Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why I Love Being a Woman!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

A woman’s greatest kick has to be the ability to balance her sense of power as creator and nurturer with her sheer indulgences as a beautiful creation herself!

The thrill is not just in being a woman, but being a woman in the right century! And in this day and age, there cannot be many women who do not revel in their sheer feminity and absolute power! As we all know, feminity and power, far from being mutually exclusive, are two sides of the same coin. Think Shakti, the divine, feminine creative power! The Power responsible not just for all creation, but the agent of all change as well!

I cannot believe any woman not feeling this great sense of empowerment and well-being that springs from within. The power to create, nurture and heal that is a part of her very being, endows her with unique abilities, positioning her as the centre of all existence and change around her.

When Lord Byron wrote ‘She walks in beauty,’ I’m sure he talked not just of the grace and deport of a woman, but was able to pierce through to her very core, which provides the majestic aura she walks within. To me, every woman who is allowed to grow unfettered, exercising her free will, is bound to walk in beauty!

What is it that a woman enjoys the most about being the fairer sex? I would say her ability to revel in her power, as much as the freedom to indulge her weakness. She is admired for being strong and loved for being frail and helpless; she can rave and rant when crazed with anger, and the next minute melt into a puddle of helpless love. She can enjoy her many moods and feminine aspects without having to abide by adages or the need to be strong all the time. A woman’s intuitive understanding of life and relationships, and her role as the great bonding factor in a family are unique strengths that she does not share with the opposite sex.

The depths of passion in her eyes, the wealth of caring in her heart, the power of resilience, of survival are all qualities a woman enjoys, growing more beautiful and understanding with the years.

As usual, my Facebook friends (I appealed to only women) had interesting insights to share. Each one of them loves being a woman and with one exception, they all want to be reborn female! Madhulika Dash applauds a woman’s “sense of compassion…... and the ability to infuse life into whatever we touch...” Anjali Bhargava says, “The sheer strength a woman has… epitomises the completeness in a being. I revel in the sensuous, intoxicating power of being a woman!” Deepika Sahu wouldn’t trade her world as a woman for anything else – a world “so very full of colors, variety, ability/desire to give without calculating, love, sensuality, tenderness, sensitivity… and of course gorgeous men who make me feel like a queen!”

Pramila Maheshwari quips, “Shiva or Sati? Always the fairer one is the choice -- she is happening, life, creation, nurturing -- all activity is at her end.” Madhu Kamath says, “We are an unprecedented intricate, beautiful and unique piece of creation!!” Harmesh Khanna loves the “fact that we don't have to hide our feelings or keep a stiff upper lip at all times...our ability to keep going in the toughest of times ...of being ourselves, of getting pampered.”

If you need to hear what the stars say, Katrina Kaif loves the fact that she can be “soft and feminine and yet a successful working woman”, Sonam Kapoor loves being a woman because of “the ability to create life.” Marilyn Monroe said, “I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it.”

A naughty friend says, “Chuck all that, I love the fact that I can get the strongest man down to his knees in a puddle of desire if I set my mind to it! Why would I want to be that man?!”

Why indeed! And to support her, here we have it from the Father of all politicians – wily statesman Chanakya, “The world's biggest power is the youth and beauty of a woman!”

Need we say more?

Why can’t a man be more like a man?

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Who needs whimpering men trying hard to connect to their emotional side? Studies show that men are just as sensitive as women, and they don’t need tears to prove that!

How often have you heard a man say, “I fail to understand, why is everything my fault?” This intimidation, to me, is the reason most men refuse to let their guard down around women! A guy feels he is always under a microscope around a woman, being examined for various flaws! One wrong step; a mismatched outfit; an insensitive word; the slip of an eye or tongue; a delay, or just the wrong facial expression – he can be blamed for anything, any time! Sigh! I do believe sometimes women are rather tough on guys! They intimidate men with their over analysis. Men on the other hand, are becoming more suspicious of women! As women make strides, men become ever more protective of what they consider their domains. The female accusation, “Men are so out of touch with their emotions!” has become almost a macho flag that every man carries proudly, “I’m not good at emotions – what do you expect, I’m a man!” But is that really true? A man may talk less about his emotions, but does that mean he feels any less? True, women are four times more likely to seek counseling than men, but that’s because a woman finds it easier to talk about her problems. She seeks opinions, like-minded discussions, peer advice and then processes the information before deciding what to do. A man’s first instinct, on the other hand, is to go for action. Evolution has geared him for that, and action is the language he speaks and understands better than discussion. His primal hunting instinct urges him to act fast rather than sit around discussing! Maybe for the same evolutionary reason, there is a neurological explanation to why men don’t indulge in dissection of feelings. It’s a scientific fact that the area of the brain that connects the left (rational) and the right (intuitive) hemispheres is larger in women than in men. As a result women can think and feel at the same time, while men need to separate the two activities. A group of Stanford scientists put this to the test by examining through MRI the brain activity of 12 men and 12 women when they were shown some brutal pictures. Nine different areas of the women’s brains showed higher activity, while in the case of men, just two areas were affected! You may imagine this is because men are less sensitive; but that’s not true. Men are just as sensitive as women and feel just as deeply, but they are programmed to react differently to the same feelings. In fact, another research shows that boys had higher levels of stress hormone in their bloodstreams than girls did upon hearing a recording of a baby crying. However a man’s threshold for feeling deep emotion is lower than a woman’s and emotional arousal may end up giving him health problems. Men are more vulnerable than women to health risks at every stage of their lives. If action counts more with men, when a man takes over paying the bills and dealing with the work around the house, what better way to show he cares about your convenience and safety? When he tells you not to slog it in the kitchen, it shows he cares about you even though he may not actually say it. He may not repeat declarations of love, but if he drives you back and forth from work every day without complaining, need he say more? I wonder how many women really appreciate men who are “in touch with their feelings.” Speaking for myself, I would rather not have my guy dissolve in helpless tears; I need him to be strong and action-oriented. Let me hasten to assure all diehard feminists, this is not to say that I am the wilting, helpless types myself! However, I do propagate understanding and appreciating the basic physical and physiological differences between the genders, and attempting to balance them to form a complete circle of power. That would benefit us all far more than harping, a la Professor Higgins, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Or even, why can’t a man be more like a woman!!

What if you walked in beauty?

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Do beautiful environs ensure a beautiful life? It is orderliness rather than scenery that lends beauty to life!

I sometimes wonder what it must feel like to live surrounded by natural beauty…to wake up every morning to Nature’s myriad moods, each more beguiling, more awe-inspiring than the other! What if I woke to the murmur of an ocean and the sight of miles upon miles of aquamarine blue? What if my home was surrounded by folds of undulating emerald meadows, just kissed awake by the rising sun, nightly dewiness still clinging to their cheeks? What if majestic mountain chains surrounded my home, or silent snowflakes fell outside my window? Would I be a different person if I lived surrounded by beauty? If, instead of the chaos and ugly urban structures my eyes rest upon all the time, they were rested by the sight of emerald greens, aquamarine blues, stormy red or heavenly blue skies? If instead of miles upon miles of traffic and angry horns, I saw verdant greens and heard the silence of Nature? Just thinking about it gives me a sense of peace like nothing else! Are people who live in beautiful surroundings actually happier than rest of the world? The world’s happiest countries, according to the 2011 Legatum Prosperity Index, also happen to be some of the world’s most beautiful ones – the Happy 10 being Norway, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands and the US. Is that merely a coincidence? The measures used to arrive at the happiness index of course did not include the beauty of natural environs, depending rather on indicators such as health, wealth and education. But, is there some manner in which natural beauty contributes to the happiness and success of a nation and its people? Or, do people always surrounded by beauty become immune to it after a while? Difficult to imagine, but maybe beauty and silence grate on their nerves as much as the cacophony of hectic cities irritates ours! After all, you could get used to just anything! Says a friend, Manasi who has lived in both beautiful and ugly surroundings during the course of her work, “Beauty of surroundings certainly helps one feel happy, gives confidence and improves self-esteem. But it is order in surroundings that adds to the beauty and happiness. Like law and order for instance? A feeling of safety and well-being. Can a beautiful person also be the happiest? Similarly, can a beautiful town need not be the most livable in every sense of the word!” She is indeed right. Basic amenities, an ordered existence and comforts are important to one’s well-being. You cannot live an entire life just looking at beauty and reflecting! If you are fearful for your safety and that of your dear ones, beauty cannot touch you. If you are struggling to eke out a daily living, your beautiful environs cannot impact you positively. Another friend Jyotirmaya, who now lives in beautiful Sweden, says, “Beautiful countries that are also the happiest have actually harnessed their beauty and maintained it well through human effort! In Sweden people are happy because they have taken care of two things that most bother humans. One is money; the other is burden of society, religion and convention. This is a supremely liberal, though rule-based society. So people are very happy and cheerful always. And no, they are not immune to the beauty that surrounds them. If you grow immune to beauty, it means you have stopped growing emotionally. Just yesterday a colleague was talking about the sensuality of feeling fresh snow under one's feet…” So, while Nature soothes and relaxes, the lesson to be learnt is the orderliness, the pace, the dependability of Nature. It’s not lack of natural surroundings that irritates those bound to urban areas, it’s a lack of orderliness and beauty in our daily lives that has been proven scientifically to restrict our ability to focus, making us irritable, distracted and less productive. You don’t have to necessarily be born in the lap of Nature in order to be happy. Nature can be invoked and cajoled to strike roots wherever, and her lessons implemented anywhere. If it is orderliness, neatness, rule of law and liberation that we miss, why not create it for ourselves in the very place we live? And be naturally happy! Next time I watch Richard Gere pause to look at an aquamarine ocean in a movie, and move on unaffected, I will try not to angrily think he doesn’t deserve to live amongst beautiful surroundings. For, that is where this column started…

Love is indeed blind!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Romantic love can happen only when you close your eyes to everything, including sometimes, the object of your affection!

Rose-tinted images of happily-ever-after in fairytales and romantic fiction spoil us for the real thing. Pre-conceived notions and expectations ensure disappointment even with the best. So sharply focused are we on expectations that we sometimes fail to objectively evaluate or appreciate reality. So, if you have been brought up on the raging passions and sky-rocketing Big Os of Mills & Boons, or on stories of a Prince Charming who carries girls away on white steeds, your real life romance has fizzled out even before it got a chance to sizzle! However don’t lose heart. This is not to say that love cannot happen. It can and does, but only to those of us who believe in it and make the effort to build it for ourselves. Note, not find love, but to build or create it for yourself! Most make the mistake of looking for that ‘one’ man, or that ‘one’ woman, who is perfect for them. There is no such concept of the one perfect soulmate – there could be any number and so long as they fulfill your basic criteria, all is good. The critical part is recognizing one of those who cross your path and then to fall, or rise, in love. Research has shown that it takes between 90 seconds to 4 minutes to decide if you are attracted to a person. 55 per cent of your decision is influenced by body language, 38 percent through tone and style of speaking, and just 7 per cent is dependent on what is said. Rest is all a matter of intent and application. The one thing to remember is that most of the time you need to close your eyes to build your world of romance. Romance is certainly not going to happen with eyes wide open! Romantic love can happen only when you close your eyes to everything, including sometimes, the object of your affection! For, love and romance is more about convincing yourself than anything else! You can fall in love with someone and choose to remain in love for as long as you like. And so long as the object of your affection doesn’t do something unpalatable to break the illusion, nothing would go wrong till you decide to get bored or move on! Start off with the belief that there can be no one person who is perfect in all respects. We all have our good and bad sides, and one person’s evaluation of you could differ dramatically from another’s, depending on body chemistry and shared experiences. We all know people who are fond of us and others who do not like us. If we choose to focus on the bad side of someone, we are bound to build up negative feelings against the person; however if we choose to ignore the negative for the positive, we will appreciate the same person. The power of imagination is helpful for lovers. Use your imagination to believe you are totally in love with your beloved or spouse. Whip up the passion, feel it, let the rose-tinted glasses fall in place and then turn the love-laden gaze towards your partner. Even if it doesn’t always kick start your hearts into overdrive, it will definitely keep the love going strong! A friend who is a mother of two has this habit of looking adoringly at her husband, giving indulgent smiles and stroking his cheek often. Believe it or not, the man is in a state of constant adoration for his wife! I refuse to believe that in their decade of marriage, they haven’t had problems, or haven’t seen the worst of each other. But they have chosen to focus on what they love and expressing it openly, rather than trying to improve what they don’t like! And it works fabulously for them! Most marriages that last are those where couples have chosen to reaffirm their love by giving positive strokes to each other and have built up spaces and activities where they can share togetherness. Leading researcher on love psychology, Ellen Berscheid, talks of how new lovers magnify each others’ virtues and explain away flaws. It doesn’t need rocket science to explain that continuing to do so would ensure lasting love; indeed, love needs to be blind! And to prove that falling in love is quite easy, New York psychologist Professor Arthur Arun asked subjects to find a complete stranger, share intimate details for half an hour and then stare deeply into each other’s eyes for four minutes. This resulted in most of his subjects feeling a deep attraction for each other. Reportedly two of the couples even got married later! Next Week – How To Fall in Love

What will really matter as we near the end of life?

Vinita Dawra Nangia

At the end of our lives, we all ask, ‘Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?’” – Brendon Burchard

The untimely death of a colleague, someone with whom you interacted, exchanged pleasantries and indulged in some healthy competition, is bound to leave you regretful and reflective on the uncertainty of life. And when the one who passes on had known the end was near, you wonder what went through the person’s mind in the days and weeks before the end. Those who have reported near-death experiences, have talked of experiencing a vivid rendering of their entire lives played out like a movie, the light they see at the end of the tunnel and of love and acceptance. While doctors have dismissed these as delusions, what science has failed to dismiss is identical surges seen in brain activity of terminally-ill patients moments before death, which seems to provide evidence of the near-death experiences. However, even if we were to allow the scientists their skepticism, it does seem plausible that when life nears end, we would most likely take stock of the way we lived and the impact we made, if any. Did we make the most of the gift of life that was given to us? Did we achieve whatever we came here to achieve? Do we have any major regrets? Are we leaving behind unfinished tasks? And yes -- did we make a difference? Think of the panicky feel as a holiday nears end. Did we make the most of the days? You try to pack in as much as you can in the last few hours and promise yourself better organization next time! Only now, as life is ending, there is no next chance – at least none that you can be assured of. One of the most meaningful thoughts on this issue I have come across is that of leading world motivational trainer, Brendon Burchard’s, “At the end of our lives, we all ask, ‘Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?’” In his book, The Millionnaire Messenger, Burchard goes on to say, “At the end of your life you will want to know if you really lived your life fully – your life, too, not the hopes and dreams of your parents or teachers or peers or spouse…. ” Christopher Hitchens, English-American journalist who died of cancer in December 2011, wrote in Vanity Fair, “It does concentrate the mind, of course, to realise that your life is more rationed than you thought it was…one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings….” Let us reflect on the things that one would want to be assured of before hitting the bucket. Surely you would like to know that you drank deep of life’s nectar and lived a full life with all your senses alive to the beauty and possibilities offered! That you dreamt big, fought for your dreams and achieved the potential you were endowed with. This would answer the first question Burchard poses – Did you live? Love, they say is what makes the world go round. We enter life to learn all about love; love is not just a balm for the soul but also helps us onwards in our spiritual journey. So what lessons in loving did you learn? Did you love deeply enough, and were you loved back intensely in return? Did you, at least once in your life, experience an intense love, that blocks out all reason? Consider this -- nobody who is dying has ever regretted giving lesser time to work, though many have regretted giving lesser time to love and family! Were you able to give love and loved ones your all – be it a parent, sibling, spouse, lover or child? So, Did you love? And lastly, nobody wants to feel insignificant. We all have our own place and importance in the Universe. So never doubt that your existence serves a certain purpose and you are important in your own way. Did you take your role seriously enough and try and make a dent to life, as Steve Jobs put it? Did you take risks and follow your heart when it dictated things that reason raised eyebrows at? Did you touch lives and make a difference? In effect – Did you matter? As Ian Fleming put it, “You only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.” We do not know whether we prepared for our birth. But surely we can start preparing ourselves with answers for life’s posers as death stares us in the face?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Allow us to believe! Please? Missing a Sense of Mystique!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

In an era that prides itself on ripping away dreamy veils to reveal ugly truths, a sense of mystique is a rare, undervalued commodity!

If most people were left gawking after actor Sonam Kapoor’s verbal ‘full monty’ recently at an event in the capital, it was certainly not in admiration! Some snickered, others turned up their noses, while yet more frowned in disapproval. Tsk, tsk, tutted the capital’s swish set, how can a well-brought up lady talk of unmentionables like saggy bums, cellulite and facial hair!

More to the point, how can an actor, who is by the nature of her profession a dream merchant, unpeel the glossy layers to reveal an ugly truth?! Let’s be honest, this is not about honest revelations; it is more about shattering illusions! Tough to forgive someone who does that! One can never look at Sonam again without thinking of all that is hidden from view!

As it is, social media sites haven’t left much to the imagination. This is an era that has ripped away the aura of mystique, where very few see the advantage of maintaining an enigmatic image. You do not need to wonder anymore what celebrities are doing, with their obsessive compulsion to tweet minute-to-minute ideas and thoughts; gosh, even details of their illnesses and fears!

Compare this to the mysterious aura that surrounds stars of yesteryears, or even Rekha for that matter. A mistress of mystique, never has she stepped out to confirm or deny a rumour. She has been accused of many things but the lady has never reacted. In fact she has smartly teased rumour mongers further by well-executed, pre-meditated acts. Remember the time she stepped out in public with sindoor in her hair, giving rise to rumours that she had secretly married Big B? Or, another time when at an Awards Nite she hugged each member of the Bachchan family till she reached the man himself, who in panic staged a walk-out?

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a truly enigmatic woman who despite living out a life in full public glare, was able to maintain her mystique. So is Sonia Gandhi; she leaves people with a sense of wonder and curiosity even in an era of totally intrusive and aggressive media coverage. To their credit, a few actors who keep a distant from tweets and tell-all interviews and so retain some enigma, are Aishwarya Rai, Ranbir Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif!

Those who know the art of dwelling long in public imagination and hearts, learn the art of keeping the veil in place; it is those who are desperate for any kind of attention, even if short-lived, that insist on tearing all veils down and executing regrettable full montys!

The incessant blows to imagination by hard-hitting reality make it impossible to indulge the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ (S.T Coleridge’s term for suspending judgement on unreal elements in literature), which is so intrinsic to the true enjoyment of art -- be it fiction, films, theatre or painting and sculpture. It’s almost as if everybody has a compulsion to keep lifting the veil of imagination to let reality make its way through.

For instance, how can you possibly enjoy a television serial when there is a raging controversy on Facebook regarding “double frames vs single frames” and body doubles? When you are made to realize that the romantic lead has actually not shot a single scene together for weeks on end and what you are witnessing is actually a slick job by editors? When while watching a programme, facebook starts vibrating with protests about how the creative team has messed up and the real actor and the body double used for the same scene from different angles, are dressed differently?

You do not want to notice these things! I, for one, find it extremely irritating when people watching a movie keep critically pointing out the liberties the filmmaker has taken with reality. For heaven’s sake, he is supposed to do that in order to build a reality away from your actual world -- a space where you can escape for some blissful moments! A space where you give in to a willing suspension of disbelief and allow yourself to believe all that the dream merchant wants you to believe.

Of course if you allow yourself to do so... And yes, with your permission, all you actors out there busy washing your dirty linen through tweets!

And yes, of course Ms Sonam Kapoor, once you are done telling us all about your bodily hair, insisting we count your moles and warts along with you and critically examine your “rolls of fat” while you confess that your “t*t and a*s are not very nice”!!!

After all that… please, please allow us to weave back together our web of shattered dreams once again…. Allow us to suspend disbelief!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Let's all 'feel' together! Emotions are a great comfort!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Emotions– good or bad – can be a great comforting factor, especially when shared with others

There is a comfort in emotions that is difficult to deny. And the succour that a camaraderie of emotions provides is indisputable. If you are happy, your pleasure is intensified when someone shares that happiness with you. If you are unhappy, being able to share the unhappiness and pain with others helps comfort you. If you are angry, venting anger as part of a group that shares your emotion, helps provide cathartic relief. That is what perhaps accounts for flash mobs, anti-corruption protests, et al.

We are better off when experiencing an emotion– good or bad -- rather than at times when we are indifferent and so, bored with everything. And, the most pleasurable of all emotions is romantic love. Extra-marital relationships are also the result, more often than not, of finding the comfort of emotional attachment beyond home and the acceptable.

Time was when we dealt with our conflicting, tumultuous emotional states all by ourselves, or at most by confessing to a parent, a dear friend or sibling. But today, a generation that has been brought up to believe strongly in individualism and to value themselves, their goals, their own feelings and their idea of right and wrong, sees nothing wrong in hanging its innermost emotions out to dry in public spaces. And social networking sites ensure there is no lack of such spaces!

Years ago, as a child, when disturbed at my emotional response to a handsome star of the time, I confessed my mixed feelings to my mother, she told me censoriously, “You must learn to control such emotions.” For quite some time I believed I was some kind of an emotional freak and prayed to be infused by purer thoughts and feelings. Today all you do is sign into any social networking site or forum and find hundreds of others echoing the same feelings. You not only realize you are no freak, but your feelings are actually reinforced!

When I stumbled across the facebook page of Mohnish Bahl who is currently playing the lead for a popular television serial “Kuch to log kahenge…”, I was amazed at the outpouring of young emotions there. Followers of the actor openly talk of their love for him and confess how they cannot wait to watch him again, how they worry about him, pray for him and even advise him on the serial! And Mohnish is no youngster -- he is a married man with a 20-year-old daughter!

What amazes me is the passion these people bring to play upon a serial that is so obviously fictitious! They react to characters as if to real people and all thoroughly enjoy the interaction. Housewives, professionals, students – all bond emotionally on the same page, finding it addictive -- as is proved by their multiple daily visits to the page!

There’s indeed comfort in being part of a group that wallows in emotions!

When I mentioned this obsessive group emotion to my friend Dr Deepak Raheja, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director, Hope Foundation, he said, “It is symbolic of regression. People tend to regress when they are very emotional. They let the conscious mind get synchronized with the heart to feel emotion that brings a surge of feel-good chemicals. In past this state was reserved for a very special person you loved or perhaps an idol. Today people have become frivolous in relationships --the resilience, coping strategies and mechanisms that are required to balance emotions have come down. People are more demanding and want to change the loved one. When that doesn’t happen, there is sourness and relationships break. “

Devoid of gratification and contentment of relationships because you find such few idols and idealistic relationships in real life, an emotionally immature generation transfers its moodiness and starved emotions onto idols and stars. People get carried away on a wave of emotion and when they find themselves part of a like-minded group, they find that high emotions help them bond better with others. This gives them a great sense of comfort. They start romancing the idealistic scenarios found on the screen, believing they can live that life too, even if vicariously.

It can be a scary scenario because emotions run fast and furious here and the landscape changes in the blinking of an eye; the dwellers of this land hate as quickly and as intensely as they love, and they transfer reel emotions into real life as effectively as real emotions get entangled with reel ones. Rather than considered and few, relationships tend to be indiscriminate and many, rather than caring and nurturing, they are demanding and destructive… both in reel and real!