Desi Sons: Victims of Their Mothers

13 May

DG is usually accused of gender bias towards women’s oppression, her detractors have failed to notice how vociferous she is about the nature and actors of violence in intimate/familial relationships. Many bloggers have lamented based on their personal experiences about desi men’s failure to draw a balance between their mothers and spouses. Some marriages have ended on this point and others are hanging in limbo. Just the other day this comment writer asked if men feel guilty too? This post comes partly in response to that question. Yes, DG will post another post exclusively about your concern.

Familial relationships are very complex, the option of walking out is very limited. A Punjabi phrase aptly sums it

Sharike da kauda daana, pher vi khaana (extended family is nuisance but you have to live with it). Just like the faceless strangers called log we desis lament about.

Women bloggers and otherwise do talk about oppression and discrimination within their natal families and their relationship with their mothers but men rarely talk about how they feel about their birth families and individual members. Both men and women learn doing their gender in the birth families and they become what their natal families make them. In doing their gender they also learn what they can express and what is proscribed. These boundaries on expression never let us know the whole story when courageous few come out and name the game either they are painted black or treated as anomaly. Here is a comment that DG wants everyone to read to see if it is happening in their lives, if yes then what do they want to do about it.  

Peace,

Desi Girl

This is coming from a desi dude :

This is very true, sometimes I think about my Pakistani parents and it is unbelievable how incredibly toxic they were. My mother in particular with time became emotionally blackmailing, manipulating extremely toxic. This eventually after many years of blankets of guilt led to my estrangement from my entire family, even on the day I was leaving without telling anyone I was covered with guilt and feelings of selfishness. After years of being torn, guilted and manipulated I felt I had no choice but to go.

It is strange several years ago (before estrangement) on a breakfast table when my mother was having one of her hissy fits my younger brother called out to her :

” What you are doing is just blackmail… “,

My mother’s response was :

” … because it works…”.

At another time I recall her saying :

“.. mardon ko ghumana bohat asan hay …”

which means :

” … it is very easy to manipulate men …”

She had become very skilled at emotional blackmail, using circumstances to her advantage, pumping one family member for information regarding the other and using it against both. The aim always was to get what she wants : control over everyone and all dynamics.

I got into an arranged marriage due to this guilt which was inflicted for several years. During this time all family members had turned against me, my younger brother mocked me behind my back denying that my parents were doing something wrong by guilting me into marriage. The manipulation is so subtle it is difficult to recognize it, difficult to pinpoint and say this is what is wrong. Come to think of I had refused the marriage 2-3 times however my mother refused my refusals by countering them with blackmail, confusing arguments. Her strategy was to inflict the blackmail long enough until I break and give in. After I give in my parents smothered me in an effort to convince this is the right thing to do.

I realized the game too late, after I got married. My wife unfortunately was a product of the same codependent system. She was sweet but under the skin the same blackmail, manipulating personality existed – she just did it in a different way. I realized with time that she would just be a copy of my mother in a few years, be possessive, crazy and toxic. She was also emotionally unstable and was not very good at managing her feelings, having wildly conflicting emotions one day to the next.

So one day I got very angry with myself when I realized the game my mother was playing. The thought of estrangement depressed me, I lose whatever I do : I go I lose, I stay I lose – geez what a situation to be in. Slowly I began to accept that if I don’t go I’ll be stuck in this forever : stuck in my mother’s basement and an imported wife from desi land.

Then one day I decided to stop giving a *hit. I went away (I almost did not) & never looked back, got a divorce, full of doubts although the understanding of my mothers actions had helped curb the damn guilt. It’s only when I went did I realize that I won the desi game. This is the secret to this game : “you can never win, the only way to win is to depart the game”.

One thing to grasp is that people in these living conditions think this is normal. They don’t know anything else but don’t more importantly don’t want to, they are convinced they are right. Then one day they realize life went by them, the outside world away from this mesh of dysfunction did not care about them. All there is misery and regrets, what a waste of life.

My biggest regret was the time I wasted in this and my biggest gain was I got control of my life back.

CONT…

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18 Responses to “Desi Sons: Victims of Their Mothers”

  1. desibahu November 30, 2011 at p11 #

    ever heard/read, “pay attention to how he treats his mother. if he’s good to his mother, he will be good to you”?
    ha! not in desiland!
    imagine a girl being so happy her desi guy is nice to his mommy, and then what happens?
    he is being nice to mommy cuz he’s trained/brainwashed to be nice to mommy. mommy sacrificed for him, prays for him, he is so special to mommy (cuz he makes money), you know….he has to be nice to mommy. poor mommy is living back home without him, without a son…….so sad……he has to give her more money to make up for that…..good beta.
    the same mommy will make sure that mommy is always better than wife in his eyes.

    Like this

    • nolongersalave December 6, 2011 at p12 #

      I agree, desibahu. A man treating his mother nice isn’t always a surefire guarantee that he will treat you well.

      I remember reading a white woman saying that Indian men must treat their wives well since they treat their moms well. Not necessarily. The mom is a God that is much higher than the wife, as you say. The wife is the one that’s the “safe person” to take out all of the anger, put-downs, etc.

      Like this

  2. usha May 21, 2011 at p05 #

    ‘The best way to win this game is by choosing not to play the game at all.’ Words of wisdom there, Glacier. Awareness is very important. It’s so easy to lose perspective while someone is being emotionally manipulated.
    It’s sad that people have to endure this from their families, but I’m glad for you that you could see it for what it is, and could redeem yourself from it.

    Like this

  3. Indian Homemaker May 14, 2011 at p05 #

    //… Desi religions purportedly are about spirituality but are really about following arbitrary rules…//

    Like this

  4. thisistrue! May 14, 2011 at p05 #

    I am glad another commenter brought up narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder. I think this disorder is rampant in the desi community – both back in the old country and in the diaspora. Usually, this behavior gets explained away by elders saying,”That’s just our culture.”Sure, it may be a part of desi culture, but that doesn’t make it right. Emotional abuse may not end up with anyone in a hospital, but it is still abuse.

    I live in the States and so many of my desi-American friends just go along with what their parents want from them well into adulthood – the power of this mental disease is so strong. It’s hard to see people you grew up with treating their children in the same way our parents treated us: unreasonable expectations, no control over romantic life, no control over career life.

    This mental disease makes our lives hell, but when you add in the greater desi culture, you end up with huge damage. Desi children grow up never feeling acceptance. Parent’s don’t accept you unless you get straight A’s and are a perfect child. Society doesn’t accept you unless you fall within narrowly defined “acceptable” behavior – what would so-and-so judgmental auntie think? Desi religions purportedly are about spirituality but are really about following arbitrary rules (this caste doesn’t eat onions, that religion is superior, blah blah). We are an entire culture that cannot accept ourselves as human beings.

    @thisistrue,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Emotional abuse does land some people in hospital over time. Continuous ridiculing of traits, criticizing behavior, ignoring, and jealous control has detrimental mental health consequences on the incumbent. Studies have shown psychological abuse contributed independently to depression and low self-esteem. However, fear of being abused was uniquely predicted by psychological abuse and so is “fearful of abuse stimuli” example, if a abuser yells every time something the wind slams the door, the abused even when not in company of abuser will be fearful of high wind or slamming doors. It is similar to how terrorists break their captives.

    … Desi religions purportedly are about spirituality but are really about following arbitrary rules…

    Yes, that is DG’s pet peev, these westerners ask DG if everyone in India mediates and does yoga. HA HA, her usual reply is her people are starving it takes sweat and blood 14 hours a day to put food on table for majority when do you expect them to find time for you meditation and yoga :) .
    The the other point is spirituality is the selling point for the westerners we love our co-dependence.

    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.

    Peace,
    Desi Girl

    Like this

    • nolongeraslave May 16, 2011 at p05 #

      DG-You have no idea I’m so thankful for this site and to read thisistrue’s words. I used to feel like I was the only one and was scared to hear other Desis saying “This is our culture” as thisistrue said.

      It makes me wonder why so many Desis I’ve met struggle with low self-esteem and self-hatred. Desis can be the worst when it comes to comparing who looks more Hispanic, Italian or which Desi group is better. It’s a generalization, but it’s my opinion.

      You are welcome. Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
      DG

      Like this

  5. PGW May 14, 2011 at p05 #

    Hi Desi Girl.. i stumbled upon your blog while surfing the net and have read almost every post because i was so hooked!! :) i think that what you are doing is a great service to women, and to society.. i haven’t been able to find your email id.. i would like to ask your advice on some things but would rather not do it on the comment board.. take care..

    @PGW,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Thanks for the compliment.
    Did you read all the comments under the posts that is where her email id is :) here you go gal girlsguidetosurvival @ gmail dot com
    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.

    Peace,
    Desi Girl

    Like this

    • PGW May 15, 2011 at p05 #

      Thanks for your help DG!! I will email you again for sure.. take care :) :)

      You are welcome.

      Like this

  6. Indian Homemaker May 14, 2011 at p05 #

    I always say this system is unfair to anybody who can be bullied by any means.

    Like this

  7. desibahu May 14, 2011 at p05 #

    ….”love is not a responsibility”……..do desi parents love their sons or love them for the sake of the money they will later bring in?
    or should i say just love the money……worship the son for the sake of the benefits he will bring in later
    i forgot, pretend you worship him in front of him
    behind his back is a different game

    Like this

  8. desibahu May 14, 2011 at p05 #

    a desi guy who actually realizes the manipulation rather than falling trap into mama’s lap…..amazing.
    only if only our husbands would realize this game…….

    Like this

  9. Glacier May 14, 2011 at p05 #

    An edit to my post :

    My mother confessed many times “I will NOT let you go.”

    Like this

  10. Glacier May 14, 2011 at p05 #

    Thank you DG.

    My post was not against parents, I loved them and still do but I cannot see them because of the actions they took and think they were right in doing them. It is true that I have not come across a woman as toxic as my mother.

    I posted my story partly because I wanted to inform people that there are guys in this mess too. Most desi men are very lost, between two poles 1) wife 2) mother.

    Desi parents alternate between two poles :

    a) Downright ignorant, nasty, abusive.
    b) Controlling, manipulating and over protective.

    Narcissism reigns supreme in both forms. Mine were in the second category, emotionally engulfing and very manipulating, in particular my mother. My father’s toxicity was of a different sort but it was my mother that really had everyone wrapped around her little finger.

    I am not sorry about estrangement, in my ideal world it would never come down to this because my parents did a lot for us. I had this ideal picture in my mind where I would have done anything for them but then things changed ….

    My mother underwent a changing I did not fathom at first and did not understand. It was around the time where I had confessed to her that I want to be self sufficient independent adult. At some point she realized that her only investment is her sons (she openly admitted this many times and made it very clear to me that she will never let go, “I will NOT let you go.” … yes she said this many many times). Every time she said this my stomach would turn but I kept quiet, patient that she might ease up on this.

    However it became worse with time, the mistake I made was that I kept thinking that if I did this one more thing for her she would ease up. But as soon she was pleased she started pressing for something else, her aim was to steal me for me… kill all sense of independence so she can control my life as she desires. The guilt an manipulation I faced for a year before my arranged marriage was probably my most miserable year of my life, I was torn between leaving and staying.

    Her strategy was multi-faceted, understanding is golden ….

    Facet 1:

    A general nasty level manipulation tactic was to keep me engaged, keep my mind busy so she can have my time. She would start talking to me in subtle, looking at my face to see my reaction to it and thus adjust her. This was the most irritating form of manipulation because it assumed that I stupid and child like. I used to laugh at this behind my back, I pretended in front of her that her manipulation worked to ward this form of incessant manipulation off.

    She would get my brothers to do the same, both my elder and younger brother to engage me, keep me busy with tasks, giving my false praise in an effort to smother me and make me give in. She used to pump my brothers for info regarding me and my brothers fully participated, my mother was very good at manipulation. My elder brother though she was right and younger brother mocked and berated me behind my back many many times.

    I took me a long time to figure out this facet as my mother was and is a master of guilt inducing toxic lump. When I realized it I understood that anything I say will be used against me so I better watch what I say, how I say and who i say it too.

    Facet 2 :

    Using circumstances to gain sympathy and induce massive guilt. This was very difficult to figure out because there was extreme guilt involved. Basically my mother would complain about someone (my sister in law, my elder brother or father) about something seemingly horrible they did to her and how she is miserable. After telling me the garb she used to observe my reaction to it and keeping coming back with the same manipulation in one form or the other until I reacted to it in a emotional outburst – at this point she knew she got me. Few days of peace followed then the bullshi* again.

    The purpose of facet 2 was to keep me close to her, so I never do anything that I wanted for myself. The higher purpose of this facet was to keep me engaged, she knew my weak spots and attacked them whenever she pleased and when she pleased.

    A common tactic was to request a task of me which I had to do, during the task she would give me false adulation and pump me for information about circumstances that were later used against me at convenient times. A fight between my brother and father would be used to press her own agenda on me, she was clever and knew when to press & how much to press.

    Facet 3

    Hate for other women. Toxic or no toxic, this was just plain crazy.

    She often used to tell me : “You are naive and don’t understand women”. (Underneath my breath I used to tell myself : ‘but I do understand you …..’). Any women who even looked at were vilified openly. I missed out on women a lot a lot of time girls that I found downright gorgeous.

    My sister in law used to face the brunt of this nonsense, she realized the game early on, I requested her to be calm and concentrate on her life. Of all the people she would know why I left my family. I used to feel for her but her life is hers to deal with. She will eventually divorce my brother who unfortunately is one of the dumbest men I know when it comes to deciphering my parents actions.

    Facet 4

    “I will die …… something will happen to me”.

    Geez do I really need to say more? Pathetic shi*

    Facet 5

    Plausible Deni-ability.

    She would deny everything and shake off her responsibility when it was convenient for her. My marriage was part of this, oh “you said yes to the marriage …. no I did not, you confirmed the marriage while I was asleep and then manipulated me into it”. She chose my wife carefully, seemingly meek and controllable, someone she could keep under her thumb at all times.

    I learnt this the hard way, I would suffer in silence, then read about it & THEN realize this is the shi* my mother is pulling. She know what she was doing all along taking satisfaction in putting me through a emotional roller coaster and then taking satisfaction that her goals have been met.

    Estrangement was depressing but necessary, wish it was not like this but thats life and it is not all roses and tulips. Peace of mind is good, I love peace and quiet so I invest my time in working towards goals and pushing myself to limits I didn’t know existed. Most people would classify me as a freak given I am away from my family but I can make choices that they can’t, this does not make me better than them but the thrill of having a choice is the essence of being human, remember even God gave humans a choice to accept or reject Him.

    Do I hate my parents? No.

    Did I forgive my parents? There is nothing to forgive, I forgave my-self and that gave me the comfort of being true to myself. If one does not confront reality it will force itself upon you and you will kick yourself for it, make your choice before you have to make one.

    Like this

    • Jana February 29, 2012 at p02 #

      Glacier, I really appreciated you sharing your story. I showed it to my boyfriend who said he relates very well.

      We find ourselves in a predicament similar to yours. Well my boyfriend does with his mother. I am not Desi. I am actually a muslim arab and in a relationship with a muslim south asian man. We’ve been dating for years and decided we want to marry. We are not very religious, raised in the US. (Still pray, fast, etc but obviously if we were VERY religious we would not be dating as this is frowned upon.) My family knows of our relationship and approves of us marrying. The problem is that his family is not accepting at all. His older brother and sister don’t support our relationship. The whole family is threatening him to break up with me. They have only known for a few days so I’m not sure if it’s just because they just found out and haven’t gotten over it but I’m not sure what to do about it. They want him to marry a south asian girl. His mother has been threatening to kill herself, pretends to be physically ill, cries that he doesn’t care about her, and a multitude of other tactics to make him feel guilty. They have threatened him with all sorts of things, going as far as saying if he marries me that they want nothing to do with him and don’t want him at their funeral or visiting their graves. Never been in this situation before so I don’t know if they are serious or just bluffing to scare him into doing what they want & leaving me.. and not sure what we can do to convince them to accept us. His other family members say that his parents are being over dramatic to scare him out of it and that with time they will accept us but I am quite afraid. His cousins have been supportive but we would prefer his close family to be involved with our wedding. We would like to get married next summer. I have not met his parents yet. They have not expressed an interest in meeting me. I am also quite concerned about this abuse he has to endure since he is currently living at home with them. He tells me if forced to choose, he would choose our marriage over them but I really wish there was something I could do to try to make things work.

      So far my boyfriend has not said much to them because they just found out & are very angry. He has been letting them talk without paying much attention (in one ear & out the other) and hoping with more time they calm down and are more reasonable.

      Anyone have any advice?

      @Jana,
      Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
      We have already gone over this in our private communications. I’ll request Glacier to pitch in and contribute to the discussion here and offer his first hand take on this.

      Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

      Like this

      • Glacier March 2, 2012 at p03 #

        Hi Jana,
        Apologies for the late reply, it’s been quite busy at work.

        First off what exactly did your boyfriend tell his family about you? If he has mentioned that you guys were dating for years – this alone will put you in a negative light, dating is generally looked down on in south asian families even more so in muslim families. Is the family reaction purely based on ‘shock of dating’ or is it simply because you are arab?

        If it is the former the effect will eventually wear off, I have seen this happen on countless occasions. If it is the latter it is possible their family is concerned with interacting with another culture different to theirs. I supposed this happens with people of all races but with desis these things are magnified 1000x times – no kidding, just read some of the stuff on this blog.

        Ok enough of the nice guy in me. Here is what I really think based on what you have written. His mother is a controlling narcissistic person, she likes to be in control, she invested in her children’s lives giving up her own and now the though of him breaking away to become his own person, choose his own wife goes against her investment decision.

        She will do almost anything to get control back, his two siblings are nothing more than tools – allies for her against him, I’m sure in the past she has used your boyfriend as an ally against the siblings as well – it’s just that her children don’t know that they are being used like this, most desi children do not – it’s hard when people close to you use you like that. The feelings of guilt can be overwhelming and even though your boyfriend may know all this he may go along to get along.

        Ofcourse they are bluffing, please remember this is all they can do : yank your boyfriend’s guilt chain. The death threats are just plain stupid – if the mother does kill herself atleast she was true to her word, I seriously doubt that.

        Get married in summer and please have make a life for yourselves, invite the family but don’t worry if they don’t show up. I believe you guys need to move away (physically away from the family for good) – keep the lines of communication open, if they come around good, if they don’t the sky will remain blue …

        You said :

        “We are not very religious, raised in the US. (Still pray, fast, etc but obviously if we were VERY religious we would not be dating as this is frowned upon.)”

        Frowned upon by who? Same people who don’t want you two guys to be together? Where do these people get the right to frown? From their own experience of boring pathetic marriages bound to the same rotting roof for 30 odd years? You guys have done nothing wrong, go get married and enjoy your life, complete the love story…..

        Like this

      • Jana March 2, 2012 at p03 #

        Glacier, thank you for listening and offering your advice.

        Actually, my boyfriend did not even have the opportunity to tell his parents himself. His siblings found out and threatened him to leave me and he told them he would not, they went behind his back while he was asleep and told his parents about me and us. Unfortunately I think I was painted in a negative light because they told his mom I had previous boyfriends. His brothers wife did also and his parents knew this but they looked past it because she was Bengali like them and they knew her family. Right now I think his mother is concerned about my being Arab and how everyone in their family marries the same culture and usually is arranged marriage. They also said they were concerned about not knowing me or my family. Plus she criticizes my dating before and claims I must not be a good Muslim and won’t understand their culture etc. I think she is concerned about how the community will view this and she’s afraid of this shaming her name so to speak. His mother is literally convinced her son is possessed and I have placed some sort of a “love spell” on him.. *rolls eyes* It’s only been one week since his siblings told his parents. The first few days were very bad with lots of yelling. His father doesn’t yell as much but rather tells my boyfriend to listen to his mother. The past two days they have not said anything. I don’t think they know what to do as they have never been in this situation before and their children have pretty much alway obeyed.

        It would be nice to have them involved with the wedding and also open communication after that since they are my boyfriends family after all. He’s just not sure what to do to try to make that happen. Right now he lives at home and they have not kicked him out, we arent sure if they will or not. Hes not sure if its better to stay as long as they let him or move out eventually once he has some more saved up. He has been trying not to say much and avoid arguing so that hopefully they can calm down and not be as angry. He has been strong in recognizing his family is trying to guilt him and not to take the threats seriously. I’m being as supportive I can while trying to keep my cool but must admit I’m at a loss as to what we should and should not do in order to get his family to take me seriously and accept me. I may be Arab but I am Muslim like them and am familiar with all the customs and traditions of Islam. I could very easily learn to speak their language, cook their food, etc and I am not trying to “take their son away from them”. I’m all for having a traditional wedding and all. I just wish his mother would see my being Arab instead of south Asian is not the end of the world.

        Like this

      • Glacier March 4, 2012 at p03 #

        Hi Jana,

        To be honest there is nothing much you can do unless his family gets over their little created bubbles and start to realize that your boyfriend is serious about you. Since the siblings told the mother (sound like little kids complaining to their mommy, going behind your boyfriend’s back is quite sad), you can bet your bottom dollar they are going to get worse with time. In addition as you probably already know your boyfriend’s relationship with the siblings is infact already broken.

        I would not worry about winning over his family, please do not waste your time doing that, you will end up going around in circles and still lose. They have got to come to terms with the fact that you are in his life, if they cannot do that it’s their problem don’t make it yours.

        A lot depends on how independent your boyfriend is, is he comfortable living on this own? does he have a career? It is critical for your two that that he has these tools to exert his independence.

        No I don’t think he will be kicked out, asian-muslim families rarely do that, what they are usually good at is portraying themselves as victims, manipulation and massive guilt induction. Kicking out is easy, they would rather use him to enhance their own agenda and I can guarantee you his mother will leave no trick under the Sun to do this.

        What I would ‘recommend’ is that your boyfriend setup a meeting with his mother, yes give her one chance to have a decent face to face meeting and an opportunity to disperse her fears. Your boyfriend must do this despite the current resistance – he must do this in a calm manner despite the hostility from the family. If his mother cannot do that or belittles you for any reason, you two MUST move on to your own lives AWAY from them. Life is too short to be wasted, the days maybe long and busy but the years sure go by quickly.

        Please face the reality and take measured steps to accomplish your goal, if you don’t the reality will force itself upon you (and him). He maybe resisting well now but guilt and manipulation wear people down, not saying he would break, just saying don’t let it come to that.

        When I wrote my circumstances on DG’s blog my biggest regret even to this day was that I spent 5 years in that horrible manipulated-guilt mode, I think about it I could have ended it in 5 days and moved away for good, always kept thinking what I can do to fix it, never realized I did not need to fix anything. Don’t let that happen in your case.

        Like this

  11. Sex And The Indian Cities May 13, 2011 at p05 #

    yes , its not a perfect system for men either and there are many friends who would like to run away from the manipulations they face from their own families on day to day basis .
    some complain , some walk out and some just live life like that as walking away from family is never an option .

    And it takes lot of courage to call your own mom what you think she is , may be this guy be getting comments like ” how can he say such a thing against his own mom ..maaa ka dhodh nhn piya tha ..:) ” Mom can never be wrong , vicious , manuplative in desi- land …only wives / gfs are .

    I believe in taking control of your life and never let anyone else do that ..all relationships should have boundries and we should protect our and respect others “

    Like this

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The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

My life and everything that touches it....

Kafila

media | politics | dissent

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मेरे विचारो का

समाजवादी जनपरिषद

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Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

A Desi Girl's Guide to Relationship Survival

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

W.S.S.A @ UWindsor

Women's Studies Student Association @ University of Windsor, Ontario

संजीव तिवारी . . Sanjeeva Tiwari .. Chhattisgarh

हमको मालूम है जन्नत की हकीक़त लेकिन, दिल को खुश रखने को ग़ालिब ये ख़याल अच्छा है

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Beyond The Second Sex (स्त्रीविमर्श)

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नारी , NAARI

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Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

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