Relationships: Advice with a South Asian Perspective

happy ending

Masalamommas introduces a monthly feature offering advice on love and life in the twenty-first century.


In her first column, Sharadha Bain explains how problems in our life can be doorways to growth.

**Please note: Sharadha’s column is based solely on her opinion based on her experiences and is to be used for informational purposes only.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

– Albert Einstein

Sharadha Bain, Columnist

Sharadha Bain, Columnist

Problems in life come in all shapes and sizes, just as human beings do. They arise from crises such as illness or death of a loved one, a marriage going wrong or the loss of a job. Differences with family or friends churn up hurt and anger. And at times, we all struggle with loneliness or feelings of failure.  Of one thing we can be certain: there is no such thing as an inconsequential problem.

When a situation has moved up in our mind from the category of a minor irritant to a problem, it weighs upon us, bringing painful thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes, to an onlooker, it can appear that the struggle of the person is exaggerated or unnecessary. Sometimes, we chide ourselves the same way: “I shouldn’t feel like I do. What is wrong with me?”

However, when we are in the thick of a difficulty, it is all-too real and certainly of consequence.

Recurring problems are especially painful. Patterns of rejection or betrayal, jobs or relationships that begin well but end in tears, the familiar argument over and over again with a spouse – these can leave us feeling as though something right at the heart of our life is broken.

One of the most important insights of psychotherapy is that we all rely on strategies that were successful in childhood, but have limited efficacy in dealing with the complexities of adult life.

Here are some examples:

* Staying busy and preoccupied to minimise intimacy

* People-pleasing to avoid conflict

* Or, fleeing a job or any other commitment at the first sign of trouble.

Clinging to childhood strategies creates many of our difficulties, particularly those that are recurring patterns.  The fortunate among us have a wise friend or family member who will draw our attention to our blind spots and help us develop new ways of responding to life.

However, often, our allies can be well-meaning but also limited in what they have to offer – either because they are too close to us and invested in a certain outcome, or because their own growth has only gone so far. A neutral perspective can be invaluable at such times.


Hence the remarkable popularity of advice columns.  Tens of millions of men and women write to what are known universally and amusingly as “agony aunts,” empathetic providers of guidance who are usually well-qualified to give it – from therapists like myself, to writers who have been through the wringer and emerged with greater clarity and wisdom.

The first advice columns appeared in the 1700s in publications such as ‘The Lady’s Monthly Museum’ and ‘The Athenian Mercury’ in England. Questions about unrequited love and social etiquette were standard fare.  In the twentieth century, Miss Manners, Dear Abby and Ann Landers achieved near cult status, their columns eagerly awaited by devoted readers. This was also the era of Dr Ruth, the original sexpert, soothing the anxieties of premature ejaculation.

Today, some of the most prestigious newspapers in the world, among them the Washington Post and Britain’s Daily Telegraph have well-read advice columns. And now Masalamommas!


For over 20 years, I have helped people from myriad life situations recognise self-limiting beliefs and behaviours and shift to new ways of thinking and relating.  Drawing on the insights of psychodynamics and the world’s spiritual traditions, I support people in using the difficulties in their lives as doorways for growth and transformation.

“Everything happens for a reason.” “It is an opportunity, not a crisis.” These truths can become hollow platitudes unless we know how to mine the suffering in our life for the gold it contains.

As Masalamommas’s advice columnist, this is what I hope to help readers with.

photo credit: Sheryl Parbhoo

photo credit: Sheryl Parbhoo

Be it love, sex, money, family dynamics or anything else – all our problems are the call of life, the greatest of teachers, inviting us to grow into our fullness.  So if something is troubling you, please write to me. Perhaps, together, we can learn how to create joy and fulfillment; we can help each other be wiser and more open-hearted.

I will be answering two letters each month. Real names will not be published.

Write to:

I look forward to your questions.


About the Author

Sharadha Bain has helped people for more than 20 years drawing on a combination of healing and psychodynamics. To find out more, visit

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