M A L AY S I A
Copyright © Krishna Mahathi 2022 All Rights Reserved. ISBN 979-8-88606-396-7 This book has been published with all efforts taken to make the material error-free after the consent of the author. However, the author and the publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. While every effort has been made to avoid any mistake or omission, this publication is being sold on the condition and understanding that neither the author nor the publishers or printers would be liable in any manner to any person by reason of any mistake or omission in this publication or for any action taken or omitted to be taken or advice rendered or accepted on the basis of this work. For any defect in printing or binding the publishers will be liable only to replace the defective copy by another copy of this work then available.
Written for those who are feeling tired, triggered and tearfully taxed. Inspired by the innovative insights from, inquisitive conversations with and impromptu revelations of my incredible behans. Dedicated to the bal, buddhi, bahaduri, and Bollywood that they bring out in me.
2. Burayi ka Bhay
3. Bebasi ka Bhay
4. Bewakoofi ka Bhay
5. Beinsaafi ka Bhay
6. Bhranthi ka Bhay
7. Bharosa aur Bhav
Maya Angelou said that the greatest agony is to have an untold story inside you. While this book took ten minutes to conceptualize, a whole seven years were spent writing, rewriting and rethinking it. I am grateful for my growth in this time and for the experiences that have contributed to my creativity and resilience. I thank the behans who have endured my long narrations and debated facts with me. Special credit (in alphabetic order) to Anagha Afreddy,Anjana Bindlish, Anne Caroline, Beulah Devadason, Dhanachitra Kannan, Gauri Vallish, HemalathaTiwari, Kartigai Priya, Megha John, Malarvizhi Arun, Nithila Paul, Priya Kannappan, Padma Yogendra, Radhika Bhandari, Ranjeeta Roberts,Ruchi Jain and Yuvarani Gopal. A lot of love to Shwetha Chaturvedhi, who helped me put together a cover design. A big hug of gratitude to those who encouraged me to persist when the task seemed impossible or even irrelevant—my mom, my husband, my amazing children and my many mentors and well-wishers. Gratitude to Notion Press for persevering with the publication process.
This book is a written record of what I call “ikkata gyan”—stuff that I have managed to hoard over the years from the bandwagon of amazing women I am surrounded by. It’s my tribute to the prudent, logical and balanced individuals who are in abundance amongst womankind. It has been my privilege to have had delightful conversations with the badass tribe amongst them. Talking to me can be weighty because I have a lot to discuss and easily dive into depths and detail. Yet, there have been women who, after a conversation, have filled me with a sense of awe regarding their aptitude. It’s just unfair to believe that they are exclusive to certain environments, like top universities, thriving business houses, plotting political parties, religious sewa sanctuaries, or privileged parivars. Although people with phenomenal talent and managerial capabilities exist in these sansthas, even behans who focus primarily on “bartan,” “bazaar” and “bache” with barmana rozgaar know a lot about important things in life, like health, finances, goals and relationships. Women, in general, are gifted with akal that’s phenomenal and pliable. And yet there are times when we feel hollow. Wisdom coming from a certain species makes several others very uncomfortable and this is the challenge for women in many “desh-dhartis” today. Many face barriers to acknowledging or accepting the voice of reason—even their own, unfortunately. Suppose, for instance, cockroaches in your house were to begin communicating in a way you could easily understand; while all the embarrassing aspects of the household’s hygiene standards would come to light, we would get some laudable wisdom if we listened carefully. If we curtailed the impulsive response to such a sordid scene, like vehement pest control measures, we could maybe, just maybe, 9
Upgrade From Bholi to Badass
figure out the secret to surviving against all odds for three hundred million years on this planet. This is the kind of loss we suffer (women included) when we disregard the knowledge women give. I think it’s really wrong to assume that we women talk mindlessly. I know we simply cannot do without the chittar patthar chatter in some form or the other, but there is clever content aspiring to achieve clarity while we talk. Talking does a lot of good for us women, although it often appears to be an unrestrained witless expression on the surface. This engaging exercise stirs up an epiphany every now and then. Many things that appear peculiar and perplexing become plain and we make noteworthy breakthroughs baaton baaton mein. This powerful phenomenon is unfortunately disregarded and underestimated by the insensitive world. However, it gives us the chance to dish out stellar surprises now and then and we can take advantage of it. Women stand out for several reasons, many of which are contrasting. While we are usually represented in graceful, sensitive and nurturing avatars, there are instances when we are capable of ruthless payback, revolution, reform and even reclusive living. When distinctiveness cannot be stereotyped it becomes uncomfortable to the chaalak sanchalak types. That’s how badass behans whip up a storm. There will be unsettling in environments where there is a need for someone to straighten up whenever a woman finds her voice. This drives many to find excuses and some to deliberately seek out opportunities to minimize or malign all the unique abilities that such a behan is blessed with. The “dimag ke keede” have dragged many women into a saazish for centuries and, yet, behans progress in spite of it. Most of our mothers and grandmothers have in some way contributed to innovation and insurrection in their time and we behans relent to, reconsider and resurrect inferences of our peedi. Women don’t take too long to realize that we are not too different from each other and that’s how we become capable of giving, challenging and forgiving phenomenally. When we hold space for each other, we become a reflection of each other’s beautiful souls. Yet, we hesitate to do it often. 10
This book is about something we carry within ourselves—in our antarang—and sometimes struggle to describe. While we all know that there is this khaas baat in the authentic members of our jaati, it’s not easy to figure out the secret behind their karishma. Many of us shy away even from attempting to try and know, while a few of us mistakenly attribute it to unrelated factors. For instance, we often decide that being badass is encoded in one’s DNA or kundli chart. Pita, pati, pesha and parivaar definitely enhance badass transformation, but are not prerequisites, if you ask me. If you can spot it in another, you have got inside you, too. What an attraction it is, being someone who only acknowledges those who meet her with maan maryada and makes the most sacheth use of samay and keeps bekaar, badtameez, betraying blokes at arm’s length! I think we should all experience this. I have conducted meticulous research to come up with a flowchart that will allow every one of you to upgrade and get there. I am borrowing from Bollywood to build on this ideology, like most creative people in my homeland, primarily because a string of Bollywood numbers just start to autoplay in loops in my brain when I see badass behans, right from Patakha Kudi (Highway, Irshaad Kamil, 2014) to the Mardaani anthem (Mardaani, Kausar Munir, 2014). Every realization inspired by badass behans is encoded in the akal with a song. But before you go any further, I want you to know it’s not always (although it mostly is) dhaakad ones who are called badass. I want to stress that courage is not always loud, classiness is not always about wealth and intelligence is not only about education. This is not a lecture series on courage, because I believe we are all conceived with a surplus of it. According to me, behans only need to be served a bit of tender loving care (TLC), with reminders that we are very deserving. We need openness to understand ourselves. Strong stuff like sabotage comes easily to us, but love doesn’t when it’s for ourselves. I hope these pages lead you there—to your best self—whenever you decide to read this book. Gyan in this narrative has no original construction and might be a bit of a reprise. But that’s what it’s meant to be, because, often, the heart needs this bit of komal ehsaas to make samjhauta with time, takleef and tensions. 11
Upgrade From Bholi to Badass
I designed it so your eyes meet an understanding nod and your dil feels the reassuring warmth you’re looking for without having to ask. That’s what behans should give each other—a generous serving of mutual admiration. I hope it throws light on some perspectives that will help you evolve into the badass state. I want to connect with you, help you see yourself in good light and watch you nurture yourself, get fired up and take charge of the jateel zindagi once again. I have observed on several occasions that behans say powerful things and pack them into jhakaas-type phrases. This way, the truth hits like a boomerang and, yet, the love it’s spoken with keeps you from breaking. That’s the way this book has been put together for you—so you know you are understood and you can be the person you know you are, give this zindagi adakari kalakaari and take a bow. So, let’s talk! Dil thoda sweet, thoda dheet sa hai ji Thoda tedha medha, thoda neat sa hai ji Hai to apna hi bhai Manva pankh phaila ke likes to fly Duniya pull pull pull Kare keeps on trying (Tumhari Sulu, Vayu, 2017)
Confusion Neendon ke desh mein hai sapno ka ikk nagar Jahaan hain dagar dagar jugnu Sau aandhiyan hain chalti saanso mein raat bhar Bujhte nahi magar jugnu (Panga, Javed Akhthar, 2020) If I were standing beside you now, as you begin to read this book in earnest, my mind would begin to speculate on the impelling circumstances behind your choice. Some of us get a high from realizing we have company when it comes to life experience, so I wonder how our stories are similar. Who was that character who made you firmly decide to stop digesting the bakwas served to you? I am sure you always knew it was bakwas, but perhaps you expected some badhai from the bhagwans for being the one to bear the brunt of things quietly? Or have you been trembling ever since you realized that you had been betrayed? Maybe you are fed up or even angry at yourself for giving hope several opportunities to assist you. It could also be that you feel bharpoor pyaar. Someone we care about deeply might be the force ushering in the long-neglected call of truth. Betrayal is a deep wound and a very intriguing and unsettling state, of being in total asamanjas. It takes a lot of effort to heal from it. Ironically, it’s a lot like behad pyaar. That’s the impetus for some people to change for better — someone they love. 13
Upgrade From Bholi to Badass
In both states, one is so conscience-smitten that it’s really difficult to remain unscathed. The bojhal peeda pariksha perplexity complex, though necessary, need not be a limitation to your story. Bulandi works differently my friends, I will show you how. There is another way to deal with the bhaari ehsaas. We can compose our way to karishma and credibility through this camouflage of confusion. I have come to believe that all our gallant gods—when they told us not to retaliate to wrongs—only meant that we must resist getting sucked into mindless drama. Justice need not be orchestrated within a constrictive framework of time and methodology. There are lots of forces that will come to your aid. Lots of things in life are traps that make you focus on things you have no control over. Or rather, things that are not for you to fix. It’s also a fact that love is not always a pleasant proposition. You cannot give from hollowness and connect with another soul with sketchy stickum. Life will give you plenty of opportunities to revel in happiness but, before that, it will steadily prepare you to become strong. Strength is not about blind endurance or brutal retribution. It develops when you start believing that you can choose to not be bashed up. It’s about standing up for your choices regardless of what others think, because you know the meaning and value some things hold for you. It’s about sticking to them when many are out to convince you otherwise. It’s only after this rupanthar that each of us begins to feel sure of the power that’s hidden inside and, then, pieces of this life’s puzzle start to come together. You just have to know how to stand still when your truth is twisted and restrain yourself from settling and accepting roles others assign to you for their own agendas. Being badass does not mean being loud, pushy and throwing one’s weight around. Dilldaari is often about the theharaav. You must learn to possess all your power with pride and unleash it in your adaa so it is effective. Upgrading to being a badass is a necessary milestone as you blossom into an embodiment of sensitive, sensible living, and it’s the essence of being truly savvy as a woman. 14
Bholapan is a gift in your bachpan but it becomes a bit of a bhoj if you don’t manage it as you get older. Now don’t get me wrong—I am not telling you to lose your innocence in any sense. You just have to gracefully relinquish some things to live responsibly. Maturity is necessary for a meaningful existence and we must all walk the patli gully that leads to it. You don’t have to give away your gift of bhalai or budhi—your ability to trust yourself and others is very important in your badass journey. It can be an exciting and beautiful adventure and it is not always a lonely ride. You must enjoy connecting with people and caring for them, but your relationship with yourself must come first. You will then see that caring can mean different things, depending on the receiver—some have to be cared for from a distance and, for some, caring involves dishing out stringent consequences so they learn and grow. Sometimes, caring means turning your back on the world. Sometimes, it involves opening yourself to a world of new possibilities. No, you don’t have to learn all the quick fixes and shortcuts and invest in influential connections to earn the badass badge. The opposite of being naive is not specializing in mind games. It’s being authentic. The challenge for most of us is the inevitability of getting stuck or struck down at some point in our journey. It hurts and we wish for someone to have our back in those moments. The big hurdle is how sanskaar is misinterpreted and passed down as prejudiced prose from generation to generation for the petty benefit of a few people deluded by a huge sense of entitlement. This is where conflicts start—when we are expected to be ideal people at an unreasonable price. In real life, saraltha, sowmyatha, sushilta and all the other sweet-sounding words are natural attributes of a woman who is nurtured and cherished. They need not be worn as a mask to survive. Shakti, drishti and samruddhi are equally enticing and endearing, although intimidating at first utterance. Pleasing is the state of being when a woman lives in harmony with her elements. Let’s not get brainwashed to look at it any other way. Sometimes, we wear bholapan as our naqaab, a prop to hide something we don’t want to face. Fawning to appease and adapt is unnecessary and 15
This is a book about things we women really want to discuss deeply but camouflage as commonplace conversation. All of us women are engaged in building a sense of self in this life’s journey and some of us experience a disturbance in our attitudes and perceptions at unexpected ages and stages. We then seek solace within while we pin the blame on things happening around us. This book is written to help you hold yourself together at such times. To champion you as you revamp yourself and savor the adventure, celebrating the expansion of your mind.
Krishna Mahathi is a neurodivergent individual with a special interest in child development, art and poetry. She uses her career experience as a pediatrician, art-based therapist and autism consultant to support children and women as they overcome the struggles they endure with their minds.