Kanan Tandi on Body Language, Intelligence
and Sexual Abuse
Iris C F Gomes
Incredibly confident and lighthearted in her manner, Kanan Tandi is an advocate of understanding people through their body language and, very significantly, detecting and appreciating different types of intelligence. She posits her own case where she began with the sciences, although she despised mathematics, and switched to the arts and humanities for her undergraduate degree. She says, ‘Because I wasn’t good at maths, I was told I was dumb.’ Earlier, mathematics held her back, but as an arts student she was able to fulfil her potential in history by earning a 2nd rank at the Utkal University BA examinations. This impressed Kanan’s father to such an extent that he shipped her off to Delhi to prepare for the IAS examination.
Delhi had different plans for Kanan as she wandered into radio jockeying but had to give it up owing to lack of funds. She began dabbling in tarot card reading and numerology. Her tarot mentor piqued her interest in body language as she was guided to adjust her readings to the body language of the client. Other reasons for her attraction to the study of body language were her need to understand the breakdown of relationships and friendships that she had experienced; and the television crime serial Lie to Me. She went on to do courses in handwriting analysis and personality development.
Finally Kanan headed back to university and joined Symbiosis in Pune to pursue Communication Management, an advertising degree course. Here she had to learn about consumer behaviour, which made the comprehension of nonverbal communication essential, as in the effect of colour schemes, where a product is placed, the design of a product, etc. Her internship brought the realisation that advertising was not the field she wanted to adopt as a career. Thereafter she began freelancing as a trainer in body language. She went on to do several courses to delve deeper into reading the gestures and expressions of individuals and to have proof that would convince people of her capability. She has done an online course with the Centre for Body Language in Belgium. She has also done courses with Body Language Learning (UK) and Science of People (USA) and others. She plans to keep herself up to date with any new findings or information.
Today Kanan has an organisation under the banner of Body Speaks Better in Margao, Goa and she delivers training in lie detection, soft skills and behaviour skills, personality grooming, networking skills, female power dynamics, emotional intelligence, etc. She conducts workshops for colleges, schools, and corporates houses.
Coming back to intelligence, Kanan says there are eight types of intelligence which include bodily kinaesthetic intelligence with good brain-body coordination (dancers, athletes, etc), and interpersonal intelligence with good verbal and social skills. People with interpersonal skills, if they have stable emotions, will make good counsellors and psychologists. Similarly, not everybody possesses interpersonal skills, yet parents and teachers try to pressurise children to participate in activities that utilise these skills. These same children could be adept at logical thinking or at art. Nonetheless the Indian educational system is bent on prioritising mainstream subjects, especially science and mathematics. Areas such as art, literature, music, dance, sports, etc, are looked down on and discouraged as not being lucrative as professions. ‘I go to government schools and give talks to the students. I tell them that if they are failing maths then it is perfectly fine. If they are failing and thinking of committing suicide, I tell them to call me. If they want to leave home then they can come and stay with me, no problem. It is still better than a person committing suicide,’ says Kanan.
One of the other problems Kanan counters in remote government schools is bully and teasing on the basis of a child having darker skin tone, coming from a scheduled caste, a scheduled tribe, or an economically backward community. Kanan says, ‘I tell the students that where they come from shouldn’t reflect their identity.' Students are advised to encourage those with problems instead of ridiculing them. For example, someone with a speech disorder will never grow out of his problem if he is derided. Kanan reminds them that their actions have consequences not just on others but on themselves too. She bolsters them to see themselves as brand ambassadors for their schools, and in doing so their schools will stand out as examples of good student behaviour. ‘I believe that delivering this sort of value training during the ages of 12 to 15 will prove very beneficial to students,’ she says.
At an engineering college, Kanan has spoken to the female students on the topic of gender equality, asking them to open their own doors and hold their own bags. If they desire respect from the men and truly want to enforce the idea of equality then they should not let men do things for them. The male students were warned that they should call a girl by her first name rather than with the title of ‘Miss’, and that they should not treat her like a princess. The girls were advised to refrain from addressing men as ‘uncle’ or ‘bhaiyya’. The individual should be referred to as Mr XYZ or, in Hindi, XYZji. 'We should not form relationships everywhere we go,’ she says laughingly.
Now intent on working with homemakers, Kanan believes it is essential but difficult to reach out to these women who are dissatisfied with their life at home. There is a disconnection in communication between husband and wife. Women feel their husbands do not pay attention to what they say while the husbands talk about being put off by their spouses smelling of spices from being in the kitchen and moving around in the house in their nightgowns. Kanan wants homemakers or housewives to take pride in their work. She says most women are embarrassed to admit that they are housewives, believing this to be a belittling position as opposed to the ‘grand status’ of a professional career.
Another workshop in the pipeline is one for transgender people because of the ostracisation they face from society. Many are beaten and abused emotionally and sexually, and no justice is delivered to them. She hopes to make a difference in their lives by giving them survival tools.
Kanan discusses sexual abuse and prevention at different age levels. Young children are usually the most aware that something is wrong when sexual abuse takes place even if they cannot name it. Parents should build a strong rapport with their children that will encourage the children to confide in them. Apart from this, sex education is important whether at school or at home. Children should not be misled or learn through misinformation provided by friends, pornographic material or through first-hand experience. The topic of sex being taboo in India proves a great hindrance in permitting candid conversations between parents and children.
Of all sexual abusers, about 2-3% are unknown to the victim. Sexual predators are extremely cunning and look out for vulnerabilities in children. Lack of sex education is one of them. Factors such as age, confidence levels and social circles play a role too in the abusers targeting a particular child. They use emotional tricks and coercion by telling the child that he or she is enjoying the sexual act because the child is aroused. Arousal can be involuntary and is a natural process, not necessarily dependent on the victim’s willingness to participate in the sexual act, and is definitely not indicative of consent. A troubled child will most likely be led into a sexual abuse situation by the abuser pretending to offer emotional support and later grooming the child for the abuse. Children need a clear definition of abuse such as being told about certain parts of the body that should not be touched by other people and that people undressing themselves in front of them or showing them pornography is wrong.
Angst ridden teenagers make ideal victims with their inflated sense of being in the right and their identity crisis and abusers usually tend to isolate them from friends and family. Adult victims of sexual abuse or harassment are those who are blackmailed and threatened with loss of jobs, career opportunities, disclosure of secrets (love affairs, etc) and so on.
People have a myopic view of body language, regardless of the fact that it includes the study of gestures, postures, facial expressions, micro-expressions, tone of voice and more. For example a limp handshake indicates a weak personality. A limp handshake with the person refusing to make eye contact shows disinterest or reluctance to form an acquaintance. Plus, different combinations of these various parts of body language could mean something completely distinct. Areas like lie detection are not perceived as significant training topics in Goa despite their invaluable function in the defence and security forces and in the corporate world. Kanan admits that, though once at her workshops people are captivated by the knowledge she has to offer, the workshops are few and far between because people do not value what they cannot appreciate. She has had to conduct personality development and spoken language classes to keep herself afloat.
Nevertheless, Kanan does not allow the narrow minded thinking to get her down. She has begun conducting counselling sessions and plans to enrol herself in a course that will add credibility to her efforts. She talks about masked counselling where clients can wear a mask and reveal no information about their name, address, etc. Feeling protected by this shield, they will able to open up easily without holding back.