An Essay on Mental Health.

An Essay on Mental Health.

Two celebrities took their own lives within one week of each other. One, a talented Bollywood actor. The other, his former manager.

Sushant Singh Rajput was only thirty-four when he committed suicide by hanging. There was no note. Indian media being the Indian media, the family was harassed and photos, circulated. Photos that showed the poor soul lying supine on the bed, ligature marks around his neck. And people kept forwarding those images on social media without showing any respect for the deceased or his grieving family. There were no trigger warnings, either. It shocked me to see how people here lack respect, empathy and common sense. As more details surfaced and as more people shared what they knew about the situation, a couple of major issues came to light. Depression, and the fact that since the Indian film industry only survives on the ‘product of nepotism’, Sushant had also been left feeling unacknowledged. He’d made it to Bollywood without a Godfather to push him, and he was finding it hard to stay afloat. In a conversation with a fan on social media, he confessed that he would be kicked out of the industry if his movie didn’t do well.

While the rest of B-town shared posts on social media talking about how they should’ve been there and been more accepting, keyboard warriors started sending hate to top-tier actors. Case in point: Alia Bhatt getting bullied for her post on Sushant. Kangana Ranaut, another self-made actor, getting way too much hate for speaking up about Sushant’s mysterious suicide. And this is exactly how the cycle never ends. Trolls find someone to bully and sometimes, even the strongest of minds breaks down. And goes places where it’s hard to recover from. And it’s not just celebrities or prominent people that face mental health issues, it’s shockingly sad to see that it’s a thing in every Indian home. A thing most families choose to ignore. A thing many believe – TO THIS DAY – that it’s not an issue at all and can be chased away with a proper beating. Not only is that child abuse, it also worsens the child’s state of mind.

As a Bengali Indian, and now a married woman, I’ve faced my share of bullying, I’ve been pressured into doing something I didn’t want to, made fun of for having clinical depression, been doused with buckets of unsolicited advice, been body-shamed and at the same time, never been taken seriously when I needed to talk to someone. And it pains me to say that many others I know go through some form of mental health problems and are dismissed for wanting to talk about it. In (Bengali) households, fifteen-year-olds are mocked at for being low on energy or having enough courage to say that they’ve been feeling depressed. Many are ridiculed for wanting to choose to study something they find interesting. God forbid should you want to become a photographer or a makeup artist. God forbid if you’re not doing well in med-school. While in others, children are made fun of for being “weepy and dead inside” all the time. They’re dismissed if they’re not interested in the same things their parents like. As they grow older and get married, they’re bombarded with questions about when they’d be gaining or losing some weight or when they’d be making babies, despite being fairly new to the whole “being married” scene. No one asks you what you want or if you’re doing okay. No one checks in on you when you’re struggling to reach out. Some people only want you to be happy while putting pressure on you that if you’re not happy, you’d be henpecked into doing what they want because that’s how the world works. People are in fact so quick to judge that all you’re going to end up getting is a bunch of ridiculous statements ranging from “Get over it” to “You’re just thinking you’re depressed. It doesn’t happen that way. No go do the done thing.”

And all of this is normal. That’s what we’ve all grown up facing and are still facing today.

People are so educated but there is serious lacunae in our understanding of mental health and how important it is for a healthy living. And it’s often the people that post about how they wish they’d been there for someone, are the people that spew the most hate. No one actually likes to listen. And that’s the major issue here. We don’t have good listeners around us. Everyone likes the sound of their own voices too much to ever give someone else a chance to speak. And that’s how we start feeling lonely despite being part of a proper unit. And that’s how we start breaking down. Despite all the “education”, we still consider things like pansexuality or depression as something that should be kept under wraps only.

What if the neighbors or the relatives find out? We’ll be so embarrassed!

Why’s any of this taboo when it’s actually out there affecting people badly enough to make them want to take their own lives? And we know that with the quarantine very much in place, it gets hard to keep a brave front all the time. And we need to learn that it’s okay to let do and to have a breakdown or two. But it’s not okay to not have anyone to reach out. Therapists are there for a reason and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

It’s time we learned to be more accepting, more vigilant and more aware. The time for passing crude judgment has now passed. If we want to live healthy, we’ve got to focus on our mental health first and quit treating it as something that can be shoved under the rug and forgotten. And just saying that we need to do something isn’t enough. It’s time all of us actually DID something about it. It’s June 2020 – so if not now, then when?

Why Is Keeping Your Own House Clean a Big Deal?

Why Is Keeping Your Own House Clean a Big Deal?

As Indians, we grow up with a certain set of fixed ideologies that become so deep-rooted into our brains that it becomes hard to think outside that box. Our country has been under lockdown for three weeks now, meaning we’ve all had to do our own mopping, dusting, cleaning, organizing, and even doing the dishes. The concept of having people to do it for you – by people I mean the house help or the maid, to put it simply – has been prevalent in the country for years. And only with the imposition of a total lockdown, did people realize how important the house help was.

Did that bring a change in the average Indian mentality? No. We’re the generation that takes photos of ourselves in visibly blah clothes, clutching at a broom in one hand, phone in the other, in front of the full-length mirror and posting pictures on our Instagram stories, and captioning it – “My jhaadoo pocha outfit.” That’s the word for dusting and mopping. Collective. You miss Mira Didi, not because she gave you company, but because she’d come do the cooking. You miss Jyoti Ben because she’d come and do the mopping. And the sweeping. And the dusting. And the bathrooms and even the toilet bowl. And you still negotiated with them over their paltry salaries. And never said thank you, but blamed them for messing up your fancy fruit bowl or sometimes, breaking your favorite wine glass. You conveniently overlooked the fact that Jyoti might have cut her finger picking up the broken pieces. And you made her work with a cut finger which you only put a Band-Aid on. You overlooked the fact that the help came to your house to keep it clean despite being on her period, or even despite running a fever. You refused to give her a day off because you couldn’t manage the house – the big sprawling house when compared to her tiny shack – by yourself.

And I’ve got a problem with that.

Do you need someone else’s help cleaning up after you’ve taken a massive doody? No, right? Then why would you make it a big deal, and go posting about it as well, after you’ve cleaned your house by yourself? My, my. What a major achievement. What an accomplishment that you’ve managed to wipe the kitchen counter clean after burning the lentil soup you were attempting to cook. What a good thing to have finally learned how to boil an egg or make whipped coffee all by yourself. Like, seriously? Everyone in the rest of the world does their own chores. Only in this country do we lack the understanding and acceptance needed to grasp the importance of dignity of labor.

I just wish that it wasn’t such a big deal, you know? Cleaning and organizing. Things like that? All of this? All of this doesn’t need validation from the Internet if you think it’s such a pain being a “maidfor a while. Also, doing daily household chores actually helps to burn calories. You won’t realize how fit you’re going to be if you’re the one that’s cleaning on a daily basis. Imagine how much active movement you’re getting. Also, cooking is very therapeutic. And baking. NOT being dependent on someone else to do YOUR chores lets you plan your day around your routine and not on when Jyoti comes to clean.

Plus, with the center probably extending the lockdown by two more weeks, it’s about time you forget Mira and Jyoti and get comfortable with staying indoors. It’s hardly a big deal, honestly. Although many influencers will tell you that it is, consider how lucky we all are to have a roof over our heads and a few meals a day. It doesn’t matter if other people don’t understand dignity of labor. It starts with you, and one small change makes a big difference. On that note, I’m going to wipe the kitchen down while I listen to some Doja Cat. Good day, y’all.

Fitness In The Time Of Corona

Fitness In The Time Of Corona

Admit it: there have been a million times when you’ve complained that the gym was too crowded. Or that people had zero hygiene in there. And that you felt weird working out in front of other people. And you ended up not going in for your fitness sessions while that membership you bought died a slow, unmemorable death. Admit it.

And then the Corona Pandemic struck and you told your friends: I was supposed to start working out tomorrow, duuuuuuuude, but the stupid gym’s closed! And you went ahead, plonked your laptop on to your lap, put on your earphones and started binge watching FRIENDS all over again, while the bags of chips and soda bottles accumulated rather nastily on the floor. Admit it.

The thing is, you can’t blame a pesky virus for neglecting your fitness goals. Remember the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? I’ll go to the gym five days a week. I’ll eat quinoa and kale and snack on berries when I’m hungry. I’ll give up on alcohol and sugar and trans fat. Remember that? No, right? Everything has flown out of the window, and it didn’t even take a day of Coronavirus situation.

In order to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, we’re all staying indoors. Some of us are panic-buying provisions. Some of us are eating too much at a go. Many people are drinking WAY too much and smoking joints and they seem to have forgotten that it’s just as bad to have lung cancer. I mean, YOLO, right? Wrong. Our lifestyle has gone from varying forms of active to one hundred percent sedentary. Which means that if you’re someone who, let’s say, is on a fifteen hundred calorie per day allowance with a three hundred calorie burn allowance, you’re actually just adding the whole calorie budget, AND THEN SOME, into your body since you’re not getting any exercise. That sentence was a mouthful but you need to know that I feel very strongly about this.

I know it’s hard to resist food during times like this. Specially when you’ve gone out of your way and hoarded everything, including other people’s share. You eventually end up stress-eating because WFH feels more like WTF and you legit. Cannot. Stop. Eating. And despite all my preaching *heh heh* I’m honestly no saint, either. At the same time, I don’t want to emerge from the quarantine looking like this:

NOT that it’s bad or gross to look like that, but I don’t want central obesity, heart attack and I know how terrible the hospital situation is, globally. So, issa no. I’m trying my best to stay fit without feeling the need to depend on outdoor or gym activities, and I’m not doing much, not really, but I feel like it’s the little things:

• Limiting calorie intake: It’s been a week since I’ve gone into complete self-isolation with the husband, and I’ve reduced my calorie intake by about one-third of my everyday calorie allowance. Do I feel good about myself? No, not really. But is my body working fine? Yes. No paunches reported.

• Home workouts: That yoga mat and Chloe Ting and lightweight dumbbells are coming in handy. Chloe posts a bunch of workout videos that are super easy to follow, while being super effective at the same time. Here’s the link to her two-week shredding programs – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAFs3kxY4h18ubPUONHriXCgo0YD4rmSW. She also posts meal plans that are super filling – I’ve tried a few of them, and they work.

When NOTHING works, you can actually walk around in your living room. It’s the little things, it’s always the little things.

• Doing my chores – This brings me to my last point. Mopping the floors and doing the dishes, doing the laundry and climbing up a bunch of stairs, actually sweeping the floor instead of asking your cleaning lady to do it, burns a crap ton of calories. Belly today, washboard tomorrow. Thanks to the pocha. Thanks to the Corona Pandemic, I’ve also been hydrating like a fish. Just water, I promise you, works wonders.

At this point I can’t even laugh at my own jokes anymore. I’m petrified of what’s happening. Staying in and doing chores and making sure I am not a reason for the spread has put a lot of thought into perspective. Human life is so fragile and the worst part is we ruin things by not following protocol. Or caring about things. It’s a pandemic of epic proportions and each one of us needs to be responsible. And you don’t need me to tell you this, but for YOUR sake, stay home and stay safe. On that note…

How are you staying fit during these dark times?

Millennials and Marriages

Millennials and Marriages

I asked a few people, who are well into their twenties and thirties, about their opinion on marriage and starting a family. The answers were mostly the same across the board. The group I was talking to did NOT want to get married.

It’s crazy, you’d think that with the wedding industry growing as it is, people would actually want to take the plunge as well – but no. Women say that men change after the wedding happens, and men say that women change too. Millennials are confused as they come, and they say they don’t need any more on their plate. Fair point.

Someone said that people don’t know how to date in their own lane and the same goes for marriage. You marry a super rich someone, who’s had a lavish lifestyle, promising to give them the life they’ve always had, but as soon as you’re married, you want them to tone down so they can fit your mold – that’s not done, they said. Imagine if Rose had ended up with Jack, she would definitely complain at some point about him not being able to give her the life she’d been used to, they said. Another reason why some people don’t want to get married would be the fact that most people make enough to give themselves a comfortable lifestyle – but they cannot cover the cost of having kids and raising them because, to put it frankly: “Kids are expensive.”

A few women that I know have decided to never get married because waking up next to the same person and watching them grow old with you isn’t as romantic as movies make it out to be. At this point, I was going “Yikes”, I kid you not.

All these strong opinions against marriage ended up driving me a little insane, so I asked people the same question on Instagram: and this time, the opinions were divided. Honestly, that’s such a relief because I’m getting formally hitched in two months and I could do with a few people saying they would love to get married, too.

One person said they wanted to do it and didn’t care who the other person was as long as they were good people. Arranged marriages are still BIG in India. A couple of people said they wanted to do it because premarital sex, unfortunately, is still frowned upon. And someone else said they wanted to do it because they were deeply in love and couldn’t imagine being away from their partner for one more second. This made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. Go, girl! You get him.

Ooh, and someone else said they wanted to wear Sabyasachi and be featured on the designer’s Instagram page. Girl, if you’re reading this, I hope and pray that it happens one day. And soon. This brings me to the last thing I want to say – What do YOU think of marriages?

Bengali Weddings: Part Two, The Bad

Bengali Weddings: Part Two, The Bad

To read the first part, click here.

It’s getting super hard to keep up with things at this point. We barely have two months left before some major life changes happen. I’m about to become someone’s lawfully wedded wife, and oh my God, I couldn’t be happier. And ooh, about that.

Bengali weddings, of course, come with their own set of rituals. The one that we’re already done with, the Aashirwad, is the first step towards the madness that the actual wedding almost always is. At least, I’m pretty sure mine is going to be nuts. I have crazy family friends who say the most inappropriate things. And my dad has crazy friends who have questionable motives. I’m sure you’re familiar with such people, they exist everywhere.

On the day of the Aashirwad, people got wind of the fact that the Mister would be coming over to my place with his parents, officially, for the final talks of the wedding. And I kid you not when I say that everyone in the whole neighborhood actually appeared to be queueing up outside my house, or even leaning out of their balconies, trying to catch a glimpse or two. My guy belongs to a very refined family from Bangalore and all of them were taken by surprise to see this. What decent community does things like this? And my neighbors have all built their houses SO close to ours that they could see everything through my open windows. I think I died of embarrassment, a million times over, that day.

As if that wasn’t enough, I had people come up to me and ask me what the guy’s family had gifted me. Apparently that’s the culture, the norm, to ask someone what she’s been given as a gift from her husband-to-be and his family. I still fail to see the culture bit, but okay. I’m waiting to post about the good, if there’s any, about this particular Bengali wedding. Stay tuned.

Bengali Weddings, Part One: The Ugly

Bengali Weddings, Part One: The Ugly

I don’t know if this is a thing will all relatives, or just some of the people in my (very, very extended) family but…

I have a huge family, okay? Back in the day, nobody had heard of birth control or television or any other form of entertainment. This meant that their only source of um, relaxation, ended up resulting in tiny humans and burning holes in the parents’ pockets, putting the ever growing family into economic stress. They also used to get married in their early teens, making teenage pregnancies super common. Many kids would die of complications following childbirth and their husbands would end up marrying other kids. Sounds gross, but that used to be a legit thing, child marriage.

My grandma got married at a young age too. Her first child, my oldest aunt, was born eighteen years before my mum came along. My oldest aunt is in now her seventies, and my grandma passed away ages ago. I don’t remember her much, unfortunately, but she was a nice person. Same goes for my Dad’s mum. I don’t even remember having met her. The only memento I’ve got of hers is a photograph of me in her lap, and she’s wrinkled as a prune and I’m barely two. And I look mighty uncomfortable as heck.

Having said all of that, it also means that when you’re about to get married, the whole clan comes to town. Irrespective of whether you’ve ever met them or not. They just seem to pop out of thin air. Suddenly you have three hundred aunts and five hundred nieces and you’re a legit grandma and aunt and aunt-in-law. If you’re the bride, your parents have to bear all the expenses – from the relatives stay to their comforts. And when your parents are extra and don’t get the concept of low-key weddings, the budget overflows and puts your parents in debt. Sometimes you need to end up selling assets, sometimes you give yourself depression and stress but you won’t chill with the number of heads on that guest list because you’re a prominent member of the society so you’ve to make your kid’s nuptials a grand affair. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The age gap between my Dad’s siblings and my Dad has also resulted in my oldest cousin being born over TWO decades before I was. He calls my Dad “Uncle” but he’s only a few years younger than my Dad. *Jeez.* The rest of my cousins are way older than I am too, and we never really meet on the daily. I mean, the last time I ever saw any of these guys and their wives would be like, 2013. And it was awkward as heck. I didn’t attend any of their weddings but they’re all going to show up when the next wedding happens. Yikes. And with the estrogen comes the judgements. And with the older women, comes the tongue-clacking and the nosy behavior.

If you hate people and have awful social anxiety, nobody notices you going into depression because they’re too busy making your mum show them your wedding shopping and making snide comments about every saree you’ve picked. And about your weight. And about your dark circles and thinning hair. And the list goes on.

By the time the wedding approaches, it’s a miracle if you have any hair or body weight left.

“Cubic Zirconia”

“Cubic Zirconia”

“Look, I just got engaged”, Mel said, showing off her enormous diamond ring. “This is a five carat diamond, babe! I mean, have you seen me? I’m a solid ten. And have you seen my dear fiancé? Oh my God, fiancé. Kinda weird saying it out loud but I mean I’m WAY out of his league, so the bald old dude has to keep me happy, right?”

Taken aback by shock at Mel’s choice of words for her new fiancé, Sylvia did her best to act happy. She smiled at Mel and raised her glass to her.

“I’m so happy for you Mel,” she said quietly, feeling miserable that she didn’t even get a real ring from her fiancé. That cubic zirconia sat on her finger, almost reprimanding her. Sylvia could hear her mother’s voice telling her, from somewhere far away, “I told you not to marry Tom, you could have found someone so much nicer, let’s see how he takes care of your stupid high-maintenance butt.” She pictured her mother, fresh from a Botox session, saying no vehemently to meeting Tom for the last time. And that had been the final straw. Both women were headstrong but Sylvia was also obstinate to the point of no return. Or at least she had been.

Her mother had married young and had Sylvia at twenty one. They had been wealthy. And she grew up spoiled and then, fell in love. That was three years ago. She’d married against her family’s wishes and her parents had cut her off. She and Tom lived in a tiny shoebox apartment, barley managing to make ends meet. She worked as a teacher and Tom, a struggling entrepreneur. They didn’t have much; but Tom was an amazing husband and they loved each other. As she remembered their very, very tiny court wedding, she felt a warm glow in her heart and realized that her mother had been wrong and that Tom was indeed, the best she could ever get.

Her phone buzzed loudly; and she snapped out of her reverie and she saw a message from Tom:

“Home early, I’m going to pop into the shower and order takeout. You’re going to take ages to choose so I’ll just order my favorites. BUT you are my favorite and I want you to know that. How long are you going to be out with Mel? I miss you!”

Tom had been away the whole week, meeting a few investors and trying to pitch his ideas, but with zero success. And he didn’t want to be upset about it, because Sylvia was a compulsive over-thinker and would stay up late if she found out that he was feeling low.

Sylvia smiled at the phone and replied to Tom’s text, saying she’d missed him too and that she’d be home just in time for dinner.

Sometimes you don’t need a five-carat diamond, you only need a five-dollar takeaway meal, and love. Pure, unadulterated, beautiful, love.

Why Does Everyone Want To Be An Influencer?

Why Does Everyone Want To Be An Influencer?

How many of us have actually thought of starting something of our own, because the nine to five job wasn’t cutting it? I’m sure you’re guilty of it too. It sucks, I’ll give you that, having to work for someone else when frankly, you’d be much happier being your own boss.

Every influencer comes into existence this way. Full-time or otherwise, influencers become influencers because they are really driven by the will (or often, the wish) to start something new. There are two kinds of people: one, that create content based off of actual talent, and two, that buy followers because brands often believe in the numbers game. Which essentially means that the more number of followers an influencer has on social media, irrespective of how much engagement they actually have, the more the recognition they get from brands. Indian brands are one hundred percent guilty of this: not naming names, but I’ve seen brands sending PR packages and handing out sponsorships to XYZ influencers because they have 54k followers, when they themselves follow only seventy people.

So when you follow a very limited number of people, but you’ve got a considerably huge following, it gives the illusion of importance.

Who exactly is an influencer?

From the Internet:

A Social Media Influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. resources. Discover Brand Influencers to Expand Social Reach.

So, why the sudden rise in the “Influencer trend”?

Simply put, it’s easy money, and it never asks for a degree or in many cases, talent. People with awful content sometimes end up as successful influencers because they’re really, really good at handling sponsorships.

Many influencers in fact are so good at sponsored content, the audience won’t know they’ve been taken for a ride – not until the end of the video they’ve posted. By then the views have already been garnered.

And many people are actually ballsy enough to email brands asking for free stuff so they can showcase it on their Instagram. This is a cringeworthy tactic but it’s worked for someone I know. It’s working for someone I know, as we speak.

With a rise in social media posts, and a few carefully bought followers, it’s easy to make the quick buck just by endorsing a product, a process much less tedious and way more enjoyable than a desk job that would give you headaches and backaches and too much stress.

In conclusion…

…the euphoria induced from reaching a cult-status, the fame and the brand-sponsored-trips, the power to be pseudo Twiggy and Coco Chanel, has reached a manic frenzy and it’s like this apple that everyone is dying to have a bite of. And the power to promote consumerism and to make profit from it is something of a greed, that becomes insatiable. The more you have, the more you want. The more you want, the more you push. The more you push, there’s no stopping. It’s like an inflammation that keeps intensifying. And it feels good.

The next time you see your former best friend promoting Mama Earth, remember you can shoot them an email too. Everyone has access. It’s just so easy.

50 Word Story: The Comment

50 Word Story: The Comment

She uploaded a story. The caption said, “Working out,eating right, do we see results or nah?”

He responded, “Um, zero difference, still the same fat glob you used to be.”

Something broke inside her, she scooped out a huge chunk off her thigh with a meat knife.

Stuff That I Should Have Started Doing Earlier

Stuff That I Should Have Started Doing Earlier

Seeing a dermatologist.

I’m super ashamed to say I’ve never seen a dermatologist in my life. When you’re in your late twenties and you’re saying something like this, this is a major problem.

I didn’t know I would face so many skin problems – I have clogged pores that don’t go away, I have whiteheads and my skin is aging – and no amount of aloe is keeping my skin normal.

I have my very first appointment with a dermatologist on Saturday. I hope I don’t get judged too harshly.

Taking proper supplements.

In addition to eating your greens and otherwise having a diet that’s super clean, your body does need supplements. Some people overdo, and that’s bad.

I just started on collagen and biotin and other vitamins.

• Walking everyday.

I workout at home, and I follow people like Chloe Ting. And although my body is apparently healthy, I don’t walk enough. No, walking on your treadmill doesn’t count.

My health apps remind me that I need to be walking more and that never seems to happen.

I’m trying, and so far I’ve made it through Tuesday. Let’s hope I keep at it.

• Keeping in touch with only people who matter.

For the longest time, I would avoid talking to a bunch of people because I was under the impression that they were nosy.

I was wrong.

Nothing feels better than reconnecting. At the same time, nothing feels more liberating than finding out who’s going to be around when you’re sinking, and cutting off the unnecessary drama from people that never wish you well.

Sleeping better.

I’ve actually posted about the benefits of sleep on my blog before, and it’s weird to me that I never followed my own advice.

I’ve made changes now and I give my body six solid hours of sleep. Sometimes seven.

What are some recent changes that you’ve made in your life, that you wish you’d done sooner?