Personal observations on life

How can introverts be more sociable?

Social situations and conversing with other people can be an arduous task for some people, especially introverts, who prefer their own company to that of others. However, some situations call for a certain degree of competence in social relations, for example, in one’s job environment or socializing with one’s extended family.  There are guidelines that an introvert can follow, so that there is no need to hide when there are visitors in the house!

1. Start slow.

To people who aren’t naturally good at conversation, taking huge steps such as attending major functions, going to parties and get-togethers and hanging out with groups of people, may feel claustrophobic, causing one to withdraw into his own shell. This is why baby steps are important. Start off with talking to people you meet every day, but never have talked to. You could begin by just smiling at them, and asking ‘how do you do’. For many people, this is enough as a conversation starter.

2. Find a hobby and join clubs.

Nowadays, there are clubs or groups for nearly everything. From book-clubs to gardening get-togethers, there is a variety of options to choose from. If you already have a hobby that you wish to experience with others, try to find people with similar interests on Facebook or other social media platforms. You could also learn a new hobby by going to lessons for it. For example, picking up learning the guitar or cultivating an interest in art and literature or learning to paint can introduce you to a lot of new people and if you get serious about it, even open new doors for you.

3. Voice out your questions and suggestions.

If you work in a corporate business and attend meetings often, chances are that you’ve stumbled upon quite a few moments when you thought up of something you thought could be beneficial to the company but kept quiet. Such instances are causes of frustration, as well as negative reinforcements to such behaviour. They push you back into your shell. This also may happen to students who know how to answer their teachers but are far too afraid to. One thing to realize is that it’s okay to slip up sometimes. Sometimes it’s ok to say something that sounds dumb or cringe-worthy.  Along with that, people often forget easily, as they have their own lives and own troubles. So the next time you have something to say, just remember that whatever you say, nobody is going to judge you too harshly for it.

4. Compliment others!

Sometimes you’re stuck in a situation where you want to talk to someone but aren’t sure on how to initiate the conversation. Going up to them and complimenting them on their features or what they are wearing is a very pleasant way to strike up a conversation with them. Just make sure that what you say is genuinely felt. Artificiality is something people do not forgive.

5. Seek help.

Most socially awkward people can manage their lives in some way, but some fall prey to extreme nervousness and anxiety in any social situation. Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia disrupts everyday life the individual because of the significant anxiety, embarrassment and self-consciousness caused by a fear of being scrutinized or judged by others. This leads to avoidance behaviour. If lack of social skills is a result of social anxiety disorder or any other psychological block that completely inhibits your ability to socialize whatsoever, it might be time to seek a doctor’s advice.

6. Visualize managing difficult situations

A powerful way to manage difficult situations is to imagine managing them beforehand. For example, if you have a desire to talk to a particular person in a particular setting, visualize the setting and the person. Visualize how you will approach the person and how you will start the conversation. Rehearse the whole scenario many times if needed before you actually do it. This is a very effective way of managing socially awkward situations.

7.  Be kind to yourself

One thing to remember is that being shy or introverted is not a problem. Also, no one expects anyone to talk a lot. In fact rambling on and on is not a good strategy to adopt if one wants to fit in in any social situation. All you have to do is to be interested in what is happening, what other people are saying, and listening to them. Listening is more important than talking, and it is a blessing that comes easily to introverts.

Social awkwardness is nothing to be ashamed of. You are good to go with these seven golden strategies.

Personal observations on life


Bulbbul Twitter Review: Anushka Sharma's Netflix Production Gets ...

On a rainy Friday afternoon, I watched Bulbbul on Netflix.

By Indian standards it is a very short movie. It did not move me to tears or rage, but left me reflecting on womanhood in India, or the reality of being a woman in India.

First, the facts. Bulbbul is an Indian supernatural drama film written and directed by Anvita Dutt and produced by Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Sharma. The film stars Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam, Rahul Bose and Parambrata Chattopadhyay. It was released on Netflix on 24th June 2020, and is set in the erstwhile Bengal Presidency in the 1800’s.

Let me capture the story in a nutshell.

Bulbbul is a child bride given in marriage to a man named Indranil, about two decades older than her. But she is more attached to her husband’s youngest brother Satya who is about her age. She is lusted after by another brother of her husband, Mahendra, who is mentally challenged. Bulbbul’s attachment to Satya soon raises suspicions in her husband which are fueled on by Mahendra’s wife Binodini, who is presumed to have an affair with Indranil.

Indranil sends Satya off to London, and in a fit of fury, beats Bulbbul up till her feet are in a pulp. Indranil leaves the Manor soon after. Dr. Sudip, an empathetic doctor treats Bulbbul for her injuries, but Mahendra takes advantage of her helpless condition and rapes her. In the ensuing violence, Bulbbul’s feet are permanently damaged, and she herself appears to have died. Yet she is alive when Binodini comes into the room and cleans Bulbbul’s  thighs. Binodini tells her to keep silent, which Bulbbul does.

Satya returns after five years to find Bulbbul a strong and independent woman, running the Manor. A string of murders has happened in the village, and Satya suspects Dr. Sudip. However, it turns out that it was Bulbbul herself who kills the men who wrecked the lives of herself and fellow women. She is the ‘chudail’ – the she-demon with feet turned backwards. She meets a violent end just as Satya discovers the true identity of the ‘chudail’.

There are various themes that the movie handles:

1. Child marriage

The root cause of all evil in the story is child marriage. The uprooting of a child from her home, expecting her to live from then on in a strange household with a strange man is actually the beginning of the whole tragedy. Bulbbul’s friendship with Satya becomes natural and inevitable because of this.

2. Patriarchy

‘A woman’s personal life consists of only her husband,’ says Indranil to Bulbbul, when she says that the book that she was writing with Satya was a personal matter. The movie is in fact a fierce critique of patriarchy, and how women rise from the ashes and fight for what is right. There are many helpless girls and women in Bulbbul who suffer at the hands of cruel fathers and husbands.

3. A reinforcement of the she-demon myth

Women, traditionally, are perceived as gentle, sacrificing creatures with no capacity to rise against those who ill-treat them. If she does, she has to be a she-demon or a witch, even if what she does is morally right. This is what happens in Bulbbul as the heroine turns into a she-demon to mete out revenge, and is a normal lady of the Manor at other times.

4. Oppressive social customs

There are any number of oppressive social customs portrayed in Bulbbul, understandably because the film is set a century back. However, some of those customs exist even now. For example, take the case of Binodini who is married off to a mentally challenged Mahendra. She is forced to marry him, which inevitably leads to her dissatisfaction with life and infidelity. In fact, along with child marriage, the tragedies that happen in Bulbbul are all created by human beings, in the name of social customs and traditions.

Personal observations on life

How to detox your life?

If you would like to detox your life, please accept my congratulations, because it is one of the best decisions that anybody can take. It takes quite a bit of will power to detox your life, but it is absolutely worth it.

What are the steps involved in detoxing your life? Let us see.

1. Reflect on your emotions as you feel them. Be mindful of what exactly you are experiencing through the day, each moment. Are you experiencing happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, regret or guilt?

2. Once you have identified what exactly you feel at any particular moment, reflect on what effect that emotion had on you. Did it make you feel good about yourself and about your life? Did you think of it as a learning experience? Or did it make you feel worthless, and inferior to everybody else? Did it ruin your relationships by making you do things like screaming at people?

3. Once you have identified what exactly the effect of the emotion was on you, whether it was positive or negative, find out the cause of the emotion. It could be a person, or an event, or some external circumstances that you could not have done anything about. Very often it is another person who has treated you in a certain way, or said something to you. It could also be habit such as sleeping late, that make you feel crappy the next morning.

4. If it is something that you can control, stop it or avoid it from now on. If it is a person, cut him/her out of your life. You may still have to live with that person, or work with that person, but you can train yourself to be immune to that person. If it is a situation, avoid getting into the situation if you can. If you cannot avoid it, train yourself to turn that situation to your advantage.

5. Once you have cut out all the toxic influences in your life, it is time to fill it with all that you love, consider positive and healthy for yourself. It could be hobbies such as gardening, or going out with chosen friends, or just reading. Nurture relationships with people who make you feel worthy and valuable. Remember that it is loving relationships that make a person happy. Do the things you love to do. Invest time and energy in improving yourself. Above all, nurture the attitude of loving life on this beautiful earth.

Once you detox your life you will be like a stream that has crystal clear water. All the impurities that bothered you, and all the garbage that choked you, is gone. You feel light, and beautiful inside and out.

Believe me, it is totally worth it.

Personal observations on life

‘Is life worth it’?

Today, as I sat down at my desk, beginning my work, I got a WhatsApp message from my 10 year old son. The message was a question: ‘Is life worth it?’

I sat back in my chair, and took a deep breath. My son, all of ten years, was going through existential angst. I texted back to him, “Yes, it is.” Then I added, “Love is what makes life worth it’. He texted me back, ‘I love you’.

As I reflected back on this little exchange between my son and myself this morning, I wondered if he knew the significance – the sheer weight- of this question. I am sure my son does not know that this is a question than mankind has asked itself over and over, over the millennia, and will keep asking long into the future as long as it inhabits this universe.  The professed task of religion and philosophy has always been to answer this question.

Monotheistic religions answer this question by saying that God has a plan for all human beings, and that life on earth is worth it because it is the fulfilment of God’s plan. According to this view, if a person failed to do what God wanted her to do in this life, her life would be worthless and meaningless. There are some schools of thought that believe that each human being has a soul that is immortal, and life is worth it if she lives her life in a way that expresses the beauty of this soul, though noble actions. Most religions advocate a combination of these two views.

There are also philosophers and thinkers who do not bother much about God or soul. According to them, each human being finds meaning in life differently, and it is up to each one to find her own meaning. A few of these thinkers believe that one’s life is worth it if she manages to do or achieve what is really important to her. Another school of thought holds that life is worth it to the extent to which a person feels love and care for something or someone. In this view, life is worth it because through life, one is able to experience love.

And then there are the nihilists who believe that life is simply not worth it, that it has no meaning at all.

However, since I am not a nihilist, and I am now reading ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl, I had a ready answer for my son’s question. Love is what makes life worth it. It could be love for other human beings, or some purpose higher than ourselves. It is this love that makes you achieve ‘flow’ and gives you optimal experiences, as the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would say.

Life is definitely worth it.

Personal observations on life

How patriarchy harms the next generation

Patriarchy | What is it, etymology, history, characteristics, examples

Patriarchy is a term h used to identify social organizations in which the authority is invested in the head of the family, the man, who owns wealth, children, wife and property. In other words, the woman, children, and the money in the family are all the possessions of the man in the family. Patriarchy and its typical social conventions are deep-rooted in our society, affecting all facets and strata of life. Nowhere is the weight of patriarchal mindsets more felt than the family, and for that reason, the younger generation grows up with an unhealthy dose of it fed to them everyday. There are a number of ways in which it harms them.

1. Skewed perspectives on gender

In families where the father is dominant, and where the father takes decisions without consulting anyone, the role model of the son is set. He most probably grows up to be like his father. However, unlike his father, he has to live in a world where women have education, learned opinions and views. He will be a misfit in such a world where women also work earn, and expect men to put in an equal share of work in household chores and bringing up children. He grows up thinking that man is more important than woman.

2. Lack of open communication

In a patriarchal family, there are things that are not discussed by the father with the rest of the family, such as the family finances and problems the father faces in his workplace. In many patriarchal families, the father and other male adults do not talk much at all, except with their own male adult friends. This gives rise to communication patterns that are very superficial, and the children in such families may grow up incapable of in-depth conversations.

3. Underdevelopment of personality

A child’s personality is molded by the family environment to a very large extent, In patriarchal families, girls and daughters grow up in close alignment with the traditional stereotypical definitions and roles of males and females. This leaves them deficient in a lot of areas of their personality which could be more like the opposite gender. For example, a girl may have the potential to be a public speaker, but since she has not seen her own mother speak confidently in front of a group, she may not even realize that she has this potential. Similarly, a boy may have the capacity to be an empathetic nurturer, but in the absence of a nurturing father role model, he might never fulfill this potential.

4. Promotes dependence

Ironically, patriarchy promotes dependence. Many of the patriarchal men do not know how to make food, or wash and iron clothes. They depend on women for all these ‘feminine’ activities. In patriarchal families, sons are not expected to learn cooking or washing clothes, just like the daughters are not expected to learn driving. Thus, neither the male child nor the female child grows up to be an independent adult.