Lady Doritos. There They Go Again.


I know – a lot has been written about PepsiCo’s genuis idea on Lady Doritos. But, I cannot let this go without putting in my two pence. Also, it’s hard not to react. So, here’s the rant.

Am wondering how this went. There’s this whole capturing the market segment thing – and gender is hot these days. So, the process was probably like so – someone at PepsiCo (I really want to know who) has this bright idea and says – “let’s make heart-shaped chips for women, with pink packaging and rose-petal and lavendar flavour” (awww, how sweet – they should’ve added #wesupportwomen on the pack for good measure). The team then proceeds to pat themselves on the back for the novel idea, makes a quick presentation (no doubt, in pink) and gets several nods from several heads – and viola!, the product is on its way into women’s hearts.

It baffles me how companies like PepsiCo (and Kinder – because they do much the same with their pink and blue chocolates) think. And what they can pass off under the tag of “market survey”. Let me add here my basic problem with this decision – no matter what the survey says (am willing to give the devil its due and believe, if momentarily, that the survey concluded that women like chips that make less noise) the point is this:
You cannot paint all women with the same brush – sure there will be women who’d prefer low crunch chips, but then there may be an equal number of men who would prefer those too. There may be men who would dislike the salt messing their hands too (or those of their children – here’s another idea PepsiCo and I said it first remember – less mess chips for kids). So just make low crunch chips and let those who want to buy them, buy them. Why make this about women? All the product has done is tell women (and little kids who are easily conditioned) that it’s not ok for them to eat making sounds and get their hands messy – not so much for men – loud, crunching sounds emanating from mouths of men are really ok.

I am no MBA and I ain’t done no market survey, but the fact that this product went from an idea to the shelves is simply shocking. On the one hand there’s all this talk about equality and Planet 5050 by 2030, on the other there are so-called progressive organizations that still believe that the best way to sell to women is to paint the product pink and harp on pre-conceived notions of feminity – two parallel worlds.

What’s next? Soups you don’t have to slurp, that magically land in your mouth without sipping sounds?

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The Problem That Has No Name


I first read ‘The Feminine Mystique’ when I was in my twenties. I was just out of college and anything feminist had instant appeal. Betty Friednan, I was told, was the original feminist (as it turned out, she wasn’t, there are many claimants to that appellation. She sparked, what we learnt later, a second-wave feminism). But, these were pre-Google days, rather these were pre-the-world-as-we-know-it-today days, and our biggest sources of information were our teachers and, who we liked to call, the Phd-types (we had no idea where they got their information from; it remains a mystery to date). Needless to say, their word was law. If they recommended a book or an author, we would go scurrying to libraries (any that we could get access to, which weren’t many, hence the scurrying) to lay our hands on the them. Friednan was suggested one such friend, who was really a step above the Phd types, she was the sure-shot-UPSC-type (though later I found out that she married her local guardian’s son and proceeded to live an obscure life defined largely by motherhood)

She was the real thing, however, in those days –  the sort who would read ‘The Communist Manifesto’ before bedtime; the Oracle we would go to before any exam in the hope that we would generally absorb the wisdom that seemed to float around her like a glowing, massless orb. She had read The Feminie Mystique like a pop-fiction book and passed it on to me. And since anything she read was Gospel, I had declared my liking for it before she had had a chance to offer it to anyone else (I preferred it to ‘The Communist Manifesto’). I accepted the book with a mix of alacrity and grace, and read it from cover to cover, spouting quotes wherever I could, mainly to make points in arguments and debates. The real feminist book to read, of course, was The Second Sex, but my friend probably thought it too dense for non-Phd types like me, and had thus recommended Freidnan.

Years later, I came across the The Feminine Mystique again. For all my enthusiasm about the book, I realized that I didn’t remember much of it, except the fact that the women being talked about in it were far removed from my life – I didn’t know much about suburban American wives as a twenty-year-old. I remember understanding it, but not being able to relate to it, even if I quoted liberally from it (to appear academically superior to my peers; it mostly worked).

This time, however, I had no such problem. The opening paragraph made my hair stand on end, as I realized that the reason I could not relate to it earlier had nothing to do with geographical boundaries, but to do with the age I was at. I was twenty, single and full of idealism that youth bestows in abundance, blissfully unaware of the realities of life. Now, as  a thirty-eight-year old mother of three who had been on a break from work, I was anything but unaware. And Freidnan’s words spoke directly to me: “The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night–she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question–“Is this all?”

Friednan had hit the nail on its head by asking – is this all? It was the very existential question I had been avoiding asking myself. As I lay in bed at night and thought about the years that had slipped by, as I shopped for groceries, chased my children with spoons, took them to the doctors, drove them to their piano lessons, tennis classes and birthday parties, I realized I didn’t want to ask myself that question; I didn’t want to address the “strange stirring” Friednan spoke of. I felt old, fat and unemployable. After re-reading Friednan, however, there was no getting away from the question. Also, by now my Phd-type, bleeding-heart liberal friends had been replaced with mommies, who were at a similar stage in their lives and who collectively seemed to suffer from a similar affliction as me – with the problem that has no name.

The more I read Friednan, the more I seemed to meet women she was talking of, except these were women who were living fifty years later, and more than twelve thousand kilometers away from the American suburban wife Friednan spoke of. And yet, they seemed to be bound by a common thread; they felt the exact same sense of “stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning”.

What I must add here is that these were affluent women, much like their American counterparts (and for this Freidnan has faced criticism, but that’s for another story). They lived comfortable lives and had most things desirable – rich husbands, big houses, rocks on their fingers, luxury cars and all that came with being married into wealth. What they lacked, I realized, was a sense of self, a sense of accomplishment and purpose. And, that was exactly what I lacked too. For us (them and me) motherhood had been all consuming, but it had not provided the sense of fulfilment that society supposes it should for mothers. I cannot remember the number of times I have been told that I was doing a terrific job as a mother, the innuendo being that it is something I must continue to do, to the exclusion of all else. Motherhood, women are brought up to believe, is defined by the sacrifices you make as a mother – and this is exactly what The Feminine Mystique addresses – to the fact that women are/were trying to conform to some ideal image, despite their lack of fulfillment.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not belittling mother hood. I know, only too well, what it takes. My problem, so to speak, is with the picture that society paints of a mother – a sacrificing, patient, selfless, long-suffering woman– one who puts her own aspirations on hold for the sake of the ones she loves. And the problem with this picture is that little girls grow up believing this to be the image to aspire to. Worse still, little boys too are led to believe that there are predefined roles and definitions for men and women, ideas which they carry into adulthood.

Which brings me back to “the problem that has no name.” Women, whether in the previous generation, this one, or the next, will continue to feel a sense of restlessness (and depression), as long as they are made to be subservient to men, as long as they are expected to live their lives by rules defined by others, and as long as they try to conform to an ideal image of a woman, a mother, a wife.

The Feminine Mystique inspired a women’s movement in America. It irreversibly changed attitudes about women’s role in society and led to widespread activism for women’s rights and equality. In India, we need such a manifesto for change. We need to spell out the “problem that has no name”, or, as a first step, identify that there exists a real problem, only then can realities change. And while I didn’t read The Communist Manifesto at bedtime, a line from it leaps to mind, which I modify here:

“Women of India unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains”

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Three Books Every Girl Must Read Today

71MWmI1upBL copy

I am quite the helicopter mom. Well, not exactly. The truth is that though I don’t see myself as this, I am regularly branded as one, (the labelling is, no doubt, a product of ill-perceived notions of what I must be because I am quite the general-in-charge of all things domestic, of which parenting is a large, if unenviable, part – but that’s for another post).  At any rate, I am not perturbed by the unwarranted appellation (I pick my battles). Also, this is one of those grey-area objections I am sitting on the fence about, so I let it go.

That, and also the fact that I choose to take the beaten-to-death and frankly a bit idiotic term (yes, I get the metaphor) in exactly the opposite spirit as it is usually intended. I take it as positive, expert guidance and knowledge I bestow upon my kids. And the one area where I do this best is when it comes to their reading. If you read on, you may see why my expert suggestions in the literary space may not be such a bad idea after all, helicoptering or not.

Before I go on, I would like to add that my girls read everything, and not just what I decide. They read anything they can lay their hands on, some of which have been planted by mommy dearest, but some have just been serendipitous discoveries they’ve made on their own. As they say, it’s a win-win

Ok, so now about the books and why I think that every girl must read these today.

The three books I mention below are delightful little creations – ones that teach my girls to stand up for themselves, fight stereotypes and have a sassy, spirited outlook towards life. And let me tell you, if this is what you want to tell your daughters too, there are no better books to teach them that than the ones below

Advice to Little Girls – by Mark Twain


Written by a young Mark Twain back in 1865, this is the one book you will want to read to your girls.

I fell in love with it the day I read it. Each page is meant to tell little girls that they must think for themselves, be independent and not blindly obey rules. The wit, the language and of course, the extremely delightful advice he gives to little girls is straight out of my heart (really, at one point I believed I was Mark Twain in my previous life and that I wrote it ). It made my heart sing.

Nothing I can say can do justice to the book, so here’s an excerpt. I absolutely love it..

“Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under peculiarly aggravated circumstances.”.

The illustrations add to the charm of the book. They have been created by an extremely gifted and celebrated Russian-born children’s book illustrator Vladimir Radunsky. See below:


And here’s another excerpt, which I particularly love (given that I have a brother who, as a child, would tease me no end as I went bawling to my parents – I do wish I had been armed with this book then!)

“If at any time you find it necessary to correct your brother, do not correct him with mud — never, on any account, throw mud at him, because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald him a little, for then you obtain desirable results. You secure his immediate attention to the lessons you are inculcating, and at the same time your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person, and possibly the skin, in spots.”

If only I knew of the existence of this book when I was growing up. Sigh.

Pippi Longstocking




You’re probably familiar with the red-haired, freckle-faced Pippi Longstocking – who, quite rightfully, calls herself the strongest girl in the world. The fiercely independent Pippi lives on her own with a horse and a monkey (the horse lives in the porch). She had no parents, and there are no adults, no rules – no supervision and all the freedom to do anything in the world (eating off the floor being a case in point).

In the three Pippi books, the reader sees the protagonist through the eyes of the children who live next door to her. They are, no doubt, fascinated, if a bit horrified, by Pippi’s life, because everything she does seems to be the very opposite of what children, especially girls are “not meant to do” – like standing up to authority, turning the house upside down, even telling lies (you have to know her to understand) – she does as she wishes (tossing eggs in the air and letting them land on her head)  and cares little about how things must be – because that holds no meaning for her – she sleeps with her feet on the pillows (only one example of how she does not blindly accept rules)

Sure, this is the real world and kids can’t possibly live as Pippi does (much to their disappointment), but the point of the book, for me, is not that kids should now go around eating off the floor, or have a pet horse on the porch (we’d have to get a porch first, but that’s quite beside the point) – the point is that girls must learn to question and not just accept what’s been told to them. We don’t like that as parents, because we think of parenting as an oligarchy (your truly included) – but it is not and if you make it such, then you run the risk of raising girls who will take anything asinine thing that is said to them, just because it comes from someone older or some authority. We see a lot of that happening in our society today – women being told how to dress, how to live, how not to think – you name it.

My girls, sometimes much to my own irritation, are little Pippis. I read them the book when they were little – as their eyes shone with wonder – and they squealed with joy at the idea of living a Pippiesque life! (I did have to inject reality from time to time)

If you have a girl, get her this book. She’ll ask you many questions after she reads it, but that’s ok – she’ll learn ask tough questions and you’ll learn to answer them.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls


So, this one is not fiction – as opposed to Pippi. It is also not about giving advice to little girls – this is a book that inspires girls with the stories of 100 great women, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Each story is only a page (so it makes a great bed-time read) and the illustrations have been done by 60 female artists from all over the world. It is simply terrific.

Each little narrative will teach your child (read this to both your sons and daughters) about what can be accomplished if you try hard and don’t let the world’s ideas about what you can, or should do, get in your way. In the book are stories about women who defied norms and traditions and lived their dreams, often at a cost, but they didn’t dither from their ideals and aspirations (from Amelia Earhart and Serena Williams to Malala Yousafzai and Coco Chanel!). So inspiring are these tales that I looked forward to reading these every night to my girls – because we did this “girl-power” bonding thing as a little ritual and read about all the women the book brought to our world. That’s the thing about books – they can transform the way you think, the things you believe and the dreams you dream..Rebel Girls did that for my little girls.._94926474_malala-1.png

It’s important to teach our children to think, to question and to ask the important questions. I know I am raising Rebel Girls and I mean in the best, most positive possible way – they, I hope, will grow up to be aware, honest and sassy women, who will care for the world they live in, but also not take any dogmatic rules that are thrown at them, simply because they exist as rules and must be, thus, followed blindly.

So, there’s my two (three rather) pence on what you should read to your girls.








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It Took More Than Two Years For Uber To Fire The Top Executive Who Secured Rape Victim’s Medical Records


It’s all over the news – Uber has fired Eric Alexander for illegally securing medical records of a woman who had alleged rape by an Uber driver n December 2014. She was raped by, Shiv Kumar Yadav, an Uber driver in Delhi when she was on her way home after a party at night. Yadav, it was later found out, was a serial offender (women in his village knew this well and kept away from him – clearly Uber had not done its homework). After the incident, Alexander, then head of Uber’s Asia Pacific business, along with some other senior executives, had refused to believe the woman’s story and had obtained her medical records to prove that she was part of a conspiracy against Uber.

The story is all too familiar – woman cries rape, man says conspiracy. End of matter. It’s what we see everywhere – either there’s complete apathy to issues of women’s safety, or there’s extreme doubt (somewhere in between there are token actions amid cries of anger and candle light vigils).

Turns out that Alexander had shared the medical records with CEO, Travis Kalanick as well as with Emil Michael, another senior leader. They had come to the unanimous conclusion that Ola, Uber’s nemesis in India, had conspired to bring them down. End of story.

Not quite. It’s come back to bite them, and man am I glad. A law firm in now looking into the matter – as part of a larger, and unrelated to this incident – investigation. In fact, there are lots of other skeletons tumbling out – there’ve been multiple (more than multiple actually) incidents of misbehaviour within Uber and investigations are on. According to online magazine Racode, there have been 215 total incident reports, including sexual harassment, bullying, bias and retaliation.

215 incident reports? And now they wake up? Being made to wake up is more like it – the lawyers are now on them, so there’s little choice in the matter.

Coming back to the Delhi rape, the investigation report says that “Alexander carried around the document for about a year before other executives — presumably the legal department — obtained the report and destroyed his copy, according to the sources.” Wow.

From Donald Trump and Uber to Mahesh Murthy and Mulayam Singh – the thread seems to be similar (I know, quite a motley collection this group would make – and I can think of so many more) – malign the woman, because she is obviously the villain here.

Uber must pay for this big time – and why only the executives who were part of it? Sure, they’ve fired the employees (more than two years later)– but does that absolve the top management of their misconduct? What about Travis Kalanick and Emil Michael? Why must they duck the charges? If they are found to be complicit in this, they too must pay for it. This is a serious offense – to get medical records of a woman who has been raped and then destroy them. This must be a lesson for those who believe that rape is a figment of a woman’s imagination.


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Summer And What’s In Store


Summer is here. The kids are excited – no school, no discipline, unsupervised What’s App messaging, Mine Craft, sleeping late, biking in the park, going to grandma’s house and a potential holiday (I have yet to decide where we are going, and it’s turning out to be another stress point).

Needless to say, I look at it a wee bit differently – life is all about perspective. For me, summer is about power outages (living where we are there’s an electricity crunch in the summer) and long days at work interrupted by phone calls from the children every 15 minutes- where I have to answer urgent questions about which friend is coming over; what are the timelines on swimming; are the violin classes still on (the affirmation of which leads to much talk about life’s unfairness) inquiries about dinner; permissions to eat ice cream, and of course, endless phone calls about who fought with whom and why. No doubt, I will find myself stepping away from my desk to listen sundry requests or sort out the ownership of pens,books, diaries, broken pieces of plastic which acquire sudden, if short-lived, importance – or any such other bone of contention between the girls. So, yes, summer is not quite the same for me, as it is for my kids.

Like I said, life is about perspective.

Is there anything I look forward to, you could ask? Yes, there is – mangoes, which, despite the calories remains the sole bright spark in a long and hot summer. I look forward to the post-dinner indulgence (damn the sugar content) where, after a long day, all I want is to watch mindless TV (Modern Family reruns are my current favourite) and eat my mangoes.  I know, sad, but parenting is about accepting life as it is, and taking pleasures in the basics of life – like being able to watch a film uninterrupted (has not happened in 11 years), or going to the bathroom without someone pounding on your door amid wails of despair (happens more often than I can count) and, eating mangoes without worrying about the inched being added to your waist (till you can’t fit into your jeans and you seriously start to contemplate the no-carb diet).

Anyway, coming  back to the point of summer vacations – I was asked by a friend the other day, on how I intended on keeping the children busy – because, you know, if they are at home and directionless, then that has ripple effects on the parents’ (read moms’) lives. I know that, but somehow I find it hard to pack them off into classes just to keep them busy ( my husband thinks otherwise – he’s more practical, plus if they get me mad, then the ripple reaches him rather quickly, so he’s from the, free-play-is-all-very-well-but-real-life-is-different school of thought)

For me, I know it’s a bit utopian scenario, but I believe that the kids should be allowed the freedom to do anything they want – while getting a bit of work in as well. Like, I still want to believe, that during the summer vacations, the children can divide their days into the work and play without being pushed into a routine (my husband thinks I am dreaming). If they are a little bit organized, they can do both. I know, if wishes were horse..

I’ll probably regret this at some point, but I am going to pass on the classes. I think it’s quite alright if my daughters can’t bake like chefs, act like superstars or write like J.K. Rowling. Besides, these classes cost the moon, so I have ideological objections to throwing bucket fulls of money at the problem.

I am not sure what the summer will bring – I haven’t planned it, so it’s going to be a bit of a wild ride.I know there will be days when I will wonder what I was thinking, but I shall deal with those as they come.

Also, there will always be the mangoes..

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Mother’s Day – How It Turned Out..

mothers ady

I tend to be cranky (yes, I know, it’s an understatement). I said yesterday that I don’t care much about Mother’s Day – and while that primary ideology remains the same (because I have have ideological issues with it more than anything else) I want to add that getting cards and thoughtful gifts from the kids was, well a bit awww..

They rushed to the mall with the husband – they each knew exactly what they wanted to get me. One of the gifts is shown below (shes’ wearing the other half)


They made cards, which I always love, because it’s something they do from their heart.
I keep all of them, every little scrap, don’t ask me why, I just do.

Here’s a poem one of my seven-year-old twins wrote:


As for good behaviour, which was my main ask, well I am not so sure that’s a realistic expectation. Having said that, what I do want is for them to understand that a mother needs peace off and on – and that when she says something eighteen million times, maybe she means it! (eg, go for a bath – without kidding, I say this to each kid six times in a day – multiply that by 3 and all they’ve done is gone for a bath!)

I know, I know, this is not unusual by any means – but it’s tiring nevertheless. I guess motherhood like that -you feel the angst, the frustration and the love, all mixed together and bubbling in the same cauldron. That’s what I feel – a mix of many, many emotions – of love, anger and guilt (usually in that order).

Now it’s Sunday evening and many bumps remain till we reach bedtime – they’ve been making cards all weekend, so any guesses where they are on their homework? Yup, there’ll be gnashing of teeth, apologies and promises. Fun times begin (Mother’s Day is all but over).


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So, About This Mother’s Day..


My kids are busy making mother’s day cards. There’s a surreptitious air to their transparent activities (yes,mommy knows everything – besides they’ve been bent over quilling strips trying to make paper flowers and asking me random questions about my preference in colour of ear rings!) I know, awww..

So, it’s nice, to see them excited. And I am playing my part – looking deliberately obtuse as they make cards under my nose, hiding them with books and sundry things while getting taken in by my apparent aloofness (no doubt I will have to express amazement tomorrow on how I had absolutely no idea they were up to this).
But, that’s really about it. I don’t much believe in mother’s day. I think it’s being thrust upon us – it’s a bit like what De Beers did with diamonds – made it synonymous with love and weddings. I don’t buy it.

So, a few days ago, I told my kids that I didn’t want any gifts, I wanted good behaviour and obedience. They seemed crestfallen – much easier to make cards and go to the mall with dad (and way more fun too). Now I had gone and ruined it, and asked for what clearly could not be bought and was no fun, to put it mildly. Plus, my demand seemed unfair – because for that we’d need a Mother’s Year, since it would extend beyond Sunday. For them, mother’s day is about gifts and cards which tell mommy how much she is loved and appreciated. It’s not, however, about a behavioral change, which falls clearly in the, now-that’s-asking-for-a-bit-much domain.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt about the fact that my kids love me. My objection is about telling the kids world over that’s here’s a day you must make special for your mom and tell her you love her. What’s wrong with that, you could ask? Read on..

First, why a day? Who decided this? Why not a week, a month, a year? Also, to me the whole idea is a bit skewed – because a mom does not need a day, even if we were to assume that’s really going to make her feel loved – she needs to be understood and helped along the way – everyday! Lovely as it is, she does not need special treatment one day and return to being monster mom the next. She has her birthday for that.

Second, it leads to pressure on children – to find ways of expressing love on a particular preset day – it’s clinical if you ask me. And forced. Like this weekend, there’s a lot of homework and this is adding to it. So guess what’s going to happen on Sunday night, when the reality of Monday morning will be looming large on the household? Mommy will have to step in to firefight! (counterproductive Mother’s day if you ask me!)

So, here’s what I really want.

I want cards from my kids (I save all of them – even scraps they write sorry on). But I want them on days when I least expect them – when I am feeling the strains of life, when I am feeling overwhelmed with all that I need to do, when I am missing my dad I lost recently, when I am feeling premenstrual, when I want to sit and cry – for reasons I cannot fathom, when I want to turn back time and take that job I refused, when I wake up and want to go back to sleep again..those are the times when a card will cheer me up and make me feel loved.

Tomorrow I expect the cards and the show of love – but I need those for rainy days.

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