Category Archives: Lifestyle

My encounter with a bully

I am reminded of a series of incidents that happened with me for a period of over two weeks while I was at Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh, India working in a cement manufacturing plant. When I was assigned to come in shifts, I happened to be in a team that was led by a shift-incharge, years my senior (31 years of age at that time, regarded as the go-to person by many in Nandyal plant), who bullied me many times in control room, and while we used to wait at the bus stop. During the starting times when he met me, he used to provoke me quite often, sometimes staring at me for no reason, slightly pushing me, ragging me (by regularly asking me why don’t I drink or smoke, that I am unfit for a plant job, though I must admit I never felt like being ragged) in company of other operators. When these incidents got to my mind and I was at a peak of outburst, I remember anxiously sitting in the plant bus planning my strategy as to how I was going to tackle him today – Should I straightaway warn him? Should I take up this matter with my supervisor (my supervisor was a mature and an able person)? Should I talk to my parents? Should I talk to Biswa (who is one of my close friends, as I was reminded of him)? Should I just act differently so that he sees me not as a person different from others, and so that he is pleased and we don’t bother each other much? or Should I just leave this job? (This all happened for a period of one to three weeks, and was at its peak for one or two days)

I did not take any action against him. But then things started to change. Upon reflection, I realised that I just did these things – I did not change my personality to suit him, I did not pretend to be a different person than who I was then, I stuck to my basics on how to deal with people the way I have had done previously. Because I knew that I was not wrong, and like many things, this too shall pass. I just kept calm and kept faith. One thing that I would like to state at this point is that the bully perhaps does not realises how much of an emotional impact (I remember Biswa calling me over phone and crying!) he can have on his junior colleagues.

Now that same person whom I used to hate the most in the plant became one of my best colleagues in the plant. Perhaps he slowly started to realise that I was not faking (for example- as I don’t drink or smoke, he forced me several times to start drinking (I have realized people do this to make a political statement)). Perhaps I was able to give him a different perspective. He started to joke with me quite often and talk about his son, he started to teach me mill operations from control room, he sent me an FB friend request, he helped me plan my travel to home, he gave me his phone number in case of any help, and many other things. What happened is that his attitude towards me changed. Now as I look back I find it funny that how I used to be so disturbed by this man, as if he was the biggest problem in the plant. I talked to him over phone day-before-yesterday and he invited me to visit Nandyal.

Now things could have turned very differently had I reacted too much during those times, I do not deny this. But I did what I felt was the best I could do at that time. I am happy that this happened to me as it gave me a perspective and taught me lessons.

Now it is very much possible that the person (the bully) may read this account and feel shocked and then go on to give a completely different narrative. That’s the beauty of it, each one of us have a unique experience and perspective on looking at things. Our thinking makes something good or bad, otherwise it is just as it is.

Importance of breath

Hardly people realize the importance of deep and slow breathing. From my personal experience and having read tens of articles on breathing, I can easily summarize the benefits of breathing. A person may survive without food for over week, without  water for 2-3 days, but he cannot survive for more than 10 minutes or so without breath. With age people realize their physical body changes, their behavioral changes, but an aspect that never changes since the time of birth is  Breath.

Pranayama means controlling of the fundamental life force. The entire ambit of Pranayama  is based upon “Prana” i.e., life force, which is nothing but breath. Pranayam is an ancient in-depth yogic discipline developed in India by the sages. It specifies a set of breathing techniques which are targeted to achieve specific results which can improve our physiological and psychological balance.

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Meditation can be as simple as being aware of your inhalation and exhalation

In this short blog, I will be stating some of the many benefits of slow and deep breathing.

  • Our cells also breathe. Uninterrupted, deep and relaxed breathing ensures  the continuous and necessary oxygen to all the cells of the body. Inefficient and insufficient breathing makes cells in your body devoid of the requisite energy to function properly. Insufficient oxygen to your skin cells leads to dead cells. Insufficient oxygen to your scalp may lead to hair loss. Insufficient oxygen to your brain cells leads to inefficient thinking subsequently leading to inefficient or ill-thought decisions and actions.
  • For greater focus. When you concentrate and focus on your breath (inhalation and exhalation), you become aware of your breath. You let go off all the negative and undesirable thoughts from your mind.
  • For relaxation. You must have experienced choppy, quick and shallow breathing pattern when you are anxious, worried or over-excited. Take a deep breath, filling your stomach (the diaphragm, to be particular) and exhale. Irregular and shallow breathing causes dis-ease to you. This is directly related to point no. 1.
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Your diaphragm is the key to confidence!
  • For increased lung capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing is sure to increase your lung capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing means breathing which expands your diaphragm with inhalation and deflates the diaphragm with exhalation. This expansion and contraction can be felt by placing the backside of your both thumbs just under the top bone of the rib cage while breathing deep and slow.
  • Your lifelong companion. Your only companion till you leave it. Your breath is going to remain with you throughout your life. Your physiology may change, your attitude and personality will change, but your breath will truly be yours till your death. Take care and be aware of it and it will take care of you.

I am also sharing three of the wonderful videos about breath which I found on YouTube. These have treasure trove of information and wisdom.

  • Meditate Everywhere Anytime by a Tibetan Buddhist Master | Mingyur Rinpoche
  • The surprising secret to speaking with confidence | Caroline Goyder | TEDxBrixton
  • The powerful secret of your breath – Romila “Dr. Romie” Mushtaq, MD | Romila Mushtaq | TEDxFargo

Thanks for reading!

Should Fairness cream ads depicting dark skins be banned?

In a society where a child is told, “Bahar dhoop mein mat jao, kaale ho jaoge” (don’t go out in the sun, you will turn dark), a primary school textbook pictures ugliness to darker complexion, and which has made fairness cream industry a multi-million dollar business, it is of little surprise that we are increasingly becoming obsessed with fair skin complexion. Fairness of skin tone has been associated with being sexy and attractive. To make the matter worse, fairness cream ads try to associate it with confidence, self-esteem and chances of employability.

It is well-researched that skin colour depends on several factors, primarily on the amount of melanin in the skin. Skin colour at birth, therefore, is completely natural. The reason for varying melanin content in the skin depends on the UVR penetration of the skin which in turn varies from region to region (more near the equator and lesser at the temperate regions).

While the debate on this topic may be of lesser relevance for a light-skinned person, the gravity of this can be understood if we look into the difficulties and mental harassment many women in our country face during marriage proposals or during employment opportunities. In a society reeling under pressure from relatives and social acceptance, parents advice their child to apply fairness cream right from his/her childhood. The multimillion dollar cosmetic industry can be held responsible for engendering such prejudices – they go on to use derogatory terms like ugly, dirty for darker skin for their advertisement, which promotes racism and discrimination and shapes the mind-set of people. One cannot ignore the frequency of such TV commercials during a cricket match.
A leading example of a crusader against this negative advertising is Nandita Das who discussed these issues in her book titled Stay Unfair, Stay Beautiful, and has been an active campaigner towards ending this prejudice. She stated that this topic is a kind which should be extensively debated. Like any other social issue, this will also require more awareness and popular participation of people. While it is a personal choice of skin colour for an individual, the mental conditioning through mass communications and advertisements should end. Some of the ways that can be suggested are: skin cosmetic companies should target more on features like pimples, blemishes and dark slots, if not in real then in their advertisements; celebrities can opt out of promoting such products that guarantee white “snow white” skin; use of derogatory terms for dark skin tone should be stopped; people can set an example for others to follow; employers should really be an equal-opportunity provider; giving more lead roles to actors/actresses with darker complexion without compromising on the quality of acting, or as the case may be.

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Stay UNfair, Stay Beautiful by Nandita Das

In conclusion, I would like to state that the need is to provide equal opportunities and end this discrimination of black and white for these issues have no place in this colourful world.