Swathi Santhanagopalakrishnan – just because someone couldn’t handle rejection

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Swathi / Nungambakkam / Infosys / Techie / Gruesome Murder – these are words that have been flying across our keyboards, in the media and also in our minds. Just the audacity that went into a stupid plan (hacking in broad daylight in a public place),  and the fact that it did materialise – upsets me no end.

People are rising up, holding candles, giving media bytes, clicking tongues, sharing facebook posts , feeling appalled and all that. We are thinking about Swathi, her family, her day and her life that was just cut short in one unpleasant surprise. The invisible Swathi who was unknown till last Thursday – is now on national media. We are commenting on efforts of the police, or lack of it, how there was no dignity to her body after being slain.

While all this disturbs me a lot,  we are still missing the main point here. The fact that Swathi was murdered was because the murderer could not take rejection. He could not understand a simple “No”. He did not want to accept it. And so, he feels justified in his mind to develop a plan to ease the pain in his mind. How? By eliminating the person who uttered those words.

There are reports about an altercation between Swathi and the unidentified person. Have we reached a stage, where altercations and arguments must end in only one party being alive? Who decides that? What gave the man-in- the -checked shirt the right to end Swathi’s life? And it was not an unintentional happening. It was pre-planned.

Let us observe, how people across society view this. As women, we feel more pressurized to be on our guard. You will have to have an extra few thoughts – before you voice your opinion in a meeting, comment on someone’s clothes, or just go for an early morning jog. You might get murdered, woman! Be careful.

The reaction amongst men – is slightly varied. There are those who have daughters – this is a group that feels extreme fear. Things could go wrong, how much ever effort you could take. Mr. Santhanagopalakrishnan made the effort to drop Swathi outside the station everyday. How much more care could he have taken of his daughter? Travel with her to office as well? There are many thoughts that would have taken a similar turn among fathers blessed with daughters.

And there is another group – despite being politically correct in groups, this group thinks a bit more. They do not think more about Swathi and the murder. But their attitudes mirror their views and generalisations about women. As a friend of mine noticed the scene at her office – there was a subtle ” After having moved for so many years, when women break it off – that is just not fair! ”

What irks me – is that I witnessed a similar mindset during the Nirbhaya incident. And during the Meghalaya groping episode. Many male colleagues / acquaintances also voiced a “What was she doing at 10 pm with a guy? ” ” She must have dressed provocatively”

It irks me that the people saying this are in the 20 – 35 age group. The so called youth or young population.

It irks me that these were people with access to an education, a degree or in some cases maybe even two.

It irks me that these were people who would actually be in the target group during such incidents.

It irks me that they are able to empathise with some who has psychologically gone astray.

Why are they not able to understand a “No” ? Sometimes you are rejected – painful as it may be, It happens. Socially, Emotionally, Professionally – sometimes even intentionally.So would you resort to murder?

Murder your boss because he did not give you a good appraisal? Or stole your idea? Murder the guy who rejects your visa? Or Murder the person who cheated you in a business deal? Murder the maid who declines to work in your house, but works at the neighbours’? Your best friend of those days who just cannot find a common topic to discuss with you now? The employee who takes a bribe, but does no close the deal?

Would you murder them all?  The right to say “No” is a person’s choice.


The ability to accept it and move on – is a sign of maturity. Let us teach our children to handle rejection, to let go and move on, and to also learn to assert their ideas by saying a “No” firmly if the situation discerns it. That is the need of the hour. Much more than CCTvs, and police protection –  we need to change the apathy that is cancerous to our society and its people.





Parents, siblings,friends,spouse – strangers

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In the past 4 months of 2013  –  I have heard 4 similar stories , almost one for each month – that of estrangement of relations. One was between a very close brother and sister, the other between a  mother and her son, the third between a girl and her long term love who married someone else suddenly, and the fourth a divorce. Most people exhibited common feelings of betrayal, confusion and anger. What I have attempted to do – as an observer -is to just filter out the top 3 feelings that I felt most of them encountered.


3. Ego –  “Relationships never die a natural death, they are killed by Ego, misunderstanding  and lack of trust” . Most of us would have come across this quote at some point. Most of the people I spoke to – lost out on a relationship, because they kept waiting for the other person to initiate a call, or apologize or something that they decided the other person must do or vice-versa. Needless to say, with this conviction grows a chasm too large to cross. Well, if you think the relationship is important – then the logic of fair/ unfair has to take a back seat. Bury the ego and save what is important.

2. Taken for granted tfgThis was the other negative emotion that came up during most of my talks about relationships gone bad. Parents felt they were being taken for granted, same goes for wives, brothers , mothers… the person who felt victimized at the end of it. While most of them talked themselves into looking at it as the closeness or lack of boundaries that their relationship had erased, definitely felt used and felt that they had NO role whatsoever in the other person’s life. This feeling of pain and hurt was a trigger to ending the relation, or unwillingness to patch up the relationship. Nothing is worth your unhappiness. If you can, walk away before it causes you more pain. You have the choice. Chances are you will feel more relieved than guilty. choice

1.Lack of Self-respect and thereby low self-esteem

selfesteemmThis was the top emotion that came out during discussions. The feeling of estrangement and distance that one felt with a loved one, became much deeper when people viewed it as a lack of self-respect. They regretted the time invested in it, the mind share one devoted, the power you give a loved one over your feelings and emotions and how it felt when all these emotions were trashed by their loved one! And with it a lot of guilt. “Maybe it was my fault. ” “I am such a loser.” ” Did I not do enough?”

Well here is some good news.

Truer words never said
Truer words never said

Obviously dealing with a lot of negative thought can make you feel as though ,all these social and familial relations are just not worth it.

Like the good man says...
Like the good man says…

But a little distance between people, a few rules and regulations, and lots of comfort with yourself would probably help reduce the feeling of validation we seek from our close ones, thereby giving them infinite power over our happiness. A bit more self worth and a little less emotion – that should be the key to get out of this vicious cycle.

love yourself

Best of luck all! 

Life in India – II

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Under the broad theme of Life in India, I would like to talk about “The great Indian Obsessions” as I call it, which are almost similar ideologies among diverse groups. Be it across social strata, religions, the urban and rural population – some things do not change.


The 'Om' Symbol...,

Religion is important for anyone who is Indian by birth. There are those who say they are confirmed atheists, but even they would have evolved some pattern of faith by themselves, be it self-introspection, or plain hard work – but you cannot extricate the concept of religion from the average Indian. There are those who starve, who piously follow the many formalities that go with each deity, or day of the week. Then there are those who attend bhajan classes, or satsang prayers. There are those who listen to religious sermons, or wake up early to watch a devotional program, or visit a temple, or write the name of their deity a 100,008 times over. And then there are those who decide that it is not about the festivities or formalities, and decide to organise community meals at the temples, maybe once a week. There are those who just simply donate huge amounts to a temple – thereby believing that the Lord will take care of requirements, and then there are those who hand make their lamps, grow their own flowers to be offered at the Temples. Even the most playful student will appear for an examination with the sacred ash on his forehead, the highly corporate vice-president will break a coconut in front of his new BMW, the most corrupt politician will go to the temple before elections, and deified movie star will offer prayers before the premiere of his new film. Religion is linked to festivals, elections, sports,cultural arts, schools, business, movies, astrology, culture and marriage.

This sign board says it all... pardon the spelling!


Pic of a Joint family... Almost every family would have one such picture

The Indians have strong family ties. Though the recent cosmopolitan Indian will scoff at the family and seek refuge in his friends circle, the average Indian can never give up the ‘family’ totally. Family businesses, Family honor, Family friends, Family ties, Family doctors, Family outings – family is used more as an adjective than a noun. While in urban India, people tend to be more isolated and independent hence not feeling the need to be surrounded by ‘family’ – these ties and the importance associated with them become more pronounced as you go deeper into India. Children are sent abroad to be educated, so that they may come back and take care of the ‘Family businesses’. Once that is done their weddings are arranged with the son/daughter of ‘Family friends’, so that the ‘Family honour’ is maintained. They go on ‘Family outings’, every weekend and vacation, the pregnant daughter or daughter-in-law is sent only to the Family doctor, and thus’ Family ties’ continue to be maintained.

But despite the sarcasm – the concept of the Joint Family actually is an extremely advantageous one. For one it offers you massive “economies” of scale benefits. Not to mention the strong support system when it comes to children and the home-front being taken care of. Add to it the amazing people skills you are almost forced to develop at a very young age and you will realise why some Indians hold on to it rigidly even to this day – for they believe that no other pattern or person could give them these amazing advantages . (E.g.) A grandmother who looks forward to feeding your child simultaneously telling him a story, an uncle who voluntarily gives you his friend’s contact for your business , the older cousin brother who takes the little ones for a spin on his bike and ice creams. These used to be normal occurrences in every family for a long while. True , the lack of privacy or individual space was a big negative factor that worked against the ‘joint family’ system but many families are now regulating their family pattern so as to enjoy the benefits of both systems – joint and nuclear. The working women of today realize the advantages of having parents or parents-in-law at home, the support system they offer on a daily basis and the once dictatorial in-laws now realize what a fresh lease of life it is to be around their grand children at home, as against sitting by themselves and solving crossword puzzles or visiting temples. People are rediscovering the benefits of staying in a Family. The reason they are anchored in life.


Tying the Knot

Tying the knot as so vividly described above – is one of the biggest Indian obsessions. From the day the girl or boy has reached a ‘marriageable’ age (18 for girls and 21 for boys) parents across all castes, communities and religions, perk up the radar for identifying suitable partners for their wards. Despite the education, and the fact that the average Indian male and female would like to postpone their “socially” acceptable marriageable ages, this is something which an illiterate and a literate person would almost have identical functioning of thoughts. The biggest challenge being finding a suitable mate for your child before he/she reaches the ‘expiry’ date which would soon begin with the onset of the thirties. Once the marriage is ascertained – look back to previous point of ‘family’ and the next paragraph on ‘children’ to get a complete picture.


Is the Child the Father of the Man?

As long as you are single – the only thing parents and society seem to want for you – is to get you married. If you thought, that once you succumbed to their wishes , they would let you in peace – think again. Then it is almost like Jumanji – you have to get to the next level and you cannot decide to do away with the game without playing it. Same way, once you get married – you have to move to the next step i.e. procreation. Are you one of those couples that are thinking of pet cats / dogs/ or birds. Sorry not possible, for 6 months post your marriage – you will hear many subtle and not-so-subtle hints about it being time for a little one around.

And once you even succeed in procreation – the new parents along with their own parents start to obsess. The new age parents, who get their parenting tips from Google, download relevant information regarding milestones in their child’s lives – generally the people who are the bane of the pediatrician’s lives start wanting to give their child an early start in life. They start playing classical music to the child in the womb (hoping to subconsciously ignite its musical genes), decide that the child has “foot ball” talents coz of its’ kicks in the mother’s stomach, and generally overloading the child with too much too soon. The child is introduced to umpteen other classes,schools and different types of peer pressure…and very soon feels stifled. And when it finally decides to have its own way – many parents end up depressed, for they actually did all the stuff they did – with the child’s best interests in mind. But that is too long to elaborate here…maybe another post on it soon.


Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.
-Ernest Dimnet

Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.
-John W. Gardner

Let me put it this way. If you read the above two quotes – Indians try to give their children hugest bouquets and there is hardly any space at home for a garden (Pun intended). But the efforts to add more cut flowers to your bouquet are genuine.

The good thing is India has undergone a huge transition, whereby  the importance of education has been communicated. There are schools in rural as well as urban India – and as much as one may question their infrastructure and qualification of teachers – there are still schools. Makeshift ones in rural India.

Illiterate parents understanding the importance of literacy..

And the classy ones in Urban India. Much has been achieved in the field of educating girls. And everyone seeks to give their child a formal education right from the common laborer till the ‘qualified’ software professional. The top 3 preferred professions have slightly moved from doctor,lawyer and engineer to doctor,engineers and MBAs.

Education in India is provided both by the Government (central and state) as well as private schools. The most important thing is learning to communicate in English. English-medium schools are sought after, a ‘convent’ or a private school enjoying high reputations. So much so that people insist on sending their children to private schools that charge exorbitant fees and miscellaneous expenses throughout the year despite it being beyond their reach. All the while  thinking that they are laying a strong foundation for their children – who can just take a ‘giant leap’ forward. What is really sad, is – that India, home of learning centers like Nalanda University, scholars like Aryabatta, Tagore, Chanakya,Srinivasa Ramanujam and Vivekananda are now engaging in mass-production of a highly mediocre work force.

Other jobs like farmers, dancers, researchers, tailors, sculptors, musicians, teachers, are all almost forgotten because it is not considered economically feasible. Education in India is right now a means to an end – the end being a well-paying job, the journey as many will tell you, is neither interesting nor comfortable.

There are many more things that the Indians obsess about – Films, Cricket, Politics, Food, Social standing, Vegetarianism, Astrology, even  their next-door neighbour … but the above 5 have assumed such paramount importance that each of them have now become a multi-billion dollar industry in the country.

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
-Vince Lombardi

This might as well be the Motto of the average Indian – especially with the above 5. He has to win. He will do what it takes to get there.