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.



How to Make Love to a Woman – Intro

I am going to write a series of articles on how to make love to a woman. This series is motivated by a horde of my female friends and their complaints about the men who approach them.

These articles are for men who want to learn how to make love to women.love

What you’ll get from these articles: basic and advanced concepts on how to love women, and – feel free to write to me to ask me to address some specific topics. This is open to both men and women. This series will cover everything from ‘how do I know this woman is interested in me?’, ‘Can I make her fall in love with me?’ ‘How can I tell her I love her?’ ‘When is it okay to kiss her?’ ‘How do I sleep with her?’ ‘How do I know its love?’ and any other questions you care for me to add to this series.

So, answer this for me:

Where did you learn about sex?

If your answer is ‘porn’, then we need a re-education.

And if your answer is that above, chances are, you haven’t received a holistic education on women, either.

Do yourself a favor, don’t believe Bollywood. And certainly not Hollywood. In Hollywood, (and perhaps in your fantasies), women have a size 0 waist, and they hang onto every word you say with moist lips. Real women might have a size 16 waist (like you know what those sizes are!), have cracked lips, and listen to right about half what you say.

And allow me to divert your attention (like its possible! Right, guys?) away from the phallocentric world into the millions of ways you can make love to a woman.

Let me let you in to a secret: sex is not about your d!ck. Its everything before, and everything after. The ‘everything before’ will allow you to get close to a woman, and ‘everything after’, will allow you to keep her.

AND! I always say, a d!ck is wasted on men. Most of them don’t know how to use it.

So. This journey is going to be wonderful. And here’s where you write to me with specific questions; I’ll go over them one by one. And let me know what you want me to address first!



The Horrifying Faces of Acid Attack

It wasn’t without trepidation that I went to meet the victims of Acid Attack. I have never before seen such horror. Will I be able to maintain my composure in front of these women, who bear their scars so well? Would I behave inappropriately, and stare, trying to come to terms with acts that I can’t begin to imagine?

Their stories..

Their stories belie the cordial image of India; they show people so far removed from empathy toward their fellow man that they might as well be standing on the moon. The ‘reasons’ (as if there can be any) boggle the mind. ‘He said he loved me, he asked me to marry him, I refused, so he threw acid on my face’; ‘I don’t know who, or why, poured acid on me while I was sleeping’; ‘my in-laws were trying to hang my sister from the fan, and when I tried to stop them, they poured acid on my face’.

So I went, on my white horse, all ready to teach them how to say no, all ready to teach them self-defense.

I was wrong.

These women were attacked because they said no.

When I tried to teach them self-defense, they fell over laughing. At first, at how ridiculously simple it was. (I also re-iterated that when you can’t see your attacker, or trust your attacker completely, there IS no defense. Sometimes, there just is no defense.) And then they laughed when I taught them to get out of a grab hold of both their wrists. I’d teach them, then hold onto their wrists tight, and say, ‘go on, get out of my grip’, and they’d say, we don’t want to. We like it like this. (Why does this always happen to me?) Then fall over laughing.screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-12-49-12-am

I was curious. Are you happy? ‘Now we are’ they said. There was this moment where they had been obeying their parents, their husband, obeying, obeying, not venturing out of the house because they weren’t allowed to do so, obeying, obeying, and this happened?! Somewhere inside, something snapped, and they said, ‘f*ck this sh!t, now I am going to do exactly what I please’. Now they are happy.

Do you think you are beautiful? Most raised their hands. Except for one, let’s call her A. Do you not think you are beautiful, I pressed her. She looked down at the ground. Do you love yourself? ‘What, like physically?’ she asked. So, no. Do you think you are a good person? I mustn’t be. That’s why I was attacked. She wouldn’t raise her eyes to look at anyone, wouldn’t say no, wouldn’t fight to protect herself. We all noticed.

img_5197On the second day, I was teaching them how to defend themselves from a slap, and so pleased were the women with the new techniques, they came complaining to me. ‘Ma’am, no one is slapping me! This is not fair’.  With the basic elements of Aikido, they darn near broke each other’s wrists. A got herself out of a wrist hold, everyone noticed, everyone applauded her first effort in even wanting to defend herself.

Oh, and – by ‘horrifying faces’ I don’t mean the women; they are beautiful. I mean the men who can fathom committing such heinous acts. Like Voldemort who left a scar of his attack on little Harry Potter’s face, so did these men leave the mark of their horrible self on these women.

I think I realized my first day that I cannot teach these women anything. They don’t need teaching. As Chetna Gala Sinha, a fellow Ashoka fellow once said, ‘the women don’t need help; the men do – help them!’

My three days with these women tells me they are not Acid Attack Victims. They are Acid Attack Victors.



You Had Me at No

Okay, I’ll admit it. A woman who says no turns me on.  Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 8.13.04 AM

There are men who get enraged when a woman says no to them. For a date, a relationship, to maintain a long-standing relationship.

A woman who says no is a strong woman with defined likes and dislikes. What does that mean?  That means this woman has a healthy and well-used intellect, and has taken the time to know, and love herself. She is comfortable saying no to things she doesn’t like, doesn’t want at that time. She takes action to safeguard her well-being, her happiness, and her mood. That means she takes responsibility for her happiness rather than depending on others for it, or blaming the world for her unhappiness.

And she puts herself first. Before you, before anyone else. She can also put someone else before her, but that’s her choice. Not an imposition, not an obligation. That means she’s not the kind to passively agree to something, and then be unhappy about it. You can trust her at her word. This is a woman for whom a yes in a yes, and a no is a no. She knows if she doesn’t look out for her happiness, and treat herself with respect, no one else will. Can’t you see it, just from the way she carries herself? Strong back, straight posture, chin jutting out at the world?

Isn’t this JUST the kind of woman you’d like to be with? Who doesn’t follow you around because she has to, but because she actually looked at the men around her, and chose to be with you? And if this woman says no, don’t do it. Listen carefully to what she is saying. She is usually saying, ‘don’t do this, do that’. And if that ‘do that’ means leave, give her space, if you truly love her, you will give her all she wants, including your absence.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 8.18.24 AMOr, when a woman says no, she doesn’t feel like a cappuccino right now, do what I do: kiss her. Because these are our national treasures: the women who dare to say no. Even to people they love, who love them back. When a woman says no to you for a relationship, bow your head, and ask her if she’d accept being friends with you. Hurts, yes, but first and only rule of love is that you will give to your beloved what she wants. Not what you want, what she wants.

I love a woman who says no to me. You don’t have to get turned on, like me, but at the very least – love her for it. Want a woman to say yes to you? Honor her no first.




The Honor of an Ironman

I attempted the Vineman Ironman in Sonoma County, California.

Six weeks prior to the race I was in a bike crash in New Delhi, India, where I train. A bus stopped right in front of me and ejected a passenger, no allocated bus stop or anything of course. I went flying into a ditch and lay bleeding. I sustained four injuries: shoulder inner tissue damage, elbow and forearm, left thigh, and right ankle ligament sprain. Initially even a routine flight IMG_4268-2from Delhi to Bangalore would instigate tears from the gentle jiggling on my shoulder due to normal turbulence. The injury meant, also, that I could not train at all.

I had just met a lovely swim coach at Talkatora, where I swim, who was the youngest coach out of India with the highest credentials: Aayush Yadav. He just gave me a 5 km workout, when this happened. I tried getting in the pool, and did 100 m using my left arm. Each time I’d do a stroke, my left shoulder would pop.IMG_4657

As I got closer to the race, I had to get to Toronto to host a festival, then to California for the Ironman. Even in Toronto I wore a shoulder brace.

Three days before the Ironman, Marilyn applied tape to my shoulder and back. It was clear I was in a lot of pain even then, because gentle pressure from her hands on the tape would cause me to cry. She also applied TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)* therapy – with electrodes on my injuries to disrupt pain messages from my injuries to my brain. I decided I would race, and try and sneak past my body through an Ironman.

I just wasn’t sure I would complete. I asked Priya Sreedharan, a dear friend, who is an engineer and a dancer, ‘will I complete the Ironman?’ She said, treat it like a prayer. What will happen, will happen.’ Another friend saw that I was panicking, and took me to Chinese restaurant in Union Square, handed me a fortune cookie, and said, this is about your race. Read it. I opened the fortune cookie, and it said, ‘Do not worry about getting a high position. Focus on form.’ As  I was driven at 5:15 am to Guernville by Marilyn, I was eerily calm.

So  I stood at the start line at Johnson’s Beach, Guerneville, at 6 am. The temperature of 57 deg F, most people were in their wetsuits, I wore my trisuit because  I have difficulty breathing in a wetsuit. The water was warmer, thankfully – a balmy 70 degree F (21 deg C). We all huddled together, grateful for the warmth. And we got talking.  I met Dexter, who was 71 years old, and was doing the Ironman. And I had a burning question. WHY do you have lipstick on, I asked. She said, oh, that’s my adventure lipstick, I wore it when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I think at this point several of us raised our arms heavenward.

We played the national anthem, then got into the Russian River, which was green from all the algae. I kept running into things to the right of the course because I’d do a proper stroke with my right arm, and a doggie paddle with my left, like a boat with one stronger oar. The water was green, therefore opaque. Rivers are not meant to be opaque, and this one wasn’t feeling too well. About 100 m in, I said, I can’t do this, swam over to a kayak, and said I can’t do it. And he was so kind. He said, are you sure? What’s going on? I said I have injuries. He didn’t accept that, and went directly to the real issue: he said, the beginning is rough with all these people in the water. You get kicked in the face, you touch people and are touched by people, you can’t see where you are going, and neither can they. He said, go under the bridge, about 100m on, and you’ll be able to stand. I got over my nerves, and swam the entire way. It took me longer because I ended up swimming more than the course. The course was 3.8 km but because I kept swimming off to sides and coming back, I ended up swimming 4.6 km. Towards the end of the course, this kayak lifeguard rowed beside me to give me company.  I looked up and asked, ‘are you the escort service I ordered?’ He laughed.

I got out of the water, and wasn’t too tired. The volunteers in the tents helped get my bike gear on. There were volunteers who were ‘wetsuit strippers’ too. They’d help you get off your wetsuit. The announcer previously had told us during the briefing, ‘please make sure your shorts are on tight under your wetsuit, because our wetsuit strippers might.. well, we want them to come back the next year.’

I got on my bike, and biked up a short hill. Many people had walked it. The course was rolling hills, but hills are hills. A few days ago, I’d changed my bike gears from 53/39 to 50/34 in the front, and 11/23 to 11/25 in the back, having discovered that my bike was geared for professionals, and even professionals wouldn’t hope to do San Francisco hills in those gears. I took my bike to the Sports Basement in the Presidio, and now, every time I tried to change gears it would take 30-50 pedal strokes before my poor bike would change gears. They would also lock up, forcing me to hastily unclip my cleats in case I fell on the hills being unable to pedal.

The story was: every time a professional rode past, most of the time, they would find it in their breathing to say ‘good job’ to people they’d pass. Perhaps just me. The Budget van guy would slow down to tell me the top of the hill is ‘just up there’ to encourage me. One spectator said, ‘Come on! Good job! I will RUN alongside you to encourage you!’ on a hill. Absolute strangers. They saw how hard I was working, and did their best to encourage me. It brought tears to my eyes. The volunteers at the aid stations would hold up bottles of gatorade, water and half bananas so we could take them without dismounting. They would mindfully keep a safe distance, reach into our bike path with only the bottle or the banana so we could take it safely and carry on.

At the midpoint, 56 mi or 90 km, they said turn right! Bike finish! And I turned in. I shouldn’t have, since I had done only one lap. I stopped, and said, I can’t, I have done only one lap, and turned around. The sensor registered that I  have completed the bike course. On seeing me turn around so close to the bike finish, one man started pointing to me and yelling, ‘winner of integrity right here! Winner of integrity!’ What he was referring to is, no one would have been the wiser if I finished my bike course then; the sensors registered me as having finished the bike course. But we don’t come to the Ironman to take shortcuts.

I stopped at 102 km or 63.75 mi, because my shoulder just couldn’t take anymore. It was hurting even in the aero position. I wasn’t exhausted yet, but I draw the line at worsening my injury. So I stopped. I AM an Ironman. Just not today.


Vasu Primlani, Cyclist at Noida Expressway, Noida, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, India on 15th October-2013-Pix-Chandradeep Kumar

There is a code of honor. Among Ironmen, similar to the code of honor among the armed forces. This unsaid code says, I will bring all of me. Whatever it is: broken, whole, and offer up myself in entirety. Because I did that, I can hold my head up high. I might not have completed the Ironman, but I found it in me to uphold the honor of the Ironman.

And this race is about the grace of the American people: who cheer on strangers, regardless of their nationality, race, gender, entirely on the dint of their effort. They recognize that all effort is sacred, and they will do all in their power to support you. This is the United States I know and cherish.

I bow before you, and I’ll be back next year to complete the race.


*Thank you for correcting me, Gautham Naidu




A Moose and A Biryani

My parents in Alaska are Ray and Vivian Menaker. Vivian passed away from cancer a few years ago, and Ray last year. They were among the finest people I have known, the grandparents of the Alaskan environmental movement, helped set up the Alaskan bald eagle preserve, and were formative influences in my life.

I met them when I went up to do an GIS and web design internship at the Alaska Clean Water Alliance. Vivian was on the board of the organization, and I stayed with Ray and Vivian, and was never the same for that experience.

Haines is a small town upstream of Juneau, the capital of Alaska, along the Lynn Canal. Its small, but cruise ships would stop along this little port town. Once Ray pointed to a cruise ship and said, that cruise ship is using more electricity than the entire town of Haines. And in this tiny town, this young Indian girl of 23 found a home.

thimbleberryI used to wake up and go have a thimbleberry/ raspberry breakfast in their thimbleberry or raspberry bushes, Vivian grew her own produce in a lovely garden she constructed from scratch. I would fetch eggs (as would the town of Haines) from their double-storey chicken coop, clean chicken shit, chop wood (we had a wood stove), stayed with them in a house they pretty much built with their own hands. Vivian would make me cherry pie from cherries that I plucked from their cherry tree, and the finest granola in the world (both Vivian and I loved nuts).

Ray taught me how to drive a stick shift. Once when we came from driving into town, I ran and opened his door for him. And before getting out of the car, he looked down at the ground. And I asked, what are you looking for? He said, I don’t see the red carpet.

We had salmon caught fresh in the Alaskan waters. Vivian had installed a hand-cranked milling machine in her wall, and she would pour wheat into it, and flour would come out the other end. She would then make dough and put it in their bread maker and we would have the softest, warmest bread, best had with melted butter and Alaskan winters. We would wake up to the smell of a house infused with the smell of freshly baked bread. They never locked their home, or their car. Ray read stories every Saturday from across the world, and Vivian would listen to every story he read, back at home, over the radio.

For their 50th wedding anniversary, they snuck me into town at 3 am with eight feet of snow on the ground. The entire town showed up to give them a surprise wedding anniversary party.

2010-05-09 23.38.02You have to know this about them: Ray had a Gandhian charkha and he would spin stuff into yarn. By stuff I mean wool, yes, but the good people of Haines, Alaska, would also give him hair from their huskies, and he would spin that into yarn. And Vivian had a giant loom in one room, from which she would spin it into cloth. And these two wore bathrobes spun by Ray, and woven by Vivian all their lives.

I have always heard them say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to each other, and never once witnessed a fight. I once asked Ray, curious, Ray, how come you two never fight? What happens if you want one thing and Vivian another? Well, he said, in his slow drawl, then it doesn’t get done. Ray would say, Vivian and I have divided responsibilities around this house, Vivian does all the work, and I am perfectly willing to let her. (Which wasn’t quite true, since he did an equal amount of work). They went for walks in the evening, with Vivian holding onto Ray’s arm. He was gallant, and he would always offer his arm to Vivian.

And here is the most remarkable story: when I met Ray last, I was warned that he had lost his memory. When I visited him at Haines Assisted Living, he indeed didn’t recognize me, and he was as polite as he was to everyone. This is what he looked like when I saw him:

2010-05-10 01.50.26

So I decided to cook for everyone at the facility. Since I was in Alaska, guess what I cooked? I made biryani, but what kind? You’d never guess! Moose. I made moose biryani (I had never made biryani before). And this is the little miracle that occurred.

Now, Ray had never had Indian food before he met me. He had never met an Indian before. And he’d never had biryani before. I set a plate before him, he took a bite, frowned, looked up, and asked, you wouldn’t be Vasu Primlani, would you? HE didn’t remember me, but his palate did! From a dish he’d never had before! Not only did he remember, he remembered that he forgot! He said, ‘Now I feel like such an idiot for not remembering you.’

Ray and Vivian Menaker, good people become immortal, and you will live in my heart for my entire life. I love you, and you, and Alaska will always be my home.

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The XX Love Story

She’s a standup comedian who falls for Ms. M. But Ms M. is looking for a husband, not a girlfriend.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.21.08 AMM. wasn’t even supposed to be there. She told me this later. Some of her friends from Puducherry were in Mumbai for the weekend, and she’d got them to the Canvas Laugh Club. M is not the “pay for a laugh” kind of girl. She’s all smiles, all the time. I swear she lights up the bloody room. But more on that later.

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