Monthly Archives: February 2005

Why is it a lonely world?

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Loneliness is something we can experience even when we are among other people. While dealing with feelings such as loneliness, we can be destructive in our behaviour, destroying ourselves and destroying others around us. We can also discover healthy ways of dealing with loneliness.

Why does loneliness occur?

All of us have a little child in us that thrives on what Eric Berne calls “strokes”. These strokes are the basic units of Human recognition. Everyone needs strokes. Exchange of strokes in the form of stimulation, love, affection, touch, recognition, appreciation are the fuel for survival. If a new born baby is given the best of medical care but deprived of human stimulation, touch and hugging, the baby will shrivel up and die (proven fact).

Hunger for strokes is as basic as hunger for food. Giving and taking strokes ought to be among the easiest activities in our daily life just as we eat food. However just as the economy and society creates a scarcity of food, there is a scarcity of strokes too resulting in what Claude Steiner calls “stroke economy”. The stroke economy is a result of us being forced to hold back while giving and taking strokes. This holding back is caused by what we are told since childhood and what the society around us makes us do. We all therefore follow these rules of ‘stroke economy’ :

  • Don’t give strokes you would like to give.
  • Don’t ask for strokes you would like to get.
  • Don’t accept strokes you would like to accept.
  • Don’t reject strokes you don’t want.
  • Don’t give yourself strokes

These rules prevent the free exchange of strokes and stroke starved people feel lonely, deprived, desperate or they shrivel up and die.

There are healthy and harmful ways of dealing with stroke hunger or stroke starvation. Just as the two year old child breaks things for mommy’s attention, we seek strokes in more and more harmful ways. Even a slap from mommy would fulfil the stroke hunger for the two year old child for a while. Eventually the harmful ways of seeking strokes become habitual to people who know no other way of feeding stroke hunger. Many harmful behaviour in people can be traced easily back to stroke starvation and harmful ways of seeking strokes.

My next post will explore the healthy ways of dealing with lonleiness.

To read more about the stroke economy by Claude Steiner click on http://www.emotional-literacy.com/economy.htm

I recommend particularly the delightful short story by Claude The Warm Fuzzy Tale to understand how harmful or healthy ways of seeking and giving strokes can become a part of our behaviour.

Some reader of the post “It’s a lonely world” wanted to know how to deal with loneliness. The answer lies in the post itself but let me repeat. Loneliness is caused by “stroke deprivation”.
‘Strokes” are the basic units of Human recognition. Everyone needs strokes. Exchange of strokes in the form of stimulation, love, affection, touch, recognition, appreciation are the fuel for survival. To allow free exchange of strokes the following rules need to be applied:

  • Give strokes you would like to give.
  • Ask for strokes you would like to get.
  • Accept strokes you would like to accept.
  • Reject strokes you don’t want.
  • Give yourself strokes

I will expand on how we me may do this one by one if there is any request.

Caste Dilemas

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(text of what i wrote on http://www.iw.sify.com/travel/impressions/people11-caste.html a few years ago )

I spent 4 hours relaxing under a tree at Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram in Ahmedabad on the banks of the Sabarmathi River. I must have visited Ahmedabad a hundred times before but I never took time or interest to visit the Mahatma’s Ashram before.

While I was sitting there , I recollected a conversation I had with Kadiresan , Secretary of COODU a voluntary agency in Coimbatore just a few days back. Somebody had mentioned that Coimbatore is one district which had never witnessed communal or caste clashes before the unfortunate blasts. Kadiresan narrated his experience in the villages of the district in response. He had been conducting village meetings for the Watershed Development Programmes. Let me try and narrate what he said :

All communities participated at our meetings. For the first few meetings I did not realize that the Scheduled castes would not enter the building when the meeting was conducted indoors in marriage halls. They would sit on the ground outside. It was only when we organized a particular meeting in a very large hall, I realized that over half the chairs were empty but people were sitting outside. It took a while for me (a local!) to understand that since they were scheduled caste they were sitting outside. The upper castes and the elders of the village did not seem to object when I attempted to pull them inside the hall. Yet they refused to come. So I had to sit outside with them and explain the whole subject to them. Their response was [-in Tamil] “Sami yellaam yenna solrangalo adhuve yengalukku saringo” (which roughly translates to , “whatever the respectable folks say that is ok for us”)

We started serving food at the end of the meetings. Even there I had to force the scheluled castes to participate. However no amount of persuasion would make them sit with the others. They would always eat after all the upper castes had finished . In one village we were serving food on banana leaves and in the first batch , the upper castes had finished eating . I found that nobody started serving the second batch. Only the scheduled castes and some tribals were sitting in the second batch . I had to start serving food myself before the others slowly started serving them. I noticed that there were no glasses, though the earlier batch had water served in stainless steel glasses. When I asked for the glasses , I was told that the secretary of the Hall had locked up the glasses and left the venue.

In another village , I managed to seat the scheduled caste people along with the others. I went around the dining hall trying to make people relax and eat freely. I noticed heads bent and bodies stiff among members of both the communities. Obviously nobody was enjoying their food.

I realized that I was not the first person to try to change things. Such common feasts to make the castes mingle were organized before. Whatever you did the sheduled castes would behave differently in some manner , either by washing their hands separately or by the way they respectfully removed their own used leaves and run outside the hall with their bodies bent and the leaf hidden.

Mr. Kadiresan narrated this to tell us why there were no caste clashes in Coimbatore villages. According to him, it was because the scheduled castes were careful not to offend the upper castes. On the other hand, he reiterated that in the Southern districts of Tamil Nadu, the scheduled casted were getting bolder and the upper castes were not as rich and powerful, so their superiority was being challenged. This according to Kadiresan was the major reason for Coimbatore villages being peaceful.

Sitting on the banks of the Sabarmati River where the Mahatma had sat and held prayer meetings decades before, I was filled with an acute sense of sadness.

The North East Frontier

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I had the opportunity of travelling in Nagaland as a part of my work last year. I spent a few weeks in Tuensang district.

tuensang
Located at the northeastern corner of the state of Nagaland the Tuensang district shares 159 kilometers long border with Myanmar (Burma) in the east, Mon district in the north, Assam in the northwest, Mokokchung and Zunheboto districts in the west and Phek district in the south. Tuensang was a part of the area earlier known as North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA). In 1957 Tuensang division of the then NEFA became a district as one of the then three districts of the state viz. Kohima, Mokokchung and Tuensang. In December 1963 the district of Nagaland was divided into seven districts in place of three. Tuensang district had an area of 4,228 sq. km until recently, the district has been further divided into two districts visibly Kiphire district and Longleng district since January 24th 2004.

I will post later about the tribes of Nagaland and some of my travel experiences there.