As Dr.Nupur Talwar and Dr.Rajesh Talwar walked free from Dasna jail last evening, this image emerged on my timeline, on the Internet and on TV.
It told me so many stories about Life…it showcased…
- How inscrutable Life really is
- The unfairness and injustice meted out to this couple, their daughter Aarushi and their help Hemraj
- How to stay strong, find strength in a storm and go through Life with reflection, resilience and resourcefulness
- How to serve selflessly, how to be useful no matter how grave the circumstances are – the dentist couple refused fees for dental care that they had provided to inmates of Dasna
- The unflinching support that Rajesh’s older brother Dinesh Talwar provided the couple – he was the mainstay of the entire defense strategy, the chief-of-staff as the family soldiered on
- The focus and perseverance of defense attorney Tanveer Ahmed Mir – without whose leadership, the Talwars’ case may not have been made in the Allahabad High Court
- The brutally honest story-telling of Avirook Sen in his Book Aarushi and of Vishal Bharadwaj and Meghna Gulzar in their film Talvar
- The stoicism of the Chitnis couple, Nupur’s parents, as the family went through these harrowing 9 years
- That, no matter what, the truth ultimately prevails…and justice is always done
- How small, and petty, our own challenges are when we look beyond ourselves and around us
- Why we must always be grateful for what we have instead of complaining about what we don’t have
- The learning we must all take away: whatever happens, face Life!
- The Gulzar-RD Burman-Kishore-da genius: Musafir Hoon Yaroon…Bas Chalte Jaana Hai…
In this Podcast, I share candidly about how disturbed I had been losing my favorite pen some years ago while, paradoxically, I am very calm dealing with our numbing bankruptcy now! Understanding that everything is transient has helped me stay anchored.
Listen time: 5:36 minutes
Only when we are clear about how – and if – we are relating to people can we be happy in our relationships.
On a show that I recently hosted, my guest talked candidly about how his father and he could not see eye to eye over Life choices that the guest had made. Subsequently the guest narrated how he was thrown out of his house by his father. It was a painful memory and the guest perhaps made it sound light by calling his father “dumb”. Some members in the audience clapped and many laughed. But a few of them reached out to me and said that they found the guest’s statements about his dad questionable. At least one of them pointed out that his open remarks, and the audience’s reaction, may send a signal to children watching the show that it was cool to criticize your parents in public.
As a show host I am all for socially responsible comments in public. So, yes, both the guest and I may have liked to qualify the guest’s remarks as intensely personal, adding that these sentiments are not to be generalized. But, I believe, I let it be because a. I could relate to what the guest was sharing and b. such qualification might have been redundant as the guest was only sharing his personal story, of what he had experienced.
And that brings me to the moot question – is it okay to share how you feel about your dysfunctional relationship with your parent in public?
Those who know me and who have read Fall Like A Rose Petal or have heard my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk are aware of my dysfunctional relationship with my mother. In sharing my story I only tell people what – and how – I feel about my mother. I don’t quite see it as criticism, I see it as the truth. Trying to make sense of why we have this apparently abnormal, unique, relationship, where there is no chemistry between us, is a lived experience for me. It is not imaginary or aspirational. It is what I have lived through. It is an integral part of how my Life has shaped and evolved. I have chosen not to hide it. I am not baring it all in public forums to malign my mother. I am however sharing in relevant contexts only to tell people that such things happen in Life – that even in a close, blood, relationship, dysfunctionality can prevail. And that when you can’t resolve the issues between you and the other person, it is perfectly fine to maintain a distance. I can’t get along with anyone with whom my value systems don’t match. That one such person is my own mother is just incidental.
The problem with society is that it expects everyone and everything to be stereotypical. And in reality there are no stereotypes – each one’s story, and each one’s lived experience, is unique. No one can understand the pain of a child not being trusted by his parent – my pain! No one can understand – not even me – the pain of a child being asked to leave his home just because he had a secular outlook – my guest’s pain! Indeed, we may have similar journeys but the experiences we go through are unique. So, just because our movies generalize the mother as sacrosanct, I can’t force myself to relate to my mother. Or just because our tradition and culture say, “Matha Pitha Guru Deivam” – advocating that the parents occupy an exalted position, even ahead of the teacher and God – it need not be true that everyone on the planet either feels that way or relates to that line of thought.
Just as I have stated in my Book, and as I say here again, I have nothing against my mother. I respect her for giving birth to me, raising me and teaching me the alphabet. That’s a debt I may never be able to repay to her. Never. By sharing how I feel about her, I have never intended to belittle her. Also, there are so many areas where I disagree with her choices in her Life. But I never will comment on those. That’s her Life. I only have a right to choose what works – or refuse what doesn’t work – for me in the context of my relationship with her. And in that context, I consider my relationship with her a dysfunctional one. To be sure, this can happen in any relationship, to anyone. It is my experience and learning that only when we are clear about how – and if – we are relating to people can we be happy in our relationships.
So, my two penny worth perspective is this. It is never a great idea to criticize anybody, least of all your parents. But that shouldn’t stop you from sharing how you feel about people and your relationship with them, even if they are your parents. Being socially responsible is important, especially on public forums. But you have a big responsibility, primarily to yourself first – to be truthful about your Life. If that means sharing how you feel about – and in – a relationship, so be it. Saying it, and sharing it, as it is always acts as therapy; it heals and contributes greatly to your inner peace.
Perceptions can derail you only if you allow them to.
My friend called me from Canada the other day. He shared notes with me on “how perceptions of people around you can pin you down”. He said in the time when he lived in Kerala, and when he owed money to family and friends, he would always be ridiculed for being a mudhalaly, an estate owner, who “lived it up” while claiming to be insolvent. “Even if I wore a shirt that was well laundered and ironed, they would demand that if I had money to “buy a new shirt”, I must find ways to repay my loans. I found social sentiments crippling…they made me very fearful, I was even scared of my shadow. I am still haunted by all those remarks and how I felt back then,” he told me.
I can empathize with my friend’s experience. Given our situation, (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), Vaani and I are consistently prone to public perception, scrutiny and judgment. But we don’t fear perceptions. We respect them as sentiments of people that we are answerable to; we remain true to ourselves and these people. Even so, we have realized that if we live in fear of anything, or anyone, we will not live, we will merely exist. So we deal with perceptions as they come along – head on, in the face!
What we have learnt is that a perception is always the viewer’s, observer’s, seer’s view of reality. So, it is totally relative to the point of view that someone, who’s looking at a situation or person, is holding. In most cases, perception is not reality. When someone has a perception of you, if they are merely misinformed or misguided by their imagination, they will accept a clarification and change their point of view. Such people are intrinsically honest and worth clarifying to. Others are not just holding a perception of you, but are also judgmental. Such people are best left alone. If you must, clarify, but don’t expect any understanding from them. And then there is the third category – people who are totally unconnected to you, but who will pass judgment in social circles, social media and even write your epithet. Such people and their opinions are best ignored. So, you see, in any of these cases, there is no point in fearing perceptions. Clarify to the best of your ability, and if you fail to convince someone, don’t let that affect you. Just move on.
In any situation, particularly when you are answerable to people circumstantially or emotionally, remember that you cannot prove your integrity to anyone – unless they see it or realize it themselves. In fact, there is no point in trying to prove yourself. Those who trust you will not be led by perceptions of you. And those who don’t trust you – or don’t want to trust you – will not let go of their perceptions of you, no matter what evidence you bring up in your favor. This is the way Life is. No one is to be blamed here. And there’s no need to grieve and sweat over your inability to erase ill-informed perceptions of you. However, always ensure that none of what you do disregards the integrity of your relationship with the stakeholder you are answerable to or are responsible for.
Bottom-line: Perceptions can derail you only if you allow them to. The only person you need to be true to, in the whole world, is you. If you are that, then perceptions won’t matter; they won’t haunt you.
In any situation, stay with the truth.
In a workshop session I led recently, a young manager asked me if speaking the truth was worth it at all. He said, “I feel most comfortable saying things as they are. I prefer being in-the-face. But I am soon discovering that people don’t like it. I am losing friends and relationships.”
The manager raises an interesting question.
We too have been told, or have sometimes experienced, that staying with the truth can be a competitive disadvantage. Sometimes, we wonder if speaking our mind will make others uncomfortable or even hurt them. We desist from speaking the truth also because we want to cover-up. But let me tell you, from my experience, that truth is a liberator. It is a healer. It is a very deadly weapon, a brahmastra, in our arsenal. I believe we fight shy of using it only because we are worried about becoming vulnerable in this ‘big, bad, cold and merciless’ world.
Fundamentally, our world view has to change. The world is not made up of hypocrites, cynics, facists, corrupt folks and terrorists alone. They are but a small part of humanity. There is a lot of goodness among the rest of humanity. You will be able to relate to this perspective only by making yourself vulnerable, by clinging on to the truth, irrespective of the circumstance. This alone will fetch you the love, compassion and warmth of like-minded people around you. If someone deserts you because you spoke the truth, then they really were not worth being in your Life. Period.
Here’s an excerpt from my Book (Fall Like A Rose Petal) that details one situation (among many) when I have seen the truth work to our advantage (my Book is a collection of letters addressed to my two children Aashirwad and Aanchal; Mom here refers to Vaani):
For example, a year ago, a government department slapped a claim of ₹14 Lakh on our Firm. Our auditor refused to represent us to meet the authorities because we had not paid the audit firm their fees in two years. Mom and I decided to meet the officer in the government department directly and explain our circumstances. The auditor, whose son studies in the same class as Aanch, warned us against ‘putting our hand into a snake-pit’ but we decided to go ahead. Our reasoning: it was better to deal with the issue head-on than live in fear.
We met the official concerned and while narrating our story, concluded by telling him that we were not even contesting the claim because we were not qualified to do so. We asked for his understanding and for time to pay up. We said we can’t pay now and we can’t bribe.
The official, in whom were vested sweeping powers to slap claims and effect collections, was surprised at our candor. He said that in his 30 years of service, he had never encountered such an honest and proactive approach or heard such a moving story.
“My heart goes out to you and your family, Sir. This is a department where people like you come to bribe people like me only after they have been coerced into submission by the department. When we forcibly summon people, they seek both illegitimate, and often unreasonable, waivers. We allow them the waivers because that’s how the system works. We threaten people and they cough up. But here you are, proactively coming and meeting me. I am moved by your story. Just leave. Forget about this claim. You have bigger things, like saving your family, to deal with,” he told us, flinging the claim file for our Firm to a pile beside his desk.
Telling the truth as it is, however impractical and unbelievable it may seem, and by always choosing to wear my Life on my sleeve, has always worked for me. And for us. It has taught us that people always respect the truth and revere honesty.
Besides, when you stay with the truth you don’t have to remember what you said! Most importantly, having embraced the truth, you will sleep well. When you can sleep in peace, you are truly blessed. Nothing else, believe me, matters!
Happiness overflows only when you are peaceful within.
I recently had to communicate to a long-term business associate of ours that we were moving away from them. I started my conversation saying, “What I am about to tell you may not be something you would like to hear. You may not even agree with me. But I have to say what I have to say. So, please bear with me until I finish what I have to tell you.”
The conversation went well. And we ended up parting ways.
I have always found that it is best to say what you feel about someone, about something, up front. Telling the truth as it is, speaking my mind as I feel, has never worked against me. Of course, it sometimes makes the situation tense, it makes the other person uncomfortable and sometimes it ends up rupturing the relationship. But then I have learnt not to protect any relationship at the cost of my inner peace. So, if someone can’t understand me when I say I have a problem with them, too bad for both of us. But I am not one to sugarcoat or hide how I am feeling. The moment I realize that I am uncomfortable, I raise a red flag. I call for a resolution. If it works, great. If not, then I feel it is best for either party to be left alone.
Now, such an approach does not mean you have to be bitter. The whole idea is to better the experience with the other person. The only reason why you are even bringing up the issue is because the situation discomforts you. So at the end of discussing what makes you uncomfortable you must feel better that a. you have got the load off your chest and b. you have told the other person how you like to experience them. But, as someone asked me the other day, what if the other person ends up being bitter? My response: that’s a choice that the other person is exercising; it is beyond your control, so, why do you want to think about it?
I feel far too many opportunities to speak up and heal yourself is squandered by you in a lifetime. This is so true of all of us. The justification you try to give yourself is that you don’t want to hurt the sentiments of someone who is making you uncomfortable in the first place, by their behavior, by their presence, by their utterances. I find it weird. So, you are okay with suffering in silence but you fight shy of seizing an opportunity to liberate yourself by speaking honestly?
If you think about it, if someone cannot take constructive feedback or be willing to understand why something must be repaired in a relationship or be ready to end one so that both of you can be at peace, then such a person, such a relationship, does not deserve your time and attention. Simple. This can be a boss, subordinate, spouse, parent, sibling or neighbor. Whoever it is, whatever may be the issue, the moment you feel uncomfortable, raise a red flag and say it as it is. I will discourage two approaches though – diplomacy and rudeness; neither delivers results! You don’t have to beat round the bush or be abrasive. Just be honest. Period. Once you have spoken, go with the flow of the outcome. Don’t analyze. Don’t chew on what happened. Just examine how you are feeling. You will feel better and you will feel free! Celebrate how you are feeling. That feeling is happiness – and it overflows only when you are most peaceful within you!
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When what you have to say or offer or ask for is rejected, remember, you are not being rejected!
An interesting conversation with an acquaintance brought up the subject of ‘fear of rejection’. She said that deep within her she was having trouble with reaching out for help or perspective or opportunity because she was never sure how she can handle a ‘no’. Now, she isn’t alone in feeling this way. A lot of the people, a lot of the times, struggle with the ‘fear of rejection’.
I too have feared, and disliked, being rejected.
I have come to understand ‘fear of rejection’ as the sum of two things – ‘fear’ and ‘dislike for rejection’. Clearly fear is a feeling within you. You fear something. Darkness. Uncertainty. Or even a pet – like I feel extremely uncomfortable in the presence of dogs. But fear can be overcome by facing it, by looking it in the eye. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is what fear delivers when you look what scares you, your fear, in the eye. So, in every sense, when you fear something, you do have the power within you to face the fear too. Try this: whatever you fear most in your Life, turn around, instead of running away from it or brushing the issue under the carpet, and face it – and believe me, your fear will dissolve. The situation may not change, but you will not fear it any more. Whether it is breaking off in a relationship or asking for a raise from your boss or whatever. ‘Rejection’, on the other hand, is not in your control. Someone else is rejecting you. What can you do about it? It is their prerogative to accept you or reject you. You only have a choice to influence their decision. You can’t enforce their decision – ever. So, ‘rejection’, to me, is a way to learn to accept Life for what it is. And it is always what it is. Yes, when you are rejected, you do dislike it – who doesn’t? But if you understand that your disliking it is not going to change any reality, you will let the dislike go and instead focus on what more can you do, what can you do next to be accepted.
Among the most difficult things to ask for in Life, according to me, is money. And unfortunately, for almost 5 years of my Life between 2002~2007, and on some occasions in the past decade, I have had to ask people for money. It was extremely humiliating in the beginning and the ‘fear of rejection’ gnawed at me so, so many times. But when I realized that I had to do what I had to in the given situation, of having to survive, and keep our family afloat, I faced my fear and asked people. I was humbled by many who came forth and have supported me and Vaani. But my requests have also been rejected by people. In fact, even as I asked people for money, I gave them the option to say ‘no’ saying that I will never misunderstand if they said they can’t support me or Vaani at that time. This is how I learnt to be non-judgmental about being rejected. To say ‘no’ is anyone’s prerogative – including yours – in a given context. And I learnt that we should never hold it against anyone for choosing to say ‘no’. This experience, humbling and awakening at the same time, has helped me deal with many other contexts with equanimity – rejection when a prospective client either does not award an engagement or does not even respond to emails/messages despite showing a keen interest upfront, rejection by a creditor of the evidence we place before them of our enduring bankrupt situation, rejection by a judicial authority of our pleas for more time to honor our commitments and several other instances. So, over the past 10 years, I have learnt to deal with ‘fear of rejection’ as follows:
- Stop running away from whatever you fear. Face what you fear, look it in the eye!
- When someone rejects you or says ‘no’ or implies that they are not interested, don’t be judgmental. Respect their choice to reject you, your offering or proposition. Remember: they are saying no to your proposition, your idea, your pitch, they are not saying no to you!
- Don’t dislike the situation when you are rejected. Instead ask yourself what you can do to be accepted. Try again. And again. And stay willing to keep trying.
Both ‘fear’ and ‘dislike for rejection’ are debilitating. Don’t let them pin you down. Face what you fear and accept the situation every time your proposition is rejected. You too can then experience equanimity and be happy despite the circumstances!
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