Are men and women equals? Not inside the House of Cards
Are men and women equals? Not inside the House of Cards
Foodtraveller published in Times of India
(Food traveller article published in Times of India)
Friendless at 40?
(Published in Times Of India)
Seven years ago, Lopa Das, 30, was in the throes of a role reversal; she had just had a baby, quit her job as a content executive in a dot com and suddenly found herself to be a 24/7 stay-at-home mum. Her colleagues envied her new position and wished they could have had the luxury of quitting their jobs and staying home to tend to the family, bake apple muffins and ginger pies and lay out the elaborate evening tea. Of course, the chubby cute baby in the background was a bonus. The reality was far more different for Lopa, who had never been in a situation like this before and the lack of family in a new town where her husband, a banker worked late hours, wasn’t helping much.
Of course, the wailing newborn and the incessant demands of motherhood, coupled with being the lone and primary caregiver to the child was destined to take its toll on her. Her friends had been her colleagues and other than the occasional phone calls and the even more occasional Facebook chats which slowly dwindled as the months flew by, Lopa did not have anything that you would call a social life. She missed her old friends back in her hometown and found it increasingly difficult to connect with the new people thronging her life. Being a stay-at-home mum ensured she met a lot of women in similar situations in the park where she took little Chetan to play, at the neighbourhood grocery, the various functions of the society flat where she lived; but it wasn’t the same.
She says, “I think it’s just the age factor. Because when I was younger I could make friends with just about anyone and have a good time. Now, I find all the mums that I meet, talking only about their children and the meals that they have cooked. While that’s a part of the conversation, I certainly can’t stand discussing this for hours and then be attending kitty parties where the talk mainly veers around the latest clothing/accessory you’ve bought or that expensive spa treatment you’ve just had. I enjoy talking about movies, books, politics, etc., but here no one seems to want to discuss all that. That leaves me at a loss because I just can’t connect. With age, I’ve become fastidious about what my likes and dislikes are and can’t really compromise on my being the kind of person I really am.
Also these superficial friendships these days where you are there to attend every birthday party but never really spent a quiet one-to-one time and conversation with each other to understand and help out in each other’s problems doesn’t go down well with me. Yes, that makes me isolated from the crowd but there’s nothing I can do about it.” Lopa’s only close pals are now two women who she met on her son’s first day in school and the friendships have lasted all these years. She finds a lot in common with them and the children have fun together. The husbands? Well, that’s a different story altogether.
She’s not alone, it would seem. Most people, professionals or otherwise, who live away from their hometown and family and old friends are finding themselves in a quandary these days since they are all on the wrong side of thirty or even older and need to foster new friendships to fill the existing vacuum. While there is no dearth of people around them, the inability to form close ties or get along well with the people they meet on an everyday basis is causing them to be ‘lonely’ with just the basic exchange of social greetings but not friends that you can call over for a cuppa chai/coffee. And while social networking devices like Facebook are helping them combat that isolation to a little extent, it clearly cannot fill in for a human being!
Neel Mohan, 41, lawyer whose divorce from his wife of five years recently came through, has shifted his residence to Noida from the capital’s Chittaranjan Park, after he bought a flat here, says, “I wanted to do away with all the bad memories we had in the earlier house so I sold it and bought a new place here, near my office. But I can say my social life is nearly extinct. Earlier my wife and I would hang out with mutual friends. Now because of the divorce, I can’t be with them since its awkward and all of them have kids. I’ve been trying to connect with people I meet on my early morning jogs or at the gym, but it’s getting tougher. Firstly because I’m at that particular age where I can’t be friends with every person I meet. I need to be with someone who has similar leanings so that we can have a meaningful conversation but so far I haven’t found anyone; no guys, no girls. Also, my status as a divorced guy isn’t helping matters,” he says wryly.
The question is: is it really so difficult for us to make friends as we get older? Dr Rakhi Anand, Clinical Psychologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi says, “ It is indeed difficult to make friends easily in later years generally as friendships in later years are more dominated by our conditioning than other factors. Mostly, the friends we make in our childhood are due to close proximity, common activities, age, gender, play, hobbies etc., and that increases proximity and cohesiveness. Also at that point, people are more exploratory and less occupied in other responsibilities of life. There’s a lot of innocence in such relationships.
Whereas adult relationships are more discerning. As adults, all of us have gone through multiple good and bad experiences which affect our perception towards life and people and our new associations too. Any new thing needs time and exploration and there are multiple incidents, factors and experiences which help us to understand any individual wherein that continues to reduce as we grow. As adults, our personality is less flexible and adjustable and we tend to easily reject or avoid being flexible until it’s necessary or beneficial in some way. Forgiving and forgetting is more a feature in the early developmental years than later years. Once we grow up, our responsibilities also grow with us and most of the time is occupied by our primary needs leaving us with less time to explore new things /relationships and give them enough time.
With married people, it also depends upon their spouse’s choice and participation. All individuals are different and so are their personality traits, choices and their conditioning. In therapy sessions itself, so many people tell us that they had to discontinue their old friendships or can’t make new friends because their spouse has varying opinions. A person’s own insecurities are also responsible for blocking new friendships after a certain age. The fear of being judged is very high. Friendships also become more gender-specific as we grow older.”
Cari Shane Parven, a 42-year-old former television reporter, based in Potomac, Maryland essay titled ‘Finding Friends at Forty’ from the book ‘Knowing Pains,’ talks about her quest for companionship and how when she turned 40 recently, she found she had no good friends to celebrate that with. She says that the 20s had been about creating her family, having kids and the 30s were about staying home to raise those kids. But now that she had hit 40, she found that this age could be very well about herself so she wanted to celebrate– but she was alone and friendless.
Explains Dr Megha Hazuria Gore, Clinical Psychologist, Delhi, “Friendships at any age requires an investment of time, effort and yourself. As one grows older, it gets difficult to invest that time with all the responsibilities one is burdened with. And ones view of the world becomes more and more fixed. This influences our opinions, perceptions and attitudes and therefore our relationships. The openness one expresses as a child or the flexibility one has in one’s thinking as a young person becomes more rigid and therefore the exposure to new relationships becomes lesser. Most people find their comfort zone in work, family, self and social relationships by around 35 to 40 years of age and don’t see a need to venture out of this comfort zone to explore or subject ourselves to different experiences.”
In the end, it’s all about that little time you have for yourself in the middle of all your responsibilities, so forging deep bonds with new people is tougher. Says K Jain, 39, an interior decorator, “It is difficult because friendships after a certain age mean much more than just that simple friendship we had when we were younger. Now it could be about socializing with people with whom you don’t have much in common simply because they are your neighbours, parents of your children’s friends or even business associates.
There’s a lot of money/status talk thrown in and genuine friendships where you can laugh, connect, bond, talk about your common likes and dislikes get harder to find. You reconcile to that, at this age.” Anima Sen, 40, a freelance designer, mother to two, agrees, “ It’s all about Friends with Benefits (FWB) now, at this age. Your kids’ friends parents, your neighbours, your husband/wife’s boss who you need to impress, your kid’s teacher……there’s always an agenda.”
She seems to have hit the nail on the head.
The eco- vacation
A strong gust of wind blew my hat away when I first got down from my car to the resort that was to be our home for the next three days. The blazing sun, notwithstanding, there was a cool refreshing breeze from the yet to flower mango and litchi trees in abundance that lined all the roads leading to here.
Serene and unpretentious were my first thoughts when I glimpsed the little lobby and entrance of this homely place. This was a pretty hurried vacation and therefore without much expectations. But sometimes this can turn out to be a good thing, as I slowly began to find out.
The tiny parking lot is actually deceiving because it doesn’t prepare one for the huge expanse of land that spreads out before the eyes as one enters the Tiger Camp. And once I was inside the complex, it was almost like being inside a mini jungle that housed many chalets; the best ones being the newly constructed ones, a bit far from the lobby area and away from any kind of din.
There are shrubs and thick tree formations and bushes throughout the entire stretch from the beginning of the chalets to the open air restaurant to the poolside, which lies in a secluded spot and further down, as you walk to the silent river meandering like a snake across the green panorama.
It’s the perfect place for writers, artists and creative people who want to go off to sleep amidst an eerie stillness and wake up to slanting rays of light, chirpy birds and the smell of home cooked food emanating from the restaurant. But this is definitely not the place for city slickers who enjoy the trappings of their concrete hotel rooms and are used to a lot of creature comforts.
It takes a bit of getting used to if you’re not very animal-friendly like me. But when you understand that the monkeys you just spotted walking on the road in front of you or the birds that are sitting near your feet as you eat or even the dog that has decided to get into the tennis room before you do, are simply there, doing their stuff and have no intention of bothering you; you learn to slowly relax.
The peace is sometimes overtaken by a gaggle of kids and families who have just arrived but they soon settle down, possibly imbibing the serenity of the place. It is otherwise just that retreat you read about…where you may spot a ghost or two as you walk down the long cobbled path to the river for a post-dinner smoke, with just a few lamps lighting up the way.
Simple and hassle free…things move slowly around here. Keep that pace in mind for yourself too and you will be reluctant to get back to city life like me.
I am a lifestyle journalist and I write on any topic under the sun. But my field of expertise is mainly feature news and articles such as on food, fashion, travel, destinations, books, trends, fitness, celebrities, parenting, etc., etc.,.
I used to work full-time earlier, in the features departments of leading media houses in the country. My last job was at the Hindustan Times newspaper’s Sunday magazine, HT BRUNCH. And then I quit, to become an independent writer.
As a freelancer, I have written for all the major newspapers, magazines and websites in India, in a career spanning 21 years to date.
I actually started working when I was still in college and had not even completed my graduation. So it’s been really long:)
I’m married to a lawyer and I have two young boys, the reason why I work from home. And like most women the world over, I’m striving to find that perfect balance of work and family. I know, it’s very hard sometimes!
Along with writing lifestyle content, I have also ventured into writing fiction. It’s a new thing for me, though most of my drafts have waiting to see the light of day since my college days.
Thankfully, I finally managed to get out my first collection of flash fiction and another of Haiku poems, both books published on the Juggernaut books platform, last year.
If you want to hire me for quality content work or even to drop a line and share thoughts, you can find me on this blog on WordPress, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and my personal website on wixsite.
I’d love to hear from you! Keep the notes coming:)
Hillstations of India
Pics by Milanka Chaudhury
Just clap your hands hard! No, no, I’m not being frivolous here. Not at all.
I know what it’s like to be that way and though one would expect a lot of physical signs, depression usually doesn’t throw up anything until you’re actually depressed. And that’s when people will come to know. Not before. Not after.
It’s a strange thing…this depression. It can strike you out of the blue, strike you in the middle of a meeting, while having a nice cuppa with a friend, in the middle of a wild raucous party — anywhere. But know this, the signs have been there for long, you just didn’t see it.
A lot of us live in denial about our lives. Some people believe they have more than they bargained for, more than they ever expected in life, so they kind of feel happy that they got so far. For some people, having it all is not everything. You have it all and still, you’re depressed. It’s all in the mind.
And then there are those for whom an outward tragedy exists in their lives, something that everybody around you is aware of, a sick parent, a sick child, a sick spouse and I don’t mean just physically, it could be that someone’s behaviour or mental health is driving you around that bend.
Whatever it is, it all depends on individual resources or that particular grade of survivors skill we are born with, to be able to thrash it out. I hear people saying, oh but only you can manage this great misfortune that has befallen you, I couldn’t do it.
Well, a lot of people haven’t truly evolved from being monkeys even now, so sensitivity is the least of their concerns. A sock in the face would help, but then not everyone is still a monkey. So you avoid such people and get by with the tragedy in your life. Some get depressed, some give up and some survive.
So, whatever, what I meant about clapping when you know you are depressed is to give yourself that wake-up call. To physically clap and tell yourself– I know I’m down there and I’m sinking and I need to get up. How do I do it?
Some go to doctors, take their prescribed meds and some are helped by family and friends and some, well, just get out, all by Gods grace.
It’s not easy being depressed. I know the feeling where you can sink deeper and deeper into regions so low that you cannot get out and it’s up there and it’s all in your head. No, that movie, that shopping, that catching up with friends, that holiday, nothing will make that sad voice in your head go away. It will exist and continue to mutter until you are someplace like the deep end of a valley and not managing to climb up.
What do you do? I’ll tell you first hand. A first- it’s inevitable, you can just keep sinking and feeling awful. Everybody around tries to help, especially your immediate family for whom your existence is important. But I know and say this from experience…you still are smart enough to know you’re sinking further and only negative things will come your way. You don’t really feel like doing frivolous things anymore.
But you know what…these frivolous things and materialistic pursuits are the only things that will actually help you! Because they will get you involved and busy till you reach the point where you are no longer thinking about your absolute lows because you are busy trying to be frivolous or materialistic and you’re getting caught up in that.
Play the mind as the mind plays you.
And sometimes gruelling physical work can help. I would say…if you’re gardening, keep at it. Getting your hands dirty and deep in the mud every day will help you come out of depression. If you do a lot of physical household chores around the house, it will help you.
Do not give your body rest and the mind shall be controlled. It’s difficult, no doubt when you can’t even gather that ounce of strength to get up from that bed and comb your hair.
But, you got to do it and if you have a spouse, partner, friend, a parent who will force you to do the daily gardening, hard physical chores like scrubbing, cleaning and washing, you will cry at first but get around to doing it. And if you involve yourself in frivolities like whether that choker you were gifted, needs a matching earring, rings or even a bracelet and spend hours trying to find them, it will actually help you.Everybody does not need medication. It’s just common sense.
And yes, it can come back. So don’t forget the gardening. It really helps. For some depression is linked to a lot of causes, for some, it just happens.
What really made me write this post is the recent death of a girl I knew a long time ago, a quiet, impersonal girl with whom I’d share a few hellos as we worked in the same office together. Somebody who I never knew too well, who succumbed to depression and thereafter death.
It’s a battle we all need to fight. A battle that we can’t see. Nobody deserves to not know how they can be helped. If somebody is low, they need family and friends to help them, even a complete stranger can sometimes help. It could prevent a death.
And in the end, the words of this American writer come back to me always: ‘Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.
Looking at the phone even then?:)
(Published in Femina magazine)
Social media has insidiously made its way into our lives and while it can be a boon for people looking to connect with each other; it can be a bane for lovers who do not know how to set boundaries on its usage.
Well, it may sound frivolous to even ask if social media impacts close friendships or love relationships. But for those who use social media frequently, and that’s a lot of us in here, it can have a significant effect on our feelings.
Usually, it’s usually all nice and rosy, but sometimes it can have a detrimental effect on relationships we hold dear. This is mainly because there are no set boundaries on what to do and what not to do.
Things like partners sharing passwords, snooping on each other, being vocal about whom to friend and unfriend, getting upset over comments one posted — these are just a few things that can become a big issue because social media is a public forum.
Everybody can see and hear what you have to say. So we picked a few safe zones to put yourself in, to steer clear of social media trouble.
“Today social media plays a very important role on our behaviour as we copy most of the things happening in other people’s lives. It can be either positive or negative. People tend to expect more from loved ones seeing fantasies online and also may become more critical seeing someone being perfect in the virtual world.
They may find difficulties in accepting realities of life and practical situations and perfect people. However, it can be a good influence too, if positive inputs are analysed keeping the practical aspects of one’s life in mind.
That by itself, can enhance relationships”, avers Dr Rakhi Anand, Senior consultant Psychologist, Apollo Hospital, New Delhi
GET HANDS-OFF YOUR PHONE
A date night or even a quiet evening at home where there’s supposed to be just the two of you for company usually becomes two people plus two phones.
In between talking and cuddling and spending quality time together, a lot of people think its okay to keep glancing at their phones every now and then. “It can’t hurt. Once in every five minutes if I glance at my phone, it doesn’t mean I’m not there to listen to her or pay attention. But my girlfriend always gets upset and we usually have a fight,” says Rajat Krishnamurthy, 28, a young entrepreneur based in Noida.
And usually it does always seem to be the fairer sex complaining about this. Says Nitika Sen, 37, a graphic designer who works for a media company in Connaught Place, “I try not to use my phone when I and my husband get that little time together without the kids. As it is, we are both so busy that I feel we need to make that extra effort.” She’s right.
A lot of counsellors say that the most common problem they hear of these days from clients, is how much time their partners spend on social media that could range from Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/Twitter.
And of course stories abound about how romantic interludes are becoming discussions about what happening in their social media accounts. As the joke and many whatsapp forwards too go, post lovemaking sessions that included hugs and maybe a cigarette to relax, are now accompanied by status updates and check-ins!
DIY: Make your partner feel loved. Switch off that phone!
THE PRIVATE Vs PUBLIC PARTNER
One partner is usually private whereas the other likes to go public. This can result in a lot of misunderstandings, fights and insecurities. Ask him/her whether they are okay with sharing pictures of the two of you, your family, a private event or even letting the world know what you are upto.
If you don’t care, you don’t want harmony in your relationship…that simple. So many important events like getting married, having a baby, getting a new job, winning accolades for some achievement can be announced with just a click on your phone.
And while you may enjoy doing this, your partner may not feel the same. A recently released novel When I Hit You, by author Meena Kandaswamy, also touches on the topic of freedom vs. control in relationships when both partners are not on the same page.
She talks about how her then partner threatened to burn himself if she did not get off Facebook! Talk about extremes.
DIY: Your partner and what he or she has to say about your social media behaviour is important if you share a life together.
REAL OR VIRTUAL WORLD: SAME RULES!
A lot of people behave differently when they are on social media. What they may not be able to say in person, they can do so easily on the phone because it is like a mask for our real emotions and feelings.
For those who assume a different persona on social media, it may be unhealthy and affect your relationships.
“We abide by certain social rules when we meet acquaintances, family or friends in real life. That should hold good even for the virtual world. A change in personality is harmful.
After all if you can’t say….’looking gorgeous’ to that hot picture of your neighbour, Mrs Sharma cavorting in Ibiza; you can’t say the same on social media. Our relationships and rules are not to be changed!” says Vibha Gupta, an interior designer in Delhi.
These days, a large amount of time that individuals could spend with their partners and families gets occupied by smart phones. “Meeting people or going out with their partners, can take a back seat because you end up being connected with people all the time. This level of involvement with the social media can be harmful,” says Dr. Samir Parikh, Consultant Psychiatrist, Director-Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Chairperson- Fortis National Mental Health Council.
As for whether you can trust your partner with his social media behaviour is something that you again need to set real life rules to. If you aren’t secure in your relationship, don’t expect that keeping tabs on them all the time will help.
DIY: Snooping or keeping tabs on each other by slyly checking each other’s conversations, accounts, mails, messages is a strict no-no.
Ends (Published in Femina magazine, India)
(From my poetry book A Bit Like Haiku, published by Juggernaut)
(From my poetry book A Bit Like Haiku, published by Juggernaut)
The blood-red petals of roses
On my table
Stirs something magical in me
Soft as feathers, the beauty it embodies
Takes me to regions of fantasy
That is sweet smelling, like nectar
The petals flutter in the wind
I touch them, one after the other
The deep red roses evoke thoughts of passion
But they are like the blood
That is in my hands
Never to go away…
(Extract from my poetry book published on Juggernaut–A Bit Like Haiku)