Category Archives: being

Part ii: How do I know this therapist is right for me?

The first part of this series is “Do I need a therapist?”

Finding the right therapist is of immense importance, if you’ve decided to opt for therapy. You’ll find you don’t know who to go for, in the beginning. Should I see a psychiatrist or a psychologist or just a counsellor? This is an easy one actually. Personally, I prefer going to a psychologist first, mostly because I want to avoid medication as much as I can. Unfortunately, I have seen the difference between a non-medicated me and a medicated me and I have to say, it really helps to have my focus in order and my moods under control. So, while I struggle with medication, I also see why I need it. But I digress.

First to tell the different kind of professionals apart.

  1. A psychiatrist is a person who went to medical school and has a medical degree in psychiatry. This enables him to prevent, diagnose, treat and understand mental illness by prescribing medication and course of treatment or therapy. She will also monitor how you react to medication short term and long term, so expect blood work and the like to be part of your interaction with her.
  2. A psychologist is someone who has an academic or doctoral degree in psychology, not a medical one. This person can is qualified to do counselling and psychotherapy, perform psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders. A psychologist cannot and must not prescribe medication to you, or perform medical procedures.
  3. A counsellor is someone who doesn’t have a PhD but a Masters in psychology. In order to practice, a counsellor must have trained at an organisation for a few years before obtaining a license. Unlike a psychologist, a counsellor may not be authorised to diagnose an illness but is effective in treating one with the aid of therapy.

Now that that’s out of the way, how can you tell if this therapist is working for you? Most people will tell you go with your gut. But I am going to say ignore that advice. Here’s why. Consider that you are at a therapist because you are not feeling your very best. Consider that when you aren’t at your best, it is very likely that your ability to listen to your gut, to distinguish the voice of your gut is highly impaired. What you mistake for gut reaction could be fear of vulnerability or of having revealed so much to a practical stranger. Consider that when you are emotionally or mentally disturbed, your gut might not be your best friend. Therefore, don’t go with your gut right in the beginning. Because if you do, you’re bound to come up short almost always. The first time you go to a therapist and your gut is always going to tell you to run and never come back.

These are the things I have found useful in understanding whether a certain therapist is right for me.


  1. Be prepared for never knowing that this is the right person for you in the first session. In my exp, it takes at least 3 visits to figure out if it’s your gut feeling, or if you’re second guessing yourself, or if you are just getting comfortable.
  2. Do they glance at phone/clock/out the window often enough to register on you and distract you?
  3. Do they display any emotion or judgement at anything you’ve said so far? If yes, and it makes you uncomfortable, stop seeing them. You should be seeing someone who makes you feel like you are working together; and not someone who hands you only instructions on what to do. There will be instructions in the course of your treatment but that will be with your willingness.
  4. Do they talk more than you do and make you feel like you  haven’t been heard? If yes, stop seeing them. Your sessions shouldn’t be a fight to be heard.
  5. Write down notes about what you liked and what you didn’t like about the session afterwards. When/if you switch therapists, the notes you take will show you what you need.
  6. If you have a diagnosis, ask clear questions about the treatment plan and what their stand on medication is. A treatment plan should include your consent and your ideas. Don’t go to someone who doesn’t include you.
  7. Understand what your own stand on medication is, should you need it.

In short, I suggest you give it two to four visits before you decide this is the wrong person for you. Of course, there are those who immediately know whether this person is working for them or not but in case you’re wondering how to determine whether a therapist is working, these above tips help.

Good luck!



The art of calling my name in full.

For as long as I can remember, the only person I call by a pet name is my brother. Everyone else, however close they may be to my heart — and I’ve been blessed with several good people in my life — I call them by their given name. My best friend from school is still to get used to it, I think. And I’ve known her 22 years.

I like to think that a name is more than just a tag to identify a certain body. A name, as far as I am concerned, is deeply linked with who we are and how we identify ourselves. A lot like an email id actually. I notice invariably that teenagers and those who think they’re still teenagers stick to pet names and email ids that have personality projections in them. I can take the pet name but the email addresses make me want to never write to them, even though I love them.

For example, my 15 year-old cousin calls herself Joanna Janet in places such as Facebook and email. Or some really odd thing like that. It fits her personality perfectly because she’s growing up on High School Musical and Hannah Montana, so her exposure is very obviously Western. I’d have given her an award if she had nicknamed herself Subbulakshmi or Kartiyayani. I totally get her because she is 15.

But I recently ran into a few email addresses that made me realise that I spend far too much time thinking about things that I have no business thinking about. Mosquitoes, world peace and whether global warming is just someone’s idea of a joke, for example. I should be thinking about not spending my money so fast that my kids will grow up believing education is for duds and Pink Floyd rocks. I should be thinking about more alternatives for five minutes of peace  than the empty interiors of a parked car. (I swear I did that today. My family trooped out and went home, I just lay in the back seat savouring the closed space, the quiet and the time to actually hear myself think.) I should basically be thinking about more useful things than why a grown person has an email id that says

Yes, yes, call me judgemental but I think after you’ve crossed 23, you should just have an email id that states your name and get on with life. I realise you might want to or have to throw in an underscore or a dot somewhere and I am mildly tolerant on that front. But I just cannot forgive a 34 year old whose email id is

But wow, how I’ve digressed.

Recently, a friend brought it up when I was referring to someone, that I could use that someone’s pet name. I know I could but an anglicised little name doesn’t have half the charm of a beautiful full name, in this case a Sanskrit one. And all the meaning that is held in the womb of that name is lost when I shorten it. I’d much rather be uncool than called a Pratyusha a Prat or a Ragini a Rags.

And as for me, for as long as I can remember, friends and family have called me pet names. One in particular. Anglicised, shorter and somewhat bimboesque but that’s what I am for most my college and school mates, and definitely all of my family. Except my husband. Who has a totally different endearment for me. Something that I hold dear to my heart but something that also makes me laugh because it points to a couple things.
1) The age gap between him and me.
2) The very Malayalee in us.

Of course, when I am in the dog house I get called my full name (ouch) or when I am being introduced to someone. It’s the strangest feeling ever. Sometimes when we are out together and he’s opening doors for, showing me off and generally being the charmer he is, he tends to call me my name and I don’t know then, whether to kiss him or laugh at the awkwardness of it.  Mostly because I insist I get called my beautiful, thoughtout, meaningful Sanskrit name but then feel suddenly very unloved when I get called it in full.
It leads me to think that maybe it is habit that we respond to and not our name. Inflections, tone, length of name is what we respond to. For example, a simple enough name is so different when spoken during roll call in school, at an introduction or in bed. The word is the same but the emotions they arouse in us — from an indifferent “Present” to a thrill running up your spine.

So when Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name”, I honestly think he was smoking some rotten stuff and had totally lost the plot. My other theory is that he called his wife by his girlfriend’s name and she gave him pure hell.

I am a feminist

A school mate of mine, who I think I’d like to be friends with now, told me on phone recently that she has been a stay-at-home mum for about four years now, since her daughter was born. This girl, as I remember her from school, was bright, sociable, dedicated, focused, had an excellent work-ethic and hovered somewhere at the top of our class. I think she had ambitions to do something in the sciences, or perhaps it was engineering, I can’t be sure now.

I recently spoke to her again and was very pleasantly surprised that she chose a more evolved stream and did her BA in English Literature. Moreover, after having worked in a bank here in Oman for a bit, she married, settled down and is now a very happy mother to a four-year old. The thing that struck me in the conversation was her saying, “You know,  I am not a very career-minded person at all.”

For me, that was surprising, because I know very few women of my generation who are not career minded. We were all raised on the ethic that we needed to conquer the world, we needed to stand on our own feet so that we could be who we wanted, so that we could make our parents proud, so that we could go live the life our mothers dreamed of. We were also raised on stories of women facing every kind of degradation in history.

Very often, without our realising, our self-esteem, sense of self-worth and indeed, the very idea of our Self was deeply tied together with having a career. And in second-generation working women, like me, it wasn’t enough if you were in one of the “easier” fields: beauty, teaching, clothes, if you hadn’t the smarts to become a doctor or an engineer. Somewhere along, we got the message that we had to go do the “tougher” things. I put easier and tougher in quotes because the jobs listed next to them, aren’t my definitions of those words. I don’t see what is tough about sitting in an air-conditioned office and doing a 350-word story on summer trends for glasses. You’re still a journalist but not doing a tough job. Similarly, I don’t see what is easy about being on your feet all day making other women beautiful; bending over to thread women’s eyebrows or waxing their armpits or massaging their pedicured feet. Beauty, you will agree, is not easy.

But coming back to my point, for most my generation of women it is very clear that the option of staying home was almost not there, unless you absolutely couldn’t help it. But this girl, who grew up in a single-income household, is very happy with her status. And while there’s only a hint of apology when she talks to someone like me who has a career (somewhat), she’s quite comfortable with the fact that her daughter, her family come first.

For a few days, I have been thinking about feminism. For some years now, I have been hearing women say, quickly and defensively, when they tend to speak up for women and their rights, that they are not feminists. And I’ve wondered why.

I’ve seen men say it derisively of a woman, that she is a feminist. I, on the other hand, proudly say I am a feminist. I speak up for myself, I speak up for my sisters, I speak up. I love being a woman, I really like men and I love my career as well as my kids. I strive hard to make my parents proud (whether they see it or think otherwise), I love finding out new things about me and just because I play other roles like daughter, wife, sister, mum, friend, and everything else, I am NO less myself. In fact, all these roles just add to my personality. So what exactly am I missing when people run away from the F word?

Thanks to the feminist movements, Men, your mothers, wives, sisters and daughters can vote, can inherit property and are considered citizens of a country. Thanks to feminism, there are laws where rape, molestation, sexual harassment at work are all punishable. Thanks to feminism, girls have a right to education just as much as boys do.

And women, exactly what makes you say, “Hey, I am no feminist but I really think women should…”? Even if you aren’t a feminist in the strict sense of the word, why do you have a problem with being labelled as one? Is it because you, like me, love pretty lingerie and are not willing to give it up? Is it because you think ‘feminist’ automatically means you need to call men words that a sailor would blush at? Maybe these questions are simplistic, but I am just trying to understand why you don’t like being called a feminist.

Because you know, us feminists, don’t burn bras anymore. We even get married (to men) and have children. Why, we go as far as telling people that we love being a woman and for us many times feminism means that I get to stay at home and there’s no pressure on me to earn for the family, most of the time.

Honestly, that is what feminism means to me today. One of my favourite writers (as she is with many women I know) Alice Walker has a beautiful word for it Womanism. For me, being a woman, being a feminist means now that I have most my rights in place — voting, education, property, the right to choose my last name, the right to be safe (?) apart from others — I have the right to choose. I have the right to choose whether I want to go to work and make a career, or I want to stay at home and revel in domesticity. Feminism, for me, means the freedom to choose the latter and not feel like I’ve betrayed my education and my talent by choosing  to stay at home and considering a family more important.

Feminism to me means having the choice to go to work even though I have children and coming back feeling good that I spent a productive day work while looking forward to time with the kids. It means not feeling guilty that I spent time away from them. Feminism means to be able to my buy my own car or designer handbag. It also means to have the grace to say ‘thank you’ if a man offered to buy either, once in a while.

Feminism means feeling comfortable to say that I asked my husband out; that I like to cook (I don’t; just an example) or crochet (which I like) or sew or bake without feeling like if I say it, people will think of me as domesticated, as a “typical” girl. It means feeling comfortable to say I love cars, gadgets and women without being thought of as a tomboy, or worse, a wannabe tomboy. Feminism means not thinking it’s a great thing if you own best bud is a man — it doesn’t make you any different from a woman who’s best friend is a girl. In my opinion you should have one of both.

What does feminism mean to you?

30 and counting

What do I like about having turned 30?

I like that I have mellowed in all the right places. I am still impulsive and I still am careless about who I make friends with. But I am also careful about judging someone. I am slower to judge, but not as slow as I’d like to be.

Increased libido and opening up of sexual worlds. It helps that there’s a husband on the scene to oblige.
You still look like you are in your mid or early 20s — if you are south indian, that is. If you are a washed-out, cranky, whiney north indian then you lost the looking young battle when you were 21. Yes, I am bigot. So people look at you and say whoa! 30, you don’t look it. (What the hell is 30 supposed to look like anyway?)

Add to that two kids and a reasonably well-kept exterior, I am always surprising people. 🙂

I am taken seriously at work even though I wear dresses that end above my knee and moderately plunging necklines because, come on she’s 30 right? She should know what she’s doing. Muahahahah yeah, right!

I can legitimately go for facials and not pretend that my skin is nature’s gift because I washed delinquent doggies last birth, free of charge. It’s a whole different thing that the very two kids who make me look good also come in the way of my trip to the salon.
I like saying thirty.


It’s the most fascinating thing for me to catch snatches of conversation that’s constantly happening all around me.
“She’s a completely heartless woman.”
“I am sorry to call you at this time but…”
“Where’s the pregnancy case?”

I am never interested in the whole conversation. Well, almost never. But these snatches, the emotion that fills the voice, sometimes the way the line just hangs in the air — either because there’s no reply or because suddenly the sound level around has dropped or because the speaker decided to talk louder than the rest — are all individual worlds for me.
The voids are all festering planets on their own.
There’s venom, there’s pain, passion, boredom, lies, excitement, defeat — so much in these voices around me and I wonder what their lives are like.
They can’t be very different from mine.
Which brings me to another kind of revelation. Of late, I’ve started realising that, essentially, all human beings are the same. Whether they’re xenophobic or old or speak another language or follow a guru who asks them to marry a Siberian who doesn’t have any English — we are all the same.
It reminds of that ironic statement I’ve often heard pepper-uppers use — “Don’t feel bad. You’re unique. Everyone’s unique.” It used to make me cringe when others had the same things as I did — dimples, balls, spine, individualism, clothes, hair, accessories. (That was before I realised I wear them much better than they do :D!) But as I grow, I realise it’s alright. Everything is. But even now I won’t buy anything I see with someone else, unless I make a great effort and actually need it.


Office party last night.
I didn’t go. I know I sound classist as hell. I couldn’t go because I’ve suddenly become aware of the PLT and PLU separation in my head. I mean, getting drunk, throwing up, groping girls who repeatedly ask you to stay away is not my idea of a good time.
And a brawl makes it just worse.

Last night I was worried if they’d think that I thought too much of myself to associate with them — this morning I am not worried. I’d rather they think I thought the world of myself than talk to anyone who pretends to be smashed and hits other people. And oh, it helps that they think I am a floozy 🙂 That’s always a good thing.


I realised many times hating the place one works in is not a symptom of the job being less than enjoyable. It’s usually a symptom of being disturbed about the place you are in life.

And many times, my own troubles seem miniscule when I see how much trouble people like Demi Moore are having. Poor cow, she’s spent more than Rs 2 crore on her body and no one but Ashton Kutcher wants her for anything! Tch.


I keep wondering about people.
I keep wondering what motivates them to do the things they do or don’t do.

Sometimes, I just sit there and look around me and it amazes me that I understand even one percent of what I am made of.

I wonder what this woman was thinking. Or going through.
Or the man in question.
And why hasn’t he filed a complaint?
It made me sad to read it.

And then I read something else and I was just wondering what the difference between both the women was. And if there was a difference. Also do I have both of those women in me?

Just wondering.

Chanced upon this old favourite of mine.



I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

— Emily Dickinson.

The rest of the collection, if you are interested, is here.