Don’t Worry, Just Write

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ” 

― Joss Whedon

The past couple of weeks, I haven’t been regular with my blog posts. This got me thinking. Because I’ve done this before – started writing a blog with enthusiasm, slowed down as days went by, and eventually I gave up on it. So perhaps I’m heading the same way again? That thought had me concerned.

Image of a man sitting on a bench as he writes
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The truth is I’ve been working on a story, a book that’s leading me into fascinating and unexplored territories, in my writing and in my life. And it’s taking up a lot of my time. This is probably the first time that I’ve ever mentioned writing a book in public. Except for a few people, no one knew about it. No, it’s not some secret mission. I’m taking it seriously now and it makes sense to tell people about it. As I’m juggling my time between a number of writing projects, I wanted to tackle the slack in my blogging by reminding myself why I began writing in the first place. And it turns out, it all began with worrying … a lot.

I used to worry about my career, about my life, about where I’m going in life. I love jigsaw puzzles. It’s thrilling to figure out how the pieces fit together. But in my life, when I couldn’t find a piece or I didn’t know how the pieces fit together, I would worry. My eyebrows would furrow and I would squint at the pieces with everything I had to find some connection, and I would worry. My imagination, though extremely helpful while writing, would take flight unbound, and I would worry. The result: a muddled mind filled with uncertainty. And I waited almost in a limbo to be sure, for things to be clear. When that didn’t happen, what did I do? I worried.

That’s when I started writing. I don’t know why, but that just seemed like what I needed to do. I wrote and pages filled up. Perhaps my imagination was preoccupied with writing, but clarity that I sought found its way into my life. So I wrote more. My writing improved. Strangely enough, I stopped worrying. I was happiest when I wrote. The words that appeared on the screen were like the magic wand that cleared the clutter in my head – I could finally label things. From a sense of feeling emotionally retarded, I could express what I felt with my writing. I had to write, for my own sanity. Writing became my catharsis and I know it’s going to remain so for the rest of my life.

Writing has brought me so much joy, I wanted to share it by blogging. The more I read why people write, I realised, I was not alone in using writing to face my fears and doubts. That’s how I found the courage to share my writing with the world. I didn’t know if anyone would want to read it. But once you have taken the leap of faith with writing, you want to jump as high and as far as possible.

I read this brilliant article on the benefits of keeping a journal, where writer Susan Sontag says, “Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts—like a confidante who is deaf, dumb, and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.”

If you are unconvinced by the astute writers in that article, let me tell you, science agrees with them. According to a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, the researchers found that writing regularly can improve your health. The article, Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write, highlights several other studies which have found that writing helps people evaluate their lives and get through traumatic events, thereby reducing stress. In fact, one study suggests that blogging might have the same effect as running or listening to music by releasing dopamine in our body.

So here’s what I’ve learnt – don’t worry, just write. You don’t have to necessarily open your heart to the world. You can share as much as you are comfortable sharing. If you don’t want to share, that’s fine as well. It doesn’t have to be a blog or a book or even a story. It can be a journal, your observations or thoughts, or just a series of events that happened to you. But trust me on this, you want to write. You may or may not find that book in you, but I promise you, you will find yourself. You will be surprised, you might be puzzled. But if you keep at it, you will be amazed by the insights you gain, about your life and the world we live in.

In a world addicted to instant gratification, writing gives you a few precious moments to pause and think, to figure things out for yourself, so you are not blindly swept away by the ever changing trends and what’s “in”.

The beauty of writing is that it forces you to stay in the present, to live in the moment. Try as you might to dwell in the past or project into the future, you have to be here, in this moment, to write your thoughts down. In that moment of solitude, you are free, to see what’s important, to feel what you want to rather than what you think you should. You are free to be who you are, instead of all that you thought you should be. You find connections that you didn’t know existed, the common threads that bind our universe together. When you connect the dots, make sense of things in life that seemed meaningless, that appeared to serve no purpose, it’s a rush you are better off experiencing yourself. A word of advice, that leap of faith I mentioned earlier, you have to want to take it. You must be willing to launch yourself from solid ground into the unknown. When I started writing, I had to let go of many preconceived ideas I had about myself and my life. It was not easy. But it was necessary and it took me a while to see that. So take the leap, open your mind and jump into the unknown. Just … write.

How has writing helped you? Why do you write? Do you want to write but don’t know where to begin? Share your thoughts in the Comments.

Let’s Take Responsibility For That

“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.” 

― Anaïs Nin

Image of a child holding a globe
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How did we get here

Become a society where

We know what we do is wrong

We do it anyway

We think that’s okay

As long as we don’t get caught

We complain of the watching Big Brother

Yet, we behave as if

Being watched is the only thing that

Keeps most us in check

 

Or we do the watching

Drawing some perverse pleasure in

Using others’ suffering

To feed our agenda

Make our point

Everything becomes about

“Just me and what I want to say”

Forgetting others’ troubles and pain

Trying to understand is too much effort?

 

The blame game

We’ve learnt to play so well

We shrug and claim

I didn’t do it

We point fingers at

The government

The media

Even our corner shop grocer

Everyone but ourselves

How do any of them exist

Without our support?

I’m looking at the (hu)man in the mirror, sang Michael

It’s up to us to make a change

Let’s take responsibility for that

 

We fight over

Causes misunderstood

We standby and watch

Starving children

Tiny palms scoop up diseased water

The only thing to keep them alive

Education a distant dream

Staying alive takes all their energy

When we don’t speak up

When we ignore and turn away

A conscious choice we make

To deny their fundamental right to live

With freedom, without fear

Let’s take responsibility for that

 

We hide behind glowing screens

Take false courage from being unseen

We hurl cruel words at each other

We think we don’t know them

Why care for the feelings of strangers

But not for a moment do our thoughts go

To the lives we burn

The irreparable damage we cause to bright young lives

Is consideration such a rare thing today

That we must remind ourselves

To be just a little human each day

When we post derogatory words

Threaten people for thinking different from us

A conscious choice we make

To spread prejudice

To pump more strife into our troubled world

Let’s take responsibility for that

 

A woman is abused

We hear in the news

We question her character

We judge her views

A woman is raped

We ask what she wore

Where was she when it happened

Wonder if it was her fault

We say we live in the 21st century

Yet our attitudes towards women are

Conflicted at best

Goddesses to be worshipped

Mindless virgins to be protected

Sluts to be slammed

Is any middle ground so difficult to imagine

When we get on our high horses

And victimise the victim

A conscious choice we make

To allow the aggressor

A free rein to continue his abuse

When he disrespects and objectifies women

We pat his back and say “we approve”

Let’s take responsibility for that

 

A loved one steals

A friend commits fraud

To buy a second or third house in an exotic locale

We say we aren’t committing the crime

Why not reap the benefits of someone else’s “daring deed”

We think we beat the system

We smile in smug  satisfaction

We ignore the people we harm

We deprived someone of their hard earned pension

A heart-broken father lost all his money overnight

He cannot afford to send his child to college

A single mother whose investments have disappeared

She doesn’t know how to keep a roof over her children’s heads

When we turn a blind eye

A conscious choice we make

To be as guilty and involved as the getaway car

To take from the innocent and feed the greedy rich

To let their “system”  make you the Grinch

Let’s take responsibility for that

 

The propaganda our governments feed

Killing thousands of innocent people in another country

They justify it with

We are better

We are bigger

We are threatened

And everything else under the sun

When we do not pause to think it through

Use our smart brains to know the truths

When we blindly accept what we are fed

Fill our heads with false pride and so called national interest

When we do not question their motives

Let them abuse power for their selfish dreams

A conscious choice we make

To let those power hungry people

Put human beings in a cage

Commit genocide and mass murder

And show the world a concocted image

Let’s take responsibility for that

 

When we make assumptions

We react with fear or contempt

All we see are

Gender,

Colour of skin,

Economic status, and

Faith

A conscious choice we make

To spread hate

To embrace the dark and shun the light

To not dig deeper for our true loving Self

Let’s take responsibility for that

 

When someone questions what we do

We say “They are doing it too”

Is that all it takes

To make us forget what we know to be true

Why the need to ape

Why bother about what others do and say

We cannot control how they see us

Let’s just  focus on what we do

What matters is the choices WE make

Let’s take responsibility for that.

— Srividya K

 

What do you think? Are we being responsible enough? How can we change things?  Share in the Comments.

18 Reasons #YesAllWomen Must Keep Going

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” 
― Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Someone online wrote that #YesAllWomen is dying out because “people are running out of creative stories to tell in support of it”. Well, here are 18 reasons why #YesAllWomen must keep going.

Image that says thinks women as people
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1. Because when I was in college, two men on a motorbike thought it would be fun to race past me really close when I was riding a scooter. They hit my scooter, and it and I went skidding across a busy bridge. I had a broken ankle, several bloody wounds, and was just lucky not to be run over by another vehicle approaching behind me. When people found out, this is what they had to say:

‘You came back late to the hostel the previous night. Those men must have followed you. That’s why the accident happened.’

‘Where were you going? To a play rehearsal? Girls from good families don’t act in plays.’

‘Why were you out in the first place? You should have just stayed in your hostel and studied like a “good girl”.’

It took me six months to walk normally again. The scars from the wounds are still visible on my arms and legs. If not for the helmet I always wore, my jaw and head would have been smashed  – my helmet got several dents from my fall. There was no police report and they were never caught, because no one noticed them. No, it was no accident. They tried to run me off the road because it was fun for them to intimidate a woman. And no, none of it was my fault.

2. Because no woman deserves to live in fear or die because she uses her right to say no.

3. Because the other day I was watching Sherlock Holmes on BBC and a woman was the “fetcher”. She fetches files, stands by looking pretty in a business suit and fetches the coat for the man. Why are women always the “fetcher” in most media representations? She fetches food, she fetches clothes, she fetches papers, her only role to serve others. What’s worse is that it’s so common, we hardly notice it or take offence to it. I’m sick of it. Aren’t you?

4. Because it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, whether you are a celebrity or an ordinary person, what race you belong to, what’s the colour of your skin, whether or not you are “pretty”, what clothes you wear or which country you live in, if you are a woman, you have experienced harassment or abuse in some form. What does that say about the world we live in?

Proof: When Kate Middleton’s skirt flies up because of the wind, the paparazzi, waiting like vultures, snap a photo of her bare bottom, and sell the picture. Magazines print it “because people want to see it and it sells”.  So how is this different from porn?  It’s just as exploitative. Selling parts of a woman’s body as if that’s all she is – a sum of parts with nothing more to her. And some woman actually wrote an article online, suggesting Kate Middleton should change her wardrobe choices so this doesn’t happen again! Blaming the woman’s clothes for opportunistic, soulless people taking advantage of her vulnerable situation – sounds oddly familiar doesn’t it? And she is the wife of the future King of a not so insignificant country.  #YesAllWomen.

5. Because every woman is constantly compared to other women in magazines, in video games, in films, on TV, in ads, and every form of media, as though the only way we can prove our worth is if we are better than someone else. We are enough as we are and we don’t need anybody’s permission to be so. We are in no way obliged to meet the standards set by a male-centric society.

6. Because advertisers spend billions every year to tell us what to think and how, and more often than not, they tell us to think of women as sexual objects.

7. Because people keep saying in a matter-of-fact way that it’s difficult to be a woman in this world, because women have to live in fear of being abused, harassed, raped or killed. How can you be calm when you say that, instead of fighting it? That’s just not acceptable.

8. Because when people know a woman suffering in an abusive relationship, they ask her why she’s still in the relationship. But when they know a man who abuses a woman, why don’t they tell the man to stop abusing?

9. Because when a woman says no, it’s not a negotiation or “playing hard to get”.

10. Because misogyny is so well hidden in our society that even men, who normally consider themselves liberal and would not just watch a woman being ill-treated, don’t always understand how and why some of their actions are a result of misogyny.

11. Because even women themselves don’t realise that when they are bringing up a son, they need to teach him to respect women, treat women as equals, and not look at them as the “inferior or weaker” sex.

12. Because even today when parents have a boy and a girl, they tell the boy not to play with dolls or take interest in “girly” things, like dance, arts or cooking, while they tell the girl to “stop climbing trees and behave like a girl”.

13. Because women are expected to learn to cook, take care of the house and take their husband’s name when they get married. How many men learn to cook because they are about to get married? Because it’s the woman’s job to make sure her family eats healthy food? Because men aren’t smart enough to learn or care about health? Men are never even asked about taking their wife’s name after marriage. Women aren’t sheep to be owned or herded.

14. Because the arguments against abortion are invariably made by men who want to control women’s bodies and paint women as a “child killer”. I read a news story where a 10-year old girl in Senegal was raped and forced to give birth to a set of twins as a result of the rape. When asked what she wanted, she said she wanted the man who raped her to be killed; because  of him, she can’t go to school anymore. Her innocence was killed and nothing was done to help her because of Senegal’s anti-abortion laws.

15. Because when the female half of the world population has to live in fear of the male half, even though they came wailing from the female half, it’s just sad.

16. Because it’s true #NotAllMen are abusers or rapists. We need men to openly declare that they truly believe that all women deserve respect. We need men to become more aware and speak up for all the women. This is not an issue we can afford to be divided on. A woman does not have to be related to you for you to care whether or not she is treated with respect. In fact, when men stand up to their fellow men and tell them to stop abusing women, that sets a powerful example. #YesAllWomen is a call to action to all those men who do care and respect women.

17. Because the point of #YesAllWomen is that we want a world where women are not abused anymore and don’t have to be afraid when they walk down the road alone, a world where women can live without fear. Too many people are dying waiting for that day and we are tired of it. We can’t wait any longer.

18. Because equal respect, equal rights, equal worth and equal share of this world is not a privilege. It’s a right. It’s a right every woman deserves. It’s a right every person deserves.

So to all those people who don’t take this seriously, who make jokes about this, who feel threatened by this, who want this “to stop already” – go on, fix these issues, then we’ll stop.  #YesAllWomen

Million Man March Poem

Image of Maya Angelou
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Maya Angelou, the brilliant writer, storyteller, and a phenomenal woman, passed away yesterday. With Million Man March Poem, she gives her hope and courage to all of us. May her soul rest in peace and may her words make us rise again.

 

The night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.

Under a dead blue sky on a distant beach,
I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach.
Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound,
You couldn’t even call out my name.
You were helpless and so was I,
But unfortunately throughout history
You’ve worn a badge of shame.

I say, the night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark
And the walls have been steep.

But today, voices of old spirit sound
Speak to us in words profound,
Across the years, across the centuries,
Across the oceans, and across the seas.
They say, draw near to one another,
Save your race.
You have been paid for in a distant place,
The old ones remind us that slavery’s chains
Have paid for our freedom again and again.

The night has been long,
The pit has been deep,
The night has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.

The hells we have lived through and live through still,
Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will.
The night has been long.
This morning I look through your anguish
Right down to your soul.
I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole.
I look through the posture and past your disguise,
And see your love for family in your big brown eyes.

I say, clap hands and let’s come together in this meeting ground,
I say, clap hands and let’s deal with each other with love,
I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference,
Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
Let us come together and revise our spirits,
Let us come together and cleanse our souls,
Clap hands, let’s leave the preening
And stop impostering our own history.
Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
Courtesy into our bedrooms,
Gentleness into our kitchen,
Care into our nursery.

The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain
We are a going-on people who will rise again.

And still we rise.

– Maya Angelou

Vulnerable

My poem “Vulnerable” was published in Oslo Writers’ League anthology, All the Ways Home. The themes of the anthology were ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Identity’. I submitted this poem under ‘Identity’.  

All the proceeds from the sale of this book is going to Utdanningshjelpen, a charity in Norway that sponsors education for children in countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique and Ethiopia. Everyone who was involved in the making of this book, volunteered their time and talents to make it happen. If you want to read soulful and poignant stories and poems by some very talented writers, do go buy the book and support a great cause.

All the Ways Home can be bought on Amazon USAmazon UK and The Book Depository.

 

Book cover of All the Ways Home

When I was a child, I had many falls, 

Did I ever pause to say, I fell once so I will never walk? 

My skinned knees and heart never filled me with shame,

I just dusted myself and skipped about again. 

 

The tender heart does not hesitate to beat, 

For fear that it might break, 

Yet when I love and don’t know if it will last, 

I build a wall and throw it away. 

 

Whom do I fool by denying I hurt? 

Am I scared to feel at all?

I walk away from all that I cherish,

So eager to hide from who I am.

 

I lost someone I love,  

I will numb the pain with drink and food. 

The one I love might dump me soon, 

I must beat them to it too.

I fear the disappointments relationships might cause,

So I expect the worst from them all.

They rejected me at the job interview, 

I’m a failure when my dreams fall through.

I will shout at you till you see there’s only one right, 

My illusion of control makes me feel strong. 

 

If I had love, money, fame, and friends,  

Would that be enough to make me feel whole? 

When I have a dream that makes me happy,

Why do I hold back from fighting for it more?

 

So I lay bare my vulnerabilities,

I am just tired of not being me,

I let go of all that I thought I should be.

I will let you see who I really am,

I will learn to love the imperfect me,

It’s the only way I can truly be free.

 – Srividya Karthik

Wisdom Of Carl Sagan For Our Troubled World

‘In the past few decades, the United States and the Soviet Union have accomplished something that — unless we destroy ourselves first — will be remembered a thousand years from now: the first close-up exploration of dozens of other worlds. Together we have found much out there that is magnificent, instructive and of practical value. But we have found no trace, no hint of life. The Earth is an anomaly. In all the solar system, it is, so far as we know, the only inhabited planet.

We humans are one among millions of separate species who live in a world burgeoning, overflowing with life. And yet, most species that ever were are no more. After flourishing for one hundred fifty million years, the dinosaurs became extinct. Every last one. No species is guaranteed its tenure on this planet. And humans, the first beings to devise the means for their own destruction, have been here for only several million years.

We are rare and precious because we are alive, because we can think. We are privileged to influence and perhaps control our future. We have an obligation to fight for life on Earth — not just for ourselves but for all those, humans and others, who came before us and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after. There is no cause more urgent than to survive to eliminate on a global basis the growing threats of nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, economic collapse and mass starvation. These problems were created by humans and can only be solved by humans. No social convention, no political system, no economic hypothesis, no religious dogma is more important.

 The hard truth seems to be this: We live in a vast and awesome universe in which, daily, suns are made and worlds destroyed, where humanity clings to an obscure clod of rock. The significance of our lives and our fragile realm derives from our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We would prefer it to be otherwise, of course, but there is no compelling evidence for a cosmic Parent who will care for us and save us from ourselves. It is up to us.’

— Carl Sagan

E B White on Hope for Humanity

Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White ( 11 July 1899 – 1 October 1985) was an American author and essayist, who wrote many pieces for The New Yorker and penned famous children’s books such as Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan. He was also know for his unwavering faith in the human spirit, which he displays in this letter that he wrote to a sailor when the latter wrote to White expressing his loss of faith in humanity.

Image of a single red flower
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North Brooklin, Maine

30 March 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

Sincerely, 

(Signed, ‘E. B. White’)

 

Share your hopes for humanity in the comments.

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

This poem by Maya Angelou reflects the unique human ability to defeat all odds and never give up, to speak up against oppressors and rise with our dreams and hopes.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Continue reading “Still I Rise by Maya Angelou”

This Bank Manager Changed People’s Lives

“I feel it doesn’t matter what you are or what your work is. It is your approach. It is the conviction behind the approach. You can talk about global economic or financial crisis. Or the need to bring about drastic change in the system. But the importance is cultivating people. If you do that, everything falls in to the right place. If you help them change their attitude towards life. What they are doing, why they are doing, how they can be, if you can help them to find an answer to all these things, I think we have found an answer to all the big headlines in the newspapers.”

 – J S Parthiban

This is the story of a simple man helping people in an amazing way. J S Parthiban, a bank manager in South India, has made it his mission to help villagers in his state get loans so they can work together and change their community for better.

Continue reading “This Bank Manager Changed People’s Lives”

The Place of the Artist

On October 26, 1963, President John F Kennedy gave a speech in honour of the poet Robert Frost, who had died that year. His words on the importance of an artist in our society hold true now more than ever. It is an artist’s job to question injustice and inequality. True art is not meant to be a trend and merely reflect “what is”. Rather, it has the power to explore and present the best that we can be.

“When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.”

– John F Kennedy

Continue reading “The Place of the Artist”

Be Vulnerable, Be Free

It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he is in the arena, at best he wins, and at worst he loses, but when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.

-Theodore Roosevelt

Have you ever stopped yourself from writing that book that you always wanted to, because you were too scared of what others might think or that perhaps nobody would like it? Have you ever told yourself you’re waiting for the right moment to apply for your dream job because you need more time to prepare, when actually, you were afraid of being rejected? Pursuing a dream takes courage. But we all deny ourselves what we really want because we are terrified of rejection. The fear of failure is so strong that it stops us from even trying. I should know, I’ve done that many times. Being vulnerable is never easy. But  But I watched a TED Talk by Brené Brown on The Power of Vulnerability, which changed my perspective on failure and vulnerability.

Continue reading “Be Vulnerable, Be Free”