Human Expectations are healthy

People who say they have no expectations, and are “okay with everything” are often the ones with the most unsaid expectations. It’s so unsaid that even they are often unaware of how much and what they actually expect from themselves + others. These are the people who have hidden resentments building up, and they may or may not have any knowledge of it. How do you know? Try crossing them in any way. They are the ones who will say/think, years or months later, “I did so much for that person”,
Or, “I never once said or did anything bad and yet that person did this to me.” Here they are unaware that they have a CLEAR expectation that they will do xyz and get abc. But they will be stuck in thinking of themselves as “without needs/demands/expectations”.
On the other hand, the people who voice their expectations and hold themselves and others accountable to them are often the easiest the deal with. You know what they are about and you know what you’re going to get if you do a, b or c. These people often get labelled as demanding but are often the least demanding on the scale of demanding humans, of which we are all a part.

Meeting your needs is the least selfish thing

Why are you so scared of prioritizing yourself? Why am I so intimidated about putting myself first? Why do we shame self-pleasure, self-love and self-advocacy as a society as if it the opposite of being in relationship? Isn’t it the most selfish thing, to enter relationships with hungry, desperate, unmet needs which are so focused on what YOU can give ME? Love me, kiss me, make me feel good, tell me I’m amazing, help me heal my trauma, make me feel less alone, me, me, me, me. We all do this to each other, in one way or the other, and wait for someone to come along to make ourselves feel whole again because we think only someone else can make us feel pleasure. And we mask this self-directedness with words like care, concern, friendship and “love”. We normalize sucking the life out of each other.

However, it’s so rare for us to say to our own beautiful, chaotic, desperate and needy selves:
Yes, I’ll love you even when everyone pushes against you.
Yes, I’ll pleasure you well and discover what makes you tick instead of waiting for a person to bless me with time/attention.
Yes, I’ll make you feel whole because you deserve it, for you are worthy of it as you are. Giving yourself pleasure, respect and compassion are not some award-winning instagram-documenting worthy acts. They are everyday acts of strengthening your friendship with your OWN self.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Healing from assault is a process of rediscovering the self. Having good, pleasureable sex is also a process of self-discovery. There’s no one who will show up at your doorstep to rescue you from your pain. A healthy relationship will support you as you evolve in your own friendship with yourself. Cheers.

Panel: Mental Health and the Politics of (Dis)connection

What a powerful panel on Connection/Disconnection in the field of Art Therapy and Mental Health. Thank you Rumi Clinton, Beth Enterkin, Nerissa Osby and Leah Amaral for participating, sharing, engaging in such a wholesome manner.

Some questions that were spoken to:
– What does a decolonial art therapy practice look like to you?
– How does one navigate conflict in work/education settings when one is training as an art therapist?
– Do politics and mental health intersect for you?
– Speaking from an intersectional lens, what are your experiences of mental health practice?
– What are your personal resources that sustain you during times of disconnection?

May I watch you? On Consent and Being Queer

Today, a woman who said she found me attractive, in a queer party asked me if she could watch me dance as we were all dancing. She said if I said no, she would understand and not engage in the act of looking, because she wanted to ensure I didn’t feel uncomfortable under her direct gaze.
I was so moved by her unexpected and staggeringly surprising utilization of consent in what could be seen as an obvious “invitation to look”- the act of dancing, that I became teary eyed with pleasant surprise.
For survivors of sexual assault and for everyone else who reads the news, every act of stripping away of power of the self through rape and acts of “powering over” others, may feel like the “norm”. “Boys will be boys and it’s in our nature to objectify people.” “Who asks for permission when they are fucking?” Statements like these are present and normalized everywhere.
But there are spaces where people not only actively acknowledge that we live in a culture of rape, but actually put in concrete actions to ensure that we end rape culture. There are people out there who WANT to make you feel safe so they can ensure you enjoy yourself. Not need to, or being forced to, to fit the box of a “good person” but believe me, they actually want to make sure they are not harming you. There are people out there who DON’T think that saying the words “May I kiss you?” before kissing someone is an abnormal thing. There are people who say, “I want to touch you like this, but if it doesn’t feel good, just tell me, I’ll stop.” There are people like that. And if you, the one who is reading this post, isn’t one, it’s high time perhaps you changed.
Intimacy with someone who asks before they act heals so many trauma-wounds. And oh, it is so sexy.

The Study of Therapy and U.S. Centrism

US centric academia, US centric food, US centric music, US centric porn, US centric clothes, US centric social justice… Oh goodness, it gets so tiring. Studying the practice of therapy, sociology, anthropology, or anything slightly related to “culture” in the US is such a dissociative experience. You have to not only adapt to US supremacy within your own neurobiology to place all the psychotherapeutic learning you’re embodying, but also erase a whole part of the fact that you belong to an entirely different land where therapy practice, people’s inner narratives, attachment styles and cultural propaganda that manifests in the psyche, are performed within a completely different sensibility. Who is going to understand, in your foreign classroom the nuances of an intercaste parent-child relationship living in suburban Kerala and that they aren’t necessarily “enmeshed” because they live together well into their 40s? The term enmeshment itself is studied from a western-centric lens and it guides the narrative of so much that we consume. Yet, this place defines how much bread I can earn, how much value other people see in me, in my home country, as someone educated in its narratives.

But then, the most disarming is to sit in a classroom with other Indian immigrant students and friends, who have conditioned themselves to be so US centric, growing up millennial in India, that the experience of dissociation isn’t even visible to them. And then those of us that practice therapy/mental health of any form in the US, long after our studies have finished, gain greater and greater distance from a whole part of our identities that we have sold to the US. It’s so subconscious and it’s so prevalent.

#ussupermacy #therapy #mentalhealtheducation #usimperialism#howtheworldseesvalue #why #dissociation #unlearningyourself

Tapal Danedar

I hesitate to be,
one of those who sit outside
the lines of reality,
yet comments on what happens
inside the box I sometimes 
call home.
Somehow Indians and Pakistanis
have the best allyship outside that
boundary when emotions run high.
Yesterday I spent the evening in
quick conversation
with a familiar auntie
who I’ve never spoken to before,
buying atta
at the Indian-Pakistani grocery store
on the corner of Devon.
We sighed together,
zipping our carts around,
in quiet companionship
searching frantically for food
that didn’t reek of white,
amidst a musty stack of all things brown
conversing in robust hindi-punjabi
about spices and daal
and the media and fake news,
all in one,
she wearing a green patiala,
me in my dress,
and silver nosering
until she reached for Tapal Danedar
and I for Brooke Bond Red Label
and she asked me if I wasn’t from Karachi
I shook my head and we continued to talk
about the media
and the fake news
and our prime ministers,
and how we both
have lost blood.

In times where our borders are wrestling
with whose blood means more,
I run a check on my walls
that come up around anyone
that doesn’t agree with me

I hesitate to comment on war,
yet I get riled up
whenever it is brought up,
my heart closing,
my fists shaking,

I go home and cook my roti,
I log out of facebook #josh
and american activists
commenting on intergenerational trauma
whose corpses I carry in my own blood

Yet, I check my walls
I don’t want the borders to play
with what’s in my heart.

Video Responses

In response to the #metoo movement and some questions I keep getting online, I have decided to start a video series addressing questions around sexual violence in the Indian context. The videos are for survivors of sexual violence and their friends/families- however the content will vary according to who it is specifically for.


Sitting with 2017

Ending 2017 in the complex city of a complex country, studying and working in a complex arts and healthcare system.

As we enter the last week of the year, I am thinking about:

– The necessity to show up for oneself everyday, outer work needs to be balanced by that much or more inner work. Especially thinking of Gabor Mate’s quote, “It’s a myth that time heals all wounds, it just freezes them. One has to put in work towards one’s healing.”

– While our ‘inner work’ systems today such as reiki, yoga, neoliberal meditation processes are tainted by racism, appropriation, casteism, religious oppression, I urge folks (especially my wonderful politically aware friends) to not give up on the search for an inner system. One that can keep the self nourished as the external work we do demands us to show up more, do more, educate more, agitate more.

– I’m spending the last week journalling each day about the people that came into my life, that left. I’m writing and remembering those that did conflict really well, (for conflict is natural in every relationship, of any sort). I’m thanking them for their ability to sit with their discomfort and hold mine too. Then, I am making space for my resentment and subsequent anger for those connections that meant a lot but could not sustain the work needed to remain in connection.

– I’m thinking about forgiveness, sexual violence, cultural trauma and how we don’t need to forgive those that hurt us. There is NO obligation to forgive. Forgiveness does not equal healing. But, we do need to be able to work with our wounds, so we can learn to nurture them as they bleed, seethe, dry up and reopen, with time.

Sending immense love to my connections globally. Hope to see many of you in 2018, over tea, long conversation, tight hugs and shared pain. I’m off social media for 2017, so email/text/dm message me and I’ll reply in the new year.

Everyday Rape Culture

White White, Gulp, Choke, 2017, 20 x 20 inches, Mixed media on Silk and Canvas

This post was written in response to the #metoo campaign

SIX Things I do to combat Rape Culture in my everyday life:

1. Stop minimizing violence in everyday interactions. Physical, emotional, mental. I have had ex partners “push” and “shove” me in times of intense conflict, and I had to struggle against my own social conditioning to not minimize it as “Oh, it’s okay. He is hurting. I must have triggered him, so it happens”. NO.

2. Hold people (friends, relatives, partners, society) to higher standards. Test your friendships. Narrate your story of sexual violence to your existing friendships and see how you are received.
If you are further minimized, and your friend unintentionally reinforces social myths, explain and let the person know compassionately that they are contributing to Rape Culture. They are hurting you. If they freak out on you, breathe deeply and unfriend/stop engaging. The person needs to get the message that something has gone wrong.
STOP TRYING TO BE BFFs WITH YOUR ABUSERS, especially when there’s little to no repair. You are not obliged to forgive, forget or let go.

3. Be okay with people seeing you as “too much” or “judgy”. Nurture yourself with the knowing that your standards are being looked up to by some young one somewhere who doesn’t yet have the confidence/privilege/awareness to do the same.

4. See that Rape Culture shows up in small ways everyday. How you look at a body on the street to how you shame yourself for walking alone, the fear you feel on the street when it’s dark, what porn you consume everyday. Control and reflect upon what you can. Explain to those who want to understand the connections between everyday life and rape culture, leave those who don’t.

5. Call out your friends at every little sexist joke they make. If it’s not funny, don’t laugh. Don’t minimize. See point number 3.

6. Do some kind of advocacy work to counter sexual violence. Go to a gathering or read up on Rape Culture. You’ll feel less alone and more urgent. Our houses have been on fire for decades and we’ve been sleeping.

#metoo #rapeculture #smallnotsosmall #littlenotsolittle #arttherapy#dontshutup #accountability #society

Let’s Build Better Tools to Relate to Each Other this year

Endings don’t mean much to me, it’s all an ongoing path…the end and the beginning are both one.

Here’s to more questioning, more facing on conflict, better relational tools and hence, a deeper dive into this fantastic existence.

An article on better resolution tools on this gift called “conflict” that we run away from: