Ripples of my Reflections

I think, therefore I write

Surreal

Aditi is already 3.5 years old. Where did the time go? I feel like I was just holding her in my arms, trying to squeeze my little finger into her closed fist.

It’s been more than a year since the pandemic started. It feels much much longer that we are living with shut doors, masked faces, and a handwashing or sanitizing habit that we will never forget for eons to come.

I am on a team meeting with my colleague. I suppose he has a 2 screen setup. He looks out at me from me screen directly, while I look at the side view of his face. Such a thing would have caused a real mayhem with my parents, who have not taken to technology kindly. But virtual meetings, toggling video, mute/unmute have become muscle memory now for us.

Aditi already knows how to handle her online classes. The only surprise for me is her level of interest in it. It was a pleasant shock to see her more interested in the online classes than her parents. She knows how to mute and unmute as needed, switch on and off her video for breaks, and leave the zoom meeting after the class is over. 2 months into it and she technically doesn’t need me for the logistics!!

My 1 year old niece knows me as her aunt whose face appears on her dad’s phone every Saturday. She still smiles at me with so much joy as if she has known me in person for a long time. She doesn’t give up trying to catch me or give something to me through the phone either.

A friend’s birthday came up and everyone in the WhatsApp group realized it’s been 14 long years since the day when we took the picture that is our WhatsApp group icon. 14 years and the occasional pings on the group and some isolated meets here and there.

The iconic skywalk that was synonymous of our college’s fame is being removed now and I couldn’t imagine the place without it. Then I realized that it’s been 11 years since I passed out and I haven’t stepped foot in my alma matter yet! I am appalled.

So many surrealist experiences, so little time to process them!

Until later 🙂

Hope

Hope – a funny thing, enables you to go on when things are at their worst. But also disappoints when you keep clinging on to it but things don’t go your way for a long time. I have often pondered if holding on to hope is worth all the hype. However, the option is to just give up and then.. there is nothing else to do. Perhaps, that’s why I always choose hope in any situation, however hard it is.

This year started out fine and the first half of the year actually had me hoping for better things and a brighter life than 2020. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The tide turned for the worse in May 2021 and the following months were some of the darkest ones I had to endure in life. My husband’s health issues and us being alone in Bangalore with a toddler amidst the pandemic were enough to send our roller coaster out of control and things started spiraling quickly.

With humungous effort and strength, I had to make a few hard decisions. I wouldn’t say that everything is resolved now. If I am honest, I can only say that things are going on. That’s about it. Every day passes by in a haze of habitual activities without any real conviction.

At first glance, I can only look at the negatives:

*Hubby’s health is still a worry.

*Relationship with in-laws at its worst. There was not much to work with and it’s become clear that that bridge is burnt for a long while now.

*My daughter is in a phase where she needs a lot of attention and I doubt if I am giving all the love and attention that she deserves.

*There’s no clarity about when we will be able to return to our place in Bangalore and think about a normal routine.

*I am not sure what to decide about retaining our babysitter without availing her services or to relieve her so that she can make other plans for her stable income.

*I haven’t cooked properly in 2 months. I was finally getting to enjoy cooking but at my mom’s place, things are a lot difficult for me to cook. I don’t want to mess my mom’s kitchen quoting my ways. But it just isn’t comfortable to take interest and cook here. So I just let my mom cook and help her with the other chores.

*My grandmother lives with us here and it is getting more difficult for us to take care of her, with her health and memory issues. She is getting worse with her episodes and it is taking a toll on my mother, who is a primary care-giver for her.

Basically, my usual life is put on pause and the resume button is nowhere near to sight. It might seem like a trivial thing to crib about but for someone who is handling as much as I do, for as long as I have, I don’t think it is trivial.

Despite all this, I try to force my mind back to the present every day. As soon as I wake up, I try to tell myself that it is a new day. It has the possibility to bring a positive change. I tell myself that I can think of something, anything that can improve my mood for the day and get excited about it. I practice mindfulness meditation for a while, do my chores, get immersed in office work (something that distracts me positively from all my other worries), spend as much time as possible with my daughter so that her joy and innocence rubs on me as well. I tell myself that if it is rock bottom, the only way from here is up. If it is not, well, it is bound to hit rock bottom soon and then the only way from there is up. All this shows that I still have hope, even if it is the last smidgen that I managed to scrape for the day.

So here I am, trying to end this post on a positive note, trying to make space for gratitude in a life that seems to be full of things devoid of the same thing. Here goes my gratitude list for the month of August:

*Glad to have met my childhood friend and her kid after 7 long years. We just did not have enough time to catch up.

*Glad that I don’t have to brave Bangalore’s unpredictable weather and be afraid every time someone at home sneezes or coughs.

*Glad that my daughter, oblivious to the problems of being an adult, is enjoying herself at her grandparents’ place. She is enjoying virtual school more than I expected, enjoying time with my parents for a longer time than it usually would be, and getting to taste all of my mom’s delicacies.

*Glad that I was able to go out and dine at a couple of my favorite haunts recently. It made me feel like the world is normal for a brief time.

*Glad for the help that I got during a tough time. It might not be unconditional. It might not be ideal but it is there.

With that gratitude list, I am going to carry hope as a beacon for as long as I can and go in search of my life’s pieces. I hope to make sense of the pieces eventually and put them back together.

Until later 🙂

Parenting lessons #1

I must admit, I am a skeptical and a cynical person for the most part. Although, I outwardly appear strong and positive to many, most of the times, I am worrying about something or the other inside. I struggle with keeping negative thoughts at bay and hence I go into a constant loop of overthinking, worrying, and fear. Given this predisposition, you could imagine the level of anxiety, stress, and fear my mind can generate as this horrible pandemic rages on. The only way I seem to be able to cope is to live in denial for the most part while taking all the necessary precautions anyway. I spend my daytime doing all the chores, cribbing and crying over how difficult it is. I spend my nights thinking about my privilege of being able to work and earn from home, having the family safe so far, and having my essential needs met.

As I oscillate between being the ingrate and being extremely grateful for everything I have, our toddler has taken to different coping methods of being cooped inside with no one to play with, her parents always claiming that they have some or the other work to do. I worry about her, her social skills, the impact of this situation on her, her future, and so on. It may seem like overkill but what did I tell you? I am a worrier. If I worry about general stuff, my life, or my husband 50 times a day, I worry about our daughter 100 times a day.

Anyway, today I gave my daughter a fishing game to keep her engaged while I was working. The game goes through the typical workflow of catching a fish with a fishing rod. She claimed that the fish needed water to live and only then she can catch the fish from the water. No matter what I said, she was not convinced that it is just play and she can pretend that there is water. So I gave her a box with water and asked her to put the fish inside it and then play fishing. She was okay with that for a while. Then she wanted to feed the fish. Again the same routine of convincing her that it is not really required as she was going to catch the fish anyway and her denial continued. Finally I gave in just so that I can get back to work, I gave her bits of paper and asked her to use it as pretend food for the fish.

She was finally playing happily when I noticed that she was not catching the fish at all. When I probed her with a few questions, I realized that she was happier pretending that the fish are happily swimming in the water, feeding on what she is giving them than actually catching them and putting them out of the water, thereby costing their lives. She actually reasoned with me that she does not want to catch the poor fish because they would become sad and that they cannot live. (Yeah, she still hasn’t grasped the concept of life-death fully well but to a fair extent).

This whole thing just goes to show how much positivity and hope kids have in spite of being in a bad situation. I know that their innocence and loving nature is what gives them the ability to see the good in everything. Something as simple as the glee when they get a cookie makes them forget everything else. I long for that. I am tired of being an adult, worrying all the time. I wish I could be like a kid, just being who I am, now. I have heard that the way to do this is being mindful of the present and realizing the power of now, but that is definitely easier said than done.

Until later 🙂

P.S: I did an intentional twist with the title. It is not a lesson in parenting, it is a lesson learnt as a parent.

WhatsApp and Sexism – part 2

Read part 1 here.

I couldn’t quite cover the other side of the coin with my earlier post. So, penning down this sequel in an attempt to cover more vantage points.

So when I discussed how lack of social responsibility leads to a trend with WhatsApp forwards that portray men as victims of marriage at the hands of women, I also had a look at the other side. Are there no jokes about men? Of course, there are. In fact, I would argue, the same jokes that target women are the most insulting ones to men. They portray men to be weak dummies in a marriage, they show men as incapable of being independent, taking part in running a household, unable to cook… the list is endless. One counter-point to my earlier post was that men take such jokes lightly. Well, they shouldn’t. If I were a man, I would be terribly offended by this trend. Especially when the men are equally equipped with household, help out in parenting, do everything they can to pitch in. These jokes are totally unfair to them.

If we analyze the direction in which the scales tip when you see the statistics, even with generalization, there are a lot more jokes that target women than men. This, as I said earlier, is just how the meme/joke creation process. Whichever jokes go viral, their themes are the trendy ones. So if a certain theme is more prevalent, we only have ourselves to blame. So how do we achieve balance or equality? There are quite a few ways to go about it. The easier way would be to take everything lightly and make fun of both men and women equally. Or the longer route would be not to use social media as a platform to target any particular faction. Unbiased social media! Well, that’s the dream 🙂

Let’s also look at another way of taking things sportively than to blindly make fun of everyone. Let’s say, a husband makes fun that his wife can’t cook, straight to her face, and she gets back with an equally funny response about him being useless in the kitchen and the family enjoys a laugh. This scenario is less nefarious because it is a personal situation handled directly within the family. There is no stereotyping that all women cannot cook. There is no generalization that all men are useless. This is about a couple/family laughing together over a funny comment about themselves. They know what boundaries not to cross. However, when we take this scenario, share it on all social platforms, influence the audience who might or might not have an opinion about it, that becomes a meme. Slowly as the meme feeds on colored opinions and conditioned mindsets, the boundaries fade into non existence. And eventually it ends up offending some while others say it is not so bad.

Now, let’s go one step further and remove gender from the main premise. Even if a meme is just about how bad married life is, think about the message being conveyed. And if the number of times you listen to this message keeps growing exponentially over the years? It is easy enough to be influenced. After all, we live in the digital age. If we look at a particular brand’s advertisements often, we are tempted to choose it over others. How hard is it for teenagers or younger children to think that marriage as a concept is just a joke? How can we explain to them about the value or culture of marriage after feeding them years of bias? If we are fine with them taking this message in, then we shouldn’t be cribbing about how the culture of this country is going downhill because youngsters no longer want to get married, they prefer live-in relationships and the such.

Social media is bad enough with the privacy invasion, tracking users and their behavior, mining users’ data and selling it for profit. Throw bias and prejudice into the mix and you get one colorful cocktail. One that will make you feel on top of the cloud while actually robbing you of your personality, individuality, and credibility.

Until later 🙂

WhatsApp and Sexism

Of all the evils that WhatsApp represents, sexism is the one that I resent most often. Although I am not an active user, I am (unavoidably) a member of a lot of WhatsApp groups – Family groups, work groups, friends’ groups.. you get it. There is one thing that stands out as a common factor in all the groups, no matter what the group is or who the members are – the never-ending sexist jokes on women, marriage, and how men are victims of these two factors. I experience a lot of reactions to these jokes that range from ignoring them for the sake of keeping my peace to getting into arguments with people who forward these jokes.

Note how I emphasize on the action of forwarding these messages. It is typical of any social media user to think that forwarding/sharing/liking a message does not transfer any onus to them about the message. In my opinion, “Forwarded as received” is the most outrageous phrase that exhibits a total disregard for your friends, family, and other contacts. These memes or messages are created based on the responses they gather. The more they are forwarded, the more they are created. So there is an implicit responsibility in forwarding or liking these messages even if you don’t create them.

The ultimate defense when someone raises an issue, is always – It is just a joke, why are you being so sensitive?, be a sport, and the like. If the argument goes beyond a threshold, they turn it around on you and mention that perhaps you shouldn’t be on social media if you cannot take it lightly. They think they can escape with the lame I-just-forwarded-it excuse.

I am astounded by the fact that none of these people stop to think that they are actually showing their support or their preference for these messages by forwarding it. It is not about taking a joke. It is about taking a stand. As a set of generations who experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media first-hand, is this the message we want to pass to our next generation? Let’s think for a minute – our kids read such information and consider this bias as normal. Our daughters will think that it is normal for them to be made out to be a joke. Our sons will think that it is not wrong to repeatedly make jokes at someone’s expense, even if the underlying message is not true. What hope is there for a better world if our kids see this as the reality? As a parent, wouldn’t you cringe inside if your son-in-law or someone in his family makes a joke out of your daughter? How can we expect younger generations to believe in the concept of marriage or take it seriously after we have repeatedly joked about it?

Do the men who forward such messages really have such women in their life ? Do the women who endorse these messages (apparently for fun) really behave this way and do they not wish the men in their lives were more attuned to their feelings? And then there are people who remain silent because the sender is either your boss, a close friend, or a family member. How can we aspire for equality when we groom our attitude with such daily doses of biased humor? How can we claim to be educated when our education isn’t helping us identify the stand we are taking? How can we claim to be sophisticated when it isn’t stopping us from endorsing a wrong message, however implicitly?

In the end, unlike most of us think, this doesn’t boil down to men vs. women. It boils down to people vs. prejudice. It boils down to taking responsibility for the information we share with our contacts who trusted us with their contact number and time. Do we have the guts to do that?

Until later 🙂

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