Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Man in Your Life

A piece got as a forward from one of my friends. The article talks about how a newly married girl copes with the difficult task of adjusting with her new environment, and implores the husband to be supportive to her in achieving this.

I felt the spirit of the piece very good and it makes its point well enough that I find it unnecessary to make any further additions. However, in the process of admiring the woman, at some points it repeats the old ultra-feminist mistake of putting down the man. This post is about that. Follows the poem, and then my comments.

I am making this post to address a wider problem of ultra-feminism. I appreciate this forwarded piece, and my words aren't directed only to that.

Note the points in the poem which I felt were in a bad spirit. The orange ones are which I feel just start being unfair, and the red ones are plain deplorable. Everything else is in good spirits and is appreciated.

Tomorrow you may get a working woman,
but you should marry her with these facts as well.

Here is a girl, who is as much educated as you are;
Who is earning almost as much as you do;

One, who has dreams and aspirations just as
you have because she is as human as you are;

One, who has never entered the kitchen in her life just like you or your
Sister haven't, as she was busy in studies and competing in a system
that gives no special concession to girls for their culinary achievements

One, who has lived and loved her parents & brothers & sisters, almost as
much as you do for 20-25 years of her life;

One, who has bravely agreed to leave behind all that, her home, people who love her, to adopt your home, your family, your ways and even your family ,name

One, who is somehow expected to be a master-chef from day #1, while you sleep oblivious to her predicament in her new circumstances, environment and that kitchen

One, who is expected to make the tea, first thing in the morning and cook
food at the end of the day, even if she is as tired as you are, maybe more,
and yet never ever expected to complain; to be a servant, a cook, a mother,
a wife, even if she doesn't want to; and is learning just like you are as
to what you want from her; and is clumsy and sloppy at times and knows that you won't like it if she is too demanding, or if she learns faster than you;

One, who has her own set of friends, and that includes boys and even men at her workplace too, those, who she knows from school days and yet is willing to put all that on the back-burners to avoid your irrational jealousy, unnecessary competition and your inherent insecurities;

Yes, she can drink and dance just as well as you can, but won't, simply
Because you won't like it, even though you say otherwise

One, who can be late from work once in a while when deadlines, just like yours, are to be met;

One, who is doing her level best and wants to make this most important,
relationship in her entire life a grand success, if you just help her some
and trust her;

One, who just wants one thing from you, as you are the only one she knows in your entire house - your unstinted support, your sensitivities and most importantly - your understanding, or love, if you may call it.

But not many guys understand this......

Please appreciate "HER"

I hope you will do....

My comments:

Can't agree more especially at this juncture of life. I am just watching day after day the host of irreversible and significant changes that are coming about everyday in my newly wed wife's life, and can't stop marvelling at how she's taking them all with a smile on her face. My love and respect for her rises exponentially everyday. No professional achievement can equal this unearthly mix of maturity, flexibility, modesty and sacrifice.

I wish to tell a little less known thing too. It's often talked about a lot what a great transition it is for a girl to leave behind her past life to join her husband. I think it's true. Very true.

What's not quite right is to imagine that the guy doesn't go through similar anxieties. Nor is it fair to project it as if all sacrifices are only on the girl's side, and none on the guy's side. It mayn't really strike you as significant, but for record's sake let me point out that it's not trivial to change from a boy to a man overnight. Till yesterday, he was all alone, free to move around in the world, exploring everything with not a worry in mind but his own whims and fancies. All of a sudden, everything starts revolving around another person -- you. Your concerns are his, and he is responsible for your happiness, health and everything. He brought you home from your house where everyone was crying and wailing so to making him feel miserable and guilty of causing so painful a separation in a family. And now, he is immediately responsible to make that girl, who is badly missing her family and is coping hard with her new life, feel at home and loved. Do you think it's any easier?! I wouldn't be so sure!

He is aware of your capabilities. He is proud of it. It's a different matter that your feminist predecessors have ground it into you that it's you who always protects his silly ego and that's your job. I think, it's time to dump that bullshit. Men are better than that. Go ahead and conquer the world in the way you want. Dump the household work on him. It's his responsibility too. It's his right to struggle like you do. And most importantly, what you mayn't know is that he knows it. Where expression of capabilities is natural, it will receive admiration and cheer from all men and women; where it gets adulterated with false egotism and the wish to prove a point, it will invite scorn, not just from men, but from women as well. I think, one should stop blaming men of chauvinism in this capability business. Men are no more egotistic than women.

In this (ultra)feminist world, it's becoming fashionable these days to write poetry saying laudatory words about women and their sacrifices (every word of which they deserve) and bash up men for their insensitivity, and selfishness (not all of which they deserve). Perhaps, the pendulum of male chauvinism has now started swinging back to the other amplitude in the form of ultra feminism. :(

I have met many men and women in my life. And I can say confidently that men are every bit as sensitive and caring as women. Their modes of expression aren't so sophisticated as those of women. Women have many vents to their soft emotions. But it's not fair to imagine lack of sensitivity among men just because they are not so capable of expressing them well. While you may call up home when you miss them, or shed a drop of two of your precious tears to vent the emotional pressure, your man will be out there suppressing all that, trying to look strong and unaffected, more out of a habit of suppression society has imposed on him than anything else. Do you really think it's all nice and good for him while you are making all the sacrifices. Well, think again!

To conclude, marriage (and every relation of the world) is not a one sided affair. It's based on love and respect on both ends. It's good to mention the good things on the one end, but it's unfair to make it look as if the relation is tailor made to serve all the fair and unfair needs of one party while to give a raw deal to the other (presumably the nobler one). Guys and girls! Marriage is a very personal thing between you and your wife. The terms of your relations are defined as you define it, not how a chauvinistic tradition or a feminist activist would like them to be. I believe that mutual love, care and respect takes a relation to heights which no amount of political correctness can. Here's a simple mantra: Let's be fair. That's a good starting point for a relation.

And to set a good example, I am saying this to all men, and women too.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Enemy Within

I want to draw your attention to a subtle point I have tried making
many times: "Don't give in to fear." For me, the importance of these
words can't be overstated. How hard I try to stay calm and
composed when it's the question of drawing motivation to work! I have
let go waste tonnes and tonnes of fear which I could easily have used
to push myself into working hard and getting professionally benefited.
I daresay, I would have been able to prove quite a few points had I
let that happen. I have tried very hard to never let that happen
(though I don't always succeed). Same has been true with other sources
of motivation like rivalry, ambition and professional conceit. I have
always shunned them when I could have used them. The central idea was:
"My research is the purest and most beautiful thing I do. I will not
malign it by letting it get driven by things I consider negative." I
mayn't have been always correct in being so pedantic about the matter.
I sometimes wonder if I hadn't looked at certain things like fear,
anger, rivalry and ambition as out and out negative things, I could
have found it easier to get into a habit of working hard. Once the
habit set in, perhaps, I could have worked towards purifying my
thoughts, and then driving myself with purer sources of motivation
then on. Well, perhaps. I will hopefully get a chance to validate that
hypothesis in future. But, let's not talk about that aspect right now.

The above maxim can be partially stated as: "Never let negative
thoughts drive you to do anything good." But it gets completed when we
say: "Never let negative thoughts stop you from doing what you truly
want to do."

That second part of the maxim came to my rescue two and half years
ago, when I had almost got paralysed after suffering nearly 2 years of
fruitless toil on a problem which wasn't moving anywhere. By some
miracle (which is also called 'introspection'), I realised that,
bigger and more immediate than the problem of my research not going
anywhere, it was that deep fear of having to face failure and
disappointment which was my problem. Slowly, I could get clearer and
clearer sight of that 'fear' which used to draw away my energy
whenever I would decide to sit and do something towards my research.
This fear was born and had grown within me; and yet, I could see it as
an external thing -- something which I had cut and throw away from my
system, something I should take pleasure in killing.

When I succeeded in looking at this fear as something not essential to
my personality, but rather something that I could easily throw out of
my system, and survive, I could actually get up and do something about
my plight. I realised that, for the immediate moment, my success lay,
not in doing successful research, but in honestly trying to do so. And
I wouldn't let my fear stop me from doing that.

I think I won that little battle. But the fear is still there and
sometimes becomes overpowering. But, due to that one triumphant
experience during my PhD, I know that it exists somewhere inside me,
am far more capable to identify it in many of its clever disguises,
and with hardly any delay, am able to get up and start smothering it
back to its little dark hole whenever it raises its head.

I do think (may be it's a fallacy) that this tussle with fear is an
essential experience of doing PhD. Perhaps the most important one.
People who have got that momentum right from the first day, due to whatever reason, mayn't perhaps face this problem now.
Perhaps, they already had faced this problem earlier, and have,
consciously or unconsciously, devised ways of handling it. Perhaps, we
haven't been so lucky (or wise) enough to have faced this problem
earlier in our lives. But, whenever someone is trying to do something
non-trivial, I think, this hurdle is bound to be faced. And only when
one learns to combat one's own fear (which is the mother of laziness
and procrastination), one is really going to have a smooth sail to his
or her destination.

All this is not an advice. I just want you to know something now which
I spent an unnecessary amount of time and toil to understand. I don't
know if it's one of those things which can be learned only the hard
way of experience. But, in case it isn't one of those things, I
wouldn't like to miss this chance to share with you this little
thought which was almost life-changing for me.