Monday, 30 June 2014

Perfection of God's Love

Have you ever experienced a moment complete in itself?
Have you ever felt, there was nothing more left to be accomplished?
Have you ever denied the world just for a moment of belonging, togetherness and ecstacy?
Have you ever stood on the shores of a turbulent ocean, watching the waves wash away every drop of fear and released a sigh of relief?
Have you ever given up and still been a winner?
Have you ever experienced perfect tranquility?
Has there been a time when you were sure of the perfect alignment of your body, mind and soul and marveled at its magic?
Have you ever been sure enough to laugh at uncertainty?
Have you ever felt like the master of the Universe?

I have.....
and every moment of the day when I feel this way,
every time I watch the birds return to their abode,
every time I see a soul smile...
I slowly close my eyes and say a silent prayer.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Bully's Side of the Story

I don't watch Britain's Got Talent regularly but whenever I've had a chance to, couldn't help but notice that apart from Simon's eye rolls one thing has been recurrent; bully victims.

Many people have come up and confessed they have been bullied at some point, which being so rampant in the western society slightly programs the audience and judges to be more sympathetic and consequently more supportive towards them. And why not? I was a victim myself at a very tender age of 5 years. I don't remember much of school that year, only the agony and the daily battle of making up my mind to get up, dress up and show up for another day of abuse and exploitation. I kept quiet for a long time but my parents started noticing that I was returning with lost items everyday without an explanation. They did what had to be done. My bully left school at the end of that academic year. I don't know what became of her. But I do remember her name and will always do.

Bullying has serious repercussions for the victim. It is a drastic blow to ones self esteem which leads to depression, anxiety and countless other psychological and physical issues. The self esteem of the victims is so botched that it's hard for them to muster up the guts to stop being victimized at every point in life. After my stint with a bully, I had no school friends for almost two years. I admit I still have trouble making friends, maintaining lasting friendships without my immediate family or even striking a casual conversation. According to CDC, bullying is the third leading cause of all suicides every year and has been on the rise in the last few decades. Some victims resort to bullying others in order to vent out their anger, boost self worth and feel respected again. Hence more victims and more bullies.

But while our heart goes out to the victims, we totally tend to disregard the psychology and background of the bully. Bullying is not genetic or an inherited trait but rather a developed proclivity owing to one's circumstances; family structure, culture, social and peer pressure etc. Although the fact is that bullies sprout from all economic levels and sociocultural backgrounds regardless of age, the contribution of the family institution is indisputable. Children who do not receive the much needed attention, respect as an individual and acceptance at home, their very first social school, seek it elsewhere through various means, hence the birth of a bully.

It may sound very idealistic but the changing dynamics in the family structure (single parents, both working or same sex parents) has a much greater impact on children than we can imagine. Children derive their sense of security from their mothers and identity from their fathers. A prolonged loss of contact or complete absence of either of the two may wreak havoc on the sociopsychological development of children.

Most educational institutions have clearly spelled out the ramifications such behaviour may have yet it grows unhindered when victims are confronted by bullies covertly in dorms or bathrooms or virtual environments. If we want to put a check on this growing issue, we need to begin at home. We need to instill a sense of acceptance in children, teach them to be empathetic and not crave for control that the media so audaciously promotes. More importantly, we need to give them time and an opportunity to express themselves so that their negative feelings do not fester for a long time and then are vented out in the most cruelest form possible. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Time to fight 'Pinkified Toy Blues'

Our world and attitudes are shaped by the most trivial decisions we make in our daily lives. Some of the lessons learnt subconsciously inspired by our simplest decisions may take a lifetime for us to unlearn. The most common is the realization of the concept of gender roles in children at a very tender age when they are blissfully oblivious of societal dynamics.

Children are not born with a preexisting gender identity.  They gradually acquire it via socialization with their surroundings and beings. At a tender age of 1-2 years, they learn most of the things by observation, social interaction and imitation. By this time, they develop gender identity and by ages 3 and 4, have pretty set standards about the two genders, their roles, dressing, attitudes and attributes. Adults have preferences that they try to project on children, like what and whom to play with. When we prefer a girl child to play with girls only and with a certain type of toys, we already begin invoking in her the attributes that her gender role in future will require.

Gender consciousness has become more prominent though in the last couple of decades. During 1980s, children would play with gender neutral toys. Today the toy companies wouldn't let them even if they'd want to. Have you noticed these things when you walk into a toy store?
  • Two prominently bifurcated sections: Girls and Boys
  • Pink, white and purple is for girls; blue and black for boys
  • Iron man is for boys; barbie for girls
  • Workbench tool set in the boys section; nail art and hairstyling kits in girls' 

Toys are an essential part of childhood. Apart from being fun and games, certain toys are helpful in developing cognitive and motor skills in children. These are toys that both girls and boys should play with. As the standard of living has risen, more children have their say when toys are being purchased. And keeping this trend in mind, toy companies have employed a new manipulative marketing strategy which genders toys, completely ignoring the fact that children have unique personalities and choices. Stereotyping toys for girls and boys will only crush these unique personalities and widen the gender inequality gap that we have been trying to fill for decades now. Doesn't it sound like one step forward, two steps back!

Secondly, something as harmless as toys can have lasting effects on children's psyche, now when they are exposed to non-conformist lifestyles like homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenders and the ever fading line between gender specific roles in the labour market. Is this the advent of identity crisis? The birth of a lost generation. A generation fearing to express itself out of the fear of being laughed at or isolated because they prefer different things from the majority. A generation that stops itself to rise above their gender roles merely because it isn't deemed in the right light by the society. A restricted and oppressed generation.

The status quo however has not gone unnoticed thanks to campaigns like 'Let toys be toys' and 'Pinkstinks'. These campaigns throughout Europe have urged mega conglomerates and retailers to stop labeling toys as gender specific. Similar petitions are underway in Australia where parents are asking retailers to stop marketing certain toys as girls or boys only.

That's at the macro level. What can we do at the micro level depends on how fast we stop projecting ourselves on the next generation. The least we can do is buy them gender-neutral gifts that do not shove them into the social gender essentialism maze. It's time to listen to their personalities, give them space to develop and not crush them under the roles they ought to be playing in future. If we want gender inequality and all crimes associated with it to be a thing of the past, we'll have to start from the start.