Friday, August 22, 2014

The tapestry of self care

It has become my mission this year to learn how to take care of myself efficiently and to place my self as a top priority. 

I have a lot of responsibilities. I am a full-time parent, wife, and daughter. I also work, but I don't consider that as much work as taking care of the important people in my life. Because I give so much of myself to others, it is essential for me to invest in my self. That way, I can give more to others bountifully and consistently, without feeling depleted or without having constant meltdowns. Since I have a shortage of time, I have to do the majority of these things either early in the morning, or in the evening. As it is with everything, self care is something you have to make time for - and it is so worth it.

It has been a long road to self care, and I'd like to share some of my new healthy living routines that I've been working on - things that bring me inner strength and peace of spirit...

My chiropractor suggested that I do yoga to strengthen my spine, and doing regular yoga releases tension in my body as well as my spirit. I only go once a week and it is like a religious experience!

Every medical professional will say exercise is the thing that's going to keep you healthy and fight disease. It's not just diet alone - it's also getting your heart rate up and sweating. I like to exercise early in the morning because it gives me energy throughout the day. If I don't exercise, I am exhausted by 2pm. If I do exercise, the endorphins sustain me for the entire day, and I also sleep better. I have set up a routine now where I'm actually excited to work out!

Regular chiropractic care
After becoming a mother, the first thing I started doing for self care was going to the chiropractor and everything has opened up from there. Going to the chiropractor really got me thinking about what other ways I could take care of myself. My chiropractor is family friendly so we all go together. It has really helped me move my body better - the first appointment, I could hardly lift my leg, and now I can lift my leg almost all the way up. There is nothing worse in life than being stiff!

The best thing about eating something healthy is how you feel after. Since it is Summer, I have been eating an abundance of seasonal fruits and loving it! Just eating something healthy at each sitting makes a huge difference...

My MIL suggested that I start praying, like a good Indian wife. I didn't take her seriously until I had a tension headache and decided that some last minute meditation might help. I created a little impromptu pooja corner in my office, and I sit there for about 10 minutes in the morning and light incense and play my Ganesh mantra. It is nice to have a place where I can sit, clear my mind and give thanks to a higher power.

Pockets of Solitude
As a mother, solitude is a rarity in my home. While my daughter is sleeping (either morning or evening), I take some time to enjoy the solitude. To be mindful of the silence. My mind is constantly thinking so this has been a hard skill for me to master. Sometimes I will look out of the window or just sit and drink tea. Sometimes I will take a hot bath at the end of the day. My yoga teacher says that 10 minutes of silence per day for clearing your head can help stress levels.

I wrote about this earlier this year and have been taking the time to unplug throughout my day. I will disable notifications and put my mobile on airplane mode at certain periods of the day. I frequently do this in the evening after my daughter goes to bed - phones off, computers off.

Reading novels
One of the things I love to do is read a good fiction novel. By practicing unplugging and my pockets of solitude, I am able to concentrate more on reading. I love to get lost in a good book and get to know the intricate and eccentric characters and see how they develop over the course of the novel. And they say that reading more makes you a better writer. Plus, it makes me really sleepy!

One of my favorite activities is doing my artwork alongside my daughter. I am a classically trained artist, yet I haven't done any art since she was born...until now! When I see her drawing, it really inspires me - she is so free. I sit right next to her, and I draw too - just a little sketch. There is something really beautiful about being next to a child who is so confident and instinctual in her expression. Just doing this small act of creativity calms me, makes me focus, and is a creative outlet - however small it is. I've also noticed it has really honed in Maya's concentration skills too. It's kind of like Art Therapy! During our little daily art sessions, I always put on some music - either carnatic classical music or Lana Del Rey (aren't we eclectic!)

Have fun
Whether it is taking my daughter to a park, calling a good friend and sharing a laugh, or watching a movie - it is so important to take some time out of your day to have some fun. Fun - meaning no pressure. So often we get stuck in our daily grinds of to-do lists that we forget to have fun, what ever that may be.


When I was younger, I thought being healthy meant eating healthy food. Or exercising. It was all separate. 

As I get older, I realize that being healthy means being emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. That it is a full combination of so many things - a lifestyle - that makes up a tapestry of self care. It is interwoven and interconnected. You cannot build this tapestry with one thread. It is the combination of threads (methods) that really makes it work.

"There is an [Native American] proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person." – Rumer Godden


Dear readers, what are your favorite methods of self care? What self care do you practice daily?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Maya's Caricature

Last week, I got a present from one of my MADH fans who is a professional caricature artist - Sugumarje. He did this lovely drawing of Maya for us....

The original picture it was inspired by was from our Venice trip:

Click HERE to visit his website and see his work!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Calling for a reform on the justice system #ShaktiMills

Yesterday, I shared an article on my Madh Mama Facebook page about the aftermath of the Shakti Mills gang rape - a personal eyewitness account from a friend/work colleague of the victim. Reading the article of the events that happened after the rape was extremely reflective of a society that has an inefficient and insensitive way of dealing with victims of sexual assault. I can only hope as more people read this article, it will call for a reform on the police force and the justice system.

The Shakti Mills rape case in Mumbai was the second highly publicized gang rape after the infamous Delhi gang rape, in which the victim, Jyoti Singh Pandey, died from her injuries. But this victim from Mumbai survived. When I initially heard of the news, I was shocked because Mumbai is considered to be one of the safer places for women. Also, I felt a closeness to the case since I studied photojournalism and have photographed by myself - all over the world. I remember being that 22 year old girl, going into abandoned places and documenting it. 

In the aftermath, the media focused on where it happened, and they actually caught the rapists within a few weeks and jailed them. The media was very satisfied that the rapists were "slumdogs". It was quite an impressive catch for the inefficient police force - who decided to remove retail store mannequins displaying lingerie as a means of "preventing rape". However, not many people knew the victim's side of the story and the insensitive way in which she was handled. 

READ the article here: "That Hashtag was my Colleague"

Some major things struck me about the article:

"we watch a posse of policemen walk in. They've clearly been informed about the nature of the assault, but there isn't a single woman officer in the team."

Clearly, these officers have been informed that this is a gang rape case. It is insensitive for a group of aggressive men to approach a woman who has just been gang raped by a group of aggressive men. Why did nobody think of that? Are there no high ranking women officers on the police force - and why were they not called to this case first?

"Behind me and within earshot of everyone, another officer with a kind face engages in intermittent chatter with the nurses. "What happened was awful, but why did they have to go there? And all alone? Do girls think they can go just about anywhere?" "

Victim blaming at it's finest. Why did they have to go there? Why did the rapists have to go there, clearly with an intent to rape, having seen them "trespassing" and then going back and rounding up their friends. This type of victim blaming gives women the message that women are not welcome in public spaces, nor are we safe, because anything could happen. The unprofessionalism of the police officer's comment is absolutely vulgar. Save the gossiping for when you get home, sir.

"Their reporters have turned up at her building and asked questions of her unaware neighbors and the building’s guards."

This is harassment. Not only does the victim have to deal with the severe social stigma of something like this, but she has to deal with reporters with absolutely no conscience, who are blinded by their own "journalistic" ambition.

"The police make Megha wear a burqa to avoid the cameras outside, but inside the room where the suspects will be called in by turn, she is required to take it off. There are separate line-ups of seven men, and the survivor has to pick the accused by touching him on the arm. She then has to go to a corner of the room, and announce loudly what the suspect did to her. And this is what Megha does on September 4, in a room full of men that include her attackers, without any women officers present to aid her. She touches the men on the arm to identify them, and then says, Isne mera balatkaar kiya (He sexually assaulted me). She repeats this four times over."

What is this barbarism? The victim has to stand in the same room with the men who have victimized her and touch their body? She has to say it four times, because once is not enough? She has to stand in front of them, vulnerable and ashamed, with virtually no barrier of protection like a window or bars? What is this?

"she has found out that the police is handing out the document to anyone from the media, without redacting Megha’s identity and personal details."

This clearly goes against Section 228A in The Indian Penal Code which states that a survivor of sexual assault's identity is to be protected - "Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C or section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine". The police are supposed to be the people enforcing these laws, yet they are willingly giving away her information? They are willingly committing a crime against the victim and have faced no consequences for doing so? Why is there no internal investigation on this? 

"When it is our turn, we go in aware that the defense lawyers will lob questions designed to embarrass and throw us, but we are not ready for the lies and mocking assertions: Your colleagues were having an affair and had gone to the mill for privacy. What sort of an editor allows a male and a female intern to go to an abandoned area? You only want to implicate innocent men for the loss of her honor. She was not assaulted. At one point, one of the lawyers badgers Neha about whether she noticed semen stains on Megha’s underclothes, hoping that because she is a woman, talk of semen will embarrass her. He stops when the judge objects, but he laughs with the other lawyers. Two of the accused also laugh."

Unbelievable. I have no words. When is enough enough?

"Their closing statements are: We put it to you that you were not assaulted. The blood on your clothes is because you were menstruating. You’re doing all this to become a famous photojournalist."

What is this logic? What is this blatant disrespect for somebody's life? Where do people draw the line? Where does the judge draw the line? Is this not re-victimization? 

Then, the rapists were found guilty and sentenced. But what about the victim? How can her life go back to normal, how can she trust ANYBODY again? Much less people in positions of authority. In the aftermath of the crime, it is victim blaming from start to finish. Reading this entire process, no wonder people do not report sexual assaults. The police force is inefficient, insensitive, and ungracious. And the courtroom - where are the code of ethics there? Where is the morality of such people? Where does the court draw the line - between questioning and emotional bullying?

The entire process needs to be reformed in a way where it supports the victim psychologically. There needs to be sensitivity. There needs to be a protection of the victim's identity so that she can have some space to heal, mentally, physically and emotionally. The entire process of the aftermath is not an environment that is supportive to the victim. I wonder how many other victims have gone through this process and crumbled under the pressure? It is inhumane

As this story comes to light, and as more women are being continually victimized - it is not only the rapists who are at fault. We are dealing with an entire justice system which is supporting the misogyny of the rapists, and encouraging victim blaming by persons of authority. At every step - the hospital, the journalists, the police, the lawyers - at every single step, this woman had to deal with heartless behavior and was victimized again and again.

So tell me, when is enough enough? Is this the kind of justice system that we want to protect our children? 


Dear readers, what are your thoughts on the article?

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Lucky Ones

My dad had a biopsy a few weeks ago and we were all waiting on the edge of our seats until he got his results back. My dad has been particularly fearful lately - could be the post-traumatic stress from having cancer earlier this year. This feeling of "is it going to come back?" has been haunting him at every moment. Every time he gets an ache or a pain, he thinks, "is this it?"

My dad got his biopsy results back and again he is non-cancerous. He doesn't need to see the doctor for another whole year and he has a clean bill of health.

I can't begin to describe how blessed he is, and how grateful I am that he's got a clean bill of health. Praise The Lord - we get to live!!!! What a blessing that is...

Last night, we had a casual Sunday family dinner where we just ordered Chinese food and watched the Kardashians - even in those moments we are so lucky to be all together. That we are not separated by hospitals or that one of us is bed-ridden. That we can eat together, and laugh together, and watch Maya play. It makes all our fights seem petty and ridiculous.

Health has been on my mind a lot lately, not just because I have been dedicating a lot of my time to self-care, but also because my anniversary for surviving meningitis is coming up. I'm not really sure how I feel about it. As the date nears closer, I remember what it was like to be in the hospital bed on the edge of survival. I got a small headache the other day and it completely freaked me out, even though the doctors said I am now immune to that particular strain of bacterial meningitis. Instantly, in my mind, I went from zero to one hundred - is this it? As much as I come down on my dad for worrying too much, I understand it myself.

In a nutshell, I would say I feel beyond lucky. Every morning I exercise at dawn and it feels damn good to feel the blood pumping through my veins and feel alive. I run faster when I think of my long days in the hospital bed, staring out the window at all the fortunate people who were walking around. When I left the hospital, I said "I never want to be back here again" - and I meant it. Even though I have a sense of dread for this anniversary, I feel lucky that it reminds me what's really important. As my dear MIL says, "health is wealth!"

By God's Grace we are healthy...and that means the world. That means that we get to wake up every day and live to our full potential...

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