Category Archives: about

Mother’s Day – What I Feel About it and What My Kids Do

I wasn’t going to write a post for Mother’s Day. I don’t much believe in it, because I know that this is a contrived, commercial, Hallmark sort of moment, which has been popularized for pure pecuniary gain, but which has now acquired a social life of its own and become the plank on which children must exhibit their love for their mothers. Businesses exist to make money, nothing wrong with that. But when you tie that in with what I am supposed to do and feel as a mother, or worse, what kids should do for their moms, then I have a problem. I don’t need a mother’s day to know that my children love me. Sure, it’s nice to be told that all I have done/do for my kids is appreciated and this is one day they get to tell me that. But the fact that my children’s feeling are being dictated by a larger societal force is what I have an objection to.  There is pressure on them to make cards, write me love notes, drag their fathers to the mall and do things that will make me happy. And all this is great, if it wasn’t for the fact that this must be done on a specific fabricated day when we are all supposed to exchange cheery, love-filled exchanges to show how much we care. Yes, I know I am cranky. But this has nothing to do with being crabby and jaded (which I am). I know many mothers who feel the same, and who are not cynical in the least, but who object to what this day (and many others like this) has turned into.

I think its my duty, as a parent, to make my children think and not accept things just because the world tells them to. And this may not be the best way to tell them, I know, which is why I wont. Yet. One day, they’ll need to be told -that they must question the accepted and the obvious. Only then can they become the individuals who will bring about change and learn to think on their own.

Anyway, enough ranting. Let me tell you what my kids woke me up with today:

Because I like planters on the wall with flowers in them:

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Mamma Duck

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And the heart..

 

They spent days hiding these from me and asking me for paint because they
wanted to surprise me. So I pretended to not know. And this morning they
let me sleep in and then woke me up with these.

Yes, that was nice. But I wish they didn’t feel like they had to do this for me on this day. They can do this any day of the year and I’ll feel the same. But I am not going to tell them this now, because they’re too young for my ideology (and cynicism). I’ll let them figure it out on their own. I know my daughters – they’ll grow up to become thinking individuals and see it on their own one day.

Till then I’ll vent about it here. And keep these lovely little notes and cards in my box (right next to the sorry letters they give me the rest of the year).

Now, should I call my mom?

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A Race Against Myself – It’s Marathon Time Again

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After I ran the marathon last year, I was on a high. For me, it wasn’t a tick-off-your-bucket-list kind of thing. I enjoyed running and despite finding the 21 K quite challenging, I wanted to do it again. I really did.

Except, I didn’t expect that time of the year to come rolling by so soon. Because no matter how much you run otherwise, training for a marathon requires dedicated focus for at least 10 weeks (if not more). The fact that I ran last year has no real bearing on this year, because I have to build up my stamina again.

So here I am, almost a year later, wondering if I can do it again. I mean, I know I can do it again, but this time, it’s not that simple.

Why? Because, as they say, I have a rep to protect. And it’s all about the timing. Last year, I was baggage-free. I was a novice, a mum who’d decided to run because she needed to do something that made her feel a little better about herself (let’s face it, that’s always a part of it) – I needed to get away and do something for myself and do that whole stereotypical thing about feeling a sense of accomplishment and getting the high of having pushed your body to the limits. All that good stuff that runners love to say. Yes, it’s all true and I felt all of it.

That, however, was then – a year ago. This year, it’s a whole different ballgame. Now I am racing against myself.

If you are a runner, or if even if you vaguely know one, you will know that there is one thing that is of supreme importance – and that is the timing. Anybody who tells who that it does not matter is basically fooling himself or herself. It matters big time. I cannot possibly take longer to finish than I did last year. I mean I can, but I am not going to be thrilled about it, especially when all and sundry ask me what my timing was.

And it’s really not about other people either – I have a benchmark, and most people don’t like to fall short of it.

So I have little choice but to train hard again. And it’s not that I don’t want to, but this year has brought a big change in my life – I have started working, which leaves me little time to run. Yet, I will try, because running changed me in many, many ways. Not physically (though toned legs are always welcome) but mentally. I feel it made me stronger mentally – I learnt to push my mind to believe that I could do it. And that’s half the battle won.

I am not sure I can repeat last year’s magic. I want to, but it’ll take work – more than last year in a way – because, as I said before, now it’s a matter of reputation 🙂

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From Kids to KPIs

G4 and womans hands

The past few months have been interesting. I’ve been working full-time, sometimes more than that. And all that I feared would happen, has happened. Kids have fallen sick, maids have gone on leave, weekends have been awash with work. Yes, I am quite the working mom now and it’s amazing how I have slipped into that role like I was always doing this. The truth is five months ago I was your typical stay-at-home-mom, quite reconciled (if grudgingly) to the idea of never setting foot in an office again.

And how dramatically that’s changed.

I know I’ve said this before, but I am already facing a lot of pressure – mostly from myself. So on the back foot am I that I feel I have to constantly prove something – that I am serious about my work; that women who return to work after a hiatus may not be able to ace power point presentations, but they do add a lot of value to a company. And in my blind wish to prove this I have gone and done something that I now find impossible to get out of – I have poured cold water all over the negotiations that I made when I joined work – that I would leave at 4 and work flexi.  Not only do I not leave at 4, I also had a washed-out weekend where I worked flat out for a deadline, while my younger twin lay next to me with high fever. On Sunday night at 11:30 when she finally looked at me with watery eyes and asked me if I had the time to lay next to her, something in me snapped. I know there are good days and bad days and I was determined to not let anything get in the way of me proving myself – but when I saw her tiny face, all I could think of was the fact that she needed me. I sent off one last slide to my boss and shut my computer down. I was tired. And I thought about how much my life had changed.

I guess this was a test, of sorts. To try and work when you have a sick child tugging at your clothes. I did it, but with a lot of guilt. But, guess what, when I shut my computer, the guilt did not vanish – it merely shifted base – to work. I wondered if my boss would think I was shirking work – the fact that I worked the whole weekend with a sick child was not enough I guess. And I didn’t even want to tell my boss that my daughter was sick – because, in this flu season, my kids have been falling sick one after another and I didn’t him to think that it would affect my performance.

Anyway, long story short – the basic point I am trying to make is that a working mother has to constantly shift gears – from work to home and back to work, and to home again. It’s a constant cycle and I am still getting used to it. I am trying my best to do both, but there’s always guilt – of leaving the kids, of leaving work – that I haven’t been able to escape. And I doubt I ever will. It’s a woman thing.

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From a Stay-At-Home-Mom to a Working One

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I can tell you this – that I never thought it would happen. I never thought I would get back to real work. Yes, I was pretty sure that after ten years of being at home and looking after kids, I was good for nothing else. That no one in their right minds would hire me, which was quite alright, because, in my opinion, I was quite un-hireable. That’s what being at home does to you – you start to believe in the stereotype.

Well, I could not have been more wrong. Neither was I un-hireable nor had my being at home taken away from the person I was. Yes, I had been sucked into the demands of my home (and that was a choice I made, for whatever reason) and for a while I was that mother in the park who befriended others like her and thought that she would never be able to escape from the unending cycles of birthday parties, piano classes and fixing the mixie. But that was a period in time when I could not think beyond that. And while it may have temporarily lulled my grey cells into talking about maids, mothers-in-law and electricians, it really did not really make me into the person I thought I had become.  When I went back to work, the real me (ya, I know, it’s a cliché, but it’s true) just wriggled out of that home-mommy skin and rose to the occasion – something I never thought I could do.

And this is not about me being some super star who could rise from the ashes and go back to work because I was some genius who’s been rescued from the interminable demands of domesticity.  No, I am like every other mother who makes a choice to be at home, but that so-called choice is not really one. Because a choice gives you options and let’s you pick what you like. When someone like me chooses to be home, she’s doing to because she has nowhere to leave her child – really not a matter of choice. I’ve heard so many people say to stay-at-home moms that they made a choice, and I always find it interesting – the use of that word. Given a real choice, where the woman can get back to work and be allowed to be flexible as long as she delivers the work, many women I know would have opted to be back at work.

But what I do want to say to women is this – stay mentally active, that’s key. You will find something to do once things at home settle a bit. No, it’ll never be fully settled, but that’s ok, you’ll learn to deal with it. This last week my daughter had been ill, so I left work early and came home. Then I worked at night and on Saturday from home and completed some tasks. And yes, I still have to do the birthday stuff, the homework, the classes and all that comes with being a mum – work has to be managed with all that. But you know what, you learn to do it. Sure there are days when you feel overwhelmed, but nothing in life is easy. I’ve wanted to get back to work for so long and now that I have done it, the other things will have to be fitted in. The people around you learn too – your husband, your kids, your help – they all start to do their bit to help you. That’s what I learnt – they see that you are happy and they want it to stay that way.

I underestimated the people around me. I always thought that things would fall apart if I plugged out. But they don’t – somehow it all happens. And yes, I’ve learnt to let-go of a few things – the dust behind the cabinet for one. I don’t care if it gets swept once in a few days. It’s just not important anymore. Working on a presentation for a client beats that any day.

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When You Short Sell Yourself And You Know It

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So now I’ve been working for about three months, which might explain my absence from this blog (you can only do so much.)

It’s been great so far. I am enjoying getting out of the house, wearing work clothes and talking to adults. I do miss the lazy mornings, though, when I could read the papers with leisurely cups of tea and whine to my husband as he got ready for work. But, not complaining – you get some, you lose some. This is what I’ve wanted all this time, this is what my angst was all about – that I was not being able to get out of the house and take on the world. So here I am, happy that I finally got on the bus I’d been waiting for.

But (yes, there is a but, and you’ll soon see why) there is something that irks me – the fact that I get paid pittance. I know, I know – I’ve got my foot in the door and that’s key. But the thing that irritates me is the fact that my hiatus from work is being used as a negotiation tool and my abilities and skills are secondary. I am being paid based on my so-called absence from full-time work and not on what I actually bring to the table. Because the fact of the matter is (and here’s where I am going to be a bit, well, not so humble, so pardon me) that I am as good as the person who has been physically present in the workforce all these years. I may not be able to write the corporate jargon like the rest (give me another month and I will) but the clarity of thought and seriousness I bring can’t count for nothing (or just a wee bit more than nothing).

I didn’t expect to feel this way and frankly I did not even think about the money when I took the job. And that was because all I wanted was to get back in. But after being here for a few months I realized something – that the people who work around me are, pretty much, like me. When we are in a meeting, for instance, I have as many ideas (which usually get incorporated) as the Joe sitting next to me (who is, by the way, almost young enough to be my kid – had I married at 20 that is – and earning the same). But because I am this rebooting-her-career mom, my fear is that I am seen as someone who needs this more than she is needed at the job. It may or may not be true, but the fact that I am adding a lot of value but not being paid for it, bothers me.

Now to make this even more complicated I’ll add here that it bothers me that it bothers me (yup, am quite the stereotypical woman). And that’s because I don’t want to think about the money, but about working, about the foot-in-the-door, about the fact that I have managed to flee my domesticity and all that stuff I’d told myself about when I joined. It makes me uncomfortable to think this way.

Yet, the truth is that I do. And, after doing some analyzing, here’s probably why.

It’s because the compensation I’ve been offered factors in the assumption that I will need frequent flexibility, that because I am a back-to-work-mom, I’ll leave the office even if a bee were to enter my house, because mothers are control freaks who will drop everything to tend to their sacred hearths (never mind that I sit there till way past the time I “negotiated” I would).

Sure there would be days when I would have to run back to the house, but that could happen to anyone. What strikes me as unfair is that this what-if scenario holds true of any mother who works, irrespective of her career track. But returning-to-work mothers like me pay a price for a flexibility that we may or may not use, while working moms (the ones who somehow stayed on the road) don’t, even though they would be as prone to tending to a sick child as someone like me. And the truth is that I’ve been at work even when my daughter has been ill. You know why? Because I am trying to prove myself. I am trying to say – see I have a sick child at home, but I am here, doing my thing because I am like the rest, in every possible way.

So I am not sure what I am going to do about this feeling, apart from rant and rave about it on my blog. If it gets too much, I’ll bring it up with my boss when it’s time for a review (soon). The one great learning I’ve had in the past three months is that people who work well are always in demand and there is a short supply of such people. My husband always told me this, but who listens to husbands when you are at home, neck deep into mom-in-law, kids, birthday parties and homework. All you want to say then is “ya right, that’s easy for you to say when you are on the inside”.

Well, now I am on the inside and I could not agree with him more. So yes, I am happy to be out of the house but  wish I had not been so much on the back foot when I negotiated terms for my job. I know now (easy to say in hindsight) that I was going to get it anyway, but I didn’t know how to play the game.

One learns, I guess. The next time I’ll play it too.

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Archie, You Took A Piece of Me With You

 

Note: I have decided to publish articles that no one else wants to! This one was written a few months ago when they killed Archie. It took a piece of my childhood with it. So I wrote about it.

For better or for worse, here it is.

Archie Andrews died recently. I am shocked, saddened and heartbroken. My condolences are with Betty, who, I am certain, is far more heartbroken than me.

When Archie’s coffin was lowered, I can safely say, it took with it a good part of my childhood. In my growing years, no victory seemed sweeter than beating my brother at getting to the Archie double-digest first. While he used muscle, I just resorted to some good-old tattletale (it’s the prerogative of the youngest child and I most determinedly defend it). It worked like a charm.

Back then, when gay was a happy word, if someone had told me that Archie would die taking a bullet for his gay friend, I would have been incapable of giving a coherent response, except for the monosyllabic and all-expressive “huh?” Why, I would most certainly have wondered, would someone be killed for being merry? “You’ll know when you’ll grow up” is what my father would have probably said. Indian parenting is so much about letting kids figure things out on their own.

I grew up in a small-town and reading Archie comics formed a large part of our recreation-time. It was a sheltered kind of life and unlike my Delhi-bred niece, who, at fifteen, has just returned from a summer-reading course at Stanford and is now threatening to discuss The Republic with me, I didn’t know much about America when I was about that age. In our small little town and even smaller world of elite girls’ school, where I spent many bubble-encased years, we knew nothing about American senators, gun control or gays.

America, to us, was synonymous with Riverdale High. It was where Archie and his friends went to school, in a town called Riverdale. From where we were looking, at a time when foreign-returned aunts brought us Wriggleys, scented erasers and Camay soaps, Archie and his friends seemed to inhabit an extremely fascinating world, one that we had nothing in common with, but one that captivated our imaginations nonetheless. These comics were our sole window into the thrilling American life. They provided us with a delightfully vicarious existence, away from our dull-school lives, as we read about ice-skating, dating, school-lockers, sundaes, cafeterias and luncheon meat (even my parents couldn’t tell me what on earth that was). There was something so alluring, so, can-this-be-for-real about Archie’s world that we were hooked onto the comics, which we never bought, but shared a rented copy from a nearby hole-in-the-wall library.

Yet, this was not the only reason for our reading the comics. To us, the characters felt strangely alive and true, and even though our lives life in small-town India and Archie’s in Riverdale-America could not have been more different, we could (mostly) relate to their issues. I totally got Jughead’s sense of humour, or Betty’s constant yearning for Archie’s attention, and his obsession with Veronica, or Reggie’s devious mind, or Moose’s duh brain. We even named one of our teachers Miss Grundy (the resemblance was striking).

So great was my fixation that at one time, and this does embarrass me, I seriously contemplated making a Riverdale High poster and putting it right under the WHAM one on my wall. My mother protested and asked me what Riverdale was. At the time, my mother’s apparent lack of knowledge of American geography shocked me. “It’s one of the most famous places in America” I had answered nonchalantly. Years later, when I lived in New-York, I realized that the name was fictional, and that luncheon meat tasted like dog food.

Now they’ve gone and killed Archie. I could never have imagined then that things would get so serious for Archie. However, I refuse to allow the image of him taking the bullet to sully the one from my childhood. Archie, to me, will always remain an innocuously obtuse, predictably clumsy (you knew he’d knock over the pot just as Mr. Lodge would walk in) and foolishly dim, freckle-faced fellow, whose biggest aim was to please Veronica and Mr. Lodge.

For me, Archie comics represent the gay years of childhood. Yes, gay. It has more than one meaning.

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An Open Letter to Kinder Joy

Dear Product Design team at Kinder (who came up with the beaten-to-death idea of telling little girls that they like pink, and that they should stick to playing with dolls)

I am a mother of three little girls (awww, I know) and I want to tell you a thing or two about them. No, it’s not my idea of a great pass time to write to companies extolling the virtues of my children (I’d do that on facebook if I ever became insane enough). I write to you because I think you need this unsolicited advice, because you don’t really know the kids you claim to make happy.

Allow me to explain.

You see, your blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls idea is a bit – how do I say this? nauseating. Not to mention, so clichéd and trite that it makes me wonder how companies like yours arrive at such regressive and frankly threadbare decisions. It makes me wonder if you even know children at all. Actually, I can quite safely say that you don’t, which is why I want to tell you a little about mine. Please do hear me out.

My girls like pink, sure, but just as much as they like, say red, white, yellow and for that matter blue (surprise surprise). They play their doll games when they want, but they also like to cycle, run in the park, climb monkey ladders, swim, play tennis and build stuff, you know the kind you pack in the “for-boys” Kinder eggs – you do know the ones I am talking about? That’s right, those most predictably blue-coloured Kinder Eggs; the, you-must-like-large-eyed-fairies-because-you’re-a-girl and you-must-love-cars-because-you’re-a-boy, those ones.

Seriously Kinder Joy? Pink and Blue? This is your idea? This is what creative-off sites in companies lead to? I mean, I may not be a marketing expert, but really this baffles and disgusts me at the same time. Selling chocolates by gender? Wow.

Maybe it’s just me, but really, I am thinking why a company like yours would do this? Is it because you think that little girls would not like/ be interested in/ be able to put together a little puzzle or a want to play with a truck? That they would much rather have some fairy to pop out, which they can then take to their other similar minded friends (read girls) and proceed blithely into a soft-focus world of make-believe tea parties, which is where they belong? Because you think that building things is for boys, which, if your site is anything to go by, is what they do, with their dads by the way, because mommies would rather wear fitting tops and jog (yes, on your site too– them stock images, I tell you). Boys like to cycle wearing blue helmets and girls like to wear pink and kiss their mommies or hold soft and fluffy teddy bears. That’s your idea of kids (again, it’s on your site, do re-visit – all there).

Telling images apart, there’s also a lot of politically-correct sounding rhetoric on your site. But here I am reminded of the age old saying – that actions speak louder than words – you make all these tall claims about raising happy kids and all the rest of it, and then you climb on to your self-made pulpit and tell them what they should play with. You girls there, here are your pink toys, now run along, be off, sit like little ladies in a corner and do your girlie stuff, whatever that is.

I want to ask you Kinder, who gave you the right to lure my child with a chocolate and tell her what her idea of a toy should be? Who gave you the authority to instill in her vulnerable little mind ideas about gender? Do you even realize what you are doing? Have you no feeling of responsibility towards the very children you claim to aid in raising happy?

What I want to say to you is this – please look at children as children and not girls and boys on whose little backs you can ride all the way to the bank. You make chocolates all you want, but if you must club them with toys, do it responsibly. Go ahead, do your product re-launches, meet your quarterly targets and all the stuff companies do, but think of something better than this. It’s really a telling sign when someone like you feels the need to fall back upon the most overused and offensive stereotype in the world.

I am sure you can do better Kinder. Give it a shot.

.

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