Tag Archives: A Calmer You Column

A calmer you: an open letter to the cut-off list

My dear list, am not sure if I need to ask if you are doing well because we all know how high you stay most of the time. I’ve always wanted to ask you how it feels to have a name like ‘cut-off.’ Because, you know, in us humans, we have names that tend to have positive meanings, not ones that bring-in violent imagery in the head. Though it may just be interesting for some to be named such, like Terminator Chaddha, but let’s not take away your uniqueness.  Am sure you are aware of, and enjoying being in the news headlines these days. Who doesn’t want their very mention to create ripples? But do you know that most of us deeply dislike you for the immense stress you have been giving us over the years? You are the number one stress point right now for lakhs of students who are spending sleepless nights fearing you would come in the way of them getting admission into a college. You are not going to like it, but today I’m going to tell those students, and their equally anxious parents, to not give too much importance to you. Sorry, I know your ego will be hurt but then you stay so high, you can manage it! So here’s the deal..

A calmer you an open letter to the cut-off list

“Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck”: Dalai Lama

1. There was life before you, and there is life beyond you: The parents who are today on the edge of their seats while their children ride the rollercoaster of college admission process would remember that there used to be no dreaded cut-off lists during their time. But there was still fierce competition… the world was still called cut-throat… and that all of them still managed to do something fairly good with their lives. Those parents today have the opportunity to give the best gift ever to their children — the faith that no matter how many admission lists don’t carry their name, something good is ultimately written in their destiny. It’s just a little far for them to see it right now and feel reassured. As I keep reminding, God has a plan for each and every one of us, and sometimes that’s all we need to know.

2. Disappointments are temporary: All of them. I know of a couple who was apparently severely disappointed when their son didn’t get admission in class nursery in the school they thought was the best. ‘Ek baar yeh ho jaata toh life set thi,’ is what his dad told my father at that time. Anyhow, the child got through in another school where he excelled in studies all through and got 91% in class XII board exams, 14 years later. ‘Bure nahi hain, but these days students are getting 95-96%’ is what his evidently disappointed mom said, when the result was announced. The boy studied like a maniac for engineering entrance but couldn’t clear the IIT exam. ‘Ek baar yeh ho jaata toh life set thi’, repeated the dad, after 15 years of uttering the same sentence. Anyhow, after doing engineering in a regional college and a couple of years of job hopping, the boy was recently hired by an IT giant that offered him a record-high salary package. ‘So, how is it going?’ I asked his beaming dad the other day. ‘Ekdum badiya. Life set hai,’ he replied. I wish he knew that life was set the day his son was born. Disappointments don’t stay for long. The way we feel about them today is not how we will feel about them a few years later. So, why let them bog us down?


3. Success is never about the college… it’s about the person: It’s not really needed for research to say this but since some people believe a statement only when ‘scientific studies show’ precedes it, let me inform you that scientific studies the world over have shown that there is absolutely no correlation between which college a person studied in and his/her ultimate success in the career. And right now, I’m sticking to success, not even saying happiness, because there’s no correlation between these two either. When one reads about a student of IIT or AIIMS committing suicide because of depression, or highly ‘successful’ CEOs dying of stress induced cardiac arrests at the age of 40, you begin to wonder if we even know what we are aiming to achieve by being in this mad race of competition. Success doesn’t come from the name of the college written on your degree. Heck, if I’m not wrong, the college’s name is not even mentioned on the degree issued by a university. Success comes from how meaningfully you are utilising the knowledge gained from the classes you attended, no matter in whichever college building. At the end of the day, buildings are all that colleges are. Your success, and ultimately happiness, can only come from within you. Coming back to you my dear dreaded list, the walls on which you are so vainly stuck may differ from one college building to another, but the temporariness of your relevance remains unchanged. No matter how many colleges reject admission to a student because of you, he would remain the person that he was. You can make him anxious and take away his sleep for a night or two, but you can’t take away his destiny if he chooses to be successful and happy. That’s the permanence of our victory over you. Now get off our backs, please

Sonal Kalra changed three colleges in the first three months of taking admission. Because somehow she didn’t like their buildings enough.

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A calmer you: say this to a guy at your own risk

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It’s time to look at what can get a guy all flared up in no time. Alright boys of the world, I’m on your side this week. After you graciously accepted what I wrote last week about things you should never, ever, say to a woman, I’ve got to talk about what women say that makes you feel like banging your head on the wall. A lot of you have mailed me suggestions out of your own experience and it’s interesting to see that men from Bahrain to Bhatinda can’t stand to hear the same things, but their girlfriends or wives refuse to oblige. Let’s look at what tops the no-go territory when it comes to your guy.

A calmer you say this to a guy at your own risk
1. We need to talk: You want to see your man run away faster than Usain Bolt? Utter these four words and see him magically disappear. Men claim any such ‘talk’ about the relationship always ends in emotional outbursts, tears and no solution. They are right. You see, men are genetically incapable of handling a woman’s tears and they behave in weird ways when confronted by them. Just because you’ve read relationship articles by fancy shrinks that say you should ‘talk out a problem’, it doesn’t mean that your man has suddenly become capable of handling lengthy conversations about how he doesn’t love you as much as he used to. I’m not anti-communication. By all means talk, but why announce it in a scary way and set the alarm bells ringing in his head?
2. You are a mommy’s boy: Aha. Tell me girl, If you have suicidal tendencies, why don’t you sit on bed of grenades and light agarbattis all around? Why bring his mother into every conversation and watch your relationship slowly kill you. He’s as touchy about mom as you may be about gender-equality. . ,and no woman leaves an opportunity to hint it if she can. You want peace in life? Just stop comparing yourself with his mother and remove the suspicion from your mind that he does it either. Someday, you’ll also be a mom to someone in a relationship, and a positive attitude would come in handy.

3. Look at your friends: It’s tricky to say anything about the friends in your man’s life. Don’t like them and he gets mad. Like them a lot and … err … you know what I’m saying. So you are doomed either way. But going on and on about how his friends are either useless, or are way better than him in terms of being more successful or more caring etc is guaranteed to get fireworks. Avoid comparison, avoid arguments. Period.

4. You always___and you never___: Fill anything in these blanks and your guy will hate to hear it. The problem with us women is that we are too quick to generalise. We don’t stick to the specific argument at hand and start passing judgment on the very personality of our boyfriend or husband by using terms like ‘always’ and ‘never’. And yeah, another term to avoid like plague is ‘anymore’. This is how you say it — ‘you don’t love me anymore. You don’t buy me flowers anymore. You don’t listen to me anymore’. This is how he hears it — ‘blah blah, blah blah, blah blah.’ Blah.
5. Have you been losing hair?: Haww … did you actually say it? Why didn’t you die before you did? Remember that hair is to men what weight is to women. Take a pledge and repeat after me. I-will-never-tell-a-man-he’s-going-bald. Alright? Now take a deep breath and listen. All men want a full crop on their head. Yes, even Rakesh Roshan does. When they can’t get it for some reason, they get into all sorts of things — transplant, shave-off, depression. Don’t add to the misery by ‘lovingly’ pointing out a receding hairline to your guy. He already knows it. He’s been crying in front of the bathroom mirror for two hours everyday. And yep, the same goes for pointing out a beer belly. Girls think ‘tumhara pet nikal raha hai’ is a cute sentence. Guys think girls should be sentenced for this.

Sonal Kalra is starting a relationship counselling service. She’ll announce the date the moment she gets back on talking terms with her husband.

A Calmer You: kyunki koi koi friend kanjoos hota hai

Do you have a friend who goes to the loo just when it’s time to pay the bill? Bas, enough is enough. I’m sick and tired of paying for everything, every time. My ‘best’ friend conveniently forgets his wallet each time we eat out. And then, of course, equally conveniently forgets to pay me back even later. I feel like such a damn fool,’ cried out Akshay, in a recent, and excruciatingly long, mail to me.

Oho Akshay, idhar aao. Lemme give you an understanding hug from someone who went through similar helplessness during the growing-up phases. A lot of us have. In every group of friends, there are moochers. People who will either — dodge paying their share of the meal by saying they are not carrying enough cash, or — will try and make an issue out of how they only ate only one piece of the Paneer tikka while someone else ordered a fresh lime too, or — if nothing else, won’t calculate the tax or the waiter’s tip in the amount to be divided among everyone so that this falls as a burden on someone else who’ll either be nice enough to stay quiet or would have failed in math in school.

A Calmer You - kyunki koi koi friend kanjoos hota hai

So how many times have you lent money to a friend, either at the movies or in a group outing, never to see it again? If you are one of those genuinely generous people who loves treating others, it’s a great thing and I would like you to mail me your mobile number for my secure future.

But if you’re being nice and would silently stress later when you’ll notice the same friend splurge on something personal, you gotta a problem.
Let’s try and resolve that, because you see, tumhaari lottery toh nikli nahi hai that you’ll happily assume the burden of paying at group outings all your life.
When a group of friends decides to eat out, one of the two things must happen. Either each person should contribute a fair and equal share of the bill. But hang on,  if you are going to make a comedy scene by collecting Rs. 57.675 from nine friends and giving all that chillar to the amused waiter, please avoid, for the sake of sanity and manners.

The other way is for each friend to pick the tab every time, on rotation. Vaise usmey bhi panga hai. Because some outings may happen at Mc Donalds while some at Gurpreet Singh Wang ka roadside chowmein stall.

So what the hell do you do? Here’s what…
1. Set the rules, beforehand: Trust me, nothing cements a friendship more than setting some straight rules of behaviour upfront. Especially when it comes to money. Because money also has the potential to kill a friendship almost as quickly as the class hottie you and your friend may have a collective crush on. Decide, to mutual consent, a pattern of payment before you start going out. If there is a friend in the group who is a known moocher and will try and wriggle out of paying, it’s best to casually mention on your way out that you only brought enough money to pay for yourself. Or say when you’re planning the outing that everyone will be paying for themselves. Make sure you stick to this when the bill comes! May sound blunt but better than cribbing and fretting about it later.

2. Make the moocher responsible: You know in colleges or offices when collective treats are planned, the person who deserves the most sympathy is the one who has the task to do the ‘collection’. It’s anyway not a very pleasant task to go upto everyone and ask to pay up for something that they did, or will enjoy. And then this person faces the additional trauma of listening to cribs who’ll question how their share came upto what it did. And more often than not, this poor soul also ends up paying for many others who say they’ll pay later, knowing that ‘later’ never comes. A suggestion, make such a person the collection in-charge. Pay your fair share, turn around and get vigorously busy in a fake phone call. Let him or her also get a taste of ‘I’ll pay later’ looks.

3. Technology to the rescue: In earlier days, everyone would carry cash and it was difficult to wriggle out of a payment situation when it was time to pay the bill. But now with credit cards replacing cash in our wallets, the easiest victim becomes the one whose credit card gets swapped, as he has to depend on the hope that others will pay him later. Tension not. There are mobile apps now which help you solve this problem. I’m yet to try them out here but saw some friends in the US use these extensively.
One such app is Venmo, which not only allows your friends to e-pay you back there and then, but also sends them polite reminders of payment later if they haven’t. Another called Square turns your phone into a mini credit card machine and you can accept debit or credit card payments from your friends for free. Bahana hi nahi bacha ji ab toh. Try them.

Ancient wisdom says that lend only that much money to a friend which you can afford to lose. But I would say that if spending on friends stresses you out like it does to Akshay, then losing the friend is a bigger potential problem than losing the money. Either change your mindset, or change your friends. And a piece of advice to habitual moochers. Dekho yaar, you may be genuinely short of money and not doing this out of fun, in which case it’s way better to honestly decline a treat saying ‘I can’t afford it right now’, than suffer the tension of making excuses.

If, after knowing that, a friend decides to happily pay for you, at least you would know that your company is valued. Achha lagega. Don’t forget to do the same for someone else, someday.

Sonal Kalra only preaches, but is an expert in timing her loo visit perfectly with the arrival of the bill. It’s a fine art she can teach you at a restaurant, if you’ll agree to foot the bill..

A Calmer You: we have eyes. We will use them

Just as sun won’t stop rising from the east, some people won’t stop staring at others. Real scientific study: So you are in the public transport, or driving down a street when you notice someone staring hard at you. You go and ask the person what they are looking at.

Depending on which country you are in, this is what’s likely to be the response:

America: Well, sorry. Guess I was just looking through you.

Britain: I beg your pardon? Are you suggesting I have a vision defect?

Italy: Maybe because you are so good-looking, I couldn’t help it. Sorry.

India: Hamari aankhein hain, hum toh dekhenge. Kar lo jo karna hai.

Welcome to the land of stare-o-maniacs.

Hamein toh shauk hai bhai… We don’t really need any specific reason to stare. Arrey, we have to cover such long distances while going to college or office. Ab bore hote rahein? The only available entertainment is looking at people.Haan, it’s another thing that we are born lazy. Who will take the trouble of shifting the gaze from one person to other? So normally, we let it fix on someone and keep staring the hell out of him or her. Mostly her, but what the heck. Bandi nahi toh banda sahi. We will just stare, it’s our national preoccupation, and our democratic birthright.

A Calmer You - calmness tips to deal with staring eyes
I have written about them earlier also in this column, but stare-o-maniacs is a breed that never ceases to fascinate me. Some of them do not even need the usual setting of a public place to exercise this unique talent. Once I used to live in an apartment where the balcony directly faced the balcony of the opposite house. I would get up in the morning and go out to pick up the newspaper, only to find the nice woman in the opposite house staring straight and hard at me. I would instinctively nod and say good morning to her in the hope that it would end the staring session, but she would keep at it. After re-looking and revamping my nightclothes wardrobe  thrice in the fear that something in my appearance made her do it, I realised I was just getting paranoid. It was about her, not me.

Geetika Mishra, a reader of this column, wrote to me asking me to suggest calmness tips to deal with people who constantly stare. “Newton’s first law should have been: An eye that is staring will continue to stare with a uniform intensity in a straight line unless it is expelled by an external thrashing force to change its state of stare,” she wrote. Well, Geetika, that’s well put, though that proposed thrashing force or the chaanta has more potential to complicate the matters rather than bring about calmness. Here’s what I feel are the options if you find a pair of strangers’ eyes affixed on you for no apparent reason.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips to Deal with People Fond of Staring at Others[/stextbox]

1. Look the other way: Seems like the easiest solution, though you’d mostly find the creepy gaze still on you if you look back. But then why look back? If the situation permits, change your position in such a way that you can totally avoid looking at the stare. And please, for once, apply the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ adage here and stop wondering whether the person is still looking at you. This whole thing of ‘I could still feel his eyes on me even when I turned way’ is pretty bullshit. You feel nothing till you want to feel it. Truth of life.
2. Don’t be hypersensitive: Just as those who stare at others perhaps have a hobby of doing so, a lot of people also have the hobby of thinking that the world revolves around them. To them it seems like everyone is concerned just with how they look or behave, so they always find others staring at them. It won’t help in life to become so hypersensitive about self. All you’ll end up doing is picking fights with strangers or getting stressed within yourself. Learn to ignore, not just others but sometimes your own vanity. Hiding his online status just to maintain peace in the relationship is actually making him lie to you, something that he wouldn’t want to do if you were not this hyper about instant responses.

3. Assume you are awesome: When my Grandfather’s second cousin Mr Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, he generalised human beings as a species and showed us how we evolved from the apes. What he forgot to mention is that we may all decide to stop at different stages of evolution. So, you see, we as a breed are available in different shapes and sizes. Normally, people who get most stared at belong to the either extremes — either they are too blessed in the looks department or they stand out for some physical attribute or style of dressing that’s out of the ordinary. Rather than fret and worry what’s wrong with you, always try to assume that you belong to the first category.
Take it as a compliment that people can’t take their eyes off you because you are so awesome. In any case, there’s precious little you can do in most situations, why not at least feed your own mind with positive self-esteem. Haan, let these thoughts remain in your head only, don’t suddenly start acknowledging it to all those around you. A firang friend of mine once said that if someone in her country stares at her, she smiles back and it works. I told her that we would have liked to execute the same noble deed here, except that in our country if you start to smile at someone who’s staring at you, there’s more likelihood of him following you home than just reciprocating the gesture. To each his own. Sigh.

4. Get all funny: I have tried this and it works, but please do this at your own risk after evaluating the conditions. It’s fun to embarrass the one staring by making funny faces, or staring back at him or her full blast, as if challenging them to a ‘who-blinks-first’ game. I’ve even covered my face with my hands and slowly removed them to play  peek-a-boo with someone who wouldn’t stop staring. He looked away when everyone around started laughing. Sometimes people have no malicious intentions and they don’t even realise that they are staring. They can join the laughter too. It’s fun.

5. Confront: Well, the last resort. If you are certain none of the above is working and the stare is bothering the hell out of you, go upto the person and ask them what they are looking at. You could even shout your question out, as drawing attention mostly wards off a stare. No, wait, why not start pointing to your nose and picking it vigorously? That’s bound to put the creep off. I know it’s not nice or mature, but when did I claim to be nice…or mature?
Sonal Kalra has decided to join classes to learn the art of prolonged staring without blinking. With the second largest population, anywhere she sees there’ll be people. Might as well do it the right way. Kar lo jo karna hai.

A Calmer You: so who wants to turn a bit mean?

20 things that make you happy at someone else’s expense, and still not make you die of guilt. I could be in serious trouble after this week’s column. My bosses may just decide to drop it altogether and if that happens, remind me to post their numbers on some anonymous blog, after which you can flood them with messages saying how your life is incomplete without this weekly dose of calmness. (Don’t you know all columnists whose columns get discontinued resort to this time-tested trick?)

Anyhow, I tread risky ground because I’m going to tell you to turn mean. Not mean in a, you know, mean way… but just a little mean for the sake of happiness.

Because frankly, we are mostly slugging through our lives, doom mongering and feeling miserable about things and people that bother us. We shake our heads while reading in the morning paper that India-Pak continue to behave like sisters-in-law, forever competing about who’s better at letting the other down.

A Calmer You so who wants to turn a bit mean

Then, we shake our head when we find a car parked, in gear, behind ours; when the traffic moves like there is a baraat dancing up ahead; when, on coming late, the boss gently reminds us that we are not doing enough to earn our food —  the one that’s badly cooked by the maid at home — the one who runs away four days after taking the commission… you get the drift.

Basically, we struggle to look for happiness, contrary to what all those saints tell us about happiness being within us (how? how?). And, since we are inherently good people, we don’t want to do bad things to feel good.

We want happiness only through noble thoughts and deeds, for everyone in the world. Right? Wrong. Secretly, we all have a mischievous, mean streak in us that tickles us if we see someone else who is more screwed than us.

C’mon, accept it. Remember, I’m not asking you to feel good by harming anyone… but go through this list of twenty random situations where circumstances, and not you, have been mean. And then let me know, in all honesty, if any of these ever made you happy. I’ll wait for your replies.

1. Seeing the one you had a crush on in school end up with a fat, ugly partner.
2. Noticing a bad dent on the car of the neighbour who fights with you every day over parking.
3. A film you hated being attacked and shred to pieces by critics.
4. Seeing a socialite you are secretly jealous of (but air kiss nonetheless), have a wardrobe malfunction — with the media in attendance.
5. Noticing a dog poop outside the door of the neighbour who plays music at full volume after midnight.
6. Seeing the look on the face of the coach of the team you are not supporting, the moment the linesman in a soccer match declares their goal offside.
7. A relative’s son or daughter, the same age as yours, getting less marks in exams.
8. Realising that your mother-in-law has mistakenly put too much salt in the food, after listening to endless praises of ‘mom’s food’ by your husband.
9. Seeing the classmate who always comes first turn up ten minutes late for the exam due to bad traffic.
10. Overhearing that your devil neighbour’s maid ran away — with the driver of the one who fights over parking.
11. Meeting a childless couple who was married before you, when you’ve been trying hard to conceive.
12. Reading gossip about how Shah Rukh and Salman Khan almost came to blows in a party.
13. Seeing a yesteryear sex bomb turn into a fat aunty.
14. Reading a vague, speculative report that the bank you’ve taken a home loan from may close down.
15. Getting to know that your ex-husband/wife got divorced again.
16. Realising that your heartless boss has been denied a promotion in his annual appraisal.
17. Finding out that an event in which you were not allowed to participate has been stopped by authorities for lack of permission.
18. Seeing your office rival pay a compliment to the receptionist and she reporting it to HR.
19. Hearing your husband’s best friend narrate how his wife — who your spouse raves about — has made his life hell.
20. Realising that the restaurant has mistakenly not billed you for the last two Patiala pegs.
Be honest !!

Please read – Book review of Sonal Kalra’s new book More of a Calmer You.

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A Calmer You: Are you a stupid questions expert?

Next time someone asks me an obvious question, I may give a weird answer. Ask at your own risk. I have a theory. To explain stupidity. I don’t think it’s scientifically possible that we are born with an in-built idiotic gene, so it has to be something we acquire. And yesterday, I realized why it’s not tough at all to acquire it. In fact we are fully conditioned, and groomed since childhood to accept and reciprocate stupidity. We are surrounded by people who excel in the art, so we don’t even realize when we start emulating them. At least I do. Here’s an example.


Recently, at a relative’s wedding, I met a whole lot of, well, relatives. A whole lot because as I had mentioned earlier, my grandparents really loved each other. And if yours too were as affectionate as mine, I’m sure you also have several chachas, mausis and buas. Anyway, its great fun to meet the extended family but this time I noticed what exactly we say when we meet. And mind you, this is typical of most families and I’m taking mine, who I love unconditionally, only as an example (mom, please don’t kill me). As soon as I entered, three aunts asked, “Aa gayi?” (have you come?) Without even questioning the relevance of such a question, when they could see every inch of my it’s-big-you-can’t-miss-it frame with their eyes, I replied ‘yes’… to all three of them (conditioning, you see).

When it was time to leave, suddenly a flurry of ‘achha jis’ started. Everyone was saying achha ji or ‘okay then’ to every one else, but still not leaving. I counted 248 achha jis and then gave it up. I’m still trying to figure out how this phrase is relevant when you are leaving a gathering. Nonetheless I said 17 ‘achha jis’ of my own!

Whether you belong to such a loving Punjabi family or are from any other part of the country, am sure you’d have an equivalent of this trait in your culture. Asking harmless questions but that are painfully obvious and saying things that may not mean anything. You come out of the washroom wearing a towel with dripping hair and someone says, “Naha liya?” (have you taken a bath?) Are you ever tempted to say, “Of course not, this was just a demo. I came outside to take a stroll. I’ve been told it kills germs”. I’m sure you haven’t because we don’t even realise we are being asked an obvious question. Because even as children, we are not conditioned to accept and not question the obvious, inane statements. When we teach a child to ask “How are you?,” we simultaneously also teach him that the answer has to be “Fine, thank you.” And he goes through life giving the same answer, no matter whether he’s actually feeling fine at that moment or not. And this, when the person who has asked mostly doesn’t even wait for, or care about the answer.

[stextbox id=”black”]My best attribute is knowing when not to answer stupid questions.
-Gina Gershon[/stextbox]

Just for fun, next time someone asks me ‘How are you?’ and moves on without listening to my answer, I may physically stop him and tell him how am I actually doing, including the current state of my dental and mental health. In fact, just for fun, I will change my usual answers to the following OHS (Obvious, hence stupid) questions, in the hope that someday people would stop throwing them my way, or yours. Will you?

1. You enter a restaurant and the manager asks:
“Would you like a table?” Answer: Not at all. We love eating on the floor. A carpet for three please!

2. A guest who is visiting your home for dinner asks,
“Is there a toilet in here?” Answer: Sorry, no. We belong to a tribe that follows a ritual to relieve ourselves at the railway track sharp at 3am. Next time you travel by Swarna Shatabdi express, don’t forget to wave hi from the window.

3. You happen to be the serving staff in a restaurant and the guest asks, “Is this dish good?” Answer: No way, sir. I would kill myself before eating it. We sprinkle it with phenyl and sometimes also spit in it.

4. You come out of the salon with visibly short, cropped hair and a friend asks, “Did you get a haircut?” Answer: Wish I had. I’m just shedding. It’s autumn, you see.
5. You reach the check-out counter of a department store carrying piles of groceries and the clerk asks,
“Would you like to pay for them?” Answer: Oh no. These I’m going to steal. But, I stood in the queue just to ask you why you look familiar.

6. Someone stamps on your foot in a crowded place and asks, “Did I hurt you?”
Answer: You can’t. I’m on local anesthesia. Try it sometimes, it’s pretty cool.

7. A friend calls you on your landline after a party and asks, “Have you reached home ?” Answer: No, I was murdered on the way. This is my spirit answering an auto-forwarded call. Well, now that I’ve vented, here’s a piece of sane advice. Don’t try this at home. Only professional weirdos like me can pull this off, that too under the guidance of mental health experts. Okay then. Have you read the column? Achha ji.

Sonal Kalra tried filing this write-up through email and got an error with the message “Sending failed. Do you wish to retry?” Well, OBVIOUSLY. I was sending it for a reason.

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A Calmer You: I dare you to judge me!!

If your friends poke fun at you for how you are, allow me to poke fun at your choice of friends. After the intense reaction to the re-run of last two weeks’ columns about girls vs boys, my rather odd belief that girls strangely tend to love the ones that hurt them, and that boys sadly tend to hurt the ones they love, was kinda reaffirmed. Anyhow, in the barrage of feedback mails that came my way, including the ones that first accused me of being a guy in disguise and the following week termed me a balls-buster feminist, there were two that stood out.


These mails came from two distinct parts of India, and were written by two people of opposite genders, yet spoke of the same raw nerve. While Ambika from Lucknow said she loves her inclination to dress and behave like a tomboy, Ankur from Patiala confessed to hating the fleeting feminine traits he has in his behaviour. Both of them, however, share a commonality. They are both very, very stressed about the reaction of people around them to how they dress and speak. “Just because I love to sport short ‘boy-cut’ hair and only wear jeans and T-shirts, some of my friends have indirectly asked me if I am lesbian,” writes Ambika. “My friends tease me all the time that I’m gay, but believe me, I am not,” says Ankur. Well, Ankur, don’t ask me for my belief, because I, frankly, just don’t care if you are gay or not. And I will not even want to take this discussion to the gay-lesbian angle because as I’ve said earlier, which gender turns you on is your, and only your business. Not mine, not the world’s.

Let’s talk about the stress you are facing on account of friends teasing you for speaking or behaving like the members of the other gender. The very fact that both of you used the term ‘friends’ to describe these people smacks of irony, but I know your definition here includes classmates and acquaintances. So let’s just correct that definition first, shall we? Here, think about it…
1 If they are friends, they won’t judge you:
2 If they judge you, it’s twice as fun to ignore them
3 If you ignore them, you’ll start loving yourself
4 If you love yourself, they will want to be your friends
5 If they want you as a friend, they won’t judge you

I want to ask a question of each one of you who’s reading this just now. Can you, hand on heart, claim that never in your life have you made fun of a guy who happens to speak in a girlie way. I can’t. I’ve laughed at actors attempting such scenes in comedy films. Sometimes, with seemingly good intention, I’ve advised female friends to flaunt feminity and not opt for really short hair etc. But the more I think about it now, I realise how less I cared for what it must be doing to their feelings at that point. All that I perhaps cared for was to satisfy the stereotypes in my own head of how others should be.

Being judgmental comes very easily to us. And someone’s outwardly trappings such as appearance, clothes, accent etc are the easiest targets when it comes to feeding that habit. What we forget is that whatever we know of these trappings is borne out of our own conditioning, not by any rule of the universe. Somewhere while growing up, we acquired the knowledge that since a majority of guys and girls in this world walk or talk a certain way, that’s how we, or those around us, are supposed to. Now imagine for a moment that a new, inhabited country is discovered somewhere in the world. When our explorers reach there, they realise that all women in that country sport a short crop and all men have long, flowing hair. Suddenly all your beliefs would be turned upside down by the realisation that it’s all conditioning, and nothing else.

While I would like to reserve my right of holding an opinion on whether I like a girl who dress up as ‘tomboys’ (whatever silly origin that term has), I will have to accord the right to that girl to have the freedom of deciding what she wants to look like. If I need to tease a feminine guy or a masculine girl to get the laughter in my life, it’s my sense of humour that needs an overhaul, not their appearance.

And while on this point, this is what I want to tell all the Ambikas and Ankurs of this world. People are going to judge you or talk about you for as long as you live. They mostly don’t have anything better to do with their lives. But you do. And that’s achieving the high of being able to give them a royal ignore. You know, there’s a reason why the middle finger of my hand is my most favourite. Lest your so called ‘friends’ accuse me of obscenity, let me clarify that it’s only because God made it half an inch longer than the others. But you do get the point, don’t you? Embrace the way you are, the way you look. Go mad trying out whatever your heart desires, as long as you are not harming yourself or others in the process. Ek hi life hai yaar, that too pretty short. Either spend it their way, or yours. Something tells me that yours is so more fun.

Sonal Kalra realised that both guys and girls feel, equally strongly, that their lives are tougher. No one’s cakewalking. We’re all just trying to have our cake, and eat it too!

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Girls have fun, boys have none

This is the 24079th column being written on this subject. And I’m still determined to flog the dead horse because no matter how much our society evolves, somehow the punch never goes out of a guy vs gal debate. No? The seed of this week’s column is a Facebook message from a reader, Aseem, who recalled an example of how differently we react to the two genders. It says that a boy once put up a Facebook status that said, “Going to commit suicide”. He got 0 likes (thank God!), and 1 comment from a friend that said, “Bike kiske paas rahegi?” On the contrary, when a girl posted: ‘Got a new dress, loving it’, 100 people liked it and she got another 100 comments, that too mostly from guys.

‘Does it reflect the desperation of Gen-X?’ asks Aseem.

Well, desperation ka toh pata nahi, but, exaggerated as anecdotes may be, I confess it does reflect a little bit of reality.

Girls have fun, boys have none

Why, why, why do girls have it so easy in life… is a question every guy asks, though I suspect they anyway have their own theory for an answer. And although it would seem that girls would take offence to this hypothesis, I was pretty surprised to see that six out of eight female colleagues who I discussed this topic with, tend to agree that girls indeed have an advantage.

Of course, I must make it clear that I’m not talking about serious issues related to gender discrimination. Because sadly, in parts of our country, being able to be born as a girl itself involves a struggle, right from the foetal stage.

I’m instead referring to day-to-day situations in an equal-opportunity urban setting. In the space and times that we live in, most parents spend as much time, attention and money in raising a girl as they do, on a guy.

There’s equal competition at school, for college admissions, for jobs, for promotions and so on. And then comes an evening when there’s a mad rush for tickets to a new blockbuster in the theatre.

While the guy, waiting in a long queue, curses everyone in sight, the girl breezes past, straight to the counter. Of course, it’s another thing that had there been a single queue, some lechers would have got busier in ogling than bothering about the tickets. But not every guy is like that and it’s not his fault that some are.

Anyhow, you get the point, don’t you?

Guys feel that girls are cake-walking through life.

To understand it better, I asked some of my male cousins and friends to elaborate on what frustrates them the most. 19-year-old Reliance (not his real name, he just suffers from too much gas!) said girls don’t have to struggle at all, in life.

“They just have to sit there, look pretty and wait for some guy to wander along and spend all his hard earned money on them,” he said. I slapped him. Horribly sexist, wasn’t that?

Then came 22-year old Tush (Yeah, I know. Sorry that I have people with such names in my life. That explains all the weirdness!), who gave these three gems.

1 Less expectations: ‘Although girls claim to be equal to guys in all respects, there are certain things that they are just not expected to even attempt,’ says Tush.

He recalled an incident when he had to go to a friend’s birthday party and was waiting for his sister, who had taken the car, to get back. She called to say that the car had a flat tyre, and that she’s standing on the roadside not sure what to do.

‘Change the damn tyre,’ I wanted to say but I knew she wouldn’t bother, because she’s never expected to,” he says.

Eventually, he had to go, change the tyre, fetch the car… and his sister, thus missing the party.

‘And still when we entered home, mom fussed all over my sister because she had such a hard time,’ he cries.

2 They know when to play the feminine card: ‘The same girls who are forever ready to pick up the morcha for equal rights don’t blink an eyelid before entering the pink coach (reserved for women) on the Metro, with a look that says they own the bloody train,’ says Reliance.

I didn’t slap him for this one. It’s true that girls enjoy the benefits of reservation.

Sometimes it seems justified, sometimes it doesn’t.

When it comes to arguing with parents over going out with friends, they are equal to guys.

When it suits them to cry ‘cramps’ and wriggle out of a tricky presentation in college, they are not. Point toh hai.

3 And of course, as Tush points out, girls have the most potent, invincible, unconquerable, trump card of all — tears. It works — in all situations, at all times. For whatever complexes of their own, guys can’t use this weapon. In fact, the poor guys are not allowed to get senti at all. Girls have all the right to hold each others’ hands and chirpily skip around. If a girl hugs her girlfriend and says I love you, we go all awww. A guy tries it, and we all secretly look for opportunities to call his dad and say he’s gay. And this, when he may anyway under be tremendous stress to flaunt a girlfriend. Tsk tsk.

Poor XY chromosomes. By now I’m sure some enraged girls would’ve already begun making hate groups on Facebook, targetting me. But wait yaar, the heat will be on the guys next week, if I get responses from girls countering today’s piece.

Bring it on, Venus. Sonal Kalra suddenly feels she’s thinking like a guy. Oh sisters of the world, drag her back to the reality of your life!

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A calmer you: Help! My girlfriend is upset

Just two days after we all bowed down, or were made to, before the ‘fairer sex’ (totally meaningless term, by the way) in the name of International Women’s Day, I dedicate this week’s column to the hapless guys all over the world. Hapless — and I could’ve said helpless too — because of the sheer torture they sometimes suffer at the hands of the girls in their life. The trigger is this mail I got from Krishabh from Indore, the excerpts of which I’d like to share here. ‘My girlfriend gets upset @ 5 times a day. That’s the minimum. I love her and all that, but I feel all my energy just goes in manaoing her and saying sorry a million times. It’s another thing that mostly, I don’t even know what I’m saying sorry for. She sulks endlessly and doesn’t bother to tell me what has hurt her. She says if I love her, I should know. Please help, and don’t disclose my name.’ Well, Krishabh, I so wanted to respect your wish of staying anonymous, but not being able to ignore your attempts at jamming my inbox by sending this mail nine times in the last one week, I’m only adding another letter to your name. So technically, I’m not disclosing your identity but secretly hope this does its bit in shooting up your girlfriend’s ‘average’.


That said, you have my full sympathies for trying to deal with a sulk. It is never easy to be with partners or spouses who decide to use the relationship as a platform to unleash negative behavioural traits, the worst of which is sulking. Also I wonder why people forget the ‘friend’ part the moment they turn into a ‘girlfriend’ or a ‘boyfriend’ to someone. You wouldn’t treat your friends with a perpetually long face because you know they’d leave you in an instant. Just because a boyfriend won’t, it doesn’t mean you take him for granted. In my opinion, someone who often gets upset without caring to even tell the reason doesn’t really deserve to be cared for too much anyway. But then Krishabh my dear, you clearly are in ‘love and all that’ with the sulking beauty and well, to each his own. Here’s what you could do….

[stextbox id=”info”]Boyfriends Girlfriends Fight – Calmness Tips on How to Deal with it[/stextbox]

1. Stop apologising: You are not doing yourself a favour if you are saying sorry to your partner all the time, especially when you don’t know what you are apologising for. Because if you don’t know, you’ll keep repeating whatever has hurt her in the first place. Always remember that uttering ‘sorry’ without meaning it, is worse than not apologising at all.

2. Don’t indulge tantrums: Whenever a person sulks too often, they are essentially trying to manipulate the relationship to make you feel responsible for their emotional immaturity. Encourage this behaviour and you’ll be digging your own grave. I know a guy whose girlfriend’s pet phrase in life is ‘I’m not talking to you’. I and his other friends would see her do that to him in public, and the more he responded with ‘Why honey, what have I done’, the more difficult it was becoming for all of us to look for places to throw up after this excessive display of mollycoddling. Until one day, we sat him down and told him what she was turning him into. He had to realise that him constantly giving into her tantrums was making her feel she was winning at it, and would make her repeat the behaviour far too often. It was not helping either of them, or the relationship in the long run. Next time she said it, he responded with, ‘okay. I’m here whenever you feel like talking.’ It wasn’t negative, and it did the trick. Indulging the excesses of a loved one is a nice gesture at times. But only at times.

 [stextbox id=”black”]It’s completely impossible to find someone who won’t ever hurt you, so go for someone who will make the pain worthwhile. – Author Unknown.[/stextbox]

3. Understand the gender bender: No matter how much we talk about equality in relationships, it is important for both genders to understand the inherent behavioural differences between males and females. Since this week’s column is primarily addressing the guys, let me tell them how a girl’s psyche works. They want conflicting things, and are often unclear themselves about what exactly they are looking for. They’d want attention, but would freak out and call you possessive when you’ll give too much of it. They’d like to be pampered but would behave with defiance when you’ll be at it. In a nutshell, girls are pretty messed up in the head, most of the times… and then there is PMS! But these unpredictable emotional swings may just be the endearing thing about them. Try and understand that, and you’ll sail through. The idea is not to take their mood swings personally and let them know that you are around to care if, when and in the amount that they would desire that care.

4. Talk it out: Oh well, girls love to talk. Didn’t you know that already? Every girl’s favourite and every guys most dreaded sentence in a relationship is ‘We need to talk’. So go ahead, do it for once if her behaviour is taking a toll on your mental health. Tell her it’s not pleasant to see a long face several times in a day and remind her that constant fighting leaves little time for expressing love, and she may just enjoy the latter more.

5. Love or leave: I’m not asking you to dump her. Well actually I am, but only if you are sure that it’s not possible for you to go on being with an ill-behaved adult-child. Rather than living with the guilt of ending a relationship, give her the choice of ‘love or leave’. Tell her you would like to give your relationship a genuine try, but not at the cost of their mood being in the driver’s seat all the time. It’s not too much to ask for, is it? And if you explain yourself clearly, and she still doesn’t get it, it’ll be time to ask yourself some serious questions. Remember, once the charm of a new relationship wears off, the negative traits in a person seem all the more starker. It’s important to sometimes step back and foresee that situation.

Sort your life out, Krishabh. Five times a day is a pretty horrifying average. Bring it down, or bring it all down. And hey, sorry about your identity. But I may just have helped you. Do write back. Not nine times.

Sonal Kalra can never become a relationship counsellor. She’ll keep advising people to break-up and keep losing clients. Hey, is there a job called break-up counsellor?

A Calmer You: You’re missing the picture, dude

Are you too busy clicking or tweeting to enjoy the real thing? This world is full of one category of people. Experts. Everyone has some advice to give to others, ekdum free. That’s why I say it’s important that you become an expert in sifting out the meaningful advice from routine gyan that floats around. Anyhow, I’m not any less in trying to be a self-styled expert, so I gave some unsolicited advice to a guy last week. He didn’t like it.

A Calmer You -You are missing the picture dude
Well, that’s his problem but I want you all to tell me if I was wrong in what I said. Hua yeh ke I went to a friend’s place and met his cousin who had just returned from a vacation in Singapore. He was excitedly telling her about his visit to Sentosa islands, which is famous, among other things, for being among the top places in the world to watch the most beautiful sunset. And then he started showing us photos that he’d clicked, of the sun setting behind the sea. Beautiful photos indeed….and five hundred and seventy two in number.
‘How long did the sunset last?’ I asked him. ‘A few minutes,’ he replied and added, ‘after that you can’t really see much because it starts to get dark.’ ‘So, are you going to go back to Singapore to watch the sunset, because you missed it?’, I asked. ‘Huh, I just came back after watching it,’ he replied. ‘No you didn’t, your camera did. When are YOU going to watch it?’ I asked, and he got offended. What followed was a long debate over how photos are also important for memories etc but my point, my friend, is simple. What fun are second hand memories when you’ve got so busy in creating them that you missed the real thing? A similar sentiment was echoed by my colleague Damini, who recently went to Turkey and attended the famous night opera in a picturesque, old Roman amphitheatre, with full moon in the backdrop. ‘All I kept trying was to click the perfect photo, and before I knew it, the opera was over,’ she said.

A lot of us, me included, similarly make the mistake of getting too busy tweeting when we see something exciting. When India played Sri Lanka in the cricket World Cup final in April, excitement ran high and I was tweeting like mad at every ball. After a while, I was trending on Twitter lists in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore but you know what, I missed out on most exciting moments of the match. Because I got too busy in thinking about the perfect and funniest tweet to post. Kya yaar. Technology was supposed to serve us. We didn’t even notice when we became its slaves, and started clicking and tweeting our life away on gadgets. I’ve decided to, henceforth, set these three rules for myself, to claim my life back.

If you see sense in it, take the advice.

1. Stop looking at life as ‘moments to capture for Facebook’: It’s cool that some nerd invented these media that make it so easy to share our fun moments with friends. But surely not at the cost of taking the whole fun out of them, no? I’ve seen young parents, who attend the school function of their kids, rush closer to the stage with mobile phones or video cameras as soon as their child’s performance begins. All these dads and moms must remember that watching their child’s entire performance through the lens is only as good as watching a TV programme, not a live act. Why not let your eyes and heart remember the moment?

2. Set a limit for how many photos you’ll take and STOP at that: I have nothing against taking beautiful pictures that form cherished memories, but the next time I go for a vacation and see something spectacular, I’ll take twenty photos and no more. With conventional cameras, we at least used to stop when the filmroll got over. Thanks to digicams and mobile phones (technology again!!), we just don’t know where to stop. Tell me honestly, how many times have you actually seen all the ten thousand photos you took of the cow on the village road in Rajasthan with senti tears in your eye? Bas karo. Tourism is not a punishment and its not as if you have to submit a homework album with every damn thing you spotted. Leave the camera in the hotel sometime and go for a walk. DO that.

3. Finally, I’ve decided to set an hour of ‘unplugged time’ for myself everyday: I will not touch any electronic gadget in that one hour. And I’ll still go out and try to see something beautiful, without the tension of capturing it or worrying about missing a call. Don’t you now try to give me the ‘phone is for our safety’ argument. Human beings used to go out of homes even when mobile phones were not invented…and came back alive. And puhleez, I love twitter and facebook too but don’t tweet every waking moment of your life away. Because it’ll somewhere take your mind away from what’s actually happening. I remember a joke I read somewhere about a girl whose friend asks her what her first kiss was like. She hesitates for a while, and then says, ‘Hold on, let me check. I must have tweeted about it.’ Had ho gayi yaar.

Sonal Kalra has decided to grab every moment life has to offer. And that can’t happen till both her hands are busy holding the phone.