Being Straightforward Vs Diplomatic

This topic has been a pet peeve of mine for many years. Growing up, while in college, I always considered it better to be straightforward as against diplomacy. My friends and I were proud to be called a forthright person and proudly proclaimed it. So what changed now??

Well, life happened, and we realised that being straightforward is not suitable for everyone. With limited exposure in college life, we did not see the pitfalls of this attitude. As we were among equals, we spoke honestly, and there was a limited range of responses to expect. We either appeased the group, or we angered them. We either hurt feelings, or we invigorate people. Whatever was the reaction, we knew the response that we could expect. Things were simpler.

In the present day, I see people being straightforward and notice the same set of reactions as before. However, what has changed now is that I have become conscious of the emotional toll it takes on the listener. It is a different thing when you hurt a person and make them cry, the ones to take special notice of are those who get hurt and not express it. Either, they have accepted our remarks as truths and diminished their self-worth, or their hurt is getting pent up. It will express itself violently at a later time.

The same applies when we freely express our discontent and dissatisfaction. It causes the opposite person to become demotivated, disheartened and lose faith in the process. This would not matter earlier because there was much less stress in the society and the youth. Nowadays, everyone is so high strung that a small remark is enough to start an avalanche of emotions.

As compared to being straightforward, a diplomatic person manages to soothe or appease the fragile mind of the opposite person. Such a person is not necessarily a liar or someone on the fence. They just don’t forcefully express their views as compared to a straight talker. It may appear that a diplomatic person is not firm and steadfast in conveying their point of view or that they are people pleasers. However, I feel that there is nothing wrong with softly and sweetly relaying one’s opinions rather than being forceful. I believe that it is not worth hurting a person just to make a clear statement by straight talk.

What are your opinions on this matter? Do you agree with me, or do you oppose?

Are We Reading Too Much Between The Lines

Reading between the lines is a phrase that loosely means, to grasp what has been left unsaid, to uncover the truth behind the half-truths. In the past, it was an intelligent trait that only a few wise people possessed. The ability to read between the lines was a highly respected quality, people flocked to such wise ones for advice. By closely observing the body language, past history on the matter, the attitude of people involved and other socio-economic situations at that given point, one would make an educated guess about the intended meaning and unsaid story in a message.

The reason that I have raised this point today is that I have noticed that nowadays, we have stopped listening to what is being said. We see social media platforms abound with crazy conspiracies and theories that are based on seemingly innocuous interviews, discussion and press tours etc. Even mainstream media has stopped reporting facts and started producing conjectures and their analysis of what is said rather than giving us a chance to decide for ourselves.

We are so busy looking for the underlying message that we have stopped listening to what is being said. When we listen to someone speak, we closely observe every minute change in expressions, variation in pitch, tone of voice, line of vision of the speakers etc. Every time we see any fluctuations, we scramble to decode its meaning. We argue and debate to find an explanation. When we find it most of the time, it is the most perverse and unreasonable explanation we can think of.

As a result of all this ‘reading between the lines’, simple conversations are a thing of the past. Slowly reading between the lines got transformed into conspiracy theorizing. This intelligent quality got morphed into the petty and unhinged babbling of a conspiracist. You can visit any of the social media platforms and get 10 different versions and analysis of the same interview. While one site reads the meaning behind the message as a prediction of doomsday, another theorizes it as a ray of hope, and someone else says something totally tangential to both. Everyone tries to connect the dots to create different images while the viewer is left with a headache.

I miss the good old days when news channels only reported news and left the analysis to us. They stated only facts and the storytelling was left for grandmas. I miss the days when only a few wise souls could ‘Read between the lines’.

The Festival Of Lights

There are many festivals in India, some are specific to a region, some specific to a community etc. Different people celebrate different festivals with varying degrees of enthusiasm and pomp. But there are a few festivals that are celebrated throughout India and the most important among them is Diwali, the festival of lights.

There are different mythologies associated with Diwali in North India and South India. However, the importance of the day is constant. One group celebrates the day as the return of Lord Rama back to Ayodhya after his victory over Ravana and his subsequent coronation. To another group, it marks the defeat of the evil king Narakasura at the hands of Satyabhama. Anyway, I am not here to give mythology lessons on Diwali. I just want to reminisce fond memories from my childhood.

The day before Diwali, it is a tradition to wake up before sunrise, have a bath and get ready for puja. We all gathered at our grandparents’ house for the aarti to pray for our siblings. It was also a time to collect gifts from them. As children, this was the best part that we all waited for, The Gifts. Next all of us cousins could pool our money and buy extra crackers for the evening and start bursting them. On the day of Diwali, since my grandfather and my uncles are all architects, we did special pujas at the office and then started to burst crackers. This is where all the fun happened.

I remember that I was a wuss when it was time to burst noisy crackers. I just enjoyed the sparklers and flower pots. The minute anyone lit up Laxmi bombs or rockets, I would run and hide behind the next tallest person. I had to bear the brunt of ridicule from my cousin’s for it. But we forgot all about it when we saw the bright colours light up the sky. Though it has been a few years since we consciously stopped bursting crackers, we spend that time on our terrace safely watching the fireworks at others house.

Here are some snaps of Diwali this year:

The Tricky Job of Disciplining Children

Disciplining children is a tough job that not many of us can master. Correcting them can go wrong even if our attitude is critical or laid back. The problem with this task is that you do not know what went wrong until it is late. While one style of disciplining works in the present but leads to a fractured future, another ensures a better future but does not seem to work in the present. I have never needed to correct or discipline children, but I have seen some interesting ways of punishing them.

As I have mentioned already, I do not have much experience managing children on my own. I have tried to babysit my nieces and nephews, but it is not the same. If things get out of hand, we can always leave it to the parents to handle the fallout. I remember an instance when my niece refused to eat lunch. There was no one at home to convince her. I convinced her that she became invisible. And no one could see her or hear her unless she ate food. She was petrified at the thought of no one giving her attention. Luckily for us, she did not think of misusing the situation.

Of all the elders that I have observed around me, each had a different style of managing children. While my aunt would give her kids a free rein and not correct them at all, my mother was quite strict. Another aunt of ours micromanaged her children in such a way, they did not get a chance to misbehave. On the face of things, it always appeared that both my parents were strict and rule-bound. Yet, they both had a very different approach to checking and correcting children. They did not tolerate indiscipline or mischief and punished us in unique ways with psychological games. Nothing sinister about it, but let me give you a few examples.

As a child, I always daydreamed and never concentrated on studying. As a result, my grades were either inconsistent or low. My mother did not have time to sit with me and coach me every day on every topic, so she took a different approach. She sat me down and explained to me that since I was not studying well, I would not get a cushy office job. I would have to either work as a daily wage labourer or a municipal worker or a vegetable vendor. She then ticked out daily wage labourers from the list of potential jobs stating that I was not physically strong enough and also lazy. Thus, it was not a viable option. She moved to a municipal worker and explained that even those people require a certain level of educational qualification. And I had to work just as hard on the job. She told me that seeing my current situation, a vegetable vendor was the best I could manage. She then went on to explain the maximum earning I can expect and all the luxuries that I would have to forego with that job. You can safely guess my reaction to that talk. I was scared for my future, I even observed a few vegetable vendors in the following weeks and imagined myself in their shoes. I was too scared to daydream after that because all my dreams were of me pushing vegetable carts, or trying to hawk cheap goods.

My dad had a different approach. One summer, all of us kids were gathered at our house for a sleepover. And one of us scribbled all over the wall. We did not know who it was. No one would own up. My dad decided that we should play detective and try to recreate the scene of the crime. I walked us through the incident in a dramatic way about how a person stealthily scribbled on the wall without anyone noticing and almost made them appear heroic. He then conducted mock interrogations and acted out how the perpetrator committed the crime. As he expected, one of us slipped up and corrected my dad on the sequence of events and how they actually scribbled. The best part was that we did not even realise that one of us confessed to the mischief. He went on to embarrass the ‘perpetrator’ with all the loopholes in the plot. He even got the elders involved in a fun way. He made the whole incident appear like a game and made us point out all the mistakes made thereby, making my cousin who did the mischief appear like a fool. No one made mischief at our house again.

Both my parents used different tactics to correct us while making it seem like we chose the right way ourself. It is all fun to recollect now, but I wonder how they thought up the idea during those incidents. I can only hope to be half as smart as them while handling children. Do you have any such fun stories to share? You can put them in comments and have fun.

Image courtesy Canva.com

Be The Change You Want To See

I have not coined this term, ‘be the change you want to see’ however, I want to endorse this statement. If you are a sceptic, we can rephrase the term as ‘Practise before you preach’. Motivational speakers will say, ‘Lead by example’. Religious people might connect to the statement, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Whichever way you choose to word it, the meaning remains the same. If we want to bring about a change in this world, it starts with us. 

Anyone who observes the current situation in the world today, we can all agree that we need to change. We need to change our attitude, outlook and approach to viewing, handling and resolving issues. The issues we are facing are not new and unsuspecting, they have been brewing for quite some time without any signs of abating. Until now, all our efforts to resolve have only served as bandaids on a fractured bone. We have missed the mark one too many times. One of the reasons that the same issues continue to fester time and again is the lack of change. We need to make fundamental changes to the way we approach the problem, change our perspective. 

As a party to this conflict, our perspective, opinions, solutions often, tend to be biased, one way or the other. Asking an oppressor or an oppressed for their opinion will yield results coloured by their experiences. To correctly identify the root cause, we need to see the problem with an unbiased set of eyes. This unopinionated set of eyes are the most difficult to come by. 

I know that some of you are thinking that the only unbiased set of eyes can be that of aliens 😜because everyone else has already picked sides. There is, however, another solution, be the change you want to see. If you wish for the oppressed to stop complaints and be thankful, then you start practising it. If you expect the oppressed to stand up for what is right and speak up at the right forum, then you practice it. If you want to see tolerance in this world, then you be tolerant of people who disagree with you. If you desire to see friendly faces, then you smile and be open to friendship with strangers. 

I hope my message catches you in good spirits, that you see my perspective too. Have a great day

Image Courtesy of canva.com

Dishwashing

I was reminiscing on my childhood while washing dishes, and naturally, all the memories triggered were related to dishwashing. During the 1960s in South India, the main ingredient used for washing dishes was ash and the scrubber used was coconut fibre. The same was the case with my grandmother. Ammama (grandma) had a tin container filled with the dried coconut fibre that she collected every time she used a coconut. (In India, they retain a portion of the coconut fibre as it is used in all households).

She had a big copper water boiler that supplied all the hot water required for a daily bath. She used a combination of charcoal and Pidakalu (dried cow dung cakes) as fuel. She purchased these items from the local market. The water boiler itself is an antique piece, it is a pity we did not save it. Once the fuel burned and the water heating was done for the day, she collected the ash from the bottom tray and stored it in a separate box.
If at any time, the housemaid complained that she is unable to scrub the burnt food with the coconut fibre, my Ammama gave the maid a piece of tablet foil. Tablet foil??? If you are wondering, back in the old days in India, almost all tablets were packaged in metal foil. We never saw tablets packed in plastic until much later. She had a separate collection of this rare item, the tablet foils. She rarely used medications as she relied heavily on her home remedies.

For particularly greasy dishes, some flour was sprinkled generously and scrubbed and removed. The flour absorbed all the grease, and the utensils were ready for the next round of scrubbing.

The utensils used back then were all made of metal. Ammama had copper utensils, iron pots and pans, steel serving plates and cutlery and some aluminium containers. Not a single one was made of plastic. Ammama’s house was built in such a way that there was a separate area designated for washing dishes that was almost like the back yard. Dishes were never washed at the sink in the kitchen.

Later on, as years rolled by dishwashing powders dawned in the market. Sabena dishwashing powder was popular. Vim powder also used. The next stage was the use of dishwashing soap cake. Today the market has a plethora of dishwashing gels to choose from. The coconut scrub is long gone. Instead, we have all kinds of metal, sponge and plastic scrubbers to choose from.

Today one need not manually wash dishes, it can be done by a machine. Even if you do the dishes by hand, it is not such an unpleasant experience like yesteryears. However, I am not sure if we made a change for the better.

Where does all this soap water from the dishwashing go? Obviously, we are polluting the environment we live in. The second question is, how can we be sure that all the chemicals from the soap are 100% rinsed out from the dishes? If any soapy filmy residue stays on, then that goes straight into our body. There are some anti-bacterial and antifungal agents used commonly in dishwashing soaps that are harmful to our health. The other chemicals used in these soaps are said to cause skin rashes and allergies.

Bringing back Ammama’s methods of dishwashing is not possible for various reasons. Our kitchens consist of a lot of plastic and non-stick containers, we don’t have access to ash and coconut fibre.

Even though back then, through the eyes of a child, the process looked quite unpleasant, today I appreciated how much safer those methods were and how environmentally friendly they were.

Do Not Judge Based On Appearances

Near my house, an old lady lived in an old house. That house was the ancestral home of her family, so she wanted to keep up the tradition by living there. The problem was, the house was old and ugly. The backyard was overrun with shrubbery, the front yard was not well kept either. The main building in itself was strong, but it needed urgent repairs. The windows were broken and needed replacement, the paint was peeling, and the house had an eerie look to it. The old lady of the house added to the weirdness of it all.

Growing up, we called it the Haunted House of the neighbourhood. We told stories of strange movements and sounds from the house. We were all scared to pass by the house on our way to school and back. If any of us dared to get closer to that house, to check what was wrong, the old lady from the house would shout at us, and we would scramble from there. We lost many cricket balls, footballs, and toys in the yard of that house. Sometimes the balls accidentally fell into that yard, or sometimes a stay animal ran away with our toys and hid in that yard. It is safe to say that as kids, we all hated that house. We wished for it to be torn down, we prayed it would be demolished. Yet, nothing of that sort happened, we grew up and learnt to ignore that ugly house.

Recently, on a bright and sunny morning, there was a flurry of activity at the house. We were all surprised to see life and movement in that house. Nobody bothered about it for all these years until now. Over that week, we saw movers come in and remove furniture and objects from there. Later construction crews started to demolish the house. All the trees in the yard were cut down. All the waste from the yard was set aside to be disposed of. In that waste, we saw many of our old toys and more than a dozen balls too. We were all relieved to see the house go, but at the same time, we wondered why it was being brought down now.

Later we got to know that it was because the old lady had died. As long as she lived, her children did not demolish the house out of respect for her. Now that she passed away, they were free to remove this old building and build a new and swanky bungalow. We were all happy to see the change, but we also felt sad to see the old house go. Our joy was dampened after getting to know that the old lady of the house died. That was the reason for demolishing the old house. We wished for that house to be torn down without realising its significance to that family. To us, the house was just an ugly old building that was a nuisance and eyesore. But to the family, the house held a whole world of memories, heritage and nostalgia. Just because we did not like the building, it did not mean that the building has no value.

Isn’t this the case with life in general? Many times, we disregard, shun, or insult people, things, books and such, just because they do not live up to a certain standard. We refuse to dig deep to find their importance, we just discard them as waste. By doing this, we lose many people, things and items of value, we recognise their worth only after it is lost. In the story that I narrated up here, the house did not have any importance to me. Just because the house was in a dilapidated state and looked ugly, I was quick to judge its value. I have learnt my lesson. Don’t let this happen to things and people that are important in your life.

Image Courtesy Of Canva.com

The Way You Make Me Feel

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.Maya Angelou

I have never heard a more profound statement than this. The words a person says can hurt us or console us for the time being. But the emotion they generate or the feelings they create, stay with us forever. Every time we watch any old videos or film footage of an event, it amazes us that we remember the event differently. It is because we reminisce the event through the emotions that it generated though, the words spoken might imply something else.

One embarrassing memory of mine involved getting insulted for my dress by a cousin at a wedding function. When I revisited the old wedding video, I saw that my cousin only said that the colour of the dress was gaudy. My memory painted a different picture of me getting insulted. Based on that memory, for the longest time, I thought my cousin hated me. I avoided her everywhere I went.

It is not just what people say, but also our home, neighbourhood, schoolyard and so on that get tainted by our emotions. When I think back to my childhood vacations, the park near my house was as big as a football stadium. My back yard had a jungle in it. When I revisited my old home, I was surprised to see the actual size.

Many times we reminisce on past events, big and small in terms of our feelings. Most of us narrate past memories by starting off with, ‘I clearly remember feeling….’ We do not even remember the correct sequence of events or exact words uttered, however, we can correctly relay the emotion behind the words. For some reason, our mind stores feelings and emotions more carefully than it does the verbatim.

Would you agree with me on this? Words and actions may be powerful, but at the end of it, our feelings are what create memories.

Counting My Blessings

I have been waiting for this day for several weeks now. To understand what I am saying, I have to take you back to 3 months ago. In July, I woke up one morning with a pain in my right wrist. I did not fall or do anything unusual the previous day, so I overlooked this pain. After completing my morning shift of work, I decided to give my hand some rest. Rather than the pain subsiding, it increased. By the end of the day, it was swollen. By the next day, I could barely move my fingers.

I thought to myself that most probably, I have a hairline fracture. “A sprain!” said my husband. Anyhow, the x-ray ruled out my doubts. We went ahead on the premise that it’s a sprain. Two weeks later, a trip to the orthopaedic surgeon revealed more problems. In effect, I had to sit with a crepe bandage around my wrist.

Life suddenly changed since that ill-fated day in July. I could barely use my hand. I did not have a tight grip in my hand; pain became a constant feature, and I was tired of listing all the complaints I have with my hand. There was a burning sensation, tingling and numbness. Gradually, the fresh pink palm donned a greyish dead fish look. After taking an MRI, the doctor started his treatment, but he warned that I may have to live with some of these pains. The list of ailments was a sprained wrist, TFCC disc tear, nerve compression and CRPS.

Right became left and vice versa. I learnt to work with my left hand. Everything from brushing in the morning to chopping vegetables and cooking, I learned to do all of it with my left hand. I practised writing with my left hand. Most of the time, I laughed at my clumsiness, but sometimes I was depressed. I felt guilty for the trouble I gave to my family. I am not used to dependency.

Today after a long time, I feel a little better. My hand hurts a little less than usual. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. A million thanks to God for this day and for such a wonderful and supportive family and friends.

Poor Little Rich Kid

When you read the title of this post, ‘poor little rich kid’, we are all reminded of the story of Richie Rich. The comic character who was so rich that his riches caused unique and comical problems for him. Today, however, I am talking about that poor little rich person who is rich in wealth but doesn’t have money to spend. If you think that it is oxymoronic, then let me explain.

Many of the young adults, are college-educated, working in cushy jobs in software or MNCs. We earn fat salaries, travel in style, dress up in the latest trends, but how many have ready cash to spend in case of emergency. In our quest to secure our financial future, some of us have cornered ourselves in the present.

This little bit of wisdom has come upon me after seeing the misfortune of my neighbour. He comes from a regular middle-class family. With his sheer hard work, he got himself a respectable job in a reputed company, he earns a sizable 6 figure salary. He belongs to the upwardly mobile young generation, who grew up middle-class, but who suddenly find themselves swimming in wealth. His parents advised him to make his financial future secure before he can spend on any luxury. That sounds like sane advice, and my neighbour took it.

He invested in a wide range of long term investment policies. He opened a few different insurance policies, mutual funds, recurring deposits etc. He observed his peers become homeowners and under peer pressure, he also booked a house in a gated community along with his office friends. Taking into consideration different parameters, he took a home loan and bought a house along with his friends. When you say home loans, automatically there will be monthly payments that cannot be missed. Apart from these expenses, he also pledged to donate to a few charities to appease his conscience. As a result of all these planned payments, my neighbour’s comfortable 6 figure salary was gone before his eyes. Halfway through the month, his bank balance was hitting zero after making all the payments and donations. On the paper, he was a rich guy with sizable investments and assets yet, his salary was just about sufficient for all his monthly bills and payments.

He did not have money to spend on himself anymore. With the recent COVID situation, he was worried about his job security. All the while that he was at home, he was scared out of his wits because he could not afford to fall sick or lose his job. He was ready to take a pay cut by the time he started working from home. He was among the lucky ones who did not lose their job but, shudders to think about those who did lose it.

Instead of tying himself up with a mountain of future payments, if my neighbour has planned his money better, it would have saved him a world of tension. Thinking about long term goals, he missed on taking immediate contingencies into account. He was not a lonely case, it happened with a few of his other colleagues, and they had to move out of their fancy apartments to save money. Many went back to their hometowns and villages to manage finances.

What I would like to point out is that it is definitely good to plan for the future. But do not lose focus on the present. Always keep aside some contingency money that will see you through unforeseen situations like this. You may not need it, but the safety blanket it provides will help you sleep better.

Let It Slide, My Dear!

There are times when you have several thoughts on your mind. You would like to share it with someone and feel lighter. However, at the same time, you don’t want to spill the beans. It’s such a paradoxical situation. While you go to great lengths to keep your secrets from your dear ones, you end up letting the cat out of the bag with a total stranger. What prompts a person to make decisions like these? I wonder. Do people take comfort in the fact that strangers have no contacts with anyone in your known circles while disclosing their worries? 

Have you been in a situation where you are desperate to get some help but at the same time, you want to be totally independent and manage all your matters on your own? At times like these, a person will ask for help but will not allow anyone to extend  help properly. They interfere and interrupt every step of the way. The end result is that frustrations run high for both parties.

Do I need to remind you of those times when you wanted to sink your teeth into your sinfully delicious junk food but instead ate a frugal meal? All the times you wished that burgers and pizzas were good for health. Or why it is that healthy food did not taste as good as junk food? 

Life has some paradoxes here and there. One time or the other, we run into them. We have to deal with them whether we like it or not. I don’t have any pearls of wisdom to share for these distasteful moments. All I can share with you is what my Dad told me when I was a child, “Let it slide, my dear!”. Take a deep breath. Do the best you can and let the frustration slide.

Misadventures With Home Remedies

In an earlier post about Indian Home remedies, I had written about various home remedies that were passed down in my family and how much I relied on them. They are like the first aid for health conditions until I can visit a doctor. But, my road to learning the home remedies was not an easy one. There were quite a few misadventures before I learnt to tell the difference between useful remedies from quack remedies.

I clearly remember one such mishap that my sisters had while growing up. One of my sisters had a severe acne problem and she was desperate to try anything to cure them. One day, in a women’s magazine, we read a home remedy for acne. It involved making a poultice of ginger paste asking with a few other household herbs. When we read that, my sisters joked about the remedy seeming like a recipe for curry rather than a home remedy. For those who tried Indian cuisine will recognise that ginger garlic paste is a staple in all curries 

We tried the remedy, nonetheless. The only problem was that, amidst all the jokes, my sister accidentally, used garlic paste instead of ginger paste.

As soon as she applied the poultice on her face, it started to burn. Garlic paste is acidic in nature, so any contact with open wounds and cuts causes severe inflammation and irritation to the skin. You can imagine the effect it had on my sisters face. It was red as a tomato and the acne was aggravated two-fold. We had to apply a lot of aloe vera and calamine lotion before the burns subsided. 

At the end of the day, the pimple did not vanish but our itch to try new remedies was cured for a few months. 

There was another instance when I accidentally used the whole egg instead of just the egg white in my hair pack. To make matters worse, I washed my hair with warm water. The stink it raised in my hair would not wash off easily, nor would my memory of it. My hair may have become soft and smooth because of the egg white conditioner, but the yolk in the pack and the warm water almost became a dish of scrambled egg on my head. My hair was left stinking along with the whole bathroom for a few days.

Despite such misadventures, I still turn to home remedies for most day-to-day health problems. I’ve just learnt to be careful before trying them. I have to add a cautionary note here. Try only those remedies from sources you trust, unlike the ginger paste remedy that we tried. Secondly, always follow the instructions correctly. Don’t mix up ingredients or instructions.