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Suicide Warning Signs: To live or to Die

8 Sep

On World Suicide Prevention Day

09/08/2016

Learn, Observe and Stepup You could Save a Life

Suicide Warning Signs: To live or to Die

 

We all encounter feelings of loneliness, helplessness and hopelessness that make us depressed. At some or the other point of life we all face life changing events like loss of a loved one, breakup of a relationship, financial setbacks, loss of dignity, property or personal failures that lead to feelings of worthlessness. These negative life experiences are common but they are unique to each person; depending on their emotional state of mind and endurance threshold they respond differently. Some people are overwhelmed by their situation and they may feel like ending their life. To them ending their life seems to be the only solution to end their difficult situation.

Why would someone want to die?

People going through negative life experiences respond to their situations in different ways. Some may feel all their efforts are futile and are not making a desired impact they may look at death as the only solution to end their misery. Here are some reasons people chose to end their life.

  • The death of a loved one.
  • A divorce, separation, or breakup of a relationship.
  • Losing custody of children, or feeling that a child custody decision is not fair.
  • A serious loss, such as a loss of a job, house, or money.
  • A serious illness- mental as well as physical.
  • A terminal illness.
  • A serious accident- leading to permanent disability.
  • Chronic physical pain.
  • Intense emotional pain.
  • Loss of hope- depression, teenage depression, postpartum depression.
  • Being victimized (domestic violence, rape, assault, etc).
  • A loved one being victimized and feeling responsible for them or feeling unable to help them (child murder, child molestation, kidnapping, murder, rape, assault, etc.).
  • Abuse- Physical, Verbal, Sexual abuse.
  • Unresolved abuse (of any kind) from the past- childhood sexual abuse, humiliating experiences from childhood.
  • Feeling “trapped” in a situation perceived as negative such as a bad marriage; constant blackmail/sexually exploitative relationship; unending debts.
  • Feeling that things will never “get better.”
  • Feeling helpless.
  • Serious legal problems, such as criminal prosecution or incarceration.
  • Feeling “taken advantage of.”
  • Inability to deal with a perceived “humiliating” situation, like loosing face in the public, social dishonor
  • Inability to deal with a perceived “failure,” example poor performance in examination that is critical for future course of life such as, board exams, entrance tests etc.
  • Substance abuse- Alcohol and drugs.
  • A feeling of not being accepted by family, friends, or society- disapproval of life choices by significant others such as, love marriage disapproved by family.
  • A horrible disappointment- loss of job, failing in school
  • Feeling like one has not lived up to his or her high expectations or those of others- failure in school or at work.
  • Bullying- being teased incessantly, being picked on (adults, as well as children, can be bullied).
  • Low self-esteem.

Suicide Warning Signs:

Large majority of people who commit suicide give some clues as to their intentions before they make an attempt. Being aware of these clues and comprehending the severity of person’s troubles can help prevent such a tragedy. A small minority may not exhibit any signs just little awareness on the part of friends, family and colleagues may help save precious lives.

  • Appearing depressed or sad most of the time.
    (Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.)
  • Talking or writing about death or suicide. Many people convey their intentions directly with statements such as, “I feel like killing myself,” “I don’t know how much longer I can take this.”
  • People contemplating suicide often have a plan and access to resources required to execute their plan like, chemicals, weapons, vehicle etc. Some may even describe their suicide plan like, “I’ve been saving my pills in case things get really bad,” “I can get some sankhiya (arsenic) from X source (shop, friend, lab etc)” “These days I like to drive as if nothing matters anymore.”
  • Withdrawing from family and friends. The person starts preparing for the final exit he/she start detaching themselves from their near and dear ones.
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless. In despair they only see darkness and no other alternative to their situation.
  • Feeling strong anger or rage.
  • Feeling trapped — like there is no way out of a situation. For a person who feels stuck and trapped their thinking is clouded they see no other alternative to their situation.
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes. Sudden changes in mood like, serious one minute and cracking jokes the other.
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol. After making the decision to end their life some people start abusing drugs and alcohol in an attempt so as not to change their mind.
  • Exhibiting a change in personality. Angry people all of a sudden start behaving friendly and congenial once they make a decision to end their life. Some people who are pleasant and agreeable exhibit signs of aggression as if they no longer care. In a way they are convincing themselves they don’t matter and don’t want others to ever think about them after they are gone.
  • Acting impulsively. They make rash decisions regarding money, sex and personal safety. People go on expensive shopping sprees, have unsafe sex and take to adventure/risky sports.
  • Losing interest in most activities.
  • Experiencing a change in sleeping habits.
  • Experiencing a change in eating habits.
  • Losing interest in most activities.
  • Performing poorly at work or in school- it could be due to ongoing depression and fear of failure but it is an important sign to look out for as it becomes a cause for suicide.
  • Giving away prized possessions, I remember our dear friend Durgesh Nadini, the day before she and her boy friend killed them selves she gave away her favorite sterling belt and other expensive stuff to friends. None of us could see it coming.
  • Writing a will.
  • Feeling excessive guilt or shame. Our friend Mahendra Singh, fatally shot himself on the day he was to be engaged against his wishes to a woman his parents chose for him. His sense of guilt towards his lady love was so strong that he could not bear to live in shame for marrying someone he did not love.
  • Acting recklessly. Driving recklessly.

People contemplating suicide may exhibit combination of these warning signs; it is never just one sign. Being aware of these clues may help save precious lives.

Myths and Facts About Suicide

Myth

People who talk about suicide are just trying to get attention.

Suicide fact

People who attempt suicide, and died by suicide talk about it first. Until in extreme emotional or physical pain, and often thanks.  They reach out for help, because they do not know what to do and have lost hope. Always, pay attention to anyone talking about suicide. Always take any such talk seriously.

Myth

People who talk about suicide, do not kill themselves.

Suicide fact.

People who talk about suicide and wanting to die oftentimes kill themselves.

Myth

Suicide occurs, without warning signs.

Suicide fact

Warning signs always precede a suicide. Seldom, suicide, without signs is observed.

Myth

Once people make a decision to die by suicide, no one can stop them. People who are suicidal definitely want to die. People who are suicidal do not seek help.

Suicide fact

Suicides are preventable. Most suicidal people, do not want to die, all they want is to stop the pain, be it physical or emotional as the case may be. They want to stop the pain. Many people who are suicidal reach out for help.

Myth

Only people of certain gender, race, financial status, age etc. commit suicide.

Suicide fact

Suicide can strike anyone. There are scientific studies that draw patterns and profiles of people who may commit suicide. But the fact remains, suicide can strike anyone.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24. Sometimes children under 10 die by suicide. Insert India study.

 Myth

Those who attempt suicide and survive will not attempt it again.

Suicide fact

Those who attempt suicide and survive will oftentimes make additional attempts.

Myth

People who attempt suicide crazy.

Suicide fact

People are attempting suicide are experiencing emotional distress, due to number of reasons, some not even  known to many of us. It could even be a chemical imbalance in their brain. They are not crazy.  Anyone could attempt suicide.

Myth

Only weak people attempt/commit suicide.

Suicide fact

People who attempt/commit suicide in excruciating physical or emotional pain, all they want is, for their pain to stop.  Many “strong” people die by suicide.

Myth

People who talk about suicide or make threats about killing themselves are trying to manipulate others.

Suicide fact

That is not true in most cases. Those who talk about suicide are in pain and in need of help; telling them that they are trying to beget sympathy or influencing another person’s decision about something is both ignorant and insensitive. Often people talk about suicide, before dying by suicide.  Always take such talks seriously.

Desi Case

Yes, in some desi families often parents use threat of suicide as a tool to influence their adult children from doing something they do not approve of. At the same time, even children as young as teenagers use similar threats to  get their way. It is important to put an end to any such behavior, and not only because they are manipulative, but are dysfunctional. It is a good idea to probe the person about their plan and resources to execute their threat.  On such questioning, often times the threat makers who does not have any intentions of dyeing strats rambling , and one can see they are trying to manipulate people around them. But it is wiser not to ignore their threats rather repot them to the law enforcement and medical intervention. It will be a good idea to seek  medical  and other professional help for them. Often times putting them on the suicide watch, bugs them into mending the ways. It also opens an opportunity to learn constructive way is of meeting pne’s needs and negotiating relationships, rather than emotionally manipulating and blackmailing the near and dear ones.

Myth

When people become suicidal they will always be suicidal.

Suicidal fact

Most people are suicidal for a limited period of time. But it is important to note, suicidal feelings can recur.

Myth

When people who are suicidal feel better, they are no longer suicidal.

Suicidal fact

Sometimes, suicidal people feel better, because they have made a decision to die by suicide that decision-making, gives them a sense of relief that the pain will soon be over.

Myth

One should never talk to a suicidal person if they are thinking about suicide, or have a magnet because it can give them an idea.

Suicide fact

Talking about suicide to people who are suicidal does not give them an idea for suicide. It is important to talk about suicide with people who are suicidal, in order to learn more about their mindset and intentions and allow them to defuse some of the tension that is causing their suicidal feelings.

Myth

There is little correlation between alcohol or drug abuse and suicide. 

Suicide fact

Oftentimes people who guided by suicide, under the influence of alcohol and drugs. These substances are used as a method of suicide, or the decision to kill oneself is influenced their use.

If you are suicidal please seek help. What ever is overwhelming too shall pass. Please  read this for ideal methods and success rate.

If you are a young woman who is jilted by a lover or you are  pregnant so you want to hide your secret believe me once you are dead your secret will by posted all over the town and women like my ex-MIL will be gossiping about it for years to come. Find a nearest planned parenthood clinic and seek help. Desi Girl wants you to watch Kamla Ki Maut before you make your decision.

Desi Girl will soon add more information in this page for now she has to get it to you in this form as it has been sitting in her drafts for too long. Thanks for bearing.

For Help in India follow these links

Sumaitri

Maithri

Suicide: India Hotline

 

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The first time I sang in public

25 Jun

The first time I sang in public

06/25/2016

I remember waking up every morning to the sound of my very musical mother singing hymns and not at all musical dad’s reciting prayers pretty tunefully while at other times the All India Radio or a tape recorder hummed at home. Mother was then a music teacher, she sang beautifully and dad was equally inartistic in every manner, rustic and bookish. I liked music but I guess I was born tune deaf though I heard people say I had a good voice. It was a torture to sing for the compulsory music class, all through middle school I worked on the music teacher by becoming her pet to let me sing to her in the private. At home students came to learn devotional singing from mother, she was pretty embarrassed by me though she’ll not admit. I tried to sing a few times at the church it was out rightly bad.

Years went by I would listen to music but would never dare utter a word, rarely did I sang in the bathroom. Parents never liked my addiction to listening to music they thought time could be better spent studying. I remember it was the final year at the college we were competing in the inter college youth festival. I had won almost all debates and public speaking contests. Last day was cultural evening students could sign up for solo song and solo dance competitions. I have no clue what came upon me and I signed up for singing a song that I had heard only once in my life and had never practiced. May be it was the confidence of winning every other contest or what I have no recollection.

On my turn I instructed the band to play the number and I’ll pick it up from there, as if I had been singing all my life. The opening notes were perfect, I used all my might along with my breath by the time it was time to sing the stanza I was not only out of breath but tune, notes and everything musical in between. The dud was obvious but I was no quitter. The louder the audience booed the shriller I became. Guys were restless ready to throw chairs at me as they had nothing else to throw. I was calculating if a chair came at me how far I could jump and beat crap out of him. In all that cacophony far in the back I saw a guy dancing to the beat and moving towards the stage. He was the son of our family friends who knew me well and I guess had read my mind. His dance distracted the audience and few others followed him dancing to the stage as I completed the song. I think may be I am an accidental “no quitter” because the fact is I do not know when and how to quit but quit I did my public singing thereafter.

 

This is an old piece from a creative non fiction writing class. Till date DG has no clue what she was thinking when she sang in the public. If anyone has any idea please pitch in. Hope 2016 is treating you all well. Still here, will be back soon to kick some rubble.

एक मील का पत्थर

20 Nov

एक मील का पत्थर

11/19/2015

सिर्फ़ और सिर्फ़
होते हैं हम
एक मील का पत्थर

किसी भटके हुए की
या फिर
नयी मंज़िल की खोज में
निकले मुसाफिर की
राह में खड़े इतेफ़ाक़न

राह में खड़े सदियों से
होते हैं हम
गर्द-ए-सफ़र में
मील का पत्थर जो हो गयी
हमारी मंज़िल
या फिर
होते हैं हम
इंतेज़ार में मिले
सिर्फ़ और सिर्फ़
एक मील का पत्थर.

sirf aur sirf

hote hain hum

ek meel ka patthar

kisi bhatke huye ki

ya phir

nayi manzil ki khoj mein

nikale musafir ki

raah mein khade itefaakan

raah mein khade sadiyon se

hote hain hum

gard-e-safar mein

meel ka patthar jo ho gayi

hamari manzil

ya phir

hote hain hum

intezaar mein mile

sirf aur sirf

ek meel ka patthar.

01/12/2015

Is My Family Dysfunctional

20 Jul

Is My Family Dysfunctional

07/20/2015

Is it common for desi kids to fake having a good relationship with parents?

Greetings!

In last few days a discussion in personal circles once again emerged about our families of birth and their impact on our adult lives. Going forth and back numerous times decided to re-post this from the tools on the right margin of GGTS under All About Relationships. Click the hyperlink to read comments from desi adult children to learn more about desi family dynamics in everyday lives.

Is My Relationship Reflection of My Family

Stepping into the adulthood many of us thought we could not only leave our family but also our childhood problems behind. However, many of us have found ourselves experiencing similar problems, feelings and relationship patterns, long after we left our family environment. In family environment, growing up children learn their worth and to value their needs and feelings. In many families the communication patterns are such that they limit a child’s expression of feelings and needs thus breeding low self-esteem and a deep feeling that their needs are not worth to be taken seriously by others. As a result, they may face difficult establishing satisfactory adult relationships and often find we are finding people who are almost like our family members.

Patterns of Dysfunctional Families

 Following are the examples of patterns frequently observed in dysfunctional families:

  • Either or both parents subscribe to authoritarian control over the children. Often such families rigidly adhere to a particular belief. Here are few examples:
    • Personal: No child of mine talks back to me; no one in this family marries out of caste; women in this family do not wear skirts/trousers etc. You follow the recipe as I taught you to.
    • Religious: In this family we follow our religious rituals in a particular way; our religion is the best etc.
    • Political: In this family we only vote for X political party because we have been doing so for generations etc.
    • Financial: Money is hard to earn, it is not for spending on fashion etc.

Food & Shelter What Else?

  • Either or both parents are unable to provide adequate emotional support or threaten to withdraw emotional of financial support. Failure to provide basic physical care or provide it conditionally to the children. It is commonly heard in desi families- “We provided you with every comfort, even those that were beyond our financial reach.” “If you disobey me, I’ll disown you.” “If you marry him/her I’ll commit suicide.” Atiya, grew up with best amenities but resents how her mother was never emotionally available. Her mother was always preoccupied with her self and the needs of everybody else in the extended family. Even when Atiya initiated a talk about her day or life it always became all about mommy. Atiya feels she goes emotionally unavailable to her partner for days and weeks because that way she does not have to deal with his problems.

  Needy Parent: You Are Me, You Are For Me

  • Either or both parents treat children as possession and use children to meet their physical or emotional needs. Anuja, grew up in a family where she and her siblings had to protect her mother from her father’s openly sexual demands and his family’s vicious violence. Anuja feels she is observing similar trend in parenting her child. She often asks her son to take sides for minor things. DG’s mother grew up taking care of her sick mother because her father did not pay attention towards his wife, as a result she has hard time accepting even she can fall sick and someone can care for her. Some parents use children to get even with their partner. They ask children to take sides. In some desi families mothers raise sons with a constant reminder to them how they brought them up irrespective of the hardships piled by their father and grandparents; how they are counting on their sons to pay back their sacrifices by caring for them in old age or taking sides in any future family dispute. Some parents treat children as their extension. They expect children not only obey them but think and act like them.

     Angry Parent: Child’s Problem

    • Either or both parents us use threats or physical violence as primary means of control and disciplining. Children may witness physical aggression between parents or experience aggressive disciplining. Some parents force children to participate in punishing siblings, or they may live in fear of parent(s)’ explosive outburst. One time while growing up DG saw a neighbor was punishing his very naughty teens by asking them to slap each other hard. She heard him say, “slap the other hard or I’ll beat you both”; both boys were crying and slapping each other. Recently when she was back at her childhood neighborhood came to know both boys are no longer at talking terms with their father and the older on has pretty bad anger issues famous in the neighborhood.

    All in the Family

    • Either or both parents have addictions or compulsions like, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, gambling, overeating, overwork, over indulgence in children’s lives etc. these have strong influences on all family members. My high school friend Veenu’s mother followed too many religious rituals- fasting, extended poojas etc. Thus Veenu could never invite us to her home so she refrained from coming to our homes. Our friend Vinita’s mother was like a helicopter, she not only hovered on Vinita and her siblings for home work but was too involved in their lives. Vinita feels her mother was trying to escape her over bearing and adulterous spouse through her children. Vinita finds so many similarities between her spouse and her father. She said “Now I can join the dots, I am actually married to my father. During the courtship he acted just like my father, controlling, emotionally unavailable, making evasive replies,  and pouting if I refused to do as he wanted. I felt it odd but then I thought I could handle it as I had seen my mother managing with my father. This familiarity seemed comforting but now I see how big a problem it is. I see a pattern here, I am just a copy of my mother, something I hate.”  Atiya says she married her needy mother, as her spouse demands too much attention and time.

    There are numerous variations in how often dysfunctional interactions and behaviors occur in families so is the severity of their dysfunction. No family will have an absolute match to the mentioned patterns and some families will have over lapping conditions. If the patterns mentioned above are a norm rather than exception, they systematically foster abuse or neglect. Children may:

    • Be forced to take sides in conflicts between parents.
    • Feel ignored, discounted, or criticized for their feelings and thoughts.
    • Have parents that are inappropriately intrusive, overly involved and protective.
    • Have parents that are inappropriately distant and uninvolved with their children.
    • Have excessive structure and demands placed on their time, choice of friends, or behavior; or may receive no guidelines or structure at all.
    • Struggle with rejection or receive preferential treatment.
    • Experience restrictions on direct and full communication with other family members.
    • Face temptations to use drugs or alcohol and subtle encouragement from parent(s) who abuse the same.
    • Experience physical violence- slapping, hitting, kicking etc.
    • Experience verbal and emotional abuse- name calling, undue criticism etc.
    • Experience “reality shifting,” means there is a contradiction in what is being said and what is happening in actuality. A child may see one a parent hit the other but one or both parents may deny if physical scuffle ever took place.

     

    End Result

    For children to develop trust in the world, in others, and in themselves they need life free of abuse and neglect. Those experiencing abuse and neglect as children later as adults find it difficult to trust not only others but their own judgments and actions; they have doubts about self worth. They also experience problems in their relationships and their identities.

    Abused and neglected people often struggle to interpret their families as “normal.”  They make accommodations to make their situation seem normal, such as, “I wasn’t beaten, I was just slapped little too often.” “My father didn’t have anger issues; he just had low threshold for frustration.” The more accommodations they make the more likelihood is they will misinterpret themselves and develop negative self concepts (example, “I deserved it,” “I had it coming,” “I am a bad person”).

    Making Changes

    All behaviors are learned behaviors. At times we continue in our roles in a hope that our parents will give us “permission” to change. This permission has to

    come from within. People can ask you or encourage you to change but it is only your prerogative to change. Often people and parents in dysfunctional families fear change; they feel threatened by changes in their family members and children. They may even try to thwart your efforts to change by manipulating you to give up attempts to change or revert to your previous self. For this reasons it is important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings. Change is difficult but not impossible. Only you can change your self. You can do the following:

    • Identify difficult or painful experiences of your childhood.
    • List your those behaviors and beliefs you would like to change.
    • Against each behavior or belief in the list write what you would like to do instead.
    • Choose the easiest item from the list and begin practicing the alternative behavior or belief.
    • After you have performed the first alternative behavior number of times and you feel comfortable performing it without much difficulty follow the other items on the list.

     

    You may seek support from people who believe in what you are doing. You can also seek help from professional counselors.

    Best Practices

    • Perfection is not the aim just be comfortable in practicing the change you want.
    • Don’t try to make your family perfect. You can only change your self and inspire others to change.
    • Don’t try to win the old struggles- you can’t win.
    • Set clear limits- e.g., if you do not plan to spend your vacations with your parents say “no” not “will see.”
    • When you try to change your self people around you may not like it. Even if you make small changes be prepared for adverse reactions from you near and dear ones. The anticipated reactions are tears, yelling, temper tantrums, threats etc. Prepare your self how you will respond to these adverse reactions.

     End Note

    Change is difficult but not impossible. It is normal to slip back to your original behaviors patterns because you are accustomed. Change is slow and gradual. If you miss some day do not treat it as an excuse to give up. Instead continue to practice healthier and new behaviors soon they’ll become part of your daily life.

 

Hundred Times Over Still No Regrets

19 Jun

Hundred Times Over Still No Regrets

06/19/2015

 

On a usual morning when DG leaves home she sets intentions for the day, armed with her to do list she takes bus, delivers warm greeting to the bus driver and a compliment to lady driver or a co-passenger. Then shut her eyes to focus on her breathing to conserve energy and avoid sensory overload. A portly woman of color in a well fitted dress boarded the bus her bereft of makeup looks caught DG’s attention. Most of the time DG is not aware of who is sitting next to her, this time when she opened her eyes at some random stop sat to next her was this woman in fitted dress, about half a foot taller than her. As she looked up to her face, she saw a stream of tears running through the corner of her eye. Disappointed at her meditative stance she was glad she opened her eyes. She put her hand on her hand and asked what is the matter? What is hurting her? Are you safe? She struggled with her words and barely managed to say in broken English, “my husband, wants to kill me, my child is at home, I ran out with no money just bus pass (that explained her disheveled looks).” Now all eyes, on both of them as they spoke to each other. Quite audibly DG said, “in this country we don’t let people kill people coz’ one is married to them, you don’t have to die just because you are married to someone.” Yes, it is a lie she told, more women are killed every year by their intimate partners in this country and across border than by cancer.

To make sure she was safe and had a safe place to return was DG’s priority in that moment. The lady, did not know what to do just had a business card of a an attorney she saw in the past. DG offered to accompany her. These are the moments when DG feels very blessed, people she work with understand her random style of working don’t push her for lapses in keeping appointments every now and then. While they alighted the bus and started walking a bible thumper who was listening to their conversation kept interrupting, “I’ll pray for you, Jesus will make it all well for you.” As if praying solved the social issues world would have been Eden, a reign of peace. They went to the attorney she was kind to take a walk-in DG spoke to her to make sure this woman had a safe place to go back to and her child was not at risk. At work DG explained why she was late a volunteer chirped, “so you are the good Samaritan today.” All DG could say was, “No, I was she.”

That afternoon DG recalled how it all started, there she sat by the roadside sad and confused, she came out of that apartment she was told was her home just to catch a breath. The cop from the patrol van asked her if she was okay why was she sitting there. She realized, one cannot just sit anywhere without looking suspicious. Few years later, broken she stood at the doors of her academic mentor, who told her not come in with a long face, there after she regularly took her sadness to the malls where she climbed elevators, strolled in the stores aimlessly not one soul saw her or her sadness. She returned when her feet hurt or the mall was about to close. Her sadness was the ghost she carried on her being for a very long time. Then came a time, she started working on the source of sadness it is an ongoing project… she learned when you are sad you are invisible, you shrink in size, your presence ruins the scene of social propriety.

Maintaining a spiritual practice with the rigors of a yard-bird she grew stronger by the day her intuition sharpened and she learned to trust it. Coming out of class as she headed to International Student Center under a tree a pair of shapely legs in magenta fishnets attracted her attention, she smiled to the glory of youth and walked by. She hadn’t gone past more than five yards, she heard a loud and clear voice, “go back to her.” She could not take another step forward, it was so compelling she had to go back. There sat a 19 year old freshman, sad and alone. DG asked, if she was okay? standard response came, “I am fine.” DG won’t give up, she sat down and continued what was ailing this youngster. It was her father’s death anniversary who died a year ago and now she was away from her mother and sisters in another city. That sadness melted into tears in a strong embrace.

Few days later as DG walked out of her physiotherapy session to take the trolley, she heard a pedestrian in back and neck brace walking ahead of her crying and talking loudly over the phone. As they both crossed the traffic light and came to the trolley stop don’t know what came over DG she just opened her arms like Shahrukh Khan (two years ago she learned this phrase when she was playing bollywood with a 24 year old in the snow by the river). The young woman just hugged her tight and cried her heart out while her mother on the other side over the phone waited. This young lady had fallen from the fourth story balcony of her apartment in a drunken episode now her back and neck were broken and diagnosis was not very encouraging.

Many more such moments came just before DG left the town for good, she walked to the bus stop after class, a woman was on phone talking and in animated Spanish and sobbing in between. DG just stood in front of her and opened her arms though she understood not a word, this woman too hugged and cried her heart out. Her relationship was breaking and she had realized there was nothing more she could do to save it. That was DG’s good bye to the city she learned so much from.

Moved to new place 5000 miles away; one afternoon while browsing the shops on a trendy street where lull reigned on a sultry afternoon DG passed by a white woman in her sixties who walked like a slug. That loud and clear voice struck again. DG had to go back and ask her if she was okay. “Are you okay?” “No, I lost my husband last month, I am so lost.” They stood there in the middle of the street embracing when they parted like always no information was exchanged.

Last year while she headed to join Take Back The Night (TBTN), just before she alighted the bus she saw a fourteen year old with red eyes, on bit of probing she disclosed how her sixteen year old boy friend was “streaking.” Her parents we druggies, one was incarcerated and other was just out of jail, her grandmother had her custody. She had about an hour before she could be home; took her to the TBTN venue, introduced her to professors and students gave her a glimpse of possibilities, that she mattered and we saw her. Soon she vanished in the crowd without saying a good bye, it was okay. At least she heard it so many say it out LOUD and CLEAR, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

DG trusts her intuition and never misses an opportunity to ask ARE YOU OKAY? It’s always been right. There have been times, it is usually younger people, who fight it like few months ago, a teen who looked perturbed, kept insisting she was fine and called her friend to tell him/her how a weird woman was asking if she was okay? Yes, also Desi women fight her if she asks, “Are you Okay?’ She doesn’t care, if it doesn’t feel right, it ain’t right is the bottom line for DG, she has to do what she has to do. She’ll not have it on her conscience she should have, could have, would have…

Yes, on her shoulders DG carries the carcass of her past it doesn’t weigh her down but reminds her how far she has come and how far she has to go. By training she is a student of social relationships she is bound to observe and draw similes and metaphors from life around her especially what she knows the best, her life. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t let go of her past. Her past is a undeniable truth etched in time be it good, bad or ugly she can and does dispassionately observe it and carry on with her life. Obliterating past does not mean one has let go of it, to let go means to live in peace with what has happened and give it its due place where it needs to be.

STAND IN FRONT OF A MIRROR AND ASK YOURSELF, “ARE YOU OKAY?

IF THE ANSWER IS “YES” GO OUT AND ASK SOMEONE “ARE YOU OKAY? maybe you’ll touch a nerve…

IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” TIME TO EXPLORE FURTHER.

FACEBOOK has blocked DG, she refuses to disclose personal information for reasons of both privacy and safety of people she works with. If it is a life and death situation you know how to reach her. All other queries can be addressed in the comments on this post or other posts.

A Voice for Her

13 Nov

A Voice for Her

11/13/2013

Few years back DG was an interpreter for an art exhibit where the curator had flown artists from des to demonstrate their art. It was a middle aged couple from interiors of central India who only spoke local dialect not even proper Hindi. The lady until then had never stepped out of her village her first trip was to New Delhi US consulate for visa and second was landing in the US of A. The couple and a very amiable relationship they had six children back home few of them were married.

As an interpreter DG’s job was verbatim communication between the artists and the museum patrons. Patrons had too many questions for the artist and their exotic land. They would answer in monosyllables and the patrons would look at DG’s face as if she was refusing to interpret what they just said. Any question they asked, like how did she like the place, how was food etc. the woman just had one word in her language, good.  The patrons asked why don’t they say anything else or elaborate. This compelled DG to think hard why was she so reticent in usage of adjectives and sentences. She was neither dumb nor reticent she just didn’t have words to express herself it is not that her language lacked it was her lack of knowledge of language that limited her expression.

This revelation took DG to her childhood where her dad would drag the family to visit his widow mother and would insist kids especially DG listen to the stories she told. Every year the old lady told same stories a princess and her bad step mother or how the sparrow and crow together made a porridge. They were interesting until DG had not started reading Reader’s Digest ( at seven she was reading RD) once you are exposed to the world of words who wants to listen to same old stories. Working with these artists DG realized how limited and isolated was her grandma’s life in that hamlet where oral tradition only lost and nothing got added to it by a generation that as no longer interested in listening. It reminded her of alienation of  ABCD grand kids from their desi grandparents who raised them from the day they were born here in the US and Canada. Once kids entered middle school and experienced a wider world these loving grandparents were speaking a different language . The kids could no longer communicate with their grandparents ones they realized their classmates had grandparents who were not only driving but were net savvy and understood their experiences at their level.

As Malcolm X proclaimed in Learning to Read,     “I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letters that I wrote, especially those to Mr. Elijah Muhammad. In the street, I had been the most articulate hustler out there. I had commanded attention when I said something. But now, trying to write simple English, I not only wasn’t articulate, I wasn’t even functional.”

When someone is sexually assaulted they have difficulty describing what was done to them it is not that they do not know what was done to them it is lack of vocabulary that prevents them from articulating their experience. This is especially true for children because some can’t even name their private parts. Reminds of  those 1980s movies where in court scenes rape is being prosecuted and the victim is asked to describe what happened to her. What you cannot name how can you be expected to describe it. Shaming the words is disempowering the user.

Words are powerful they not only open a doorway to the world but they also put you in the center of the world that refuses to let you in. Words carry meaning so choose your words carefully for they can make or break you. If you don’t have words you don’t know what to tell and if you don’t tell your silence is taken as your choice. It is important for us as women to not only master words but claim them for they are the steps to our redemption. As mothers and socializing agents we can teach our kids whatever we want then why not begin with naming the unnamed…


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A Voice of Her Own

12 Nov

A Voice of Her Own

11/12/2013

It is interesting how  power and control plays in subduing inherent human voice of some humans be it women, children, dalits, people of color, immigrants, disabled to name a few  and then declare them disempowered thus thrives a whole industry to empower them. It was the year the first chair person of NCW (National Commission of Women) Dr.  Mohini Giri retired on her way she made a stop in our city and we organized a small farewell party. Long with academics and activists came our grassroots women. These were the urban lower middle class women we worked with for years and were now able to get them out of homes to attend events, they came with their heads covered but no longer wore “ghunghto” (veil). It took us weeks to help prepare Kanwar speak two sentences to Ms Giri that she and her friends are very sad that she is retiring they are very thankful for she did great work for women and especially  of our state. Kunwar had been nervous all day she was mocked by family and friends that now she has become “neto” (politician) and will be speaking to “baddo log” (powerful people). She wore her best sari, finished all her chores, fed her kids and left early with us to attend the event that didn’t start until few more hours she sat repeating her lines and sweating profusely out of fear of public speaking.

Finally the chief guest arrived and formalities were done then came the moment we had been waiting for introducing our grassroots workers and for Kanwar to say her lines. As Kanwar uttered “didi hum bahut dukhi hain…” (sister, we are very sad…) Ms Giri caught her hands and said “hum tumhara dukh samajhate hain bahan…” (I understand your pain, sister…” and went past her. Kanwar was in tears she had practiced her lines so much and this was her chance that just whisked past her. DG and her colleague stood there looking at their labor of love rolling in tears; she was young so was pretty upset  and chose to step out of the group picture. She kept wondering, “how do you know her pain, you didn’t even let her complete the sentence. Now she has a greater pain that is all her hard work went unnoticed and her folks will mock her.”

Few years later when DG went to des for recovery she was signing up at the medical college for intensive physio therapy. Then she walked with quad cane her steps were very wobbly; the crowds were maddening people falling over each other. She was a pretty attraction, a woman dressed as a Charlie Chaplin walking with a quad cane and spouting English. After waiting in women’s line for an hour she was behind a woman who was asked her name and age, she was about to open her mouth jumped in a man from nowhere over DG’s shoulder and shouted her name and age. DG turned back stalled the process and asked him if the woman was deaf and mute. He said she was his wife so he was giving her personal information. DG’s other question was this is an information a four year old can give why did he feel the need to do so over DG’s shoulder. He said, he was trying to be helpful as she is in pain (the woman had been standing in the line for more than an hour with not much problem). DG wouldn’t let it go, she not only told him off but also said, “Bhale manus, apaki patani ghar ka sara kaam karti hai, do bacche palti hai abhi tak to ghar, bacche aur aap ko surakshit rakha hai isne to kya yah apana dhyan nahin rakh sakti ya apana naam nahin kah sakti. (gentleman, your wife attends all domestic chores, raises two kids and has kept, home, kids and you safe so why do you think she can’t take care of herself or tell her name?”) The man had sheepish look on his face and the woman had a smile of gratitude while she finished her turn at the counter she stealthy pressed DG’s hand on the quad cane.

In experiencing your person and claiming your space in any context to be able to tell what happened to you or what was done to you is a very pertinent. In the name of love and protection the first thing that is taken away is your voice and then your choice. It is like someone takes away the hockey stick from a child and then declares to public the child does not know how to play hockey. In everyday life a large number of women are silenced by taking away any chances of voicing their concerns in the name of love, safety, honor shame etc. and a proclamation is made for whole gender, that it does not know what they want so someone else has to be benevolent enough to speak for them and empower them. Claim your voice and speak for yourself before you speak for another human. Challenge patriarchy every day and everywhere.


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From the wet market

Mostly vegetarian meals from Asia

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