Saturday, 31 December 2016

Taking a Chance on Me



Knowing that I was in the publishing industry a friend approached me with her novel. It had been three years since she had written the book but didn’t know what to do as far as getting it published was concerned.

She asked me to first read and give my opinion as a professional. I did that and I loved her proof. I decided to help her get it published but all my contacts failed and none of the publishers wanted to come forward with a new author. They needed established authors who could bring in the money for them.

Not to give up on good talent, I then decided to publish it myself. A tough task indeed. I had no idea about what it takes to become an entrepreneur.  I was also worried if I had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. But I read somewhere that all it takes to begin is the desire and the initiative. And whoever wrote it was right. I had two goals, one to ensure that my friend Sapna Bhog’s words and story was read and the other was to do it myself.

                                  

I took a chance on Sapna’s book “Take a Chance on Me” and decided to take control of both our entrepreneurial destinies. Many hurdles and impediments later which mostly involved obtaining the ISBN from the authorities, getting rid of all the errors in the book and making it almost perfect, and then printing it in paperback and creating an ebook, I was at last a publisher. Of course the day I got my company AARAHAN PUBLISHERS (the name derived from my children's names Aaryam and Ahan) registered under the Shop Act was also a big day and now I truly was an entrepreneur on paper and most importantly in reality. A proud moment indeed.


My journey as a publisher began the day “Take a Chance on Me” by Sapna Bhog was launched amidst much fanfare among family and friends. The book has been well received and has been loved by all lovers of romance. It has been quite a journey becoming a publisher. Well, I finally did it and what a book it is. An astounding success for the young and budding author.




I have a hard road ahead. This one book was just a start... more books, more authors, more stories, humour, tragedy, love, loss, food, portraying life in general in its many hues and shades and maybe just maybe reaching out for the stars is how I see my journey ahead.  

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Investments and Us

My friend an investment specialist bowing to my entreaties has become a guest blogger on my blog to give some special investment advice...


Just the other day I was trying to help a friend with a serious medical condition he was diagnosed with. I was entrusted the job of finding a good but “decently priced” hospital for him. Just to get things cleared up, I asked his wife if he was medically insured. Being self employed, obviously, he had no company paid medical benefits to fall back upon. Fortunately, his wife knew that he had taken a medical insurance policy. When I asked how much medical insurance cover he had, she said he had a cover of Rs.2 lakhs. Seeing the look on my face, she thought maybe she was wrong and then corrected herself and said, “No, sorry, it’s 5 lakhs.” Clearly, she didn’t know how much it was. I asked her to show me the policy and she didn’t know where it was kept. With a figure between Rs.2 and 5 lakhs to work on, I was confused which hospital I should choose. Ultimately when she finally found it, it was neither of them. He was covered for Rs.3 lakhs.

My question is - how many of the ladies here have any knowledge of their husbands’ investments, his life insurance policies, his medical insurance etc etc? If not, one should take stock of it today itself. While we always hope for the best but one must be prepared for the worst. Please understand that, God forbid, if he’s unwell you will have to take charge of the situation. So, starting today, start taking interest in the financial future of the family as well.

By now you must be thinking, who I am. Well, to be short and precise, my name is Vikas Sharma and I’m a financial consultant. To give you a longer introduction, I was born to an army officer in the corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME). Being the son of an engineer, like all children, my mindset too was the same that I also want to do what my father did i.e. become an engineer. So, I chose science subjects in my XI and XII. That was my biggest mistake. I wasn’t made for science and I couldn’t understand it one bit. And obviously, couldn’t qualify for any of the good engineering colleges. But good sense prevailed and I didn’t make it a bigger mistake by going into one of the second rung colleges. I did hotel management (it was a diploma back then) instead, worked for three years in a hotel and did my graduation by correspondence. B. Com this time. I wasted 7 years of my life for that one mistake.

Doing my B. Com was the beginning of life for me. Soon after that I went to Australia to pursue my MBA in finance. And when I did that and was studying the subject of investments, and portfolio management, and security analysis, I realized that this is what I was made for. I finished my MBA and came back to India and started my own financial consultancy business. It’s been 17 years now and I still love it. We help people plan out their financial future, suggest them a model portfolio of asset classes based on their life stage and their risk appetite.

Nirja, my friend, asked me to contribute to her blog by writing some articles for the readers of her blogs and I readily agreed. Though, I have my own blog too at http://www.sharma.es but that caters to an audience which is regularly investing in shares. Here I would be sharing my little knowledge in the form of simple, easy to understand articles. Meanwhile, I would also like to encourage you to post any questions in the comments that you might want me to elaborate on and I’d be happy to answer them. In case of more personal queries you can mail me at vikas@sharma.es.

Thank you, Nirja, for giving me an opportunity to write for your blog.
  
So, after I have introduced myself, it comes to how this blog will help you? Well, I would say, it is what you can take from it rather than what I can give. I believe that financial plans are like clothes. Like the same size of clothes doesn’t fit all, similarly, the same financial plan doesn’t fit all. It has to be tailor-made from individual to individual depending upon various factors. However, to keep this post general, I would just like to focus on a few thumb rules that I usually follow when I make a financial plan for anybody.

But before I can go into the details and the “nitty-gritties” of investments, I would like to classify investments as the following:
(a)    Secure investments: By secure, I mean ones who invest only in sovereign bonds like the RBI bonds, the Provident Fund etc. , which give you a very low rate of interest but give you a fixed rate of return, usually tax-free.
(b)   Safe investments: Are those which fetch you a decent rate of return but are still fixed and are considered safe investments like investments in the money markets, the bank fixed deposits etc. Such investments are usually taxable.
(c)    Medium risk investments: In such investments you get a higher rate of interest but are again taxable, such as company fixed deposits, and bonds issued by companies.
(d)   Risky investments: People who invest in the US dollar and precious metals like gold and silver are called risk takers, even though these investments are considered to be the safe havens for people who invest. They give you a higher rate of return, but the profits are again taxed.
(e)   Very risky investments: Investments in properties, in stocks, in equity linked mutual funds “can” give you phenomenal returns but are considered to be very risky as you can even depreciate your capital by investing in such products.

But in all of these, one should remember, that the riskier an investment is, the higher returns it can generate. But it’s not as easy as picking out what an investor needs, high returns or low risk? It has to maintain a fine balance between preservation of capital and high returns. Now, coming back to the thumb rules, it all comes down to calculating how risk averse an investor is. And it all boils down to how risk averse an investor is, or can be, which can depend on various factors:

  1. Individual preferences: It depends on how much risk a person is willing to take. What is of more importance to him? Higher returns or preservation of capital? Usually, my experience tells me that old people, and housewives value security more and don’t bother about the returns while younger people, especially DINKs (Double Income No Kids), don’t mind taking an extra amount of risk, because it can fetch them higher returns.
.  2.  Age bracket a person is in: I generally feel that not all your investments should be low risk or high risk but again it is a fine mix of both. And it usually depends on the age bracket a person is in. My thumb rule is that (100 minus the age) is the percentage that one can afford to invest in risky assets. Thus, a person who’s 30 years old must invest (100-30=) 70% of his money in risky assets and only 30% in low risk assets.
   3.  Family commitments and responsibilities: As I said, it’s not as easy as just seeing the age and applying the thumb rule. A 50 year old unmarried man with no family responsibilities can afford to take a lot more risk than a 50 year old man with four children who are yet to be married.

Anyway, there is a lot more to know and lies outside the scope of the article. As time goes by we’ll learn everything in greater detail but for now if anybody has any questions, you could just forward them to vikas@sharma.es or post your question in the comments section.

This series on the blog is designed to make the ladies and the housewives readers a lot more finance savvy and will help them take informed decisions and make them more financially independent.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

LIVING LIFE ON YOUR OWN TERMS!

"What other people think of me is none of my business."

"Life is too short to waste time on speculating what other people think about you.

"If they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn't have the time to sit around and talk about you."

"What's important to me is not others' opinions of me, but what's important to me is my opinion of myself."

Heard these before? All the time right! Yes, living life on your own terms is what all of us should aim for. After all true happiness lies within us and not outside. Happiness dependent on the approval of others, being a people pleaser at the cost of your own peace of mind is surely not the way to go.

However, what strikes me as a little selfish and egocentric is the fact that all these quotes say that your bliss may just be at the cost of someone else and their happiness. Time and time again I read about not caring about what other people think of you or I’ve heard the statement “just be yourself” so much. It sounds like a remarkable thing to do but what in the world does it really mean?

What if living on your own terms signifies, never compromising, never bothering about how hurtful you are, never being empathetic, or in plain simple words, what if you are a jerk? What if you never care about other people’s feelings because you need to be yourself? What if your tag line says “that’s how I am folks, take it or leave it”?

Does that really sound right? Aren’t all relationships supposed to be full of compromises, caring for each other’s’ emotional states and being there for the other at all cost? So, if all you care for is yourself, when and how do you take time out to care for others and pay attention to their needs and challenges. Doesn’t your family need you, don’t your friends expect something in return, and doesn’t your boss want you to work in a certain way? Are all these expectations wrong? But what if you are just “you” and are never there for anyone in your life? 
Thinking about all this made me realise that if “being you” is hurting others and making them sad it’s time to take a good look at what you are up to in life and make some changes. Be yourself, live life on your own terms but not at the cost of your own or other’s peace of mind.

Your true self is who you really are when you let go of all of the stories, labels, and judgements that you have placed upon yourself. It is who you naturally are without the façades and pretensions. I read somewhere discovering your real self is to get in touch with your inner child, having fun, playing with your kids like a kid, and following your intuition. But most importantly it is about becoming aware about your thoughts and the quality of your thinking and getting rid of your negativity. Allow yourself to sit quietly for just five to ten minutes and observe your thoughts.

“We have so many unconscious beliefs that we have taken on over the years that were probably handed down to us from somebody else, and that we believed to be who we are. Becoming more aware of the quality of your thoughts, letting go of the old beliefs, and becoming more present can help in revealing your true nature.”

Therefore get inspired by the lovely thoughts out there, be yourself, don’t hide behind a façade, don’t conceal the real you but remember to be empathetic, kind, considerate and compromising above all else.

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”


Thursday, 6 October 2016

Some of My Favourite Men

There are many men in my life. My two boys, my husband and my father are the most favourite of them all. However, there are some others who have stolen my heart.  

                          
Just the other day I came across an article about the very debonair and suave Prime Minister of Canada.  I said to myself now this is a man I would love to know more about. The Canadian Prime Minister has held office for less than a year and he is dominating headlines across the globe.

Justin Trudeau may have been born with a silver spoon but he sure knows how to hold his own and make a statement. His popularity increases each day. He doesn’t shy away from taking a stand on controversial issues, shaking a leg on the floor doing a bhangra wearing a kurta pyjama, or striking impressive yoga poses and even flirting with the Queen on Twitter and most importantly being a family man. 
There are websites galore on the internet enumerating how special and different he is from lots of other men especially prime ministers. Justin Trudeau is a feminist who believes “poverty is sexist,” going on to add that “women and girls are less likely to get an education, more likely to be impoverished, and face greater risk of disease and poor health.” Adding to this he said, “I accept your challenge to lead. As a feminist, I know that women must be treated equally everywhere.” Sigh, a male feminist. Wow!
And if that doesn’t melt your heart this next snippet of information will.  Trudeau announced that during a visit to Japan, he'll take a day off from work to celebrate his 11th wedding anniversary with his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. “This is the kind of work-life balance that I've often talked about as being essential in order to be able to be in service of the country with all one's very best, and that's certainly something I'm going to continue to make sure we do," Trudeau said, according to Canada's CBC News.

When he is not busy doing one hand push ups and balancing babies on one hand he is involved in inducting women in his cabinet.  Trudeau appointed women to 15 of his 30 Cabinet spots, after vowing to do so during his swearing-in. When a reporter asked Trudeau why gender equality was important, he responded, "Because it's 2015."
He has a large fan base and why wouldn’t he, especially when he goes to the airport to personally greet Syrian refugees and help hand out warm winter coats, pokes fun at himself, has degrees in Engineering and Literature, might be one of the only prime ministers to sport a tattoo on his very fit body and has pledged to fight climate change.

The above reasons are just some of the reasons why people want to migrate to Canada and why I  felt I had to make a mention of him on my blog. And now that I have gone and written about him, I feel I need to write about all my other favourite men.

Hmmmmm…my next blogticle will have to be about Dev Anand.




Friday, 9 September 2016

A pushover; who me?

Very very confused and muddled I have attempted a write up about being nice vs being a pushover...

A pushover as per the dictionary is a person who's easy to fool or influence. Someone who is easily taken advantage of and is easily defeated.

A pushover in other words is a person who is pushed to do stuff he really doesn’t want to do and is actually uncomfortable doing. Why then are pushovers so common?

A young mom I was speaking to yesterday told me how frustrated she was because being in a joint family was not as easy as she had thought it was. She had had to quit her job, look after all the other members of the family with no support from her other family members especially her younger sister in law who wouldn’t lift a hand to help her. She had to even shop for her most intimate needs because she was too lazy to step out of the house. While I stared at her with my mouth agape wondering what I would have done in a similar situation she continued, “Yes, I am a pushover”.

How do you have the strength to take it I asked her and she said I just let it be …I can’t handle confrontations.

As a pushover one learns to take things the way they are, avoiding at all costs to stand up for one’s opinions, perspectives, or ideas. My acquaintance had somehow convinced herself that not speaking up about what she was going through was much better than making an issue about the whole thing. She had learnt not to put herself first, even at great personal expense.

This made me think about it the whole day. Are pushovers nicer people, more spiritual, more in tune with the spirit of humanity? Are they just plain nice, wanting to make people happy without expecting anything in return? Or are they just afraid of the consequences? Consequences such as losing friends, not disappointing people and being known as a mean person.

However being too nice can be harmful especially when your forbearance is taken as stupidity. And when your principles are compromised and your kind hearted gesture may actually be hurting you, you need to say no.  

So, now all this got me thinking. Am I a pushover? Well let’s see…I have never been able to say no to anyone, be it my friends, my boss, my colleagues, the rickshaw driver, my beautician, I have a hard time asserting myself, always first thinking “what if I am hurting this person”. Oh no, I shouldn’t say anything, they will hate me for saying no, he is my boss, my senior I cannot on any grounds not heed to his wishes, they will be so upset with me for pointing out the poor service I received. The reasons are manifold and the cost of not saying only one, my peace of mind.  

Well, yes then dear God, I am a pushover. But I never thought it was wrong. Yes I had expectations, my peace of mind would be disturbed but in the end I was a pushover since I wanted to be one. I didn’t do it because I wanted people to like me (a tad bit yes) but because I didn’t want them to be displeased and disappointed or to be unhappy.


Is being a pushover good or not? I am confused. I also realise most people are not fond of pushovers. It is also true that most of us consider ourselves to be pushovers just like I do. But are still disliked by some percentage of the people we know.

Thanks to some valuable lessons I have learnt recently I know that the world is full of negativity, pessimism, cynicism, distrust and gloom, so the problem is not in being appreciative, kind and friendly, the problem is in letting yourself be harmed and losing your peace. I have also learnt that getting the approval of others through being nice is a waste of time.

I have thus decided being too nice is not the problem being a pushover is. So, though till my dying day I will try my level best to help and turn my other cheek for those who will appreciate being helped, it will not be at the cost of my principles and my family.

NICE: YOU DO NICE THINGS BECAUSE YOU WANT TO

PUSHOVER: YOU DO NICE THINGS EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO





Saturday, 27 August 2016

I AM DIRTY AND UNCLEAN!

Do you know I menstruate...so unclean and embarrassing, isn't it (that’s how the Trust of the Haji Ali Dargah described it)! What will God say? This dirty contaminated impure woman …how dare she even think about coming into my house, tainting it with her filthy blood, even her shadow soils my pure house. 

Seriously? Let’s here for a moment assume hypothetically that the power above or God as we like to term him or her is in fact a male. Is that how God actually would feel about his own creation, his daughters, his wives, his mothers, his sisters…dirty, impure, and contaminated? Isn’t it because of this biological truism that, please don’t forget women have no control over, that the marvel of creation and birth in reality happens. 

But all you get to hear about from the same sons and husbands you have given birth to and carried in your womb for 9 months that you are unclean and impure. Who are these so called protectors of God and religion to pass a judgement such as this?  Over centuries women have lived in seclusion during menstruation, similar taboos related to touching food, not entering religious place, etc. have been documented world over.

With all the hullabulloo over this I decided to research this topic. Why does the “superstition”, “taboo” actually exist? I realised that the subject is not what it really seems on the surface. The cultural practices surrounding menstruation have their roots in science and shockingly in the fact that they were originally never meant to suppress or demean women.  There is a positive side of the story and it is obvious that none of the menstrual practices came into being because women are impure or unholy. Do visit the below given links to read up more about this.

  

It is only when we twist the whole meaning of the practices that were meant for and made to revere and venerate women that we reach an impasse as we are at now. People who don’t comprehend the actual meaning of these rituals have made a mockery of the whole matter and used it to redefine the role of women in society.

These practices and rituals cannot be used to subdue women and deny them their most basic and fundamental rights. The mind set has to change and change drastically. And why give the other gender the strength and power to allow us or disallow women to do something or not do something. Women also need to make their lives uncomplicated and not consider themselves the lesser gender. Women need to support and respect each other and most importantly realise they do not require validation from men to define who they are.

Women have been brought up with strong negative mental conditioning, self-doubts and fears. This has led to several crimes against women: shame of being a woman, no liberty or choice, female foeticide, dowry harassment and murder, honour killing, rape, molestation, domestic abuse. Even day to day women are hassled in a very subtle manner by confused men who want the women in their life to be strong and independent but resent their strength and independence at the same time.

It is also time to stop associating women with their virginity, physical appearance, relationship status and motherhood. Inflated glorification of the importance of a woman’s so called honour puts women at further risk of abuse and harassment (mostly but not restricted to sexual crimes).

Gaining entry into the inner sanctums of places of worship, of temples and dargahs maybe the first step for women to stand up and have their say against discrimination and suppression but just as a friend said today it is not enough.


Thursday, 25 August 2016

I AM GRATEFUL


Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

                                                           Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are so many things I am grateful for, indebted to the power above for the opportunity to feel so. Isn’t it amazing that there are people and circumstances at every turn in life who/that make you feel that you are blessed?                            

Gratitude is a very simple feeling but oh so so fulfilling. In recent times I had forgotten to be thankful for everything that I have or come across. I have struggled to find things to be grateful for especially due to the tough times my family and I have been through in the recent past. But on a weekend trip with my family this month it suddenly struck me that I was actually very lucky and wasn’t the world a great place to be in. Life was great.

I have a beautiful loving family, I had a picture-perfect childhood, a good education, a roof on my head, my family’s and my health, the sun rising and setting, babies, laughter, books, the people who have taught me precious lessons, money in my wallet and the power and choice to go wherever and whenever I want to. If that isn’t enough it was meeting my friends on the weekend trip that opened my eyes to the fact that I was so busy looking for the next best thing that I had lost sight of what was right in front of me the whole time.
My friends took out time for me to meet me and spend time with me.  That must mean something, right? I have people in my life who find it worth their time to be with me and to give me their love and support and for the kindness and the fun that they offer. I was sitting on the beach when it struck me and brought tears to my eyes. They actually felt like being with me in return for nothing but the time and an ear to listen. That’s all I can offer. Life has so much to offer. But as of now that is all I can.

But they are there, my family and friends, making ordinary moments extraordinary, making time for me, giving me the push when I need it, not judging me, making me feel comfortable in my skin, for not holding my past against me, walking the talk, including me in their life, reading my blog, for wanting to be there for me and for accepting me the way I am.                                

That also brings to the fore the point that not just friends but I feel immense gratitude for the people I have never met before who display kindness in the little things. Letting me cross the road first, helping me with directions, holding the door for me and so many other things. There is a huge list of other things to be grateful too you know, like the fact that there are trees and flowers, rain and the ocean, hugs and helpers who make our lives easier and man made things such as electricity, TV, pens, paper, the internet …the list is incomplete.

Of course I am reminded by this whole talk about gratitude that there are many things that disappoint me, discourage me, dishearten and disillusion me. It can be small stuff such as individuals or acquaintances who pretend to be your friends because of some hidden agenda, people who take advantage of you without ever appreciating that they may have hurt you, then there are persons like the one I encountered yesterday on the road who broke traffic rules believing himself to be invincible but never realising that he nearly came under the wheels of my car, my weight issues or bigger stuff such as poverty, sickness, global warming, terrorism, corruption, greed and boy can I go on and on.

However, I believe I can be grateful for these too in a huge way because all the disappointment and disillusionment have their own space in my life and have taught me so much. Lessons I am grateful for, lessons that have made me a better human.

But you know what, just one moment of gratefulness or thankfulness can make it all worth it and have helped me appreciate the little things in life. Gratitude can sustain positive emotions and refute negativity and make life so much more agreeable. 

So a big thank you to all those who surround me with their unconditional love and support. The more I truly feel grateful for all the amazing blessings that make up my daily life, the happier I am. The more grateful I am the better the world seems.
                            




Friday, 5 August 2016

Stop Wait Go


I am not a human nor am I an animal. But I exist on earth, in India. I am of utmost importance to these humans, at least in places such as cities and towns. I stand and see everything that goes on but can’t move to lend a hand to anyone in need; nor can I stop anyone from wrongdoing. I am just there, a permanent fixture assisting the flow of traffic. I am …a traffic signal.


Day in and day out I flash red, green or amber and everyone watches me, because, frankly speaking, a lot depends on me. I mean, I am not being proud or snobbish, just stating facts. The day I am not working everything goes topsy turvy. Not that when I am working everything is absolutely fine. People don’t really like it when I stop them or warn them to stop, they just don’t want to be bothered in their daily pursuit to nothingness. Rush, rush, rush is all they know, unconcerned with anything else other than their own lives.

I see all kinds…the rich in their fancy shining cars, the poor hanging around me begging for money, the not so rich in their normal average cars or two wheelers, or some, even on cycles and some on their feet. Some pee on me, some of them spit, some even bathe next to me and some just consider me as their home.



I see these humans day in and day out but still haven’t been able to decipher them. What moves them, what drives them, the rich, the poor and the others alike? I am simple, when I flash green I mean go, red I mean stop and amber I mean slow down. That’s what they have made me for, right? Right…but sometimes they don’t stop when they should, go when they need to stop and don’t practice caution even if their life is in danger.

What’s up with them? Is it a sign of an underlying theme going on with humans? The fact that they throw caution to the wind and instead of the “stop” signal they see it as a challenge “not to stop”. I suppose they don’t like to be told what to do. I mean I am sure they are like “what does this signal think of itself, telling us to stop…who cares.” Men and women both give me the third finger most of the times, and here I always thought women were more intelligent and smart. Well, I guessed wrong, didn’t I?


There are some who do follow my signals, poor fellows, they have to pay for their sins. No one in India likes people who follow or make rules. They are the mutants, the abbreviations, silly folks who do what they should be doing. They get honked at from behind for stopping when I show red, and even more loudly when I’m amber. Some get run over for going in green, because the guy to whom I show red does not follow me. Sometimes, I feel, these guys should exercise more caution than anyone else.

I have realised that this is how humans live their lives. Breaking rules, scoffing at the poor souls who follow rules, believing etiquette is for fools and least disturbed by the horrible things they see around them each day.

But you know, there is good among it all, they have just hidden it inside of their fearful, stressed out, frazzled states. The ones who help the street children who flock around me every day, the traffic cop who helps the old woman across the road, the wife who scolds her husband for not wearing his helmet or breaking the traffic signal, the young college kid giving a ride to the man trying to hitch a ride, the family which helps the lady who fell off her two wheeler, warm my iron heart.

So many of them give me hope, hope that things are not as bad as they seem. And the colours that I flash do mean something to these humans. The other day this boy was reading a book right next to me and I couldn’t help but take a peek too. There was someone who had written about me:


Traffic signals can be analogous for to our life’s behaviours.

 Green: The anticipation of impending accomplishment or the start of a new and exciting venture — all systems GO!
Yellow: A loss of momentum created by adversity and doubt — caution, slow down.
Red: Failure, rejection, disappointment — regroup, stop, start over!

However, rather than empowering life’s “traffic conditions” to define our behaviour in terms of go, caution, stop, we should believe nothing ever really stops us, unless we stop ourselves.  While we may see what feels and looks like the red light of failure it is not a call to stop and start over, it is actually a challenge to find a way to keep moving even though our confidence and our spirit may be dampened at the time.  It the commitment to perpetual forward motion that enables us to reach the outcome we desire. Even the good people, who do stop on red lights, take things as they come. They understand that this may not be the right time for them to proceed but their time shall come too.


I am honoured. Life’s analogy to me is a proud moment for me. Life or just a simple traffic aid, like me or not, but please don’t ignore me. 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Love Story



He loved her and she loved him
His kisses sucked out her whole past and future or tried to
He had no other appetite
She bit him she gnawed him she sucked
She wanted him complete inside her
Safe and Sure forever and ever
Their little cries fluttered into the curtains

–Ted Hughes, Crow, 1972
                               

 She loved him. Soooooooo... much. She couldn’t live without him, no, she wouldn’t survive without him. He was always there for her, showering all his attention on her. He made her feel special. He treated her like a princess. She could do anything for him.

She had no one except him but she wasn’t lonely. She didn’t need anyone else. Her dad was the only one she wanted in her life. Her teachers at school looked at her with worry in their eyes wondering why she wasn’t like the other kids in her class. Talkative, boisterous, lively, playful, she was not. The teachers knew her as a quiet, mature, soft spoken girl who did exceptionally well in her studies. But they couldn’t help but sense a quiet sadness in her. There was a calm deadness in her eyes which no one could decipher. She didn’t talk to anyone, she didn’t have any friends, she just paid rapt attention to the teachers when they were teaching, made notes and did what she was told to do.

She was unlike most teenagers but she was still a child inside. She needed protection, security and a haven where she felt safe and secure. It was home after all. Her mother had died 2 years back of cancer. So, she only had her dad. He had loved her mother too, she knew that but now he loved her just like he had loved her mother. He was everything to her.

I love my dad, what will I do without him, I have no one else. She thought to herself as she walked home back from school.  She had a lot of work to do at home. She had to clean the house, wash the dishes, cook for the both of them and then get ready. Reaching home she put down her bag and started her daily chores. She was just 13 but the daily chores were not a hardship for her, she wanted to do them because it made him happy. If things were not to his liking he would get angry with her and even hit her. But that was her fault, she knew what and how he liked things, so it was her responsibility to work hard and do things his way.

Once she was done, she took a shower with the shower gel her dad had newly bought for her. He had read about it in some magazine somewhere, about how a shower gel was better than soap and made the skin so soft, tender and smooth, so she used it every night, it had a beautiful fragrance too.
                               
She came out of the shower and got dressed in her nightie. He would be here anytime now. He was a workaholic and spent a lot of time at the office. She then went to lay the table for him. She had already eaten. He had told her he didn’t want her to wait up for him and remain hungry. She smiled. He was so good to her. 

Well as usual the table looked beautiful with her dad’s favourite crockery, cutlery, fresh flowers and the food that he liked. She took a final glance at the house to make sure everything was perfect and then went to her room. She took off the covers from the bed and folded them neatly and kept them in the almirah. He didn’t like clutter. Then she took off her nightie and naked she got into bed with just the quilt over her, waiting for him to come home …to her room…to her bed…to her…

Some facts about sexual abuse

One of the most shocking and reprehensible experiences is to be sexually abused by someone who was ordained by God and society to protect you.

Some parents have used their authority to force, trick or coerce their children into having sex with them. Although the girl child has suffered a great deal, it is important to note that the boy child suffers too.

When the child’s physical boundaries are violated, his or her mind is also violated. The insidious nature of the mental abuse can be explained by using the analogy of the reactions of a deer when its eyes are exposed to the headlights of an oncoming car. The deer becomes so disoriented by the blinding light that it jumps toward the car instead of away from it–so it is with the child who has been sexually abused. Once abused, the child believes his or her body is something that others control.

Such incidents are reported in the media, but few really believe they are true. In March 2005, a case of a businessman was jailed for raping and making his daughter pregnant. He started having sex with her when she was nine years of age, and continued until she was 22 when she escaped from home.

Some father-child defilement cases registered are because of family breakdown.   “They are common among single parents, where a mother leaves a child in her father’s care for a long time,” a psychologist says, adding that this kind of abuse has increased due to moral degeneration. “It is happening and sometimes by the least expected, smart and much respected people in society,” he said. 

Generally, something will happen and the father will become extremely stressed.  He will then be drawn to his daughter, the only one he believes loves him, and he will sexually offend against her.  After this first incident, he will be disgusted with what he has done and swear to himself he will never do it again.  Sexually offending is a way he releases the stress he was under but then when he realizes what he has done his stress level increases again because he has to deal with what he has done.  The stress continues to build and build and then he ends up offending again.  This cycle continues.

The father has maladaptive ways of coping with stress and his boundaries are blurred.  Often alcohol can also blur boundaries; often when he offends the second time and so on, he will have a drink of alcohol.  Most offenders are not really drunk when then offend, however, they drink enough so it can be used as an excuse.  The father may drink more after the abuse as a way of coping with the fact he has sexually offended again.

Once the father has offended against his daughter he will work very hard a creating a relationship with the victim to try to ensure she doesn’t tell.  He will work at continuing to distance the relationship between the daughter and everyone else. 

The father may use verbal or physical threats to get the victim to keep the secret or he may make promises of buying her things or taking her on holidays etc.

You also need to educate your child (age appropriately) about sexual abuse.  Here are some of the warning signs that sexual abuse may be happening.  Now please note these are just common indicators, just because there may be signs showing through doesn’t mean sexual abuse is happening.  In the same way, sexual abuse may be happening without any of the warning signs.

Physical Signs
  •          Difficulty sitting or walking
  •          Torn, stained, or bloody underwear
  •          Genital/anal itching, pain, swelling, or burning
  •          Genital/anal bruises or bleeding
  •          Frequent urinary tract or yeast infections
  •          Pain while urinating
  •          Sexual Transmitted Disease
  •          Pregnancy
  •          Chronic unexplained sore throats
  •          Loss of appetite
  •          Weight loss/gain
  •          Frequent stomach aches
  •          Frequent headaches

 Behavioural Signs
  •          Frequently tired
  •          Bedwetting
  •          Nightmares
  •          Depression
  •          Irritability
  •          Anger
  •          Low self-esteem
  •          Guilt
  •          Avoidance of people
  •          Sexual advances or inappropriate touching
  •          Sexual drawings



If you suspect sexual abuse, seek help immediately, do not wait.