Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Should women really have it all?

Oh boy! Indra Nooyi kicked off quite a debate that almost refuses to die. She was genuinely speaking from her heart and experience! The people, with all the time under the sun, have deconstructed all that she said and reconstructed their reinterpreted versions of it. There are supporting and dissenting voices all over the internet and everywhere else. Both, from men and women. You can watch the video and decide for yourselves. 

It’s strange that we are proud to declare the same woman a paragon of success when we talk about the most successful women in the world. And yet, when she shares her heart felt feelings about how challenging it has been for her to achieve what she has, we pounce on her as if she was guilty of murder or something. All of us, who probably haven’t been even half way through as much as she has. 

It goes without saying that anything related to the male-female divide is rife with unresolved controversy. Should a woman feel guilty? Should she have a career at the expense of her family? Or should she put family first? Should the man also sacrifice as much? Why expect the woman to put her career at stake while the man enjoys full professional privileges? Care to answer, anyone? 

No, i am not here to defend her and uphold her views as correct. i am not going to launch an attack on the people who disagree and prove them wrong. i am not going to talk about how a woman is the ultimate specimen of self-effacement while she fulfills all her duties. In fact, i am going to do exactly the opposite. 

There are no right answers. But I have questions - why should a woman want to have everything? What was wrong with the ancient system where the women took care of the house and men went out to hunt? Isn’t Nature throwing a broad hint about a woman’s role by giving her, not the man, the ability to bear children? And making man, and not the woman, physically strong enough to face the rigours of bread winning? So, wasn’t she originally meant to be the partner handling the home while he went out to handle affairs outdoors? Why did women think they had to go out into the man’s world and prove themselves? Did men ever want to stir curry with a spatula to validate themselves in women’s world? Isn’t running a household the equal half of being a bread winner? Why is going out and working equated with success and being home in blissful domesticity considered inferior? Who set this as the benchmark of success? Haven’t we, as women, accepted and declared that stepping out of the threshold is a sign of masculinity and staying home and running affairs isn’t? Why did we think we weren’t equals in our domestic roles and attributed superiority to what men did? Are we not cribbing about not getting something we weren’t supposed to achieve anyways? Aren’t we carrying the double cross of producing children and yet trying to prove ourselves successful in male dominions? Have we not forced guilt upon ourselves for not being there for our children in the quest for something that wasn't meant for us in the first place? 


Monday, July 28, 2014

The obsolete business of business cards

Exchanging business cards is a part of modern business etiquette. The tradition of exchanging cards is as old as the 17th century. i guess the idea is to sum up your entire contact details in one place for future reference. As a corporate trainer, i enthusiastically discuss the do’s and don’t’s of this etiquette and ensure that people get it right. 

But isn’t this idea of exchanging business cards defunct in today’s day and age? i have never really gotten my head around the little piece of paper which, to me, becomes totally useless after i have saved the number of the person. i like the innovative cards some people have in all kinds of fancy shapes - round, oval, rectangle. Some cards have different colours rather than the boring black and white. But i think the initial euphoria of exchanging cards lasts for exactly 2 seconds. They are either stashed away somewhere to never be picked up again. 

My husband has meets people all over the place. He comes and puts them on the nearest flat surface and forgets about them. i have about a thousand cards stashed away in boxes since they weren’t supposed to be thrown away. And he hasn’t looked at even one of them in the last 7 years!! i have a more practical approach to stem the tide of visiting cards flooding our lives. i save numbers of people i think i will need for future reference and discard the cards. 

In this day and age, business cards should be banished. A lot of times, we have already spoken or emailed people we go to meet and hence already have their contact details. If made properly, our Linkedin profiles can be an easy reference point to check out our professional credentials. Or just exchange numbers on our smartphones or use text business cards option on the phone. Hopefully, we will soon realize that there are better ways of connecting than exchanging pointless pieces of rectangular paper. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Are you addicted to taking pics?

Taking pictures was a huge deal when i was a kid. i know i sound quite old when i say this. But look how the world has changed in the last 15 years!! i have a couple of pictures of my own childhood where the photos have been taken in a studio because we did not have a camera then. One of them is a one-year-old me standing in a walker. Obviously my parents must have carried it all the way so that i could pose with it!

Here I am with my walker in the studio

Another one in the studio when I was 5
Even when cameras did become common, they were brought out only during special events like birthdays or holidays. One had to be careful with the number of clicks because the film roll had limited capacity. And then you had to go through the lengthy process of getting the film developed and wait for the developed photos to arrive. We could, then, put them in a plastic photo album and proudly pass it around. 

And then came mobile phones. Or rather the era of smart phones ushered in a new facet of the camera. Everyone now had one in their pocket. It was pretty exciting to be able to capture moments which was just a luxury before. As technology got better, we got better megapixels for high quality photos. Finally, it was time for the humble camera to take a bow and move on from popular space. 

The phone cameras now have more storage and a plethora of editing and sharing options. You can instantly click pics and share them with family and friends. Distances don’t matter. It might be something as inane as your new dress or something as important as the first smile of your child. A family gathered for a meal or a mundane dish you cooked. It’s almost like the cameras have a cultural significance in our times! Their influence has even changed language as we know it and added new words like selfies and groupies. 
In kids' hands

While it is great to be able to share your lovely moments, too much of anything can’t be good. i recently realised that we are most obsessed with this feature of the phone. We are so fixated by taking pictures of anything we like/wear/see/find that i think we have forgotten to live in the moment. The easier it is on the touch phones the more we click! Several photos of the same frame just to be sure we get a good one. And then transferring and editing them is a total pain.You may deny but try and recall what do you do every time you come across something nice? i know i have been hung up on taking pics too. So much so that instead of remembering the actual experience, i would just have the picture to vouch for the experience. 

Momentary pleasures! 
i think this phenomenon hit me harder when i noticed kids, my nieces, aged 7 and 5, emulate us to the tee! Nothing was complete without taking a pic. There is competition for who gets to take a pic. There are demands/tantrums or anything that would get them their parents’ phone to do it. Or better still, the iPod doubles as a camera part from being a gaming device. It is some kind of a show-off exercise in kids that age! Did we fail in our duty to teach our kids to live-in-the-moment? Are they going to grow up addicted to something like this? Is there a way to ‘wean’ them off this habit? I don’t have answers.

I am definitely not the photo-a -minute person. Only when i feel something might make sense do i pull out my phone and take an odd picture. And trust me, i am doing fine. i am not missing anything by not saving up for posterity. In fact. i have gained the invaluable pleasure of living in the moment. So the next time you fish out your phone to click pictures, think about it. You may be actually missing the significance of the real thing!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thin is not in - Thanks Femina!

i had been mulling over writing a post on this topic and lo! Femina made it topical. There’s a huge furore about Femina’s latest cover with an ample Huma Qureshi on the cover for their edition on "Be Unstoppable". There are supporting and dissenting voices everywhere across the internet. Some feel that Femina is saying that the mannequin is perfect and it’s ok to be imperfect like Huma. While others are relieved that finally a known name like Femina is fighting body stereotypes and putting curvy women on their coveted cover page. 

Femina cover page

While i’ll come to my views on the cover page in a bit, let me begin by saying what i actually had in mind. I have always look at these perfect bodies of models and actresses and wonder how they do it! i mean, some of the new actresses have such small waists that i am pretty sure they haven't eaten a normal meal in ages. They aren't allowed to eat normal lest they put on. (I know each one of them says “i eat what i like” on TV, which of course is untrue!). No doubt, it’s such a treat to the eyes to see beautiful people with perfect bodies dressed in fashionable clothes as opposed to watching people with flabby thighs and bulging tummies! So, i guess someone set skinny as the benchmark for beauty and women who want to be in business have to just follow it. No one wants to see fat arms and wrinkly skin in their ads/movies. 

Though the pressure is more on women, the slew of younger, chiseled actors in Bollywood have made it tough for the guys too. You look at Kapil Sharma and say he’s a fine lad. But apparently not! You hear him say it and read reports about how he had gone on diet to lose weight for his upcoming film! 

It gets worse when it influences common people all the time. What we don’t realise is that taking care of their bodies is an important part of their routine for people in the show biz, its’ a part of their profession. They have expert trainers, nutritionists, dietitians, skin and hair specialists (and a bit of photoshop) to assist them acquire the dream body and looks. We have the business of running life! While exercise should be a part of everyone’s life, overdoing it by going on fad diets and - more commonly - constantly suffering from poor body image is bad, It is the result of the perfect body the media throws at us all the time. Even if we look fine, we wish that tummy was slightly more tucked in and the arms were more toned. We, at least, aspire to acquire that ultimate figure someday!

Coming to the cover page, i don’t know which of the interpretations online is correct. But to me it’s a great thing that Femina has come out with this. They have had the hottest bodies in the business grace their cover pages over the decades. And now the magazine has taken this step to debunk the myth that skinny-is-perfect. Also, Kudos to Huma for posing to a cover that says imperfect is ok thereby saying she has a body type not considered perfect. 

When i think of it, there have been a examples breaking stereotypes in the recent past. And Femina’s cover page, thankfully, adds strength to the idea. Sonakshi Sinha faced loads of criticism for her fuller body as opposed to skinny ones of all her contemporaries. As Priyanka Chopra, in KWK said Sonakshi has some “masala hips”. But not only did Sonakshi bag films with all major actors in Bollywood but also delivered the best hit of our times, Lootera. I cannot imagine any other actress like a Priyanka or even a Deepika look so homely and part of the times portrayed in the film. If Sonakshi had tried to fit into the svelte figure others thought was good, probably the spark would have died there. 

Sonakshi Sinha - the Indian beauty

i recently came across this campaign, which though not an Indian one, so very well goes against stereotypes. It encourages you to stop judging people by the way they look. And also embrace yourself the way you are. It not just promotes positive self image but also fights gender stereotypes. (Go, take a look!)

Stop the beauty madness campaign
i really hope that with actors like Sonakshi and cover pages like Femina’s, we will soon have people on TV with bodies like you and me. Who wouldn’t force us to suck our breath in every time we see them to make us feel less guilty. Hopefully, we will soon see fuller models in ads because you do not need a perfect body to say which tooth paste is good and which detergent washes the best! I agree with Femina that it’s time to follow “My body, My rules”. 

Photo Credits:
Femina cover page: One India -  -
Sonakshi Sinha -
Stop the beauty madness -

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Technical triumphs in the blogging world!

While i was bouncing ideas in my mind about the topic of my next blog post, i thought why don’t i write about the adventure i have embarked upon on blogging itself. i have been wanting to create my online presence for quite sometime now. To be honest, it’s been exactly 6 months since i sat down chalked out how i’d like it to be. i have never promoted myself as a trainer and i thought it would be a good idea to start a dedicated blog and connect it to my social networking presence. So far so good.

But as long as it had to be planned on paper, all went well. But when it came to actually doing it online through the maze of features, widgets, plug-ins on blogging websites, the mind just stopped working. While the plan was clear in my head, putting that into practice was a challenge for a non-technical person like me. So as i was procrastinating on this worthy goal, i was also looking for someone who could help me start off and tide me through difficult times when i would get stuck with technology. i got a lot of quotes ranging from 4 to 5 figures depending on whether it was an individual or a web designing company.  None seemed to understand my unique needs and had standard quotes for standard services offered. 

So, after a lo-hot of postponement and genuinely busy times, this month seemed to be the best to finally get down to it. But i still hadn’t found the right person to help with trouble shooting when I required. Twitter to the rescue again. Lots of retweets and responses later, i came across a computer engineering student interested in blogging and social networking even though the university syllabus does not cover it. 

Enthusiastic and knowledgeable, as i realized in our first meeting, he initiated me into the world of Wordpress. He set me on track and was also willing to teach me things so that i was empowered to continue blogging, add pages etc. i wanted to first migrate my current blog from Blogger to Wordpress for practice. But i wasn’t convinced with the suggestion that we copy and paste each post and comment individually on to Wordpress. So i just let that be and asked him to take me through the labyrinthine ways of wordpress on the new blog i had registered. He got me through some of the basics, there are lots of them, and asked me to do a couple of things before he could help me further. 

i did not find time to do any more research for over a week after that. i finally sat down to watch tutorials and read articles on various aspects of blogging websites and their features. As i had suspected when i got huge quotes from companies, it’s all there on the web! It’s just about people who know it well and people like me who need to spend a lot of time figuring things out on my own. And since my website or blog is going to have content that i have and I do not want someone else putting it online for me, it has to be more of me spending hours looking up things and doing them on my blog. 

The real moment of triumph came today when i looked at another Blogger blog and found that it was similar, in some ways, to what i was trying to do. So i went around the internet experimenting with Blogger first. And lo! i actually created tabs on my blog!! i know it might not seem like a great thing for seasoned pros at blogging. But for a novice like me this was no less than an achievement. i don’t understand much about widgets and plug-ins but neat tabs on top of a blog always attracted me. i secretly wished i can have that on my blog someday….and here it is! 

So here i am celebrating my little victory and hoping to be a pro on WP someday too, mastering one bit at a time. 

PS: Why is technology so complex?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Did your napkin transform your life?

Sanitary napkin ads on TV have always made me uncomfortable. i believe it's a matter of very personal choice what a woman wants to use during those days. But off late, they irritate me for a few of other reasons as well. 

i remember these ads from my childhood when the only format was Renuka Shahane - or some other personality- sans make up, start with "Mujhe aapse kuch kehna hai! kaise kahoon....." It had the hush hush tone of talking women stuff in secret. As if men in the drawing room couldn't hear it! But the scene has changed totally today. The woman in the ad is jumping for joy embracing this aspect of her womanhood. Contrary to her 80's counterpart, she's shown frolicking around - always in white, i wonder why - declaring to the world that she has found freedom, with the right brand of napkins.

In times when sanitary napkins are not the only choice for women, these ads are almost outdated. There are so many other media through which women can find out what’s best for them. We don't need in-your-face adverts to tell us what's good for us. Also, television influences and creates impressions on young minds. And these adverts are no short of propagating wrong ideas about best period practices. (more, later)

How does a brand of sanitary napkins ascertain success in life? From exams to bagging a job to lasting a long day in office? Weren’t women efficient and successful when Whisper wasn’t 40% longer? (What are we trying to suck in anyways - the Indian Ocean?) Aren’t fairness creams and whitening toothpastes enough to float that wrong idea around?

Coming to the role of these ads in giving out false ideas. Take the latest ad of Whisper. The message is that we are supposed to jump out of bed even on those days and without Whisper, you are going to wake up tired on that one odd day. But are we really supposed to jump out of bed? Is it not ok to be not-ok on those days and just take it easy? Is it not ok to respect the needs of your body and rest for a bit? Isn't it true that there's more to periods than finding the right sanitary napkin?

The second idea that is promoted - and unhygienically so - is the idea that a napkin can last you all day for as long as 12 hrs! As a product, good for whisper! But is it good for the users? One of the most basic principles of hygiene is to change every 6 hours. It is wrong to make such claims on a medium which can influence teenage minds at a time when they need right guidance. 

i think it’s high time that brands reconsidered their ad campaigns and made them more product relevant. It is one thing to inform people about the new brands available to them as a choice. And quite another to make false assertions about the change their products can bring about in the lives of women.