Speak Up! #KnowYourRights

I am a 21 year old young woman, and I live in India.

I was 18 when an unspeakable crime was visited upon a young girl not much older than me, in a place not so far from me.

I was 20 when the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ was released, and subsequently banned in my country. Thanks to the internet, I still watched the film.

I cried for that young woman who was so like me in several ways. I sobbed for the girl who just wanted to succeed in life and make her parents happy. I didn’t sleep that night. I didn’t sleep peacefully for several nights thereafter.

I wonder if Nirbhaya’s parents sleep at night. I wonder, if they do, what they see in their dreams.

We live in the 21st century. The collective human society has fought for, and succeeded in several civil movements in the last 100 years.

And yet, our ideas about rape are so antiquated. I cannot understand how one of the oldest civilisations in the history of humanity can be so blind to some of the most basic tenets of civilised living.

You do not force yourself on ANYONE – man or woman. It doesn’t get simpler than that.

It baffles me that we don’t yet recognise marital rape as a crime.

It makes me cringe that eve teasing, gender-based violence, assault, is right there for even the smallest girl to fall victim to, but is swept under the carpet, and talked of in whispers.

It horrifies me that we have become so lost in our quest for power and ‘giving another chance’ that we have the temerity to detain the grieving parents of a girl whose life was literally torn apart.

And yes, I say ‘WE’. Because the fault lies on our shoulders too. For not standing united in the face of the misguided lawmakers, callous ‘leaders’ and yellow-bellied curs who call themselves human.

For hiding, when we should be fighting.

For silence.

Its time we speak up.

Why?

I’ll give you three reasons.

One – so that those who face such crimes know they are not alone. So we can say to them, “Hide not in shame, but throw it back in face of those who deserve it, while you stand tall.” So they can hear and know and believe that its not their fault. So that wives and daughters and nieces and girlfriends and just-another-woman-on-the-road know that they can speak up too. That they can heal too.

Two – so that every rapist, every sexual offender, every last human who thinks he can do harm to another will know that we can and we will scream and we will fight until the whole world screams and fights with us. That no means NO. That we will not remain silent, for in the silence remains things that are meant to be hidden and scared, and we are not scared. They are the ones who should be, and they will. If we speak up.

Three –  Change. One word. But oh, how we fight for it. Its not easy. Its not quick. But only if we speak out – loudly, vehemently, forcefully, can we make a difference. Only then can there be a permanent fullstop to rape culture and assault and gender-based violence.  Only then can we be truthful when we tell our children that monsters live and stay only in the shadows. Only then can we leave this world knowing that it is a better place for our being there.

Its time we speak out.

Its time we shout it out from the rooftops.

For as a wise man once said, if you want change, be the change.

“I’m writing this blog post to support Amnesty International’s#KnowYourRights campaign at BlogAdda. You can also contribute to the cause by donating or spreading the word.”

The Joy of Real Togetherness

With the advent of digital media, there’s been a slow by steady increase in its usage by the masses. In fact, in the last few years especially, there’s been an alarmingly fast encroachment of gadgets into our daily lives to an extent that we are unable to function normally without them. I can tell you myself that I cannot go a day without my phone, Kindle and Internet. And that’s not healthy in the least.

Recent studies show us that this unhealthy attachment to digital goods is affecting both our physical as well as mental health, and not in a good way, but adversely. Just the other day, I stumbled upon this link on Facebook, which led to a collection of photos of couple in bed while engaged in some form of digital interaction, except, the photographer had removed the gadget from their hands. The blank, dead-eyed looks on their faces were frankly, alarming. From off the top of my head (I’m too lazy right now to Google this), joint pain, disruption of sleep patterns due to drop in melatonin levels, narcissism, and addiction are just a few of the adverse effects that we experience from forming an unhealthy attachment to he digital world.

But other than the direct harm it causes, have you noticed how we seem to have grown apart as families in the last few years? We all seem to have a gadget in our hands at all times, and cant even seem to be able take to effort to set it down at meal times, let alone to spend sometime talking to our families. We have become so addicted to the unknown next-big-thing that might be just one click away, that we have forgotten to keep up with our fellow human beings in the process. And yes, there will be people who say that the Internet has in fact brought us all closer together. Which is true, and I completely agree (otherwise I would never have friends who live all the way across the word in Denmark). But while it has brought closer the people who are physically eons away, it has driven away those who are in close proximity. It has reduced physical human contact. It has slowly infiltrated its way into the time spent simply talking to our best friends, or chatting with our mums while helping her wash the vessels, or sitting quietly with our fathers and watching a bee sitting on a flower in the garden.

As with all of man’s follies, its only now, when half the damage has been done, that we’re waking up to reality and realising the gross error that we’ve committed. And we’re scrambling for ways to set thing right, while also not letting go of the technological advancement that we’ve come to enjoy. Basically, we need to find a point of balance and stick to it.

There are many ways to do so – sitting with grandparents and listening to their stories, find some joint activity that you can do with each of your parents/kids, ban gadgets at the dinner table, have a family game night every week, etc. But I also think its important to remember the good that technology has done for us. There are those who would say that we should completely shun these new fangled things whose cons are more than their pros (not true). But that’s the other end of the spectrum. Like I mentioned earlier, we need to find a place of balance. Its not going to be easy, its not going to come overnight, but it we’ll get there in the end. Baby steps – that’s the key.

This post is part of an activity for Kissan India.

Eat Healthy Live healthy

With the fast pace of living these days, we are all rushing to accomplish things and keep moving forward every minute of every day. In the process, we’ve drifted away from the healthy eating habits of our younger days (when we were under the care of our health conscious mothers) and resorted to caffeine-rich, fast food heavy diets that provide our taste buds with immediate gratification. What we often forget is that they also play a slow game of erosion that leads to the overall detriment of our physical (and eventually, mental) health.

What we need to be doing is eating healthy.

I dont know about you, but when anyone talks about ‘eat healthy’, the first thing I think about is spinach and cabbage and banana stems and other such equally unappetizing foods (well, they’re unappetizing for me, at least), to the exclusion of the yummy foods like french fries and mozzarella cheese and chocolate and ice creams and black coffee. But this is where we are often wrong.

Eating healthy is not at all about depriving yourself of tasty food.

Variety & Setting Realistic Goals

Its about eating right. Its about setting realistic goals to eat the healthy stuff, while also allowing yourself to indulge in slightly unhealthy food every once in a while. And why have your bitter-gourds the same way your mum (who maybe got the recipe from her mum) made them? Mix it up a bit! Try new ways to eat healthy food. Its always fun to be adventurous, and you get tasty food too in the bargain. Try honey instead of sugar as a sweetening agent. Not only does it taste great, but it also has varied benefits that will pay off in the long run.

One thing that we should keep in mind is to have a balanced diet. A balanced diet is simply one that contains all necessary nutrients and vitamins. The sources of these necessary supplements can be anything – even a sweet! As long as we consume in moderation, and keep it balanced, we can eat just about anything.

Exercise is Important

A lot of people, in the name of living healthily, either stick religiously to a healthy diet only, or a vigorous exercise schedule only. Like I mentioned before, too much of anything, with too less of another thing is not good.

Exercise is vital for a healthy physic. Not only does exercise help you burn calories and keep you fit, but it has a direct effect on your mental and physical health as well. Studies have shown that exercise improves moods considerably. While exercising, our body releases hormones and chemicals that lift our mood, and make us happier and more relaxed. Regular exercise also helps prevent & control several health problems. It also boosts your energy levels.

When Cricket Comes Calling

One thing that almost every single Indian has in common – their almost unhealthy, and certainly fanatic obsession for cricket. I fall into the minority, bu oh well, I’m unique that way :D. I don’t watch the game, I don’t understand the game, and I highly doubt I will ever take the effort to either.

I do, however remember the times when my father would sit up late at night watching games (if they were happening in a different time zone) and cheering when an Indian player hit a sixer or anything similarly celebration worthy (my knowledge of cricket is so abysmal, that I don’t even know what else is considered extraordinary). The recent World Cup this year had him on the iPad almost every single time India played, and I got used to the sounds of cheering and the drone of the commentator invading my room on a quiet evening or a sleepy night.

But however much I distance myself from all the craziness of the Indian Cricket Madness, it is still inevitable that I get caught up in the fever during high tension games like the one that India played against Pakistan a few years (or months, I dont remember) ago, and the last world cup when we won the tournament. I will admit that I did cave in on the day of the match and change my Facebook profile picture to a ‘Bleed Blue’ poster, and I did get slightly moistly eyed when we won. Its a matter of patriotism, after all 😉

But I’ve always wondered about the people who follow cricket religiously… How is it that they manage to devote so much time the game amidst so much else that must be happening in their lives? Surely there must be an important meeting or an emergency that must crop up sometime (FYI according to Murphy’s Law, its impossible for something not to go wrong at some time)? So what do they do then? Or if they’re travelling during a match?

But who says that cricket should be watched on TV only? Like I mentioned earlier about what my father does, I’m sure a lot of people resort to using their remote devices to keep up with live games these days. I know I certainly do that for my TV shows. But one thing that always frustrates me is the slow speed that we inevitably encounter when we try to watch a live coverage of something. With the technological advancement that has become such a huge part of our lives these days, we’ve become used to a fast pace with everything, and that buffering wheel has become one the most irritating sights ever.

However, what if you had everything you could ever want to know about cricket at the tip of your fingers? And if you could watch a live match at a considerably higher speed than with your usual browser? UC Browser seems to have come up with something that caters  to the needs of a cricket fanatic. UC Cricket is an in-app feature in the UC Browser that when enabled, allows you to be up-to-date with cricket news. It also contains separate tabs for live updates, scores, and a chat room. Game watching is also made easier. Its an allround win-win for everyone!

Buddy Parenting

As the only sister of a new mother, I’m the frequent recipient of homeschooling ideas, ‘quiet time’ tips, and parenting advice. This might seem odd to the casual observer, but its slowly become a way for the two of us (my sister & I) to bond in the last few months, while she’s been busy with the baby, and I’ve been swamped with last minute college commitments.

One discussion that we kept coming back to over and over again was parenting styles. We were both observant children while growing up, and knew what particular directives we would not enforce with our children, because we were never comfortable with them ourselves. But parenting styles as a whole was something we were still undecided about.

There’re a lot of new fad methods and ideas floating around these days, and its a struggle for new parents to figure their way out. One, for instance, is the whole ‘buddy parenting’ style, where the parent treats the child as his/her ‘buddy’.

As a psych student, parenting styles was something we covered in class, and from the discussions we had, I’ve realised that its a toss up on which way this particular style will go. There is a very large possibility for it to go the way of permissive parenting, which is not a great idea.

Permissive parents don’t offer much discipline. They tend to be lenient and may only step in when there is a serious problem. Permissive parents may take on more of a friend role than a parent role. They may encourage their children to talk with them about their problems but may not discourage a lot of bad behaviors.

About.com

Children who are products of permissive parenting are more likely to increase levels of aggression over time, higher rates of misconduct, and lower rates of academic achievement. (Source)

However, I do personally find myself liking the basic idea behind the whole system, which is to be friends with your child. There’s nothing wrong with that; responsive parents are the best, but its important to know where to draw the line. And what a fine line it is. That line, in fact, is probably what differentiates permissive parenting from authoritative parenting, because otherwise, the two have a lot in common. They are both emotionally supportive, responsive and nurturing, but the difference lies in the amount of discipline the exert, and the amount of responsibility they demand.

But enough about parenting styles in theory. Its always interesting to see things in action. That way you know if they really work.

Well, I can say that the buddy parenting system does work, and wonderfully, if done right.

My mother is an example.

My mum is one of the strongest women I know, and I respect her immensely. She’s always been there, guiding me, pushing me to be more than I think I can, and teaching me things at every stage. Just the other day, for example, she made me go and deposit some money in the bank even though I’d never done it before in my life (I didn’t even know I had to know my account number to deposit cash *facepalm*). She’s always been a fan of the tough parenting school, and I’ve never had any complaints. Okay, that’s not true. Maybe a couple, but not anything substantial.

However, in between her moments of being a parent to me, she’s always found time to be my friend too. We’ve bonded over different things as I’ve grown up, but one of our ‘friend’ moments hasn’t changed all that much through the years.

One thing you should probably know is that my mum is a huge chocolate lover. Like, of massive proportions. She will do anything for one (as evidenced below).

So one day, when I was about 9 or 10 (if I remember right), I came to stand near my mum while she was talking on the phone. I grabbed a Quality Street toffee from the box, and settle on her lap to munch while she spoke to her friend.

I took a bite, and chewed on it for a while.

I swallowed.

I moved the toffee towards my mouth for another bite, when– Whoosh!

Out of my hands it jumped and into Mum’s mouth, all while I was watching open mouthed.

She winked at me, and continued talking to her friend.

That was the first of our ‘chocolate wars’, and they’ve continued over the years, until now. Its never spoken of aloud, its never mentioned after the deed is done, but there’s always an unspoken agreement of sorts that we will have a chocolate war every now and then.

Oh, and I won the last one.

This post is written for the Kellogg’s Chocos contest on IndiBlogger.

The Strength From Within

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that the past year has been absolutely without doubt the most hectic and busy year of my life. I’ve been swamped with work right from February 2014 (okay, so I just realized its been more than a year now. Wow), and its been a non stop roller coaster ride since the start.

There have, of course, been several (numerous, more like) ups and downs during this entire time.

Times when I felt jubilant and flushed with victory, times when I was just so happy about some occurrence, times when there was this sense of deep satisfaction within me for what I’d done… They were the good times.

And then there were times (lots and lots of times) when I felt like there was no way I was going to succeed in my… let’s call it quest? Times when I was convinced that I was a complete failure, times when I cursed myself for having taken on so much, times when I was convinced that I was the one who was cursed, times when I just knew that there was absolutely no way I could do more, and this was way too much for one single person to handle, times when -you get the idea. The bad times were very bad and many.

But through it all, whether it was to share in my accomplishments or to pick me up when I was down, there was one constant. And that was my well wishers. My family, my partner, my friends – those who are the closest to me, as well as those who belonged to the ‘hi – bye friends’ category.

Throughout this difficult year, they’ve all stood by me in the truest sense of the word – even when one of my best friends was halfway across the world in Sweden, she was still able to help me brush off a let down by giving me a dose of her ‘its not worth it’ attitude, and I never felt her absence, because I always knew that she was just a phone call away.

And that wasn’t an isolated incident. There have been several such instances in this past year, and I wouldn’t be able to pick just one memory even if I attempted to, so I wont.

There was the time when I was short on about 15 subjects for my data collection for a project, and was at the end of my rope because I wasn’t able to find any more (it was a special population, so there was a lot of red tape involved), and a friend of a friend of a friend got hold of one of his contacts, and got me the sample.

There was the time when I won a huge competition, and my mum took me out to the mall and offered to get me anything I wanted.

There was the time when me and my partner spent hours in cafe drinking several cups of coffee and trying to figure out how to present a research project we’d done, and took turns boosting the other’s morale.

There was the time when I got my last rejection from all the US universities I’d applied to, and when I told my friend about it, trying to sound all nonchalant and blase, she saw through the act that it was, and sent me sweetest message ever, it brought me to tears.

So like I was saying, it was moments like these that got me through this year. I

t was these moments that made me realize that despite the disappoints, I’ve come through this years with a pretty impressive set of accomplishments, and that’s nothing to look down upon.

It’s made me realize that I have a strength within me that burns for a challenge, and that is something to be proud of.

This post is a part of the activity by Housing.com

Start Anew

You know how there are always those moments during games like Truth or Dare, or just during the course of general conversation at parties, when people go, “Okay, what’s the most embarrassing moment of your life?”

And how after that question, there’s always that moment when everybody gives an awkward laugh, and you wonder about the wisdom of sharing something like the most embarrassing moment of your life to these people, and whether you’re even ready to share it for public consumption.

And then you find yourself rewinding to that time, walking down memory lane to relive the (painful, in my case) memory.

So what do you do when you have embarrassed yourself in the most humiliating way possible, and on a public platform?

Well, I know what I did.

So this is what happened…

When she got the call that night that she was one of the finalists for the city wide elocution competition, she was over the moon. A city wide contest, and she was selected? She never in her wildest dreams would’ve thought she was that good. Well, who was she to question the good fortune that had fallen into her lap?

At 9 pm that night, a few minutes after that fateful call, she received the topic that she had to talk on the next day. It was something she had absolutely no clue or opinion about. And she had to pontificate on the subject for over five minutes the next morning. Could she do it? She contemplated dropping out. But then, if she never tried, she would always have that nagging thought at the back of her mind about what could have happened. She could either win or lose, but she would do neither if she didn’t give it a shot, would she?

The next morning, as she went up on stage, she was outwardly cool and composed, but inside, she was one big ball of nerves. Her biggest nightmare every time she took to a stage was forgetting her lines. Fortunately, she had never had the misfortune of having to experience that disaster. But what if today was different? And what if it happened, in front of one of the largest audiences she’d ever stood before?

She began to speak.

Three fourths into her speech, she choked.

The very thing that she swore would never happen to her, however must she’d dreamed of it, had happened. She was living her nightmare.

She stood frozen, wide eyed and stricken, like a deer caught in the headlights.

As she stood there, trying to recollect her lines, and salvage the situation somehow, a few students in the audience began booing. Few second later, there was applause, anticipating the end of the debacle.  Whoever said high school students couldn’t be the meanest people on earth?

But she refused to be cowed, and swore to finish the talk, no matter what. And she did.

That experience scarred me for a really long time. Even though I’d finished the speech, I knew it was a rough shod job, and after that I was so so scared of getting back to the stage. But I knew that if I put it off too long, I would never get over the fear, and that I would never accept, because despite my fear, I still loved the stage. I knew I had to start anew

So a year later, at a similar competition, I stepped onto the stage again.

And this time, I won.

What Makes Babies Happy

This isn’t the first contest on Indiblogger hosted by Pampers, and when I saw that there was another one, I have to admit I went like, “Meh” for a but. But then when I saw the subject, I burst out laughing.

Why?

Because, well, despite the fact that I’m only a 20 year old, a baby to my mum myself, and definitely not a mother, the day this contest was posted, I became an aunt to a little princess.

And so I maybe have a little bit of experience to write this post now! 😀

One thing I’ve noticed with babies is that they absolutely loved being rocked. To sleep, especially. Just wrap them up nicely in a blanket, swaddle them, hold them close to your chest, and just start rocking. Puts them straight to sleep. Aside from the fact that new borns sleep almost all day, this works even for babies a few months old. I think it has something to do with the repetitive motion, and just the motion itself. I mean, I still go to sleep every time I get into an auto.

And then there’s this – interaction. Babies love interaction. Research shows that even new born babies become attuned to the sound of their mother’s voices within few hours of birth. How awesome is that? And it really is true. My niece actually moves her eyes towards the direction from which her mother’s voice is coming. It’s fascinating to watch. So interaction helps. They just soak up all the cooing and squealing and talking in saccharine tones and all that attention that they’re getting. It works every time.

Making a fool of yourself does the trick too. Haven’t you ever noticed how every time they cry, and someone in the vicinity does something crazy and dumb, they just light right up? I love that!

I’m sure we’ve all heard the age old adage that goes, “The way to a man’s heart is through the stomach.”

Well, that is true. But what you may not have known is that the way to baby’s heart is also through its stomach. They love food, and no wonder. Even if their choices are limited, what they do have is yum. C’mon, have any of you tasted Cerelac? It’s freaking awesome. I’d have it three times a day if I were allowed to!

Actually, you know what? Come to think of it, babies are basically little machines that sleep and eat all day and all night, with little gurgling in between. That is definitely strange, come to think of it.

And the last, and obvious way to a baby’s happiness, is obviously, the nappy. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen mothers do the check when a baby starts crying: wound, food, and pampers.

Works every time!

Bedtime Rituals of A Grownup Child

Did you just do a double take when you read the title of this post? ‘A Grownup Child’? Does that make me sound like one of those overgrown men in their forties who are forever stuck in adolescence?

Um sorry to disappoint, but no I’m not.

I’m an almost 21 year old (this is weird, but whenever I have to write down my age, I am almost about to write ’18’ before I realize that I’m not, in fact, 18. Just realised that makes me sound suspiciously similar to the man described above *shudders*), who is the younger of two sisters, and hence the baby of the family. Oh, and I realise that this night not be all that credible coming from me, but no, I’m not a spoilt brat.

At the moment, I’m living with my aunt, as my mum has gone abroad to be with my sister for a bit, and I just felt way too lonely to be at home all by my lonesome. But being without my mum (and by myself) for the first time in my life has made me really recognize all that she does for me, and how much I need her for every little thing. I don’t have anyone to button up my blouse for me now (the buttons are behind; hence they require some assistance), for crying out loud!

But the worst is when I go to bed each night without the sound of her ferociously typing away at the computer, and occasionally checking in to see whether I’m really asleep or awake reading books. That’s like my lullaby these days, and I miss it.

But speaking of bedtime rituals…

When I was younger, my mum and I used to have these bedtime rituals that, now that I look back I realise were rituals, but we never named them as such.

One of my oldest memories is of her singing me to sleep. She’d sing these Tamil songs from the oldies; the ones from Sivaji and MGR movies that had beautiful meanings. I might make fun of her by closing my ears of she ever breaks out into song now, but I still think that she is the best at singing those old lullabies, even today. All my dreams have begun with the sound of her voice, crooning sweetly as they slip away into fantasies.

But before the lullabies, would come the stories. And you know what? I think it was then that my love for stories began. Even now, I cant go to sleep without reading atleast part of story. It’s simply impossible. She would tell me these fantastic stories from the history that would have me begging for more, but then sleep would inevitably snatch me away.

Ha! Writing this post has made me nostalgic… Maybe I need to ring up my mum 😀

This post had been written for the Indiblogger Happy Hour contest courtesy Pampers.

The Resurrected Bucket List

I dont know if anyone out here has been reading this blog long enough to have noticed this little thing, but well, anyway…

(Actually, you should’ve been following right from the beginning if you had to have noticed this. And since highly improbable that you have, I shall tell you the story :D)

This blog here is not my first outing on the blogosphere. My first was an identically named blog over at Blogger, where I used to post little tidbits about my life, poetry, and pretty much anything that struck my fantasy, however rare. But I soon ran into a block, and the blog began suffering… A couple of years ago, I discovered book blogging, realised that I’d found my niche, and jumped feet first into that wonderful world that I am still completely enamored with.

But then I ran into another hassle – where would I post my little bits of nonsense now that I’d converted my place into a book blog? I was not interested in veering away from the concentration that I’d picked for I Read, Ergo I Write, and I also felt like it would be a slight dilution of the content… Which is how Simply Me was reborn here at WordPress.

One of the things I moved over from Blogger to WordPress was this bucket list that I’d kept forever on my sidebar. They weren’t very outlandish things, but simply stuff that I felt were realistic, and really would have loved to accomplish. But that was like, 6 years ago, I think.

And luckily, this contest has provided me with the opportunity to resurrect the old bucket list that never did make it out to the public. The one that stayed in my head… the one that I brushed off as impossible…

If I had no constraints, nothing to hold me back, and unlimited resources… what would I do?

Well, here goes.

  1. Books: Have a massive, warm room with at least high backed winged chair, and wall to wall, floor to ceiling shelves filled with books. Everything that I haven’t read and would love to read, and maybe even those that I wouldn’t love, but would still contribute to the broadening of one’s mind.
  2. Become a fashion designer: This is probably the most far fetched of the items on this bucket list, but I would love to one day become a fashion designer. I have an intense love for clothes and also, I believe (and have been told), an intuitive way of matching them up together. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could share that with the world?
  3. Time to fly, little bird: My friend recently sent me a card that said ‘Time to fly, little bird’ on it. Oh, wouldn’t it be simply wonderful if I did? To just fly, where, when or how, I do not know, nor care. But to do so? Ah, it would certainly be such a dream
  4. Write: Actually, you know what? I just changed my mind, I think this is the most far fetched thing on this list here. I do write, as you can see here. But to write well? And to write a book? A novel? To be able to make sense of the jumble of thoughts that is my mind and to coax a comprehensible story out of it. Would it be possible?
  5. Keep my family happy: This is not something materialistic, though materialistic resources would certainly help to bring it about. But on the day that I stand on my own feet, I want to be able to also see to the happiness of my family – my parents in particular.

And there you have it! That’s my bucket list. What’s yours?

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This post has been written for the Indiblogger Happy Hours contest courtesy IDBI Bank.