weekly spa treatments are up on Twitter, they go on about their haircare routine like it’s a matter of international importance and their Facebook photo streams (in the ever popular ‘duckface’ pose) of their new YSL flapper dress never end. Ever. And, these factors apparently give them the upper hand in style, fashion and beauty. To you, only one thing needs to be said – quit judging people, you’re not so hot yourself.

3. Who You Pray To: Okay, so you believe in Jesus/Allah/Bhagwan Ram/Gautam Buddha. You pray diligently and observe your religious customs and rituals flawlessly. Commendable. But, why are you trying to shove your beliefs down someone else’s throat? There is no need to mock somebody’s God just because you think yours is better. Isn’t there just one God, many avatars? The main point of prayer and tradition is inculcating peace and discipline in one’s life, isn’t it? Frankly, no one’s religion is ‘the best’ simply because all religions are the same.

Islam = Hinduism = Christianity = Zoroastrianism = Buddhism = *Insert Religion Here* 

It’s high time you realized religion is a way of life, not a way of condemning others’ lives. Your faith and God are important to you, good. Just remember that the other person’s beliefs are just as dear the her/him. If you’re confused, go back to your Holy Text and refer to the part about respecting others. Yes, it doesn’t matter which Holy Text you revere, they all have the same teachings. It’s just the chronology that differs, hope that clears up the mist in your mind.

4. How You (In)Tolerate ‘Outsiders’: There’re all kinds of people in this world. They’re all the same; they’re all different. So, don’t annoy everyone by proclaiming your countrymen are superior. You’re as idiotic as the next immigrant. Don’t generalize Italians as womanizers. Don’t classify Pakistanis as terrorists. Don’t call Indians ‘job stealing gits’. Quit blaming ‘the west’ for ‘spreading homosexuality’. Quit harassing fee paying Indian students in Australia.There are a million contrary examples that pass you by but, your shitty tunnel vision catches only the flaws of said groups.

Also, a desi (Indian, for the uninitiated) take on this: Just because you’re from Assam doesn’t mean you’re hot stuff and if you’re from Gujarat don’t think you’re the next Ambani – it means you’re suffering from a ‘regional halo effect’ (coining my own term here). All you idiots in New Delhi calling every dusky girl a ‘Madrasan/Geek/Kolaveri Di’ and all you sycophants in Chennai advising anyone who mentions the humidity down South to leave the city, you guys are closet regionalists. All you great thinkers who riot around *Hint: RSS* throwing out the people who come from out-of-town to make a livelihood in Mumbai, go screw yourselves.

5. How You Are Better Than ABC: So, you think you’re all that, eh? You’ve got a minimum wage salary and are currently ‘living it up’ in a shared apartment with three Asian dudes and you think you’re better than Bob from across the street (because he’s just a struggling musician) and you miss no opportunity to highlight your assumption. Reality check: In five years’ time, Bob will own a duplex, a yacht and have a Swiss bank account whereas you’ll remain stuck in your $30,000 p.a. job.

Just because you’re bangin’ chicks left, right and center like Hugh Hefner (doesn’t mean you’re minting money like him), quit showing the sweet nerd down ‘cuz he’s on his way to a happy ending and you’re going to get AIDS. Just because someone is being kind enough to not point out what a massive asshole you are, don’t think you’re a rockstar. All you are is a train wreck waiting to happen.

Seriously, think about how insipid these issues are and how much time most people spend obsessing about them. Be passionate about stuff that matters, like the environment or politics. Get a life, do something meaningful.

Mass-Produced Mentality

I was reading a piece on Dhirubhai Ambani recently. His flight to glory and prosperity is commendable and his attitude was (and is) as well. The Late Ambani Sr. was a keen observer of human society and an assiduous student of human psychology in practical life. I was particularly struck by one of his observations on ‘broadening one’s mind’.

“Suppose you and I go to the Taj to have drinks,” he [Dhirubhai Ambani] explained once.  “One bloody drink costs sixty-five rupees.  But all the same we have a few drinks and come out as if nothing has happened.  If a person from my village comes to know that I have spent five hundred rupees on just a few drinks, he’ll be shocked.  He’ll say this fellow has gone mad, saala company ka diwala nikaal deyga.  What I am trying to say is that I have developed a broadness of mind which my friends in the village cannot think of having.”‘ – ‘Business Maharajas‘, Dr. Gita Piramal.

This observation makes sense. However, I think narrow-mindedness is not limited to villagers. Prejudice, narrow-mindedness and conformity are rife in society, particularly Indian society. I have always wondered why most people are so petty and close-minded about the smallest of issues. I think it is safe to say that most people today are guided blindly through life by the dogmas prevalent in society. A fervent desire nay, need to ‘fit in’, be ‘normal’ and do the ‘right’ thing makes people bow down and accept things as dictated by societal norms. This didactic system leading to sartorial compliance sickens me. Even in metropolitan and cosmopolitan cities, societal narrow-mindedness far exceeds personal freedom. The judgmental approach opted by most in modern day society not only limits personal freedom but, hinders societal progress as well!

Parents often encourage their children to go in for Science or Commerce related fields as opposed to the Arts. Why is that? You may say, professional degrees offer stability in one’s career. However, actors and singers also make good money. Your rebuttal may be that that sort of income is limited to the fortunate few. Most people in such industries have a hand-to-mouth lifestyle. I’d like to point out that it is only a few M.B.A.s and Ph.D.s who can actually afford jets and yachts. Most ‘professional degree‘ holders are struggling today with Rs. 3.12 lpa packages and 18 hour long work days. The probability of a person prospering hardly alters depending on the degree s/he holds.

Most families are so mind-numbingly conformed that they hardly look at the educational and career prospects awaiting their children. Either the kids are pushed into pursuing the family-run business or hounded to choose ‘stable’ professional career tracks. India churns out 3.5 lac engineers every year (data includes engineering diploma holders). Most are frustrated and refer to themselves as ‘farjee’ or ‘ghanta’ engineers and slave in low-to-mid level jobs. The ingenious few find a way to nurture their talents and at least pursue them at some level.

Those who are successful are almost always the ones who go after what they are passionate about, period. For instance, Ms. Kiran Majumdar-Shaw, founder and CEO of Biocon is neither an engineer from IIT-*Insert city-appropriate alphabet* nor does she hold an M.B.A. from Yale. She is, however, deeply passionate about brewing. This, plus the fact that her parents encouraged her to enter into a male dominated bastion without crumbling to social norms gave Majumdar-Shaw the conviction to pursue her dreams.

Which brings me to my second point: societal norm – based prejudice and bias.

Boys are encouraged to explore, experiment and are given the chance to make decisions early in life. This inculcates a sense of confidence in them and they learn to gauge the risks involved in a situations through trial and error. Also, a lot of pressure is put on boys to excel in academics.

For girls, the societal laws and bylaws leave little or no room to breathe in. They are constantly pushed to learn how to cook, clean and groom. Even if they are bright and studious, it is preferable that girls opt out of professional degree courses and pursue degrees such as ‘Home Science’, ‘Nutrition’, ‘Fashion Designing‘, etcetera. They are conditioned to be religious and servile. They are hardly given a chance to explore the world or make their own decisions sublty, making them co-dependent. Girls are mostly kept indoors after dark, they have strict codes regarding attire and are discouraged from having too many male friends. I don’t endorse becoming a ‘hoochie mama’ but, if equality means having the freedom to go drinking with male buddies in tiny clothes (as long as one behaves responsibly), so be it.

Looking deeper, I realize that narrow-mindedness of this kind shows how insecure and untrustworthy people have become. It’s as if they don’t trust their own good sense and their loved ones’ choices! I remember when I was an Undergrad student, a girl’s dad stormed into a pub, slapped her in front of everyone and dragged her out by the ear reprimanding her lifestyle, behavior and – here’s the crucial bit – her disregard for what others would thinks. May I point out that the girl I mention was dancing with classmates (all girls) and was respectably dressed. My point is that her dad actually humiliated her in front of a crowd, not because she was in bad company or was indulging in substance abuse but, because he wanted himself and his family to look good by projecting a socially apt lifestyle. He didn’t want anyone to point a finger at him or become the laughing stock of society. Here’s a helpful hint uncle: Expecting people to respect you by becoming subservient to society prototypes is the mark of a coward and a fool. People effortlessly raise a finger toward the coward for they know s/he will not react and well, a fool is always laughed at.

Keeping up with the Jones’ takes up half of people’s time and keeping a toe in line occupies the rest. This juggling act results in self-doubt, half-baked opinions and an unfulfilled life. Alas, no one sits and contemplates the source of their misery. People divert their depressed selves from their sad boxed-in lives with gizmos and feel-good contraptions. They start becoming mean and petty. They indulge in gossip and spreading rumors. They revel in the misery of others while priding their own ‘spotless’ image in society. People start comparing. They compare everything and everyone in every fucking way, first by societal norms and then by their own personal yardstick – which is obviously the model belief system that everyone ought to follow as they are model citizens, righteous and pious as they come.

For instance, when I was in Grad school, I clearly remember this one incident when we had ordered pizza for dinner after our exams and I had ordered my favorite, Pepperoni pizza. In India pork, beef, venison – basically any meat other than chicken or lamb is frowned upon. As I ordered, the server authoritatively said, “It’s Pork, Ma’am” challenging me to order it once I knew what type of ‘predicament’ I was getting into – he apparently thought I didn’t know much about meat. Of course, Indore is a small town and a High School educated young chap can be forgiven for his lack of judgment at times (especially ‘coz I set him right with my famous narrow-eyed glare – patent pending – after that). Since I went to a respectable Grad School and my friends pride themselves on being forward and modern, no one jumped on me accusing me of being a ragamuffin or anything of that sort. But, one girl excitedly gesticulated, nudged and exclaimed to the others as I placed my order, “Look! Look! Yeh pig ka meat hai!” I saw the glee on her face as the others grimaced; As though she (and the others) was the embodiment of prudence and culture whereas I was some sort of barbaric monstrosity who ate flesh off swine and calf alike. In my defense, I consider meat as well, meat. I eat whatever I find appealing gastronomically. I don’t expect others to find my tastes palatable. Neither do I coax them to ape me or adhere to my beliefs. But, the incident made me realize how little a difference a ‘top’ Grad School education had made on such socially conformed people!

I’d like to point out the symbolism inherent in the aforementioned incident. People in the West eat meat of all kinds all the time. I’m not suggesting Indians emulate Westerners. I’m merely stating the fact that the bias that exists towards a non-issue such as meat in India stems from no logical reasoning. People don’t eat beef here as the cow is considered sacred. Pork is considered ‘dirty’ by Moslems, hence it is frowned upon as well.  By the way, Moslems eat beef and it is acceptable. You ask anyone why and pat comes the answer, “Yeh mussalmaan log aise hi hotey hain. Gande log hain yeh.” (Moslems are like that, they’re dirty people.) But, if a Hindu eats pork – which is actually not sacred or condemned in Hinduism, idiots not unlike this former batch-mate of mine are quick to label her/him uncultured. Why? Is there something more potent than religious or social sacrilege attached to this simple act of consuming pork or beef? If no, is it clinically proven that pork or beef makes one deranged, impotent or is it cancerous that it is ‘shunned meat’?

As far as religious compliance goes, there’s a lot to say. However, keeping with the theme of the post, I’d only like to state that religion and culture are two entirely different practices. They may appear to intersect at points but, they do not. In fact, the only reason the seem to do so is because religion is portrayed through culture. A simple analogy would be religion:culture::food:spoon. (If you didn’t get that, I suggest you go screw yourself.)

My point is that how many people bother to separate the two? Very few. Most are just spoon-fed (See what I did there?!) values and social convention. India, as a society, discourages people to probe – figuratively and literally, question and challenge orthodox beliefs. These manifest, brew and become tendencies. Religion, cultural practices and belief and Indians’ pride of tradition and legacy have pushed Indian society into a quagmire infested with prejudice, shortsightedness and intolerance. These mindless beliefs are contorted by the cunning to fleece the common man as well! Vote-bank politics is a classic example to illustrate this ugly truth prevalent in India.

Another more close-to-home example would be the ‘modern babes’ and ‘cool dudes’ spilling over every sidewalk in metros. You can hardly walk two feet without bumping into ‘Ed Hardy’ clad assholes playing ‘Angry Birds’ on their ‘iPhone – version 4.943’. These young guns look uber chic and sophisticated. Up until they open their mouths. I don’t mean they spout ‘Rapidex English’. (In all fairness, some of these mall-hoppers could benefit from such resources.) I imply that their outlook has not changed much. They may have started donning fancy labels but, that is where the transformation ends. When it comes to having a modern outlook, these people are still attempting to swim over from Quadrant IV (Refer: Co-ordinate Geometry). In fact, the only only reason most of ‘Gen X’ looks and behaves a certain way is in response to media induced pseudo-westernization. And because everyone around them dresses and speaks the same way. Since the neighbors have an LCD-TV, Mr. ABC must have one. Since 70% of the teenage girls in the neighborhood wear thirty-five different types of cosmetic products, so must you. Because society is trying to get a face-lift, overweight aunties are too.

Sheep. That is what people have become. To such people, I say: Fuck you, assholes for you know nothing on your own and have nothing of your own, you merely judge others on the basis of what society has fed you. You neither know what you think because, here’s the thing – you don’t think. You merely follow.

Rant aside, the more pressing issue here is how this sort of conformity makes one devoid of new ideas. Innovation is lost in the wake of generalization of thought and a guide-lined thought process is mere intonation of societal belief. I think what is really happening due to social conditioning is that restrictions are resulting in cookie-cutter ideas that are neither challenging nor revolutionary. They are merely repackaged socially approved doctrines. Spontaneity is being lost with every social canon which, by the way, is outdated today. Of what use is the knowledge we have acquired? Confucius said, “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.” Similarly, education without application and following sans questioning the path is a futile and harmful exercise!

Moreover, restrictions due to ‘societal fundamentalism’, as I like to call it (Yes, I’m coining my own term again), result in stagnation or protest. Our parents have already taken the route of stagnation and it has not yielded well. Now, the youth is brimming with aspiration and is starting to rebel. It is time society reworked its rules and updated them to suit today’s youth’s needs. And I don’t mean superficial transformations where girls are allowed to wear short tees because Mrs. Mehra, Mrs. Taneja and Mrs. Fuckity-Fuck allow their daughters to do so. I mean real, institutional framework related metamorphosis which is built along the lines of equality and individual freedom of choice.  Because, at the end of the freakin’ day, I deserve to breathe. And, so do you.

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…

A few days ago, a friend and I went to watch a movie. There were people of every kind there – teenagers trying to be cool and all that, couples cozying up to each other, loners, losers (the kind who whistle when anything with a vagina and mammaries comes up on screen), families, extended families and friends (not unlike us) catching up after a while. There was a sense of gaiety at the multiplex, a listless yet comforting hullabaloo that made you feel alive and part of something bigger. They were all looking forward to their movie of choice, an evening of fun and relaxation with their loved ones. The ones flying solo were hopefully, looking forward to spending some quality time by themselves. In fact, if I may digress, few pleasures exist as the pleasure of solitude does – where one can enjoy an evening exploring things one likes, irrespective of  commitments to another.

Anyhow, the convivial atmosphere was infectious and exhilarating. The movie was fun (the snacks were more fun). As we left the multiplex and aimlessly ambled along the mall making small talk, I couldn’t help but notice the milieu around us. I saw their faces – the sadness, the worry, the indifference and the occasional smile. What change in that five minute time frame! Why though? It is but obvious that one cannot live in a multiplex, even if one is a movie aficionado of the rare and extreme kind. I saw the smiles being replaced with the expression of reality. I had to ponder for a while before I figured out the exactness of the emotion related to that expression and, then it hit me: ‘self-worthiness’. More importantly, the degree of ‘self-worthiness’ present. I agree that it’s a peculiar term but, pray allow me my literary licence.

Self-worthiness may be defined as what weightiness one assigns to oneself. It is more often than not guided by societal guidelines, cultural value, one’s familial beliefs (non-religious, mostly) and one’s moral compass. And, most people I saw were projecting quite low degrees of ‘self-worthiness’. If I may cite an illustration, I saw a lady, I assume she is of limited means on the basis of her general appearance, running after her four or five year-old son, an expression of mild dissonance and an odd tiredness on her visage. She looked resigned, defeated, purposeless. It was as though she was chained to her mediocre life and all the limitations that came with it. And, most importantly, there was no sense of self-worthiness in her. Her entire focus was on the boy and on getting him to eat some fancy dish at the food court and letting him play thereafter in the kids’ section while she hurriedly gobbled up the leftovers for sustenance to drag the kid home, make him do his homework, cook, clean and serve dinner to her family.

One may say, this seems nothing out of the ordinary. After all,  parents look after their children. But, that is hardly my argument. I saw on the face of that woman, a despondency that was echoed on most others’ as well. It was an emotion bordering on the despair experienced on failure and that of trudging along despite it but, not for oneself as I gleaned further. The nature of this failure was peculiar. Not a failure to provide, not a failure to prove something or anything to the world but, a failure to oneself. That feeling of looking at yourself in the mirror everyday and being happy that you have achieved something worth your while for yourself – your very own moment of worthiness, a tribute to yourself. That. That was missing.

That sense of self-worthiness is what is missing in most people’s lives today. I do not say that people do not achieve anything worthwhile at all. By all means, a lot of people achieve great, if not more, things in life. However, the conjecture I put forth is that is your achievement reflective of the best of you? Is your achievement what you desire? Is your life’s path that of self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction? Or are you stuck in a rut, doing what needs to be done to make ends meet, appeasing family and friends, reserving your aspirations and desires due to societal norms, limiting yourself due to familial constraints and narrow-mindedness? Do you look into the mirror every morning and wonder, ‘I see a broken reflection of myself. But, is the mirror broken or am I?’

I looked at that woman and I tried to give her a ‘title’ or a ‘position’ of her own. Alas, I could only ascertain her to be ‘wife to so-and-so’, mother to ‘such-and-such’, daughter to ‘X-and-Y’ and, so on and so forth. Not one of her roles in life was hers and hers alone. I looked around and saw countless people afflicted with the same sense of dependence. Of insecurity. Of indistinguishable lives. Of half-hearted dreams. Of undisclosed desires. Of buried aspirations.

I looked at that woman and I saw how her life was slowly passing her by and she was giving it away, partly voluntarily and partly because she was afraid. Of what? Of losing even the minuscule sense of self-weightiness she possessed – that inkling of ‘mattering’ to the world for her was as an auxiliary fragment in her society. I looked around and saw countless people facing a similar conundrum. Indian societies‘ entire lives go in rearing the next generation. They pray that their progeny does something worthwhile and makes a name for the family. They exhaust their entire resources and sometimes even more, all in the hope that their daughters (though in most Indian societies daughters are given limited or no importance at all) and sons may bring honor and glory to their family. And I think to myself, what about these people themselves? If the time and effort spent on raising possible rather than probable success stories was spent on creating a self-worthy individual, would that not solve the apparent vicious cycle in motion and, gathering momentum, may I say? Why not spend your resources on yourself as well? I am not suggesting denying one’s young, I merely ask you to satisfy yourself as well!

Why, you ask? Why spend time and effort on yourself when you have probably settled into a comfortable shell already? Because you matter. Your perception of yourself matters. It matters to you and to society. A deflated ego, which is an obvious by-product of self-unworthiness results in echoes which affect more than you and your immediate family members. This increases pressure that the younger ones in the family perform better which in turn results in unhealthy competition in society. The anxiety is self consuming in itself! For instance, the sheer pressure on the youth of today to perform has driven university admission cut-offs to 100% in 2011 (Source: University of Delhi). As a result, a number of second grade institutions like IIPM and Amity have sprung up to fleece families, armed with a grainy, dual-tone dream of expensive sounding degrees and diplomas. More and more people are clamoring to get viable employment, not just in India but, globally. Teenage suicide rates have risen exponentially in the past ten years. Is the pattern not clear to us yet?

Instead of burdening one’s children and younger siblings with unbridled expectations, I first ask you to look at yourself and ask yourself, ‘What right do I have to decide this young child’s future? Is it fair on my part to expect this girl/boy to achieve my dream when I myself have not persevered?’ I looked at some of the faces of the people in that hustle-bustle and saw laziness, conformity and delusional hope. And I saw the teenagers who had come along with their parents. Their fresh young faces had already started to show signs of strain, of unmet expectation, of the suppression of their own dreams, of the slow dwindling of their own desires. I saw them turning into their parents, one small step at a time. Waiting to fail themselves, waiting to live with dissatisfaction, waiting to transfer their expectations (or their ‘family traditions’) onto the next generation, waiting to dissolve into oblivion. And I thought, what pointless lives.

Instead, I propose to mend what is broken. So I say, let us look within. I urge you to reflect and fish out that ambition you once held so close to your heart. That young individual who dared to dream, who had stars in her/his eyes, who was willing to persevere for whatever s/he thought to be her/his true calling. Pull her/him out of the abyss of lost hope and renew that lifeless part of your soul. Do what your heart desires, make a name for yourself. It’s never too late. Do as much as you can, so that when you look at yourself, you can justify who you are, what you’ve done and what you’ve become with pride and love for yourself. Live your life, for it will allow others to live theirs as well.

Well, that’s all for now. Ciao!