Don’t we all like to put our best foot and best face forward, in all situations? But that works for the social media, the virtual world, where life is perfect and everything is hunky dory. In real life, things get messier, and you don’t always have enough support to plod on, to reach the safe shores. In such situations, you might feel discouraged and hit the lowest bar. The demons might seem insurmountable, questioning your self-belief. The way out of this is to battle the obstacles as they come and use them as your stepping stones to go ahead in life.
Here are some stories of people who share their demons, small and big, in personal and public life, and what can be done, to surface on the other side, unscatched. They tell you that this Navratri, exorcise the demons within you...
Depend on yourself
For any person, strength comes through independence and I could fight the worldly pressures solely by being independent. Working hard at my job and working on myself taught me that I can be on my own and I don’t need to be under somebody and be scared.
When I first came to Mumbai from a town, I was looked down upon. With this experience and through my travels, I have become more aware of people and situations and have learnt to accept others the way they are. When you start interacting with people, you become more accepting in nature, you become kind and automatically become non-judgemental which has helped me evolve as a person. Nothing matters when you do things that you love doing, obviously there will be people out there who want to pull you down and the only way to conquer them is by moving ahead and doing what you want.
Ujwala Shinde, architect
Stand up for yourself
Growing up as the only child, I was extremely protected. When I joined college, I suddenly had a lot of freedom I never had before, and quickly made a bunch of new friends, who kept secrets from each other, but confined in me. I decided to keep mum about the secrets that they were sharing with me. Little did I know that they would one day turn against me. They humiliated me for something I had not even done in front of the entire college by saying nasty things.
Yet, I kept quiet and I did not stand up for myself. One old friend reached out and I spoke my heart out to him. Several days later, another college friend called me up; she didn’t think I was in the wrong. I then realised that there are many people who want to put you down and demean you, but that is possible only if you let them do it.
The power to stand up against anything that is wrong is within us. We don’t have to prove ourselves to others, all we need to do is speak our mind and stand up for ourselves. Also, when we step out in the world, we should not be afraid to face people. We should be confident and compassionate, even when we are standing up against them.
Shruti Bali, HR executive
Make peace with myself
I think we need to conquer our inner demons like prejudices, emotions like anger and bad habits every day. I spend around 15 minutes daily in meditation — going over my thoughts and analysing where I go wrong. My demons and gods are all in my thoughts and meditation is my way of confronting them.
If I can master my bad habits, I will learn to ignore what others do. I truly believe in the Gandhian principle of ‘Be the change you wish to see’. I can’t control the world and the way it moves, I can only make peace with myself.
Ambica Gulati, freelance journalist
Jealous no more
A lot of people look at Durga Puja and Navratri as festivals and a time to worship the goddess, but I look at them in a more spiritual way. It is time to let go of all the negativity and darkness bottled up in the deepest crevices of your mind and heart.
One of the demons that I often struggle to fight is jealousy. It can be ugly, mean and dangerous and you stoop to levels you never imagined you would. Being envious of someone, means you lack something within and you are trying to be someone else you are not.
To ward off this evil from my mind and life, I don’t let pictures of flawless women, in perfect body shape, vacationing around the globe on social media, affect me anymore. Instead of wasting my energy on feeling bad about how others look, I work out, eat healthy and read meaningful things that bring happiness to me.
As much as fighting the demons within you, it is important to fight the ones in your environs too. Illiteracy is one such demon and to defeat it, I teach my maid and help her with finance, books and stationery for her children, so that they don’t need to work in someone else’s home.
Sazia Sultana, hospitality professional
Be a giver
In this materialistic world where people cling to their possessions more, success is defined by how much can you have and not how much can you give. In this banal social set-up, I derive solace from being a giver.
I am limited by financial means, but I believe in the goodness of a piggy bank where you drop coins of kindness as and when you can. It can be an extra change to a rickshawwallah or distributing sweets to slum kids on weekends, or offering a buttered toast to my housemaid or a packet of biscuits for her handicapped kid.
I draw my contentment from this and it keeps me grounded. It helps me transcend the competition of happiness. Life is mortal, the more we understand this truth, the more we become compassionate in our life.
Pallavi Barnwal, writer
Fights are never bad
Every year during Navratri when the ethos of fighter goddess surround us, I keep thinking of the potential or actual battles that one needs to fight to exorcise the demons around and within us.
As a writer and a musician, I can sense and judge the capricious temerity of the wide range of demonic tendencies that snipe at the core of the freedom of the expression. An artist has to think 10 times before he publishes his own work while ensuring that the content and the expression does not hurt someone’s, nay anyone’s sentiments.
We have demons that possess organised power of muscle, money and they can hire brains to propagate their unilateral agendas. And then there are angelic demons with pseudo-secular, pseudo-environmentalist, pseudo-benevolent smiles who would equally (and mercilessly) devour anyone who would oppose their dictums even remotely.
They proselytise youth for their own agenda, whereas the real demons of our society like poverty, corruption, non-discipline in social functioning and illiteracy continue to flourish. At the other end of the spectrum, where affluence resides, I can see many young people taking to alcohol, cigars and also drugs. The thought of liberty has to be shaped by a sense of responsibility. If it doesn’t, then the liberty transforms into a demon and infiltrates the air with its hedonist vapour.
And then I can see so many demons within myself. Javed Akhtar ji very rightly pointed out in the iconic song from Lagaan, “ Manse Raavan jo nikale, Raam uske man mai hai” (The one who can get rid of the Ravan like tendencies from within, his mind is an abode for Rama). Personally, I never had a bout of jealousy against anyone. I respected everyone and slowly and surely fought with myself to understand that it is equally essential to respect yourself. And on this path, you meet another demon named ego. The distance between the ego and self-esteem is not very big. Relationships can get injured beyond repair with truculent defiance and in order to not let that happen, fighting with demon named ego is almost mandatory.
I wish my reader friends a good luck for these fights. Fights are never bad. They make you stronger!
Dr Ashutosh Javadekar, writer
What does ‘safe’ mean?
Growing up, I was always aware of the financial tightrope that my family had to walk on. I wasn’t pressurised but I knew that I was expected to work hard in school, college and get a safe job. I did get a job in media after graduating. But after a year, I quit because I was attracted to stand-up comedy. I keep doing shows, and I also have another job in a digital company, as a strategy head. I am enjoying my work.
But in that phase when I had chucked my job, I was not sure where and how my life is headed. But I took that chance.
Also, I enjoy the stand-up comedy act. But I am not a people friendly person. So it’s a huge effort for me to interact with the audience after the show. Ideally, I would like to say ‘Thank You’ and disappear off the stage, but that doesn’t happen, because people want to talk, discuss.
As of now, I am not very much visible in the networking or business angle of the comic world. I am not so clued in to what’s happening or gossiping. It’s bad for business, I agree, but that’s how I am. I have also realised that finances is something that I have to battle with all my life.
Omkar Rege, comedian
Sometime back, I wasn’t doing well physically. I had injured myself, I had bad knee, there was a ligament tear, I had put on weight. And, on top of that, I was questioning myself — ‘Why me?’ I was feeling very low. It was in this state of mind that I decided to trek up to Tiger’s Nest monastery in Bhutan.
It was an arduous journey — almost 800 steps, which were a foot and a half long, had to be scaled. Normally, it takes about four-five hours to scale, and then returning to the base. It took me nine hours. The group I was travelling with, went far ahead as I lagged.
It was raining, and I was soaked, down to my socks, shivering, my fingers were ice cold. My morale, as I said, was low. There was a cafe located at mid-level to the monastery. I thought I would stop at the cafe, do some sketches and return to the base.
But I couldn’t push myself to reach the cafe. I just couldn’t move. Fortunately, there was another small group behind me, who saw me, we chatted and they cajoled me to come with them. They were walking at their own pace, and I joined them. They kept pushing me, ‘It’s right there’, ‘Bas..thoda sa’, ‘Next bend and we are there’. Finally, we reached the monastery. The group which had left me far behind were now descending.
In the monastery, we rested a bit. The priest came and gave us a puri. I was touched and felt blissful. Up there, I found myself. I realised that everything has a time of its own and the universe always has your back. You are never left alone. One important lesson I learnt was to ask for help. Open up yourself to others and others will help you. This is what happened with the second group of people, who were complete strangers. Today we are good friends.
Darpana Athale, architect and artist