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– by Soha Kala
August 21, 2017 : When I was growing up, my parents always told me that I am the ‘smartest kid’ they had ever met. My friends thought I had an appealing face and for my grandparents and their friends, I had the prettiest heart.
I was curious and had questions about the world I was growing in. I had ideas that could have solved problems I encountered in my life. I could hold interesting conversations, and charm people with my compassion.
But I did not live up to my potential. There was always something holding me back.
For the longest period that I can remember, I did not believe that I could do most of the things I wanted to do.
I wanted to learn the ballet but I felt I would not be able to perform with my extra kilos and would be reduced to a laughing stock.
I wanted to be a writer but I felt my expression was too weak and my thoughts far too amateur to share with another person.
I wanted to be in a relationship but I felt I was not good enough to have somebody interested in me.
At one point or the other, we all question ourselves, which is usually followed by self-doubt.
Am I doing enough?
Am I making enough money?
Am I successful?
Am I good looking?
A major part of my job today is spent fiddling with an application called Google Adwords. So, this morning, as I sat with my mind clouded with questions and a new story to write, I decided to begin with a search in the application. I quickly punched in the words self esteem and happy.
I discovered that about 1-10 million people search for the word ‘happy’ every month whereas just over 100K search for the word self-esteem in a month
(Alternatively, I also searched for ‘Beatles band’ and found only over 1,000 people search for them every month)
Everybody has a loving family, a few friends who care, somebody to talk to; we all have classes to attend, and work to do in our respective lives; TV shows to watch and places to go to. Why then are 10 million people still searching for ‘happiness’ on the internet?
The problem in not with us, but inside us. It lies in our belief in our own self.
Low self esteem restricts you from recognizing your potential and living your life to the fullest. Irrespective of how hard you work or how far you push yourself, your efforts fail to be fruitful.
As a teenager, I used to think I was not pretty enough. Not thin enough. Not smart enough. Not fair enough. I used to believe that I was just that; NOT ENOUGH.
All of this because I struggled to accept myself; I failed to forgive myself whenever I did something wrong, not realizing how hard I was being on myself. I worked harder and harder but was always one-mistake away from success – the fault was never in my efforts, but in my attitude. Changing my attitude about life and about me played a key role in developing my confidence that was no longer dependent on any worldly sign of success.
In the process of owning up to be the person that I am today, I discovered 7 concepts that I was struggling with. Over the years, I tried to re-examine and re-discover my own self-limiting beliefs and alter the way I interpreted these concepts. Working upon them helped me instill faith in my own self and boost my confidence,
Do you ever get distracted while doing some work by that little voice inside your head telling you you are not good enough? Do you fear beginning something new because you are uncertain of yourself? Do you choose to give up on some activities because you fear you might not do them correctly?
Because I have done that, too.
I have been so unsure of myself in the past, wanting to be so much but terrified to start because I feared making mistakes. It was because of this fear that instead of talking to people and working on myself, I chose to shut myself down completely. I was so afraid of being rejected that I decided to reject opportunities and people first. That is how I let go of tremendous opportunities to learn new things and meet unique people.
I have now grown to believe that man makes mistakes, and those mistakes in turn make man.
It is a continuous cycle. One can only learn when he knows what he is doing wrong. You can either choose to traumatize yourself over failure, or allow yourself to make mistakes and instead of looking at them as disappointments, embrace them as opportunities to grow.
As a kid, I remember falling off a bicycle because I told me friends that I knew how to ride a bike when I obviously didn’t. I was an anxious kid who worried that people would judge me if I told them that I didn’t know something.
You can only fool some people some time, not all people all the time. Above that, you cannot fool yourself. When people find out that you had been pretending all along, that can possibly shatter your confidence and relationships like nothing else.
In order to have a healthier self-esteem, you must first accept that nobody knows everything, and not everybody is good at everything. You might be a good writer, but that doesn’t mean you will necessarily be a good orator. Stop being pretentious in an attempt to please others.
It may be one of the hardest things to do; you may feel exposed and vulnerable to let go of your inhibitions and show your authentic self to the world, you may even feel feeble for some time, but it will be your first step on the path to resumption and growth.
As a teenager, I lived in a perpetual state of fear and self-doubt; I doubted myself to the extent that I was always doing things that others wanted me to do, rather than taking decisions for my own self.
It has been rightly said that you live the life you create. Hence, you must also believe in your capacity to make changes. Believing in your competence does not happen overnight, and it does not happen naturally. A good start would be to list down your strengths and weaknesses and then work on them.
If someone criticizes you, see it as a chance for you to improve. If someone does better than you, take it as an opportunity to learn from their action. Do not let these experiences shake your trust in your own self.
Take 100% responsibility for your actions. Do not let things happen to you, instead make things happen for you.
You are bound to make mistakes and let people down; do not fear that. Quit making excuses when that happens, and accept failures as an outcome of your own actions. Do not indulge in self-loathing and be open to accept responsibility when you are at fault. I have grown to maintain a ‘I am sorry, how can I fix this?’ attitude and that has been incredibly beneficial to my confidence.
It might seem hard initially, but confidence stems from an understanding that YOU are doing the right thing.
One mantra that I believe in with all my heart is – Either do something. Or completely quit thinking about it. Stop second-guessing and devoting extended amount of time to the ‘what-ifs’.
If you want to paint, pick up a paper, some brushes, and a color palette and draw what your heart desires. If you want to learn a sport or a dance form, enroll yourself in a class and enjoy every session you attend. Don’t worry if it will turn out good. Don’t worry whether you have any previous knowledge about your new interest. Don’t worry about what people will think. Don’t worry if you will be better than your friends or your colleagues. Just immerse yourself in the moment, and move on.
Worrying about what others think of you or seeking confirmations for your actions will only keep you from doing something good for yourself.
Your self-esteem is a measure of what YOU think about yourself and how worthy YOU think you are. Do not look for external affirmations. Set expectations for yourself, fulfill them for YOURself, and be somebody you can be proud of.
I realized that I doubt myself the most when I compare my life with what other people are doing.
In order to have a healthier self-esteem, you have to understand what works for you and what makes you feel good even if it is different from what someone else desires. No two things can be similar, and that goes for life, as well.
I realized that I was continuously (and blindly) chasing targets- I wanted to score better than my friends in the exams, have a better job than they do, find a bigger house than theirs, have a smarter partner. In an attempt to come first in this rat-race, I forget how hard I was being on myself.
Practicing self-compassion is not as difficult as you may perceive. I can break it down to a two-way process,
- Care about yourself and be kind instead of being cruelly self-critical
- Do not exaggerate or ignore problems or your mistakes, and look at them with a clear mind.
An important step to develop confidence in yourself is to be kinder to your own self. Remind yourself that you’re doing your best, and even when that may not seem enough, tell yourself that you are willing to learn. Surround yourself with compassionate voices, and your own voice should be in that list – make sure that instead of being extremely critical and judgmental of your actions, you are highly receptive and appreciative of your efforts.
I know today that I am not perfect, and I do not even have to try to be that. Perfection to me is a myth. I am far from perfect but I am happy. You can be too.
Be human, and that should be enough.
And above all, hold on to the thought that you are capable.
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Tenali Ramakrishna, or Tenali Raman as he is more popularly known is Birbal's equivalent in South India. A court jester and a scholar exuding great wisdom, Tenali Raman was known as one of the greatest courtiers in King Krishnadevaraya's court.
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled a large part of South India between 1336 and 1646. In the 16th century, the kingdom rose to prominence under the eminent leadership of King Krishnadevaraya. His continuous victories against his enemies ensured a successful and peaceful reign for his subjects. As a patron of art and literature, many crafts and cultural assets thrived in the empire.
Krishnadevaraya's beloved courtier, Tenali Raman is the finest example of the splendour of the Vijayanagar empire. He was born in Tenali, a town in Andhra Pradesh. He lived here until he lost his father, after which his mother brought him to Vijayanagar. He was discovered for his excellent wit and wisdom, and appointed in the court. He was one of the king's ashtadiggajas (collective name for the eight poets and scholars).
A statue of Tenali Ramakrishna near a Municipal Office in Andhra Pradesh Image source: wikimedia commons
Tenali Raman as a scholar, published great texts of wisdom, which have now become artefacts of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara. But his fame does not lie in these achievements. He is known for the mischievous jester that mythical folklore portrays him to be. Through stories, many writers have used jokes to impart wisdom and morals to many generations of people. The stories of Tenali Raman are almost legendary in the Southern peninsula.
Textbooks have been written with his moral stories in mind, and these days, many self-help book are also incorporating his wisdom. His most popular stories are, 'Mother Tongue', 'Cursed Face', 'Saluting the Donkeys' and many more. Through these stories, Tenali Raman, in some way, brought about social justice. Perhaps this is why he is most beloved by many people even today.
Keywords: Tenali Raman, Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, Jester, Wisdom
It must be noted that different religions and societies in Southeast Asia have alternative narratives of Ramayana, one of the greatest epic.
Here are some of the versions of Ramayana!
Dasaratha Jakarta: The Buddhist Version
Interestingly, this version of Ramayana does not mention Ravana at all and in fact, there’s no mention of Sita’s abduction, too. In this version, Dasaratha is the king of Benaras and not Ayodhya. Also, Rama and Sita leaves kingdom and go to the Himalayas and not forests. Then, after twelve years, Rama and Sita return back to Benaras and get married.
Paumachariya: The Jaina Version
In this version, Lakshamana is the killer of Ravana and not Rama. Here, Rama is an ardent follower of Jainism, and so he cannot be the killer of Ravana. Also, this version states an army of warrior and not monkeys, as stated in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Another interesting feature of this version is that Ramayana is not shown as a villain, rather a magnanimous king and follower of Jainism.
Gond Ramayani: The Gond Version
Gond is an adivasi clan belonging from Madhya Pradesh in India. Interestingly, in this version, the story begins from where Valmiki’s Ramayana ended; when Sita is rescued from captivity. Also, Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata, is mentioned in this version. Unlike Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is not the protagonist in this version.
Ramakien: The Thai Version
This is considered as Thailand's national epic, and is still taught in some schools in the country. In this version, Ravana is shown as a learned scholar and a noble king in this version. Also, Ravana’s pursuit for Sita is depicted as true love. There are a lot of similarities between this version of Ramayana and Valmiki’s version, but this version lays a lot of emphasis on Hanuman.
When a baby is born in an Indian household-they invite hijra to shower the newborn with their blessings for their blessings confer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. But when that child grows up we teach them to avert their eyes when a group of hijras passes by, we pass on the behaviour of treating hijras as lesser humans to our children. Whenever a child raises a question related to gender identity or sexuality they are shushed down. We're taught to believe that anything "deviant" and outside of traditional cis-heteronormativity is something to be ashamed of. This mentality raises anxious, scared queer adults who're ashamed of their own identity, and adults who bully people for "queer behaviour".
Hijras are a community of people who include eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. They worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata. Most hijras, but not all, choose to undergo a castration ceremony known as "nirvana" in which they remove their male genitalia as an offering to their goddess. The whole community is vibrant with hundreds of people with hundreds of ways of expression, the true identity of a hijra is complex and unique to each individual. In India, hijras prefer to refer to themselves as Kinner/Kinnar as it means the mythological beings who excel at singing and dancing.
Hijras worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata.homegrown.co.in
The hijra community works systematically, the community separates itself from the outside world and teaches lessons to the young ones in secret. Each community has a guru and the other hijras are their disciples or chela. The "hijra ways of life" are taught to the disciples in a secluded environment where they leave their families and live with other hijras in the community. More often than not hijras are thought of as nothing different from transgender and often referred to as transgender; however, scientifically these two terms denote a different class of people. Hijras are a part of the whole community of people with various identities and of spiritual and cultural values meanwhile, transgender merely refers to those people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, they are a part of the community and do not represent the whole community.
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Historically and culturally the community has existed in the Indian subcontinent as long as the civilization has existed. There are mentions of hijra in The Mahabharata, a holy book of Hindus. Shikhandi who was neither male nor female is a mythological legend. In another version of Mahabharata Arjuna, one of the Pandavas was cursed to be the third gender by Urvashi, when he refused to be sexually involved with her. In a story by Padma Purana, it is seen that Arjuna transforms into a woman to take part in Krishna's mystical dance which only women can take part in. The Hijra figures are prominent in Indian Mughal History as well, referred to as Khwaja Siras and known for their loyalty to the ruler, they worked as the sexless watchdogs of the Mughal harems. They held important positions in court and various facets of administration during Mughal-era India, from the 16th to 19th century. The Hijra community is a testament to the sexual diversity that is integral yet often forgotten in Indian culture.
If the whole hijra community was looked upon with enamor and respect in our history, what happened that when we come across the community we look at them with contempt and are filled with a mixture of negative, fear, laughter, and odd emotions. It's owing to the fact that under British Raj, the Criminal tribes Act 1871 hijras were criminalized and the law was made to eradicate the whole community. However, these acts were abolished by the Indian government after independence, and by 2014, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh all had officially recognized third gender people as citizens deserving of equal rights where the third gender means individuals categorizing themselves as neither male nor female. Even though the progress is slow but in 2015 Madhu Kinnar became the first hijra mayor in India was elected in the city of Raigarh.
ALSO READ: India's first Residential Transgender
Although the hijra community was revered by society and is invited to births and weddings for religious and spiritual ceremonies, they still become victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate crimes against the community have become common. They are deprived of education, job opportunities, seating in restaurants, etc. leading them to live in poor conditions barely surviving. They often have to resort to begging and prostitution to earn a daily living. The government has tried to address this issue by introducing bills for the protection of the hijra community, with prison terms and other punishments for those offending them, but there is little to no less effect on the social stigma against the community.
In India, the hijra community comes under the umbrella term LGBTQ+ and we notice that they lack voice and representation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. We need to understand that when we fight for LGBTQ+ rights we fight for the whole community, we fight for hijras who have been victims of violence, hate crimes, and disrespect from none other than the people of our society. And although hijras are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, they have an independent subculture of their own. It is worth every effort to know about them, to study about them, to befriend them, and to smile at them for they are every bit of human as we are and they have nothing but blessings in their heart.