Delhi is not Bhopal Gas Tragedy

IMG_8660Harsh Vardhan (only the incumbent minister at Ministry of Science & Technology, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Ministry of Earth Sciences in the BJP-led NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi) said, no need to panic, Delhi’s pollution is not an emergency like Bhopal gas tragedy.

Well. I’m glad you brought that up.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy was an industrial gas leak that occurred over two days in December 1984.  At least 3,787 people died; 16,000 deaths were claimed. It caused non-fatal injuries among 558,125 people.

According to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director, Delhi’s air pollution killed 30,000 people in Delhi NCR each year, including 3,000 premature deaths among children.

According to a study done by the Economist, Delhi citizens would live on average an extra nine years if Delhi met WHO air quality standards.

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In Bhopal, half a million people were affected in that one instance, of which upto 16,000 died in that terrible tragedy. Delhi has a population of 22 million, of which 30,000 people die every year from air pollution.

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You are right in that Delhi is not an emergency like the Bhopal gas tragedy.

It is MUCH worse.

‘Dr’ Harsh Vardhan, if you can’t do science, do the math.




Why You Need to be a Better Person

This blog post is about why you should be a better person in a relationship.

We are often told,’ if you love me, you will accept me for what I am’. While there is truth to that, we all have our faults.

And we are not as much of an island as we think we are. When we are in a relationship, the basic purpose is to give our loved one the best, most loving, caring experience they can have.

It is critical to know: our relationship with ourselves defines our relationship with our partner. If we are harsh and critical ourselves, our partner will receive the harshness or criticism. If we are impatient and unforgiving, our partner will experience the impatience and judgement.

Its not even the interpersonal relationship outside you that I am speaking of. Inside you. Do you have spaces, quiet, peace? Do you know what feels like? If you don’t, ask. A friend will demonstrate, or I will.

But you haven’t said anything explicitly to your partner, you say.

But ah, say I. You need to make yourself better because your beloved lives in you.


An Apology in Five Steps

Once upon a time there was a village idiot. He would go around doing genius things and stupid things. And the villagers couldn’t believe how a genius could be So Stupid. But it Could Be, and He Was. And he couldn’t see his own stupidity. Until one day a princess came along and held up a mirror to the Village Idiot. And the Village Idiot saw what he was, and he wept. He had been going around causing hurt due to his stupidity.forgiveness

The village idiot had been happy until the Princess held up the mirror. He wished he had never seen the mirror, because the mirror caused his Unhappiness. And then he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t Unsee. He tried to Unsee, and everytime he closed his eyes to Unsee, the image of him flashed in his eyes.

And he was miserable, thinking of all the hurt he had caused the villagers and his beloved Princess. And he didn’t know what to do. He ran around the village square a few times, but that didn’t help.

Then he went to a wise woman, who told him that it was okay being the Idiot, as long as he learnt, and became less of an idiot each time. She told him to take five steps in the village square, five magical steps that would make him less of an Idiot.

The first step said this: realize what you did wrong, and seek the aggrieved party’s audience for an apology. Something like, ‘Would you be so kind as to meet with me please? I need to speak with you.’ Say this gently.

A true apology has to be an unconditional, complete, no-holds-barred apology. What it isn’t, is: you did this, so I did that, its not my fault. Or your provoked me to do it. An apology also isn’t ‘I’m sorry’, then turning around and doing it again.

The second step said this: Try and feel the emotion of the wrong doing in your apology. Let the other person know how sorry you are, quietly. No histrionics. Tell them what you are apologizing for.

The Third Step said: and this is a hard one: Allow space for them to tell you how much it hurt. This one hurts the most because we don’t want to hurt anyone. You have to sit and listen to how your behaviour felt for them. And validate it. If they say, ‘you yelled at me and made me feel small’. You hear them, then say, ‘Yes I can see that, and I am so sorry.’

The Fourth Step said: Seek the opportunity for remediation. This sounds something like this: ‘I know your trust in me has been impacted, but if you will allow me to apologize not just by saying I am sorry, but by demonstrating the change in my behavior, and reinstate our love and trust, I would be greatly obliged.’

The Last Step said: If they allow it, follow through by not doing it again, and being present, gentle and loving in the relationship. No one wants to be in a relationship where they are emotionally beaten up.

If they don’t allow it now, say, ‘I understand you don’t wish to accept my apology right now. I hope you will accept my apology in the future. Again, I am really sorry, and I hope you will allow me to redress the hurt I have caused. I feel awful that I hurt you inadvertently.’ And let them have space. In that space, hold them in love. They’ll be able to feel it.

When hurt is caused, it is not the end. What is hurt needs to be soothed, what is broken needs to be mended. Walk in faith.

After hurt is an apology, after apology is the acceptance of the apology, after the acceptance is true forgiveness, and lastly, the alteration of behavior on both sides.

Like you change your behavior, the aggrieved party also needs to let go of their hurt and hold you harmless, and restore the love to its prior splendor. The aggrieved party has to free this person of all grudges, all resentment, and all painful memories. That is true forgiveness.

We are all idiots in our own ways. Through this process of listening, apologizing, learning and forgiveness, we can grow together in love and harmony.

As my dear, departed father once said when my love went up to him and said:

‘Mr. Primlani, your daughter is an idiot.’

My father said:

‘That may well be, but that idiot loves you.’


Hurt is not the ending. Love is.

‘Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.’forgiveness

The end.



The Silent Partner

So you get in a business or personal relationship, and the partner does something you don’t like, and what do you do? The relationship is so new, you are so excited, you worship them so much, you let it slide.

When something else happens, you are uncomfortable, but you let it be. You second-guess yourself, you carry on with your commitment to the relationship, to them. You give it your best, you give it all you’ve got.

And a third thing happens. Then a fourth. And with diminishing feelings, diminishing commitment, you carry on, until you start building resentment. You serve, but its not with love. Its with anger and resentment. Whenever you serve, you serve with a curse. What did I do to deserve to be in this relationship? What am I doing, suffering like this? I’d be better off alone.

It’s a logical conclusion.

Except for one thing: when someone crossed a boundary, you didn’t say anything, until that boundary became a cliff and you watched your partner walk right over it. And you did nothing about it.

And here’s the best part: they had no clue.

The relationship is dead, and your partner is at the bottom of a ravine, bewildered and weeping at the hurt.

Its neither reasonable, nor possible, for you to expect them to know what is going on with you. Especially when you seem to be fine, or claim you are fine. Unless you married a mind reader, they probably can’t. Read your mind.

Withholding information never helps anything. It is tantamount to lying, with equally deleterious effects. You didn’t tell your partner because you are afraid of confrontation, and afraid of the partner being upset. Even so, you owe it to them to at least speak your truth before its too late. Trust is not a matter of speaking when things are going well. It’s a matter of communication and redressal. That is what builds trust. Its not a static thing; trust is built or destroyed every day.

resentment-destroys-relationshipsEveryone fucks up. What is right for them might not be right for you.

Do yourself a favor, speak up. Don’t be a silent (and resentful) partner. The person you chose to be your partner isn’t a bad person. If you brought it to their attention, they would have the opportunity to change course so as not to hurt you. If you brought it to their attention and they didn’t do anything about it, you are justified in walking away. And you and they can choose to stay, or leave. But do them the courtesy of the opportunity of redressal.

Silence is not always golden.


A Sweeper and a Gentleman

Okay so I forgot to ask his name. Sorry sorry.img_5721

He sweeps Mother Theresa Crescent.

As a woman running in Delhi, I frequently get these responses to a woman running in shorts: men try to obstruct you, get in your way, cat calls, try to run you off the road.

And then I would run past this man, who would give me his own brand of acknowledging a woman runner.

Everytime I’d run past, he would get four feet out of my way, which was considerate, respecting the effort of a runner. And this is what he would do that flabbergasted me: he would stand straight, hold his broom vertical in one hand, and give me a military salute with his other. He is not a runner, nor is he in the army.

Finally after a year of running,  I stopped in the middle of my run to shake himg_5723im by the hand and ask him why he gives me this completely extraordinary greeting. He had no clear answer for me, wasn’t able to answer why he honors a female runner like that.

He was very shy, and couldn’t understand why I was asking him. While he was foggy on that answer, one thing is amply clear to me:

You don’t have to be an officer to be a gentleman.




How to Make Love to a Woman – II

First, Do No Harm.

The first rule of love making is the Hippocratic oath. Its not just doctors who need to take it. Before you ask someone out, you need to know that you will do no harm when you get an answer you don’t like.

hippocraticIf you ask a woman out and she says no, and you are liable to hurt her, threaten her, or emotionally bully her, do yourself a favor, don’t ask anyone out.

If you are liable to bully a woman into subservience when you want something from her, don’t get into a relationship.

If you are liable to force a woman to have sex because you guys are already in bed, and you think she can’t say no that that point, you shouldn’t be in a relationship because you don’t know how to respect a woman yet.

The first rule of love is that it nurtures. Love means you lay claim to the wellbeing of the other person, and will always act in their best interest.

Love obeys. It does what its love directs it to: if she says yes, it’s a yes, if she asks you to do something, you do it (barring criminal acts, of course!), if she says no, you stop.

If you get angry when your love says no, if you want to force her into your bidding, its not love (come talk to me about it), and you are not ready to be in a relationship. If you get into a relationship in this state of mind, you will do more harm than good, and if the woman is able to, she will leave you eventually, bearing the scars of your ‘love’ on her. As will you.

How do you love a woman like that? First, you have to love yourself. Answer this for me: do you respect yourself? Do you love yourself?
I’ll talk about this in my next blog.



Helpless at the Mercy of Love

The Trauma of the Parent of an Autistic Child

In case you’re not aware: autism is a social behavior disorder. There are a few characteristics of autistic children: they will likely not know how to modulate their voice or actions, and – they are very sensitive. They often times react adversely to what they perceive as a sensory overload. To us, the noise that seems normal or routine, might seem impossible to deal with, or allow for, to the autistic child. Another significant characteristic of this trait is that it is lifelong. There is no known cure for it.

broken heartWhat this means for the parents is, they have to constantly deal with socially embarrassing situations. Both from their child, and from society. From the child in that the child might speak in a loud voice in a quiet, public environment, and attract attention, and from society, in that people might run away from the child because of the social stigma attached to special needs, particularly in India. These children, and parents, are rarely invited to birthday parties, or other social gatherings that other children are readily invited to. The parent of an autistic child feels that slight on behalf of her child, whether the child is aware of it, or not.

Another thing that these parents have to do is always be ‘on’: be constantly vigilant in case their child runs off, or tries to get out of a moving car. I know of a father who tried to keep a child from jumping out of a moving car, and got bit in the process.

These parents deal with constant emotional and even physical assault in executing their guardian duties.

Where parents of more conventional children can have down time, entrust their child to a caregiver, go watch a movie or a play, trust that their children are playing quietly, the parent of an autistic child has to be constantly vigilant, and are very concerned if they entrust their child to another, whether the child will be treated with respect and dignity, and they are also concerned for the caregiver, so s/he doesn’t suffer from burnout.

These parents also receive social displeasure. More often than not, people are not educated in terms of special needs or autism, and just assume the child is a brat who has not been raised properly, and instead of being understanding and compassionate toward the parent and child, express displeasure and censure toward them.

Besides being always ‘on’, these parents have to parent to their child for the rest of his/her life. With conventional children you know for the most part, one day the child will grow up, move out, get a job, and live an independent life. Where the active parenting timespan of a conventional child may be 21 years, the active parenting timespan of the parent of an autistic child would be around 60 years. That’s like running a marathon at sprint level.

There is one final concern I’d like to bring to your notice: the love and concern of the parent of an autistic child does not end with the parent’s demise. One of their biggest worries is: who will care for my child after I am gone?

Sometimes, one of the spouse leaves, unable, or unwilling to deal with this level of vigilance. In which case it leaves the other parent to be a single parent to an autistic child. I am currently providing somatic therapy to one such, and I cannot begin to fathom what she goes through on a daily basis.

The parents of autistic children are super parents. They go through trauma on a daily basis that is comparable to severe traumatic events, because they endure it every day for decades on end. Be extra, extra nice to them. Talk to them, talk to their child. Treat them with respect. Don’t pity them, don’t click your tongues around them. But do invite them for some coffee, and a biscuit. The universe owes them.