Category Archives: women

A Room Of One’s Own

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I work from home – have an office on the terrace, which really, I should give the husband the credit for. He’s been advocating turning the dump room into, what he first envisioned, a “treaty room” for years now – the backstory is that he’d read about how President Obama withdrew into his treaty room every night, a room where Michelle only “popped in” sometimes. Every since he’d been dreaming of creating such a utopian space for himself – a room of his own, one to which his wife had limited access.

Except, that’s not quite it turned out. Quite ironically, the person who had opposed it the most (aka, yours truly) is the one who is now using it as an office. Why did I oppose it? I’ll tell you why. It was a dump-what-you-don’t-want-to-deal-with room, where I put all that that I didn’t want to deal with out of sight – stuff that requires time to sift through and some nerve to dispose (nostalgia can be extremely clutter-inducing). Having said that, the room was not all dump. It was, as I often said, a space of organized chaos, since I knew where things were, largely. It also served a functional purpose. I had four steel almirahs (ok, Godrejes) stuffed with woollens, which I took out once a year in the hope that I’d wear them. I wore some, while others I ferried up and down in a pointless exercise of clearing cupboards, only to clear them again, two months later. Global warming is really at our doorstep (Trump should come to India to believe that climate change is real).  Still, it was something that needed to be done, because winter did make it’s late, if feeble, entry. So, each year I assiduously retrieve the family’s woollens with great alacrity in the hope that the winter would have a spine and give us a few months of relief from the inclement summer (we like winter in this part of the world. If you are wondering why, spend one summer here.  If Shelly lived in India, then the famed ‘Ode to the West Wing’ lines would’ve been written in quite the reverse – “If summer comes can winter be far behind?”).

Anyway, I digress. Point is we cleaned out the room, which was the husband’s idea, and sure it was a great one. However, there’s a good reason I resisted doing so all these years – because the execution was carried out by yours truly. Great ideas must be backed by equally great efforts! Also, the room, for all its chaos, had its benefits – it was out of my sight, and I could dump what I didn’t want to deal with – which was a lot. In redoing it, I had to think about making room for all the stuff I did not wish to clear – aka the winter clothes (which now lie in another room, which too had to be redone to accommodate the almirahs. I now have to perform twists and turns to open them in that room (much smaller) to get out the woollens, especially when the husband is going on a trek and casually askes for his jacket and thermal socks). And now for the best part – the room was stuffed with not only our just-in-case-you-need-it- clutter, but also the mother-in-law’s equally worthless possessions from the years gone by. So, while the husband, in a moment of extreme, if foolish, insouciance, gave me carte blanche to “throw or give it all away”, I wasn’t sure he had quite thought it through. He hadn’t, as it turned out. There was much gnashing of teeth at the discovery of memories having been “cleared away heartlessly” .

Anyhow, the room is now an office-cum-library, which I use as an office. I have often thought of installing booby traps at the door, because the assortment of people I want to get away from can still reach me there, though it’s better than being smack in the middle of the action.

Working from home can be challenging and requires discipline – not only your own, but that of people around you, which is harder than you think (the mamajis drop in at the exact time when you are on a call with a client, as your mother-in-law comes running to you for lunch arrangements). When you are physically available, as opposed to a phone-call away, things are very different. If you are working from home – no matter how separate your workplace is – you are forever vulnerable to the vagaries of all sorts of people – including to that of your children (they won’t call dad in the office but come scampering into your home office to resolve urgent matters, like the ownership of a pen or who hit whom first).

So, while the best place for me to work is my office, it ain’t quite the treaty room I had secretly hoped it would become, in a strange twist of fate. The moment my work gets some traction (meaning funds) I plan on moving into an office. Maybe then the room can go back to the person it was originally meant for!

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Three Books Every Girl Must Read Today

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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

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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:

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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

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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

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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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Nike’s Pro-Hijab Campaign Is A Good Thing

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No matter what your views are on the Hijab, you should see Nike’s ‘What Will They Say About You’ campaign. Reserve your judgement about the fact that this is a woman in a Hijab – because there are two, diverse schools of thought about women wearing Hijabs – and no matter what side you are on, there is one thing to appreciate here and that is the fact that  a brand has taken a clear stand on an issue which concerns women and minorities (in a post-trump, post-Brexit, right-swinging world, I think it’s a positive step). Sure, it’s a great marketing idea, but my point is – if it’s a great marketing idea and is also a great one for women and minorities, then why the hue and cry? (there’s been a sort-of backlash on social media, but that’s hardly surprising.) In today’s world of, you-can’t-wear-hijabs-on-our-beaches, I think it’s a bold, positive step.

The fact is that there are brands that indulge in serious gender stereotyping and do that whole pink-blue thing till they go blue in the face, which is revolting, if regressive. Not to mention ads like the ones Gap released last year, which tell little girls how to dress like a “social butterfly” and little boys like the “little scholar” (ugh).

So, contrast that with a brand that’s taking a stand, a very visual, pro-women (Muslim women at that) stand in today’s xenophobic environment. Not sure what the problem with that is. Yes, there’s the argument that this reinforces stereotypes and the whole, should-women-wear-hijabs thing. But that’s not a straightforward issue – are some women forced to wear Hijabs? Do some wear it out of choice? Do such Hijabs encourage more women to get into sports? Like I said, it’s not a simple argument.

Not sure what you think, but comments, on both sides, are welcome. Just keep it civil.

 

 

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