The Girl in the Mirror

I am my biggest critic. I know what are my strengths and my weaknesses. I look confident, assured but I suffer from the worse kind of self-esteem. I hate this body that has sustained me all my life. I hate how I look, loathe the stretch marks on my skin, abhor the acne scars and just dislike how I look. Some days, I try to fix myself with better clothes and make up. Mostly, I just embody the ugliness and brave out. My reflection on the mirror has been hurled with so many unkind words that it has created an immunity called indifference.

Talk about the struggles of clicking a good profile picture (countless attempts at various angles to hide the double chin, the flabby everything and to look decent), or the struggles of getting through a social event without feeling like the ugliest person in the whole wide world. This insecurity goes to the extent of hating any form of candid shots as I am unable to control the angle. I also absolutely do not believe it when someone says I look nice. I can’t believe that because I have a mirror and my mirror does not lie. I am after all honest with myself, I am my biggest critic.

This much of hatred towards this vessel that sustains me and my life experiences is sad. What is sadder is that I am not alone in this. I see it in my sister who avoid dresses because it accentuates her so-called big hips, I see it in my cousin whose life goal is to erase the acne scars on her face, in my friends who will easily criticise how they look. These are women who are intelligent, compassionate, kind and beautiful. These are the same women who would shrink themselves as much as they could, to fit a mould called beauty. Heck, I would like to fit that mould myself.

I would never say all the things that I tell that girl in the mirror to anyone else. I am able to see beyond a person’s physical appearance to see their spirit yet I can’t see mine. All I see is an extremely imperfect face and body that does not fit in. A face that will never be called beautiful, a body that will never be just the right shape and of course a person who will never be labelled as attractive.

That is precisely what it is, a label. Off late I have realised that by reinforcing these thoughts, I have essentially shrunk my entire existence under a label called unattractive. I have diminished my spirit as being ugly. I have failed to hold my thoughts or my humanness at an esteemed position. Many a times, I have shrugged off my own achievements because at the end of the day, I presume that looks will matter most. I have disappointed myself by applying a standard that I would never prescribe to someone else.

Most of us do it. We talk ourselves into believing that we lack beauty. A lot of times, women like me make up for it in substance because we know million other women are better looking. Hours of reflection has taught me that it is unhealthy, being part of this invisible competition to find a worthy spot in the world.

 The wise me knows that I have my spot, like every other individual to fill this world with the marks that are unique to me. The world has space for every kind of looks to exist and thrive. The wise me also knows that it is going to take a conscious effort to make the girl in the mirror believe that she has a place. She just has to believe that her beauty lies in a place deeper than her skin.

p.s. You too might have a girl in the mirror, waiting to be broken free.

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Violence is Never a Solution

This is a response to a video I watched recently where someone has expressed anger over the death of Nhaveen. The person who made the video expressed his anger and spoke how killing of an innocent life is not right. However, there is a point he made that was very disturbing. He advised parents with children who are involved in gangsterism or are bad to poison their kids. He said it is alright to kill such kids, and likened it to a noble act. He also encouraged lawyers to not take up the case. When he was called out for his statement (wrong to propagate an idea that it is okay for parents to kill) , he and his followers bullied those criticising out of that conversation. This video has been watched more than 120,000 times, has over 2,000 likes and reactions and has comments that are predominantly supporting those statements. I am worried. I am worried because how do you remove violence in a society when the very first reaction to anything is violence. 

To the person who made the video, your anger is justified. Your suggestion and advise is not. Be responsible when you put out a public content. You just rant away your anger without thinking? Do you realise that you made a statement that it is alright to kill as long as it is justified? The law is extremely clear here, no one has a right to decide who lives and who does not. Are you blind to the fact that your suggestion is violent? How can you tell someone to not kill but advocate that it is alright when the circumstances calls for it? Poetic justice does not help maintain order in a society. Attractive concept but not right. When you were called out, you said that your readers do not have pea brains. They would not kill just by watching your video. Be responsible! You and those who have endorsed the video represents society. I hope you are aware that parents have murdered their own children for lesser reasons due to societal pressure. So, it will not shock me if some parent somewhere fear the repercussions of being alienated by society and do what you have told them. Don’t propagate something without proper understanding of the actual issue at hand.

You were called out for your statement, instead of having an intellectual discourse on it, you and your followers justified the video by saying that those criticising won’t understand because they are not mothers, they are just feminists. You cyber bullied because someone said you were wrong. Look, if you want to post something in a public sphere and take credit for the praises, you must also be willing to accept the criticism. Have some level of curiosity to read up and understand the perspective offered. None of those who responded to the criticism had any valuable input to the conversation. None of you were able to go beyond your anger to see what you were advocating. Every life has a value, no one has a right to put a timeline to it. 

Let me just break it down to you, Nhaveen is not the first victim of bullying. He is a statistic because this is a very old disease. His case is visible, hence the anger. This is good, at least now we might be able to do something about it. Bullying happens everyday, at home, in schools, workplace and of course online. I have written a piece on why it happens, and how society contributes to this dilemma.

Your defence that you are entitled your opinion is childish. In that case, anyone can say that they are entitled to their actions too. That is not how it works! You are a functioning member of the society, be responsible on the content that you preach. I don’t need to be a mother or have this happen to my kid in order to understand this pain! I am human and that is enough.  I believe in spreading  the right kind of message, and not make the society more inhuman. 

Your video would have helped if it addresses how parents can manage difficult kids instead of poisoning them. Maybe give avenues where they could seek help. Instead, it amounted to nothing but an advise out of either your own ignorance and poor thought process. If you choose to do another video, please do tell the parents/society one more thing, to not raise their kids by telling them that being effeminate/gay is wrong or something to be embarrassed about. No one needs to teach people from the LGBTQ community a lesson! It would do a whole lot of good if we acknowledge the fact that he was abused because he was perceived to be different/gay/’potte”. This is what we are taught anyways, that being all that is wrong! 

Nhaveen – Society’ Hypocrisy 

Our society surprises me with it’s hypocrisy. Social media is flooded with posts and messages that demands justice for Nhaveen and Zulfarhan Osman and the whole nation is enraged. Everyone is now discussing bullying, demanding stern actions to be taken. I even watched a video that told parents to poison their kids if they are unable to control them from becoming scums of the society. This dilemma is not something new, it has existed for ages. Human sadism is not a new crisis, it is just more evident because of exposure. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone bullying. I think this conversation is important. But at the same time, I am afraid all this rage and anger will turn cold if we don’t acknowledge our collective hypocrisy.

Bullies are not created in isolation, they are raised by people. Parents and the society. We model our prejudices to children, creating an impression that being different is a sin. We instill values in children that either makes them bullies or spectators of bullying. This requires some personal reflection on our part, to think about the opinions that we project to kids. This ranges from issues relating to sexism, colorism, sizesm, LGBTQ and even religion. We, the society have paid too much attention in modelling certain lifestyle, creating  fear that being different is bad instead of teaching children empathy. A lot of people are well behaved only because of societal expectations and fear of being ostracized, not because they are truly empathetic to another person’s circumstances.

Fundamentally, this problem persist because it has an audience, a public that actively or passively supports it. How many times have you seen someone being called names (fat, ugly, gay, black) and kept silent? How many of you have called out subtle bullying. How many parents or adults in the society do the same? Little things like this add up, and takes only one bully to cross a line and raise hell like this. 

The society has contributed to this mess. How many of us are truly accepting of gays/transsexual; we alienate them. We label them as not normal. We teach our kids what masculinity/feminity looks like. We give no space for the spectrum that exist within the fabric of the society. Empathy is considered weak. We look at the word feminism as a bad word.

So, how can we blame the boys alone? Honestly,  are we shocked that bullying happens or just that it got out of hand? That is a critical question for us to answer, instead of beig indenial about our own realities. 

Nhaveen is not the first, nor will he be the last until we take personal responsibility in ensuring that we are empathetic. Until individuals call out subtle bullying so that growing children see that being different is okay and we don’t accept bullying or mean behaviours. Take personal responsibility in teaching people around you to respect someone’s space in exercising their choices. Creating an empathetic society requires small acts of love and kindness, and that is an individual responsibility.

An European Adventure 

2017 started off as a difficult year. I was struggling with where I was in life in everu aspect. So, amidst all this reflections, I made a spontaneous decision to travel around Europe solo. I have to thanks Jeevi (one of my humans) for encouraging the idea. So tickets were booked overnight and I knew I was going to have to stretch every penny. Then, the solo trip became a trip with my best friend, Sree. Anything better than a solo trip was this. This was definitely ticking off a bucket list for the both of us.

So, plans were laid out and hours of research were clocked in. We started off in London, then to Paris. From there, we were off to Barcelona. Then, we flew into Italy (Bologna), then were about to take the local trains to Florence and Rome. Finally, it was back to London. 

At the point of penning this, I am en route to Florence on a local train. I can see the Italian countryside listening to ARR. The rolling hills, houses perched on top and wineries are so picturesque. I am grateful for this moment. For all the instances that left me in awe in this mini adventure. Such an amazing experience this is.

p.s. I have promised myself to document this travel in detail, and all the travel hacks and money saving tricks that we used/learned in each of these countries.

Our Personal Belief 

So, Watson’s made a blunder with  their Raya ad by featuring a blackface insinuating that a fairer skin illustrates beauty.  I don’t think there is anything Watson’s could say to justify their ad because it is a very poorly thought out concept and just plain inaccurate. I won’t even say insensitive because Watson’s definition of what is beautiful is a factual inaccuracy. Since there was an uproar to this ad, it is very clear that the public will not stand for this.

However, there is something that puzzles me. How is it possible that the same individuals who are enraged collectively to a single ad do not believe what they preach? In our daily lives, with our interactions with people, we judge our own beauty by colour, size and a standard template. We ourselves don’t believe the truth that we stand up for. We apply filters/makeup to lighten our skin. We try very hard to hide our perceived flaws (I am guilty of this too). However, when people we love beat themselves up for the same flaws, we are quick to assure them that the flaw does not make then less beautiful. I honestly don’t think this hypocrisy is out of malice, it is probably because we view people whom we love based on their human spirit. However, this does not help because in the same breath we also beat ourselves up for the same flaws. So, unintentionally everything we preach becomes just empty talk. It is hard to believe the words when we refuse to live this truth in our own lives.

We raise our eyebrows when dark skinned people wear bright colours, at fat people who dance or wear clothes that are deemed not flattering. We may all believe that colorism and sizesm is wrong in a broad sense but in our own personal lives, still subscribe to it. This extends to many things, including racial profiling. So, it is very important to understand our own prejudices, and of course to accept that social conditioning makes it impossible to escape this. We can however choose our reaction to it, to edit the prejudices that we impose upon ourselves. At the end of the day, being politically correct is easier than truly embracing the perceived flaws that lives in our heads.