Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Are adults messed up?

My friend’s five-year-old spotted a lady in a burqa the other day and said, “Mom, that is such a cool Ninja outfit!” My friend, who is an awesome mother, was relieved to find out that the woman hadn’t heard her little one’s comments.

I was amazed when I heard the story. The kid’s observation wasn’t tainted by time, politics, or society. He made sense of the garb, from his individual perspective, and came up with an astute remark. He held no prejudice. Every single person I have shared this story with has laughed aloud and said, “Wow, smart kid. I can see why he would say that.”

In December of 2010, when I visited Singapore to do a reading and spend time with the family, my younger niece, Sana, upon seeing my slightly off-shoulder blouse said to me, “I can see your shoulders. Cover yourself up.” I know, brat! But a darling one too!:-) I told several of my friends in NYC about Sana’s wardrobe-modesty when it came to my clothes. I laughed every time she commented, but would I have responded the same way if an adult had made those passing remarks?

If adults can see why a child would draw comparison between a burqa and a Ninja outfit, why can’t they believe that a grown up could mean no harm if they said something similar? If adults can enjoy Sana’s enforced doctrine and call it "super-cute," why can’t they deal with the same criticism from their mother or mother-in-law?

Is it because the older we get the more convoluted our thoughts become? We over think everything. We expect prejudice. The obsession with making our individual point of view clear while sipping from the cup of political correctness, or not, becomes our focus. And those who are straightforward are often sent to hell.

It seems the adult brain has no empathy for simplicity. Not when it comes from anyone who is not a child. We work with the assumption that people have hidden agendas.

When I was doing research for my first fiction novel, “Perfectly Untraditional,” I needed information on a certain sect of the society. Gosh, even someone like me, who deals with mostly shades of white and black, faltered around words. I wasn't sure how to approach them without offending anybody. I wondered if I was patronizing people or hurting their sentiments. I toyed around with questions, never wanting to assume or misrepresent anyone. I wanted my information to be authentic. So, I did tons of research for months.

When I explained my predicament to a dear friend, a part of that sect of the society I had done my research on, he said, “If the intention is good, it comes across in the query. If people get upset with your questions, even when you mean well, then it’s their problem.”

I pondered over what my friend had said. I agree that adulthood comes with responsibility—saying things that don’t hurt others. But what about curiosity? What if our intent is not malicious? What if we are mere knowledge seekers? What if we are wells that want to be replenished?

More until next time,


Copyright © 06.21.2011

“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.” Dr. Seuss

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living on borrowed time

Sorry, I have been absconding for over a month now. My husband and I were on a literary, artsy tour in Europe followed by a wonderful trip to Wisconsin. Both the visits were incredibly special in their own way. While Europe was a revelation on an emotional level and a treat to the exhausted mind, Wisconsin was brilliant for meeting our deadlines, spending quality time with the family, and engaging in stimulating conversations.

As we visited cemeteries, cafes, and galleries in London, Paris, and Prague where famous writers and artists spent their personal and professional lives, it dawned on to me that majority of them didn’t live past forty-five. Caught in the clutches of either alcohol or suicide or a disease, their expedition came to an untimely halt.

I haven’t been able to shake off that feeling. To die before fifty is a bit premature, no? What drove these creative folks to end their lives or drink themselves to death? How miserable can misery get?

As a writer, I know writing takes me to a lot of dark places. The questions I ask and the answers I seek, very often, shake people out of their comfort zones. I am no exception; most of my writer and artist friends feel the same way. Our profession ensures we are in touch with our inner selves. But a heightened sense of awareness introduces us to tastes and shades that aren’t always appeasing. The dissatisfaction, which a common man might categorize as a fleeting thought and shrug off, doesn’t go unnoticed by us. Society trains humans to follow protocol. And mankind is sufficiently selfish to not raise an eyebrow unless an issue affects them personally. But the creative types are generally idealists, not realists, which makes the world a difficult place for them.

Funny, speaking of death, ever since we have returned, every friend that I have met or spoken with has admitted to one thing: Time is running out. Okay, I paraphrased what they confessed. And I am definitely sharing things out of context. But I do not exaggerate when I say that every single one of them realized that half of their life was over. Healthy, sane life, anyways.

Most of my friends are either in their early to mid-thirties or have just turned a new leaf in their life: Turned thirty. All of a sudden, influenced and concerned by our parents’ or relatives’ frail health, we recognize that in thirty plus years, we’ll be like them. Same age, similar issues, similar challenges, similar attitudes. Our thirty years on this planet passed by in the blink of an eye. And now we have thirty to maximum forty hearty years to really do what we want.

The first three decades of our lives were spent being who others wanted us to be. Be it education, career, or marriage, most of us were dream-fulfillers. That’s why twenties were so awkward, because you played roles and morphed into entities you didn’t always recognize. A mere puppet in the hands of society, dancing to various tunes. Pettiness, angst, competitiveness, insecurities, and uncertainties—well, you get the drift—easily found a home in hearts and minds. There were signs of unhappiness with who we really were. But at that age, one lacked the courage and maturity to recognize incongruousness. The desire to be approved and liked by everyone was so high; people went to insane extents to make themselves wretched.

Somehow, God knows what chemical synthesis happens in our cerebrum closer to thirties, a voice begins to nudge. This voice brings a sense of comfort. It works as a soothing balm, carving out individual personalities. We make peace with who we are. All of a sudden, it feels okay to say out aloud, “I matter.” And the biggest reality sinks in: People have to find their own happiness. You aren’t responsible for it.

A very good friend of mine recently relocated to Paris. I am beyond thrilled for her, but a few others said to me, Ah, she could move because she is single.” Hell, no! Give the woman some credit! She is a smart girl who has worked hard and paid her dues. She deserves the best and that's why she went after her calling!

I pity miserable, small-hearted people with only their sole point of view. No amount of designer brands, fancy outings, and exotic vacations can fill holes in them left behind by complexes and unhealthy competitiveness. When they act like jerks and bully, it's because they are immensely dissatisfied with their own existence. They think they can scare people into listening to them. The minute someone does better than him or her, they take it as a sign of personal failure. Instead of admiring or aspiring to be like the dreamers, such folks open the doors to jealousy and make it their agenda to criticize.

I asked my friend what prompted her move to Paris, which by the way is everyone’s dream—in my world, at least. She wrote back saying, “I think at our age you just realize that you’re on borrowed time and you have to make all there is out of life. And for now it's Paris!”

What a deep thought! Following your bliss is important. If you aren’t happy, you can’t impart happiness. I raise a toast to my friend for answering her calling. I wish her only the best. Knowing that I too am living on borrowed time, I have decided to follow my bliss. To quote someone I love and admire a lot, “Aside from your conscience, you don’t need a certificate to justify your actions to anyone.”

More until next time,


Copyright © 06.09.2011

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson