BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER(BDD)

Body Dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive of perceived defects or flaws in once appearance. A flaw that to others is considered minor or not observable.

People suffering from BDD

  1. Can feel emotion such as shame and disgust concerning a part or parts of their body part and fixate on this.
  2. The obsession is so intense that the person repeatedly checks and compares the perceived flaw seeks reassurance sometimes for several hours each day.
  3. The person can also adopt unusual routines to avoid social contact that exposes the perceived flaw.
  4. This pervasive thoughts about their appearance and body image interfere with their daily life via
    • Educational
    • Occupational dysfunction and
    • Isolation

No matter how many times people assure them that there is no flaw, they cannot accept that the issue doesn’t exist.

The most common features about which people obsess includes:-

  • Nose
  • Wrinkles
  • Acne
  • Complexion
  • Blemishes
  • Hair
  • Skin
  • Vein appearance
  • Muscles size
  • Tone
  • Breast size
  • Buttocks
  • Genitalia

BDD is estimated to affect up to 2.4% of the population. The condition usually starts during adolescence affecting both men and women. BDD does not go away on its own if Untreated it may get worse with time leading to

  • severe depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior

Causes

The exact cause is unknown, but like every other disorder BDD may result from a combination of causes such as:-

  1. Brain differences
  2. Environmental factors; special if they involve negative social evaluations about the body or Self-image
  3. Childhood trauma
  4. Genetics; studies suggest that BDD is likely to run in family.

Certain factors that may increase the risk of developing the condition may include:-

  1. A family history
  2. Negative body image
  3. Perfectionism
  4. Negative life experiences such as bullying or teasing
  5. Introversion
  6. Media influence.

Symptoms

Extreme preoccupation with a perceived flaw in your physical appearance that appear minor to others for at least one hour a day. Attempting to hide perceived flaw with –

  • styling, makeup or clothes – to seeking plastic or cosmetic surgery,
  • avoiding social situations,
  • constantly comparing appearance with others,
  • always seeking assurance about appearance from others,
  • low self-esteem, compulsive behaviour such as skin picking and frequent clothes changing.

Extreme preoccupation with an appearance that interferes with social life work, school, or other functionality.

Diagnosis

A medical evaluation will be carried out other medical conditions after which further evaluation is carried out by a mental health professional.

Diagnosis is based on:-

  1. A psychological evaluation; which aims at assessing risk factors and thoughts feeling as well as behavior can be associated with a negative self-image.
  2. Personal, medical, family and social health history.

Treatment

Treatment option may include therapy and medication includes:-

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy; that helps you learn how to cope and behave to improve your mental health
  2. Medications; such as SSRIs may help is control obsession and control repetitive behaviours

Psychiatric hospital may be suggested if the symptom is severe such as when you’re in immediate danger of harming yourself.

Famous personality with BDD

Here is a list of people with BDD;

  • Michael Jackson(singer, dancer)
  • Billie Elish (singer)
  • Robert Pattinson (from twilight)
  • Ileana D’Cruz (from Rustom)
  • Miguel Herrán (from money heist)

Are you a Smartphone Zombie?

Few days back i saw a question on a site asking “I want to put my phone aside and study, but i’m not able to do it? Is there any I can get rid of it?”

Well we can say that we all faced this phase where we get too much addicted to Mobile phone and couldn’t keep it aside and focus on other works. A research recently released the details of a study which told us where in the world was the biggest Smartphone penetration:-

  1. South Korea
  2. Australia
  3. Israel
  4. U.S
  5. Spain
  6. U.K

But this doesn’t mean that people in this countries are using mobile phones all the time. Based on a 2016 study led by Statistica, it does look like people in those countries might fall into the category of smartphone zombies. The study also said that

  • Brazilian spend the most hours on average connected to a smartphone as 4 hr 48 mins per day.
  • Chinese spend the most hours on average 3 hours 3 mins
  • Followed by U.S 2 hours 37 mins
  • Italy 2 hours 34 mins
  • Spain 2 hours 11 mins
  • South Korea 2 hours 10 mins

One thing range true for all countries in the study, and that was the fact time spent on a smartphone for the average person was up quite a lot from 2012 to 2016.

It’s not totally people’s fault that we are addicted to the smartphones. We have this exciting thing in our pocket that flashes, beeps and invites us to use it. NPR in 2018 talked about this manipulative object we carry around with us, that is just so irresistible. The story mentions Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov, and what we know as Pavlov’s dog. The psychologist one day realised that when his dog heard a bell or a buzzer, he knew it was feeding time, thereby associate with a sound to eating, which led to the dog drooling and looking excited.

Modern psychologist tells us this is what is happening to us when we hear a beep or a ding inside our pocket; we become excitable, like Pavlov’s dog. Our reward is coming, and we get a hit of dopamine and we want more. We check our phone on average every 15 mins and that make the tech use psychological tricks to keep us checking in.

All the time spent checking in may affect our sleep, our relationship, our work, or even all the creative things we might do to have a flourishing existence. Psychologist tend to agree we should be checking in less, and tech producers need to start thinking about creating less powerful digital drugs. But that isn’t easy because as most people now need those beeps and likes, and need to feel that they are not missing out on something.

Experts even states that putting your phone down, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as craving, restlessness, irritability or difficulty in concentrating. So from now on you might turn off notifications, have a plan for the day and stick to it, take off the apps you really don’t need as that might lead to a kind of app surfing. In general, not many people are against these technologies, but we should be focusing on what we might call device quality time, educating ourselves and being productive and creative.

The Role of Social Media in Raising Health Awareness

More and more people are dependent on social media for healthcare news and resources in this new era. Today, the idea of following doctors on Facebook is typical. Social media and healthcare go hand-in-hand. When Social media matters across all the industries, then why should healthcare be avoided right? 

Since more people are engaged on social media, the medical field has now understood the importance of social media in healthcare and has started incorporating such practices. Healthcare organizations have seriously started examining the role of social media in the patient-physician relationship. Leaders in public health have begun realizing that a comprehensive healthcare brand can be built with the help of social media marketing. 

Social Media Engagement in Healthcare | Digital Marketing for Hospitals

Raises Awareness

Social media has always been a key to increase public awareness about emerging, new, and annual health issues. It facilitates raising awareness in a way that is as simple as reminding followers about the basic sense of health practices. 

When the world around is changing fast, social media is the key that ensures that the public is aware of the latest medical guidelines, issues, and advisories. One of the ways of sharing information is to share them directly through your social posts. Another way is to use social media to direct followers to credible sources of the latest news. 

Combat Misleading Information

Social media, due to its very nature, helps spread information quickly to distinct groups of people. That’s great when the information shared is helpful, clear, and fact-based. But unfortunately, there is also a lot of misinformation on social platforms. At times, this misinformation comes in the form of false statements and they are easily ridiculed. 

You can cite published research from a credible health resource like the CDC or WHO. But sometimes, the creators of misinformation may use a reputable institution to give credibility to their statements. Then, the institution needs to clarify that they are not the source.

Social media offers institutions a platform to generate statements to stop the masses from believing false facts. So, make your healthcare brand a platform where you share useful information with your followers and stay away from spreading misinformation. More detailed research can help you identify the true facts. 

The more the research, the better!

Answer Common Questions

Health organizations and authorities working in the healthcare sector are valuable for all kinds of health concerns. Social media tools offer a creative way for healthcare professionals to address common issues. 

For example, the government of India has developed a Facebook Messenger Chatbot. It allows answering questions, directing citizens to the right source, and countering misinformation. 

Everything is shrouded in the media’s shadow. If we claim that the media is counting the feathers of the flying sparrow, we are not exaggerating. The role of media has created a stir and sensation in the world , rich or poor, fair or dark, wise or unwise, are enjoying lucretian pleasures and are in the air. Media could play a leading role in creating awareness on the various health issue and this role can’t be disputed. Hillary Clinton Secretary of State of the US has recently commented on AIDS and while speaking that the disease is incurable, she said efforts are to be made. Many efforts are made on health-related issues and role of media have to be included also. There are many health-related problems confronting our country and these include both communicable and chronic diseases. Health department at the center and state play a leading role in the eradication of diseases, including international agencies and governments of other countries. Media has been promoting health-related causes in a big way in helping government departments spreading awareness on various issues relating health and family welfare programs. The MOHFW has various schemes and these are promoted in many private and government-owned media outlets.

A Brief Insight on Renewable Energy Sources

The conventional and widely used energy sources of today comprise of various types of fossil fuels. The quantity of fossil fuels available is limited in number. Various harmful chemicals like Carbon monoxide (CO), Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and various other hydrocarbons are emitted by their usage. This makes them harmful to the environment and human health in the long run. The usage of such conventional energy sources has been a primary cause of global warming around the world.

This can be combated with the use of renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources are energy sources obtained from natural sources which are not limited in availability and replenish themselves quickly and regularly. This renewable energy is also known as green energy.

The different types of renewable energy are: Solar energy, Wind energy, Hydro energy, Geothermal energy and Marine energy.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is energy obtained from radiant heat and light obtained from the sun. This is done by the help of techniques such as photovoltaic systems, solar heating, artificial photosynthesis, concentrated solar power plants and the like. Obtained solar energy can then be converted to either thermal energy or electrical energy. It can also be used for the environment-friendly production of hydrogen.

Advantages of using solar energy are:

  • It is a renewable and green source of energy
  • Sunlight is not limited, therefore, there is no risk of running out of the source

Disadvantages of using solar energy are:

  • The process is weather dependent as it relies of the availability of sunlight. Thus, it also cannot be done at night
  • Solar energy systems take up a lot of space and are expensive

Wind Energy

Wind energy is energy which is obtained from mechanical action of the wind. This action is carried out with the help of wind turbines. Through the action of wind turbines, the kinetic energy of the wind gets converted into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy then gets converted into electricity.

Advantages of using wind energy are:

  • The whole process does not release any products harmful to either the environment or human health
  • It is a sustainable energy source

Disadvantages of using wind energy are:

  • Wind turbines can only be built in remote areas where large, unobstructed areas of land are available
  • The wind turbines may pose a risk to birdlife

Hydro Energy

Hydro energy is also known as hydroelectric energy. It is obtained from the construction of hydroelectric power plants in dams over flowing bodies of water like rivers. Similar to the functioning of wind turbines, hydraulic turbines transform the kinetic energy of flowing water into mechanical energy which is further used to create electricity.

Advantages of using hydro energy are:

  • Creation of hydro power plants helps in the creation of water reservoirs
  • It is not limited by time or the sun, i.e., it can be produced continuously

Disadvantages of using hydro energy are:

  • Creation of dams disrupts the water ecosystems
  • Hydro energy power plants can only be constructed over flowing water bodies and therefore are constrained by location

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is obtained from the heat generated from rocks in the Earth’s crust. This energy is harnessed by digging into the crust and using the heat to drive the movement of turbines which generate energy.

Advantages of using geothermal energy are:

  • It does not require any fuel
  • It does not require much maintenance

Disadvantages of using geothermal energy are:

  • It may cause earthquakes
  • The process of digging may cause the release of greenhouse gases from beneath the surface

Efforts should be made to research and explore renewable energies more for the creation of a healthier planet and lifestyle.

THE EVER EVOLVING SOCIAL MEDIA ENVIRONMENT

People’s information acquisition and processing has changed dramatically as a result of today’s digital revolution. The digital world is now dominated by social media as it has never been before. Customers no longer rely on companies to tell them what to purchase or how to feel about their products or services. Consumers, on the other hand, are more likely to discover useful information on their own or by trusted friends or resources. Most importantly, they want to do so at a time and location that is convenient for them. This shift in consumer culture and behaviour necessitates a significant shift in how companies view social media. Social networking entails far more than just posting information and interacting with it in the hopes of it going viral.

Alternatively, it is a strategic communications approach that aids in the development of personal relationships with clients as well as the achievement of business objectives. Social networking, when used strategically, is the most effective way to practice inbound marketing. Social media has the ability to influence public discussions and expectations, develop brand recognition and loyalty, draw partners and consumers, and establish brand evangelists because of its unique existence as both a public and one-on-one platform. Social media has generated a stir across the globe, and its rapid growth is reshaping our entire world in ways we’ve never seen before.

This means that having a social media presence is now more important than it was previously. Every company should embrace this shift because the world is changing by the minute. What used to work on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook can no longer work. This increases the need for highly qualified and experienced social media administrators who are familiar with the entire business model. As a result, they will develop innovative strategies to meet the high-end demands of companies in the digital age.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health is a much talked about topic these days. Earlier people barely talked of it let alone address it as a genuine problem. But this is changing. People are becoming more and more vocal about their mental health issues and sharing their stories over the internet with the hope that it might help someone. 

What is mental health?

Mental health is a total of our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act.

How we handle stress, relate to others and make choices also depends on our mental health.
But with growing restlessness and fast-moving life, we have neglected our mental health. Neglecting our mental health gives rise to many mental problems. It reflects in your mood, behaviour and thinking. 

Not just restlessness and life but there are other factors also that contribute to mental health problems. Including:

  • Biological factors like genes and or brain chemistry 
  • Life experiences like trauma and stress
  • Family history of mental health problems. 

A person with good mental health will be able to realise their full potential, cope with stresses in life, work productively and make meaningful contribution to the community as whole.

Early signs of mental health problems

Some you might know may be suffering from mental health issues without you being completely unaware about it. Notice the following symptoms and reach out to them if you think they need help. 

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Having low or no energy
  • Pulling away from people and social activities 
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Yelling or fighting 
  • Severe mood swings 
  • Having unexplained aches and pains 

There are other symptoms as well but these are the most common ones. It is very crucial to identify these signs and help the one in need or get professional help before the situation gets worse. People who are suffering from mental health problems may also try to harm themselves. Before the situation gets to this, it is advisable to seek help from a professional. 

Mental health awareness

The pandemic had a big toll on everyone’s mental health. Apart from the people who died because of the coronavirus, there were hundreds of people who died because of mental health issues. It was also reported that the number of suicides increased during the lockdown. 

But our society has since very long considered mental health a myth and has continuously ignored the problem. And the main reason behind this ignorance is the lack of awareness. 

More than half of the people still consider depression as being just sad or crying. They are unaware of the fact that a person may look happy on the outside but may be suffering alone on the inside. They still don’t know that depression and anxiety are so much more than just being sad. 

This is where awareness comes in. People and celebrities have openly started talking about their struggles with mental health. This has encouraged many people to come forward and talk about their stories. Many helplines have also been set up for people who need to talk to someone or a professional. 

You can talk to someone you trust or a loved one. But if you feel like the situation is much worse which can’t be solved by talking out, seek professional help. 

It’s not always the person suffering from a mental health problem who has to reach out to help. If you know someone who might be suffering you can also reach out first. Check up on your loved ones once in a while because it might make a lot of difference. 

In the end, awareness is important but it is useless if not brought into action and implemented properly. 

Thyroid Awareness Month

January is the Thyroid Awareness Month of the year. But do we know what thyroid is and how it affects our body?

According to research by the American Thyroid Association, 1 in 10 people suffer from a thyroid disorder. As many as 20 million Americans suffer from a thyroid disorder. More than half of the cases are undiagnosed.

What causes a thyroid is still unknown but if left undiagnosed, can cause various problems. Like an increased risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and infertility.

The thyroid plays a major role in our body. It regulates metabolism, body temperature and other physical functions. The thyroid produces hormones to keep our body functioning at a certain rate. 

What is the thyroid?

It is a small butterfly-shaped gland found in the lower neck. The gland produces the hormones T3 and T4. It is located above the collarbone and in front of the windpipe. The role of these hormones is to help regulate metabolism, manage body temperature and control heart rate. 

If these hormones are overproduced or underproduced, they can cause serious health issues. 

The two most common diseases related to the thyroid are:

Hyperthyroidism 

Hypothyroidism 

What is hyperthyroidism?

When the T4 (thyroxine) hormone is overproduced in the body, it causes hyperthyroidism. It is also known as an overactive thyroid. This disease causes an increase in metabolism which leads to weight loss and an irregular heartbeat. It affects about 1% of the population. It is five times more common in women than in men. It usually affects people under the age of 50 years and results in enlargement of the thyroid gland. 

It also causes insomnia, increased appetite, excessive perspiration and diarrhea. 

Even though it is associated with more energy, it can sometimes lead to a body break down and make one feel more tired. 

Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:

Anxiety

Oversensitive to heat

Increased sweating

Palpitations

Dry, thin skin

Hair loss

Trembling 

What is hypothyroidism?

It is more common than hyperthyroidism. It happens when the body cannot produce enough of the thyroid hormone. It results in a slow down of the body functions. It is also known as under-active thyroid. It affects heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism. 

It mostly affects people over the age of 60 years and increases with age. In older people, it can cause memory impairment, weight loss and loss of appetite. These happen because of old age as well, therefore, hypothyroidism is relatively difficult to diagnose in older people and remains under-diagnosed. 

The possible causes of hypothyroidism are autoimmune disease, certain medicines or surgical removal of a part of the thyroid gland.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

Fatigue

Sensitive to cold/heat

Weight gain and inability to lose weight


Depression

Anxiety

Constipation

Numbness in limbs 

Other diseases that can happen because of improper functioning of the thyroid gland are Hashimoto’s disease and thyroid cancer. 

Thyroid cancer is of four types:

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most commonly differentiated thyroid cancer. It may spread to the lymph nodes of the neck even though it grows slowly.

Follicular thyroid cancer is the second most common thyroid cancer. It grows near areas where there is a high iodine deficiency in the body. It is easiest to cure. 

Medullary thyroid cancer is rare and mostly hereditary. It has higher chances of spreading to the lymph nodes of the neck than other types.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the most aggressive form of thyroid cancer and is the rarest of all. It grows rapidly and spreads easily, therefore it is the most dangerous one. 

How to diagnose thyroid disorders?

They can either be self-diagnosed at home first and later consulting the doctor is the best way to be sure.

For self-diagnoses, one can perform the following:

Stand in front of the mirror or take a hand mirror above the collarbones where the area below you Adam’s Apple is visible. 

  1. Tilt your head back and take a sip of water.
  2. Swallow the water and watch your neck for signs of bulging.
  3. Repeat a few times to make sure you don’t see obvious signs of bulging.
  4. If you see a huge bulge, nodule or an enlarged gland, contact a physician.

The only way to confirm you have a thyroid disease and which one is it, it by going through a blood test. 

Treatment:

The treatment usually includes medication to regulate hormone production. Doctors usually treat it with medications, iodine or hormones. In some cases, one may also need to undergo therapy or surgery. 

Thyroid awareness month is recognised to increase awareness about the disorders related to thyroid and their possible symptoms. The symptoms of a thyroid disorder are common in other disorders as well. Therefore it can become difficult to diagnose it and remain ignored. Thyroid disorders are not curable or preventable but are treatable. Consulting your doctor and getting regular health checkups can improve the quality of living to a great extent.

LACK OF SEX EDUCATION IN INDIA

Sex has always been a topic talked about behind the curtains. It is considered a taboo in India even today. People are even afraid to say the word “sex” out loud let alone discuss it. And it is not something to be very proud of because it has resulted in a lack of sex education in people. This illiteracy has caused several problems to arise in the country.


Here in India, people associate sex education with just the act of sexual intercourse but it so much more than that. Sex education as a whole is a vast subject. It is a program which aims to build a strong foundation of one’s sexual well being, including sexuality and contraceptives. It also includes gender identity, consent and awareness about sexual abuse. 

From a very young age, children are deprived and kept away from any such means that might expose them to the slightest of intimacy. But isn’t this something everyone is bound to learn about someday in life? People in India are of the view that if children are exposed to sex education, it might corrupt them.
Unlike hunger and thirst, sex might not be a necessity but it surely is important for the preservation and continuation of the human race.

This narrow mindedness related to sex has given rise to numerous problems in the country. Like rapes, stalking, eve-teasing and gender discrimination from a very young age. Because adolescents are deprived of the education that is necessary for them, they resort to half and false information available on the internet. This results in an unhealthy sexual life and may also lead to the spread of STDs. 

There is very little knowledge that people have about safe sex, the use of contraceptives and the consequences unprotected relations can have. 

Not only rapes and eve-teasing has increased in the country because of the lack of sexual education, but other problems come with it. Girls are not taught about female hygiene which results in UTIs and other deadly diseases. Cases of sexual abuse are constantly on a rise in the country. People are educated to satisfy their sexual needs only after marriage and this has led them to find other wrong and illegal ways to satisfy them. Be it women, children, animals or men they are sexually abused.


In schools, girls are embarrassed about their gender and pointed out for provoking the other gender. They are also made to feel ashamed about periods.
Pornography is another medium which teenagers resort to for gathering information. It often vilifies sexist remarks against women. It can contain acts and disturbing visuals to such an extent that people try to replicate it in real life. This harms the other gender and themselves.
STDs are also spreading on a large scale because of the lack of awareness about the negative consequences of unprotected intercourse. 

All these problems would not have existed if sex education was provided from a young age. And when I talk about sex education from a very young age I don’t mean sexual intercourse. What I am referring to here are things like good touch, bad touch and respecting gender differences. Begin with small things that make a big difference. Keeping them away from false and half information is the only situation to these problems. Start teaching them from the right age and break the stereotypes before it causes some even more adverse situations.

Educate The Underprivileged Children

“The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of it’s youth.”

– Erasmus

Education is a necessary tool as it plays a vital role in one’s life. It provides us with the skillset to survive and thrive in this world. It shapes our ideas and brains so we can have critical thinking skills; and enables us to differentiate ourselves mindless sheep. Education is essential as it constitutes a means to eradicate the various social evils that prevail and plague our society like poverty, racism, gender discrimination, differentiation based on colour, caste, creed, religion. It’s quintessential in leading a good and healthy life, enabling us to learn and practice rules & regulations while making us responsible citizens of the nation. It is rightly said that education is the foundation upon which we build our future.

Children are inherently valuable as the pillars of the nation, and, therefore its extremely important that they’re encouraged and provided with resources to study & attain good education.

However, as unfortunate as it is, our global culture has stolen the rightful priority of children and placed it squarely on the wants of the adults. Our laws, our media, our investments; all favour the desires of adults first, second, third, and fourth, before ever considering youth. Our adult-centric society takes bets and loans against children, leveraging their future without consent. Thus, it’s essential that we realize that every child should be educated because each child is precious. Even though people have started realizing this gradually, the path of educating the underprivileged and enabling them a means to build a secure future still remains rocky nevertheless.

Awareness still remains an issue as the underprivileged communities are not well aware about education or importance of it, thus, they don’t understand or realize the need to send their children to schools. There’s a severe lack of role models modelling good learning practices and sharing the understanding that schools are indispensable in providing a space where skills are obtained and that the more skills obtained the greater chance at future successes. The next major hindrance is the accessibility to the education institutions. For some, obtaining the inexpensive education resources such as books, copies, pens, etc. too might appear a distant dream. The next impediment lies in the feedback received from those who are educated, yet unemployed or under-employed. This is partly because many educated are, in fact unemployable and others struggle to get a job even when they are employable. In the eyes of parents, therefore, education is either luxury or a palliative. The poor parents cannot afford luxury. The expected value of education, at least from their perspective, remains low.

And thus, due to the aforementioned reasons, the underprivileged communities remain perpetuated in the vicious cycles of poverty and misery for generations altogether. The only way for them to escape from repeating the cycle is acquiring an education and building a safe, secure and stable future on the basis of it.

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“If we nurture the dreams of children, the world will be blessed. If we destroy them, the world is doomed!”

Chasing The Rainbow: A New Era And A New Fight for India’s LGBTQ Communities

“Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.”

-Jason Collins

India’s Supreme Court last year struck down Section 377, a colonial-era law that outlawed same-sex relations, sparking hopes of equality for the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. Hundreds of students with rainbows painted on their faces descended on a New Delhi college on Friday and others held parties in major Indian cities to commemorate the overturning of the ban on gay sex.

However, once all the celebrations and merrymaking faded into the background and harsh reality set in, it became apparent that homosexuality in India wasn’t going to be about unicorns and rainbows anytime soon. Even those beating drums and dancing warned that the fight for equal rights, including same-sex marriage and serving in the military, had not been won.

After all they still cannot marry, they still cannot adopt. They have many, many years before any of this is over. The harsh truth still remains that even though LGBTQ activists are growing in numbers, acceptance is still elusive as they continue struggle against internalized homophobia.

So, “where does this homophobia stem from?” and “how bad can it be?” you may ask.

One of the root causes of homophobia is that we, as a society, are unaware of homosexuality. We live in a time and place where people call each other gay to mock and insult them. A decade ago, gay and eunuch were used interchangeably and people were highly ignorant and intolerant towards homosexuality. My classmates often gossiped about (Bollywood producer and director) Karan Johar and (actor) Shahrukh Khan. It was a subject of ridicule and mockery. The stereotypical portrayal of gay and effeminate men in Johar’s movies was in unfair representation of the queer community. Even the popular sitcom FRIENDS was riddled with casual and sometimes blatant homophobia. “Gay” and “LGBTQ” still conjure images and connotations of loud, cackling men in gaudy drag costumes in India, partly because that is the only representation LGBT people get to have.

There’s also lack of sensitisation about the LGBTQ+ community. If they had a dime for each time someone told them that it’s “just a phase” or “why someone from the same gender, it’s not like you are deprived”, they probably could afford to move to a more accepting country. When I was in school, there was a guy who was often severely bullied by the “masculine” classmates because he was effeminate. Kids who weren’t “manly enough” were often a subject to ridicule and bash. No one stopped that. People thought it was normal and the right thing to do. This isn’t surprising though, given that even now there are people who find hijras scary.

The LGBTQ+ community also suffers from lack of support from their family. As a result, their only options are either getting excommunicated if they come out or remaining closeted which can be extremely draining.

They suffer from religious dogmatism. India is a secular country. Every major religion in India condemns homosexuality. It must no doubt be petrifying to live in a place which has more than 330 million gods and yet you can count on neither one of them for their blessings.

The arduous journey to acceptance becomes even more strenuous when you try discussing and rationalizing homosexuality to those intolerant towards it and reach the realization that the minds of recalcitrant homophobes are incapable of processing things beyond black and white. They need that sharp dichotomy. Without it, they panic. They feel adrift, as if nothing is sacred anymore. Which is, of course, ridiculous. But anyway, that whole thing comes from an “us or them” mentality, in which they’re the righteous and anyone who disagrees with them is clearly a secret homosexual out to convert their children to dance around a fire with Satan.

It appears that we have become obsessed in this toxic society with the labelling of others, especially with an intense and revolting over- interest in the sexuality and gender orientation of others what happened to the idea of loving our neighbours unconditionally and paying more attention to developing our own selves in good ways? After all, to change the world we change ourselves in ways that enable us to love others all the more. So let us drop the facade of “morality”, the wilting fig leaf over such garish homophobia, and have no agenda on the LGBTQ community.

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Diversity is good, and it’s okay to be different from the norm.

 

Untangling Gender and Sex: Beyond He or She

It’s easy to fictionalize an issue when you’re not aware of the many ways in which you are privileged by it.

– Kate Bornstein

One can imagine many raised eyebrows at the idea of this distinction between sex and gender. Aren’t they the same; two names given to the same phenomenon? Yes, and No.

Yes, because these two terms are often used interchangeably by people at large. No, because thinking of the terms as meaning the same thing is an error. The terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are closely linked, yet they are not synonyms. There is a subtle difference between the two as stated by psychologists and anthropologists across the globe. Today, let us explore how they are different.

The word sex has its root probably in Middle English which means “section” or “divide”. If we go further back, sex means the number six in Latin. On the other hand, the word gender is derived from Middle English which in turn is derived from Old French which is ultimately derived from the Latin word genus. Genus means “kind” or “type” or “sort”.

If we quote from the Medilexicon’s medical dictionary, we find two definitions of sex and gender respectively:

Sex is “the biologic character or quality that distinguishes male and female from one another as expressed by analysis of the person’s gonadal (gonad is an organ in animals that produces gametes, especially a testis or ovary), morphologic (internal and external), chromosomal, and hormonal characteristics.”
Gender is “the category to which an individual is assigned by self or others, on the basis of sex.” To put it in a nutshell, sex refers to biological differences while gender refers to socio-cultural differences. This will become clearer by way of examples. Sex and gender have different characteristics. Some features related to sex are – while males have testicles, females have ovaries; while males have penis; females have vagina, females get pregnant while males do not; females can breastfeed their babies, males cannot; at the time of birth, males tend to weigh more than their female counterparts; generally, males have deeper voices than females.

Some features related to gender are – women have long hair and men short; women contribute more to household chores than men do ; some cultures expect their women to cover their heads when they step out of the house while there is no such injunction for men; up till the twentieth century women were not allowed to vote in a number of countries (UK granted female franchise in 1928) ; some professions, like teaching and nursing, are considered to be more suitable for women while others like, climbing the corporate ladders, are more appropriate for men (women are now breaking these barriers); men are regarded as bread earners and protectors of women in the majority of cultures.

This means while sex is a natural or biological feature, gender means a cultural or learned feature – the set of characteristics that a society or culture defines as masculine or feminine. As stated succinctly by the French writer and feminist, “one is not born a woman, but becomes one”. We can extend this to mean that one is not born a man but becomes one, too.

While a person is born with a sex, gender is dictated by socio-cultural norms in which he or she finds himself or herself. Gender is not about being born with a penis or vagina but how we feel about ourselves, or identify with a particular group, men or women. Some people are transgender which means their gender identity is not aligned with their biological sex. A person born with a man’s body might identify more with women and vice-versa. Sexual identity is about our attraction to people of a particular sex. While it is largely true that opposite sexes attract, people of the same sex also experience attraction and hence terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual.

Needless to say, cultural norms vary and so do the gender roles. For example in India, it is normal for Sikh men to have long locks while in some matriarchal societies in Africa, women are supposed to provide for the family while men take care of the kids and household.

Similarly, the sexual differences among people cannot be categorized into two binary opposites. While females have XX sex chromosomes, men have XY chromosomes. There are some babies who are born with XO chromosomes (Tuner Syndrome) or XXY chromosomes (Klienfelter’s Syndrome). They are intersex which may have sex organs that appear to be somewhat female or male or both. A lot of times surgeries are performed on such babies right after their births so as to assign a particular sex to them. However, psychologists advise that such surgeries should be postponed till the babies grow up and can decide for themselves which sex they identify with more, male or female, and accordingly go for sex change procedures. Otherwise, they may experience an identity crisis which may lead to depression or even suicides.

In our culture, gender education is given to kids on the basis of their sex from an early age. While men are told that they need to be aggressive and not emotional (men don’t cry), women are told that they have to be feminine (don’t laugh loudly, learn how to cook, don’t study too much else who will marry you). However, such roles can prove to be a disadvantage for both male and female. What about those men who are fragile? Or those women who do not want to marry and bear children but to make a career? Hence, it is stands to reason that such choices should be granted to different sexes irrespective of the expected gender roles in order to ensure the fullest developments of their personalities in accordance with their innate abilities or desires.

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In a nutshell, sex is what lies beyond your legs. Gender is what lies between your ears.

Animal Cruelty: Are Humans Losing Their Humanity?

Imagine you were the one being tested on, imagine your skin being torn off alive, imagine your arms and legs being ripped off while still alive, imagine being burnt alive, fellow classmates even imagine losing your life, just so you can satisfy other species. Doesn’t sound fun, does it?

Now imagine this, you are a poor soul who has been searching for food everywhere. Suddenly, your happiness sees no bound as you see pineapple lying in front of you. You thank god and people for feeding such a delicacy amidst long hunger. You gulp that in one bite and feel inside of your body hurting and burning. You soon realize it was not just a pineapple. You run for water to soothe down the internal wound and burning. You stand in water for hours in oblivion just to face one reality – that now only death can relieve this burning. If reading this makes your stomach churn, you might understand the pain that poor soul went through which for some people was a mere ‘elephant’. What makes it even more disheartening that the elephant was pregnant  and yet had to spend her last few hours standing in the water waiting for death so that to leave this cruel world in solace.

In yet another instance of cruelty towards animals, a monkey was hanged to death from a tree in Telangana’s Khammam district.

Animals – creatures that are considered fit for human cruelty. Hitting dogs, throwing bricks at speechless animals and taming them forcefully for circuses has become common news now. It is time we re-emphasized the need for animal rights to protect and safeguard their lives from humans.

It’s blood curling that there exist some people who intentionally hurt animals because they enjoy hurting things, or because it makes them feel powerful. Some, love the control they possess over these helpless creatures. While, there are others who simply enjoy pain and violence.

It should be noted that intentional cruelty to animals is strongly correlated with other crimes, including violence against people. (HSLF). Any psychologist or police officer can ascertain you that animal cruelty is a precursor to criminally violent behavior toward humans. There are plenty of laws against cruelty to animals as well. Thus, Outright cruelty, harm to a living creature for no other purpose than the cruelty itself, is definitely prohibited and while not punishable to the extent that human cruelty is punishable, it is considered a serious indicator of a disordered mind and a dangerous person.

There are very strict guidelines laid down by the Indian government. Like, the animal should have rested before being slaughtered, an animal should not be killed in front of the other animals, no pregnant animal can be killed and all the animals should be diagnosed by the veterinarian before butchering them. The veterinarian must allow only the healthy animals to be slaughtered but all of it is on paper. All the strict laws have no strict implementation due to lack of will. There will surely be reduction in the rate of animal cruelty if these laws are implemented strictly!

We need to begin with our own selves without expecting any kind of new policies or laws to protect animals. Regularly keeping a bowl of fresh water outside your house and feeding the street animals. Such small activities would provide street animals with basic survival needs in the harsh city life.

Are we going to realize this any soon that we are a part of an ecosystem where human, plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms, all have to live together without harming each other? It’s generally only the humans that are less tolerant towards animals, plants, insets, etc. whereas, the rest simply seek for a peaceful existence.

ETHNIC CLEANSING

Ethnic cleansing is a premeditated attack done to drive out a specific community of people from a particular area. This means that a place will no longer have any signs of existence of the specific community; the area will no longer have the cultural or physical remains of the community thus effectively ethnically cleansing the area of traces of the specific community. It differs from genocide as the only intention of ethnic cleansing is to push a particular community from the area where genocide aims to completely kill an ethnic community in the area. Ethnic cleansing or forcibly pushing out a community is considered as a crime against humanity and condemned by the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Ethnic cleansing is done using a wide range of inhuman methods such as rape, executions, assaults or unlawful detention or forceful displacement, threatening civilians and attacking civilian population all these crimes are classified as crimes against humanity.


Ethnic cleansing is ideas that rise when nationalist movements with racist ideologies. The term ethnic cleansing was first used during the war in Yugoslavia where Bosnian Muslims were driven out of the country by Bosnian Serbs who claimed the land as their own. There are many examples of ethnic cleansing; the most radical and extreme is the displacement of Jews with culminated in the mass killing of the Jews. The ethnic cleansing of Jews was tied to the final solution proposed by Hitler which says that the true and real solution to the problems faced by the people of Germany was the Jews and the only way to end it was to deport them or kill them in concentration camps. The Tutsi community in the country of Rwanda was also first raped, its civilian population attacked and unlawful detention this later progressed to a genocide where the Tutsis in the country were violently killed. The most recent example is the Rohingya persecution in Myanmar where Rohingya Muslims were forcefully deported from Rakhine State by Myanmar’s military government. The Rohingya Muslims were denied from getting citizenships thus were considered as illegal immigrants and were driven out of the country to Bangladesh.


Ethnic cleansing occurs during a war which later escalates into genocide. At least this is the usual trend. The reason could be a community’s religion, race or colour which is discriminated in an area. It is accompanied by assault, unlawful deportation and attack on civilian population which is against the Geneva Convention and a war crime. The very idea of ethnic cleansing debases a value of human life and disregards every human right which every person regardless of their nationality is entitled to. The entire idea of ethnic cleansing is inhuman and a disgusting taint on humanity. Political parties tend to take advantage over nationalism to create a common enemy where the majority of the population can relate to it. Ethnic cleansing divides an already fragmented population of a country leading to more problems. There should be more stringent rules from the international laws laid down that condemn ethnic cleansing. Monitoring bodies such as the UN must make ethnic cleansing which occurs in various forms must be recognized.

#BlackLivesMatter: A Wake-Up Call for India’s Closeted Racism

 

 

‘Racism and prejudices are the exhaust fumes of damaged egos.’

 

As protests erupt in America, over the injustices inflicted on black lives after the institutional murder of George Floyd, we are finally forced to look closer into out own country for similar patterns of systematic and institutional racism that exists in our own country. At a time like this, it’s essential to introspect and heck our privilege in the everyday. When we start looking for their stories, it comes barely as a surprise that their voices are muffled amongst the clamour of noises. This begs the question- ‘Is there racism in India?’ Yes, there’s racism in India, but not just to other races, we are also racist towards our own race. It is almost like we hate ourselves, so much that we’d trade in our hide to be a white without batting an eyelash.

There exists racism on the basis of place a person belongs to which is nothing but an ugly truth of this nation. The hatred is such that people have died in thousands. People from north east are considered as aliens and those who belong to states like Bihar, Jharkhand are considered to be illiterate , mannerless, untouchable in metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, etc. Just an example, that happens everywhere in this country. Not only metro cities but every state have their own reasons to hate one from other state. There’s racism on the basis of language we use. We are blessed to have hundreds of languages all with their own unique identity and importance and yet we have failed as a nation to give every language its due respect which includes one of the oldest languages of human civilization. There’s also racism on the basis of culture and colour. India is blessed with a rich variety of cultures, yet we leave no stone turned to mock each other’s culture, well, that’s how we show admiration to some of the oldest cultures in the world. And as of racism based on someones skin colour, all that can be said is that it’s extremely disheartening. Lastly, there also exists racism on basis of religion. As unfortunate as it is, this is probably the time when it’s most prominent.

People from Bihar have been subjected to racism from several decades. Everything about them from their looks, language, culture, accent is ridiculed pretty much all over the country. The term ‘Bihari’ itself is being increasingly used as a curse word in the northern parts of the country If there is ever a rape somewhere in India, the convict is automatically assumed to be a Bihari . If someone speaks Bhojpuri, he is assumed to be a ‘gavaar’ (illiterate). But this issue is never shown in the media, neither it is ever taken seriously, because according to some folks in our society these people are meant to be bullied. Whether someone is from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh, he is no more than a “Madrasi” to a North Indian. Abusive comments on their skin colour, food habits, culture are quite prevalent among the North Indians.

People are so ignorant about their own culture that they even forget that their is an integral part of India called the “seven sisters” or the “North East”. Recently in an interview, the child actor of the movie “Tubelight”, who hailed from Arunachal Pradesh was asked by a reporter, “How do you feel after coming to India for the first time ?”.

It’s worth mentioning that with the outbreak of the pandemic, the situation of racism became more vivid and more clear as the people of North-eastern region were told to vacate their apartments or other accommodations. Some were beaten up, some were prevented to enter the grocery stores to buy their basic necessities and some were even abused on grounds of internalised racist assumptions around the virus. Well, they can’t really change how they look, can they? Can anybody suggest a ‘guru’ who can teach them what ‘Indian-ness‘ means without having to lose their identity?

To top it all off, there’s the whole conundrum of white skin versus dark skin, with underlying tones of colourism and casual racism. Being a dark-skinned Indian woman is significantly harder. The sexism endemic in Indian society is such that the beauty standards for women are stricter and less fluid compared to men. You do occasionally find the odd dark-skinned south Indian hero, but they are largely relegated to the roles of comedians or villains; dark-skinned Indian women are lucky to be cast as extras or auxiliary dancers. It is even more prominent during matchmaking. In Indian culture, aesthetics and beauty are said to be the jurisdiction of women, whereas work and wages tend to define men-or as the adage goes “udyōgam puruśa lakśańam”. My mother remembers when she had to stand up for one of my aunts during matchmaking negotiations when the groom’s parents demanded more dowry to compensate for my aunt’s dark skin. Even today when brides are in demand from decades of a skewed sex ratio, dark-skinned women fare poorly in the Indian marriage market; a cursory glance at any matrimonial ad using the search term ‘fair’ can substantiate this.

Essentially, every non-Hindustani Indian has a difficult time in India. They can find themselves obligated to learn more languages than their Hindustani counterparts, unable to take exams in their mother tongue or face difficulties accessing state services. None more so than the Northeast Indians. Lacklustre investment in their states has meant that youngsters move seeking greener pastures elsewhere in India. It is incredibly heart-breaking to hear the harrowing tales of men and women being treated so harshly, often disproportionately subject to molestation and harassment and called racist slurs within their own country. Government funding towards languages and other infrastructure is skewed in favour of Hindi, and even Sanskrit. This has resulted in several languages and tribal identities in India facing extinction, especially in the South and the Northeast. Northeast Indians, compared to their South Indian counterparts, have poorer representation in Indian media.

We have a long way to go to become a country where we learn to accept all cultures, religions and habits. after all, the first step in solving a problem is realizing that there is one. If Indians do not collectively admit that we have a problem with racism, we’re going to be in serious trouble. We have several ethnicities in India. This simple fact seems to be lost in the hullabaloo about religion in the mainstream. Media is not a passive entertainment industry. It is a projection of culture and aspiration for many. It directly affects our choices, preferences, tastes, fashion, trends and even politics. Young Indians, especially girls, consuming this diet of cultural crap from media and society will mean that a generation of Indians will emerge with serious physical and mental issues. An unregulated industry of face whitening products often containing dangerous carcinogens like hydroquinone makes medical risks very real. What makes this even more remarkable is the warm reception that dark-skinned people of South Asian heritage have received elsewhere in the world- Kunal Nair, Romesh Ranganathan, George Alagiah, Naga Muchetty, Aziz Ansari and the list goes on. Thus, the Black Lives Matter Movement should be wake up call for India.

‘Let us make it our purpose to listen deeply to those who suffer racism so that we may better comprehend what it is, how they feel and how we can build the society they need. It is wrong to become defensive, and right to open our hearts all the wider, to love and acknowledge that all are fully sacred. We are called to love, and the more we love each other the better our world will become.’

Homosexuality in Ancient India

 

“History owes an apology to the LGBT community. They were denied the fundamental right to equality, the right against discrimination and the right to live with dignity.”

– Justice Indu Malhotra

 

“Gay marriage and relationship are not compatible with nature and are not natural, so we do not support this kind of relationship. Traditionally, India’s society also does not recognise such relations.” As usual, other members of right-wing factions joined the chorus – stubbornly maintaining that homosexuality is against nature.

But are we sure about that? Can we honestly say that it was never “recognised”?

It’s impossible to talk about homosexuality in ancient India without referring to one of its most affirmative and visual ‘proofs’, so to speak. The sculptures in the Khajuraho temple of Madhya Pradesh are known for their overt homosexual imagery. The temple is popularly believed to have been built sometime around the 12th century. The sculptures embedded in the Khajuraho temple depict what seem to be sexual fluidity between man and man and woman and woman with either women erotically embracing other women or men displaying their genitals to each other, the former being more common (suggesting a tilt in favour of the male voyeur).

The story of Shikhandi, a transgender who becomes the nemesis of Pitamah Bhishma in the kurukshetra war, and the story of Arjuna turning into a transgender with the name Brihannala for a limited period due to a curse, which in fact is proved to be a blessing in disguise when the Pandavas were required to lead an incognito life at the end of their exile, are two examples of the existence of and awareness about the transgenders even during ancient times.The story of Krishna assuming female form to marry Aravan the son of Arjuna might also have been an euphemism or a veiled reference to homosexuality. During the Mughal rule, men were reportedly castrated to make them transgenders, before getting posted as sentries or servants in the Harems of the Kings where a large number of queens and other ladies were confined behind the Purdah.

I think the fact that the boys and girls getting married at a very early age (in pre adolescence and in case of girls even before attaining puberty) during older times in India also might have prevented a large number of men and women even to properly understand sex or become aware of their own sexual orientations. And in a closely knit joint family/community living systems, LGBTs might still have managed to lead the lives of their choice without openly flaunting their alternate sexuality or inviting the notice of the society to this particular behavior.

Purushayita in the Kama Sutra, a 2nd century ancient Indian Hindu text, mentions that lesbians were called “swarinis”. These women often married other women and raised children together. The book further made mention of gay men or “klibas”, which though could refer to impotent men, represented mostly men who were impotent with women due to their “homosexual tendencies”. The Kama Sutra’s homosexual man could either be effeminate or masculine. While they were known to be involved in relationships of a frivolous nature, they were also known to marry each other. The book further mentions that there were eight different kinds of marriages that existed under the Vedic system, and out of those, a homosexual marriage between two gay men or two lesbians were classified under the “gandharva” or celestial variety – “a union of love and cohabitation, without the need for parental approval”. Varuna and Mitra, famously referred to as the “same-sex couple” in the ancient Indian scripture of the Rig Veda, were often depicted riding a shark or crocodile or sitting side-by-side on a golden chariot together. According to the Shatapatha Brahmana, a prose text describing Vedic rituals, history and mythology, they are representatives of the two half-moons.

Amongst scenes from epics and legends, one invariably finds erotic images including those that modern law deems unnatural and society considers obscene. Curiously enough, similar images also embellish prayer halls and cave temples of monastic orders such as Buddhism and Jainism built around the same time. The range of erotic sculptures is wide: from dignified couples exchanging romantic glances, to wild orgies involving warriors, sages and courtesans. Occasionally one finds images depicting bestiality coupled with friezes of animals in intercourse. All rules are broken: elephants are shown copulating with tigers, monkeys molest women while men mate with asses. These images cannot be simply dismissed as perverted fantasies of an artist or his patron considering the profound ritual importance given to these shrines. There have been many explanations offered for these images – ranging from the apologetic to the ridiculous. Some scholars hold a rather puritanical view that devotees are being exhorted to leave these sexual thoughts aside before entering the sanctum sanctorum. Others believe that hidden in these images is a sacred Tantric geometry; the aspirant can either be deluded by the sexuality of the images or enlightened by deciphering the geometrical patterns therein. One school of thought considers these images to representations of either occult rites or fertility ceremonies. Another suggests that these were products of degenerate minds obsessed with sex in a corrupt phase of Indian history.

According to ancient treatises on architecture, a religious structure is incomplete unless it’s walls depicts something erotic, for sensual pleasures (kama) are as much an expression of life as are righteous conduct (dharma), economic endeavours (artha) and spiritual pursuits (moksha). Why is homosexuality considered such a big taboo in India? We marry people to trees and rocks in the name of religion but do not support a homosexual marriage.

To sum up, if we go by these popular references in Indian history and mythology, then it appears that ancient “Indian society” did indeed “recognise” homosexuality through that period, and in many cases, even accepted it. So, ultimately, it’s just factually incorrect to deny that homosexuality has been part of Indian tradition.

Mental Health: Are We Doing Enough?

 

“No one wishes to have dark days, sleepless nights, grumpy mornings and this endless dark tunnel with no sign that it ever ends. Mental illnesses aren’t a choice.”

Mental illnesses are the unseen, unheard, silent killers. It’s the pain that’s too much to cope with, too hard to deal with and so misunderstood. You can’t escape it no matter how hard you try, because it follows you around like a black shadow that’s on the inside, eating you.

There isn’t anything tragically beautiful about them, it’s just tragic. It’s not sad songs and poetry, shy glances or drowning in the bath. It’s not ghostly white skin tainted by charcoal circles under sad eyes and large purple bruises stretching viciously up your arms. It isn’t lonely walks, vacant coffee shops or smoking dusty cigarettes.

Depression is unwashed clothes and flaking skin. It’s over eating and the inability to even get out of bed. It’s giving up on yourself and not taking pride in your appearance anymore. It’s empty inboxes, bursts of anger and late night tears. It’s a feeling of disgust within yourself that makes you want to tear off your own skin just so you can feel clean. It’s uncertainty and confusion. It’s losing weight, long showers and greasy hair. It’s constantly wishing you could be somewhere or someone else. It’s losing the will to even live.

Similarly, anxiety isn’t just sweating and shaking and shortness of breath. It’s also feeling like you have no control over your life and there is a knot in your stomach and you feel like your world is crashing down completely and you have to sit there and act like you’re fine.

Being bipolar is like being on a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you can predict drop offs and others you just have to hang on because the next turn sends you into an unexpected spiral. Sometimes you are laughing and throwing your hands in the air and then other times you are clinging, simply holding on for dear life screaming it the top of your lungs.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorders are like unpredictable demons of your own mind, where the soul is a puppet of your own fears, where a line between right and wrong gets blurred, where your true identity disappears only in you, where you get accosted for thousands of pointless known questions, where you get beaten every single second by your own self, where everyone seems fine except you, where regret is smaller word for ‘reassurance’, where mind goes dead and breathing continues, where you stuck in a small box full of nightmares.

So, are we doing enough about mental health? Long answer short, no.

The first and foremost reason for India to lose its mental health is the lack of awareness and sensitivity about the issue. There is a big stigma around people suffering from any kind of mental health issues. They are often tagged as ‘lunatics’ by the society. This leads to a vicious cycle of shame, suffering and isolation of the patients. Also, there is a serious shortage of mental healthcare workforce in India.

One of the biggest hurdles in addressing mental health is the measurement of objective information. With other illnesses, there are lab reports, X-rays, CT scan, MRI, etc. which are used for identification of illnesses. In case of mental health, such objective parameters aren’t available. Secondly, despite it’s enormous social burden, mental health remains a taboo subject that is susceptible to age-old stigmas, prejudices and fears. Because people can’t see a physical deformity they think there’s no substance to your illness. People often associate it with pretending and take it lightly in less developed states. Even highly educated people react the same way and lack empathy. They’ll belittle mental illnesses and blame it on the sufferer’s personality. Thus, in our country, the discovery of a mental illness is often followed by denial and hesitation to seek help. Thirdly, the output of the same disease or problem varies significantly from person to person, making it very subjective. Thus, needless to say, the path towards addressing and normalizing discussions about mental health is indeed a rocky one.

Mental health stigma is not only a culturally learned aversion to discussing mental illness, it is also the subsequent ignorance in the general population about how to recognize stigma in everyday life or an institutional level. And this stigma is can be soul damaging. It’s also personal and unique to the individual, yet it encourages society to treat the ones suffering from it as: Dangerous. Expendable. Useless. Invisible. To dismantle stigma we have to look much deeper at the specific problems and manifestations of it. How does stigma penetrate into the scientific publications and research? What type of education are we given on mental health in public education? All of these more nuanced questions give us routes to comparison and action. I believe it is in these details that stigma exists and where it must be sought if we are to dismantle it.

We, as a society, need to learn to treat people with mental illnesses with compassion rather than telling them that their brain is defective.
To build a better world we need to consciously design a better environment for all of humanity, one in which all the choices we have are good options. What we have now is a dynamic that makes people sick and then blames them for being sick. This world of fear and coercion can be swapped for one of love and cooperation, a world that brings us all health and happiness in all our different and wonderful cultures.

Social Media Has Turned Into A Breeding Ground for Toxicity

Social Media is great – no contesting that. It’s a tool for self-empowerment, it’s a way to express yourself, it’s a way to stay connected with your inner circle….all of that. But what happens when the noise of social media becomes so intense that it overpowers your life? Unfortunately, that’s what social media has become for many people today. There’s everything from the infamous cancel culture, fleeting news trends, and fake influencers, to the body dysmorphia faced mostly by women users…..the list goes on.

Being a social media user myself, I find it disturbing how petty and superficial our reliance on social media has become. Instead of developing our personalities through real life experiences, we have developed digital walls. Walls filled with ideas of perfectionism and unrealistic standards of life. I’m still mind blown that we once lived in a world where social media was just another piece of entertainment. Now, it seems to be a necessity to function in life. You are not cool unless you have social media. If you don’t, you are deemed a social outcast. Life is not a picture, nor can it be summarized in a bunch of captions. We are not one-dimensional people, yet we are glued to boxes with snippets of other people’s lives. We wake up first thing in the morning checking our notifications to see how many likes and comments we’ve garnered. This was me, and I know this is a lot of you out there too. But at the end of the day, does of any this matter? If we as a community rely on digital acceptance to function as human beings, then it’s really just disappointing. Our happiness should not be defined by social media, let alone a heart or like. Social media is harmful to us, especially to the younger generation.

We as a society rely on digital acceptance to function as human beings. Nowadays, we can’t take a photo without some sort of embellishment, the “right” angle, or even a filter. We’ve been convinced that anything less than perfect is a flaw, and thus unacceptable. Curves, lips, accomplishments, awards, etc. define beauty and success. If it’s not an already altered image of our self, it’s one of something as trivial as food. But for what? To make someone jealous? Does happiness really need to come through the acceptance of others with a single like on a post? Our intentions on posting may be harmless, but our mind set is so focused on the opinions of other people. When are we going to focus on ourselves? Doing things for ourselves, because of what we want and need regardless of what other people may think.

Social media also enables commoditizing social status via likes is detrimental to mental health.
It’s disheartening to see what social media has done to our society. Nothing feels genuine anymore. A picture is taken to be posted on Snapchat. A video to be shared on our story. An activity because it’s popular on Instagram. We read posts on a person’s Facebook and assume to know their whole life.

Today’s social publishing environment rewards sensationalized content, thereby damaging healthy relationships online. These platforms reward “engagement” by highlighting highly liked posts more prominently in newsfeeds, accustomizing social media users to attempting to post that sensationalized content themselves. This attention-seeking behavior has left people vulnerable to dangerous propaganda and influence campaigns.

Social media is not life, instead, at this point, it has evolved into a wall. What was once a seemingly harmless platform, then, has now evolved into a powerful machine that, due to confusing hate speech and privacy policies, has set dangerous precedents for the future of social media.

At the end of the day, we need to come to the realization that social media doesn’t define us, but it should represent who we are.

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Social Media has turned into a breeding ground for toxicity.

Is Cyberbullying Real?

Unless and until our society recognizes cyberbullying for what it is, the suffering of thousands of silent victims will continue.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter may be the main social networks used to keep in touch with friends, but, worryingly, they are also the main sites used for cyberbullying and internet trolling.

Cyberbullying has been emerging as a growing concern for quite some years now. With the power of anonymity, people can verbally attack others over social networking sites, most often going after students with low self-esteem or a low circle of friends. These are not exclusive targets, but there’s a general consensus that these are the groups that are most affected by cyberbullying. Anybody can be a victim- although it’s the young teens that are most vulnerable.

Cyberbullying can affect its victims in more ways than you can imagine. Besides bringing down self esteem, it alienates you from social crowds, and in some cases, it may push people to severe depression and suicide. And, no it’s not as simple as ‘just turning the computer off’ or ‘simply looking away’. Think of it this way: if someone hurts your feelings on the phone, is stepping away from the phone going to magically fix it? No, because the issue lies with the person and the interaction, not the phone itself. Similarly, cyberbullying doesn’t end when you turn off the computer. Our real lives are so intertwined with social networks now that if you poison someone’s network, it will poison his or her real life. Besides, asking the bullied victim to not use the computer or advising them to refrain from going online is a rather harsh demand for obvious reasons. The focus should be on fixing the bully issue, not putting the onus on the victims. It’s even worse when the bullies wear the shroud of anonymity. After all, how do you deal with a bully when you don’t even know who he or she is. Cyberbullying is visceral too. Bullies can go out of their way to post unflattering pictures of you or paint you in a negative light in ways that they can’t do face-to-face.

What’s worse it that there’s not much that can be done about it. Cyberbullying is still protected by freedom of speech, and as long as a bully isn’t crossing over into obvious libel territory, they can’t really be touched. Even then, if you had a libel case, it is costly, expensive, and hard to prove.

So, why do people cyberbully? Is it out of jealousy or hatred? Or is it just the law of the jungle that the strong bullies the weak?

It is a myth that the strong bully the weak. It is those who cannot handle their stress with grace, who attack the gentle natured. The most clear, and psychological aspect is that they feel tough behind a computer screen, and believe that anything they say won’t affect them negatively in the grand scheme. It is a sort of thought process that most people employ when cyberbullying. Think of it this way. How much more likely are you to argue or even insult someone online than you are to do in person? You would probably feel “safer” attacking someone online as opposed to in-person, and understandably so. They could do it to feel better about themselves. A lot of bullying cases, IRL or online are usually fed by insecurity or hatred towards oneself. Again, most bullies have some underlying problem which they believe can be quelled by being aggressive online. It’s also much easier since they don’t have to worry about other factors and feel they are safe from consequence. Lastly, they could just be looking for attention. It is evident that most cyberbullies attack others for the sake of attention, and the ability to instigate a response out of a victim.

So, if you ever encounter a cyberbully, Know that it’s not your fault and Don’t respond or retaliate. Sometimes a reaction is exactly what aggressors are looking for because they think it gives them power over you, and you don’t want to empower a bully. Further, you should save the evidence and Use available tech tools to either block the person and/or report the person to the service.

Lets never forget that words impact people emotionally, and how you feel emotionally affects how you are physically. Pulling someone down will never help you reach the top.

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A keyboard away doesn’t make it okay.

Indian Soap Operas Need To Do Better

A woman is chided by society for her loud and brash manner; background music meant to tug at one’s heartstrings accompanies the sermon they deliver about how her behaviour is unbecoming of a woman and causes everyone distress.

“You’re in love with someone?” her sister gasps. “I was under the impression that you are a good girl!”

Another ludicrous scenario that I can recall goes something like this.

The parsimonious mother-in-law taunts the beguile protagonist saying that she has no clue on how strenuous it is to operate a business and that it requires years and years of hard work and struggle. The protagonist retaliates to her mother-in-law’s call down by saying that anybody can be a doctor or an engineer, and it’s nothing to be proud of, and that she can accomplish the same if given 3 months of time, but what’s not any layman’s work is cooking a perfect kheer and she dares her to accomplish that. The episode ends with mother-in-law failing to accomplish the task and giving in to the daughter-in-law with a ‘victory soundtrack’ playing in the background resonating with the proud face of the protagonist.

Now you may ask, what’s so problematic about this? In a day and age, where hundreds if not thousands of girls are studying day and night and working their fingers to the bone just to be able to sustain themselves in the corporate world, the soap operas project that kitchen is the ultimate fate for a woman. Neither is getting into B-school is easy, nor is cooking a perfect meal. But just because your target audience mainly comprises of housewives, it doesn’t mean you’ll need to defame and demean the female workforce.

It’s really disheartening that despite being women-centric, most of the TV serials reinforce archaic beliefs about a woman’s modesty and her place in the household and in society. Maintain your dignity, keep your head down and endure the humiliation, for that is a testament to your strength of character, they seem to say. It’s generally achieved through stereotypical (and regressive) portrayal of saas-bahu relationships who are often pitted against one another just for the sake of it. Another way of doing it is through drawing a dichotomy between ‘an ideal woman’ and the ‘vamp’. The former is primarily seen in traditional attire, is respectful and performs all of her daughterly duties with precision. On the contrary, the vamp is often clad in pants or decked in heavy jewellery and make-up, has a domineering or outspoken nature, and is possibly unmarried (because who would tolerate her, right?).

So, who do you think comprises the majority of the viewer segment for these on-screen aberrations? Mostly the women-folk, specifically the elderly and the housewives and in a nation like ours we all know the sad truth of an women’s existence. Kitchen, marriage and babies, in most cases, are the holy trinity amongst which many a woman’s dreams and ambitions are snuffed out. Who are the staunchest implementers of oppressive practices on women? Women themselves! All in the name of ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’. For these women, these serials are providing a validation of their existence which otherwise is always limited to being the shadow of a male family member- Mr. X’ s wife or Mr. Y’s daughter or Mr. Z’ s mother but never an individual.

These serials with their mindless and baseless storylines make martyrs and Goddesses out of these brainless, one-dimensional female characters; glorifying submission and sacrifice to the point where rationale ceases to exist in totality. Add to it a dash of black magic and divine intervention and voila! You have just created the perfect potion to keep womenfolk tame and submissive and most importantly voiceless accompaniment to male demand and fantasy! I’m rather inclined to think of these serials as a well thought, well-crafted and well-executed strategy by a largely patriarchal powerhouse to keep women away from exerting their rights or voicing their ambition and dreams.

To conclude, these serials are basically a reflection of our societal mind-set at large and are meant to sustain that sick mind-set going forward. These storylines, intentionally or unintentionally, prevent women from being exposed to concepts of freedom and strength of character and determination, and as result women are simply reduced to an epitome of sacrifice and fragility who aren’t allowed rebel but always endure and adjust!

Indian soap operas, it’s a sincere request, please stop glorifying misery, mistaking stoicism for masochism, degrading the art of storytelling, and reinforcing gender roles on television.

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Regressive portrayal of women on Indian Television.

#BlackLivesMatter Vs. #AllLivesMatter

Saying that black lives matter doesn’t mean that other lives do not.

The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has sparked intense debate over the question of racism in USA and triggered the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests have also sparked wide-ranging conversations about the responsibility industries and organizations — including the media — have to address institutional racism. To be clear, for much of its seven-year existence, the Black Lives Matter movement has been seen by many Americans as a divisive, even radical force. It’s very name enraged it’s foes, who countered with the slogans “Blue Lives Matter” and “White Lives Matter.” The tragedy, however, dramatically sparked a wave of protests sparked and enabled the Black Lives Matter movement to go has gone mainstream. The struggle is no longer confined to the national borders of the United States. However, soon enough, #AllLivesMatter became a slogan that has come to be associated with criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, saying #AllLivesMatter completely missed the point of the Black Lives Matter.

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment – indeed, everyone should, and that was kind of your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any! The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out. That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem. The phrase “Black lives matter” carries an implicit “too” at the end; it’s saying that black lives should also matter. Saying “all lives matter” is dismissing the very problems that the phrase is trying to draw attention to.
Needless to say, dialogue matters and the George Floyd uprising has brought us hope for change. Now we must turn protest to policy.

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All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.

From Period Poverty to Period Dignity

A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.

Sadly, in a country where 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by pitiable menstrual hygiene conditions, we’re still missing out on addressing the ‘period poverty’. Period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. Lack of access to clean water, lack of toilets with doors, and difficulties disposing of used products are just some of the challenges that women face when trying to manage their periods in a private, safe and dignified manner. The inadequate access to menstrual products and education around hygiene had been a serious barrier in working towards menstrual equity. Period stigma is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality, cultural shame, internalized taboo and dogmatic religious practices that have made initiating a discourse on menstruation a catch-22. The most direct cause-cum-consequence of it is menstruation blood being strictly distinguished from other bodily fluids and being culturally portrayed as dirty, unclean and impure.

Another example of consequence of period stigma can be seen in the famous Ambubachi Mela which celebrates the menstrual time of Goddess Kamakhya where rice holds a huge significance denoted by dhan. However, it’s accompanied by the absurd myth is that when a menstruating woman touches the rice container in her household, then she and her family faces the wrath of Goddess Lakshmi. It is believed that the influx of dhan or wealth gets negatively affected in that particular household. Us, women, live a life of irony don’t we? While Ambubachi signifies fertility and celebrates the child bearing capabilities of women, the ground reality of menstruating women portray a different tale altogether.

It’s unfortunate that even though we’re living in today’s 21st century and everyone knows about it, no one is allowed to talk about it publicly. Films are being made on this, numerous campaigns are going on but the fact is that people still hesitate to utter this word in front of others looms large.

To add further to this paradoxical situation, sanitation facilities are unaffordable by most. Approximately 70 million people in India live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 dollars per day. Hence for low-income households, the cost of sanitary pads is often unattainable. An average of more than 40% of students in India resort to missing school while menstruating as a consequence of social stigma, isolation, embarrassment and inaccessibility of products. The instances of avoiding school are also ramification for the lack of proper sanitation facilities across the country.
Government has intervened to tackle this issue several times, but to no avail. In fact, in 2017, the Indian government had labelled menstrual products as luxury goods, but fortunately enough, in July of 2018, the Indian government removed the tax, to make the sanitary products more accessible to everyone. Other than this there’s the Janaushadhi Suvidha scheme which aims to provide women with oxo-biodegradable sanitary napkins at a meagre cost of Rs. 2.50/pad across 3,600 Janaushadhi Kendras in the country.

The pandemic has made the situation even more challenging than it already was. It’s well known that the coronavirus outbreak is having a devastating impact on family finances all over the world, but now we see that girls and women are also facing widespread shortages and price hikes on period products, with the result that many are being forced to make do with whatever they can find to manage their period. This can pose a real threat to their health and may increase the risk of infection. Thus, is about time we realise that menstruation is just a biological process and the secrecy surrounding it must go. It is important to normalise and de-stigmatise menstruation, and destroy taboos around this natural process.

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Period. End of Sentence.

How Social Media Affects Your Self Awareness

I recently acquainted myself with a new term called ‘Smiling Depression’. This term is unusually used for people who appear happy on the outside but are in actual fact not happy. Because of social media, this condition has become more prevalent in social media users. 

We all know of Maslow’s hierarchy of our basic needs- self actualisation is one of the needs we have as an individual and we are constantly making efforts to craft this image that is better than the current one. We try so much that this becomes almost obsessive. As humans, we are set up with the basic instincts of self-improvement and we always somehow seem to know how to identify someone who we feel is ahead of us. This creates the an endless loop of ‘smiling depression’. 

Social media is an easy and dreamy out to reality. To create the image of a person who simply wakes up fresh and rejuvenated face, has time for make-up and heads out stylish without even trying to be, but how many of us can testify it as that easy? Very few if any. We all need to realise that regardless of the amount of time we spend creating these social identities online, we are only simple humans. Others are just better at creating and embracing these images and facades on social media.

So next time you are scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed, realise these points before you slip into ‘smiling depression’:

  1. You need a time-out from social media, maybe even for the rest of the day. People are not who they are online, their image on social media is highly curated and does not always represent reality. 
  2. Confront the negative thoughts and ask yourself  ‘Where are they coming from?’. Remind yourself we all wear a mask online, no one is as happy as they appear to be on social media. Everyone has problems, even celebrities. 
  3. If social media is your boredom killer where you scroll endlessly the whole day, logout and grab a book or download gaming app or do something that you like and you’re good at. Be more productive in real life and less online.

Transgender, Trains and Taboos

What’s the first image that comes to your mind upon hearing the word “Transgender”? Is it one of disapproval, disgust and social stigma? I don’t blame you entirely because our societies since ages have developed many taboos around the transgender community. However, blaming the society for their miserable treatment doesn’t come across as a nice defense as we are ourselves form a part of that very same society.

The word Transgender is an umbrella term that describes people whose gender identity or expression does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender person may identify as a woman despite having been born with male genitalia.” You would be amazed to know about the transgender themes occurring in the Indian mythology. From the Mohini avatar of lord Vishnu, Sikhandi in Mahabharata, Lord Agni (The consort of moon good) and Lord Aravan (the transgender god) ,all find mention in ancient Indian epics and puranas).

Yet why is it that we aren’t inclusive of the transgender community?

This community has faced atrocities and discrimination to a point that it pushed the government to pass the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 in Parliament on November 26, 2019. This bill prohibits discrimination and grants rights to the transgender community of which they had been robbed of for long.

Has the bill really brought about a significant change in status quo of the Transgender community? Let’s figure it out for ourselves

  • Kochi metro employs transgender people: Kerala’s Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) shattered all myths when it offered jobs to 23 transgender people in their staff in the year 2017 through Kudumbashree Mission .It was a laudable move by KMRL which not only aimed at making the community financially independent but also  bringing about social inclusion .

One of the transgender employees says “This also was our first secure job. It proved that we too can do jobs that any other person does. With increasing acceptability, getting accommodation too became easier”.

While the other transgender members were happy to receive wedding invites from their colleagues. The commuters too expressed a welcoming attitude towards them with no incidence of misbehaving.

  • However, this once promising move could not contribute significantly in bringing about a change in the real sense. At present, out of 23 transgender persons hired only 6 are working with the KMRL. Many quit jobs citing a poor pay. The members had hard time in finding accommodation in the city .With no hike in the salary, sustaining in the city became a nightmare. 

Faisu , a former employee with the KMRL says “Since we were hired on contract, the salary was less. Our salary was `13,000, which reduced to `9,000 after all the deductions, including Provident Fund. It is difficult to meet our monthly expenses with the amount.”

  • Noida metro dedicates station for transgender Community: Following the Kochi metro model, the Noida metro dedicated Noida Sector 50 metro station for the transgender community. It is the first of its kind in North India. This praiseworthy initiative by the Yogi government aims at uplifting and providing employment to the transgender people. The station has been renamed “She man” for the inclusion of community into the mainstream. But this name hasn’t gone down well with certain people and human rights activists who called it as trans- phobic, derogatory and insulting. The committee has taken this criticism into consideration and invited suggestions on the same.These members will be offered mainly housekeeping, ticket collecting roles. This initiative comes as a ray of hope because as per Census 2011, there are 4.9 lakh transgenders in India out of which approximately 30,000 to 40,000 stay in the NCR.

Now here come the big questions

  • Who will make sure that the NOIDA metro model does not meet a similar fate as the Kochi metro?
  • Who will ensure that the transgender members get adequate salary?
  • Most importantly, who will ensure they receive fair treatment and inclusion that they deserve?

No, it is not the sole responsibility of the authorities. It is rather a collective effort. It is our combined responsibility to ensure that the transgender community receives the welcoming treatment they have long been denied. These schemes, initiatives are just a small step. In order to make them fruitful we have to work at grass root levels, spreading awareness and sensitivity about gender identity. It has to start with you and me. It’s time we bust the taboos and embrace the transgender community with open hearts.