|HER WORLD||Sunday, January 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE
doctor is also an activist
In the course of my practice, frequently I am asked how irrational feelings should be handled. Usually the individual recognises that her feelings are unreasonable with no valid evidence but feels incapable of controlling the jealousy. In addition, the person also recognises the destructive nature of indulging in the feelings and the resulting behavior. Such behavior typically involves excessive questioning of her spouse, suspiciousness and accusation. Many spouses become increasingly frustrated with this behavior because they have no way of proving their faithfulness. This leads to an escalating cycle of anger, which is used as further evidence by the jealous spouse that the suspicion is correct. Why does this happen? A fear of vulnerability is the inability to let our guards down, to let another person know us completely. This fear usually derives from a fear of rejection due the belief that if we let someone else truly know us we will ultimately get rejected. Again the fallacy is the belief. We are preventing the development of emotional intimacy, which is essential to any relationship.
Emotional intimacy is the most important type of intimacy in any relationship. It is required for any relationship to mature. Bonding is the single most important concept for improving a relationship. It is also the one concept the couples often know least about. Bonding means a unique combination of physical and emotional intimacy, the linking of touch and emotions. This is the factor most often lacking when couples report "something missing" in their relationship. Many of us have never experienced this with our partners. Many of us are so busy that we do not take the time for this kind of mutual nurturing. It is a powerful buffer against the stresses of daily life and nature's best remedy for depression. The inability to meet one's need for bonding is often at the heart of depression, yet people who are depressed rarely know that. It is as if there is a literally a primitive creature part of us whose needs for security and for nurturing are so strong that when they are unmet, the more civilised layers of our personality are not able to function effectively. In fact, we now have reason to believe from research findings that bonding is a basic, biologically-based need like eating, sleeping and breathing and it has to be satisfied on a regular periodic basis or we will develop symptoms. When our creature self is content and relaxed, our thinking is no longer coloured by panic, rage, doubt and we are far more free to think clearly and creatively.
I met Arvind and Neha, both in their thirties, who seem to have it all. Solid jobs, beautiful kids and good friends and they love each other. But the trouble is that they haven't had sex for six months. As Neha started to unwind, she said "I was spending all day in these long tense meetings, trying to defend people's jobs. When I got home I could not shake the stress." Arvind said, "I wanted to help her, to tell her that it was going to be okay but I couldn't manage it right. It definitely threw me off balance."
" All this made me really tense," said Neha. The basic problem with them was that Neha had all these people leaning on her at work and when she comes home she sees her man whining about his needs that it became a turn-off for her. Her husband feels rejected and she feels alienated. Most people are under considerable pressure to perform at work and home, which results in feelings of tension and stress. They discipline themselves to do what they have to do, not what would give them enjoyment and pleasure at the moment.
They spend most of the day among people with whom they relate to impersonally, rarely reaching out to touch them. Whether people are struggling to save a marriage, to cooperate in a family crisis, or to build a rapport with a difficult boss, they usually have one thing in common. They have to share emotional information that can help them feel connected. Whatever conflicts the couples may have-sex, money, housework, and kids-all of them long for evidence that their spouses understand and care about what they are feeling. Sharing such information through words and behavior is essential for improving any significant relationship. This includes bonds with our kids, sibling, our friends, and our coworkers. We know that people who react positively to one another's bids have greater access to expressions of humor, affection and interest during arguments. It is almost as if all the good feelings they have accumulated by responding respectfully and lovingly to each other's bids form a pot of emotional "money in the bank". People who can stay present with one another have a much better opportunity to resolve issues through their conflicts, repair hurt feelings and build positive regard. But this good work must begin long before the conflict starts. So what happens when we habitually fail to respond positively to one another's bid for emotional connection? Such failure is rarely malicious or mean-spirited. We are simply unaware of or insensitive to other's bids for our attention. When such mindlessness becomes habitual, the results can be devastating. Many of the people who come to me for counselling describe themselves as consumed by loneliness. They feel lonely despite their proximity to many significant people in their liveslovers, spouses, friends, children, parent's etc. often they feel surprised and greatly disappointed at the deterioration of their relationships. "I love my wife" one man says about his faltering marriage, "but our relationship feels empty somehow". He senses that the passion is waning. What he cannot see are all the opportunities for closeness that surround him.
Like so may distressed, lonely people, he does not mean to ignore or dismiss his spouse's bids for emotional connection. It is just that the bids happen in such mundane ways that he does not recognise these moments as very important. People like this typically have trouble at work, as well. Although they are often skilled at forming bonds during student life, when they first start a job they tend to focus totally on the tasks at hand, often to the detriment of their relationships with co-workers. Later, when they are passed over for a promotion or when they discover they have no influence on an important project, they are baffled. And they often feel betrayed and disappointed by their colleagues and bosses as a result. Such feelings of disappointment and loss also crop up in the relationships with friends and relatives. Many describe peers, siblings and children as disloyal, unworthy of trust. But when we dig deeper, we find a familiar pattern. They seem unaware of the bids for communication that their friends and family have been sending them. So it is no wonder that their loved ones feel no obligation to continue their support. Conflicts can be prevented if they could simply acknowledge one another's emotional need. Arguments spring from misunderstandings and feelings of separation that might have been avoided if people would have the conversation they need to have. But because they don't they argue instead. Such conflicts can lead to marital discords, divorce, parenting problems and family feuds. Friendships fade and deteriorate. Adult sibling relationships wither and die. Kids raised in homes filled with chronic conflict have more difficulty learning, getting along with friends and staying healthy. People who cannot connect are also more likely to suffer isolation as well as dissatisfaction and instability in their work lives.
So what do we conclude? That emotional intimacy is most important feedback in any healthy long-lasting relationship. Without it what we have is the initial surface attraction to the other person which cannot be maintained indefinitely.
How can one build emotional intimacy
Making a date. I believe that in our busy world, it is essential for couples to plan special times together for the sole purpose of enjoying each
other’s company. It gives you an opportunity to leave the tensions of the day behind and let your feelings take over.
Protecting your privacy is essential.
For most couples, the biggest problem are children. " I am always nervous that the kids will overhear or come barging in". said an exasperated mother as she told me how she and her spouse spent no time alone. Children should be taught that both they and their parents have this right to privacy. That parents enjoy each other emotionally and physically and have a private life together is the best preparation children can have for their own development. The telephone always rings at the wrong time. Just take the receiver off the hook when you want to spend quality time with your partner.
Expressing your feelings without criticising is essential.
To say "you smell. Why don't you take a shower?" is an attack. "I enjoy being close to you when you are fresh" is a straightforward and uncritical statement. I strongly recommend that a television set not be part of bedroom equipment. Its hypnotic influence tends to separate people rather than permit them to concentrate on each other.
Role of fantasy.
Many people feel guilty about their sexual fantasies. Often they fear their fantasies are abnormal. In reality such fantasies are entirely normal. The fact such thoughts excite your fantasy does not mean that you will act that way in reality. So if` you are fantasizing do not worry that you are being disloyal to your partner.
Communicating with the intent to understand and appreciate is important. When we communicate to intimidate, threaten, disapprove, hurt, fault find, or make someone feel guilty, we are misusing communication. We may succeed in controlling, but inevitably we will create resentment. Without appreciation a person begins to feel inadequate and incapable of giving support. We lose our will to give and feel miserable.
Find the time to be with each other, to listen, to hear, to convey to each other that this time together is valued. It is a closeness that fills both a skin hunger and a need to feel safe in the world, to feel that you can trust another person with your whole being.
Though, we are brought up to be calm, analytical and obedient, what happens when love strikes like lightening and you brave the world to be with him? Then, suddenly he too goes away forever.
He was not the typecast, tall, dark and handsome hero, neither was he the owner of a riyaasat, yet the 20-year-old Ritika was suspiciously looked upon when she decided to marry the handicapped, bedridden Vineet Khanna 16 years her senior. For this young and attractive student of Auckland House and St. Bedes graduate doing Masters in Communication at Panjab University, it was a meeting of souls with the highly motivated, brave and happy go lucky achiever Vineet. Some would have suspected her for wanting to partake in his well-placed connections. That love and only love could be the motivator for such an action seemed too normal and ordinary a reason to many in our society of warped and complicated reasoning. She married the mind, the heart, the soul. The body was incidental and even a bodily perfect husband can fall prey to unfortunate circumstances. Would one suspect the wife’s motives then? The birth of a daughter brought about more acceptance for Ritika by society and the family at large. For Vineet, Ritika was a pure, innocent child bride to be protected and loved. For Ritika, everything began and ended with Vineet. He was such a fighter, such a survivor. Every time he bounced back after long spells of ill-health but life was always touch and go. This time it was nothing serious and lasted for just a day. She just sat in utter disbelief when doctors pronounced him dead. She watched and stared at Vineet and almost expected him to suddenly come back and breathe. Vineet had left behind a shattered 70-year-old mother, an uncomprehending six-year-old daughter under the care of a young, desolate Ritika who was not yet 30. While she despaired, many household items were taken away by wayward visitors, relatives or servants. There was no property or finances for her security. Vineet’s wonderchild, the YTTS (Youth Technical Training Service) stands desolate. The only helper ran away with whatever cash was available in the office. The famous and rich directors who surely benefited in Vineet’s reflected glory have no time for YTTS and have only found it necessary to appoint Ritika as a secretary who is receiving half the emoluments that her husband was getting. This was when I met her two months after Vineet’s death. She hadn’t even got enough time to grieve for him and there she was trying to live by his philosophy of brave acceptance and trying to save his dream of YTTS. There was no one to even tell her about the computer code or the Governmental procedure, let alone about any other system. She sat alone in the office from 10 am to 6 pm, learning by trial and error. The beneficiaries of YTTS are only interested in receiving. All of Vineet’s high connections and well-known, well-off friends have disappeared. After nine months of his death, YTTS is more of Ritika’s baby. She has reorganised people and systems according to her method and feels more positive about her ability to look after Vineet’s dream. She has managed to involve directors but wishes others too would use their wealth and connections for the betterment of YTTS. Strangely enough, instead of supporting the YTTS in its crusade to educate slum dwellers and help them to break mental barriers towards attending regular schools, our bureaucracy and government agencies form a duo that is extremely harassing . They leave the slums intact but demolish the YTTS sheds. The government aid denied to YTTS still remains Rs. 1/- per child per day for nutrition . Pathetic indeed.
"Why does our social work finish
with neat and convenient efforts of blood donation, polio drops and
distributing blankets and sewing machines?" Riitika laments.
"We need human beings to walk with us through slums, hold their
babies convince men and women there to work for better lives."
Are some Rotarians listening? Friends like Suniana Mehta have rallied
around to give her morale a tremendous boost. Her parents look after
her daughter, while Reetika learns to survive. It is Vineet’s love
that’s helping Ritika to survive. Will any of us —so proud, so
fond, so friendly with Vineet— reach out to be with the woman he
loved, the mother of his child and help her in her brave effort to
keep the Vineet Flag Flying?
is also an activist
Vanita Gupta, was elected president of the Rotary Club of Chandigarh Mid-town for 2000-2001. The first woman president of this club, she is Head of the Dermatology Department in Sector 16 General hospital. She says when she took over as president, her desire was that families of members should form one well-knit family. "Only then could we move into the community and the world to spread Rotary’s spirit of cheer and peace," says Vanita. Not only the spouses, but also the children took an active part in the activities of the club because she tried to increase their level of involvement. That’s why spouses and even children of the members were given awards at the close of the year.
When asked about the problems faced by her as the first woman president, she said nothing there was nothing of that sort. On the contrary, she got more support from the members. Although Vanita had been an honorary member of the Rotary Club for a number of years in Patiala and Ferozepore, she became a regular member of the Rotary Club of Chandigarh Mid-town in 1992 and in eight years rose to be its president. When asked that why is that people are more attracted towards international organisations rather than Indian organisations, Vanita said that the perspective of international organisations is bigger and their scope wider. Voluntary organisations in India always face the problem of funds. They mostly have to depend on Centre or state governments for grants and their own financial contribution is negligible.
Sarangpur, a village near Chandigarh with a population less than 2000, was adopted by her club. Vanita said that when they first visited the village, women of lower castes demanded construction of toilets for them. To implement this and other projects in the village the amount needed was 16000 U.S dollar (Rs 7.35 lakh). She explained that there is matching grant scheme in the Rotary International which is very useful. Hence, her club was able to collect 4000 US. dollar and 4000 US. dollar were given to us by the Milano Sub-east Club. The total amount was sent to the Rotary International which returned the 16000 US. dollars by adding the matching grant of 8000 U.S dollars.
A community block of toilets—10 for male and 10 for female has been constructed. In addition to this, 21 individual toilets in the home of very poor and needy households were also built. These toilets will, particularly, help the women as they had to wait till it gets dark to go to the fields to relieve themselves. This wait was causing urinary and gynaecological problems. A two-room set was also built for the sweeper.
A vocational training centre was also set up in the village by the club where stitching, embroidery and knitting is taught. Safe, filtered and cooled drinking water was provided for school children. A night school was started for which a teacher is provided by the club and a sweeper by the school. Besides this, 100 trees with tree guards were planted and swings for the children of nursery were provided.
In fact the project in Sarangpur is a continuing one. The people have demanded extension of the vocational centre in which electrician trade would be added this year. Referring to the night school, Vanita said that this year the emphasis would be on placement of students. She plans to make an effort to rehabilitate disabled and find employment for them. The revolving loan project is another scheme under which an interest-free loan of Rs 10,000 can be given to entrepreneurs. They have to return Rs 500 per month.
Unless there is an attitudinal change, not much can be achieved as far as the empowerment of women is concerned. In all homes, while making decisions, the participation of woman should be necessary. This participation is there only in the urban areas but is negligible in the rural areas.
Vanita feels even though the
Government has enacted so many laws to improve the status of women,
they have proved ineffective because there is no attitudinal change. Crime
against women cells have been set up by the state governments at the
state and district levels. In many cases, it has been noticed, women
too have tried to falsely implicate not only their husbands but his
relatives as well. Vanita feels that in order to curb this tendency,
there is no harm if crime against husband cells are also set up.
"Joys and trials of being single" by Picky Panwar was a serious write-up. There are numerous women who have opted to be single throughout their life and are living a carefree life. It is no sin to be alone or unmarried, if you choose to do so. Every individual has every right to choose how to spend her or his life. For womenfolk, marriage is considered to be mandatory especially in India, especially in the rural areas, and being single remains a taboo.
H.S. Dimple, Jagraon.
There is no denying the fact that the women, who choose to remain single be it because of career, family, social or some other responsibilities are, unfortunately, not easily acceptable to society or even understood by their own near ‘n’ dear ones. An Indian woman still is usually seen as more of a mother, wife or sister than a human being with a mind and heart of her own. First, she is expected to be or a good daughter and then a great daughter-in law!
Not all married women find it hard to spread their wings but women who completely refuse to remain confined to the four walls of home or tied in a less meaningful or productive relationship should not be considered as "fools" and taken advantage of, by relatives, friends, employees or others close to them. Instead, they deserve to be respected for being able to survive in this male-dominated world on their own.
Yasmin Dutta, Panchkula
Wronged by religion
The article "Wronged by religion" by Shikha Mehra showed how women can be thwarted by religion. Her charm and beauty are the worst enemies of a woman. Who has not been lured by the charms of women, including our gods? Fundamentalists and the propounders of the various theories and founders of religions considered only the woman a greatest obstacle in the course of self-realisation through religion. Tulsi, the great saint portrayed the woman as seductress in this couplet: Nari ki parchhaaeen se hot bhujang—Tulsika dasha unid jo rahatnari ke sang. How derogatory it is!
Since the founders of the religions and the heads of societies were males; they coined all the rules and principles to impose their superiority based on sex discrimination. Her status was relegated to second or third place, reducing her to the life of a slave as a sex entertainer. Chastity, virginity and purdah were made mandatory for her to block all roads to liberation.
Kings and amirs had exclusive harems teeming with choicest beauties to entertain them. Even men working in these harems were castrated for obvious reasons. You can say Talaaq thrice and you get rid of the your old wife, paving the way for the new one at the drop of a hat. Purdah is a clever ploy to keep her bound, away from the public gaze.
A woman is a puppet in the hands of the man who never wants to liberate her from his clutches since he has been using her as a sex object since time immemorial, under the garb of religion.
Karnail Singh, Shahpurkandi
Although equal dignity is afforded to men and women by all religions, yet the fundamentalists of all religions have their own agenda to control women. Why do we allow fundamentalists to flourish and have a field day in implementing their designs? This is reflected in their agenda and this is what makes women the sole focus of fundamentalists’ anti-women agenda.
In every religion, the educated and enlightened lot tends to keep a distance from religion and religious affairs/activity. This leaves the field free for fundamentalists to operate and dominate. With the result, women suffer and become the victims of fundamentalists’ ire. People with a liberal outlook must come to the aid of women and not distance themselves from their respective religions and pass on or hand over the control of their respective religions to the fundamentalists. The educated and enlightened lot should not shy away from the religion and must remain in the driver’s seat of their respective religions and institute religions reforms as dictated by the social, cultural, educational, moral and religious milieu of the present time. Command of religious affairs must remain with the educated lot at all costs.
As rightly brought out in the write-up, it is the women’s lack of education and economic independence which leaves them with little choice but to silently suffer and live with prevalent attitudes. This calls for an urgent need for empowerment of women and provision of free and compulsory education for them. ‘Empowerment’ of women in rural areas through the Panchayati Raj Bill has brought about a self-realisation in them and they have an inner urge to acquire education and knowledge. Women panchayat leaders have realised that they need to acquire an education to perform better in their roles. On the one hand we see a great spectacle of almost a million women panchayat members who have begun to govern our villages, while on the other hand there is the sad and tragic life of thousands of those women who have become victims of brutal physical attacks and psychological terror and torture, domestic violence, rape and dowry deaths. It is often said that the measure of a civilisation is how well it treats its women. We should, therefore, ensure that women are not wronged by religion. Fundamentalists trying to take control of our respective religions because of the disinterest being shown by enlightened people in religious affairs should be countered. We should not be unconcerned about the need for social and religious reforms so that women get dignity and status due to them.