Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What Would You Do?

(Photo Credit)

Some things set you thinking.

It was a usual weekday. My spouse stepped out of his office to grab a bite. As he was finishing his samosa standing outside the snack center, a couple approached him. The man explained his situation - his wife had a brain surgery in the recent past because of a tumour and he was back with her for a follow up. The person who was supposed to meet them with the money for the same did not turn up (Or I think the lost the scrap of paper with his details on it - I'm recalling this as the husband narrated) And hence they had no money for the check up which was important. I know - the first thought that comes to mind is, "Bullshit! There are dime a dozen such people out there to dupe you. It's just a ploy to relieve you of the contents of your wallet! Who believes them!!" My man thought the same too. So he started asking for details. This guy had hospital reports and other papers to prove the veracity of his claim. When the spouse still looked suspicious, apparently, the man started weeping and said they did not even have a place to sleep that night (it was already 9pm) And without any money they couldn't go to the doctor either for his wife's follow up.

What would you do in this situation?

We came back from our weekend dinner last night and found a person sitting on the pavement amidst some plastic garbage that seemed to need sorting. (I said person because we couldn't make out the gender. Seemed like a man with track pants and T shirt) As we parked and got out of the car, he (let's stick to male) stood up and gestured that he wanted food. Usually, we'd have some leftovers packed but we did not have any last night. The spouse started asking him questions about his house, job etc. He seemed to be a bit unstable mentally and we got garbled responses with different cities mentioned each time he tried to explain. One thing was clear - he was hungry and said he could buy food if we gave him money. The spouse told him to not spend the night on the pavement but try and get back to his home town (whichever that was)

Would you give him the money he asked for food?

Such situations leave me (and the spouse) quite pensive, wondering about the truth of these stories. And about the pathetic state of these people. Should we help such people or just shoo them away? Are we fooled if we choose to help them? We don't know. Would be it right to cast all such people in the same mould of deception and refuse money? We don't know that either. But giving them the benefit of the doubt, how helpless would a man be approach a stranger on the street and plead for money to save his wife? (I also wonder how he must have managed the cost of the surgery even given the penurious state) Would it be so bad to spare a little of what we have so that someone can eat a decent dinner before he'd find whatever comfort sleeping on the pavement? Lots of questions and no correct answers, I guess.

This is what we did: Gave money. Both times. Bear with me for a minute and I'll explain. My spouse, who is usually low on cash, thankfully had sufficient on him that night. It'd cover the doc's fees, a couple of meals and train tickets back to Nasik from where the couple said they were. (They said they'd manage sleeping at the hospital) And I say thankfully because it would be awful not to help them properly and treat them as beggars. The man on the pavement also got enough for 2 meals and probably a train ticket squeezed in. (I guess, I am not sure).

So are we world class fools who are stupid enough to get duped every time? Well!

His logic: If we can't share what we have with at least one person in duress, what's the point of being blessed! We take so many things for granted. And people on the street remind us that basic things like food and home could be a luxury some people cant afford. And when we come across someone so much in need, it is better to help them directly than give away to richer charities.

My logic: We are morally on strong grounds and our intentions were to purely help such people. In case they lie and cheat to extort money, Karma should take care of it. We keep our conscience clear and move on.

The spouse was a little skeptical the night of his encounter with the hospital couple. Since it was a sizeable amount, I think anyone would wonder if it was right to lend it. I have always supported him for my reasons I mentioned above. We may be fooled at times but we have also had people ask us money to buy food and bought it right there using the money. Other times, we don't know what happened. But I guess there's balance restored in some way.

I'd really like to know what's your take and what you'd do in such situations?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fighting Gender Stereotypes: Is It Possible?

The male nanny in FRIENDS is such an aberration! (Photo credit)

When Ross and Rachel hired a male nanny, everyone is shocked at the idea! It is so hard for the group to believe that a man would want to take care of babies out of choice. The men keep wondering - it's like a woman wanting to be.... - and the women, challenging - yes, what's the end of that sentence? The debate ends only with Joey's "a penis model". Although the awkwardness doesn't. Sandy - the male nanny - knits, plays an instrument and more importantly, isn't scared to let his feminine side show with free flowing tears. For a sitcom set in times when they are okay with even same sex relations, gender stereotypes still seemed to be deeply rooted.

No matter which culture we belong to, we are hard wired to believe that everything is gendered. Come to think of it, what befits a boy or a girl is decided right when the baby is born. I am guilty of never buying my nieces a car and always look for dolls and pink thinks! There are clothes for boys and girls and toys for boys and girls. And then when children play house, it's the girl who stays home to cook and the boy goes out for some kind of work. Reverse the role and have the boy make make-believe tea and that'll be insulting - that's a girly thing to do! "Are you a girl?" - is the rhetorical question the little boy is asked. (Although the kiddo might have no clue what the fuss is about) Because girls take care of home and boys go out in the world and earn.

The gender debate is more relevant in todays times when we are putting them on the spot and examining their validity more closely. There is so much talk on social media and elsewhere about how the new generation of boys need to be brought up with gender sensitivity. Crime against women is a huge issue we wish to tackle through well raised boys. We want to teach them that girls can have the freedom of movement as boys do irrespective of time of the day or night. Girls are out there asserting themselves and the boys need to play catch. While those lofty goals are great in the larger picture, I think it’s the individuals who’ll make a bigger difference. And a great step towards that is how we have become more aware of mindsets that are coloured with gender bias. This awareness is the key to changing them. Although many of them show we have a long long way to go before our world becomes truly gender neutral.

I was recently sitting with some people and one of them said that his colleague carries a tube of hand cream so that his hands stay soft in winters. And he found this very weird because it’s women who have soft hands while callused, rough hands are manly! I don’t think I would have paid attention to something like this a few years ago. But now the first thought that strikes me is how gender has nothing to do with soft hands! The skin of a person is just that and needs care in winters.

While we are trying to work on changing gender stereotypes in our heads, instances like the above point out to how deeply ingrained they are in our minds. Something as simple as a hand cream has gender implications!

Like I said, we have become more aware of gendered mindsets now. I was raised in a family where I don’t remember my dad ever being in the kitchen. And now I am married to a man who’s culinary adventures are limited largely to a biannual event of spreading dosa batter on the pan proudly displaying the result on a plate! (Below) Cooking, in my head, is mainly a woman’s job! (Yes, I am a work in progress too!) Sunday chefs I know of - men who cook a special dish once a week! But its hard to believe that a man might take care of an entire dept of running a household!



And it was eye opening to get to know such men who can manage the entire show independently and rustle up proper meals!! Such men amaze and surprise me. I still sometimes find it hard to wrap my head around a friend who cooks as an everyday chore. He plans the menu for the week, shops for groceries and is completely in charge of what happens in the kitchen!!

Another heartening instance is of a stay at home dad who does exactly what people would call a woman’s job - running the household, taking care of his kid while his wife has a full time job. He’s the odd one out when mommies take kids to play in the park but that hasn’t deterred him from wearing his #SAHD status on his sleeve. And I think this is such a huge dent in the stereotypes we propagate.

I am thrilled to personally know these people and applaud them for what they do. We still haven’t changed as a society. But these men have thrown all gendered caution to the winds and have done exactly what suits them. And that, I think, is a great thing in creating a gender neutral world.

Although some examples have made long strides in the positive direction, are we ready to change with these change makers. How easy is it for us to dissociate ourselves with what we call girly and think of it as gender neutral? And I question this based on something that actually happened. If you ask me, this friend who cooks everyday is setting a great positive example for his son. But when the kid wrote an essay on what his dad does around the house and mentioned that his dad cooks, the teacher made him erase that information from the essay. I am not sure if Dads are still supposed to sip tea and read a newspaper around the house. Teachers are a very important influence in our lives. And I shudder to think of many many more such teachers who still tell their students that girls cook and boys, and by extension dads, don’t. That girls are docile and boy don’t cry.

Just I was about to finish this post, the same friend pointed out the most atrocious thing related to this topic. Needlessly gendered is what I'd call it. And I think it is so wrong at so many levels, reinforcing exactly what we are trying hard not to! Silly toys for boys and girls even though either gender could play with a bike!



And that is why I said that before making any changes in the outside world, we need to change from within. Challenge the notion that soft hands are feminine and callused hands are manly. There are tons of such things that I hear often:

Women cant drive
Women don’t build muscles
Men can park well
Women can’t park well
Women don’t understand finances/investment
Men are tech geeks
Women don’t drink whisky
Husbands are better decision makers
Boys don’t cry
Girls cant fix leaking taps

The change has to start from within. If we are serious about creating a gender neutral world, there are a few things which we must do:

- Stop saying its girly/not for boys and vice versa. Let games, toys and clothes be just that

- Set the right example as parents. We pick up our first cues about the how the world works right at home. I learnt men don’t cook because my father never did. What messages are you sending to your kids about gender roles at home?

- Challenge the teachers at school if they are set the wrong example. I can’t even begin to emphasize how important teachers are in shaping our world view.

- Get out of the blue and pink mindset

- Stop telling women to watch what they wear. Teach boys to look beyond a woman’s clothes and look at her as a person she is.

 - Think of boys AND girls being out at any time as normal. Let the boys know that as people, everyone has the freedom of movement.

- A woman covering her body or the lack of it doesn’t define her. So stop judging her

- Stop accepting any reason as valid to bring a woman down - her dress, the time of the night she was out, her inebriated state. Its okay for men to be out and drunk at 2 am. Why not women!

If men can be perpetrators, they can be equal partners in fostering equality too. Change the notion that a man encountered on the street is definitely going to be a perpetrator. He can also be someone who responsibly ensures the woman gets home safely. How we achieve this seemingly impossible change is up to us - maybe, one tiny step at a time. We need to take off our gendered glasses and get a fresh perspective on things. It is great to see campaigns against notions like boys don't cry and lets hope that there will be a world where girls will be kings and boys can be nannies! No eye brows raised! :)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Chuck Those New Year Resolutions!

Break your new year resolutions! (Photo credit)
Now that you have spent almost the whole first day of the year, I guess you realised that it was pretty much like every other day. I bet you did not even make it to the gym. What did you say...you'll start from tomorrow? Well, let me tell you that if you expect to hit the gym consistently thrice a week, stick to your diet all year, be well organised, give up negativity and become all positive - it is not going to happen as perfectly from today as you imagined. You aren't going to be the perfect version of yourself just because it's the new year. Why, you ask? The year changed, not us. And although we imagine that we are going to turn a new leaf all of a sudden, the goals we strive to achieve in the new year are going to be one step at a time. 

We all want to be the best and every new year gives us a hope that we will be. While chasing perfection is an ongoing thing, I think the new year can be a great time to do so many exciting things - other than, of course, worry about how imperfect we are. Some of the things I can think of are: 

Start with a brand new DP on all your profiles
Try a new hairstyle 
Change the way you dress for something you haven't tried before
Combine the clothes you have in a different way 
Workout with new people
Try heels if you wear flats 
Get adventurous and travel alone 
Say hello to the guy you see working in the cafe all the time (I did)

The year changed overnight. We didn't. We won't. So don't bend yourself out of shape hoping you'll wake up tomorrow in an ideal state through the magic of the new year. Pick your goals wisely and work on them gradually. 

So what are your new year goals? Resolutions break, so why make them! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What Are Your New Year Resolutions?

What are your new year resolutions? (Photo credit)
As is the tradition, this time of the year we look back and reminisce and also get all futuristic and start making resolutions. And when I got to thinking about my plans or resolutions for next year - I like to call them goals - I found myself wondering how irrelevant our usual goals are. Work out regularly, get better at time management, finish that MBA, lose weight and get back into shape, get more business, be a better person. Do we change as people? Do we really address things that really matter and make the world a better place to live in? Just some random thoughts that came to my mind - this new year, how about:

a little less take and a little more give

a little less outrage and a little more calm

a little less worry about the world and a little more be yourself

a little less judgement and a little more understanding

a little more empathy and a little less apathy

a little less screen time and a little more people time

I know this isn't a long laundry list of life altering resolutions but I think they will need some good amount of work to accomplish. A worthwhile goal for the new year.

So what are your resolutions? Although, it is perfectly fine if you think like Calvin too! :)

(Photo credit)



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Flashback 2016: Glimpses Of Books Read

What's on you reading list this year?
Yet another year is about to end and we are all taking stock of the good and the bad. And for avid readers like me, looking back on the good and bad books read is like a ritual, almost. So I was looking at my list and saw a fair mix of fiction and non fiction, work and non work books. Going nuts during the Amazon sale in August is also becoming a kinda tradition with me. I bought quite a few this year which also led to raised anxiety levels about finding the time to actually read them. I also realized that most books were work related nothing light and entertaining. I also tried out a subscription of Kindle Unlimited this year. And that became the source of my fiction/light reading. Although I was quite impressed when I decided to subscribe, but 11 months later, not so much. There are thousands of free books but not many that I’d like to read. Good authors and work related books that I’d want aren’t, obviously, on the free list. In fact, I ended up with a few stinkers which is just a waste of time and I could have used that to use more useful time. 

Anyways, here is a general trail of my reading list. Feel free to borrow some titles for your 2017 reading list.

Sophie Kinsella: I re-read some books this year since its nice to ease into the comfort of familiarity. And Sophie Kinsella is an all time comfort read for me. All her books have a unique flavour starting from the famed Shopaholic series. I read her last book, Shopoholic to the stars last year and bought the sequel, Shopoholic to the Rescue and finished reading it this year. One of the few authors I have read most of the books of. Waiting for her next release in 2017. 

Ruskin Bond: One good thing that Kindle Unlimited brought me was the discovery of Ruskin Bond books. No, I wasn’t unaware of this author but I hadn’t really read his books (Yes, we all have famous authors we haven’t yet read. So don’t give me that look!) I got hooked on to it and read quite a few of his books. Not only are the books great but one also falls in love with the endearing author. Potpourri, The Blue Umbrella, School Days, Falling in love again, When the Tiger was King - novels and short stories, both genres are a delight to read. 

Chitra Divakaruni: Who can resist the allure of her books after reading the Mistress of Spices! The magic she weaves with her words and plots makes you want to read more. So when Before We Visit The Goddess was released, I promptly bought and sunk into it. And it did not disappoint. 


A must read by Chitra Divakaruni (Photo credit)
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh: A special mention for this book since this was definitely the most riveting fiction I read this year. A gripping book about an accident which keeps you hooked till the end. And despite the grip of the plot, you will wonder how you reached where you are in the book! Go figure! :)

I also read a lot of work related books. On time management, coaching practices and towards the end of the year, a some books on speaking skills - in preparation for some modules I am going to launch in 2017. 

I also landed some stinkers - the ones you can add to your not-to-read list of books. Unladylike, the memoir of and by Radhika Vaz tops my list. To me, reading about someone’s life is worth it when it’s enlightening or up lifting. Or at least when one can identify with the struggles of the author. This book has no such quality. And if Ms. Vaz's  sense of humour is anything like the one in her book, I’m not sure I want to watch any of her performances either. 

Welcome to Americastan by Jabeen Akhtar - bought on a recommendation - also turned out to be a dud. It wasn’t as funny or interesting as the description of the book. 

Ms. Communications by Myra Kendrix - another (never ending) chick lit book I wasted my time on, thanks to Kindle Unlimited. It's got the most cliche plot where the new intern falls for her super arrogant boss. Not my type of fiction. 


Finding Audrey by Kinsella, pretty much the only book by her which I found a drag and couldn’t wait to finish it. (I was still in the finish-what-you-start phase at the time of reading this book )

For next year, I have decided to do a lot more fiction. After a year of serious, work related books, I have this strong urge to sink into the comfort of Jeffery Archer or even plough through Ken Follet. Apart from the old favourites, I intend to read famous authors I haven't touched yet. I have made a list and hope to attack the plan author by author instead of book by book. 

So how has this year for your reading list? I know people who finished 200 by November! I wont even hit half a century by 31st! But that's fine since I am not on a mission to dent their record. I like to read at my own pace and am looking forward to the the amazing fiction filled year that 2017 is going to be! 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why Should We Exclude Men?

Excluding any gender doesn't seem like the right thing to me (Photo credit)
I have had this idea for a post for quite some time now. But a high profile all women's event happening this weekend finally motivated me to write it. This is a 'women only event' for 2 days and the tweets specify that men are not allowed. There are talks, discussions and entertainment during the festival. But it's women only! When I came across this on Twitter a few months ago, I found the concept odd right from the start! I really don't understand why not want include men? I tweeted to them asking the same question but got no response.

There has been a surge of women friendly groups, associations etc in the recent past. Helping women come back to a second career, create more awareness about their rights, support in starting their own ventures. There are summits and meets that these groups organise. Women who have made it share their experiences, hurdles they faced and how they got to where they are now. The sense of camaraderie among women is the highest in such conferences. We are really there for each other. We create strong bonds of sisterhood! We are the height of our self-worth!

But guess what! Half the world population is men. Yes, this is exactly the opposite of what we hear all the time when we talk about including women - half the world population is women. The same applies to men too. While we are exhilarated at the success of other women and aspire to scale our own heights, there are men in our lives sitting at home blissfully unaware of the mental/emotional transformation we just went through. And then we complain that we don't have enough support for dreams and aspirations from the men in our lives.

And I don't think the exclusion is a new thing. From the time a woman gets her periods, the first ones to be alienated from the very information are men. We've finally woken up to how wrong that is and we are somewhere responsible for the awkward squirming of men in their seats at the mention of the P world! We are trying to right that wrong, albeit most workshops that happen about periods are women-only.

Research has proven that, when it comes to making changes at home that enables a woman spend more time at work, the women want solutions that involve only themselves. They don't want to discuss it with their spouses and get them to make changes. And when men aren't told that probably their habit of spending post-office time in front of the TV with a bottle of beer is causing inconvenience, how can they be blamed for not being more receptive! And guess who is learning this from the fathers? The kids, especially the sons, who think it's the job of woman to get into the kitchen and that a man is free from responsibility.

Every time I go to one of these women group summits, I always think how wonderful would it be for men to be a part of the stimulating conversations that we've heard. How much more sensitive would they be to the challenges women face if we openly included them. I don't know if this is our way of getting back at them for having all male panels - we are going to have all women events. And, just for fun, not include men!! (Imagine Russel Peters voice in your head for the comic effect! :))

To have an event that goes all out and excludes men is beyond me. On the one hand, we are fighting for a more inclusive, more equal world. We talk about raising boys to respect women, to consider them peers and partners - at home and at work and generally get along together. On the other, we have exclusive kitty parties where men aren't allowed.

Am I the only one who finds this odd? Don't you think it'd be more fun of we all got together to enjoy the serious and the fun bits of an event. A chance to spend time together in busy times. A great way to come back and discuss the wonderful happenings of the day and how that could make our lives better. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Day 30: The Finale - Gratitude Post

(Photo credit)
This post idea is inspired by another post I read earlier today but the tone and theme are quite different. I usually believe in counting my blessings and be thankful for what we have. Alana's post inspired me to find gratitude in blogging and the challenge that I have been taking this whole month. I'll accept that it hasn't been easy. I have had to push back a bit of work to prioritise writing the post for the day. I'd rather finish it first when I sit to work rather than scramble to meet the 12 am deadline (like I did last year)

Gratitude also seems like an apt finale rather than the usual lessons-learnt-from-the-challenge post that I did last year. There are things I learnt this year too but I'll be putting them differently. No listicles. :)

First of all it feels great to achieve my first 30 on 30 in a daily challenge! And I think this is possible only when it is set as a challenge. Goals are fine but challenges really drive us. We don't want to be left behind or accept defeat. When I took the challenge last year I was deluded into thinking that writing everyday can be so easy peasy! Just continue what I did for a month! And it took me 8 days to come back for my next post in December! Once the challenge is up, there are other things that jump at us which we have deferred for too long in the favour of the completing the challenge. So yeah! We all need a challenge once in a while to best ourselves. In fact, we should change some of our goals into challenges and we'll definitely have a better shot at making it!

I really enjoyed writing this time. Mainly because I got to dip into post ideas that I have been jotting down for pretty much the entire year. And I've really wanted to write on all of them. I covered quite a few. Plus, I ensured that I found the time to research and provide resources in my posts. It did cost extra time but it definitely improves the quality of and satisfaction from writing the post.

Another thing I managed to do this time, and loved it, is hopping on to others' blogs and reading them. I've found some great blogs and since this is an international fare, I read some posts on Thanksgiving, the US election and other things that aren't relevant in my country. The #NaBloPoMo community is truly international, all of us got talking about the issues that concern us in our immediate surroundings.

So to begin with, I think the first person/people I want to thank are people behind the amazing BlogHer community. Not just for organising this whole challenge, creating the blogroll, putting up prompts and being the encouraging, engaging community that it is. But also for the prompts that they put on their blog every month for us to pick and choose what we want to write on. Getting bloggers from across the world together is quite a feat!

I am also grateful - to the writing gods, I guess - that I could be part of another challenge and actually complete it. I love writing and it has been a great experience to write and put content out there for everyone to read after the abysmal year its been for blogging here.

Also, thanks to all my readers who've stuck around through times of no content and come back when new posts arrive. Also, a special thanks to bloggers from the #NaBloPoMo community who dropped by and left their encouraging comments. I have tried to return the favour and will continue to look up more blogs to read from the Blogher Facebook page.

I still have topics in my list left. And hopefully, if the streak of motivation continues, I should manage a post or two a week. Nothing ambitious for now! :) Looking forward to you all coming back for more posts.

This post is the final post for #NaBloPoMo blogging challenge of 2016 which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day 29: How To Cut Clutter In Your House

Clearing clutter can be quite overwhelming (Photo credit)
Another post on cutting clear? Really? I understand your scepticism at this. Why would you want to read my post when there is enough and more information online? Tried and tested step by step guides, do's and don't's, hacks, tips and what not. And if self-help books are your kind of thing, you are better off going through the spiritual journey of tidying up with Marie Kondo's book itself. (When I first discovered her I was quite astounded at someone making a fortune by helping you throw away your clutter! Amazing!) So why my post? I have no tips, tricks, hacks. What I have are insights from my own experiences in the last couple of years. I haven't read any fancy book on cleaning up nor do online articles make a lot of sense to me. I am not someone who will go around the house or a room tossing things into a bin and throw them away. I think the process is much more complex. But a few things have made it easier for me:

STOP shopping: If you are jostling for space in your wardrobe, this is the first thing to do. I have stopped buying sarees for a few years now since that's something I don't use often. I haven't bought T shirts in some time now. I have enough to go around. No matter how tempted, I wont buy anything full sleeeves because it doesnt work in the humid weather of Mumbai. And I still have more clothes than I need. If you dig deeper, you will find that you have enough clothes for all times - office, home, weekend wear etc

Put away stuff you 'might' wear: I can't explain the huge difference just doing this made to my wardrobe. There were impulse buys I kept hoping I'll wear. And leaving them in the wardrobe somehow felt I didnt waste money on them. But it makes no sense to let them occupy that space if I was never going to wear them. Accept it. and take them out. From sarees that were gifted to expensive anarkalis that didnt fit anymore, I found a way to get rid of them one way or the other. The latest ones to go out are palazzo pants. (I know they are so comfortable but I have never been happy in the flared ones. so except for a couple of straight cuts, the rest are out) Things that are worn out definitely make their way to the orphanage.

Tackle it section wise. This is common advice. But I say chop it further into sub sections. Clothes mean night wear, gym wear, party wear, office wear etc. This just makes it easy to quickly to look through the sub section and be done with it. With little things like make up and jewellery, start putting them away as you come across something you are no longer using.

Utility not sentimentality: I understand the emotions behind keeping your wedding dress and the first pair of shoes your little one wore. But if you insist on hoarding the shade card from the first time you got your house re-painted, you are going a bit too far. Take away menus you might need come under this category. Everything is available online. For most stuff, if you haven't used in the last 5 years - heck! make it 2 years- it's time to get rid of it.

While I was reading online on the topic, I came across this question:

If you lost everything, what would you need to replace?

I think this is a great guiding principle when you decide whether to keep an item or not. Or whether you should even buy something more. To me, clearing things up is following the law of nature. Even people die to make place for the ones that are born. And only then the natural balance is restored. You can't always bring things into your house and mind without tossing away the old and unused.

Are there any specific techniques that have worked for you? I am always looking for new ideas to try. Shoot! Looking forward! :)

This post is the penultimate post for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.