Are women attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes?

Women are attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes claims a research which was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Pelin Gul from Iowa State University and Tom Kupfer from the University of Kent. This made me ponder on my attitude towards benevolent sexism. 

The concept of benevolent sexism was first developed in 1996 by Peter Glick and Susan Fiske. Peter Glick is a psychologist who studies benevolent sexism — “the paternalistic belief that women are pure, fragile flowers in need of men’s protection.” Benevolent sexism, unlike hostile sexism, feels positive and well-intentioned. According to the research, the warm feeling surrounding benevolent sexism come at a cost – and that cost is gender inequality.

So does that mean opening the door for a woman, paying the bill for a dinner, pulling the chair for the lady to sit – a display of benevolent sexism? Well the old-fashioned way of describing this exact behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry! It reminds me of the SRK style of wooing women (and of course the women adored it :))  But things have quite changed with the millennials and Gen Z in terms of the gender equation and expectations. The good ol’ SRK wooing style would probably freak out the millennial women. Check the two videos below and one can find the transition in  the male – female equations. SRK in the first one is flattering while Irfan in the second one seems much more relatable, vulnerable and hence more authentically humane. You get the vibes of an equal relationship between the characters in the second video.

The old-fashioned way of describing this exact same behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry!

But according to the research  women are still attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitude.The study proposes an explanation drawn from evolutionary and socio-cultural theories (parental investment theory) on mate preferences. As biologically woman’s reproductive success is tied to her ability to complete months of gestation and lactation –  she is wired to choose a mate who was able and willing to assist in this process – by providing food or protection from aggressors to increase her reproductive success. Evolution, therefore, shaped female psychology to prefer mates whose characteristics and behaviors reveal the willingness to invest (i.e. protect, provide and commit). Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Hence there is a conflict between the evolutionary response to benevolent sexism and her current state of autonomy. Probably that’s why women tend to send conflicting signals on how they would like to be treated.This leads to confusion for many men. Should they pay the bill  on a dinner date or should they go dutch? Should they open the door or should they not? Would she feel being treated as less equal or would she consider it being rude? 

Recent studies show men are acting less like a “gentleman” and that has to do with the conflicting signals they receive from the society and women. 

The new generation of independent women certainly are not expecting a knight in a shining armor. So should we consider chivalry to be dead?  Probably yes in the way it used to be defined earlier but chivalry could be redefined.  It could be redefined as kindness and thoughtfulness. Holding a door for someone with hand full of grocery irrespective of the gender is chivalry. Being emotionally supportive and supporting her growth can be the new age chivalry. Chivalry now may look a lot less like FLATTERY but more like genuine RESPECT – oh boy! that definitely is attractive.

What are your thoughts on this? Would like to hear from you.

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SoulCafe : Building & Celebrating Soulful Relationships

 

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The Travelling Tea-Seller Couple and the Joy of Shared Dreams

For the past few months the social feeds were cluttered with grand celebrity wedding pictures and hashtags #deepveer #virushka #nickyanka #couplegoals – every picture carefully crafted and staged to perfection. It seems those celebrity wedding hashtags were inspired by how some malayali parents named their kids 🙂 ( the formula was quite simple – select a combination of both the mother’s and father’s names. eg: Joseph and Jisha =Joji)

Beyond the staged perfection, let’s get to some “real #couplegoals”. I recently happened to meet a couple who looked very ordinary but would definitely give us all some real #couplegoals – Vijayan and Mohana who in their late sixties run a wayside tea shop in Kochi. What’s unique about this tea shop “Sri Balaji Coffee House” other than the perfect tea & fresh vadas are the innumerable framed pictures of their travel around the world. The tea costs only Rs 5 and so does the vada. This being their single source of income – one would wonder how the hell do they manage to travel? They have traveled to 23 countries and counting!

Talking to them, here is what I learnt.

1. The joy of having shared meaning and shared dream as a couple. 

Vijayan and Mohana have a shared dream that they both work towards – the dream of travelling and experiencing the world. The ups and downs of life are less bothersome for them for they have found meaning to their life with their travel. A successful marriage has to be more than raising kids, paying bills, and getting chores done. 

According to American psychological researcher Dr. John Gottman’s – “An essential element of a lasting marriage is the ability to create shared meaning, a purpose, or a dream with your partner.”

2. No dream is too bigno dreamer too small.

When asked if she had always dreamt of traveling the world as she was growing up, Mohana responds – “I wasn’t even sure if I could even dream of travelling the world, let alone expecting it to happen for real. But now I would say we should all have dreams and work hard towards realizing it.”

Vijayan shares this instance – “Once on our travel to Tirupati, as I gazed at a plane that was flying over me, I told my friends – I want to travel in a plane to which they said it was only meant for the rich people.” 

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This quote holds so true for Vijayan and Mohana. 

Dreams come a size too big so that we may grow into them – Josie Bisset

3. It’s a bliss when your life partner is your business partner and travel partner – all combined.

The first impression one might get of Mohana is of a docile south Indian grand-ma but once you talk to her, you soon realize that she is an equal partner in running the tea shop, managing family affairs, finances and planning for each travel.

Her sensibility complements his spontaneity.

It comes as no surprise when Mr.Vijayan mentions – “She is the source of my strength. I have always wanted to travel with her. “

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4. Shared experiences connects us more to each other .

Their way side tea shop might look small but the walls of Sri Balaji Coffee House is filled with snapshots of their memories and experiences. They have been filling their life with experiences, not things. They have stories to tell not material wealth to show case.

We as humans are the accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, and the places we’ve been. According to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades –Shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption.

5. If you are working towards fulfilling your dream – there is no need to retire.

To fund their travels, they have mortgaged their shop and even taken bank loans.  After returning from travel, the couple works hard repaying the loan and saving money to set out for the next destination. When asked about retirement, they said they plan to work as long as they can! They have a shared dream and purpose that they work towards. They surely have a purpose to get up and open up their shop every morning.

This reminded me about Okinawa, a Japanese Island with the longest life expectancy in the world where they don’t  have a formal word in their language for “retirement”! They don’t have the concept of retirement, instead they do have an interesting word (and philosophy) ikigai – which roughly translates to “the reason you wake up in the morning.” It’s the thing that drives you most.

6. When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

After the couple’s story made it to media, they attracted a lot of attention, and funds were raised to fund their trip to USA. Intrigued by their life philosophy, Hari Mohan, turned their heart warming story into a documentary called “Invisible Wings” (check for the link below) which won the Best Short Film award in the Non-Fiction category at the 2018 Filmfare Short Film Awards. 

We have to be willing to create a vision for our lives, and work relentlessly towards it. When the universe realizes you are dead serious about your dreams – it starts conspiring for you!

When asked where do you plan to go next? Vijayan responded – “Scandinavian Countries”.  Let the universe keep conspiring in helping you fulfill your dreams Mr Vijayan and Mohana! 

If you wish to help fund their Scandinavian dream, shoot us a message by entering your details below:

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Being REAL – The “Velveteen Rabbit” Way.

The slogans of  “Being Real”, “Being You” buzz around us more often these days. With a few quotes tweeted, some posts shared and by becoming part of the  forums of our choice – we think we are portraying our REAL selves. Honestly, being REAL (yes, the REAL in caps) ain’t that  easy in a world filled with “mirages of perfection”.

Sometimes when I feel lost on my quest to find answers, I take refuge in the timeless stories from my childhood, and these stories become my guiding stara guiding star that’s always reassuring and lights up to help me find my way. One such story is the children’s classic  “The Velveteen Rabbit” (written by  Margery Williams). Timeless as the book may be, it’s a story that speaks to our deepest anxieties about our quest for becoming REAL.

The story revolves around a stuffed toy – a velveteen rabbit that is gifted to a boy on Christmas. When rabbit is introduced in the boy’s nursery, he realizes that he is a simple toy among the myriad of toys that are more sophisticated than him – having moving parts and operate on switches and batteries. The poor little rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse – the oldest toy and hence the wisest one at the nursery.

Here is the piece of conversation between the velveteen rabbit and the skin horse that answers the question on “Being Real” in its most simple, yet profound way.

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Velveteen Rabbit : What is REAL?

Skin Horse –Real isn’t how you are made, It’s a thing that happens to  you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.

Love makes us Real. The love for one self and for others is what makes us Real. When we allow ourselves to be deeply affected by someone we are in essence, becoming more “Real” through our openness. The best way to understand the word intimacy is to read it as “Into-Me-See” – When we allow someone to see ourselves, as we overcome the fear that our real selves is unlovable or not good enough – is when love grows. As someone put it – Love is the mutual beholding of one another’s realness.

Velveteen Rabbit – Does it hurt?

Skin Horse: Sometimes but when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.

Without our armor of pretence, we open ourselves to be disliked by some, ridiculed by others but only when we open up being ourselves  – true connections, creativity and meaningful life happens. Hence once you are “REAL”, you grow beyond the “hurts” from the ignorant few.

Velveteen Rabbit – Does it happen all at once, like being wound up or bit by bit?

Skin Horse – It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.

Being REAL is a process. It doesn’t happen all at once. It is a process that can be slow, painful, and hence doesn’t happen to everyone.

Skin Horse –

Once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

Once you are real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.

True that! Once REAL, you can never be UGLY and you can never go back to being UNREAL again! And I sum it up with Colbie Caillat’s  soulful song – ” Take your make up off, let your hair down, take a breath, look into the mirror at yourself –  don’t you like you? Cause, I like you.” 

The changing timetable for adulthood.

Why aren’t the millennials (defined as the group those who are born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter) settling down? The word “settling down” unsettles this lot. This topic gets quite uncomfortable around the dinner table with parents and quite weird with relatives at a  family function. Most of the time the settling down question is a polite way of asking – “When are you getting married ?”

The earlier generation is not to be blamed because sociologists traditionally defined the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: 1) Completing school 2) Leaving home 3) Becoming financially independent 4) Marrying and  5) Having a child. Well in the Indian context and especially for women milestone 2 might be listed after 4 :).

But what they fail to realize is how the definition of adulthood today has remarkably changed. The 2014 Clark University Established Adult Poll found that the top three markers for adulthood were – 1)Accepting responsibility for self, 2) Financial independence and 3) Making independent decisions.

That’s exactly what the millennials are trying to achieve. We’re in an era of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Jeffery Jensen Arnet a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is leading the movement to view the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “Emerging Adulthood”. Emerging adulthood is identified as a stage of – identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities”. Emerging adults are on an intense search for personal authenticity, awareness, and personal definition. Robbins and Wilner in their book Quarter Life Crisis state that twenties are ripe with self-doubt and intense with introspection.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated. The path to adulthood is taken now at an uneven, highly individual pace. Some never achieve all five milestones –  adults could stay single or couples could stay childless by choice.

The “emerging adults” who are in an identity exploration phase, the idea of “settling down” is naturally quite unsettling. But the question is – why do we consider committing to a long-term relationship as “settling down”? Why does it feel like there is a lot to be ticked off from the bucket list before that “settling down” happens?

Wouldn’t it make better sense if the idea of committing to a relationship rather “stir” up our lives with possibilities – bigger dreams and a bigger appetite for taking risks, because now you got a partner in crime.

  • Have a start-up idea – now you have a partner to support.
  • Caught up with wanderlust- now you get a partner to travel with.
  • Always dreamt of publishing your book – now there is someone who pushes you to get it done or even better you co-author with them. Like this couple.

Sharing that wanderlust with your spouse and even your children or allowing your dreams to grow even larger to include your spouse and family – makes your aspirations even more worthwhile. According to a US research, nearly 70 percent of the founders of high-growth successful businesses were married when they became entrepreneurs (Jeff Bezos quit his high paying job and started Amazon.com with his wife MacKenzi, immediately after their marriage). Talking about the initial days of Infosys, Sudha Murthy mentioned – “I wrote programs for Infosys. There was no car, no phone, and just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling our lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape.”  

Think about it – the companionship in marriage should rather unsettle us with new perspectives, new journeys and new experiences. It should not be a full stop to our aspirations but an exclamation mark in our life stories. This would only happen when we free ourselves from the burden of societal expectations on what a picture perfect settled life should look like – considering the fact that the “emerging adulthood” is a new concept and traditional milestones of adulthood are still relevant in the minds of many around us.

Let the path of adulthood be uneven and individually paced – to  each, their own. Let it not be a rush towards ticking off societal check boxes and let committed relationship be an exclamation mark in your life story because as the quote goes:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

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SoulCafe: Building & Celebrating Soulful Relationships.

Understanding the Quiet Ones

We all know someone in our respective circles who would prefer a quiet weekend reading books, someone who often makes an excuse when asked to join an office party, someone who seems to have ideas but isn’t necessarily the one who speaks the loudest in a brain storming session. We often call them the “serious types”, the loner or even a snob. They are the introverts amongst us. And believe me, most of them are used to being misunderstood, misinterpreted and probably have been asked to change their behavior since an early age.

Our school system favors and promotes extroversion making introversion seem like a personality flaw. Extroversion becomes the standard that all of us feel we need to conform to. To put things into perspective, until recently left handedness was also frowned upon, and left handed kids were forced to become right handed (sounds weird now)! Our prejudice comes from our ignorance about human behavior and our inability to accept the diversity in behavioral pattern.

Our prejudice comes from our ignorance about human behavior and our inability to accept the diversity in behavioral pattern.

It becomes important to understand where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum – because introversion and extroversion are at the heart of human nature. When we make life choices that are congruent with our temperament, we unleash vast stores of energy. With a misunderstanding about introversion and the social conditioning of extroversion being a desirable behavioral trait, most introverts end up spending their life emulating extroverts to fit in. The stress of not being “true to yourself” results in a feeling of void.

“Isn’t it refreshing to know that what comes perfectly natural for you is your greatest strength? Your power is in your nature. – Laurie A. Helgoe, Introvert Power

Understanding Introversion

Neither is introversion shyness nor are introverts anti-social or arrogant people. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Famous personalities like Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffett, JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Elon Musk, Emma Watson and Mark Zuckerberg are all introverts. It just proves that – you don’t have to be the loudest personality in the room to be at the top of your game.

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Carl Jung brought the terms `intro vert’ and `ex trovert’ into the spotlight in the 1920s. He defined an introvert as a person who gets his energy from within. An extrovert, however, is charged due to external stimuli. So while introverts need solitude to think things through, extroverts are stimulated by activities, people and places around them. As per Jung’s clinical studies, there are no pure extroverts or introverts – most people fall in different ranges of the spectrum.

Recent scientific research have found that the brains of introverts and extroverts are activated  differently. Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, so they need more of it to feel happy. While introverts are more sensitive to dopamine, so too much of it makes them feel overstimulated. Also, the Introverts prefer to use a different neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Like dopamine, acetylcholine is also linked to pleasure; the difference is, acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward.

 Introverts & Relationships

One of the gifts of introversion is that we have to be discriminating about our relationships.  We know we only have so much energy for reaching out; if we’re going to invest, we want it to be good.

~ Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power

It’s a misconception that introverts are not interested in people or relationships. The truth is they actually crave intimacy more than extroverts do. They are built for deep connections. They usually avoid small talk. They  love to share emotions, feelings and ideas.

Does an introvert – extrovert relationship work? Yes, it can. An introvert – extrovert combination can be a complimentary relationship as long as the extroverted partner understands the introverted partner’s need for recharging and downtime and the introvert partner respects the extrovert partner’s need for significant social interaction.

Relationships make everyone happier and that very much includes the introverts too.

Here is a TED talk from Susan Cain who is the author of the book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She is also the co-founder of Quiet Revolution, which empowers introverts for the benefit of everyone.

The Soul Travellers : Ellie & Ravi

There are a lot of us who love to travel but very few who dare to put it at the center of their very being.  Here is a couple who travel not just to explore but with the intention to give back to the places they travel. Their inner calling to travel for self discovery led them to each other. Their cultural differences has enriched their lives as they keep enriching the world around them. Let’s talk to the Soul Traveling couple – Ellie and Ravi!

Soul Cafe: Tell us how Ellie from London met Ravi from Mumbai : “The Ellie met Ravi story.”

Ellie: I have been traveling for several years now to different places; I always flew over India but never happened to really come visiting the country – until 2015.

Every time I flew to some country in south east Asia I ended waking up while flying above India! As mystical and funny it might sound I knew that India was a calling and the day finally came when I started travelling to India.

My first stop was Varanasi, and then India never left me; I kept coming back and wanting to see more. One trip I was in Mumbai for a blogging event where I was introduced to Ravi as at that time he was food blogging as a hobby. Even though I had to fly home to London the next day, we kept in touch and we had that soul connection right from the start we felt. Friendship is something we shared fondly which later grew into a special relationship and a couple of years later, here we are working together as well as being together. We now stay in Toronto, Canada, but dream of coming back to India most days!

Soul Cafe: How has it been being a multi-cultural couple? 

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Ellie & Ravi: In many ways, being in a multi-cultural couple is no different than “normal” (whatever that means!) There are things one has to sacrifice and adjust to, but that is the case in any partnership.

We find that we have a lot to learn from each others’ cultures and we’re lucky enough to be able to incorporate the best of both – so being a multi-cultural couple has been a blessing for us!

There are so many beautiful things to emulate in both the cultures for example a common feeling of respecting your elders, having closely knit families, sharing and kindness. In the beginning especially though, there are lots of things to talk about and iron out. Where we do have misunderstandings and different expectations, we find it is usually over food!! 😉

Soul Cafe: Your travel blog “Soul Travel” is dedicated to “responsible, sustainable and mindful travel”. From love of travel to mindful travelling – was it a natural progression for the two of you?

Ellie & Ravi: The blog Soul Travel was always built on the philosophy of mindful travelling, but of course it was travel prior to the blog that brought us to this point. One of the reasons we promote travel is because we believe in its ability to make us conscious and open our eyes: to our environment and people around us. 

When we travel outside of our comfort zone and usual sphere of reference, we can journey deeper within ourselves too.

Over the last year we have also become actively involved in supporting start-ups in the eco-tourism industry with digital marketing so that sustainable and mindful travel businesses can be truly successful, and profitable! Tourism is responsible for 10% of global GDP so we feel we have a responsibility to help make the impact of travel more positive. So mindful travelling is something which we both practice as much as possible as well as encouraging others to do so. 

Soul Cafe: What has been the most rewarding aspect for both of you in your “Soul Travel” journey?

Gateway of IndiaWe continue to be humbled and inspired by the people that we meet on our journey, particularly those who run their own sustainable and ethical tourism projects and are focused on making an impact in a big or small way. Working and travelling together has been hugely rewarding too, we have learned so much about each other through the process and we wouldn’t change that for anything.

Soul Cafe: How has your relationship with each other and with the world evolved with your soulful travels?

Ellie & Ravi: It has helped us to be more communicative and empathetic towards each others needs, differences and leverage on the strengths we bring to “Soul Travel”. Its the solid support system that you build together that also helps in situations where we have to be pragmatic.

Soul Cafe: How is travelling to blog about it, a completely different experience than just travelling for leisure?

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Travelling for blog is hard work, we always hear people say to us that we have a “dream job” but more often than not we’ll be behind our laptops rather than lounging on a beach! 

We certainly realize that we are very lucky to be able to travel and see the world in the first place, but there is a lot more work to blogging / working remotely than there looks to be! For each destination we visit we are constantly thinking about the content we will create, what photos and videos we will need, as well as creating social media content in real time – it adds up to quite a lot! We also realized that living as digital nomads” or always on the road is not something for us – we prefer the comfort of having somewhere to call home at the end of a trip.

Soul Cafe: Do you mostly travel together or is it a combination of solo trips and traveling as a couple? How would you compare the experience of solo trip vs traveling together?

Ellie Train India

Ravi : Soul Travel Blog was founded by Ellie before we met, and she traveled solo to start with. Traveling as a solo female traveler has its own benefits and challenges, you are on your own schedule, but it comes with plenty of its own challenges too, depending on which part of the world you are in. One of the biggest challenges for solo female travelers in south Asia for instance (including India) is how they are viewed by men.

We strongly believe that solo female travel should be encouraged and supported in all parts of the world, by men as well as women.

Solo travel has been an important part of her experience and personal journey, as well as helping me to understand some of the challenges for female travelers too. Nowadays we travel together most of the time which we love, and also feel it has been responsible for helping us grow closer and help understand some of our cultural differences too: it’s also been key for helping us grow together in our view of life, love for each other and grow as our own personalities too. Of course there are moments when we don’t like each other 😉 but fortunately our travel styles are quite similar- and that helps a lot. 

We have found that traveling together has made us more selfless and kind to each other

(You can read more on  Ellie and Ravi’s travel  on their  Blog )

Soul Cafe: What would you say about these advises that we see on social media – leave your job, pack your bags and travel/ being a digital nomad?

Ellie & Ravi: Well… there’s a bit more to it than that! Having said that we believe that whatever you do with faith and commitment can be done. Being a digital nomad has become very hyped up and trendy at the moment, and more worryingly there are a lot of “digital nomads” who make most of their money from selling courses to people who want to be digital nomads rather than from doing anything else. Being nomadic is not for everyone – some people like to have a home base, and that’s ok! Working from different places around the world is possible in many different ways, and “digital nomadism” is just one of them. Setting up your own business – be it a travel blog or a fully fledged startup – takes time, and even years before you start to see financial stability from it, so if you’re planning a big change, make sure you have the savings to support yourself for a reasonable amount of time.  

Being nomadic is not for everyone – some people like to have a home base, and that’s okay!

(Here is Ellie’s Blog article on Digital Nomadic Life)

Soul Cafe: There are instances when we are confronted by something that doesn’t just feel right as we travel. This could be a cultural thing or an outcome of the rise of commercial tourism? As a mindful traveler, how does one handle it? 

Ellie & Ravi : Yes, there are unfortunately many examples of where tourism has sadly not had a good impact. The obvious ones are wildlife-related, but tourism can also have a negative impact on people too.

In Venice, Italy for example the locals have all but left the city because there are simply too many tourists who have forced property prices up and no-one can afford to live there anymore.

With regards to wildlife tourism, it is sad that many animals have suffered because of tourism – from dolphins and whales that get constantly chased by boats on dolphin or whale spotting trips, to elephants that are kept in poor conditions / chained up and used for entertainment, to zoos and aquariums that do not have animal welfare in mind.These issues are complex, and there is rarely a black and white answer.

For us, the most important principle is respect – whether it’s for people or animals – or the environment.

When you visit somewhere think about the people that live there, ask permission before clicking photos, and show them consideration. When it comes to animals our view is that wildlife is best viewed from a distance, in the wild – we try to avoid any activities that “interfere” with wild animals such as petting, riding, or even selfies. Some so-called “sanctuaries” are not what they seem, so we generally stay away from those, too.

Soul Cafe: You talk about making positive changes as one travels – tell us how can one change the world as one travels?

Ellie & Ravi: It all starts with one-step at a time. Perhaps the most important thing is re-focusing travel to be as much about the places we visit as it is about ourselves.

Secondly, make sure not to leave any waste behind that might spoil the beautiful scenery. Avoid plastic wherever possible; carry a re-usable water bottle with you, avoid using straws, take-away cups and meal-containers, and choose to dine-in instead to avoid the use of single-use plastic that often cannot be disposed of properly and ends up in our rivers and oceans.

One does not need to stop enjoying their vacations or having fun, but just be caring about one’s own actions while they are traveling. One can always be aware of how they plan to travel locally and select mostly to travel in local transportation (which has less environmental impact), getting involved with community based projects (that support local people and provide the opportunity to connect and learn through travel), and

Visit places that are a little out of the way versus sticking to “top 10” lists.

If you are travelling with travel agents or companies, look into their policies for the destinations offered – like are the activities which involve abuse of animals for entertainment purpose for eg recently Thomas Cook axed their trips to Sea World at Florida citing animal welfare concerns and this positive step was taken from massive customer feedback. One has to realize that we alone can make the difference to the way you travel and leading by example, after all as we always say we have only one earth to share. 

Soul Cafe: What is your life goal as a couple? 

Ellie & Ravi Jordan

Ellie & Ravi: To live harmoniously together with love, respect and trust. To genuinely help would-be “Soul Travellers” around the world to travel and create a positive impact while facilitating personal growth, and to support the sustainable tourism industry in growing and becoming more and more the “norm” in travel. One day, we’d love to run a sustainable tourism lodge / accommodation of our own that is self-sufficient – so let’s see what the universe brings! 

To genuinely help would-be “Soul Travelers” around the world to travel and create a positive impact while facilitating personal growth.

Thank you for being such a soulful and inspiring couple. May the tribe of “Soulful Travellers” increase!

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Soul Cafe : Building & Celebrating Soulful Relationships

Conscious Living and Loving : Mansoor and Tina Khan

The story of  Mansoor and Tina Khan is essentially the story of a couple who deeply value their life journey rather than worrying or hurrying towards a prescribed destination. A life journey of soul searching, following their passion, practicing gratitude and savoring it all along.

Mansoor Khan directed some iconic Hindi movies like  Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak , Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar etc before he left Bollywood following his inner calling to  live off the land.  He has always chosen to do things that he feels passionately about. He published his highly intriguing book  “The Third Curve” in 2013 that challenges the notion of exponential growth – a topic he feels very strongly about.

“I have only chosen to do things that I can be deeply passionate about. Like at my book, I have worked on it for years, not to make money  but because I feel so strongly about the subject matter. Now I am onto my next book.”

– Mansoor Khan

Tina, the “Coonoor Cheese queen” passionately makes and sells  artisanal soft and hard cheeses, right on their Acres Wild farm. Gouda, Parmesan, Cheddar – you name it , she makes it. 

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It all does sound like a dream. Well, how easy is it to live a life of conviction? Living a life in a way where – what you think, what you say and what you do are all in perfect harmony. I got a chance to meet up with this lovely couple and to be inspired forever! I hope this conversation with them inspires you too!

Soul Cafe: From IIT to MIT to directing some iconic movies and then moving away from the crowd to live off  the land – I see a person who has been on a quest for his real purpose in life from a very early age. Was finding Tina part of finding a soul partner in this personal quest?

Mansoor:  I was pretty clear that I wanted to live off the land very early on – even before meeting Tina. She knew this and was fine with it. In fact  I also had plans  to live on a boat and go cruising forever and Tina was fine with that as well 🙂 Yes – she was definitely a partner, who was happy to be part of this wild ride. If I had not found someone like her, I would have rather stayed single :).

Soul Cafe: Tina – you saw this streak in him  – the desire to live an alternate life.  Did that worry you or was it that appealed to you about him?

Tina : I myself am not a highly ambitious person, I like to go with the flow.  I knew that – he didn’t t want to live in the city and he had his own personal quest. To be honest It never worried me.  In  fact it appealed to me that he was so different from the rest. And of course I loved him!

Soul Cafe: “Papa kehte hein bada naam karega – magar yeh tho koi na jaane yeh meri manzil hein kahan”. Was that about you-  someone who wanted to redefine success in his own terms and not by the terms of the society?

Mansoor: Well that song was for Amir Khan’s  character in the movie QSQT who wasn’t sure what he wants to do with his life.  But probably when you rethink about it – the lyrics do reflect a bit of me that didn’t subscribe to the society’s definition of success or achievement.  But that was purely unintentional 🙂

 

Soul Cafe: Isn’t it important that you both shared a common definition of what success means to you and share a similar value system?

Tina: I have never pre calculated my life and had these fixed ideas of success for myself. But yes we have a shared view about our life  and so far this soul searching  journey has been fulfilling.

Mansoor: I couldn’t have done this if Tina wasn’t happy to live in a farm. She found her passion in cheese making. So yes its important that we  both are in sync in terms of  what we value deeply in life.

Soul Cafe: Conscious parenting makes you rethink and reconsider everything that there is usually followed as part of the regular system. Did your kids ever felt they were missing out on all the fun down in Mumbai?

Mansoor & Tina: The kids did initially miss their larger network of friends in Mumbai when they moved to the farm. But they slowly built some deep friendship here as well – fewer though. They were always delighted to travel to Mumbai but they were also equally delighted to be back in Coonoor. Being here, allowed us to be consciously present in their growing up stage. Probably now when they are away from us gearing up towards adulting, they might value it more.

 

“We wanted to be consciously present when they were building their wings , closely associated with their growth and now when they are ready to fly they have their own freedom. We do not interfere much :). “

Soul Cafe: What do you think is the greatest conflict in terms of building relationships for today’s younger generation?

Mansoor & Tina: We surely can’t generalize it. A lot depends on the family values that the kids are brought up in. We have met youngsters who are more introspective than we were at their age. But overall there is this trend of “I”, “Me” having a more ego- centric approach to life. And that makes building relationships difficult. Relationships are about sharing – its about “us”. The expectations from relationships are also higher as compared to the earlier generations.

Final Cover 18 April 2013Soul Cafe: In your book you extensively talk about our obsession with perpetual growth while the reality is bounded and finite.  Do you think it happens in relationships as well – the expectation of exponential growth and the disappointment when it turns otherwise? Is there a third curve in relationships as well?

Mansoor: The overall social dynamics is about exponential growth – being better, bigger, faster as time proceeds. The modern world is obsessed with growth – we worship growth. And our definition of growth is curtailed to a kind of quantified growth. Now this philosophy of the society trickles down to personal relationships as well. In reality relationships also has its highs and lows – the expectation of a exponential growth curve is a myth.

 

Soul Cafe: Do you think authentic relationship based on compatibility and mutual respect should be the foundation for a marriage, and has Indian society made progress in this regard in last 20 years?

Mansoor & Tina: It surely is important. At the superficial level we see the outlooks are getting more broadened but if you dig a little deeper, we see that the the pressure on the younger generation to achieve in every respect is higher than ever. And this attitude reflects even in relationships to some extent and relationships also then becomes portrayal of ones success. For authentic relationships to happen based purely on compatibility and mutual respect – people need to be less extrinsically driven and need to be more conscious with the choices they make 

Soul Cafe: What would be your advice to youngsters who think, relationship commitments put limit to their dreams?

Mansoor & Tina : Finding a balance is key – being together and yet giving each other enough space. When you fulfill your dreams, the joy is doubled if you can share it with someone you love.  In a very ego-centric, achievement oriented world, relationships need investment of  our time and our thoughts. One  needs to find the balance .

Mansoor :  When I get obsessed, Tina is my balance 🙂 

Thanks a lot Mansoor and Tina for this Soulful conversation!

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

– Kahlil Gibran

 

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Soul Cafe: Building Soulful Relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Marriages – A cross cultural perspective with Elizabeth Flock.

How many of us would take the plunge into the depths of a cultural fabric of a foreign land to understand the nuances and complexities of that novice culture? Meet Elizabeth Flock who is a journalist, author and documentary filmmaker with a keen focus on women’s and social issues. Her work has been featured in PBS News Hour, The New York Times, The Atlantic and many other publications. She recently authored a book called   Love and Marriage in Mumbai    wherein she explores love, marriage and shifting cultural norms in India, specifically tracking three married couples through a span of about a decade. 

Soul Cafe caught up with Ms Flock, to talk about her new book and also to get a cross cultural perspective on evolving Indian marriages. 

Soul Cafe: From a western perspective, there is a stereotypical image about Indian marriages – the Bollywood style big fat colorful and loud Indian weddings. It’s very rare to have someone explore beyond it. Indeed, curious to know, what made you explore and write a book on the intricacies of Indian marriages?

Liz: I wrote this book because I wanted to look at marriages beyond the big fat Bollywood wedding. In India — and in much of the West — our stories often end with the couple getting married. But what happens afterwards? That reality is what I wanted to explore.

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Soul Cafe: Over a span of several years, you pursued three distinct middle-class Mumbai couples, getting detailed account of their private lives – their dreams, frustrations and desires. In India, people are reluctant to disclose private matters, how did you manage to get them tell you their intimate stories?

Liz:  Changing names was essential, to protect the couples’ anonymity and privacy. I also reported this book over a long period of time — almost 10 years — which I think really helped gain trust. As reporters, we are often required to parachute in somewhere for a very short period of time. Obviously people are going to be more reticent to share the intimacies of their lives with strangers. It was really important to me to keep going back.

Soul Cafe: As you mentioned, you followed the characters in your book for almost a decade – seeing  their relationship equation transform from time to time. You have seen them stay  put in their relationship even when the equation trends downhill. What did you think of it?

Liz: There were times when I was sure one couple or another was going to get divorced, but they never did. In part, I think that’s because of the continued stigma of divorce in India, particularly for women who want to initiate it. But I also think each of the couples has stayed together because there’s something about the partnership that works for them.

But I also think each of the couples has stayed together because there’s something about the partnership that works for them.

Soul Cafe: Have the expectations from a marriage drastically changed from the previous Indian generation for men and women? If so are they able to cope with it?

Liz: I think the societal expectations have remained the same — pretty rigid — while women’s aspirations for relationships have changed from their mother’s generation to now. This  disconnect leads to a lot of confusion. There was a recent study that said 4 in 10  people who commit suicide globally are women, and that most of them are married. It attributed this to that disconnect between what society expects of them and what they dream of.

The societal expectations have remained the same — pretty rigid — while women’s aspirations for relationships have changed from their mother’s generation to now.

Soul Cafe: From being a collective choice to being an individual choice – do you see that transition happening in Indian marriages?

Liz: There are certainly more love marriages than there were before. But this is happening more slowly than you might think. And anecdotally I’d say it seems as if there are a lot more hybrid, part-love/part-arranged marriages, than there are marriages where it’s purely an individual choice.

Soul Cafe: Did you feel that the need for personal space is quite low in Indian marriage?

Liz : I think the need for personal space is high but the availability of it is low. There are more couples choosing to live in single family homes instead of join families, but again, this isn’t changing as fast as you’d think. The iconic image of couples at a beach under an umbrella is still around for a reason. In a city like Mumbai, there remains very little privacy for lovers.

I think the need for personal space is high but the availability of it is low.

Soul Cafe: You explored detailed accounts of infidelity, impotency and abuse in marriages. Any take-away/insight on how they managed to cope and continue to stick together?

Liz: I think that whether a marriage is a love marriage or arranged, at some point it becomes an arrangement and a partnership that is difficult to get out of. People will withstand a lot for the constancy of marriage, especially if divorce is still so stigmatized.

Soul Cafe: According to the latest market reports, the two most popular apps in India in terms of revenue on Android are Netflix and Tinder. Does that surprise you? With the technological advancements, do you foresee a change in the relationship equation?

Liz: Certainly technology and global influences are changing relationships. How does a young woman in Trivandrum, let’s say, make sense of the fact that she isn’t supposed to be holding hands out doors with her husband but then they she goes home to watch a show on Netflix about an open relationship or she hears friends talk about experimenting with premarital sex on Tinder? There is a disconnect there that would be confusing for anyone.

Soul Cafe : Soul Café is a platform for the Urban Indian singles that tries to build deeper relationships based on compatibility in life values, personality, interests and deeper conversation that are authentic. Your thoughts?

Liz : Relationships are always about compatibility in some fashion, and I think the elements you mention are good ones.

Soul Cafe: Tell us about your fond memories of Mumbai. 

Liz: Like many people, I love Mumbai most in the rains. They’re inconvenient, they’re dirty, but they’re undeniably romantic and so much fun. It was monsooning the day I went for my job interview at Forbes India back in 2008 (I showed up to the interview completely soaked) and it was monsooning the last time I was in Mumbai in June, while a friend and I watched the new series “Lust Stories” in her apartment and drank fresh mango juice and discussed our own thoughts on love and marriage.

51xKfiC7dDL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Thanks a lot for your insights Liz. India surely is a nation in transition with traditions, technological advancements and modernity thriving together. We wish you all the best with this book  as well as for all your future endeavors.

Good Luck!!

Love and Marriage in Mumbai, is currently available on Amazon. 

 

 

 Soul Cafe : Building Soulful Relationships

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Grief and Love : Two sides of the same coin

Have you felt a sense of sadness as you turn the last page of a compelling book? Long after you have finished reading the last page, you find yourself  staring at a blank wall for a while or flipping the pages to re-read some of the passages. For a moment you might just even hold the book closer to your chest and gasp!  This could also happen while watching an engaging movie.  As it comes to an end, you are not ready to leave the characters. You stay back marinating over your emotions as the post scripts start rolling. Most recently this happened to me with “Koode”. I wasn’t quite ready to leave  Joshua, Alozhy, Sophy, Jenny, Brownie and the rest.

There is a momentary grief over losing the fictional characters . But then don’t we do it all over again – get engrossed in another wonderful book that will eventually make us feel sad as the characters leave us. These characters probably touch us in some way and that’s why it gets hard to part. If you have been touched by someone, parting becomes painful. If there is love, there is grief. But to avoid grief , should we avoid love?

We could opt to stay away from this pain. What if nothing touches us or we stay away from being genuinely close to anyone? What if we guard ourselves against grief, pain and failure? We can numb ourselves with busy schedules, shopping, non stop scrolling on our phones and so on.  Life will still go on and when asked “How are you?” we could still auto respond “good” or “fine”. We can be proud of being emotionally strong, un-wavered and  toughened up – protecting ourselves from being hurt. The courage to feel pain is something that most of us are never taught. Instead, we learn to distract ourselves from it, to insulate, and hide. Like Ingmar Bergman says – we are emotional illiterates.

We’re emotional illiterates. And not only you and I-practically everybody, that’s the depressing thing. We’re taught everything about the body and about agriculture in Madagascar and about the square root of pi, or whatever the hell it’s called, but not a word about the soul.

– Ingmar Bergman

Grief, sorrow, anger are all difficult emotions. Is there any value going through it, doesn’t it make logical sense to avoid it? Well feeling these difficult emotions —  gives us depth as human beings. Else we are living a life of shallowness. These emotions represents our humanness.

“I want to celebrate the sadness that makes you feel everything so deeply.
I want to throw a party for the wounds that make you so unabashedly human.”

  -Danielle Antoinette Foy

If we totally insulate our lives from grief, loss, pain and failure , we are also in effect insulating it from passion, love, creativity and exploration. Grief and love come through the same door – if we shut it for one, we are shutting it for both. Now take a moment and think about how we constantly make choices in our lives.

Blessed are those who grieve the loss of someone, for they have experienced love in their life, blessed are those who have experienced failure, for they have pushed themselves beyond their own limits.

As Amy  our cafe mate at SoulCafe puts it in one of the forum conversations  – if you opt to approach a relationship with love there is an equal chance to be hurt as well but then what is the alternative?  Never giving yourself a chance to experiencing love?

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Thankfully in Koode, Joshua and Sophy gave themselves the chance to experience love – took the risk of getting broken again. Gosh! Koode hasn’t left me I suppose 🙂

Shameless Plug: SoulCafe : A soulful platform for the soulful ones to connect over conversations.

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Ich and Du – in the times of technology

I am part of a generation that was raised with bare minimum technology and the one who is raising the next generation that calls out “Alexa” for anything and everything. I understand – the transition seems a bit too much to take in, but more than anything else I quite too often wonder about “What relationship would mean in the long run?”,  “Is it okay to refer Alexa as a “it” or Should Alexa be referred as “she”?  Is it possible for someone to fall in love with a virtual assistant like in the movie “Her” and if so is it indeed love? We are still grappling over the what’s okay and what’s not okay about a Human-Machine relationship.

We are still grappling over the what’s okay and what’s not okay about a Human-Machine relationship.

No wonder the AI circle still is debating as to whether bots should present themselves as humans or machines. This is because the more they resemble humans the more complicated our interaction with them gets. For instance, speaking to Alexa doesn’t require a “please” or a “thank you”, being rude to Alexa doesn’t lead to a confrontation. So, are kids who have been interacting with Alexa getting the cues that it’s okay to be rude to a female voice in general?

Definitely personification is good for the businesses as it leads to more stickiness with the customer but isn’t it also important to look at the broader impact? Unlike Siri, Cortana or Alexa, Google virtual assistant deliberately has no humanized identity – it’s simply called Google Assistant.  This was a conscious decision to align its functionality with a broader concept of helpfulness (Google Assistant gets things done) as opposed to friendliness (Google assistant isn’t your friend).

Am I mulling over something that’s too trivial? Or should we be more careful while we build and interact with intelligent machines?

Sherry Turkle, a professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT in her book “Alone Together” examines the world of robots, especially those designed to be friends, companions, pets or helpers to human. She writes that from her extensive observation, when children grow up with “sociable robots,” such as Furbies, they learn to be content with “relationships with less.” They are shaped by and satisfied by relationships that are completely uni-directional.

Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. – Sherry Turkle 

They get used to relationships that are fully tuned to make them feel good without demanding anything in return. But real relationships don’t work that way. Real relationships are messy. The capacity for real intimacy is measured in one’s capacity for handling conflict and vulnerability. So here we are now seeking  intimacy, but without the mess.

The capacity for real intimacy is measured in one’s capacity for handling conflict and vulnerability.

However, if relationship with machines are more hassle free – why not have friendships and companionship with intelligent machines? Human relationships are way too complicated. Is that a fair enough counter argument? 

To understand why human relationships are important, let me refer to German–Jewish philosopher Martin Buber’s  classic book Ich and Du, usually translated as I and Thou (you).

In this book, he makes a radical distinction between two basic kinds of relationships of which humans are capable of – described as “I-Thou”  and “I-It”.

  • I-Thou designates a relation between subject and subject, a relation of reciprocity and mutuality. We relate with the entirety of our being to another whole person.
  • I-It is the relation between subject and object, involving some form of utilization or control. In I-It type of relationships we relate to others as members of  a certain category, as instruments of achievement or to be used for one’s own benefit. These relationships are superficial and need based. So many of our human relationships if we closely observe would be the I-It relationships.

True love is always a I-Thou connection. Quoting Martin Buber – “Love does not cling to the I in such a way as to have the Thou only for its ” content,” its object; but love is between I and Thou. The man who does not know this, does not know love.” 

Coming back to our relationship with intelligent machines, let’s be aware that we can only have a  “I-It” relationship with our social-intelligent machines. We cannot have a deep “I-Thou” relationship with machines no matter how intelligent they get. Even if we “thou” the machine, the machine won’t “thou” us back because it just runs on machine learned algorithms.

An  AI  engaged life is  the way forward – there is no second thoughts about it. We as mankind would definitely benefit from the advancements in AI. But let’s be careful as we surround ourselves with more and more “I-It” relationships, that there is a chance of our capacity for “I-Thou” relationships getting diminished. The capacity for “I-Thou” relationships is what makes us truly human. As we create and shape these intelligent tools, let’s not forget – we are also getting shaped by these tools. Amen!

“We are shaped by our tools.” ― Sherry Turkle

Empath and Narcissist – A match made in hell.

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As I gazed at the famous painting of Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse, my eyes were stuck on Echo, wondering how long will she wait for him to notice that she exists. Her desperation is more painful than his self-absorption. You feel like telling her – “move on honey, move on”.  Probably that is the most logical reaction one could have. But sometimes it just seems like rationality and logic doesn’t necessarily work. Else we wouldn’t find so many Narcissus – Echo combination. We all  know of such relationships or even would have experienced it ourselves at some point in our lives. 

To be honest, it’s quite natural to be attracted to a narcissist. Why wouldn’t you – in their first impression they are quite charming, open, entertaining and attractive. Research has showed that strangers’ initial impressions of narcissists for the first seven meetings are mostly positive.

Research has showed that strangers’ initial impressions of narcissists for the first seven meetings are mostly positive.

Initial attraction to a narcissist is quite natural but what about love? How does one fall in love with someone who can’t see anything beyond themselves. Why does someone make these self-destructive choices? And the most ironical part is that – most of the time the one in love with a narcissist tends to be an Empath. It surely is an example of opposites attract but it also is a toxic attraction that is destined for disaster.

As per psychiatrist Judith Orloff, empaths absorb feelings from other people easily, like an “emotional sponge”, which is an attractive trait to a narcissist as they see someone who will fulfill their needs in a selfless way.

But what attracts the Empaths and keeps them stuck in a relationship with a Narcissist?

Empaths find happiness in healing. When they see someone whom they perceive to be in a lot of pain, they ache to nurture and balm those wounds. And most of the time they consider a Narcissist as wounded souls who need to be healed with their love and compassion.

Most of the time they consider a Narcissist as wounded souls who need to healed with their love and compassion.

An empath falling in love with a narcissist, could also result due to a subconscious need of an empath to feel loved and wanted because in their  childhood they had been with a primary caregiver who was mostly emotionally unavailable. This results in the adult empath seeking validation and seeking a sense of self worth even from toxic people.

Sometimes it is difficult for them to comprehend the fact that they are in a narcissistic relationship. As per Judith Orloff in her book “Emotional Freedom”, these are a few questions that one could ask to self check if one is dealing with a narcissist.

  • Does the person act as if life revolves around him/her?
  • Do I have to compliment him/her to get his attention or approval?
  • Does the person constantly steer the conversation back to him or herself?
  • Does he or she downplay my feelings or interests?
  • If I disagree, does he or she become cold or withholding?

If  the answer is “yes” to one or two questions, it’s likely one is dealing with a narcissist.

Okay, falling in love could be explained but even sometimes when they realize the fact that they are in a toxic relationship – why do they still  stay put?

They’ll stay in the relationship much longer than they should do, in the hope that their narcissist partner will change. Sometimes when they do not see any reciprocation from the narcissist they blame themselves for not trying hard enough. They hope their unconditional love will eventually create authentic connection. But sadly, with a narcissist, the wait is in vain as the narcissist sees nothing beyond himself/herself.

Rationalizing unacceptable behavior of narcissist partner is simply evidence of an inability  to set and enforce healthy boundaries. Healthy boundary is  about letting people know what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable way of treating you.

Keep in mind – we teach people how to treat us.

Let me reiterate –  being an Empath is a rare gift and you should never consider it as your weakness.  But understanding the flip side of our very nature , it is important that we mature as an empath – which means learning how to create healthy boundaries, resilience, self acceptance, self love and to accept that hard truth that – your love ain’t enough to fix a narcissist.

 

An Eternal Instagram Love Story

We frown upon the fact that technology is a big spoiler. The concept of love seems to have shifted from an eternal to an ephemeral one. A concept now that presents itself in it’s most fleeting forms of texts, heart emoticons, likes, selfies and a public status of ….feeling loved.

We fantasize about the glorious past probably because we are the “in between” generation that knows how life was prior to smart phones, yet a generation that understands the point of Tinder, Instagram and Snapchat.

To console our digital angst,  let me tell you a story of our digital times – a love story that  starts on Instagram and is kept alive on Instagram and that would definitely inspire you to live fully and love hard.

This is the story of Anjali Pinto and Jacob Johnson. Anjali Pinto and Jacob Johnson first met on Instagram in 2012. Commenting back and forth on each other’s posts, their online friendship blossomed into a crush, and later, a thriving relationship. The couple moved in together after eight months of knowing each other and married in 2015. 

Anjali vowed to do everything in her power to make their lives rich with passion. Jacob vowed to love her for all that she was, all that she was not, and all that she can be. 

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Throughout their  relationship, the astonishment of finding each other inspired them to take photos – a lot of photos mentions Anjali in her blog. Together they dreamt of building a life and family that focused on making art, being kind and treasuring new experiences. But fate had it otherwise. 

Jacob died suddenly on Dec 31, 2016 due to an aortic dissection, an unknown defect in his artery wall. He was 30. Anjali was devastated but decided to share their story and keep his memories alive. She started sharing their pictures each day with heart breaking honest captions – as honest as it could get. When asked why she did so, Anjali says – “So many  people will never get to meet him but through my stories I hope that they feel grateful for their own life, and their opportunity to live fully and love hard.”

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He assured me, I am yours. What does time really mean in relation to a need and willingness to love?
My desire for him, sitting across from me and sharing his breakfast, never changed. I have had to adjust my life to never having that need met.

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I have to remind myself often – I never would have been ready to lose him. It seems cruel and unfair that it happened this way, young and with too much left to experience. But in accepting this reality – his true story, and not the one we expected – I can see endless reminders that Jacob had a wonderful life. He lived and died as a goofy, bright sided optimist.

 

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Sympathy and condolences out poured as comments to her posts, but she didn’t want pity.  She wanted to remember how amazing Jacob was.  She mentions – “It’s been important to me to try to paint a picture of the real person that he was. ” 

She just wanted to celebrate him and the love they shared in all its realness.

Recently she hosted an exhibition of Jacob’s photography.  In honor of his talent and generosity, she also established Jacob Johnson Memorial grants to support documentary photography. 

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You and I
Have seen most everything
But oh, what the future brings
Well that scares the hell out of me.
.
Time goes by
With every second passed
The good times
They won’t last
I can assure you that.
.
Written and sung by Jacob

Anjali’s posts are a proof of how being the real, vulnerable person attracted another real person. How we could deeply connect over love as well as grief.

Technological advancements are not the real “culprit” that’s  making an entire generation feel shallow and disconnected. It’s all about how we want to make use of it. If we opt to put forward our flawless filtered impossible perfect pretentious self – so be it. Superficiality will attract superficiality,  authenticity would attract the authentic. Technology is a tool – it’s entirely  up to us how we choose to use it. Amen!

(Follow Anjali Pinto on  Instagram for more of her posts.  Photos courtesy – Anjali Pinto’s Instagram posts)

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SoulCafe: Brewing Soulful Relationships

Valentines Weekend Event Bangalore

Red roses and candle light dinners are so so cliche. Seriously!!!

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 This Valentines weekend celebrate being “Just You” and connect with others over Art, Deep Talk and a great Cuppa Coffee.

Zentangle & Deep Talk Event Details

Spend time learning the Art and Philosophy of Zentangling with Neha who is one of the nine CZTs (Certified Zentangling Teacher) in India. Also here is your chance to see her collection of art.

An hour of one to one Deep Talk with others and a chance to connect over conversations.

 And of course Coffee and Snacks!

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Date – 10th Feb – 3.30 PM to 7.00 PM

Venue – Urban Solace, Ulsoor

Book your ticket for 10th Feb here https://www.townscript.com/e/zentangle-deep-talk-410032

7 Important Life Lessons From Zentangling

“Art feeds life and life feeds art.”

I am not a great fan of anything that starts with “Zen”. Honestly, the skeptic in me sniffs the spiritual consumerism alert. So was my initial reaction to “Zentangle”. Is it something similar to adult coloring book I thought?   Until I met Neha, who is a passionate zentangler and I was led into her world of intricate art  – mostly in monochrome, countless strokes of repetitive patterns resulting into a visual treat!

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Neha lost in Tangling 🙂

 

As I understand it – the art of Zentangle is a purposeful, structured form of drawing that is similar to doodling, consists of a series of repetitive strokes—straight lines, curves and dots—drawn on a three-and-a-half-inch square paper tile. Rick Roberts and Mary Thomas are the originators of the trademarked Zentangle method.

My first tangling attempt and I found  myself slowly getting into a state of non -judgmental awareness of the “present moment” – one stroke at a time.

Art feeds life and life feeds art. This experience fed me with gratitude and a few tid -bits that could be applied into our lives and relationships.

1. The expectation of a perfect outcome: What stops us from trying out art or rather anything new in life (including relationships)? Most of the time it’s the expectation of a  perfect outcome that we tend to visualize and the fear of not being able to accomplish it. In Zentangling the outcome is not planned, it is about putting our sole attention on one stroke at a time without worrying about what these strokes would eventually turn to become.  Enjoying the process of tangling rather than focusing on a certain outcome is the essence of this art form.

In zentangling the outcome is unplanned,  one stroke at a time without realizing what these strokes would eventually lead to

2. Errors need not be erased: Life gives us no erasers nor does Zentangling. Mistakes are most welcome. In fact mistakes need to be taken as invitation or a pause that leads to an awareness of  new options.  Instead of erasing a stray mark or “mistake” it becomes a part of the creation. That “mistake” is the basis for an unexpected twist in your piece of art. So is in life – don’t try hard erasing your mistakes. Acceptance of it being  part of what “being you” means is such a big relief.

Mistakes need to be taken as invitation or a pause that leads to an awareness of  new options.

3. Slowing the inner traffic: As I started tangling, I had to learn to slow down my mind. We all have a mind that doesn’t stop thinking. Researches  claim that each day the average person has about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts. Wow! that’s like 35-50  thoughts every minute (considering all the 24 hours). We city dwellers daily whine about the traffic on the road but tend to ignore our inner traffic. Actually most of our distractions are internal.

Slowing down our inner traffic, lets us into a state of awareness of the moment which is much needed to genuinely connect with someone, tap into our own creativity or simply wonder!

4. Having a beginners mind:  There is concept in Zen Buddhism – Shoshin and it  translates to having a beginner’s mind. Zentangling is about having a beginners mindset – looking at the patterns , boundaries and shades from different perspective with an open mindset that could reveal many possibilities.

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Art Courtesy; Neha

As the quote by Shunryu Suzuki goes –

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. 

5. No two Zentangle art, turns out to be the same: As Neha and I worked on our tiles using the same patterns, we found our end products being very unlike each other’s . We paused for a moment to marvel at their uniqueness.

Each one of us is unique, our lives take various twists and turns leading us to different experiences. So are  each of our relationships – unique and it makes no sense to compare.

Comparison is the death of joy – Mark Twain

6. Gentle boundaries: Zentangle differs from doodling in having some set of constraints – the size of the tile, the patterns etc. Constraints as the word sounds, need not always be considered undesirable. Constraints can force us to step out of our mental comfort zone. For example constrained writing can produce some unexpected results like in poetry. Similarly the constraints in our lives often force us to make choices and cultivate talents that would otherwise go unnoticed. So consider your constraints as opportunities to  transform.

7. Gratitude: As I looked at the finished tile, I was filled with gratitude. Gratitude to me is more than just feeling thankful but rather a deeper sense of appreciation to the present moment and to one’s life overall. It surely happens in a non judgmental state of presence – complete presence. Amen!

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If you would like a Zentangle experience check out our upcoming event below.

Event Details: https://www.townscript.com/e/zentangle-deep-talk-410032

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Soul Cafe Event – Let’s Deep Talk

A soulful event that was held at Dialogues Cafe Bangalore on 25th Nov, 2017

Meant for thoughtful urban singles this included the following :

1) THE ALCHEMY OF RELATIONSHIPS :

A movie based workshop by Life Coach Ram Rohit Sasvehalli :

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2) LET’S DEEP TALK :

A psychology based game that lets people converse at a deeper level. A chance to move beyond the shallow talks and inhibitions. (This is a one to one interaction game.)
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The Warmth in your Heart!

A letter to your Own Heart! From one loving Heart to another!

Just pause, maybe even for a second and feel the warmth in your Heart.

A warmth that belongs to All Life!

Some call it Gratitude, some Compassion and some Heart

That’s the most beautiful thing about Wisdom, Beauty, Truth and Love

 It doesn’t belong to any one of us.

It’s always from and for the bounty of Life

At the Feet of this Mystery of Life, as it reveals itself deeper and deeper,

I find Love at its very core,

I find myself utterly human, my very real insecurities, my constant battles,

The ever present tension of the world and helplessly so.

There is a strength in that,

In holding it all together and surrendering without fighting or succumbing.

An exquisite tenderness and freshness, moist eyes and hands grounded, as hard as iron.

The sooner we acknowledge that we’re failures at this thing called life,

The easier Grace can take over,

And take over it will. 

When things seem rough, and the absurdities of life seem to take control.

When all else fails..go to your heart.

In genuine surrender, just pause,

Maybe even for a second and feel the warmth of your heart.

That’ll do.

The “Andamen” Couple: Partners in Love and Work

Running a business with your life partner and pursuing a shared dream might sound like an idyllic dream. It definitely gives you the chance to build something from scratch, to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. But starting up a new venture does come with it’s own perils. Navigating through the rough terrains of starting a new venture together needs immense  mutual trust and a high level of maturity that is  respectful of each other during times of disagreements.

Let’s meet one such copreneurial couple –Siddharth & Satvika Suri . Siddharth is an adrenaline junkie, passionate photographer, ardent squash player and a complete world explorer.   Being a National tennis champion and a classical music singer are few of the many feathers on Satvika’s cap. Leaving  their jobs in the United States they started “Andamen” – weaving Indian stories on highest quality men’s wear.

SoulCafe: Tell us a bit about your “Jab we Met” story. Did you ever think about starting your own venture then?

It started in college – we were class mates, studying economic hons in St. Stephens. We started dating and a few years later we tied the knot. At the time we started dating and then even when we got married, we had no plans of working together – we were both happily working in very different businesses.

SoulCafe:  What inspired you both to leave your corporate jobs in the United States and start your own venture – “Andamen” back in India?

It was during the second year of Siddharth’s MBA  at Wharton Business School that we conceptualized Andamen. This was in August 2014. The idea was to build a modern Indian luxury men’s  brand with a truly Indian soul that fuses our textiles and stories with global fashion. Inherent in this was a strong passion to dismiss the perception that India produces  ‘inferior’ or ‘mass’ or ‘craft’ quality fashion and cannot produce amongst the finest shirts in the world.

The toughest call was deciding whether we wanted to do this immediately or start Andamen after staying a few years more in the States. After many weeks of debates, discussions and arguments we decided that it’s the best that we bite the entrepreneurship bug immediately. We came back to India mid-2015, and our website launched by December 2016.

Soul Cafe: If in a sentence, you had to tell us – what does “Andamen” stand for ?

Just like the islands, Andamen is about venturing beyond the motherland. Exploring. Discovering the world. Yet in it its roots remaining resolutely Indian. It is that eternal duality of current and past, of Indian and Western, of unique and familiar that is in many ways a representation of today’s global contemporary Indian.

Soul Cafe: There is a story behind each Andamen shirt and a humungous attention to details. For instance, “The Gold String” shirt with vintage panels has over 2 lakh embroidered stitches and does take an incredible number of days to make. How do you decide on the stories/themes for your collection? 

Andamen-3.0-indus-147Our passion lies in bringing the beauty of Indian stories, traditions, patterns and techniques closer to the modern Indian man by making it more relevant for him. Like the stones of ancient Varanasi, every shirt in our Heritage Collection has a meaningful story behind it. The design and story telling process starts 9-12 months before the collection launches. Our design lead Amit, Siddharth and I brainstorm over various themes and finally pick out one that we are most excited about. From there we start making a mood board which involves research, talking to people, travel if required.

Soul Cafe: At a superficial level, spouse as business partner sounds like a dream – you work together, play together, and never have to be apart. In reality, what are some of the practical challenges when spouses collaborate on a business venture?

Entrepreneurship is hard. Start-ups, especially so. There are many bad days for every good day. On bad days, we’re in the same cycle together.

We’ve gone through long, tough periods at work together,  so it gets very challenging to lift each other’s spirits and motivate one another. 

It’s also tough to manage egos and taking final calls. Even though we have clear role separations, I head marketing and communication. Sid heads ops and finance, the web team and product – we end up collaborating a lot. During disagreements it’s hard to let go of egos. It’s even harder to not bring fights back home.

Soul Cafe: Do you think it’s important for entrepreneur couples to know how to turn off the business switch and enjoy their personal lives once in a while?

Yes for sure!  We keep taking mini-holidays once a quarter so that we get time to switch off. But trying  to separate work and personal lives when you’re working together as founders in a start-up is, which is like a baby of yours is impossible.

We don’t try to achieve work-life balance. Rather than segregating the two we embrace it and enjoy the fact that we are always available and can brainstorm till wee hours of the night and on weekends.

 For us, personal and professional spaces have become very intertwined. I love that I can just chat with Siddharth on mundane home things like dinners, plumbers, electricians, etc. in office.

Soul Cafe: How do you handle disagreements as business partners and make sure it doesn’t seep into your personal relationship?

We have one rule on arguments:  don’t sleep over them.

It’s usually not easy and it always means giving up egos and finding a middle ground but by and large, this rule has been worth following. At work, we have complimentary skill sets and manage very different areas. We’ve set up rules on hierarchy basis those for ourselves so that when there is conflict, we know how to resolve it. Rather than our professional relation hampering our personal relationship, which is how we’ve most often heard it to be, we’ve actually experienced that our professional relation has enhanced our personal one. We’ve learnt how to resolve personal conflicts in a less emotional and more practical way. 

Soul Cafe: How have your relationship evolved after taking the entrepreneurial journey? What are the perks of working together?

Working together has made us so much more efficient. It’s also increased the respect we have for one another. Because we have different skill sets, we depend so much on each other and that creates a lot  of respect, patience and understanding.

Soul Cafe: Entrepreneurship is an extremely challenging path to choose in itself and when spouses become business partners the personal and professional spaces become very intertwined. What would be your piece of advice to couples who plan to get into business together?

It’s a simple thing – but it’s quite hard to do. Our advice is to always respect each other and have one another’s back – especially in front of your team. Take arguments out of the work place and resolve them fast.

Entrepreneurship is a hard journey – don’t make it harder by carrying on arguments!

Soul Cafe: Tell us about your upcoming collection – the story, the inspiration behind it.

The 2017 Heritage Collection, both for Spring Summer and Autumn Winter is titled  ‘Indus – Call of the Lost Age’. It recalls the legend of the Indus civilization. The tight range of shirts  capture intricate Indus seals, unsolved scriptures, mysterious sculptures and important historic elements like ‘The Great Bath’. All of this is designed in a very modern, minimalistic way so that it appeals to the new and emerging design sensibilities of the young, confident, globe travelling Indian.

indus collection

We wish this soulful  couple all the success with their upcoming collection and future growth. They surely makes us believe that  – couples who work together, stay soulful together!

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www.SoulCafe.co.in – A Long Term Soul Relationship starts here.

Loving the “Work- In-Progress”.

 

“What do you want to become?” – a question I have been asked often as a kid, and for me it was an easy answer – just that my answer changed as every year passed. The response held true for my state of being at that point in time. The reason why my response changed wasn’t because as kids one is so fickle minded, but rather my inability to accurately predict my future self. Honestly, this is the most irrelevant question we ask kids who are  sometimes as young as 3 years of age. 

I find it irrelevant because I have come to a point where I strongly believe I would never “BECOME”, but my whole life is a process of “BECOMING”. The moment I start believing I have “ARRIVED” would be the point where I literally put a “full stop” to my BECOMING. To quote Leanardo Da Vinci – Art is never finished, only abandoned. So is the case with us humans. The moment we start believing we have figured it all out is the moment we stop giving life the chance to change our minds and evolve beyond our “current” comprehensions.  

Psychologist Dan Gilbert states that “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our lives is change”. We are all work-in-progress.

Accepting ourselves as “Work in Progress” also means accepting our imperfections, accepting a bit of confusion that just hangs in there, accepting uncertainty, impermanence and the unknowns in our lives. The reason we find it challenging to accept ourselves as “Work in Progress” is also because the ego soaked society values the illusion of perfection – the so called “arrived/ figured it all out” state and not the imperfect evolution phase.

To accept individuals as “Work in Progress” is critical in relationships as well. We all are bound to evolve – shedding our barks, growing deeper roots, spreading our branches and sprouting new greens. Understanding that people change has to be a basic component of our emotional intelligence. Letting people shed their barks, spread their branches, grow deeper roots and evolve becomes part of the relationship. Expecting people to stay the way they are forever is quite similar to having a “Bonsai” tree at home.  

Waiting for a perfect state of self or waiting for the perfect person to get into a relationship is a delusion. As individuals we are always a “work in progress”, there is no perfect state – we are always in the process of  BECOMING. So when someone says, “I am working on becoming something or somebody before I settle down in a relationship” – Relationship just seems to be a point when you quit your “Becoming”.  This is a “fixed” mindset and it’s always better to have the “growth mindset” in a relationship. Love is the unconditional acceptance of being part of each other’s “BECOMING”. It’s not just unnatural its highly stressful if one is loved for one’s perceived “state of perfection” that needs to be kept in tact forever.

Love is the unconditional acceptance of being part of each other’s “BECOMING”.

Like mentioned before, we are bad at predicting our own future self. We don’t know the extent of change that would happen to us. Hence relationships often fail when the love is for a certain “fixed state of a person” – ultimately breaking up because one has outgrown the “fixed state”.

Our inability to predict our future self  has been studied by a group of psychologists and they term the phenomenon as “End of History Illusion”. “End of History Illusion” states that while we remember our past selves to be quite different from who we are today, we nevertheless believe that we won’t change much at all in the future and hence take bad decisions for our future self based on our current projections.

When we are bad at predicting our future self, let’s be in love with the “work in progress” we are, accepting it wholly devoid of the illusion of perfection. Like in agile development, let’s have a “forever beta” mindset – evolving into something better iteration after iteration. And when in love – accepting being part of each other’s BECOMING, embracing the “Work In Progress”.

The Psychology of your Future Self – TED Talk – Dan Gilbert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A valuable piece of advice on Life Choices from Shikha Sharma, CEO Axis Bank.

Not everyday do we hear people talking about finding the right life partner at a convocation speech.  Axis Bank CEO Shikha Sharma’s recent convocation speech at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A),   touched upon the three tough choices one has to make in life. According to her, finding the right partner is one of them. 

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Here are the key takeaways from her speech.

“When you are out there looking for a partner, look beyond their looks, their success, their style. The durability and strength of your relationship is not going to come from your partner’s personality—it is going to come from their character. So remember to look well beneath the surface.”

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“Sanjaya and I are very different people. He is widely read, divergent (in) thinking, and creative; I am a lot more linear (in) thinking and introverted. But on the most important thing, we are not different at all—we have very similar core values. If I were to point out the one thing that has made our partnership successful, it is just that—the alignment on core values.”

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“The principles of what makes for lasting relationships with your work team or with your organisation aren’t terribly different from those that make lasting personal partnerships. It is easy to get enamored by the visible but superficial details of a new job you are considering—the money, the fancy title, the foosball table in the break-room. But in most cases, that is not what makes for a fulfilling career. You want to join an organization that has values that match yours; that has people you can be yourself with; that gives you the space to be who you have the potential be as a professional.”

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Listen to her speech here:

 

The Beautiful World beyond Small Talk.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” – William Butler Yeats

What’s so fascinating about the HONY (Human’s of New York) concept?  The concept is quite simple: Brandon Stanton, the creator of HONY, approaches people on the streets of New York for a photograph and a chat. And the results are nothing short of profound, life-changing quotes. In just a few years, he has become one of the most vitalizing visual storytellers and humanists of our time through Humans of New York. The popularity of HONY was never about the quality of the photographs or how beautiful someone looked. But it was about how we connected with the stories of regular people on the streets. Brandon didn’t see them as people on the streets, he saw each one of them as unique stories walking down the street. The stories when shared gave a more humane feel to the city of sky scrappers. The universal appeal of the concept comes from the common “yearning for connection” and no wonder the concept has been replicated in many cities across the world. 

Now think about the million missed opportunities when the mindless questions we only ask someone else are – What’s up? How is it going? or How is the weather? Most of the time responded in monosyllables. Do these questions demand an answer? Not really. These are the so called “Small Talk”. Small talk is defined as the polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions. I wouldn’t deny the need of small talk to break the ice and get a conversation started. Like Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk said – Small talk is the appetizer for any relationship.” But the point is, what if the only thing we have are appetizers? Ideally appetizers should lead to the main course right :). Socrates pointed out long ago that the least important things, we think about are talked about the most, while the most important things, we think about are talked about the least. 

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Image Source – http://www.carpejuvenis.com

In the myriad meaningless notifications and updates, the memory of a middle-aged man from my high school days are so very etched in my mind. He had started a coffee shop opposite our school. I can’t recollect how we got talking, but I soon realized that he had lost both his kidneys and was living on dialysis. I still have vivid memories of how he would look into my eyes and say – “Sophy I want to live!” He celebrated each day as he cheerfully and courageously fought death. I liked being part of this cheerful celebration doing the ordinary things but with total mindfulness – arranging the flowers, tasting a new coffee flavor and genuine conversations about life. After the board exams were over, we moved out of that city and in a few months, I realized,  death ultimately won. He taught me how grateful I should be for all that I would otherwise take for granted, and how we can find joy in the ordinary and the most mundane.

What do you ask people whom you hardly know? Won’t it feel like intruding their personal space? What I have realized is that most people love to talk beyond the small talk if they feel you would genuinely listen without being judgmental. I remember an 80 year old US biker whom I frequently crossed paths during my evening walks in the summer. Once I asked him about what his tattoos meant and the conversation went on about his daughter and life and more, or the hair stylist from Argentina when I told her I recently watched “The Motor Cycle Diaries” and the conversation went on and on about Che (Che Guevara) and his early years in Argentina, a taxi driver from Afghanistan on what he felt about  the Syrian problem,  or a Hazara family when I told them the only window  I had to the life and struggles of the Hazara community was from reading Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” and  here I got the chance to listen to their stories of struggle first hand. All these conversations went on and on until we stopped it forcibly due to time constraints. There is a story behind every person, and a soul beneath their skin. It’s up to us to get enriched. Or move on with polite smiles and thoughtless questions.

There is a story behind every person, and a soul beneath their skin. It’s up to us to get enriched. Or move on with polite smiles and thoughtless questions.

I know of someone in Bangalore, who is doing very well with his corporate job, but chooses to offer Uber taxi service to people while commuting to work. You may wonder why? Like Brandon Stanton he sees these passengers as human stories and this is a chance to connect to people from different walks of life. Isn’t that interesting?

The Case for “Big Talk”

Psychologists have long said that connecting with others is central to human well-being. In one study headed by Dr. Matthias Mehl, researchers eavesdropped on undergraduates for four days, then cataloged each overheard conversation as either “small talk” (“What do you have there? Popcorn? Yummy!”) or “substantive” (“So did they get divorced soon after?”). They found that the second type correlated with happiness.

The happiest students had roughly twice as many substantive talks as the unhappiest ones. Small talk, meanwhile, made up only 10 percent of their conversation, versus almost 30 percent of conversation among the least content students. 

Dr Mehl proposed that the substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: 1) human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because 2) we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people.

But then, what stops us from moving beyond the small talk and the predictable superficiality? As Krista Tippett puts it – “Vulnerability is at the heart of listening.” To genuinely ask a question and engage in an authentic conversation, you have to be willing to accept that the answer might change or affect you in some way. But beyond the fear of vulnerability lies the opportunity to enrich yourself with wider perspectives, becoming  self aware of one’s own prejudices and a chance to open up.

Leaving you with a thoughtful TED Talk and just in case you are pressed on time, here is a quote from the talk that just sums it all up.  Ciao!

“There are 7 billion people in this world, each with an amazing, and unique story to share. That makes 7 billion treasure boxes full of life lessons, wisdom, and experience. Even when we’re surrounded by the smartest people, and the people that have the most interesting stories to share, we default to the lowest common denominator and small talk prevails.” – Omid Scheybani

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www.SoulCafe.co.in – Connecting over Soulful Conversations.

The “Feels Too Much” Tribe in a “Just Chill” World.

Have you felt like a sponge soaking up all emotions around you – from people around you, characters in a movie you just watched, the books you read or a tragic news you heard? You carry these feeling as your own and it takes you hours or sometimes days to get over it. When you have tried explaining your state of mind to someone you would have quite often been advised to – “Just chill”.  In a generation that considers the “chill” factor as a mark of being uber cool and is considered as an attribute most desirable, you sometimes tend to feel like a total misfit and you wonder – “Is something wrong with me?”. You might even have tried forcing yourself to play along being the “uber cool” but deep inside it doesn’t feel quite “you”.  And that is simply because you are a special breed called the “empath” – and there is nothing wrong being one.

Just like some people have better hearing or vision, empaths have a more acute sensitivity to emotional signals – which indeed is a strength. But every strength comes with its own complexities.

According to research conducted by Elaine Aron, PhD, a psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York, 20% of the population are genetically predisposed to be more aware and empathic. She and her research team have found physical evidence in the brain that empaths respond especially strongly to certain situations that trigger emotions than the rest of the population.

Empaths tend to feel a lot more, compared to other people –  the highs as well as the lows. Many great artists, writers and authors have all been empaths. Their art becomes their medium to pour these emotions. You will find empaths working with people, animals or nature with a true passion and dedication to help. They are often seen as great teachers, healers, volunteers for causes and are ready giving up personal time to help others without any pay or recognition. Empaths may be excellent storytellers with their endless imaginations and can be hardcore old romantics at heart. They are the greatest listeners you would ever find in life. Even complete strangers find it easy to talk to empaths about their most personal matters.

Now, those of us who are familiar with the movie – this might sound like the character sketch of Dulquer Salmaan straight out of the Malayalam movie “Charlie”. Yes, the empaths look really good in movies – the storytellers, the arty free thinkers, the volunteers. We see Charlie helping the suicidal doctor, celebrating birthday with the HIV positive sex worker, rescuing the little girl about to be sold into prostitution, and more – absorbing the traumas of each one them as if the pain were his own.

This sponge like absorption of emotions makes being an empath quite emotionally draining. Empaths see the world differently from the majority of the population leading their heart to get broken constantly for cruelty, injustice and inequalities that they see around them. To recoup, and keep their emotional balance they need their  “alone” time  – and probably that’s why we see Charlie drifting out of people’s lives after an emotional event, leaving no trace of his where about.

The crazy wise maverick  – that was Charlie’s highlighted characteristics in the movie and that’s probably because we as viewers only come to know about Charlie through Tessa’s (the actress) search for Charlie leading her to people who tell their experiences with him which are absolutely magical. But that’s a one dimensional magical persona created. The rest of him for everyone is a mystery and not quite elaborated in the movie. There were only very subtle hints of him too having his needs for help.  Charlie as a child never had a real father-son relationship. This to a large extent resembles real life, the childhood of an empath could be very challenging because quite often their parents or teachers don’t understand the nuances of the child’s emotional framework and are unavailable to guide them. Often times as a child their abilities go overlooked, left to cope with overwhelming emotions and asked to fit in.

It’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned.

So to all the Tessas or the ones in love with an empath – it’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned. But what one needs to understand is that along with the magical connection is also a human being who could be just drained out absorbing feelings from all around. Here is a person who would hardly prioritize their self-care. Someone who is always on the giving end and the last one to ask. Someone who has chances of turning to addiction like alcohol or drugs to tone down their life. So loving such a person would mean – reminding them of prioritizing their self care, showing them your love because they might never ask for it, giving them their extra space in a relationship for them to balance out their emotions, giving them the extra time to heal. The one thing they would need from you is to be  authentic and honest  to the core because they can easily see beyond the superficial.

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And to all the  empaths out there, it’s okay if you feel too much. That’s just how you are and a self awareness of your highly sensitive emotional construct will help you handle it. Make peace with it – “Just Chill” , I mean “Just Feel”  🙂

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www.SoulCafe.co.in – A Long Term Soul Relationship starts here.

Pursuing Dreams and Sustaining Love – With Juli and Vivek Cariappa

“Follow your dreams, Chase them, Grab them..” Oh! we have been numbed by these “inspirational quotes” that stares at us a zillion times as we lazily scroll our Instagram / Facebook feeds every day. So for a change let’s talk to a couple, who  actually rolled up their sleeves and moved on to pursue their dream that felt crazy enough to people around them. What kept them moving forward was their  shared dream, the will to work hard, the determination to live a life with conviction and a whole lot of love.

Juli and Vivek Cariappa met as students in Delhi in the 1980s.  In 1986 they left their well paying jobs in Delhi and moved to Heggadadevana Kote, located 60 kilometers from Mysore to become organic farmers.  Their Krac-A-Dawna farm now is spread across 40 acres where they grow over 35 different vegetables – many of which are supplied to luxury wildlife resort Orange County. They also produce grains, spices, cotton, and make their own jams, soaps, clothes and dyes. They also retail organic clothing on UK-based website Just Clean Cotton

SoulCafe spoke to this lovely duo on their shared dream, sustainable relationship and more. 

SoulCafe:  Tell us a bit about how your “organic” journey started? 

Juli & Vivek:   When we began, the word ‘organic’ referred to a term in organic chemistry in most people’s dictionary, there was no appreciation of things natural. 1980`s were the Green revolution days. Pesticides were good, we were told that one could not feed the world without chemicals, and they were good.  We knew what we didn’t want and so we set out to really define what we did. We wanted the freedom to do that. We wanted to be happy, we wanted to be at peace in a world that was full of strife, competition and inequality. We were ready to work hard for our chosen path. We searched for a way of life that would enable us to live with dignity and self respect on our own terms.

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SoulCafe: In 1986. When the two of you started off with 14 acres of land in Halasnur Village as novice farmers, were there self-doubts on how your dream is going to turn out?

Juli & Vivek : When you are living your dream there is no question of self doubt, as your dream becomes your reality. You and the dream/reality grow and develop organically. Doubts and questions become part of self realization. When you are 21 you don’t really know much about doubt, you don’t have enough experience to worry about doubt, especially when you are having a lot of fun!

SoulCafe: How did you ensure that your self-sustaining lifestyle remains economically viable?

Juli & Vivek : Well we had only a certain amount of money so if we wanted to make it work we had to make it viable within the lifestyle we chose. Viability is also about survival and so innovation is driven by necessity. We both had different skills and were open to acquiring more in the quest to make it work. Economic viability is an essential part of sustainability. We worked hard at keeping to a lifestyle that ensured sustainability. You could say that a lot of people we knew were very cynical about our ability to make it off a piece of land, especially coming from our background as city kids, that also made us more determined to make it work.

SoulCafe: How important is it to have a shared dream in a relationship?

Juli & Vivek: Essential! You can’t waste time and energy  justifying all you want to do. But you also have to have the space to discuss, argue. And the humility to some times bow to the other persons ideas and try something out even if you don’t agree. Our modern world is all about personal ego, that often ruins a good friendship and takes over the dream . Can`t let that happen because the dream is bigger than either of you. A shared dream is essential in a relationship that has to sustain and grow. How can one live another’s dream ? Without the dream being common ground how can there be equality in a relationship ?

A shared dream is essential in a relationship that has to sustain and grow. How can one live another’s dream ? Without the dream being common ground how can there be equality in a relationship ?

SoulCafe : “Sustainability” has been your theme in life. How do you keep love sustainable over the years?

Juli & Vivek:  Keep dancing! Sometimes together, sometimes on your own but always keeping the present real. “Here and now” keeps the love real enough to hold on to it. And love is always bigger than two people, it affects all that you create around you. In our case our children, the land, trees, animals, it is dynamic, ever-changing, bigger, way bigger than what the two “we” began as. Keeping the relationship fresh and exhilarating is essential. Have to keep in focus the fact that we both are here because this is where we want to be. Never get in the rut of taking the other for granted!

SoulCafe: Are there other interests that you both pursue?

Juli & Vivek: It’s difficult to explain to a non-farmer this thing of interests! That is a very reductionist term. Life abhors reductionism, our very nature dies when we box all our different aspects. Don’t know how to answer this question. Life is our interest  we pursue it . When you live a life not of your choice then you do need “other “interests to reduce the drudgery and the sense of alienation in your life. If on the other hand you are living your life on your terms , doing what you want, how you want, with whom you want , where you want; then where else would you rather be? Nowhere, than right here! We do have interests other than working on the farm though, Juli plays the flute, we read, write and Vivek finds opportunity anywhere to ride his bike !

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Life is our interest  we pursue it . When you live a life not of your choice then you do need “other “interests to reduce the drudgery and the sense of alienation in your life .

SoulCafe: What were the advantages and challenges with home schooling the kids and raising them close to nature away from the Urban lifestyle?

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Juli & Vivek: Being away from the pressures and the telescopic -judgmental view of urban living, we could teach them about life in a very different way. Experiential teaching, as we worked I think made them very different in some fundamental ways. But you will have to ask them. We spent a lot of time with them and could also become more than parents, more like friends. That was sometimes confusing for them, where to draw the boundaries, but then every life has its challenges. All kids at some point compare themselves with others. To a certain extent we could shape their value systems, keep inessentials out of the picture like caste and religion.  Our two sons are farming and our daughter lives in Bangalore working in a marketing job.

SoulCafe: Do you think as a society we are now more receptive to people pursuing their dreams than we were 30 years ago?

Juli & Vivek: Difficult to say. There are more options probably and self-employment is not so strange nowadays but dreams have to be themselves re-evaluated. There is so much virtual reality today, that people live with every day, that its difficult for people to distinguish between that and a dream to make a life. Things are too much at a touch of a button, and if you don’t have to work hard for it, its easy to lose interest, so easy to take things for granted, to keep working at it is tougher .

SoulCafe: You both are among the few who have tried to make the world adjust to your dreams. What would you tell the youngsters who are dwindling between their dreams, and comforts of a stable lifestyle?

Dignity, self respect, peace and satisfaction do not come from a big bank balance . The young need to look beyond greed, ignorance , fear and guilt.

Juli & Vivek:  You have to get out there and do it. Stability is something your parents might want for you but its not the stuff that makes dreams come true. Unless you live it, fight for it, how will it become yours? Often fighting yourself for the easy way out is the hardest thing. Life is easier materially these days and that is what people value, but its not the stuff of dreams. Life is made of failures that teach you and successes that make you reach higher. It is their world view that the young need to change. Cosmetically being different is neither enabling nor self defining. the change has to be from the inside . There is where today the young fear to look . Dignity, self respect, peace and satisfaction  do not come from a big bank balance.The young need to look beyond greed , ignorance, fear and guilt.

Amen! Thanks a lot Juli and Vivek for this Soulful conversation!

Here is a beautiful video on Juli & Vivek’s  organic life.

f5www.SoulCafe.co.in – A Long Term Soul Relationship starts here.

“Lasts Forever” – That’s such a cliche.

When you are in love and at the brink of making that BIG  commitment –  you get those butterflies in your tummy and along with it comes a streak of anxiety. And  you close your eyes, cross your fingers to make a wish that this lasts forever.  “Lasts Forever??? BAH HUMBUG that’s such a cliche ” – your logic might immediately warn you but you would rather cross your heart and believe it’s forever.

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Logic would still do it’s part by warning you – love ain’t designed to stay that long (moreover with the life expectancy increased there is a major design flaw to this whole “forever” concept :)). Most of the time people have stretched it for a lifetime  for the sake of social pressures, kids, religious beliefs or  financial stability.  This isn’t intentional but it’s a possibility that cannot be simply denied.  If we strip societal pressure, kid’s security, financial stability, religious beliefs and any such reasons out of the equation – is there “something” left in a long term relationship  that makes you come back to the same person day after day? That “something”  needs to be nurtured in our relationship. According to psychologist Arthur Aron that “something” is the human need for “Self Expansion”. It’s not the only aspect that sustains a long term relationship but it’s an important aspect that we need to be consciously aware of.

Long Term Relationship and the Self Expansion Model

Psychologist Arthur Aron specializes in the study of romantic love and directs the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Back in 1986 Aron and his wife Elaine (also a psychologist) developed a conceptual framework that attempted to describe how people think, feel, and act in close relationships. It’s called the ‘self-expansion’ model of human relationships and it is based on the idea that we are constantly seeking new ways in which to expand ourselves, and to “increase our store of ideas, experiences, skills, interests and resources in order to accomplish an ever-evolving set of goals.

When we fall in love, our new partner’s perspectives and identities automatically become ours too, and this results in a rapid expansion of self which results in a high levels of positive feelings. Every shared conversation  becomes an opportunity for personal growth and in time, couples eventually adopt the traits of the other to the extent that they find it difficult to distinguish the differences between them. This does not mean that these couples have lost themselves in the relationships; instead, they grew and expand their perspectives with that of the others. Activities, traits and behaviors that had not been part of their identity before the relationship were now an essential part of how they experienced life.

The Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale
The Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale Source: https://saylordotorg.github.io/text_introduction-to-psychology/s18-psychology-in-our-social-lives.html

The self-expansion model also offers a credible explanation for the typical decline in satisfaction in long term relationships. When two people begin a relationship, there is an initial, exhilarating period in which they ‘expand’ at a very rapid rate. When that expansion slows down, for some couples having children and the experience of nurturing little ones sometimes serves as a way of continuing the expansion process.  However, a shared nurturing and admiration for offspring isn’t always enough to sustain the parent’s relationship with each other as the children end up moving out as part of their own self expansion needs.  Aron’s research demonstrates that to sustain satisfaction in the long-term, couples need to invest in each other’s self expansion.

Aron believes that it is not just enough for couples to be free of problems and conflicts to sustain a relationship. His research has proven that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship. It’s also important that in a relationship, a unidirectional self expansion – where one person’s self expansion at the expense of the other is avoided.

Aron’s research demonstrates that to sustain satisfaction in the long-term, couples need to invest in each other’s self expansion.

Many times true love and the resulting self expansion sustains even after one of two have left. Remember the Disney movie UP where Carl  leaves for his adventure long after Ellie had gone.

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Honestly this isn’t any secret but quite often an over looked and neglected aspect in a relationship – when the mundane routine takes over everything else.  In a relationship when one adds to the other’s   experiences, perspectives, strengths, capabilities and compensates for the other’s weakness resulting in making a better person of each other  – it sustains happily   overcoming the challenges ( sometimes long after one of them has gone).

“Bachelor Girls”- In conversation with filmmaker Shikha Makan

Shikha Makan is a filmmaker and writer. She is also a prominent ad-film maker in India and  is one of the few women directors to have lent her craft to the ‘automobile/bike’ category. Her short experimental film “Linger” was part of the festival circuit in 2011.

SoulCafe caught up with Shikha to talk about her latest feature length documentary “Bachelor Girls” which  raises an important question about freedom of women in urban India, in the wake of housing discrimination faced by single women in Mumbai.

SoulCafeWhat is your inspiration behind making a documentary on this topic?

Shikha: It began with a personal experience that translated into a search for reasons, and led up to unraveling this issue in a film. I am an ad-film director but for me making a film on realities of single women facing housing discrimination felt a very important thing to do. It was not just to raise a voice against it, but also to throw light on our social attitudes that continues to look at women from a ‘gendered’ perspective, even in 21st century urban India. This unveils an important fact, that our society is negating the journeys of women into independence and self-reliance, by such discrimination. With the news of the film traveling across mediums, the issue has sparked a debate, the way it should have and I am glad that we are speaking about it.

SoulCafeWhat were your biggest challenges in making this documentary?

Shikha: Once I started researching for the film, I found so many resonating, stories of women, who came into the city, from various places in pursuit of their careers, and were denied a space to live. So finding stories wasn’t the most difficult part, but convincing them to share on camera was, at times. I understand the reservations of those women who chose not to speak. Real estate professionals and housing society members were skeptical too, and refused mostly.

I strongly feel that Indian society has not evolved at the same pace Indian women have in redefining their identities.

SoulCafe: A recent survey showed that there are now 71 million single women in India which is a 39 % increase over the past decade. Do you think the society as a whole still needs to come in terms with the economic freedom of the modern Indian women?

Shikha: Absolutely yes. I strongly feel that Indian society has not evolved at the same pace Indian women have in redefining their identities. Today people may opt to remain single out of choice, but in case of women it comes with a big price. Even if she is urban, educated and in control of her life, for the society she is not good enough, without a ‘care-taker’.This is a clear paradox, as on one hand we exalt the freedom and empowerment of women, and on the other hand, reject the very empowered women, when she is at our doorstep looking for a roof above her head. I also think there is a complete absence of dialogue in our understanding of traditional vs modern today. We are becoming a modern society but are not willing to look at the challenges in the transition. We just find our comforts in passing judgments and labeling things.

We are becoming a modern society but are not willing to look at the challenges in the transition.

SoulCafe: Isn’t it equally difficult for urban single men to find rented house/apartments?  How do you think it’s different for single women?

Shikha: In the course of my research I did come across many single boys/men speaking of not finding homes. But men never get viewed through a ‘gendered’ prism. No one questions their clothes, call them names, slut shame, or wonder who is their care-taker. For a woman it’s a double whammy, first you are woman, and alone, hence not in line with what society expects of you and if you protest, then you are dismissed as a wreck and a troublemaker. Having said that all kinds of discrimination need to be questioned. My film is a human story, though I have taken a woman’s voice. And it really speaks largely about the way we treat each other in our society.

My film is a human story, though I have taken a woman’s voice. And it really speaks largely about the way we treat each other in our society.

SoulCafe: Nowadays, from watches to washing machines, almost every product has been coming up with “empowerment” ads that feature strong, independent women who make their own decisions and live a life in their own terms. In reality how supportive is the Indian urban ecosystem for the growing number of strong, independent, upward moving single women?

Shikha: That is where the dichotomy lies. Today, in Indian advertising, ‘Women Empowerment’ may be as fashionable as it can be effective. But I want to ask, if we have equal opportunities for women? Are women getting paid equally? Is our system open minded to seeing more women take on assertive and top positions in leading professional industries? Urban women will tell you stories of discrimination at all levels. Along with the information about emancipation and equality, we also need to sensitize people through education, in the way we bring up our children, and very importantly in the way we uphold basic human values. Our Urban ecosystem is in a state of flux and chaos, where consumerism is driving ideas of who we want to be. There are merits in such movements but we also need to introspect and look within. I am not sure if we have a culture that encourages questioning power and authority and finding constructive solutions. At the seat of power, unfortunately Patriarchy continues to rule.

SoulCafe: With recent Bollywood releases like PINK bringing to light social issues pertaining to single women in India, do you think the mainstream movie industry is ready for a change?

Shikha: I think mainstream Indian Cinema time and again has been making films on women’s issues. Though percentage of such films comparatively continues to remain low. The interesting part is that the subjects are becoming more uninhibited, bolder and in the face. I haven’t seen Pink yet, but I certainly hope that it will have some social impact.

I think the first big step towards making a change is to begin ‘talking’ about a problem and ‘accept’ that it exists.

SoulCafe: With “Bachelor Girls” getting released, what is it that you truly hope for?

Shikha: I hope I am able to release the film on an online platform soon, so that more and more people are able to see it. I am also holding a series of private screenings so we can carry the discussions forward. I think the first big step towards making a change is to begin ‘talking’ about a problem and ‘accept’ that it exists. Bachelor Girls is hopefully and positively moving to achieve that.

The film will be screened in Bangalore soon. For updates please check  Bachelor Girls Facebook page.

We wish you the very best with “Bachelor Girls” and hoping to see more such films that bring to light issues which need open discussions.

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Photo credit : Riva Bubber

On the Same Wavelength – Oh! that’s Brain Coupling

When we deeply connect with someone, we often try verbalizing this feeling of connection using the term – sharing the same wavelength or that we “resonate”. Sounds more of physics than poetry right :).  But lets for a moment believe, may be that happens! An instance where two (or more) individuals  share similar brain waves with the other when they converse.

If the latest neuroscience is to be believed, that sense of connection is all in our head – literally and the phenomenon is called “Brain Coupling”.

Brain coupling is like a magic moment when you feel understood heard received by another person. You let your guard down and have an embodied felt connection with another. This is a “moment” of loving connectedness.

The Princeton University neuroscientist Uri Hasson’s specialty is exploring the dynamics of “interacting brains,” performing fMRI scans of human subjects and understanding the underlying neural mechanisms that allows the brain to integrate information over time and those that facilitate communication between people. His studies have shown evidence for synchronizing of two people’s brain suggesting that – in good communication, two individuals come to feel a single, shared emotion as well, one that is distributed across their two brains.  He Says – “Brain coupling, is the means by which we understand each other.”

In her book Love 2.0 social psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson states that in love three things happen – our gestures and facial expressions start to mirror each other, and our brains synchronize too. In fact she goes further saying ,  ‘a micro-moment of love is a single act performed by two brains’.

Call it brain coupling, neural coupling or sharing the same wave length, it is indeed a moment of bliss when  your brainwaves mirror those of the person you’re speaking to or lets rather simply say – when they just get you!

Here is a great video from Jason Silva the Emmy-nominated host of National Geographic’s hit TV series, Brain Games talking about brain coupling. Enjoy watching! Ciao!

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SoulCafe – Brewing Conversations and Connections

UNDEFINED

8th of December 2015. It is her wedding day. Sandy was helping Divyakshi to wear her white and golden embroidered “pat-mekhela-chador”. She looked serine as the first ray of sun-light after her bath but, her eyes were restless. They were searching for someone. I asked her, “Divyakshi what’s the matter? Is something bothering you, dear?Sayar’s Divya just looked towards us and shook her head in dis-agreement. But her mirror (the eyes) witnessed her lie.

With trembling fingers Divyakshi placed “sindoor” the symbol of her transformation from lady to womanhood over her forehead. I left the room & saw the dark handsome guy with an average height, waiting eagerly. He was sitting all alone and so I joined him.

“I cannot wait. Can you manage Joy?”, he said. Placing my right hand over his shoulder I said smiling, “Will give it a try”.

“It’s getting difficult for me. Will you please?” saying so he took my hands within his and warmly pressed them. His head still bowed down. I stood up and left the room in silence.

We had been friends from the first days of our graduation. It has almost been 10 years. We all have gone separate ways, but still today when we meet it seems nothing has changed in between us. It feels like a complete time-lapse.

Sayar had made a complete arrangement of proposing Divyakshi. Being the first relationship of our batch the complete batch was super excited. Finally, when they were left in the midst of the island “Umananda”, Sayar kneeled on his knee and proposed Divyakshi in a full filmy manner with his famous sayari rehearsed by him thousands of times before us, “ Mera dil ek mandir hai; sTum uski murat ho; Khuda kassam tum bohot khubsoorat ho- My heart is a temple, You are the idol within ,By God’s grace you are the most beautiful.”

A roller coaster of excitement pounded in every heart of the college for Divyakshi took almost a month to reply to Sayar’s proposal.  Meanwhile, the rumor was spread ‘Sayar” leaving the college for unknown reasons. This news didn’t take long to reach Divyakshi’s ears. She decided to reply the proposal.

Our batch’s fresher’s meet day. After the team’s dance performance on “A.R. Rahman’s Vande Mataram” Divyakshi & ‘Sayar’ were left alone in the green room. No one knew what was going on within the room. Finally, after ten minutes ‘Sayar’ came out with a gloomy face.

“Hey did she accept your proposal?”, we asked him eagerly.

He remained silent and just surpassed us without uttering a single gesture. Taken as a dis-approval of the proposal disheartened we left for our hostels.

We felt defeated as the “jugad” done for Sayar & Divyakshi in the past 1 and ½ months done by us had gone in vein.

Within the next few days puja vacations were to start. Among all the excitement of leaving for home after a long time somewhere the proposal story of Divyakshi and ‘Sayar’ was forgotten.

Breaking news from our college campus after puja holidays, “Sayar & Divyakshi hitched up”. It was party all around. “Cutest Couple” was the name adored to them. All around the campus the only gossip was about this couple. They were teased by seniors adored by juniors and loved by batch mates.

A year passed by. It was Divyakshi’s birthday. We the “Gang of Eight Evilest” hanged together at the restura “La Fista”. Sayar was to throw the party for his better half. The food was ordered.

This long pause of food’s arrival is the most tempting thing always. So, in order to kill this unappeasable time the oddest game of all, “Truth & Dare” was played by us. A beer can was used to nominate the turns. Some chose dare & some the truth. At one moment of the game we got so involved that we started choosing only truth.

It was my turn now. The question was for Divyakshi, “How do you look your relationship with Sayar? Is it love or just mere attraction?”  The only reason behind asking the question was Sayar. He was a lucky go happy guy who shared every tit-bit with us and was very serious about his relationship with Divya aka Divyakshi .Whereas Divyakshi shared only room with us not her emotions.

Divyakshi was darn upset with my question. Some of my friends were with me & some against me. By the time we returned to our room each one of my roomies were dead against me except Sandy who thought that although my question was brutal yet it was true.

This incident was buried somewhere in the deserts of the past.

Sandy and I returned completing our Post-grads. We decided to have a get together of the “Gang of Eight Evilest” at our famous “adda place” “La Fista”.We reunited again. Everyone was happy & excited. Divyakshi & Sayar came too. We all were meeting after almost five long years. We had grown more matured but the madness prevailed. We talked laughed and quarreled. Time lapsed back.

As evening passed, Sayar was requested to spell one of his sayaris. Although at first he didn’t want to but then he spoke, “App meri zindagi me thi to meri bagon me ful hi ful the, Par jab se aap ruth gaye mano bahar hi humse ruth gaaye, Gairo ne to chor hi diya tha; Aapne v saath chor gaaye…Kante to zindegi me kam nahi thee Ki aab Rab v hamare duwayon se ruth gaaye, Janemaan jabse aap hamse chuth gaaye- When you were in my life there were beautiful flowers in my garden, But from the day you got angry over me even the flowers are angry over me. The unknown people had left me long ago and even my near & dear ones had left me. There were no fewer thrones in my life that even The Almighty has stopped hearing my prayers, my beloved from the day I had lost you”.

It was then we realized “Sayar & Divyakshi had a break-up”. The situation turned tensed and sensitive.

Suddenly, Sayar got up to leave.

Divyakshi got up too & holding Sayar’s hand said, “Wait, have loads to talk about”.

Sayar hesitated,” No, I am getting late, must leave”.

Divyakshi replied smiling, “This must have been my line”.

Through the severe pain of emotions a smile escaped from Sayar’s lips.

He didn’t turn back and said, “Some other time dear, not today this isn’t the right time and situation. You look beautiful wearing my favorite color blue & my life is still in Blues”.

Sayar left and Divyakshi stood watching him leave. Tears escaped her big beautiful eyes as if they had been waiting to fall.

Sandy helped her to sit & I forwarded a glass of water which she finished almost in between the tears & gasp of deep breathes. After a long pause we started talking again.

Her eyes now turned to the best mirror to show how deeply scared she was as if something had ripped off from her life.

She spoke, “I never wanted to leave him .He was the one who had taught me what love was. Yes, Jazz you were right at first it was just a time pass sort of thing but then as time passed by I just couldn’t think my life without him”.

She heaved a deep breath and continued, “But then everyone has got a breaking point. He tried the best to keep our relationship alive. It was I who stepped back. Yes, yes I who stepped back”.Divyakshi was fueling with emotion. It seemed to me she was angry with herself. But we kept quiet and.

“I was selfish. Yes, I am selfish because I cannot dare to go against my family. My family who too means a lot to me even though it’s not perfect likes others. Yes, I am selfish because still today I miss him in every moment of my life. Yes, even today I want to feel the same with the partner whom I had chosen .Yes I am not afraid to say that I shall miss him all through-out my life.” Her anguish gushed out.

She cried aloud. She wept hard as if she wanted to repent for everything. Without thinking of the crowd she shred herself free from the shackles of gustiness. We watched her silently.

For the first time in these years of our friendship she had broken down. Tears rolled from her eyes and she re-spoke, “But then I had to choose between the two- my family & my love.”

She quivered with emotions, “I, I, I am not so bold to choose love. It, it, it was still in starting phase. God knows if I had taken the right decision”

“Throughout my life I have seen my mom & dad fight like animals who had also done love marriage. My childhood has gone through nightmares. I, I, I used to sleep with cotton plugged in my ears so that I cannot hear them quarrel.” She stammered.

“If love marriage means to fight everyday like my mom & dad then I don’t want that love. If love means insecurity everyday then I don’t want love. I face the brutality of love marriage everyday & I just don’t want that to re-happen in my life. I need security. Yes, if money is the security then I need that security.” She choked.

I passed a glass of water to her. With shivering hands Divyakshi somehow took a sip from the glass and respoke, “But, but I cannot live without Sayar. Yes, Yes I am selfish damn selfish. Hope someday you all forgive me for what I have done with you dear friend Sayar. I pray he gets the best girl in the world who shall heal all scars I had given to him and he forgets me for good for always.” Speaking her last words she left  hastily without waiting for us.It was then we understood the depression which our friends had passed through.

Our re-union had taken place almost two years back and today is 8th of December 2015. Today is Divyakshi’s marriage. Sandy & I have arrived with Sayar to witness the beautiful event. She is dressed ready to be someone’s bride but not Sayar’s. As promised to Sayar by me I brought Divyakshi.

Without saying a word Sayar embraced Divyakshi tight, kissed her softly on her forehead & whispered in her ears, “You look gorgeous, really gorgeous. Have a beautiful life ahead. Shall miss you, always and forever.”

Divyakshi hugged him back and said, “Don’t worry we shall meet again”.

Sayar didn’t answer but whispered, “Come with me. There is still time.”

Divyakshi hugged him more tightly and sighed; “Not now it isn’t possible.”

Somewhere within my heart I wished, “Go girl go, just disappear with him.”

Sayar heaved hard. Leaving Sayar’s embrace and adjusting her bindi with a fake smile Divyakshi said, “Do come to my new home”.

We started to leave & Sayar turned back to have a last look of his Divya. Sandy & I left them alone.

When he finally arrived to join us he said, “The last look of her is damn driving me crazy man. Her silence has always killed me. I could never get through the tough block of ice behind which she always hid her emotions. Hope she took the right decision.”

We trio, I Sandy & Sayar strove down to a long drive and after a long pause Sayar spoke, “ It’s not love anymore. No, no, no, I don’t want her in my life anymore but still I cannot see her with someone else.”

“You know she accepted the proposal of this guy with whom she is getting married the very next day we both broke our relationship. If she didn’t love me then why did she play with me for four long years?” This time too I and Sandy were the listeners.

Sayar swallowed a lump of emotions and re-spoke, “But then can one be into a relationship for four long years without being in love. Is it possible to carry forward an act for such long? Yes, I agree I made mistakes but then I, I tried hard to maintain the relationship. I was ready for sacrificing everything but then why did she step back. I do understand her limitations and her duty towards her family but how will she live in the drama she has got entangled into? God save her”, he prayed.

After a moment he smiled and said, “For he has saved me from her”. Sayar laughed hard but we knew it was just to cover his pain.

Within my mind some lines of Rabindranath Tagore started murmuring, “ Shokhi vabona kahare bole, Shokhi jatona kahare bole, tomra je bolo diboso rojoni valobasa valobasa, Sokhi valobasha kare koi , se ki keboli jatona moi,Se ki keboli chokher jol, Se ki keboli dukher aash, Loke tobe kore ki sukheri tore aamono dukhero aash-Oh my dear friend what is tension? Dear friend what is pain, you all sing all day & night about love and love, Oh my dear friend what is love. Is it so painful? Is it only tearful eyes? Is it only pain? Then why do people being in so much comfort want to get the taste of that pain”

And we trio drove along in silence for long. We stood by the road side of the national highway to Khanapara. It was around 12:30 a.m. Sayar brought three cups of tea for us and we tossed, “For a happy married life to Divyakshi”. Sandy added, “And Sayar get the girl with most beautiful heart as his life partner”.

Sayar whispered with damn gravity, “Pyala adha bhara hai ya adha khali, Pyala adha bhara hai ya adha khali, Yeh to dekhne wale ke upar me hai. Bus itna hi baan paya yaroo aage ki line banne waali hai”. Saying so he laughed & we both joined the group trying to help him soothe his pain a bit.

How much I wished that day the “Cutest Couple” gets hooked back together. Who was responsible for this Divyakshi or Sayar? Who had betrayed the emotions of the other?Were they not bold enough to break-off the social barrier, the communalism or was it mere luck oriented?  Why everything wasn’t picture perfect just like a movie? Why was I so helpless for not being able to support both of them soothing their pains? Why? Who was to be blamed? Why even being detached each wanted the good of the other? What is the name of this relation?

Sayar as if had listened the conversation of me with my soul whispered in my ears, “It’s Undefined, dear. I can never hate her neither can she ever forget me”.

Sayar continued, “I have realized that nothing can be picture perfect. Because, hopefully the greatest director of our lives has thought what should be the perfect in ones life’s cinema & still thennn”. We hummed together, “We have long long way to go before we say goodbye”.        

(This article was first published at – http://verseslife.blogspot.in/2016/04/undefined-relation.html)

 

 

SoulCafe –Soul Connections on your Mobile

f5Brewing real Conversations and Connections that lasts a lifetime.

SoulCafe the platform that aims at building long term Soul Relationships for urban Indian singles is now available for Android devices.  After the web presence (www.soulcafe.co.in) it’s the next logical step forward. So here we are!

SoulCafe is not for everybody and it recommends people to make sure if they can really relate to the concept. SoulCafé is definitely not just another dating app or a matrimonial website. SoulCafe is for people who seek a sense of real connectedness in a relationship that just happens organically and not forced upon, people who look for authenticity rather than air brushed images and over perfected profiles.

So does SoulCafe work or is this pure idealism you may wonder?  Honestly every solution to life’s bigger problems starts off with idealism –  believing there needs to be a better solution and that there can be one. SoulCafe does work and it does in its unique way with it’s firm foundation on proven psychological studies.  SoulCafe is not about swipe left-swipe right but most importantly about “Being Real”. The fairy tale moments do happen at SoulCafe like it happened for our café mates Deepa and Sid.

 

FIND THE SOULCAFE APP  HERE – en_badge_web_generic

 

 

 

 

Can Men and Women be Just Friends? (Video)

Can truly platonic relationships ever exist, or will there always be some bit of attraction involved? Would attraction eventually break these friendships? Attraction only breaks a friendship if you let it. Feeling attracted to someone isn’t your choice but addressing it is. The key isn’t to repress it but to acknowledge that it exist.

 Watch some friends from opposite genders talk candidly about their friendship. 

Soul Cafe Fairy Tale Moment : Deepa – Sid

Our greatest joy comes from these Fairy Tale moments at Soul Cafe! Especially when we hear it directly from our Cafe Mates. These moments are our “Caffeine” that keeps us upbeat & kicking as we  move forward on our journey towards building Soul Relationships. Much love to you Deepa and Sid! Sharing your fairy tale moment with the world!
Hello Soul Cafe,
This is Deepa Sai writing to you from Chennai, India. Till April I had been a late twenties-single-something  who had been tired of all the online dating services India had to offer . I accidentally spotted Soul Cafe’s advertisement on Facebook. I really loved the tagline, “building soul relationships”.  While the other sites boasted of hooking up, hitching, romance or dating, I was appreciative of the fact that Soul Cafe believed in the idea of trying to create meaningful relationships among people. Having mastered  in Psychology and Social work, I was thoroughly impressed with Soul Cafe’s story which had it’s basis on Psychological studies and research, propagating the concept that people ought to bond over in-depth conversations, understand one another completely in order to understand if they are compatible with each other, instead of depending on superficial ideas like social or financial status or just physical appearances. While a lot of dating sites promoted the idea of short term relationships and sleazy affairs, I loved Soul Cafe’s take on building lasting relationships with people regardless of sex or location. I registered out of curiosity and I loved the concept so much. It was a very private space for me to express my feelings, interact with a lot of people on deeper perspectives and make friends.
I could hardly believe that I was going to meet my soulmate there in the next few days. Siddharth Iyer, owner of writeupcafe.com who had registered with Soul Cafe to find out how this online forum worked. He had posted a couple of pictures on Soul Cafe . My curiosity piqued and I found myself getting attracted to him . I checked his profile out, his blog and decided to  befriend him in various online platforms. I was afraid that he would not be a frequent visitor and would not know that I had requested  to be his friend. But I couldn’t find him on other platforms. Being a follower of his blog did not give me any significant advantage either as I would be labeled as just another reader, so I had my fingers crossed about this.
To my astonishment he did add me and we started exchanging messages on Soul Cafe. After a considerable number of days I gave  him my number and things rapidly escalated from there on. We met each other on May 8th. A month has passed since and I am betrothed to him. We would be married by the end of this year.
Siddharth and I wanted to express our gratitude to Soul Cafe for being the means to our beautiful miraculous fairy tale ending. We wish Soul Cafe all the very best and  hope that many more people find their soulmates there. As we part with our Soul Cafe accounts, it is on a happy note. Our experience has been memorable and we wish the same for its members as well.
Thank you for bringing that smile on our faces.
Yours truly,
Deepa and Siddharth
SOULCAFE APP
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Heart Break is real after all

I remember a little framed quote that I always used to keep at my desk. It read “If your heart was really broken, you would die.”

It was a constant reminder to my no-nonsense cynical self that a heartbreak was not that painful. Heartbroken to me was nothing but a theatrical misconception that a stoned poet conjured.

How can someone “break” your heart? It had no physical connotation what-so-ever. At least, that is what I thought.

So, when do you realize that a heart-break is very real?

What does it take to realize that a “heart-break” actually has a very tangible physical connotation to it?

It takes waking up one morning, suddenly stripped off your denial and realizing that your life has changed a great deal.

It takes coming to terms with the fact that your house will smell of yesterday’s breakfast and that you are going to smell of freshly dried tears for a while.

It takes sleeping with frizzy hair and puffed eyes in your old clothes that were supposed to be in the washing machine, a week ago.

It takes a sink full of undone dishes, untouched homework and a heavy heart.

It takes waking up to the smell of Nutella and banana pancakes and grasping that you still don’t have an appetite.

What does it take to realize that a “heart-break” actually means that you are broken?

You slowly start to realize that you don’t make plans for “We”.

You realize that suddenly you have no one to tell the most unimportant details of your life to. You smile when someone says how being single feels great even though every time you think about the fact that you are single, it feels like someone just punched you in the gut.

It is normal to panic at the very sight of emptiness. When an important person leaves our life, it creates a void. We hate emptiness and we immediately fill that void with something, no matter how meaningless it might be.  

That is why he becomes a box of chocolates. He becomes a new hair-cut. He becomes a new job, a new city.  He becomes a gold fish you cannot take care of.  He becomes a new hobby or a garden.

And slowly, he becomes everything that you try to thrust in to fill the void that he left behind.

What does it take to realize that a “heart-break” takes its own time to heal?

It takes days when you are smiling because it seems like there is finally a new beginning.  That feeling lasts only until memories of a seemingly sweeter yesterday pushes you back to the corner of your bed where you cannot even stand the thought of your own blanket touching you.

It takes days when you feel that life is downright unfair. It takes days when you plead with destiny to give you just another first time with the familiar. It takes sleepless nights and days when you just live to oversleep.

And then it takes those most important days. The worst days. The days when somewhere in between a busy meeting, an excel file, a meaningful book, a funny movie or just before you drink a sip of water on a random afternoon, you wonder.

You wonder, however did I let something so perfect be ruined?

And it is on those days that you realize that a heart-break is very real after all.  

Love as a way of Life

We all have our notions, our definitions or even a vague picture of how love is supposed to be. Come February and this sickness suddenly spreads and heightens it’s fold. It’s like somebody from above opens a can of “Love,” air freshener and sprays it all on us … Long enough to last a month, I guess.

For me, love isn’t just an emotion or a mere feeling, its a way of life. It’s not just those moments that blow my mind away or that time when he cuddles next to me , after a long, dreary day.

Love is the universe for me … I experience it in the smallest and the most infinite forms , separately and yet intertwined. For when my mother cooks my favorite food to when I help an elderly person to their car . It’s the call my child would rant across the house with, in order to get my attention or the time my boss calls me in the middle of my holidays to ask me something that slipped his mind . It’s all love.

Myriad forms, varied temperaments but yet making you feel so close , so inherently important in this vast world.

People call me vain, because I love myself so much. Little do they know that self-love is the start of every form of love that exists. If you cannot appreciate your own existence, your vices & your uniqueness, you will never be able to expand your horizons to others and see the love in them .

My friends often also have this notion that love only stands for togetherness .

Baahhh Humbug!!!

Fear, Anger, Anxiety, Surprise, Shock, Sadness, they are all… all an amalgamation which form the crux of this 4 letter word. For me, the most important being sadness. If you’ve laid your hands on the movie, “Inside Out,” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Sadness is the most vulnerable part of love. It brings out the beauty within our hearts & exposes our innermost desires in the most simple way possible. But not through words, if that’s what you’re thinking. Sadness leads to love, you can say….at-least self-love. You decipher your self , you understand, you experience & you further envision . If you are fully able to open your heart & accept melancholy as a part of yourself, love isn’t far away.

If you are fully able to open your heart & accept melancholy as a part of yourself, love isn’t far away

One day my friend Lalit asked me, “Who is that one person I can go to when all I need is love & maybe some support.”

I just showed him the mirror. 😊

Always remember that love will never knock at your door, you have to keep those doors wide open & love will gently sway within. The best feeling is when you don’t realize you’re falling for someone. It’s the most beautiful phase so please, please live it to the fullest.

Lastly, not every love ends at marriage, some begin with it too.
Let’s stop relating love & marriage together…. They might be important but they are not meant to be together always.

I pray that we all are always in love. No matter with what, but in love & in all purity.

Meet the couple who quit their jobs to embark on a transformational journey

Most of us fantasize about quitting our day jobs to listen to our inner calling – to pick our bags, jump on a caravan and head on a spontaneous backpack trip. And here we are – stuck in our cubicle, staring at our laptop screen and wondering what to cook or order for dinner. Let’s be practical – we have mortgages to pay and life ain’t any Imtiaz Ali movie (mostly) :).

People who follow such inner callings are indeed inspiring – and one such couple is  Saurav and Devapriya who published a book called “The Heat and Dust Project: The broke couple’s guide to Bharat” (part of a trilogy). It is a rollicking saga based on the true stories of a couple who quit their jobs, picked up their backpacks, traveled on a shoe string budget of Rs 500 per day  and experienced eccentric encounters over thousands of kilometers.

Saurav is a commentator on energy, security and geopolitics, contributes regularly to World Politics Review and The Diplomat.  His first book – The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power was published by Harper Collins in 2010  While Devapriya  is the author of two popular novels – The Vague Woman’s Handbook (2011) and The Weight Loss Club (2013).

SoulCafe spoke to this lovely duo on their journey,  the Heat & Dust Project and above all the transformation in their relationship.

SoulCafe“She wanted to write and he wanted to understand India that is Bharat and that was the birth of an idea – The Heat & Dust project.” Was the decision to quit your regular jobs, move out of the comfort zone that one is so used to that easy? What were the most difficult aspects that you had to convince each other?

” A decision such as this, is never easy. There is always the anxiety of having to leave a stable source of income. But it was a mutual decision. One that did not really involve convincing each other. We both knew it was a difficult decision to take, but also knew that it had to be done.”

SoulCafe -Should life be planned or should it be spontaneous? Who is the planner amongst you?

” Let us put it this way, life gives you just enough leeway to plan your own spontaneity. Of course, a larger corpus of savings before we left our jobs would have helped. (laughs).  But neither of us is a classic ‘Type A’ person and we have seen the limits of planning as well. Though during a journey such as this there has to be some semblance of planning, and I (Saurav) was the purveyor of that.”

SoulCafe – Has this extreme budget travel been your Ultimate Relationship Test? Did living in extreme budget constraints bring out the best and worst of each other?

“It certainly has been a major test of sorts. A tight budget naturally reduces the choices that one has in the material world and that leads to either compromise or conflict. I think our book documents instances of both. But when you take away the cushion money offers, it is then that you see the truth about a relationship whether good, bad or ugly.”

But when you take away the cushion money offers, it is then that you see the truth about a relationship whether good, bad or ugly.

SoulCafe – Has this experience changed your outlook to life- individually and collectively? How has this experience changed your relationship? Has it helped you see each other in a new light?

 “It has. We aren’t the same people anymore. We both find it difficult to settle down to the rhythms of city life. This experience has definitely brought us closer. We know that we have each other’s backs and that is fundamental to a relationship. Most importantly, this journey has made us respect each other more than we did before.”

We aren’t the same people anymore. We both find it difficult to settle down to the rhythms of city life.

SoulCafe – How different are your personalities and what are those key aspects that keep you together in difficult times?

“We are both similar at the core. But outwardly, Devapriya is an affable, even charming person. I am more of an introverted person, given to dark moods. But I guess the key aspect that keeps us together through thick and thin, is trust.”

SoulCafe – When you set out to travel, did you experience a plateau phase- in terms of the initial euphoria dying down, and finally coming to terms with reality? How did you support (or tear each other apart) during this phase? 

Oh we kept hitting troughs and crests throughout the journey. The breakneck pace that we inflicted upon ourselves ensured that kind of emotional movement. And we have documented this rather candidly in our book.”

SoulCafe – How important is personal space in your relationship? Was it put to test as you traveled together for so long?

 “I think this journey has actually helped us in that sphere. We can now share the same space while inhabiting our own little worlds without dissonance.”

SoulCafe – It’s fascinating to see backpacker couples on Instagram and read their blogs. How different is fantasy from reality?

I am sure what they put up on the internet is a reflection of reality. But so is whatever else they choose not to put up. Our book is more tuned to the layered experience that backpacking provides.”

SoulCafe – From a regular working couple to living a not so regular life – you have seen life transform. What would be your piece of advice for couples who are pondering over taking an offbeat path to pursue their passion?

Do it together. This journey is best undertaken together. And stick to whatever you have decided, together. There will be phases of intense anxiety, but that too shall pass.”

This journey is best undertaken together. And stick to whatever you have decided, together.

SoulCafe – The heat and dust project is the first book of the trilogy. What’s in store for the readers in the coming series?

The first installment of ‘The Heat and Dust Project’ series is called ‘The Broke Couple’s Guide to Bharat’ which is what you are referring to. The next book in the series is called ‘Man, Woman, Road’ and it chronicles a three month journey from Delhi to Kanyakumari via the length of India in the heat of summer. Believe me, nobody will be disappointed with what we have to share with that one.”

We wish this soulful  couple all the success with their up coming books in the series and also many more adventures in life. To read more on their project check out their website: http://www.theheatanddustproject.com/

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THE SECOND TIME YOU FALL IN LOVE

“Because love is not instagram to always show you in the best possible light. It is messy and ugly like the unfiltered snap chats you send your best friend”

The first thing you should know about the second time you fall in love is that it will be very different.

The first time you fell in love, you were innocent, untouched and hopelessly optimistic. When you got your heart broken, you decided that you would never fall in love again. You now know that “forever” is a gamble and that “promises” are more often than not made to be broken.

The second time you fall in love, your heart will beat a little faster. There is bubbling apprehension, restless guilt, unmasked fear, unresolved emotions and all of this is still delicately laced with the most basic need to be loved.

 You will surprise yourself because the day you believed will never come, has finally arrived.

It is not easy to let someone else in. It was effortless the first time because love just gilded into a place which you never knew existed. Now it just feels like you are pushing someone else out to let another one in and killing yourself in the process.

Second love could be more voluntary and less vivid because you are determined to not let your emotions get the better of you. First love may have taught you how to love and fly, but second love will help you unlearn and humble you in a very earthy way.

Second first times are always complicated. First dates are not first dates in the real sense, but they are first dates nevertheless.You are torn in between the butterflies in your stomach moment when you are getting to know someone new while at the same time missing the comfort of eating out of a jar in your night clothes.

The second time you fall in love, you foolishly try to surpass imperceptible benchmarks. You remember that his forehead didn’t crinkle like that. He used to hold hands a lot more. He never wore bright colors.

Remind yourself that it will never be the same. And it most certainly should not be. You are trying to find love, not a replacement.

The second time you fall in love, you will hear a voice in your head that repeatedly asks you to “RUN”.

It is natural because we are taught to survive based on acquired learning. Even a child knows not to play with fire twice.

The second time you fall in love, no matter how hard it tries to sweep you off your feet, you will be adamant to keep your feet on the ground. You are passionate about how much love can give but scared stiff of how much it can take back when it wants to.

The second time you fall in love it might be more accepting and selfless. Second love wants to write pages and pages of your life together but it lacks the ugly selfishness of first love which expects the whole book to be about it.  You deal with the fact that everyone has songs that remind them of someone else and places where they made some unblemished memories.

You know that poets lied when they said that every kiss will be like your first kiss. You are mature enough to accept that burning lust always comes with an expiry date.

Second love is difficult. Tearing down the walls that you built around yourself is not easy when you constantly question the effort involved. When you eventually find someone who is willing to accept the mess that you are, don’t be afraid.

Fall in love for the second time. Life mostly begins here.

An Unspoken Relation

 

14th of February 2016. Almost 2:00 a.m, late night I wrapped study and thought of retiring to bed.

After the whole tiresome day I almost went to sleep, but, a vibration alerted me. I picked up my mobile. The husky voice spoke, “I am leaving. Always be happy. Shall miss you, dearie.” The phone hangs up. Shiver of emotions passed through my body. I crouched back on bed. Tossing throughout I remembered the time we had spent together.

‘It was during post-graduation days we both had met. He was dark-handsome guy of our class. Everyone called him Mono da. I being most talkative the weirdest natures of Mono grew both me & my bestie Sandy inquisitive about him, his quietness and his restless sad eyes.

During our educational tour to Gangtok we learnt from a close friend of Mono named Dipon that Mono had gone through a terrible breakup after being in a relationship. As friends we tried to ‘heal the pain’. Slowly, we four became good friends. Every soul in the university campus adored us. There wasn’t a single day when this group didn’t meet.

But, all of a sudden something went wrong. It was the end of our post-graduation days. Mono & Dipon stopped talking with us. Although Dipon dared to smile when we both passed by Mono didn’t even look towards us. Everyone started enquiring, what had gone wrong in between us? This freaked me & Sandy.

14th February 2011 – We decided to have an end to this drama and so waited for their arrival at Vasu’s tea stall, our once adda place.

Mono and Dipon arrived almost at 7’ in the evening. Although stunned, instead of running away they entered shop. Sensing my anger grow Sandy placed her hand over mine to calm me down. I kept quiet. Sandy with all patience asked, “What’s the matter, Mono? Why have you stopped talking?”

Mono stared towards us. In his husky voice he replied coldly, “To forbid my soul being re-scared. Losing my beloved friends who taught me to relive my life is even bigger than my past pains. This is an unspoken relationship ever experienced by me in life. I cannot bear the pain of losing it. It’s better to live with the pain before you both finally leave”.

Quietness prevailed. Almost after three months we sat together. Laughter of past had transformed to unknown emotional numbness. Unexplained silence prevailed. We wanted to speak our heart but were left dumfounded.

We did go separate ways and have never met again in the last five years from that evening onwards. Till today technology has kept us connected.

I prayed aloud, “May they be safe. May this ‘unspoken relationship’ be alive for ever. May we four re-meet & relive the moments we had spent.”

From doorway came the completion of my prayer, “Amen”. I saw Sandy standing and smiling. Behind her I saw the ray of hope ‘dawn’ peeping through the window pane.

 

 

A Love that Transforms, Transports and Transcends.

Having grown in a broken home (as in always getting caught in the cross fire of two ever-fighting parents), I always wondered (to the point of having no expectations whatsoever from a married partner) may be this is how it should be – we aren’t meant to be happy and peaceful. Just the way they keep repeating in several holy books – we are all sinners. We do not have the right to smile!

Being used to the heavily dominating ‘defense personal’ dad, it took years for both my brother and me to adjust and get ‘normalized’ in the society. And more importantly, take our own decisions – in matters that concern our lives or careers, especially life. It took me long years’ wisdom – that probably came with age or having faced death first-hand or both – to start loving life.

In 2008, just before I was about to go abroad for my higher studies, I met the most wonderful girl – for the second time. I had met her before (having been colleagues, briefly – but that was couple of years back). This time, I saw her in a completely different light and was surprised as where she was hiding all these years.

This time, I saw her in a completely different light and was surprised as where she was hiding all these years.

Back then, with every condition stacked against us, all we could do was to promise each other to wait till things get normal. And as we waited, she continued with her career here while I struggled with my student life there. Only thread that held us together was the will to stay committed to each other – as if we had something to prove to the world.

Our’s was a long distance relationship for most of the period. We would be on phone 24×7 (Thank God for ‘Top-up Calls’!), giving each other every little detail of our respective daily lives. Thinking up of all kinds of ‘stupid-to-the-world-but-special-to-us’ little surprises to keep our relation alive. We also wrote, more importantly. (I don’t understand when people say ‘I can’t write’ when I ask them to ‘write if you can’t talk’ – I mean we are only talking about pouring your heart out, not about writing a literary piece). Writing long letters/mails helped us to understand each other better than talking. And then we fought!

Every little squabble, every little argument, every little quarrel – brought us even closer – every time we stopped fighting and made up. We didn’t have eyes and ears for anything else. The relation to us was our very life.

I wouldn’t say we were alike. I was nothing like her. She always talked sense. I never even thought that way. She is smarter at managing finance. I am hopeless when it comes to saving money. She is much more grounded, I get excited easily. That’s an irony – considering the backgrounds we came from. Her household had a laid-back attitude towards everything in life. They mostly lived in the present. While we were brought up like it was a boarding school, and not a home – to us, my brother and me, school time was an escape. In her own thousand little ways, she complemented me the way I never expected would happen to me in my entire life!

In her own thousand little ways, she complemented me the way I never expected would happen to me in my entire life!

Let me add a little wisdom here. Most people don’t realize what they are talking about when they say we are quite alike in our tastes and interests – e.g. I have heard people quite immaturely quoting – we both have similar hobbies. Or, we like the same kind of movies. Or, this one’s epic – our favorite colors are the same! I don’t know if they really matter much – in a relationship. You can very well have different interests and still have a healthy relationship – this way you also get to give something new to your partner that they can’t have for themselves!

She gave importance to those very little things that I had importance for and the vice versa – probably that’s why we lasted so long. Even without any formal ties.

Now friends often ask me – how we managed to pull it off. That’s no secret as such but most people do manage to overlook these thing. It’s just that when together, your (combined) outlook or attitude towards life needs to be alike.

This is one thing I always tell anyone who care to listen is – to have a ‘fight’. To understand where the equation of your relationship lies, have an argument, lead that to a full-blown fight, sulk for a while, then try making up – what you get as a result is what is left of the relation!

I keep hearing people harping on love and passion and other stuff that attracted them towards each other. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But how long do you think would these last, without respect? I seriously feel respect is the booster that make us, try countless ways to continue falling in love with our own partner. Or, keep ourselves on toes to continually remain attractive for them – to keep the passion alive.

Respect is the booster that makes us, try countless ways to continue falling in love with our own partner.

When you have respect, you take care not to hurt each other. And if one gets hurt, its respect that makes you ‘empathize’. Because that’s when you realize the need to kiss and make up – every time you have an issue!

When my wife and I decided to get married in 2012, we had two choices before us – we could either waste our lives waiting endlessly for someone’s indecisiveness or we could build a happy life for ourselves and prove ourselves right.

To me, my marriage is definitely a blessing. And after all these years, I have (finally) made up my mind to have a laid back approach to view things. I have become calmer. I have learned to let go. What’s more, we are busy enjoying the new-found parenthood – yet another reason to thank each other countless more times!

Once, while we waited, I asked her why she was taking all these troubles, waiting for me, fighting the world. She said, ‘I am not waiting for you, but living because of you’. No one else had said or done anything like that before – let alone finding me okay enough to love me.

She said, ‘I am not waiting for you, but living because of you’. No one else had said or done anything like that before for me.

Friends who’ve known me for ages, even my brother, sometimes, tell me I have changed, a lot. I don’t feel any change about myself though. Probably because, when you change, you are usually the last one to know that.Well, if others do find me changed, then maybe I have. But I feel good about myself. I think I have come to believe in true love – a love that transforms, transports and transcends.

 

Psychology of Love – The Triangular Theory

Have you for once wondered why a friend whom you have known for years remain a friend with no romantic attachment, while you instantly feel romantic about someone whom you met only for a short while? Why does romantic love not always end up in commitment and can a relationship that just starts with pure commitment end up having romantic love?

Can psychological theories explain the all elusive feeling called love and answer our questions? Would theories  help us understand the direction a relationship is trending towards, or what is it that makes us feel a certain way in a relationship?

 To some extent we definitely could get answers from psychological theories  and one such theory is the “Triangular Theory of Love” that was first put forward by psychologist Robert Sternberg.

The theory considers three key aspects in a relationship – Intimacy, Passion and Commitment.  The first component intimacy is the feeling of attachment, closeness and connectedness. The second component is the passion, the firey depth and intense feeling you get when you like someone. The third one is Commitment – that ties the two together for short or long term.  Any relationship could have one of these attributes, two, or all the three at a given time. The type of love relationship we have, can be associated to the key factor(s) that bond us together. It could be a very close friendship where the key factor is “intimacy”, or a very strong infatuation where the driving factor is “passion”. Below are the different combination of the factors and the associated love types.

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Romantic love  – Intimacy + passion

Companionate love –  intimacy + commitment

Factuous Love – Passion + Commitment

Infatuation – Passion alone

Liking – Intimacy alone

Empty love – Commitment alone

Consummate Love – Intimacy + Passion + Commitment

This theory also helps us understand how our relationship is progressing. When all the three factors co-exist in a relationship, it is called Consummate Love.

There are instances where arranged marriages that start off with just commitment, but trend towards having passion, and later builds intimacy. Hence an example of relationship that moves from empty love to factuous love to companionate love or even consummate love. Do all arranged marriages follow the pattern? Not necessarily  – It could just start and end as empty love.

There are love relationships that start with only passion (infatuation), later adds intimacy to become romantic love, and then leads to commitment. Similarly a friendship that just has intimacy, adds in commitment to become companionate love or adds in passion to become romantic love.

roberts

Its dangerous when a romantic or companionate love turns to empty love – This isn’t rare in our society but rather common where you hear people admitting that they are in the relationship just for the kids or the society.

It is very important that at the very least two of these factors co-exist at a given time, and the relationship  progresses towards adding the third one. If its reducing from three factors to two or then to one – its time for the couples to watch out and make sure they are addressing the problem. Ups and downs in a relationship are natural but if its just a downward spiral, it definitely needs attention.

 

Opposites don’t attract unless we are talking about magnets

There are times I wonder about relationships, and the secret to finding and making them long lasting. I would have liked to crack that secret code. I study people behavior and from the confirmation bias to frequency illusion to the default syndrome, I have analyzed quite a bit to figure that one magic potion, if you will.

“It’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party.”
—Nick Hornby

And this is so true. Bingo. That’s it. The secret to long lasting relationships is being comfortable in our own skins with each other and loving one another’s company as if that all we ever wanted. Two people who have their thoughts synced up, desires matched, personalities tallied up, and hearts in tow, minds put together and souls intertwined will make the best couple ever. So, sorry, opposites don’t attract unless we are talking about magnets. Or let me put it in a more milder tone –  in human relationships opposites tend to attract and these tend to be our short term crushes. When it’s about love for life,  like-minded  partners work better.

I have seen people bicker, fight and fall out because of clashes and differences. Because they couldn’t agree on tomato sauce or potato fries. Because he wanted something and she totally hated it. Well, the common societal solution for this is compromise. Great one if the compromises were just about a tomato sauce or potato fries :). For matters more serious it sucks the joy out of life. Turns things mundane. Sets a routine. And rituals rob the fun out of everything.

But if there were two people who could agree on tomato sauce for one and the other can make art on the plate with it because it is something not of their favorite, we have got the alchemy of relationships in these two. Seriously, the best relationships revolve around finding someone who complements you. This is because unconsciously we look for someone who can improve us; so the person could be  different than us – “different” in a  good way – someone who complements us but not our polar opposite. Absurdly true!

I would like a partner with whom I can sync up in every manner possible. Funny pick-up lines to serious courtship – They need to believe and enjoy them equally. A universal appeal to facilitating a great love connection lies in how we can hold each other’s attention. Nothing like enjoying the same book series, TV shows, music genres, theatrical appearances, travel pursuits and the list goes on. Even in evolutionary and mating decisions perspective, there is always a look out to match (and not differentiate) on social, economic, physical attractiveness and emotional compatibility. The keyword being a “Match”. There is proven research that people are likely to prefer the same characteristics in their partner when considering sexual selection.

They are best friends first and everything else next. They can tell each other anything and everything and for any situation they go to each other first. They can never be bored because they are hanging out with someone who knows them well and understands them. People who cannot connect at the same wavelength almost fall out at some level or the other. They are genuinely attracted to one another. In each other’s eyes, they are the best anyone could ever be. They know exactly what they want in a relationship and they are courageous to wait and go after their hearts.

Some differences is common, acceptable. But a varying degree of differences is more harmful than being any attractive in a given relationship. A good sense of humor that both enjoy can be a highly attractive tactic in keeping the passion alive in a relationship. They are always laughing. Of course they have serious moments and life runs on those as well. But they can be so comfortable with one another that they learn to keep things lighthearted. They have their own set of funny jokes and one-liners. They continue to flaunt their funny and charming side all through out to keep the relationships alive. They respect and value each other and the traits that brought them together in the first place. They have a unique boundary of sorts on outside influence. They are sanctuary of togetherness in their own rights and standing surrounded by mutual admiration and respect.

There will necessarily be difference of opinion and they will each have their own sense of individuality. However, those will be very much shadowed by the illuminance of the things they both enjoy and the beautiful togetherness they share. Yes, that is the secret to long lasting relationships. Be with someone with whom you can enjoy the sunset in the same way as the other. The rest will fall in place on its own.

Life is but feeling at home with oneself and with the universe

Life is but feeling at home with oneself and with the universe. What better way to enjoy the feeling with someone who can relish life the same way as you do. Find the one who can walk with you, run with you and fly with you as you soar the skies of life.

Shameless Plug 🙂 :  At SoulCafe we recommend complimentary personality matches and that is someone who “gets you” – someone who will not make you feel an outsider in your own world and someone who could be slightly different from you but “different” in a good way!

 

 

 

Being my own Beloved

What is my belief about love? ” Love is when you want other’s happiness as your own” – I used to believe this to be true about love. As I dwell over this thought to get  to the core of my belief system, I realize that every time I think of love it’s always about the “other”.

We as kids, are raised to believe that “love” is only true when the “other” is present. I assume many of us believe that the only way we can express love  is through someone other than ourselves. This means  “love” only exists or has value if there is a significant “other”.  Would that mean if there is no significant “other”,  I am devoid of love? Should Valentines day be the reminder of a loveless life in the absence of a significant “other”? I guess not because love is  what we are all made of – the source of love is within us.

If I believe that this beautiful feeling of “love” is mine, and that “I”, myself of all people deserve my love as much as the ones I love, this world around me will become a fuzzy -mushy place to live in.

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When we understand that the source of love and happiness is within us and start loving ourselves, we then stop looking out for the “other half”.  Being in a relationship is then not about trying to fill any void but about sharing the love we already experience within ourselves. That for me is a complete union of two souls, heaven of two independent beings, who are so comfortable in their own skin. We will heal ourselves and also heal each other.

It is time to question our inner dialogue about love. Thus, this  Valentines – Love yourself and gift yourself the love which completes YOU.

There is a beautiful adage “I will take care of me for you and you will take care of you for me”.  So do remember, to say “I love me” on Valentines Day while you say “I love you”.

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About the Author:
Avni Gandhi Varma: is a Grooming and Etiquette consultant for various Beauty Pageants, Individuals and corporates. She is also a certified Clinical hypnotherapist and runs her own practice in Mumbai under the banner: transformwithavni.

Down the memory lane of magical handwritten letters

Beyond the constraints of the 140 character limit, the ease of copy paste, undo, spell check and our instincts for instant gratification of the double blue tick & the ….is typing display on screen – is the  ethereal joy of writing and receiving a handwritten letter. In an era where “convenience” reigns  – expecting a handwritten note is pure indulgence. The extravagance of someone’s undivided attention is indeed a luxury. Each time you read it, its the joy of traversing through the sender’s thoughts as he or she wrote it–while the ink smudged, some words struck and the little doodles here and there.

The little creases & stamps on the envelop telling the distances it traveled to reach you and the familiarity of the handwriting being the proof of how well you know the one who sent it, adds to the magic that sometimes outlasts the very love expressed.

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On a piece of paper the thoughts you poured.

In the twists and twirls of letters your heart unfolds

Random ink smudges, doodles, few words struck.

I followed your thought wagon

as it flowed, and the moments it got stuck.

Beyond the distance of time we meet

At the time you wrote, and each time I read.

We might never go back to that era of taking the pain to write a letter, but here are some beautiful love letters that has outlived the ones who wrote it. And believe me while you read it, you would feel exactly what they felt while they wrote it.

Johnny Cash’s letters to wife June Carter Cash

(Man in Black, music legend Johnny Cash wrote his heartfelt note to “the greatest woman I ever met” on his wife June Carter’s 65th birthday.)

“Happy Birthday Princess,

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.”

FROM ELZIE SEGAR, THE CARTOONIST OF POPEYE, TO HIS THEN-GIRLFRIEND (FUTURE WIFE) MYRTLE JOHNSON

FROM FRIDA KAHLO TO HER HUSBAND DIEGO RIVERA

 

 

Diego, my love,

Remember that once you finish the fresco we will be together forever once and for all, without arguments or anything, only to love one another.

Behave yourself and do everything that Emmy Lou tells you.

I adore you more than ever. Your girl, Frida

(Write me)

 

Mark Twain thanks his love, Olivia Louise Langdon

“Livy Darling, I am grateful — grate-fuller than ever before — that you were born, & that your love is mine & our two lives woven & melded together! – SLC

Stieg Larsson to Eva Gabrielsson

(On November 9th of 2004, Stieg Larsson — journalist and author  passed away after suffering a heart attack. He was 50-years-old. The next month, Stieg’s long-term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, found the following letter amongst his belongings. It was written in 1977, and concealed in an envelope reading, “To be opened only after my death”)

This is the first time I’ve written to you knowing exactly what to say: I love you, I love you, love you, love you. I want you to know that. I want you to know that I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone. I want you to know I mean that seriously. I want you to remember me but not grieve for me. If I truly mean something to you, and I know that I do, you will probably suffer when you learn I am dead. But if I really mean something to you, don’t suffer, I don’t want that. Don’t forget me, but go on living. Live your life. Pain will fade with time, even if that’s hard to imagine right now. Live in peace, my dearest love; live, love, hate, and keep fighting…

I had a lot of faults, I know, but some good qualities as well, I hope. But you, Eva, you inspired such love in me that I was never able to express it to you…

Straighten up, square your shoulders, hold your head high. Okay? Take care of yourself, Eva. Go have a cup of coffee. It’s over. Thank you for the beautiful times we had. You made me very happy. Adieu.

I kiss you goodbye, Eva

From Stieg, with love.

If you loved reading these letters why not grab a pen and a paper and try writing one – your long forgotten handwriting awaits being recognized!

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www.SoulCafe.co.inBrewing Soul Relationships

What has “Attachment Styles” to do with Break Ups?

Till death do us part – we might not utter this loud every time, but that’s what we wish for when we are in love. Realities don’t however always seem to follow our wishes.  There are relationships where we part before death, and the castle of love & trust that was supposed to last forever tumbles down.  When the castle comes crushing and we hit rock bottom – the impact of heart breaks isn’t similar for everyone.

There are no cookie cutter solutions like some articles proclaim – “5 ways to deal with heart breaks”. And that’s because each relationship is unique and so are the individuals. While we see a Devdas effect at one end, we also see people who get into a rebound relationship rather quickly.  There are couples who could still be friends after a break up, and others who can’t. Though there are many aspects of a relationship that could make us react in a certain way, having an understanding about our “attachment styles” would give us better clarity on why we respond the way we respond.

Attachment theory

Attachment refers to the particular ways in which we relate to other people. Our style of attachment is formed at the very beginning of our lives, particularly during our first two years.  Once established, it is a style that stays with us as we turn adults and plays out how we relate in intimate relationships. Hence recognizing our attachment pattern can help us understand our strengths and vulnerabilities in a relationship.

Recognizing our attachment pattern can help us understand our strengths and vulnerabilities in a relationship.

Evolutionary theory of attachment ( John Bowlby, 1958), suggests that children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, because this helps them to survive. Bowlby suggested that a child would initially form only one primary attachment, and that the attachment figure act as a secure base for exploring the world.  The attachment relationship acts as a prototype for all future social relationships.

Four different attachment classifications have been identified in children: secure attachment, anxious-ambivalent attachment, anxious-avoidant attachment, and disorganized attachment.

Secure attachment –  A child is securely attached when they form an emotional attachment to an adult who is attuned to them, that is, who is sensitive and responsive in their interactions with them.

Avoidant Attachment – This occurs when the primary caregiver is  emotionally unavailable and, as a result, they are insensitive to and unaware of the needs of their children. These children quickly develop into “little adults” who take care of themselves.

Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment – Some adults are inconsistently attuned to their children. At times their responses are appropriate and nurturing but at other times they are intrusive and insensitive. Children with this kind of parenting are confused and insecure, not knowing what type of treatment to expect.

Disorganized Attachment-When a parent or caregiver is abusive to a child, the child experiences the physical and emotional cruelty and frightening behavior as being life-threatening.  The attachment figure is the source of the child’s distress. Children in this conflicted state have disorganized attachments with their fearsome parental figures.

Although Bowlby was primarily focused on understanding the nature of the infant-caregiver relationship, he believed that attachment characterized human experience from “the cradle to the grave”. Researchers have found that the avoidant infant attachment gives birth to the dismissive and fearful adult attachment, the anxious-ambivalent infant attachment becomes the preoccupied adult attachment. The secure infant attachment tends to remain secure.

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What has attachment style to do with break ups?

New research shows that people with secure attachment styles handle breakups much more efficiently than those with less secure attachment styles.  They are more likely to turn to close friends and family for support. They are more open to authentically grieving the loss, and are better able to empathize with their partner’s reasons for the break-up which allows them to respond in a less hostile manner.

Anxious ambivalent individuals deal with rejection and break-ups by jumping from one serious relationship to the next very quickly. They could likely engage in unwanted behaviors such as stalking and threatening. Those with an avoidant attachment style tend to turn less to friends and family after a break-up. They may avoid the former partner, sometimes going so far as to change jobs, consistent with the inclination to suppress distressing thoughts, or in this case any reminders of their former relationship. 

So the next probable question is – are these styles set in stone? The answer is “No”.  If you come to know your attachment style, you can uncover ways you are defending yourself from getting close and being emotionally connected, and work toward forming an “earned secure attachment.”

When we react in a certain way – it has probably  to do a lot more on what’s going on within us than what the other person has done to us.

The take away from understanding the attachment styles and it’s impact is to become open to the idea that people react differently when their relationship fails. When we react in a certain way – it has probably  to do a lot more on what’s going on within us than what the other person has done to us.  There is also a critical take away for parents or “would be” parents and that is about the significance of  having a child feel securely attached in the early years which goes a long way in how the child builds secure relationship as an adult and also handle relationship failures much more positively.

Understanding the psychological theory is one thing and going through a phase of grief is another. As Joan Didion says – Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. It’s humane to grieve over the tumbling castle that we once built and was meant to last. It’s important to give ourselves the permission to be sad and accepting that it’s going to be hard for a while and that’s perfectly okay. It’s okay to take our own time to find our PEACE.  Leaving you with Adele’s classic! Amen!

Coping with Decision Fatigue

As each year comes to an end there is an innate tendency to reflect at the year that’s just about to say “Good Bye”.  Each “Good Bye” takes us to a flash back mode – feeling nostalgic of the good times, feeling the pinch for the things undone and unsaid. We then move on to the next year making promises to do and say things that matters to us. As humans we have always prayed and wished for abundance. But the fact remains that we are hardly in a position to deal with abundance. We are hardwired to handle scarcity and not abundance. Even our bodies are wired to store energy as fat to handle a future food scarcity.

Abundance hits us harder than scarcity does because we are naturally wired to react to scarcity.

Similar are challenges when we live with abundance of choices. We co-relate choices to freedom – the more the better. And that’s true – freedom does equate to making our own choices and being responsible for it. Our generation is  blessed with abundance of choices and information on our finger tips. Compared to the times of our older generation, recent times seems more enticing and none of us would want to go back to the good old days – when our parents always bought a shoe from “Bata”, picked one of the two toothpastes (Colgate or Forhans) or fell in love with someone from school, college or their  neighborhood. Compare this to our times –  buying a pair of shoes would mean, first deciding  what kind of shoes – formal, casual, running, walking, football, party, then choosing from the infinite brands, trends, scouting thru multitude of deals and reviews. Fulfilling our smallest need like “what to eat” or “where to eat” sometimes becomes an ordeal task. Big decisions like finding love now has boundless options – going to innumerable  parties, social networks, social media sites etc. Ideally our lives sound better and happier than the previous generation. There seems to be perceived abundance, but we hardly are able to settle on something quickly.

The economist and psychologist Herbert A. Simon was one of the first to precisely describe the relationship between information and attention and stated that a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention

Multiple windows kept open on the laptop, the smartphone screen filled with app icons, the never ending scrolls on social media, the notifications screaming for attention like a colic baby – all these are our new normal and it’s here to stay. We need to live with it and we can’t go back to buy “Bata” like our parents.  Accepting and understanding what this does to us is the first step towards handling this elephant in the room.

Does more choice bring more happiness? Not necessarily.  More than ten years have passed since the publication of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, a highly influential book written by the psychologist Barry Schwartz. Schwartz’s argument is Instead of increasing our sense of well-being, an abundance of choice is increasing our levels of anxiety, depression, and wasted time. As the number of choices increase and our attention spans decrease, the quality of decisiveness suffers or sometimes we just stay indecisive on matters that matter most to us – a state of decision paralysis.

Hick’s law supports the fact that the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.hickslaw

Decision making  in the times of Choice Overload

Psychology researchers have studied how people make decisions and concluded there are two basic styles of decision making – Maximizers and Satisficers. “Maximizers” like to take their time and weigh on a wide range of options, sometimes every possible one before making a choice. “Satisficers” on the other hand would rather be fast than thorough; they prefer to quickly choose the option that fills the minimum criteria or choice that’s good enough (the word “satisfice” blends “satisfy” and “suffice”).

With the entire information overload of our times, our generation tends to be more of maximizers than satisficers as compared to our earlier generation.  The research has shown that satisficers tend to be happier with their choices when compared to maximizers, who, even after spending all that time and energy on making the decision, are still more likely to end up regretting it.

Try to be a perfectionist about the smallest decision we make and we  are sure to have a nervous breakdown.

Try to be a perfectionist about the smallest decision we make and we  are sure to have a nervous breakdown. The best way to handle abundance of choices is to “maximize” decision making for the things that matter most. Everything else should be “satisficed” – a good enough option would work.   That’s what Mark Zuckerberg does when he decides to wear the same type of dress everyday. He mentions that he wants to limit the time he spends making “frivolous” decisions so he can concentrate on real work.  And that’s exactly the way forward for us living in the age of choice & information overload. We need to choose – what decisions need our genuine attention and focus and what decisions are okay to be satisficed.

As we bid “good bye” to this year, let’s wish for abundance in our attention to what matters most and the prudence not to divide our attention equally for everything around that craves for attention.

Here is SoulCafe wishing you a mindful New Year!

And What The Vows Should Say.. !

Till death do us part. Or, maybe not.

Wedding vows if you ask me, need not be about forevers.

Promise to make each other’s sandwich with extra mayonnaise and never be stingy when it comes to love or chocolate spread. Promise to know by-heart how many spoons of sugar they like to take with their coffee and never forget the little ketchup packet that comes with the fries.

Promise to Wi-Fi proof your bedroom and never to let a smart phone creep inside your blanket when you are with them. Promise to live a little.

Promise to keep the ugly photographs only in your phone and like every picture, every post, every tweet and every comment, just because. Promise not to stalk their exes and promise to let the past lay where it belongs. Promise to Wi-Fi proof your bedroom and never to let a smart phone creep inside your blanket when you are with them. Promise to live a little.

Promise to never let the world end with you two.  Let the beaches of Bali take your breath away, get lost in the markets of Hong Kong, get intimidated by the sky-scrapers in New York and gasp at the beauty of nature in places that you go to. Cuddle next to each other in the strangest of places and feel at home even when you are so far away from home. Promise to travel.

Promise to keep each other’s dreams alive.

Promise to be their spell-check, alarm clock, tax planner, recipe tester, coach and whatever else they need you to be. Wake them up on those days when they really want to sleep, ask them to sleep when they are stretching too far, push them when they are slacking and sit next to them silently when they want to think aloud. Promise to keep each other’s dreams alive.

Promise to be the spring they need in autumn and promise to be their summer when it is snowing outside.

Promise to never tell them they look “ugly” in a dress. If at all they look ugly, promise that the dress would just mysteriously disappear from their wardrobe but they would never have to hear the word “ugly!” Promise to be the spring they need in autumn and promise to be their summer when it is snowing outside.

Promise to be loyal but promise to let them breathe.

Promise to never flirt with anyone they know and promise that you will not stare at anyone else for too long when they are next to you. Promise to try and make them jealous but promise to never make them insecure. Never forget that you don’t “own” each other and never take offense when they want to be left alone for a while. Promise to be loyal but promise to let them breathe.

Promise to make love to them until the stars can melt in your palms and promise that it won’t always be this cheesy. Promise to never frown at each other’s fantasies and promise make-up sex after every bad fight. Promise handcuffs, candlelight, strawberries and like I already said, promise to never be stingy with the chocolate spread. Promise to never be a prude.

Promise to look out for them. Remember to pack an extra tooth-brush and save their favourite top even when they throw it away. Apologize when you are wrong and promise never to believe the things that they say when they are angry. Promise to always think for two.

Promise to be around in health and sickness and most importantly promise to never let them hear the words “I told you so!” Promise to love them when you want to hate them because that is when they need it the most.

Promise to remember that promises cannot always be kept and promise to love them anyway.

Promise to forgive.

And if you can promise them all this, no matter how long, they would have found a forever within you.

The Journey of “Finding Yourself”

This article tries to explore the concept of “Individuation” , taking characters from the movies as examples. This process of transformation is difficult, yet beautiful. A caterpillar needs to transform into a butterfly to spread joy and beauty – would you rather prefer the caterpillar to stay “as is”, because you fear it will fly away if it becomes a butterfly?

   The characters of Alia Bhatt in the Bollywood movie “Highway”, and Kangana Ranaut in “Queen” has something strikingly similar. Both movies start with the scene usually any Bollywood movie would end with – the lead lady is all set to marry the love of her life to live happily ever after. The movie then proceeds with incidents that change her life , and herself – in a way she could never go back to the once “love of her life”. Fortunately, for these ladies the transformation happened before they got into their committed relationships. What if it had happened after the wedlock? Or is it possible that she would have never experienced the “transformation” if she pursued  the “normal life” and settled down with the “love of her life”? To find the answers, let’s try to explore this “transformation journey”.

This form of transformation is termed as “Individuation”. The individuation process is a term created by the famous psychologist Carl Gustav Jung way back in 1921 to describe the process of becoming aware of oneself, of one’s make-up, and the way to discover one’s true, inner self. It is a search for totality. It is an experience that could be formulated as the discovery of the divine in yourself, or the discovery of the totality of your self.  Individuation shouldn’t be confused with “Individuality”. Individuality is all about “me”, but an individuated person feels deeper connected and feels responsible to support and serve others and to foster peace, wholeness and integrity in the world. The process of Individuation isn’t easy. We grow up under the influence of parental and societal conformity, and we strive  to become what is expected of us and confirm.  Individuation requires one to step out of the mainstream conventional reality, and stand out. It also demands one to be self-aware – come in terms with who you actually are. Hence it does not always happen without pain.

Usually men are more comfortable with the “individuation” process as compared to women. This is primarily because of the physiological difference, as well the difference in social expectations from the sexes. Women in society are often valued for how well they relate with others, where as its more acceptable for men to stand out. Physiologically  boys individuate easily because as a child, early on they find themselves different from their primary care taker – their mother and hence they realize they are a different entity.  But for little girls its difficult to identify themselves different from their mothers as they are the same gender. Because of the early age physiological difference and different social expectations, girls find it more difficult to individuate than boys.

For this reason, many times individuation happens very late in their lives for women.  Many young women would find themselves married and have become mothers, before they realize and embark on their inner journeys.individuation2 This is what happens to Sridevi in the Bollywood movie “English Vinglish” who starts questioning her identity beyond her social roles of being a good wife and mother.  Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love” in her 40’s does go through the same Individuation process but because it’s a movie from the West she leaves her current relationship and embarks on the quest, unlike her Indian counterpart  Sridevi in “English Vinglish” who undergoes the journey within the confines of her conscious obligations to her family. So the quest is universal but how we approach it might depend on our social conditioning.

 It might not happen to everyone as the pre requisite to this change is self-awareness.  But when this happens, understanding that individuation is a natural process is important. In a relationship being part of your partner’s quest for individuation is critical to the health of the relationship. When a person successfully individuates, they open up to a new level of emotional maturity. It’s a human metamorphosis – like a caterpillar changing to a butterfly! Wouldn’t you want your loved one to be a butterfly rather than stay as a caterpillar forever? Now if we look back at both movies we referred to they come out as better individuals at the end and the reason they do not go back to their “so-called loved ones” was merely because these “loved ones” never were part of their individuation process.

In this perspective, who can then be called soul mates? Elizabeth Gilbert puts it very beautifully – each and every soul who comes in your life to reveal another layer of yourself and gets you closer to your “self” is your soul mate. This could be a friend, a teacher, a parent, a sibling and for the longest part of the journey, a  partner.

Thank God for each one of them!

soul-mates

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SoulCafe: Building & Celebrating Soulful Relationships.

Growing in or Growing out of Love

They were in love – the so called truly, madly and deeply love. They held each other’s hands firmly and  started on their  life journey of togetherness.

Your dreams are mine and mine yours or now it’s just ours” – they vowed to one another. Everything seemed just so very perfect. They were in sync, in harmony and in peace. Now if you are expecting a twist to the script, like an entry of a villian – there isn’t one. So no blaming the parents, society or a possible third person.

As they settled in, they started accumulating – networks and networths. “Less baggage more comfort” – but for all practical purposes, the baggage gets more for most of us in due course of time. The travel isn’t always plain meadows but you also tend to get the unexpected rough terrains. Well, they decided to divide and conquer. One took the heavier baggage and slowed down the pace (lets call this better half “S” and the faster one “F” for ease of reference).

“S” let “F” travel at a much higher pace and explore more. They were still happy with what they conquered cumulatively. The difference in pace brought slight distance between them but still they were at a distance where they could call each other and make sure they knew how each one was doing. As time passed, “F” reached greater heights – the world view, altitude and experience was totally different at that level.”F” started telling “S” about the valley and the flowers that “F” could see, but as “S” was much below still coping with the weight didn’t quite relate to what “F” said.

 “Was our love not real? Were we not meant for a lifetime – “S “doesn’t seem to be the same person anymore”  – “F” became restless, and so did “S”.

It’s true they didn’t start as “S” and “F” but along their journey one became “S” and the other “F”. This was a consensual decision but hardly did they realize what the decision would do to them. Should “S” not have agreed to slow down?

Well, tons of questions that we could discuss and debate forever. What needs to be considered in a long term Soul Relationship is –

What do we make of  one another in the due course of the life journey that we wholeheartedly plan to travel together?And whatever person we become in this due course – is it the better version of us ? Would this version still relate to each other?

Love should let both the individuals grow and if the growth is along the same direction – the travel is fun, even if it means covering rough terrains together.

 

Brewing soul relationships

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