Thursday, November 22, 2007


Even as you are figuring out how to tell your kids about the birds and the bees, they are out there doing it!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

A friend’s 10-year-old daughter asked an innocent question, “Mama, is it bad to talk to boys?” As her panicked heart almost dropped to her silver kolhapuris, the mother managed to reply equally casually, “No beta, it’s just the same as talking to your girl friends.”

It’s another matter that she spent rest of the day on phone with friends, torturing over whether she gave the right answer. Right or wrong, who’s to say? I spent years in dread of my kids asking me about the birds and the bees, preparing myself and priming my husband on possible answers. Advertisements of condoms or sanitary towels had us squirming, waiting for the questions that never came. Apprehension turned to curiosity, till one day it sunk in that by now the children could possibly teach us a thing or two!

When and where did they pick up the facts of life? That doesn’t matter as much as the fact that we were left totally out in the cold; our children never really felt the need to come to us for explanations or answers. Peers and media fulfilled that need.

There’s a huge disconnect because we are looking at the situation through the prism of our growing up years while these children have grown by leaps beyond a mere generation gap. I may have shed some tears of humiliation while changing out of my clingy tops as a teenager at my dad’s orders. Today’s children just laugh right back in your face, “Grow up, Mum!” What is ridiculous is that your children may well be indulging in consensual sex while you are still wondering how to impart sex education to them! So that it comes to a situation where parents need counseling far more than children ever do!

A colleague got a wake-up call when she discovered a packet of condoms in her 17-year-old’s bag; another hapless mum furtively screening her 17-year-old daughter’s text messages, was horrified to read, “Last night was wonderful!” She thought she’d sent her daughter for an innocent sleepover at a girlfriend’s place.

In both cases, when confronted, the children (unknown to each other) exploded at the invasion of their privacy and threatened to walk out. When the mother refused to back down, the boy stopped coming back home from his boarding for the weekends. In the second case, the mother realised that all she could do was accept the fact that her daughter was sexually active and just offer herself as a friend, to warn her against an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. She thus won her daughter’s confidence.

Whether sex education be imparted at home or school is an irrelevant debate for talk shows or print media today. Children have their own ways of knowing; they are out there doing it while you are busy figuring out how to tell them! Everyone tells parents to be liberal and talk about sex to their children, but nobody tells them how! A far better approach to your child is to be a confidante rather than talk down to him, hemming and hawing and making sex sound like a crime!

Virginity is no longer a noble word, nor is it an expected virtue by most youngsters. As in other fields, Bollywood stars lead the way here too. When an Aishwarya has a rather public affair with first Salman Khan, then Viveik Oberoi and ends up marrying Abhishek Bachchan, who has been through a similar number if not more of lovers – what price virginity?

And yet, parents will be parents and not sleep easy till their young ones are back home, sleeping peacefully in their own beds. So between being the protector and the confidante, where do you draw the line? One is quite amused by an interesting compromise some parents in Hyderabad have arrived at! Their young, working daughters and sons – mostly the IT or call centre crowd – cannot be debarred from late nights and visiting discotheques. So what have parents done to avoid sleepless nights? They have appointed security guards who accompany the youngsters to and from these venues.

One has to agree, the presence of a security guard can put a dampener on any ideas of a backseat canoodle!


Daydreaming. Mind wandering. Escapism. Call it what you will, but the mind does have a tendency to escape present confines fairly regularly

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Driving through heavy rain, I was arrested by the sight of a man dancing with vigour and certain panache in the middle of the road. He was obviously not quite with us, executing graceful twists and bowing to an audience visible just to his eyes. And yet, his exuberance was infectious and made passers-by smile.

Lost in a world of his own, he could rise above present circumstance and dwell in a reality that uplifted him.

This poor man was deranged and had his own demons to fight. Madness, even feigned as with Hamlet, gives us an excuse to escape reality and act at will. But even without that excuse, don’t we all seek escape from present circumstance and find solace in a world where thoughts become a reality that is more appealing than what surrounds us?

Daydreaming. Mind wandering. Escapism. Call it what you will, but the mind does have a tendency to escape present confines fairly regularly. Have you noticed how sometimes while engaged in familiar tasks, such as driving on a familiar route or eating, you lose track of time and are for a while unaware of what happened around you as your mind wanders? Yes, it happens to all of us. Psychologists have estimated that we daydream for one-third, or even half our waking hours!

Disconnecting for a while from reality is a need we all feel. And, what better way than creating a world away from reality with the help of imagination? A world that shapes up just the way we want it to? To become a weaver of dreams, build a suspension of disbelief, and so get away from everyday drudgery? All you could ever want can be yours – in that dream world you spin for yourself.

We do it all the while even without realizing. Have you never been pulled up in a meeting for daydreaming? Don’t you indulge in some dreaming while on a walk or in the middle of a mundane task? Have you never been horrified to catch yourself thinking of a presentation during an intimate moment!

A good book or movie too has the power to transport you to another world so that you land on your feet with a thud when it ends! Recent research quoted in US journal Science, reveals that “daydreaming is the brain’s normal state, rather than a pointless distraction!”

Most creative people – writers, artists, poets, thinkers – report their most inspiring moments during bouts of daydreaming. It is only when we give free rein to our imagination that we let go of limitations like fact and reason – what Keats termed as “negative capability” – the ability to hold onto a beautiful truth even if it doesn’t stand to reason. That’s what imagination helps us achieve – you always aim high and think big while daydreaming.

Would you believe, daydreaming, which gives the brain a much-needed break, is also used as a therapy in conflict management? Dreamers have better relationships because they tend to concentrate more on the better moments in a relationship.

But, as it happens with most joyous activities in life, more often than not we are made to feel guilty for even daydreaming! But, what if it’s these moments of escape that give you your day’s highpoints? What if this detachment from reality gives you your reasons to live?

So long as you don’t hurt anyone, why not just indulge? Just be careful not to dream so hard it erodes the distinction between dream and reality, thus toppling you over to the side of the man dancing in the rain!


Isn’t it ironic that a woman spends half her life trying to prove she can do it as well as a man, and the rest in disproving the adjunct of “difficult” she earns as a result of that effort!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Being a woman is like being on stage for most part of the day -- enacting roles, proving your worth, being watched and generally being put to test, so to speak.

In a work scenario dominated by men, a woman has to first prove she’s no less capable and then get on with the day’s work. Fighting stereotypes and biases, she has to initially put in double the effort to be half as effective. If she is to achieve a measure of success, a woman has to necessarily be tougher and more focussed than a guy. For, very soon a working girl realises it’s better to have a “tough” image rather than a compliant one. Though, later on, this unfortunately is what proves to be her nemesis!

As it did with Kiran Bedi. Supercop, superwoman – yet superceded for post of Delhi police commissioner by a man two years her junior in service. Where did she go wrong?

Men usually have two tried and tested ways of dealing with a woman at work – they either slip into the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” role with effortless ease, or they try their darnedest to desex her and accept her as “one of the boys”! With the first they settle into a comfortable, lightly flirtatious mode, in turn bestowing or withdrawing smiles to make her do their bidding. With the second, she becomes what Kiran Bedi calls their “booze buddy” – bingeing at watering holes and sharing a smoke on the staircase with them. Here she becomes one of them and more often than not, goes into an overdrive to acquire male acceptability.

When a woman resists both these castings and rather than gaining popularity with the men, concentrates on being an effective, no-nonsense professional, men resort to tagging her with their favourite epithet for women they can’t control – DIFFICULT! Obviously from their viewpoint she is difficult – because she is immune to all sexist manipulative tactics they know, and yet, as efficient and capable as they come!

In attempting to manage her work efficiently, she has earned the reputation of a succesful doer, who will naturally rub many up the wrong way as she goes about her work.

And so, when the time comes to reward her efforts, men around dither because they are out of their depth dealing with someone who scares them with her effiiency. Hence the epithet “difficult woman”.

Isn’t it ironic that a woman spends half her life trying to prove she can do it as well as a man, and the rest in disproving the adjunct of “difficult” she earns as a result of that effort!

While Kiran Bedi was good enough for some of the most difficult and unpopular postings (each one of which she turned around to her advantage), when it was her chance to be appointed police commissioner, her “tough, independent image” became her nemesis! Similarly, seniormost woman IAS officer Reva Nayyar didn’t make it as Cabinet Secretary. and Veena Sikri, IFS, wasn’t given any reason why government chose to overlook her when it came to appointing Foreign Secretary!

Have you noticed that while merit lists of school and competitive exams are dominated by girls, in the journey between classroom and boardroom, they seem to lose their advantage? Why? Because in the office situation, unlike at school or competitions, she is for the first time being evaluated, not as another roll number, but as a woman!!

Twenty-one years ago the Wall Street Journal had coined the term “glass ceiling” to refer to apparent barriers that prevent women from reaching the top hierarchy. For every Kiran Bedi who hits the headlines today, there are still any number of other victims who wither unseen.

No man can acknowledge the multi tasking dexterity of a woman. And she pays for that; how she pays! She is usually the one who handles home as well as office, but dare she let the twain meet? Not if she hopes to see her career graph on an upward swing!

If her children are unwell, she better give any other excuse but the truth or she gets typecast as a woman with family problems, unable to bear up under office pressure.

So then, does this mean that a woman in order to be successful, must settle into being either compliant or a booze buddy? Here I disagree with Kiran Bedi. Though slipping into roles men find comfortable may smoothen your daily official interactions, it certainly doesn’t translate into promotions or increments! The only women who have yet made it to the top – and there is a handful in India even today – are those that chose to march to their own drummers and were efficient professionals.

If she hopes to be a successful professional, a woman must learn to run neither with the wolves, nor with the hounds. She has to pave her own path and in doing so, ensure she doesn’t rub too many people up the wrong way. She needs to pray hard that men lose their insecurities.

And she has to be lucky. Man, does she have to be lucky!


A touch goes beyond physical and forges a connect that is more on an emotional and spiritual level. And yet, have you ever thought though something as remote as a rainbow can touch you, sometimes even the most intimate physical experiences can leave you untouched!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Close your eyes and think of your most peaceful, healing moments. No matter what comes to mind, there’s bound to be a “touch” somewhere – your mother’s hand on your head; the arms of a loved one around you; the first time you held your baby; beauty that touched your heart; music that touched your soul; someone who came into your life and touched a chord…
Is a touch physical? Yes and no. A touch goes beyond physical and forges a connect that is more on an emotional and spiritual level. A life that touched you; a voice that touches you, or memories that will touch you forever… how can any of these be merely physical?
Consider, what would you rather lose – sight or feeling of touch? Think about it, and you realize the sensation of touch connects you far better to rest of the world than your other senses. Children instinctively seek physical contact whenever disturbed or happy. It’s only as we grow older that touching embarrasses us, because by then we start associating it with sexuality.
Animals touch each other all the time. That’s why pets who invite touch give us a feeling of well-being and are precious, especially to singles. Touch is as vital to animals as to every human being.
Remember what an instant hit Munnabhai’s jaadu ki jhappi became! If you dismiss that as fictive reality, what about the Free Hugs movement that’s creating waves across the world? Indeed, research has proved that a good hug rates second only to a good talk when it comes to blowing away the blues. If that’s not enough, hugging releases the hormone oxytocin, which is proven to arouse a caring response in men and women.

In olden times, medicine men healed with a touch; today men in love swear their woman can do the same for them! Jokes apart, therapeutic touch healing is today a successful form of alternate medicine that tries to gently manipulate the body’s energy flow towards a healthy and balanced one.
Ever stood next to an inconsolable friend or relative and not known what to say? You don’t need to; just a touch or hug conveys all. How many times has a hug suddenly made you feel better about yourself and the world?
In all this, touch helps form an instant bond and opens communication between two people. It can happen with those you know very well or sometimes, even with virtual strangers. But the deepest connect that touch helps us build, is with ourselves. Even touch therapy actually aids your own body to heal itself. The right touch helps you feel better about yourself instantly! A rainbow, snowy clouds, green meadows and soulful music that touch us, help us connect with our souls.
And yet, have you ever thought though something as remote as a rainbow can touch you, sometimes even the most intimate physical experiences can leave you untouched! The connection just doesn’t work.
And if there are touches that inspire, there are also those that don’t -- touches that leave you not just “untouched”, but defiled. These unwanted touches invade your personal space and could range from a deliberate brushing past on a crowded street to a colleague who insists on making his point by touching your arm or shoulder, to even just leery eyes that touch you intimately.
Strangely, in India, we are far more wary of touching and being touched than in the West. A rigid morality makes us question even the most innocent of gestures. So we are poor givers and getters of touch. Most of us have never even seen our parents hold hands or sit with their arms around each other, let alone hugging or kissing!
Think, how many times in the day are you touched or reach out to touch others? In what ways are you comfortable being touched? When was the last time you touched your grandparents or your parents? Think. For, if you have a questioning heart, you are bound to have an untouched one too…