An Ode to Being Selfishly Independent

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“Why don’t you get married? It will make your parents happy. It is selfish not to think about them.”

“If not now, then when?”

“Your biological clock is ticking. We need to see our grandchildren before we die.”

These are some dialogues, I and many, have heard at least once in our lifetime.

Now if we marry someone outside our religion or caste, the society chimes in with:

“The poor parents. Their child married someone from a different religion. Why don’t kids understand the sacrifices parents make?”

Your happiness gets the least precedence.

We are almost always emotionally blackmailed into following the norms set up by society. The questions and self-doubts then arise in our mind – “Why am I so weird? Why don’t I feel happy following what others are following” You think – “If so many people are saying the same thing, it must be right,” – when the truth is something else.

It took some unlearning for me to realize, there are no fixed protocols to be followed to live a happy, fulfilling life. No researcher has written a book saying “this is how everyone should behave or else the world would crumble in a day” Rules are formed because they make life less confusing, but they do not necessarily make life more fulfilling.

The blueprint of life is out there – study, study some more, get a job, get married, have children, work until you die. There are examples to follow, whereas, for someone who is single, there is no chart as such – you work, and then what? This lack of clarity, makes many shy away from choosing a different life. People want stability, and following the rules makes them believe they have certainty in their life, irrespective of whether they are mentally at peace or not.

After studies are done, an adult should have the freedom to chart his own blueprint. Conditions apply, of course. If the adult wants to be a terrorist, having his own blueprint would be a disaster.

I am saddened that society made me doubt myself for so long (I’m in my 30s) by indoctrinating me with the feeling that I, on my own, am not good enough. I need a partner, followed by kids, to be termed complete. We see so many celebrating their wedding, engagement anniversaries but have we seen anyone say “Yay! I have been happily single for a year now!” Obviously not, because we have been conditioned to believe, being single and happy is not something to celebrate.

Time and again, I have seen many friends being forced by their parents into marriage, jobs, religious practices, and then living an unhappy life afterward. And the irony is, they haven’t learned from this. The tradition will continue to the next generation from what I have deciphered from their talks. Because society has taught them this is the norm, this is the way it should be, and they should follow it, no questions asked.

It is all so subjective, this happiness. But more often than not, we have to mold them as per societal constructs, even if it is not what we are ready for at the moment. Forcing can make an individual follow the path you want, but the gratification you hope they would achieve through this process can likely be lost. The whole exercise (be it anything) loses its meaning if it has to be drilled down and is not coming from the heart.

Why are we following everything to a tee, to make others happy, when we ourselves get only one chance to live the way we want?

Why aren’t we giving enough freedom for our kids to think, to choose?

Why aren’t we giving enough importance to our happiness? If not in this life, then when?

Isn’t it selfish to demand your loved ones, who are now adults, to unquestioningly follow the rules you have set or the dreams you have selfishly conjured up in your mind for them?

I have stopped falling into this trap. I am no saint and I don’t aim to be. And I hope everyone gets a chance to be selfishly independent too – to realize how insanely happy and beautiful this life can be, just the way it should be.

An Ode to the Products That Cured 90% of My Dandruff

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I used to suffer from flaky, dandruff-prone scalp for the longest time.

It started from my teenage years. I had no idea what the contributing factor was. I was blessed with luscious hair when I was a kid but then my scalp condition deteriorated as I hit 16-17. Now I think it could have been because I had stopped oiling my hair. At least once a week, my hair was massaged thoroughly and drenched with warmed-up coconut oil – the typical South Indian routine. I used to let it sit for a minimum of one hour before washing it off with shampoo. My hair then was thick, luscious and full of life.

Owing to the fast-paced teenage life where everything needed to be finished in a jiffy and any remnant of coconut oil in your hair was considered unstylish, I had to forego my very-Indian routine to make way for more important things in life like tantrum throwing, overthinking, procrastinating, hanging out with friends – anything a normal teenager loved to indulge in. Sitting at home with oil for an hour just wasn’t feasible anymore.

I was fine with the few flakes of dandruff, to be honest. It never really bothered me, and maybe this resulted in aggravating the condition a bit. I would use anti-dandruff shampoo every time. This made my hair dull, dry and lifeless. My scalp felt drier than a desert. All those famous anti-dandruff shampoos out there? I have used them. They would work for a day or two, but they weren’t exactly a cure. As the oil production increased on my scalp due to dryness, I started getting more dandruff. Vicious cycle.

It is maybe in the last 3 or 4 years that I discovered some products that greatly helped in eliminating my dandruff by nearly 90%. I have stuck to them ever since. No experimenting with other products based on influencer reviews or recommendations. Let your body be the judge of what works best for you. If it works, stick to it.

Apple Cider Vinegar

I started off by using apple cider vinegar – a natural product. If you are facing any sort of itchiness on scalp, this product can be your inexpensive friend. You need to dilute the ACV to prevent any irritation. It is said apple cider vinegar with the mother is the best, but I found good success with the American Garden one that is a diluted version.

How to use:

  1. Mix water and apple cider vinegar (2:1).
  2. Take a cotton ball and drench it with the solution.
  3. Massage it onto your scalp. Repeat till your whole scalp is covered.
  4. Wait for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Wash off as usual. You need not use shampoo or conditioner.

Extra benefits:

  • Apple cider vinegar makes your hair softer.
  • If you use a lot of styling products, this helps to cleanse your scalp. Sometimes products dry off and end up looking like dandruff.

Use this treatment once a week.

You will immediately start noticing that your scalp is less itchy than before.

Clarifying Shampoo

Though ACV helps to cleanse your scalp quite well, it is always best to use a shampoo that is specially formulated for cleansing. A clarifying shampoo is best for the purpose. My personal favorite is Pantene’s Lively Clean. It is sensitive on my scalp and at the same time does its job of cleaning away the build up left behind by styling products.

Use this shampoo whenever your hair feels dull and weighed down.

Bringadi Oil

This ayurvedic oil was a game changer. It did not show any quick results, but with consistent use, my dandruff decreased drastically. The one I am using is the Kama Ayurveda Bringadi Oil.

How to use:

  1. Massage the oil into your scalp. Do not mix it with any other oil. You can use this on your scalp and try any other oil on the length of your hair.
  2. Warming an intensive treatment ayurvedic oil like this can alter its formula and make it less effective, so I use it without warming it up.
  3. Keep it on for an hour or more. The longer the better.
  4. Wash off with shampoo and conditioner

Pros:

It is a lightweight oil. Easy to wash off. It doesn’t leave behind a greasy look. You can even use it after styling to tame frizz.

Use this treatment once a week.

Selsun Blue Shampoo

A shampoo that helped a great deal. If you find that most anti-dandruff shampoos don’t work for you, try the Selsun Blue Shampoo. I have used all the popular ones, but this one actually works in stopping scalp itching and dandruff reoccurrence for a longer duration. I started with once a week, and now I use it once a month.

How to use:

  1. Massage it onto your scalp.
  2. Let it settle for a few minutes before washing it off.

Pros:

Effective and over time you will need to use it only once a month.

Cons:

Makes your hair dry. You will need to deep condition your hair more often. The scent is strong and not pleasing. It lingers on to the next day or even days. Took me some time to get used to it.

Start by using it once a week. Once your scalp gets better, move to using it once a month.

An Ode to the 16 Personality Types

Personality Types
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Many years ago, I tried a test for the first time – The Myers-Briggs Personality Test.

I am a type INFJ (advocate) and I was impressed by how true the description was. It felt like my innermost feelings and thoughts were out on display for everyone to see. So much so that, I started sending a link of the INFJ description page to anyone who was curious about my personality. I am pretty sure I won’t be able to come up with a more befitting description than the one on the site.

Also, that one person who you thought for sure was an extrovert, might just as well turn out be an introvert! What we show to the public, is seldom the truth, and this test kind of captures the gist.

The quiz is quite long but give it a go if you love digging deep into personality types and you have some time for self-analysis. You can find all personality type descriptions under the “Personality Types” tab of the website.

Another fun thing to do – make your loved ones take the test and compare results!

An Ode to Your Controversial History

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Time and again, we see an article about a well-known person having a controversial history. You hold it against them thinking they must have never learned or risen above it. “So and so said this or that ridiculous thing 10 years back or 20 years back. They are not what they look like!

People change over time. I can say for myself that my beliefs 10 years back aren’t the same as now. I have evolved and learned from my mistakes. I used to say the weirdest things, which when I look back at now, make me cringe into oblivion. It helped that I had a written version of all these thoughts (one of the few times I would like to thank social media), but since many don’t, you never get to recap on your judgments and think “What all shit did I say back then!” It is not the same for a celebrity though. Every single thing done or said by them is chronicled.

Sometimes I am glad I am not a celebrity. There is no one keeping a record of what I am saying and I have no fear of someone putting it on a big banner and exhibiting it in front of me many years from now when I am trying to progress in life.

Some people don’t learn, but should the default thinking be always pessimistic?

A controversial history could have been a very valuable lesson for the person. But how can they move on if society will not allow them to? At every road and juncture, they are reminded of what they said years ago – back when they didn’t know any better. Imagine that happening to us – someone continually reminding us of our failed relationships or divorce or mistakes.

Instead of judging by their past, analyze them by their current events, behavior, and personality. That will hold more true than outdated facts.

An Ode to Not Being Ambitious

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I recently watched a podcast by Kenny Sebastian on YouTube (Simple Ken – Episode 19), and something the guest said resonated a lot with me.

I am not at all ambitious. I have zero ambition. My ambition in my life is to be happy. I am not really competitive. For me to see another person doing well, I don’t really care, as long as it is not affecting my happiness. If you are really happy with yourself, another person’s achievements won’t concern you. There are many people who can look happy from outside, but miserable from inside.

I just want enough money to live a comfortable life. I mean, my own money, not taken from someone else. There is an amount that will make me comfortable, and I am okay with earning that amount or a little bit higher, but I am not reaching for something more.

It just makes me happier and calmer.

Tara Molloth

I am a minimalist, so each and every word struck a chord with me. I found it refreshing, because it is not something you hear people say openly. It is almost like a sin to say you are not ambitious nowadays in this fast-paced world.

Why isn’t this way of life more common?

Why isn’t happiness an ambition?

It’s okay to take a step back and breathe. It is okay to slow down. It is okay to not want the same things as others. It is okay to feel happy with little.

Our world is so obsessed with stellar achievements, ambitions, agenda, goals and to be on the move all the time that we often forget the key ingredient for survival: happiness.

  • To be happy with your work. Is that big fat paycheck, the sole reason you are sticking to the job you hate, really worth your mental peace?
  • To be happy in our relationships. Why do people sometimes suffer so much for so little?
  • To be happy with what we have. Why do we have to indulge in more when we are already content with our current standard of living?

Is “more” always the answer to happiness? If that were the case, celebrities would never be diagnosed with depression.

We have never been more fanatical about perfection. What is even more concerning is happiness being valued in terms of material possessions. That we *should* have the perfect car, perfect job, perfect house etc.

Your dream is sometimes not your dream, but a dream that someone else subconsciously has painted for you. We could be satisfied with far less, but we always push ourselves to do more, because truth be told, society is not impressed with frugality. As an example, look around, and see how many people are complimenting someone for their money-saving skills. We never say “Wow, you saved so much money by buying a small house/car/TV” We never show off our small expenses, but are quick to pose in front of a fancy restaurant or expensive car or check-in to business class lounges on Facebook.

The showstoppers, the ones with a deep pocket are admired, whereas the ones who enjoy a quiet and peaceful life are looked down upon. But then the world doesn’t care if you slip into debt or depression either.

Don’t let everyone’s preconceived notions steal you away from your one true goal and ambition: happiness.

An Ode to Solitude

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As a single, mid-30-year-old, I have given solitude enough chance to say now with confidence that – it is grossly underrated.

Solitude is peaceful,
solitude is kind,
solitude can be friendly
and as intoxicating as wine.

Most will never know because the general perception of solitude is not appealing. Even a quick image search on solitude will display an array of dark, gloomy, and depressed visuals. I had to refine my search to “happy single woman” to get the picture above.

No one wants to give solitude a chance. What we truly are scared of is its notorious doppelganger – loneliness. They both might look the same, but are as different as chalk and cheese.

We are afraid of solitude because there is this constant expectation, from society and ourselves included, to find that perfect partner. You need to find “The One”, only then are you deemed “complete”. Your life is worthless otherwise. I wonder who was the first person who fed this thought into our minds.

The truth is – we can feel complete in so many different ways. Through our platonic friendships, activities, hobbies, work, parents, extended family. But we choose to feel complete only with a partner. Trying to convince ourselves we are not whole on our own.

For the longest time, I wanted to get married, follow the usual societal norms. But in my mind, I would question my motive behind it. Did I want to get married? Or was I interested in getting married because that’s what everyone does? I feel it was the latter. I just wanted to follow the rules set by society for a woman – work, get married before 30, and have children. It took one marriage to make me realize, maybe the time for me was not right back then. I dived into it way too early. Primarily because of pressure. Partly because of confusion.

I hope a day comes when solitude isn’t mistaken for loneliness. They are poles apart. One gives you freedom, the other pain. One gives you peace, the other trauma. One gives you clarity, the other makes you commit blunders out of impatience.

I hope one day, solitude, my sweet misunderstood friend, people give you a fair chance. Find out for themselves that you are not so bad, after all.

An Ode to Feminism and Personality Prints

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Feminism runs in my family, in parts.

I come from a family of outspoken (sometimes bordering on the line of offensive) women, about whom the men in the house would jokingly warn new entrants to be wary of.

We inherit a chunk of values subconsciously from the ones around us. The early lessons often imparted by family. The few beads of feminism that I took away from mine:

Importance of education and hatred for dowry – I learned from my grandfather, who would tell his daughters “I am ready to sell everything to get you girls a good education” and who would ask prospects to kindly leave if they ever asked for dowry.

Importance of courage, debating, learning, re-learning, and speaking out – I learned from my mother. She has been at the receiving end of many jibes that came her way for raising her daughters to be the feminists that we are. Instead of feeling the burden of everyone’s favorite dialogue “It’s the mother’s fault,” she rose to the challenge and took it as a compliment.

Importance of financial independence – I learned from my aunts, who owing to personal incidents had to depend on themselves to keep their family afloat.

Importance of gender equality – I learned from my dad, who was absolutely fine with doing household chores, cooking, and cleaning. P.S: He used to make the best mutton curry.

Importance of freedom – I learned from my sister, who values her independence more than anything else in this world. Nothing can stop her from pursuing her dreams in life.

We always learn little lessons from everyone around us, without even knowing. When I look back, to think where I got my current ideologies from, these are the people who pop up in my mind. I learned a little bit from each and together they have defined my set of values.

An individual can be unique not just in physical appearance or fingerprints, but even by their “personality print” which is the sum total of all their experiences in life. Next time you feel you are not special, think about it this way. There is literally no one like you – with the same set of values, journey, experiences, understanding. Just like fingerprints, no two personality prints are alike. You are uniquely you. Is there any better reason to celebrate?

An Ode to Unexplained Feelings

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Is it not unsettling that what we feel can never be expressed entirely with words?

Imagine feeling the whole world, and when you express it, it turns out less than whole – as small, grainy and flighty as sand. Most of the finest specks, lost in translation.

We are only subjected to someone’s surface-level emotions. The tip of an iceberg. Never truly getting to experience the depths.

People often say if given a superpower, they would like to read other’s minds. But how reliable are those thoughts? They can be inaccurate and flippant. You might feel pain, but the comments flaring in your mind might be that of anger. You might feel happiness, but your thoughts could counter with a cynical “Is this too good to be true?” Thoughts can be contradicting, untrue and a spoilsport. Feelings, though – they are as true as they can get.

I would rather feel what people are feeling – in its entirety. Feelings won’t lie even if you desperately wish they would. What we feel inside is the purest, most concentrated form of emotion. When we try to assemble our feelings into words, we dilute the essence by half. When we let it out, we lose more, depending on how skilled you are with the spoken language. Then it is up to the recipient to preserve the remaining as is or interpret it in a totally different way. A game of Chinese Whispers. This is why we are often left stunned, when a loved one misunderstands you, because what you feel is totally different from what they have interpreted it to be. Words can be beautiful but they are equally constricting.

I sometimes wonder if something like an emotion tester (let’s call it a feel-o-meter) would have made us less judgmental and more compassionate. A device that can measure the intensity of someone’s emotions.

  • To appreciate those who stay quiet but are filled up to the brim with love.
  • To recognize those who sweet talk but feel nothing.
  • To understand that someone’s pain is just that – pain, and nothing else – no manipulation, no faking involved.
  • To understand someone’s anger is more than just anger – it is a deep-rooted sadness.
  • To understand that someone’s inability to express is not apathy but an internal struggle with overwhelming emotions.

People mostly use their reckless judgment to analyze whether someone is being genuine or not.

  • We could be crying, but someone would say “Stop acting”
  • We could be hurt, but people would say “You are overreacting”
  • We could genuinely be sorry but someone would say “You don’t mean it”

We make up these little disapproving stories in our mind about a person, to suit our whims and fancies, without really knowing the truth. There is so much time wasted in this period between judgment and knowing. And who is to blame? Us for being unable to reveal our feelings in its totality, or them for not seeing our unadulterated feelings?

An Ode to Love Languages

My 5 Love Languages Test Result

The 5 Love Languages Test is something I stumbled across recently. Give it a go if you have nothing better to do this weekend. Mine is quite accurate, quality time is an absolute essential for me.

The whole idea behind the quiz is that love languages can clash: your way of showing love is not your partner’s way. For example, gifts are not a must for me at all. Just some quality time would do. This need not be the same for everyone. I know many who absolutely adore gifts. Some like a lot of physical touch, whereas others don’t. Some would want words of affirmation, whereas for others actions mean a lot more than words.

I believe knowing your partner’s love language can help in understanding them better. Why they don’t express the way you want them to, why the things you do are never enough for them etc. Maybe how you display love is different from their perception of love. Different people, different wants.

Maybe the love is there, but we are not seeing it because we are scrutinizing it with our own definition of love.

An Ode to Learning New Things in the Midst of a Pandemic

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2020 has been eventful. There have been a lot of lifestyle changes because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many absolutely hating the year from the very core of their heart.

Contrary to the popular (or should I say infamous?) opinion about 2020, I on the other hand, consider it as one of my most constructive years.

An ode to one of my most happening years where I:

  • Travelled solo to Goa for the first time right before the pandemic commenced
  • Had the most wonderful trip to kick start the year
  • Danced on-stage for the first time
  • Broke off from a long dead, mentally exhausting relationship
  • Learnt how to keep my sanity when I was home all the time (new hobbies, in case you are wondering)
  • Learnt new things like hand sewing, machine sewing, job-related courses, a new language – all in the comfort of my home
  • Started the curly girl method to embrace my natural hair. It has been 3 months since I straightened my hair. Less fuss!
  • Got back to reading. 15 books and counting (hey, that’s a lot for me!)
  • Got back to writing
  • Started this blog!
  • More productive at work than ever before. It helped that I did not have anyone at home who is dependent on me.

For these things I am really grateful for 2020. For all the lessons it imparted.

It feels like a new beginning. A new life in a way.

I honestly believe (at the risk of sounding preachy) life is all about what you choose to focus on. At times like these, it can be difficult to filter out the good. But a reality check of what’s happening around always brings me back to being grateful for having a home, for being safe and healthy so far.

Let’s not take what we have for granted. It is a great opportunity to do things we wouldn’t have done if we were on the move all the time. For that, I wouldn’t want to cancel 2020. I want to sit down, have a proper conversation with the year, to see what it wants to teach us, what it has to offer and what it hopes we learn by the end of it.