Why do we objectify ourselves?

Last night I was lying down on my bed when my dad sat next to me. He took away the phone lying next to my pillow and set it aside.

Dad: “Now that you don’t have your laptop, your phone or a book in your hands, tell me what you’re thinking of?”

Me: “ …. “

Dad: “You’re so busy in life that I’m worried you’ve forgotten to live. You’ve forgotten to set time aside for yourself. For things that matter to you.”

That conversation blew me away. It was so short yet so stern; so informal yet so deep. Had I really forgotten to live?

Wasn’t I doing things that I loved? I love keeping myself busy – it makes my blood rush and gets me excited. I love having a fast-paced life. I love doing stuff.

Frankly speaking, everywhere I go, I see people selling themselves. Why do we objectify ourselves so much? Why do we put a price on everything we do and everyone we meet? Why do boys try to be cool, and girls try to be hot – isn’t that just a way of getting attention – a twisted, psychotic way of bribing others to give you what you want (in this context, admiration/attention). Why can’t we just live a decent life, happy with what we do? Not giving a single f*ck about anyone around us; of not caring about what others think.

I’m not talking from a pedestal. I, myself, love doing things that others would want me to do. I love doing things that I can add to me resume – that I can show off in front of my future bosses. I’ve always wanted to be the perfect candidate – the (prospective) employee that every single company would want to have.  And I know it’s wrong. I know I’m worth more than I give myself credit for. But then again, aren’t we all? Who is to say that one person’s time is worth ten pounds an hour, while another’s is worth a thousand? Why is one girl treated like a Goddess, while others are not even gifted with a second glance? People need to stop being hard on themselves. We need to stop objectifying ourselves. We need to stop comparing one another.

Albert Einstein once said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

I’m sorry, but according to this comparison, most of us are fishes. If the world wants someone to climb a tree, I suggest the world goes and finds some monkeys (there are millions of them here anyway).

It’s a societal issue. Since the time we were born, the race had begun. Our parents kept showing us off (or at least tried to) in front of other parents. Then came school – the grade system. “How much did your son get?” became the most asked question. Why does it have to be this way? Society compares students the same way a shopper compares the price of an iPad in two different stores.

Our lives have become so competitive that we’ve forgotten to live, lest we be left behind. But what’s the point of winning this competition? Money? I’d rather die a happy man with no money than an old, beaten and tired man with a huge bank balance.

And it doesn’t just end there. This competitiveness has transcended our commercial lives and has seeped in our personal sphere too. People have started objectifying love now. I’m pretty sure girls carry a boyfriend counter to high-school these days. Why? What’s so great about having a boyfriend? It’s funny how teens call something that lasted a couple of weeks ‘love’. And then they idolize movies like ‘The Notebook’. Hello? Have you learnt nothing at all? Please go study Pythagoras’ theorem, and forget about the ‘cool dude’ sitting in front of you. Stop posing and clicking and posting hundreds of profile pictures just to garner ‘likes’. You’re all beautiful. You don’t need a virtual thumbs up counter to tell you that.  Stop stooping so low. It’s this that makes guys think they can get you.

The problem with all of us is that we worry too much about what others think of us – of where others place us. I think we all need a holiday. A day where we forget everything and everyone. We forget all notions of work and friendship. A day when we are with the one person we have to spend the rest of our lives with – ourselves.

Spend some time with yourself. Remember to live.

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For My Daughter.

I have a habit of keeping a dream diary. Every time I experience a ‘worthwhile’ dream, I note it down in it.

Last night was one such experience.

The dream started with me walking on a familiar road with a somewhat dejected stride. Apparently, I had been offered an internship at a magazine and my job entailed me having to interview a certain patient and her family at the Cancer Ward of a local hospital. So much for my first task, I thought!

Suzanne R. Fitzgerald – The youngest cancer patient in the ward, at the prime age of three years. Her family consisted of a father – Robert, and an uncle – Samuel (who was in jail). Nobody had any information on her mother. Some say she died during childbirth, while others narrate stories of her running away with her lover after leaving Suzanne with her father. Not that I really cared. I had one job to do, and I’d do it well.

I entered the hospital, the name of which I can’t recollect (It was a dream after all), but the cancer ward did look familiar. I enquired about Suzanne and was told that she’d be in room 307 with her father.

Robert was reading the morning newspaper when I entered the room. I introduced myself, and told him the reason for my uninvited presence. He was pretty welcoming and even offered to answer any of my questions until Suzanne arrived after her early morning check-up, which he said, “might take up to an hour”.

I thanked him and set up my voice recorder.

From Robert I learnt how Suzanne had developed Osteosarcoma (or bone cancer) a few weeks after childbirth. The doctors noticed it only months later and by then it had turned lethal. They had jotted down a humongous list of medications and multiple tests for Suzanne, which left Robert no choice but to shift to room 307.

“My wife, Emily, passed away 3 years ago leaving Suzzie with me. She’s all that’s left of my wife, and I love her to bits”, said Robert, trying his best to battle his tears. His in-laws had bequeathed her their family orchard, the revenue of which helped pay Suzanne’s bills.

“It’s not easy”, he asserted, “to look at your beautiful daughter, hold her, stare into her eyes, and tell her everyday that everything is going to be OK. More than giving her hope, you end up trying to console yourself because she trusts you. Every day I curse myself for having to lie to her. But I can’t do much. All I can do is smile and be there for her.”

“But she’s different. She loves it here. She has made her own friends amongst the nurses and the doctors. She doesn’t mind the check-ups, nor does she complain while taking her medications. She reads books, listens to songs, and sometimes watches movies on the television. She talks a lot, and I’m glad she does. She’s like a mystery wrapped in an enigma – No one knows what she might be up to next, but the people out here are nice. They love her and they’ve helped us a lot. One of the nurses even gifted her a doll.”

Just as he said that, a nurse brought Suzanne into the room. Standing by the door, clutching her old doll, she gifted me the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.

I had seen many types of smiles. Smiles that were masks; smiles that conveyed joy; smiles that showed enjoyment, pain and sometimes even sadness. But Suzanne’s smile was different. Her smile had innocence carved all over it. Her smile told the story of a girl who thought nothing could go wrong in this world – that hers was a world without problems. She didn’t know about war, hunger or Cancer.

Whether she knew that she was going to die soon or no, I know not. But what I know is that she was happy. I had read somewhere that ‘people wait all week for Friday, all year for summer and all their life for happiness’; but here I was standing face first with a 3 year old girl and her father who had found happiness in the worst of situations.

“Who is he, dad?” she asked as she ran up to Robert.

“He’s a friend”, replied Robert, “and he’s here to ask you some questions”.

“Actually, I’ve got all I wanted”, I said, before walking over to Suzanne and giving her a tight hug.

The wind had picked up outside, and I saw strains of black clouds near the horizon. Robert came out to drop me. “She’s nice, y’know,” he said, “I’m glad I got to spend time with her, even if it’s not much.”

“You’re brave,” I said, “Not everyone can smile through such hardship.”

 “I can cry if I want and people will be there to give me pity,” he confessed, “But I choose to smile. For My Daughter.”

The memory of the rest of my dream is unclear, as my alarm woke me up moments later. But as I stretched to clutch my dream diary from my bedside drawer, I realized one thing – “Happiness can be found in the direst of situations if only one remembers to smile.”

The Story of My Life – A Song.

A few days after my final exams got over and I was finally free of my academic obligations, I penned a few verses in memory of my grandmother. I imagined myself in the shoes of my grandfather and tried to picture the extent of his loss.

I then asked a musician friend of mine (Amol Jacob) to transform the verses into a song.  Hats off to Amol for giving a very soothing melody and for lending his voice to the song.

Special thanks to Ajin Tom for single-handedly helping us in the mixing.

You can listen to the song here.

And here are the lyrics:

The Story of My Life
(Lyrics by Nishad Sanzagiri)

The dread of this place never ends,
Songs of your memories replay in my head,
Our walks, our talks, our laughs, our cries –
Are now the story of my life.

Chorus: I don’t know why I can’t let it go,
I want you to come back to me.
Really want to call you mine.
I want to relive everything again.

This hymn – A tale of anguish;
A memoir of pain and suffering.
A message to that soul who changed;
The story of my life.

Those fluttering butterflies; the fresh springs
And the dancing amidst the flowers.
We rested in those woods – to rise again; a new,
Wish that was the story of my life.

The day I first saw you,
I knew you would be the one.
You were and always will be –
The story of my life.

Every day from dawn to dusk,
I cry to the tunes of the songs you sang for me.
The insecurity grips; chokes my life out –
That’s the story of my life.

Also read: A Story of Two Simple Souls.

Not Failure, but Low Aim is a Crime.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 

– Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening; Robert Frost.

Let me tell you a story. A story of a high-school student who had dreamt of going to Harvard College – reputed by many, as the number one institution of higher education in the world. A story of how he tried his best, but failed. Let me tell you, My Story!

Last night, I received the e-mail I had been anticipating since long. The e-mail was from ‘Harvard College Admissions and Financial Aid’. It was a long read, and not one I would have wanted to receive. In short, I’d been rejected.

Now normally, I’d have been fine.  A quiet evening walk with my iPod, a cup of steaming hot coffee and an episode of The Big Bang Theory (or any other light-hearted sitcom) would have been enough to get me on track. But this was different. This rejection was from my dream college. It was from the college I’d dreamt of getting into since 7th grade. I hadn’t expected Harvard to announce its decisions yesterday, and the rejection came as a sudden shock. If I had known they were going to reply, I’d have prepared myself for it.

The problem with dreams is that they hardly ever come true.

No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressed. I’m actually surprised how easily I accepted this decision. I guess there was always a part of me that had seen this coming.

Frankly, the admission process taught me a lot. Having spent a considerable chunk of the past half a year writing essays, requesting my teachers for recommendations, writing tests, ruminating on which universities will accept me, and sending in supplementary materials, I’ve realized that there’s more to me than I can ever portray on paper. The admission process made me realize that I have the ability to give my heart and soul to a cause (in this case, to get into the university I want); something I wasn’t quite sure I’d be able to.

It also taught me that no matter how hard you try, there will always be someone who is better than you (in this case there were 2000 odd high-school seniors better than me. Ah, depressing!). But that doesn’t mean you don’t try hard. I’m sure I would have never forgiven myself if I hadn’t given my best.

Luckily for me, I’ve already got acceptance letters from quite a few amazing universities, a couple of which parallel Harvard’s ranking and reputation. But a dream is a dream, and it will always remain dear.
I won’t go so far as to insult the universities in which I got accepted by saying that getting into them was a consolation (as I’ve heard some of my friends say such), as it wasn’t. I’m immensely glad and honoured to have gotten offers from The University of Edinburgh, The University of Manchester, The University of Kent and London School of Business and Finance (in UK), and The University of Michigan, College of William and Mary, University of  Denver, University of California, Los Angeles (waitlisted) and Hartwick College (in USA). April is going to be one heck of a month as I’ll have to choose just one of these amazing universities to spend my next four years in.

Now, I’d like to thank the admission committees of all the universities that accepted me – I thank you for believing in me, and I assure you that I will not let you down. I would also like to thank the admission committees of the universities that rejected me – I thank you for giving me a reason to try harder next time.

For all you high-schoolers in a similar situation as I find myself in, I would like to quote the second last paragraph of Harvard’s decision letter, “Past experience suggests that the particular college a student attends is far less important than what the student does to develop his or her strengths and talents over the next four years”. I wholeheartedly agree to that, and I think we should all make sure so as to hone our skills to the best of our abilities, regardless of which university we choose to study in.

The day I had decided to apply to Harvard, I had told myself, ‘When your aim is high, even the fall is glorious’. Today, having aimed high and fallen, I’m not too sure whether it was actually glorious, but it sure was a learning experience. And as Zig Zigler once said, ‘If you learn from defeat. You haven’t really lost’.

P.S – I would also like to thank my parents for always being there. You guys are my refuge, and my strength. Without your support and guidance, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything.