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If I could direct a short film, I will base it on  the theme ‘Respect.’  In the Canterbury tales, in her answer to what a woman truly wants, the old crone says, ‘autonomy over her life’. That is the version which has come to my notice anyway. To put it simply, ‘Respect.’

Going by my own life lessons, that was the toughest examination question that life posed: ‘how long will you stay without respect?’ It happened many times- in both personal and professional relations. Every time, the litmus test was the same.

Every time I made the fundamental mistake of being naive and expecting that the world was full of respectful people. So from one situation to another, I would march right on, without ever pausing to check the environment first: the subtle learning forgotten-‘find out what you are getting into.’

Why the Universe  had to expose me to the same  lesson multiple times has become clear to me by now. I was the  quintessential poor student, who kept failing every time and the Universe had no option but to force me to retake the examination many  more times: in different circumstances, with different characters playing in the scenes, but with one underlying core test.

‘Can you understand why you are in the midst of this drama?’

Now after a series of failures, I am confident to state the answer .

‘I know, sir! Oh, yes. Because I was dumb enough to not check the waters first. There is no respect anywhere in the treacherous vicinity, M’Lord! And every second I stay, my lifeblood will be sucked out by the negativity and pettiness. I shall now check carefully the environments where I invest my life and time and never compromise on my self respect.’

And thus I take up my pen . To write a note for those who might benefit from my mistakes.

Cardinal Rules of Life:

1. There is no love or growth without respect. It can be anything else, but disabuse yourself of the falsehood that love or growth thrives without respect. It does not.

2 . If someone gets a kick out of seeing you play small, making you look small, ensuring you stay small, either get ready to be a bonsai or step away. To grow into what you were meant to be.

3.  If you have tasted gutter water all your life- metaphorically speaking- you will find ‘respect’ a strange sort of drink at first! But get used to this heartening elixir, and you find yourself strong and alive again. For that, pick work, friends, and environments carefully. Else that old addiction to gutter water can take over and you will again find yourself in circumstances where respect is a word that is banned.

4. Nothing matters except your dignity. No one has the right to humiliate you or degrade you. No hidden agendas are powerful enough to hurt you; if you can see through the elaborate set up. The game of thrones is always at play in the friendly neighbourhood of one’s own life; but a wariness about the intentions of the other  actors might make you less vulnerable to hurt. You can step away, detached.

5. Be graceful as you step away from abusive environments. But listen!If needed, fight hard . If someone reads your quietness as weakness, and tries to harass you, do not hesitate before taking action. File a complaint.  Have your lawyer’s number on your speed dial.

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All life’s lessons are totally my own. No disclaimer.