Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hide and Seek!

Chitra's post on crying triggered my long-thought-about ideas on hiding your feelings of unhappiness from others' eyes.
Most of us wish to present to the world a strong outer crust. We are hard, our armor is impenetrable. We express our happiness oh-so-joyously to the world. Fear of appearing weak makes us hide our sadness deep inside. Crying is generally attributed to a weak nature. All that's fine. But how many people actually carry this through? I would say one in a million.
Most of the tough ones feel at one time or the other, like Rose of Titanic, that they are 'in a room, surrounded by people and that they are screaming at the top of their voice and nobody even hears them'. The breaking point is, then, very near. Soon the floodgates will be opened, with a mighty flood to follow.
And the disappointment at finding out that you are not as strong willed as you assumed yourself to be, adds to the pain.
So is it really for the best - this practice of hiding our mournful feelings? I would say no. All the misery inside us needs an outlet. Coming to terms with the misery primarily needs a deep introspection. Calm objective reflection helps us to understand the misery and its cause. And most of the times, even a way out. If our own mind cannot be counted upon to help us, that's when a 'shoulder to cry on' comes as a godsend.
Generally people who appear strong and bottle up their feelings inside tend to be good listeners. So, in turn, they make good shoulders. But we need to understand that that shoulder is connected to a mind too and it will also have its own share of burden to carry.
Not all of us are lucky enough to find that shoulder. But once we find it, we need to be very careful that we do not use that shoulder only to cry on. Sometimes that shoulder will need an another.
But it does not pay to be too open about your feelings either. Others perceive you as a complaining miserable crybaby. But lets not even talk about the people who go about flaunting their misery. Their sadness doesn't even measure up to the word.
So is it really for the best - this practice of hiding our mournful feelings? I would say yes, it is good to hide your feelings from the eyes of all others if you are willing to show them to yourself. If you are strong enough to handle the tremendous pressure on your own.
Happiness shared is multiplied and sadness shared is divided. The catch lies in finding the right people to share them with!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What do you see in the mirror?

For a human, looking at the mirror is as habitual as eating. It is an everyday occurence and for some, every hour!
When you check your mirror, what do you see? I mean, after checking your dress, hair, makeup etc. Beyond that. What do you see?
Did you ever look at a mirror and wonder how you might appear to others?
Sound weird? It is. It feels weird too. Atleast it did, when I tried to look at the person in the mirror as I would look at a stranger. I began to feel scared. I use 'scared' here for want of a better word. The feeling may be better explained as one of haunting bewilderment. But I did. It felt like I did not know the person in the mirror. That scared me because I always prided on the knowledge that none knew me better than I. But here, apparently, I'm not what I thought myself to be!
Does that sound crazy?
Let me illustrate with an example.
I have this complete obsession with straight hair. Be it man or woman, whenever I behold a head with straight hair spewing out of it, I immediately feel the little green monster in me arise. I personally do not have a great opinion about my own bunch (why else would there be the green monster!) At the best comparison, I would call myself Medusa-ic.
What really incenses me is having those lucky buggers with straight hair come upto me and go gushing "Oh I wish I had your beautiful curly/wavy(according to them) hair. Oh your hair is so much more lovelier than mine!!"
Can't they see the snakes of Medusa? Incidents like these led me to the mirror experiment.
Does everyone feel weirdly scared when they keep staring at their own reflection for a long time? I once shared my mirror experience with my cousin who (to my utter surprise) immediately responded with a "You too??". Oh it was so heartening to know that I wasn't alone in the bandwagon. But probably it only runs in the family.
Has this ever happened to you? If not in the past, I invite you now to take a good long look at yourself and tell me what you feel!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Answering Antony's Call

Did you ever wonder why Antony asked his buddies to 'Lend him their ears' ? Why couldn't he have said 'Listen to me folks' ? OK not folks. Just 'Listen to me'. But no! The reason why he wanted them to 'lend their ears' is that he wants their complete attention. How many people lend us their ears when we talk? How many times do we lend our ears?
So far as I have seen, based on the people I've met, we can loosely classify the Listeners into

The Genuines
These are the people who actually evince an interest in what you have to say. You like prolonging the conversation with them. Though they may not always provide insightful responses, you leave them with contentment - that you have been listened to.

The Hasty
These people already know what you are going to say, even before you say it. Jumping to conclusions is their favorite sport. They make tiring and difficult listeners.

The Pretenders
They profess an interest in what you have to say, their entire countenance spells "Listening" in large capitals and you are encouraged to continue your discourse. All the while, their busy mind is working on another tangent, with complete disregard for what you are saying.

The Hopeless
These are the people who are so completely wrapped up in their own selves that it is hard for them even to listen to your simple 'I am going to the laundry'. Anything that is not uttered by their own lips is considered irrelevant, foolish and a terrible waste of words.

Of course, these groups are not mutually exclusive. Everyone donns one mantle or the other in different circumstances.

Listening to someone wholeheartedly is a very, very tough job - initially. But it is a talent that can be cultivated very easily with interest. Here are some pointers that may help you listen well.

-Start any conversation with an interested and receptive mind. If you do not have one, stop it right there.
-Look at them when they talk. Their body language helps you with listening.
-Try to put yourself in their place. Helps you understand why they are saying the things they do.
-Have the patience to hear them out. Wait till the end of their talk to give a response.
-If you have neither time nor inclination to listen to them, tell them! Suggest that they come to you some other time.
-Understand why they are telling you this. If you do not, ask them first. Be clear in what is expected of you.

They say be a sponge while listening. Don't. Just one squeeze may let it all out. Instead be like the dry earth which absorbs rain.
The next time Mark Antony asks for your ears, you can easily respond with a 'Here you go fella'!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Does God Exist?

The debate over the existence of God has, for a long time, been a continuous and an interesting one. When answering this question, however, it is imperative that we have the knowledge of the subject, that is, God. What exactly is meant by this three-letter word? The connotations that this word brings to the minds of different people are countless.

People who assiduously follow the teachings of their religion believe that God is the Supreme Being, one who has the powers to create, destroy and protect the world and all its elements. Different religions give different shapes to this Supreme Being. For some, God is anthropomorphic. For some, God takes the shape of a tree, or a stone. Some others believe that God has no shape. But they’re all unanimous on the point that God is the one responsible for all creations. And by long practice, generally God is given the pronoun of ‘He’.

The believers contend that God is the reason behind all existence. Their argument is that for every creation there must be a reason, there must be a source, there must be a prototype. And these are provided by none other than God. God is the reason that Earth is round. He is the reason that leaves are green. A very high intelligence is needed to create something as complex as a human brain. This high intelligence is attributed to none other than God. An extremely high intelligence is needed to create zillions of different kinds of species, plants, minerals, elements and all that goes into creating the Earth as we know it. Only God, they say, is capable of such a feat.

Physicists attribute the reason for Earth’s shape to Gravity. Botanists attribute to pigments and chlorophyll and light reflection, the reason that leaves are green. And evolution is how humans are created, assert scientists.

While the believers may say that God is the reason for Gravity, the non-believers on the other hand, choose to believe that the reason stops with Gravity and does not go beyond that - to God. Such a debate is endless. But one underlying factor is common to both the sides – it is the existence of power or energy that is beyond human. An example of this power in this case can be Gravity. What atheists call Gravity, the religious lot call God.

The believers choose to attach a shape to this power. The shape enables them to visualize their Supreme Being. An invisible Supreme Being is in many cases unsettling and inadequate. When they want to worship their Supreme Being but know not what or where to worship, it creates confusion in their minds. A tangible image is reassuring to them. They are now clear what to worship. Their religion teaches them how to worship this image. They follow the path set to them by their elders. The vague inquietude arising from their daily interactions with others is dispelled when they worship this Supreme Being.

There are some other believers who do not attach any shape to their God, but have the ability of seeing their God in all images they behold. They do not need a place of worship or a shape to worship. They see God in their minds. They are well content worshipping God in places of their own choice and images of their own preference. They achieve the inner peace and quiet in their own methods of worship.

God, for every one of the believers, is a being who has the power and the benevolence to soothe a disturbed mind, to ease the pain, to help them learn kindness and to live in peace and goodwill. God is the feeling of happiness and peace instilled in them. This feeling arises for them when they worship their images of God. For the non-believers, this feeling arises when they are doing something they’re most passionate about, something that they love doing, something that gives them extreme pleasure. Like when they hear music or when they see beautiful sights of nature or when they’re helping another human to live.

The feelings evoked in the minds of humans when they think about this Supreme Being or a Supreme Power is the same for both the believers and the non-believers. An extreme feeling of happiness, a joy in being alive and thankfulness for the experience.

While the non-believers do not attach any name for this power, the believers choose to call the power as God.
As uttered by Shakespeare’s Juliet,

….that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

The same holds good for God too. The power is the same. The only difference is in what people call it. God does exist, in the minds of people.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What, you don't worry?

That will be the surprised rejoinder Alfred E. Newman will get now for his favorite phrase, if he were to talk to the same people I talk to.

When you take a slightly different path than the well-trodden one, when you are not following the same stream, when you do not go by the popular conventional methods, people who are so solicitously enquiring after your health and wellness have already decided that you must be miserable in your new walk of life. Any assertions on your part that you're actually enjoying yourself on this new journey leaves these people doubting your word.

They shoot probing questions at you, determined to find the real you unhappy.
They of course don't ask ouright, but you can easily imagine them saying, "How the heck can you profess to be happy?", "Why are you pretending my child? Why don't you come clean and accept that you're living a sorrowful existence now?", and more in the same vein. There's some kind of an undetected sadistic pleasure these folks enjoy, that makes them sit back in contentment to see their opinions come true, however negative they may be.

Just because someone has done something unexpected, does it automatically have to follow that they cannot be happy doing that? No! But it's as hard for people to change their preconceived notions as a leopard its spots! If its a rule, it must be right! There's no argument about it. Much the same way, if you're different, you must be a weirdo. There's something not real about you!

People, wake up!!! Nothing's the same, ever.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Souls in Torment

All I wanted was a haircut.

The stylist at the salon asked me which style would I prefer. No preference, I said. Whichever you think will suit me, do it, I said.

I sat down expecting scissors on my hair. I got shampoo.
Which was followed by a conditioner. Which was followed by a massage done with some nameless liquid.

Then came the cutting. After the cut was over, she asked which setting would I prefer, normal, straight or curls. There is only one answer to this question, always. It's straight everytime.

She started brushing and drying my tendrils. Then sprayed it with another nameless liquid. When she was through, I could not believe at the apparition in the mirror in front of me. My normally dry, half-curly, fly away hair was transformed into a thing of beauty! In place of my usual bird's nest, I now had a thick sheet of glistening tresses!

'Oh! to be rich and be pampered like this everyday', I sighed, for this operation, dreamy as it was, had considerably lightened my purse...

I thought I was finished with my job at the salon. But no, not with my best friend by my side, egging me on to 'shape my eyebrows'.

I've had this told to me by a large multitude. You can always spot them. These people have the welfare of your brows in their hearts. They're the ones who look keenly at your brows when talking to you. You even start sweating under their close scrutiny. The verdict is always the same. "You have such nice thick eyebrows, why don't you shape them? they'll look more beautiful".
Note the 'nice' and the 'more beautiful'. It's never "shape your eyebrows, they look terrible now". They always aim at the betterment of good brows!

So I thought, 'why not?'.
'Shape my brows', I told her. I ignored the death knells. My mistake.
What followed was pure torture. It was like my brows were being scraped off with sandpaper.

Another operation in the same Spanish Inquisition trend is this thing called waxing. It's when they first pour hot wax on you. Then they apply strips of cloth on it, and pull it up in one fast flick of their wrist. You feel like strips of your skin are being peeled away.

The most horrifying fact about these agonies is that these are a continuous process. Why would girls deliberately go through this torture? It was beyond my comprehension until I did the same. The answer is simple. It's hair. It keeps growing back, with a vengeance. You are forced to become a waxing-addict.

Lesson learnt: 'Beauty' is painful.

Disclaimer: By 'Beauty' here I mean the much-hyped idea of it. The idea that only shaped eyebrows and waxed hands are beautiful and the non-shaped and the non-waxed are just shaggy!