Week 10: Stay True North

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I tell him that honesty is the best policy. I tell him that you should always play fair. I teach him to share with his friends, treat everyone with respect, be kind, be empathetic. But the world that he is living in tells him that you can get away with anything by lying through your teeth. The world is telling him that nothing is fair and anything goes if you have muscle power or larynx power. I tell him that if someone is being bullied, you protect them. I tell him that if you are being bullied, then you tell them off. But the world is telling him that if you tell off a bully or protect someone from a bully, then the bully retaliates with more vengeance. I tell him to never hit first but only in self-defense. The world is telling him that if he doesn’t hit, then he is weak. I tell him to listen to his inner voice because it will always show him the right direction. The world is telling him that all this is useless advice. I see a lot of me in him. He is who he is but I see a lifetime of struggle ahead of him. It has taken me years to learn a few lessons. Some lessons I learn every day. I want to tell him someday…

Do not share

I believe in sharing. I believe in sharing my life, my worries, my joys, and triumphs, along with my sorrows and my failures with friends I know will not judge me. And the last part of the sentence is the crucial part. I cannot vouch for others when I say this but I believe that most of us are not open to criticism. We cannot stand being put in the spotlight and asked to take off our clothes. It is humiliating to say the least. It is at the core of how we identify ourselves as human beings. It comes from our basic and innate urge for modesty. But if there is a safe place that I can identify, and when I mean ‘safe place’, I mean a place where you can speak your mind, because I believe, sharing is an important part of my identity. Perhaps this has to do with growing up in a joint family, along with all my cousins and aunts and uncles. So, there were always many pairs of eyes watching your every move. That resulted in me being a rebel. I always wanted to do something that was different, that was off the beaten track, hence opening myself up to more criticism. But then, I grew up and I realized that sharing is not something I am comfortable with. I have been rudely made to realize that sometimes when I share information/feelings, it can be “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”. Too much time and effort is spent unnecessarily to clear out the air and I simply do not have the energy for that anymore. So, I choose instead, not to share. Peace out!

There will always be criticism

Back in school, I encountered my first experience of being criticised by people who were not family. I was the school prefect and much like Percy Weasley, I took my job seriously. I was in charge and when I put on the prefect hat, I wanted people to do the right thing. I was a reluctant prefect but at even such a young age, I was exposed to the ugly side of criticism. This was the beginning of a life-long journey of facing criticism. It has taken me many years to accept that there will always be someone who will be ready and up in arms to criticise. Reading my last week’s blog, I got quite mixed reviews from family. While some appreciated the thoughts, there were also others who said that I shouldn’t be saying all this against society/men because I have been given enough and more freedom from my parents and in-laws. Given freedom? Isn’t that the exact same attitude that we need to change? We are all born free. Some of us, unfortunately, are unable, due to prohibitive circumstances, to exert their right to this freedom; but no one has the power ‘to give’ us freedom. As I was saying, the criticism continues.

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

Friederich Nietzsche.

Backbiting is the norm

More often than not, criticism will not slap you on the face. You will hear about it in dark corridors, behind closed doors. You will walk into a room and everyone will suddenly talk animatedly or become quiet. These are the backbiters. They do not have the courage or strength of honesty to tell you what they feel on your face, because they are afraid of your ‘comebacks’. Of course, you are at fault to be able to think so fast on your feet to return with a suitable and scathing comeback. If you weren’t so intelligent/quick witted/sarcastic, then they would have told you what they feel openly. It is your fault. So, they deem it better to bitch behind your back. They will pretend to be your friend, well-wisher, and confidante, and then the moment you turn your back, they will lash out at you. I am conflicted about whether I hate liars more or backbiters. But I have accepted that there are more backbiters out there than I care to count.

Do not apologize

Another such example of backbiters — when I came to know that people eyed me with disdain and contempt because I carry a book everywhere I go! I have been told, in no uncertain terms, that ‘I am showing off’, that ‘I am above everyone else’, that ‘I am putting them down’. Where in the world does all this insecurity come from? I love reading. How does that encroach on your freedom to read/choice not to read? How is my reading a book telling the world that they are worse off? I swim against the current because I do not like wearing masks. It would perhaps, be easier, if I did not read in public places. But why should I let someone else decide for me? So, these days, when someone tells me anything bitingly sarcastic about my reading, I defiantly look them in the eye and calmly return to my book. I refuse to apologize for doing something I love. I refuse to apologize for being myself.

Values are not valued

You are a perfectionist? Then you are doomed to a life of trying to be something that nobody really understands, because who cares if it is perfect? What matters surely, is quantity, not quality. You are an idealist? Welcome to a world of disillusionment and disappointment. You believe in justice and fairness? You can’t tolerate rudeness and meanness? You don’t understand why people deliberately break the rules at the cost of jeopardizing other people’s lives? You are bound to have a hard time in this world because every single day I encounter these rude, illiterate and selfish people whose only motto in life is to get ahead of others. They do this, unapologetically, at the cost of other people’s lives at traffic signals; and at the cost of other people’s time at queues. You like honesty? It is best to accept that people will always lie. It is best to discern liars at the onset and stay away from them. How else can you save the ignominy of trusting someone and then having them break your trust? You prefer taking the ethical route? What’s the harm in bending rules a little bit for your own convenience? What is worse is that people will not only jeer at you for having these values but also ridicule you in front of others. Then you will find yourself defending your value system. What kind of a twisted world are we raising our children in?

It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.

Dr. Gregory House, M.D.

Friends are common but friendships are not

I believe in connections. I believe in forging connections with other people. But also, I believe, that these connections are rare to find. Take Neville Longbottom. He is the typical supporting character and yet, his bravery is unparalleled and more often than not, unrecognized. It was a triumphant moment for me, as a reader when I met Longbottom, because finally, I had found somebody who was talking about something I consider very important. Friendships. Friendships tested by their moral strength in a world that is largely flimsy and lacking moral fibre. I want to tell my son that there aren’t too many Neville Longbottoms in this world, just as there aren’t many Harry Potters. Because no matter how hard you try, you will hardly find friends who will stand up to you and tell you that you are wrong or that you are doing the wrong thing. But if and when you do find them, hold on to them with dear life, because they are the salt of the earth. They are the ones who make life worth living because it is an unbelievably beautiful feeling to know that there is someone out there who is looking after your soul, being your compass, guiding you, even when in moments of weakness, you are choosing to ignore your inner voice.

But most important of all, I want to teach him to have the courage to make mistakes. Be a perfectionist but don’t be afraid to start all over again.

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