Saturday, 13 April 2013

Satisfaction: It's Yours to Judge

Satisfaction comes from within and not out. I remember once a dear friend of mine describing her favorite childhood dress being a gaudy red, sequined frock with ruffles which she wore with a golden tissue 'odhni' wrap put around her shoulder like a shawl, come Summer or Winter.

She said that she used to wear it for every occasion for about a year. She also laughed at my pained expression saying this used to be the exact expression on her mom's face throughout that year. I can imagine being a middle-class Bengali lady in the mid to late 1970s, her mom, like mine and most of their peers, must have been the epitome of understated style, wearing impeccably-starched and folded pastels, white and snuff-colored Saris to evenings of cultural soirees and art film shows. Imagine this garish child tagging next to her!

It made an incredible story and we laughed aloud when she said that she used to sometimes add to the dress-up, cheap faux-pearl or shell necklaces that relatives would get back as souvenirs from their travels for her mom. The mother of course had never even touched them. We laughed till our stomach ached and we lay spent on the floor still clutching our sides.

Once sobered up, we had this very enlightening discussion on how we'd never imagine doing that any more and then sat up thinking how easy it was to be satisfied when we did not have any idea of what was expected of us. It allowed us to choose whatever we wanted.

It has been a long time since that day and we have both come a long way and spread far away from each other. She home schools her children and I work from home.

In many ways we have not changed and despite our conservative upbringing we have done things that was and still is unthinkable in most middle class homes. We have experimented and rebelled and have in turn collected both accolades and brick bats on our journey to womanhood.

It is an universal truth that our choices make us different. It is also true that we always have choices. The problem with having so many choices is that we are seldom if at all satisfied with the ones we have made.

Each time we take a decision or make a choice, we start wondering if that was the right one. Self doubt is the core of dissatisfaction. Just like the multiple choices, we also have these hundreds of thousands of case studies at our disposal that show us how other choices are better than ours. In our deep research we forget all about 'individual choices' and 'personal journeys'.

As a child, I was satisfied that I got a sister to play and fight with - she was a best friend right at home. What more could a kid want. For many years neither I nor she were too keen on adding others to our closed circle of two - though we did not do much in it or even had any deep dark secrets to hide. There was also a slightly larger circle around it that had cousins and family friends' children who were also our friends and then there was this much larger circle that had school friends and later college and office friends.

We were satisfied in our world. Till I had to move out of the city for many years and realized that phone would not do what our regular night walks had achieved. I had to look beyond. I had to start afresh. I knew no one in the new city had neither ready made friends nor family.  

There was this huge gap that needed to be filled. She also understood it and we moved into other circles and made our way into completely new ones.

This new stand led me to make many friends and I changed. I became a totally different person and a much more experimental human being because no one knew me or my family - I had almost no peer pressure. When I returned after almost a decade, I found that my sister had become more conservative.

There was still a lot of dissatisfaction, I wondered if I was doing it all wrong or if she is? And I bet she felt the same way too. Sartorially also a lot of new influence had crept up into our wardrobes where earlier we used to share the same clothes - we were almost same size except for trousers and shoes, now, I had mostly colorful informal outfits and she, mainly a collection of formal wear. In the last few years, we have again influenced each others outfits because I see a lot of office wear in my cupboard while hers looks a little more colorful and experimental.

Dissatisfaction is almost always a result of peer pressure. The overwhelming need to be able to blend in with the accepted norms of the society.

I am highly satisfied with flip-flops and pavement store clothes but, each time I dress my, way my family cringes and worries about what others will say about my lack of 'proper' dressing. Often falling into that trap I end up wearing stuff that everyone else is also wearing - in the end losing my own sense of style and happiness.

I used clothes as an analogy here because they are the easiest to understand. After all, clothes makes a man or a woman as the case in point.
As a child we could get away being embarrassing but as adults we make changes to satisfy the world.

It is not very dissimilar in other more deeper aspects in life. For example I hate allopathic medicines and like to cure myself with homemade remedies or Homeopathic medicines. However, most people think that I'm playing with my life or just being stupid. If I tell them that it works for me then, I get snide remarks about how faith cures many ailments.

Similarly, though an ex-journalist, I have stopped subscribing to both newspapers and Cable TV for many years. People have called me many names including a freak and a turn-coat. I feel happier without so much cacophonous influence in my confined space. In between I had also experimented laying-off the Internet away from work.  

In the beginning it was difficult. For more than a year, I was in two minds if I should get a Cable connection - especially when my dad refused to visit my place and even called me a 'miser' - eventually he gave up and now comes over to watch movies with me on DVD at my place. He now understands that I need my peace and quiet while he needs his daily Bengali soaps. I also compromised with the Internet. It was a necessity that allows me to stay in touch with the world.

It is very difficult to be satisfied with what we have because most of the times we are looking outwards towards others to give us their stamp of approval. However, it is easier to be satisfied when we forget about others and start doing what we want to do. The satisfaction of being able to conduct a life that is totally based on what we want from it would probably bring to us a real sense of satisfaction that can never be bought off-the-shelf. 

I'd like to conclude with another conversation with another friend much recently who went on and on about how I should get rid of my old jalopy and buy a new one because otherwise, people will not take me 'seriously' or give respect to my 'seniority'. This time I did not get into a discussion at all. I smiled and walked away with a polite nod.


  1. A lot of it is external influence on your thoughts as well. What is the expectation of the society from me o be happy .. You are right, dissatisfaction more often than not is peer pressure. recently I took my boys to a toy store and asked them to buy whatever they want. It was their birthday so I wanted them to choose the toy they wanted most. I was ready to get a huge bill. My boys ran to a corner and chose 2 very small cars and were extremely happy with what they bought. They do not watch much TV, so they are no exposed to Ads or much cartoons. They love cars and that is exactly what they wanted. Happiness did not come to them with a brand or a price tag. Sometimes there is so much to learn from kids.

    1. Absolutely right. If we don't know then, we don't care.


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