Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 24, Tuesday June 19, 2007



Interpreter Of Maladies

Dear Dr. Nighat Ara,
I'm in my mid-twenties and already feel like I've crossed a quarter of my life without having achieved anything. I am an average, you can say even mediocre person and I have come to terms with it. Growing up I thought that I would do something to make a mark, however small it might be but now I'll be content just standing on my two feet, emotionally and financially independent. All around me my friends are finishing their studies and getting great jobs while I'm stuck in a rut and unable to find a decent job that will make me financially independent. On a day-to-day basis it doesn't bother me as much but whenever I run into someone and they ponder on why I'm still studying and unable to find a job, it brings a surge of hopelessness and failure. I know I should not take these queries to heart but hearing them over and over makes it a little difficult to do so. I'd really like to get over this and gain some strength and confidence from what I already have. I would really appreciate any suggestions you might have.

You are in your mid twenties and feeling frustrated over not achieving ANYTHING. How true is that? I believe you are an educated, smart and thoughtful person. Doesn't that count at all in your book of achievements?

What is your definition of achievement (or success)? It appears that finishing studies and getting a great job is something you are longing for. These are quite realistic expectations at your age and a desire to have it will keep you going in the right track. However, you didn't mention clearly about the barriers in achieving those targets. What is your role in that picture of hopelessness and failure? Is it all about fate or can you do something more about it? If you are doing your best but nothing is going the way you would like it to go, then understandably you are having some bad days. Other people's enquiries aggravate your pain and they bug you about your situation insistently. Well, like it or not, this is life. Like it or not, this is how you have to navigate through most of your adult life!

Some people have a twisted sense of gratification. They love to live in a pink bubble of grandiosity and will come to senses only when that bubble bursts! If they are trying to give the message “You are not smart enough”, then it is actually your choice whether you buy it or not. Group therapy or counselling sessions are very helpful in developing a healthy sense of boundary. Exercising a good sense of boundary with people who are too intrusive is often helpful in maintaining mental peace. It also works well when one is in a vulnerable state and is getting easily triggered by others. Competitiveness (typical of type A personality) is not the best way of doing things for many people. It could be quite immobilising or threatening when someone is in a vulnerable state.

It is also important to acknowledge that some people with poor social skills have no better way of communicating with others or they fail to express their genuine care or concern without hurting the person. This however doesn't change the fact that it really hurts! We don't have control over others behaviour but we can surely do something to change its impact on us. Taking a broader perspective of life as opposed to having a tunnel vision and fixed mind-set can be another useful means to address this pain.

Is it only materialistic gain (big degree, good job etc.) that matters to you or do you also yearn for something beyond that? If we are not aware of real sources of joy in life and feel disconnected from our inner self then we look for outer fix for this inner unrest or emptiness. Materialistic gains can only give a temporary rush that wears off pretty quickly and the sense of failure together with hopelessness can creep back in if there is spiritual bankruptcy. Making a gratitude list and naming all the things you are thankful for (e.g. you are not living in a war torn Middle Eastern country or famine stricken African country, all your senses and organs are still working etc.) is another way of maintaining a positive attitude.

A lot of our self-esteem lies in what we do for a living and the whole society treats us like a commodity according to the price tag attached to the job. While we are waiting for the world to change and this attitude to disappear, frustration tolerance capacity seems to be a very important survival tool. Lowering expectations and doing a reality check from time to time can be a smart idea. Feeling impatient and wanting things “here and now”, “awfulising” the present situation or “catastrophising” the small setbacks, taking a “poor me” attitude can potentially lead to depression.

Taking one step at a time and noticing every small achievement helps to replenish self-esteem. An irrational belief like “No matter how hard I try, I can never win”- can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many fear factors tend to rule our lives. Psychotherapy helps people to identify an irrational fear from a rational one, address the real fear in an effective way and separate it from unreal fears. Take life as it comes and try to make the best out of it instead of beating yourself up for lagging behind. There are early bloomers and late bloomers, sometimes you will be ahead sometimes you will be behind others. Your journey along the path of life is your journey, sometimes there will be co-travelers, and sometimes you will be alone. No matter what it looks like at this moment, be ready to embrace what life has to offer you at its different turning points.

Creating a meaning in life may not be necessary for living but it is for thriving. The vacuum we feel inside us while living in a fast paced society is costing us our mental health. We don't live on our instincts any more as men of the Stone Age used to; we don't even have the traditions of ancient and medieval ages anymore to create meaning for us. This is why a lot of youths are suffering from pointlessness of life and are looking for a meaning in all the wrong places like- thrill-seeking behaviour, addictions, violence, political or religious fanaticisms and so on. They feel miserable without these and cynicism or sarcasm takes over. Meaning in life doesn't necessarily have to be a huge thing; it can be as small as a new hairstyle or making an important phone call. To create new meanings in life, be in touch with your creative self (e.g. music, art, drama). It is good that you have a dream to make a mark in life, hold it tightly in your heart and it will give you a reason to fight for.

Believe in the divine gift that exists in every human being- average, below or above average. Spirituality and faith help people in moments of despair, hang in there to value life. Perhaps you are going through a bad time, but at the end of the day, year or at the end of life it would be worth living.

Thanks for showing extraordinary courage to join this club of ordinary people wrestling with ordinary problems to make an extra ordinary breakthrough! When the nation is busy publicly cleaning the dirty laundry of “above average” people, celebrate this moment of a blissful mediocre life!

Dental Wise

Dear Dr. Khan,
I am 46 years old but unfortunately a diabetic patient. Though I am a regular reader of your column, I am ashamed to show the condition of my teeth to you. I know this is because of my diabetes. Yes, I will visit you but before that I have one question - can you assure me absolutely painless treatment?
Thanking you

Dear Dinesh,
I do not know what kind of dental treatment you need but I can assure you that nowadays most qualified dental surgeons can provide painless dental treatment. This is because of the availability of quality anesthetic material and other instrumental support. I will try my best to provide absolute painless treatment. But before that you must forgo your dental phobia.

Dear Dr. Khan,
I am 36 years old and very afraid to visit a dentist. I have occasional pain and gum swelling in my lower wisdom area. But I feel better only after a warm saline mouth rinse. But it is repeatedly happening and I don't want to visit a dentist. Please prescribe some medicine.

Dear Mr Kabir,
It seems you are suffering from wisdom teeth problem. Do you have any dental X-Ray? Did you show that X-Ray to your dentist? I believe that since you're 36 years old, there is very little possibility for your wisdom teeth to come out in a normal position. Warm saline mouthwash is the best antiseptic mouthwash, but that is temporary relief for your case.

Why don't you want to visit a dentist? Do you have pain/dental phobia or any previous bitter experience? Anyway, once again I can assure you about painless dental procedures.

Reader’s Chit

Oh monsoon rain

The most famous and notorious seasons, Ashar and Srabon are here again so prepare yourself for joy. Drops of crystals will be falling from heaven because the season of monsoon is here to get you set and wet.

The dark clouds will fill up the sky like the sky was meant to be for the clouds. The horizon will blaze itself with all shades of black. The rhythm of the rain will lighten your heart. After the scorching heat of summer the showers come to lift away all your sorrows of the previous seasons.

For all you lovebirds out there, this is the season to celebrate. Celebrate everything you feel inside your heart, the season, the sweet smell of fresh mud, the lightning, the thunderstorms and the pouring rain that comes along with it. Couples with eyes fixed on their loved ones huddle under the same umbrella, a sure sign that this season is invited by Cupid himself.

Sit and relax beside the window and watch the whole arena change. Within seconds the vendors vanish, rickshaws have their hoods on, roadside shops are packed with pedestrians seeking relief from the relentless drops. Street urchins move around happily getting wet and giving the impression that this season is for their sole entertainment.

As the deafening thunders and showers strike, the whole of Dhaka city comes to a standstill. Water levels rise and the streets look like little creeks with water oozing from every nook and cranny.

Monsoon also has a melancholy solitary connotation. The pitter-patter takes you away back to your early days. Days when life seemed brighter and lighter. Touch those drops and they remind you of someone special held in your heart dearly for all these years. Switch on your CD player and enjoy Rabindra Sangeet for a change.

Monsoon has its unique delicacies. If you are stuck home when the thunder strikes, muri makha with lots of green chillies can be perfect. Munch on hot puffed-rice and listen to the sound of the rain. Make vegetable pakoras or dal bora, anything you can munch on will do. Add to this spicy masala flavoured tea and you have yourself the perfect combination. Take a hot sip into the cup and stretch your hands out of the window. Feel the coldness of the drops. As your hands get wet with every drop splashing on your palms, lift your face upwards and feel the droplets on your face as well. Pure water can be ever so exciting and refreshing.

If the rains catch you during meal times, not devouring khichuri is a heinous crime worth capital punishment. Khichuri being the main attraction needs major supplements. Beef is mandatory for many while eggs, aubergines and fried hilsha and pickles are also good options.

The next time you spot a falling drop of rain, prepare yourself to climb up those staircases and get yourself wet, soaked and dripping in this rain. Dance with the music of the rain, sing with its rhythm, bask yourself in its purity. Feel every drop reaching out to your soul. Know that you are not alone in the joy of dancing in the rain. In many existing tribes, it is regarded as a ceremonial dance to invoke rain, ensure protection of harvests and cleanse evil spirits from our mother Earth.

Another important thing that accompanies the thunderstorms and heavy rain is the age-old prospect of electricity failure when we suddenly get engulfed by total darkness. Although we are visually impaired our other senses become alert. The deafening thunders come one after another ever increasing in volume. Prepare yourself a candle light dinner to enjoy the monsoon to its fullest degree.

Apart from the aesthetic, romantic and fun value, monsoon carries its own hazards. Humidity increases manifolds and though you no longer have those cracks on your feet and lips, your clothes are persistently musty.

Monsoon makes you realise that your home is not solely yours but equally shared by different varieties of insects. Wipe your floors with Savlon and prevent the menaces from colonising.

Monsoon comes every year to rejuvenate our souls. Let this monsoon be one to touch your heart too.

By Nazia Atique


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