Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Raising a gender sensitive child and gender agnostic parenting

India is a country where a boy or a man is treated superior. It is not a great thing to admit and many would also disagree but by and large I think it is true.. 

There could be many reasons for it ranging from a patriarchal set-up to pure misogyny, but the point remains that this eco system is wired a certain way. Of course it is changing, especially in the the urban class but very very slowly and definitely much slowly than I would like.

In such a climate, how do you then raise a gender sensitive boy and more importantly how do you ensure an agnostic parenting style at home ?

The most obvious thing would seem like equal footing, non stereotypical behavior etc. However it is easier said than done with so much of social, peer and even family influence, who may not all think the same way as you. Here are some things that I try and believe in.

1. Teach your boys to express their feeling. Use the words, as they say. Many times we don't have conversations with young boys and discount stuff saying, "he is cranky", "he is in a mood", "he is hyper". But there are genuine feelings under everything kids do and while girls are articulate enough to talk about it, boys are not encouraged to. Take to your boys with emphasis on what is making them happy, sad, angry, excited, scared etc. Use the words

2. Try and get rid of stereotypical articles around them. No blues for boys, no action figures, no black tees, no cricket bats. If you give them choices with no influence in those choices, you will find that they will pick stuff that they like. My boy loves yellow and Oranges.. There was a time when he would want to be surrounded by only those colors, but it made for an interesting array of sunshine in my house :) Same goes for what we think is typical toys or play things for boys.. orient them towards no violent games/toys (which in my house means no Guns) and orient them towards more interactive games such as board games, puzzles, tracks.. These also teaches them to play in a mixed group

3. Get the boys to help you in your chores. This is where I think a Montessori education system triumphs. It teaches kids to be independent, attempt things for themselves and inculcates an innate want to learn and help. My boy loves to make chapatis with me since they teach them as a group to do that at school to develop motor skills. They teach them to fold clothes or put away things from shopping bags. All extremely important and interesting things to do with you boy at home to keep them engaged and get them to be independent.

4. Equality is less about what you say and more about what you do. If you are teaching them that girls are same as boys and anyone can do anything, demonstrate the same. Stop asking husband to change bulbs, take out those spanners and fix stuff that is broken. Similarly a home where the father is constantly seen in the kitchen and cooking for the family, encourages the boys to grow up believing it is natural. 

5. Talk to your son to understand if there are conflicting messages coming from teachers or peers and handle those situations. Many a times it helps to nip the problem at its roots rather than let it fester and take a shape of its own. E.g. if your son says "X said boys should play only with boys", "Y said boys don't cry, only girls do", "Z said pink is for girls". Time to have a conversation, take examples, talk from experience and negate those statements rightaway.

6. Be direct with family and make your stance clear with regards to what environment you want to raise your son in. This is very important if you have extended family around most of whom may not see eye to eye on this issue. Be clear about what you want to do and why and hold your ground.

7. Last but not the least- Practice what you preach. Parents need to watch their actions and statements coz that is forms a hard baseline for what the child sees and believes. You may keep saying Pink is not only for girls but end up wearing the same color on most days. Or insist that your little boy helps around the kitchen but the husband stays far away from it. None of that will help in the long run. Children are smart to recognize words that do not translate to actions or what is not practised at home.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adieu 2012

This is a post that has been long in the drafts folder. I usually start stuff as a mail compose so that my mailbox automatically stores it as a draft to be picked up later. But the trouble with that, is the procrastination that rarely brings you back to complete the draft post.
So, I am trying to mash up multiple posts that never got finished in 2012 and in the spirit of keeping this blog alive, am making a summary post.

2012 has been the blurriest and most tiring year in a long time. There have been years that have flown by but they were mostly momentous you know. They had so many moments and periods of time that were so memorable that the memory justifies why the year flew by. 2012 for me was not like that. For some reason it was a very very busy year with almost nothing that I could look back and say wow, now that made it all worth it.

We usually take a vacation every quarter, a long weekend, a long drive or something like that and about once a year around the year end, we take about 2 weeks off to get away somewhere. Last year we took exactly 1 vacation and that too required so much planning that at one time it was almost too exhausting to plan a vacation. That to me is such a sad thing to happen to anyone. And I can’t really pin point exactly why it became like that.
I also think it was the year where R and myself were so preoccupied in our own silos and became as distant as we can be as a couple and that probably contributed to the aforementioned. We were too busy at jobs and being parents and being there for family that we have forgotten to be a couple. It is a common fact that many things out of the window few years into a marriage but the fact that we allow it to, is unpardonable and this year I want to see if we can change that.

V is growing up nicely and is turning into a charming boy. It has been a year when I have consciously applied so many child psychology principles to daily life that it’s not funny! The older generation will smirk at it and probably say that even without any new gen psychology we raised you just fine. But see, that’s my point, I don’t want to raise my son ’just fine’. I want to do my best, I want him to be his best and I want us as parents to set an example for him to go and get the world! If we want our kids to succeed the easiest thing is to set such examples for them and if you want them to take on the world, show them how. Because they are watching, believe me. They are watching you and observing every action of yours. A child’s primary role models are parents and that is a daunting responsibility as well as an easy out.

Both my mother and MIL have said on multiple occasions that I am very lucky V is such an obedient and disciplined child. I have wanted to scream my lungs out that no child comes out all disciplined into this world. Of course there are kids who are hyperactive and introverts. But the majority of kids are averagely normal and start out as clean slates. We are the ones who make them what they are. If you see a child who throws a tantrum or bullies other kids, look at the parents coz that’s where it all stems from. Some from lack of discipline, some from lack of time or some from sheer lack of consideration and sensitivity. I don’t want to take all the credit, he is a lovely child but I think what most people fail to see is that the easiest way to teach a child manners is to create an atmosphere where people around him are well mannered. Then you actually don’t need to teach anything, they observe, they learn.
I have heard so many people say that Kids who grow outside of India are so well mannered and polite and it gets my goat. Kids growing up in India are not taught to be polite because their parents are not. Kids are not magically going to learn anything or demonstrate anything unless they see it practiced in front of their eyes. Indians in general are rude and not courteous. I see that all around me, we do not let others pass before we do, do not open the door for anybody, infact do not even smile and say hello to anyone and that is a basic cultural issue. But the very same (not all but many) people when they travel abroad or live outside of India fall in line with the culture of the western world. It’s like we are saying my Sorry’s, Please and Thank You’s are reserved for the outside public and people at home don’t deserve that.

I do not want to raise my child like that. In my house we are very generous with Please, Thank You’s, Sorry’s and Excuse Me. Despite how I was or was raised, ever since the time V came around, I have consciously tried to show him that etiquettes are non negotiable. I am not hesitant or ashamed to apologize to my kid. Infact the number of times I have said Sorry to V in the last 3 years of his life is exponentially more than I have said to my own mother during my lifetime :P
But he picks up on that and says all his P’s and Q’s without much need for an intervention.
One thing that I am still working on is in the social skills area where I would really like him to take an initiative and join a group or play with someone. He takes after me in the sense that he is very happy by himself and is less of a self initiator especially when it comes to seeking someone out to play. He is not anti social and mixes well but takes his own time and it is almost always at his discretion. It’s not a bad thing and even if that is how his personality develops, I guess I am ok with that J

He has learnt so much this year that it boggles my mind at times. I always find it fascinating and wonderful that they start out knowing literally nothing and how quickly they learn so much – language, analytical thinking and cognitive behavior. It’s a beautiful feeling.

It has been an eventful year for R where he made a much warranted move and is still getting used to it. He also checked stuff off his bucket list that kept him busy for a good part of the year.

But it hasn’t been a very good year for me as an individual, as a person. It has been a good year as a mother and that is it. It has been an extremely stagnant year as a professional and extremely detached and an emotionally detached year as a wife. But as a person, for myself it has been the worst year. There has been nothing new that I did or learnt or changed about my life. I also did not take out as much Me time that I would have liked to, to just indulge myself and do things that I want to do.

And I want to change that in 2013. At the risk of sounding selfish I want the new year to be for me and about me. I want more time to be myself and spend of myself as a person. I want to concentrate on my needs a little more and learn to prioritize them and not be the lowest priority in my own list. I also want to work on being a better couple or else we will turn into one of those couples are just Mom and Dad and nothing else at home. That’s my worst nightmare. We expect things to go somewhere, get better but rarely do anything about it and even if we do, its half baked with not the same level of commitment that used to be there before. We take everything for granted because we just haven’t had to work hard at this. But
After 8 long years, I think we have reached a point of no return where if we do not invest in changing things and work hard at it, there is no turning back.
I hope 2013 brings us and everyone around us a lot of happiness and grit to do things that we want to but never got around to.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Great Expectations

In an attempt to take a hard look at what we signed up for as parents and what actually was dolled out, I ruminate on what I would tell prospective parents. When we were thinking about a baby, there were mostly negative comments from close friends honestly speaking. Except for family and parents in specific who would not stop talking about how we really really ought to have a kid (for all the wrong reasons mind you !) since we were not getting any younger, you need to start a family blah blah. Most of our close friends whose kids had crossed over to the toddler stages made caustic comments that included the very drastic 'Do not have kids!!'. 

Now its plain to see how we lounged about between extremes here in terms of support and feedback. 

But I believe that we are now in a position to be realistic about it when we talk to other couples. Be able to burst bubbles as the case maybe and provide encouragement where applicable. But this post is mostly about us and our personal experience. 

We never thought we would turn out to be one of those people who would rather stay in than go out - But attribute that to either age or the kid, we have turned out that way. On weekends we cross a long checklist before we plan an outing ranging from - Kid friendly place ? Do they have kids? Will there be anything for him to eat ? Can Mom take care of him ? Can we lock him in and go ? (ok the last one was a joke!). But by the time we are done with the checklist, we rarely dare to step out.

We never thought friends and company that we get along so well with, will drop us like hot potato. But that happens. There is nothing like a baby to de-clutter your life. You will know who your friends are when you have kids coz they are the only ones who will stick around and/or offer help or at the very least call you over ! The useless ones will vanish or worse not call you over and then apologize saying 'Ohhh we didn't think you could make it !'. If and when you hear that from any friend for the first time, loose their number immediately coz its not worth it.

I never thought I would turn into someone who could not carry a cam for an outing or a trip. But believe me, with hundred other things that you need to pack in that insanely big bag, that you now need to carry with a kid, camera is the last thing on the mind. The priorities shift towards diapers, wet wipes, snack boxes, toy cars, flash cards, crayons, water etc etc.. And on top of lugging heavy luggage that would put a mule to shame, I know pretty well that Viv after exactly 30 mins would ask me to carry him because "legs hurting!". So yeah, unless you have the luxury of having a pet mule who will walk along you or travel with you, I would rather pack for contingency than hobby including salve for imaginary "hurting".

There is something about connecting with your spouse over the li'l one even if he or she is doing something silly. There is nothing like a kid to make you feel like a family unit and there is nothing that compares to the connection that you will share as parents... When my son is doing something incredible or incredibly stupid, R and I look at each other and that look and connection is something that I will not and can never replace with anything else.  (Although, more often than not, the 'look' really is saying - You know this comes from your side of the family right!)

We never though that weeks could go by without any action (if you know what I mean), but believe me it does and will happen. There will be valid excuses and ridiculous ones, all of which will come in between and take priority. 

There are times when you make major plans for an evening replete with Wine and Music and the li'l one would just refuse to sleep by 9. After an hour and a half of story telling and singing lullabies, we have looked at each other not knowing how to say that its not gonna happen tonight. We can see it in each other's eyes but we wait for the other person to say "how about we do this tom" ? :)

Of Course the tomm takes some more weeks to arrive and by the time it arrives, we have been selfish enough to "Cough Syrup" the sweet li'l one who is bouncing off the walls, to sleep at 9 ! Do not judge us, we are pathetic parents in general...

It is very difficult to imagine how a small person can take over your whole life but it does happen. Even for someone like me who is /has been so self centered my whole life. But there is a point in a mom's life when she will be the last in her own priority list. At many points I have tried telling myself that I will not let that happen but it does and it takes part acceptance and part consciously changing things around (as applicable) to have some sanity..But there is nothing like a kid to rationalize any situation that you are in and put things in perspective. Its crazy but when you are alone with a kid the whole day, all you want to do is run away even for a few hours. But when I do manage to sneak out for even 3 hours, I find myself cutting that short to 2 and rush back home coz I miss the munchkin so much !

You can become a sensitized person almost overnight when you have a kid. When I think back on those time when I looked at other parents/mom and shook my head and said "when I have a kid, I will never.....", I wish I could (or someone did) give myself a quick kick in the backside coz the same words come back to haunt you. So, now I am never judgemental about moms whose kids are wailing in the candy isle of the supermarket, the mom whose kids throw a tantrum and roll on the floor in a mall, or even the ones whose kids create a racket at restaurants. Because, plain and simple - rules of the so called civilized world does not apply to kids. Now, when I see a mom struggling with her crying infant during a flight, I offer help...coz god knows she needs it !

The equation that you have with your parents in your adult life varies with each phase of life that you are in and it mainly varies for you as a child. As a parent, their equation or sentiment actually has and will always remain the same. When you become a parent is when you actually realize most of what your mom has done for you. 
I have never been or even imagined myself as close as I am today with my mom and that is only because this whole motherhood now puts us together on a single platform where we seemingly talk the same language. Who would have thought that I would drive Mom mad by being so paranoid everytime I had to let Viv go out with someone else.  Now, my chilled out Mom calls me the "crazy mom" and tells me that I will get over it just like she did !

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Most people who know me also know how highly I think of my mother. To me she is and has always been a super mom and a constant source of strength. She is like this inner voice that tells me that I can do something when I don't personally think I can. 

But this post is not about her. This post is about another mother who is equally a part of my life, by marriage. 

I remember the first time I had met her, as a very apprehensive bride to be. It was an awkward meeting for both of us I presume. For me because, it is quite nerve wrecking to meet someone who could potentially have a lot of impact on the rest of your life and for her because a) I am sure she had an internal pressure to like me since I was going to be a part of her family and b) she was not the primary decision maker for that decision. She asked me quite a few questions but I am sure that wasn't enough to even scratch the surface of the apprehensions that she must have had. 

She asked me questions like - Do you believe in god ? Will you continue to travel after marriage ? etc. She also emphasized on the fact that theirs was a conservative family, very traditional and very religious. My first impression of her was mostly a stereotype. 

I have to say that after knowing her for close to 8 years now, I have since then understood her much better and have thrown the stereotype out of the window. 

She is above and beyond what any conventional mother-in-law stereotype may look like. She is an amazing wife, an amazing mother and a very nice mother in law. Culturally we are not very expressive, but if we were, we could probably communicate affection much better than what we do today. 

There are times when I have really wondered how to get closer to her considering how different we are. But I also understand and appreciate her uniqueness in how different she is and admire qualities that I cannot even dream to have like perseverance, selflessness and patience.

She is quite self made in her own ways considering that she almost wasn't allowed to continue studies beyond 10th standard. She persevered and her family then let her study further, even if it was a graduate degree by correspondence. But I appreciate the perseverance and the will to study. Many women from my generation, even with all the provisions had zero will to. Even though she entered the typical matrimony, replete with a conservative mother in law, travelling husband and 3 sons in tow - she was the brain and the backbone of the family. She has consistently taken the front seat in family matters whether it was finances or difficult decisions, but never made it apparent. She has always been happy letting her husband take the front stage formally or informally.

There is so much about her that I do not understand and there is a lot more that i do not relate to. For instance, I cannot (for that matter my whole generation) understand how someone can be that selfless at all times with almost zero demands and needs. She tells me that sacrifice and adjustments were ingrained in women of that generation and it was just a part of their psychological fabric. 

See, I don't get that. I can't imagine living like that and more importantly still spread happiness despite that. 

But she does it. She does that and a lot more. She is a pillar of strength not just for our family but for anyone who seeks support and opinions and believe me there are many. She is downright practical and unconditionally supportive when it comes to her family.

Yesterday, out of sheer curiosity, a colleague asked me - Do you get along with your mother in law. I wonder about this phrase "get along" and it troubles me. How can I not love and admire a woman who gave me a very good man? As a mother myself, I understand and appreciate the power we have to shape up someone and if that opportunity is to shape up the next generation Male, it is all the more imperative to instill good values and respect for women in particular.

For all the personal dynamics of her own household and family which included a conservative and patriarchal setup, she has brought up 3 amazing men, who at this point are making 3 women extremely happy. There are so many things in their family that irks me even today and most have to do with the whole who is expected to do what. There is an unsaid expectation, which has now become a norm, for her to do things that she does on a daily basis. Whether it is constantly cooking or thinking about what to cook for the next meal, whether it is the fact that even till date she will not eat until she has personally served each person in the house, she will run and fetch all day even if she has any ailments and more than anything, the fact that she takes her job very seriously of keeping her husband happy.

But she has not let any of that percolate to me so needless to say I basically sit around grumpily watching her do things that i just cannot understand and cannot do anything about. 

If you know me and my mother, you may know that I am a closet feminist. I find it very hard to relate to women who are basically victims of their own circumstances. But after so many years, I have understood that my mother in law is not a victim. She is a very very strong lady who has her own ways of getting what she would like. And I admire that about her. 

There have been many times in my own life where I have expected her to be a certain way or react a certain way and I have to say that she has been anything but that. 

When we were recently married and lived in separate cities for close to 2 and half years, I almost expected her to suggest doing something about it like moving back to quitting. She never did that. She may not have liked the situation but she never once intruded into my aspirations personal or professional.

When I decided to send my 15 month old baby to the day care to be able to return to work full time, I could see the "Why" written all over her expression. i could see that she did not understand or relate to my decision. But she supported me and said all the right things to make me feel better. 

And I appreciate that more than anything else because I really don't like to be told what to do. Most frictions occur in families because people think and believe that its perfectly alright to tell someone how they should live their lives and what they should be doing. We don't realize that by giving our family a little space we encourage them to come to us if they need suggestions or opinions. But she knows that very well. She may still say what she thinks and of course after so many years we both take the liberty to freely express our opinions. But there is no condition or expectation attached to it. E..g I may tell her not to exert herself so much but I am almost certain she will.. Or she will tell me to do something for a festival while knowing very well that I may not. :)

But that is OK. We learn to pick our battles as well. Each difference of opinion is not worth arguing over and that makes all the difference to a relationship.

When we pick on mundane everyday stuff, we forget to look at bigger things that do matter. For me the biggest thing that I appreciate about her is that fact that she has raised amazing sons. We talk about changing menfolk around the world, but we don't realize that changing men starts with bringing a change in their mothers. Mothers shape their children. They are the ones who teach them by examples and instill values in them that go a long way. If you find a man who is disrespectful of his wife, look at the mother and believe me you will find a link there. 

My husband, is a wonderful man. He is everything that I am not and more. He is definitely the better half and when I see his mother, I know how and why.

When I think about what I want to teach Viv, I have a long list and most of all about respecting everyone and their choices in life. Sometimes, I find myself lacking that kind of acceptance but I want to set the right example. Which is why I will look up to her to be able to do that. 

When she visits us, many a times I take my dinner upstairs so that Mom and Son can have that half hour-45 mins of alone time. That according to me, is a very special time for a very special bond.. and I know that now :) And I don't think anyone should intrude in that space....

She may not be my mom or be like my mom, but she is no lesser and I am sure if I give her the space and an opportunity to come through for me, she will....So, here is a belated Happy Mother's Day for a special Mother in my life :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Beverage dilemas

I had a crazy 5 minutes today looking at the kids nutrition isle. I had barely stopped at this isle at our local supermarket before. Vivaan has a staple of his milk based products that I buy for him usually, which is essentially Pediasure and Nido. That choice by itself shows a little bit of neurotic me, since I have not been able to figure out what exactly am I looking for in terms of pre-schooler nutrition. So I basically picked the top two where I saw the best nutrition information when this pre-schooler was a toddler, and I have stuck to them ( yes, I mix the two !). 

Now, that he has crossed the 2 year mark, I tend to stop and ponder at the kids nutrition isle and just goggle at the vast expanse that is this isle. Name any flavor and any combination of nutrients and you can find it here. Its mind boggling actually. The staples that we grew up on, Complan and Horlicks etc. have undergone a make-over with Complan Nutrigro and Horlicks Ninja ! They even make a "Lite" version with low sugar and all. Who would have thunk !!??

There is something with extra calcium for bones and some other for better memory or better brain growth. How the hell does one pick ? Do you actually chose which part of the body you would actually want to focus on for your kid ??? I am still grappling with this.. And don't get me started on the flavors that you can get. From Simple chocolate and Vanilla, now we have "Home style Badam kheer" and "Stawberry icecream" flavors. How is an average indian consumer supposed to choose ?

I had palpitations just looking at this isle, this is more complicated than my tax returns that i need to file by later this month. This isle made me wonder about things that I usually would not spend precious minutes over. I look at this one brand which said "with DHA for brain development", and I think to myself - "Pah ! We never had all that when we were kids, our brains turned out just fine"....Even before I could complete that sentence in my head, I saw this other mom pick up that particular malt beverage for her toddler and now I wondered - "Wait a minute, what if the rest of his generation is on high DHA malt beverage and only Vivaan is missing out on some mysterious brain development that his confused mother could not provide for him".

Do you see how messed up that is??

Then there was this store helper lady who very nicely, came up to me to ask if I needed assistance and I actually looked at her for guidance. I never thought I would see this day when a store helper would help me make my decisions ! Not to sound derogatory or anything and neither am I implying that they don't know their bit. Just that I have always thought of myself who knew exactly what I wanted or at the very least was capable of making my own decisions. Now all the bets are off !

I think she knew my confusion and had probably seen it in many mother's eyes before and slowly suggested that I go by a flavor that I thought my kid would like. Now, this sounds logical but was far from feasible and anyone who is a mother of a 2 year old will tell you so. 

So, I bravely did the next best thing. I made Vivaan stand in front of the isle and pick up the one that he wanted. For a second, he thought I was crazy and wanted to run back to the candy isle, till I told him that these boxes had candies inside them :P. Now Mr. Pre-schooler pondered for 2 seconds and picked up one each of about 7 of them. Obviously "Pick one" had not resonated sufficiently. I put away all of them and re-emphasized picking up a single one. He now picked one up and I was a happy soul again. 

When R heard the entire episode, he found it extremely funny to say the least. He kept saying that I would need to start drinking this in the morning and I kept telling him that it wasn't for me. This went on for a bit till it was milk time for Vivaan in the night and I proudly mixed a bottle of the new malt beverage. 

Vivaan took one sip and spat it out and needless to say that I am drinking a new malt beverage from today.....

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lessons by decades

My 20’s was spent in a smashing and swinging time and diametrically opposite to what my 30’s are. Nothing really compares to certain stuff in your twenties such as – skin, hair, fitness and last but not the least sheer guts ! But the thirties are not all morose and sullen as I am possibly making it out to be. To me, my thirties have all been about balance and stability. I have never felt as confident in myself as a person and individual as I have in my 30’s. Although, I am in the early to mid 30’s range I am almost certain of what this decade is going to entail J which is saying a lot considering how completely unpredictable my 20’s were !

So, a fitting post would be jot down what the decades have taught me so far.

Lessons from my 20’s:

1.       Never let go of an opportunity, you just never know how it could turn out
2.       Live big and live each moment, you really don’t know how sucky the next one could be
3.       No boy is ever worth losing your sanity and peace of mind over (ever!)
4.       Try everything at least once, even if just to form an opinion
5.       Your skin and hair is probably the best it will ever be, so revel in it !
6.       You will make the maximum friends in this decade ( which also means you must evaluate how many of them you actually want in your life for the next 25 odd years)
7.       Acting kiddish is very different from being one! (And believe me you will be judged constantly)
8.       Travel travel travel
9.       Don’t be frugal, be prudent
10.   Dream big but also aspire for smaller stuff that bring joy
11.   Your boss/mom/best friend may not understand you but that is no reason for you not to listen to them once in a while
12.   Learn a new skill, anything.
13.   Learn to be skin wise, it goes a long way.
14.   You need to be with someone who values and respects you for what you are. In short, you need to be cherished and more importantly you should be told about in once in a while
15.   If you don’t have a good feeling about it, don’t do it.
16.   You may find your cozy set of girl friends but it’s the guys in your life who will be that pillar of sanity and support when you need to figure it all out. A guys’ perspective may not solve your problem but will let you understand it in most cases.
17.   You will get over that breakup/heartbreak no matter how unending it may seem or how un mend-able your heart may feel. Give it time and sufficient healthy distractions and this too shall pass.
18.   Do not write friends off simply because they seem pre-occupied or too self consumed. They are either happily in their cocoon or too hurt internally not to reach out for whatever reasons. Give them their space and time and you will find that you can pick up just where  you left off when they come back. When they come back a) hold on to them since they did come back b) acknowledge the fact that your lives may have branched out differently and that is ok.
19.   Family usually takes a backseat in your 20’s due to the independence (financial and otherwise), while it maybe ok to close up on matters close to the heart, it is not ok to shut them off completely. Keeping daily mundane communication going goes a long way when you would need to come back to them groveling later on in life J
20.   Find someone who makes you laugh in the face of anything.

Lessons from my 30’s (so far):

1.       You will not have time for everything under the sun but that is ok
2.       Don’t sweat over the small stuff, life will go on and in the bigger scheme of life, smaller stuff rarely make a dent
3.       Aspire to be good at everything you do, but don’t beat yourself up if you have to slack off in a couple. You need to find a balance between what can be done and what level of perfection is acceptable to you.
4.       Try to make new friends, old friends tend to disappear or move apart
5.       If you are serious about your professional career, treat it seriously. Turning up for work does not qualify under being serious about your career.
6.       There will never be enough money for all the explicit and implicit needs in your life, the only way to make it available or last, is to plan and invest wisely. You don’t have to be a Financial whiz to save up some money each month and put it aside.
7.       If you find someone who loves and cares for you unconditionally, hold on to them and never let them go. Apart from your parents, that person is the only other person who will be around when everyone around you judges you.
8.       Make time for your friends, friendship like any other relationship works both ways and you need to invest time into it.
9.       If a  good friend does not want to talk to you about something but prefers someone else, take solace in the fact that they have an avenue to get it out of their system irrespective to the medium.
10.   30’s will be a checklist time, make peace with that fact. It will be the decade where you will want to check stuff off of your list and tend to compare your list vs someone else’s. Its normal to do that
11.   30’s can be testing to your relationship with your significant other, since your relationship will get tested with each milestone in your life, financial or personal. E.g. investments, new house, babies etc.
12.   Life will change after kids and sooner you accept that the better. It is not necessarily for the worst but you need to acknowledge that it will happen and a change is good. Life will normalize over a period of time and it needs to be a joint effort.
13.   Your friends will treat you differently when you have kids, it could be stereotyping or isolating. This is the time to find couples that you have more in common with if you don’t want to vegetate at home all weekends.
14.   No matter how much you spell it out, your single friends will not understand about complicated marital issues and friends without kids will not understand baby issues. Give it up already and move on !
15.   Baby banter and MIL bashing will not be entertained as normal conversation. If you do need to vent, find someone who has similar issues to rant about.
16.   Do not bring your home to work and do not bring work home.
17.   Draw a line between personal information that can be shared with co-workers.
18.   It is ok to make some acceptable compromises in your job if you have a fantastic boss, a peaceful day is more important than a few extra bucks in your bank account. Peace of mind can extend your life while money may not.
19.   If you find yourself saying more negative stuff than positive about your boss or your job, then it is seriously time to think of alternatives. Negativity festers till it vents itself out in unpredictable manner.
20.   If you have a problem with something, DO something about it.
21.   The best way to teach a child is by doing it yourself and setting an example. Kids learn faster by observation than listening.
22.   You can set your own rules for your child as long as they make sense to you.
23.   Do not let anybody make you feel inferior or inadequate.
24.   Gender inequality is not a myth but thankfully is slowly (very slowly) getting better. There will be people in all spheres of life who will pull you down because you are a woman, when they do that – Rise..
25.   No amount of education can compare to experience but education certainly gives you an edge. At the same time don’t let your experience get clouded by any education that you did not or could not have.
26.   Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can
27.   Always appreciate your loved ones and verbally so. It is never trivial to say Sorry’s and Thank You’s even to your child.
28.   Pick something that you are good at and be even better
29.   Never stop reading, lack of time is not even an excuse. The busiest and the most successful person out there has the same hours in a day as you. Make time for what is important
30.   Last but definitely not the least – Live and Let Live. Most political problems at home or office can be sorted out by letting people be.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


The idea of taking risks is almost an alien concept in an Indian context. We are basically brought up with the notion that you should work your ass of today so that your tomm can be secure. This is taken to such an extreme that, at some point (which will be in your late 40's), you look back and realize that, the much promised tommorrow never turned into a today, that can be lived and enjoyed.
For that matter, I think in general no one really talks about Living it up or enjoying your life. At least not in my family. Parents never tell their kids to live it up, go do what your hearts tell you. Its more about - do this now so that you can do that tommorrow.
We are socially hardwired to work hard and work self sacrificially. We work hard in school for grades, we take up subjects that have very little to do with any actual inclination you have ( I remember sticking to math because I was pretty ok in Math, which is a pathetic excuse to go on learning something), we go on and pick college courses that have very little application in real life and much less significance overall (Multimedia Programming or Multivariate Statistics!) and then we graduate with very little idea of what we want to do in life. We are constantly prodded by either family, parents, older cousins, friends or peers who always seem to know what we should be doing. We always seem to get the memo at the very end.
I did the same routine myself and there are so many times even in single day where I question myself and everything I have done so far in my life. I also wonder what could have been if we had spent some time in our teenage and adolescence introspecting what we want to do or what we have an aptitude for. I like the concept of experiential learning and gathering life experiences where possible that prevails in the western culture. I think it lets the kids dissociate themselves with pureplay academics and evaluate what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
And rest of their lives a big deal.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


October is a joyous month full of festivities. It brings Navrathri and sometime, like this year, packs that and Diwali in it as well. Staying at home, maternal home that is, this whole week of Navrathri brought back so much of childhood memories. It was a weird sense of deja vu being around the whole family, with plenty of kids running around and all the festivities. It was weird in the sense that you see something that seems familiar just that you find that now you are no longer an active participant but also an observer really :) Anyways, more of that later.

Growing up in Delhi, the navrathri holidays are super fun for 2 reason - 1) Its the much needed respite from the 1st term exams that gets over in Sept 2) The winter just starts to peep in and the 2 week break is such a nice way to welcome the chilly incoming winter.

Navrathri is when the vacation kicks in first and the festivities much later. It could also be about the fact that its mostly the last 3 days that is of more eminence that any other days. But the only difference being that our north indian neighbors would do the puja every day of the festival and call girls over to break their fast (ok that didn't come out right! What I mean is that they fast everyday and in the evening, they do a puja and feed a couple of girls the prasad and only post which they can consume any food). Crazy no ! At least thats what we used to think those days, the concept that someone could starve themselves for the whole day during festivals when the first thing you should do is stuff your face was incomprehensible for us !

Navrathri is when cousins come together and have loads of fun.. Families get together to meet and make merry especially during Kolu season. My grandmother used to keep Kolu every single year and for some years my mother did too. Those were fun times, irrespective of whose house (grandparents house was always a stone's throw away from mine). Kolu is a hard core Tamil tradition and it always brings mixed feelings for the kids. There are happy things associated with it like the daily dose of sweets, the whole decorating and setting up bit etc. Then there are not so happy bits too, the whole wear traditional clothes coz 'mami's may come home and when someone does come over, their ever shrill voice that goes 'oru paatu paaden' etc ! I hated those bits I must say. I am not sure if that's just me or does every teenager or tween hate that as well, but I sure did hang around with a very morose expression.

Navrathri is also puja time when we do all kinds of pujas. Grandpa was always very particular about attendance and somehow despite that my brother used to escape. I guess a part of me did not escape because I didn't want to. I think it was nice to do these things while we could because now we hardly can even if we want to. I would sit through Ganesh Puja, Saraswati Puja, Ayuda puja and then Lakshmi puja. Saraswati puja is most fun because you need to keep your books near the god for full 3 days and cannot touch it till the puja is done. Even though there is really no reason you would have touched those books anyway, the concept always brought a lot of excitement :) After you are done though, grandpa insisted that we studied the same books for about 2 hours, which sucked big time !!
Ayuda Puja meant putting bindis on just about everything. The idea is to respect all the so called instruments in our life and take extra care of them that day e.g. Cars/ Bike/ Cycles/ blenders/ Fridge etc... We would walk around with haldi and kumkum that mom would give us in bowls and put colorful bindis on just about anything that was metallic !!

Vijaydashami also meant Ram Lila. In Delhi, that is just huge. We would plan for days ahead and buy tickets or plan on clothes that we would wear to go see Ram lila. If we were lucky, we would be taken to the Ram Lila maidan in Old Delhi, if not so lucky then the local Ram Lila in the nearest school playground. For those who don't know what that is, Ram Lila is like a carnival where there would be an enactment of Ramayan for 9 days culminating with the Ravan Vadh on Vijaydashami. The culmination is spectacular because there would be effigies of Ravan with all the 10 heads along with Ram and Sita. On the last day, the effigy of Ravan is burnt in a very grand way. I know it sounds like a grand act of arson :P But as a kid, its the ultimate fun ! The whole carnival atmosphere, buying silly things like paper swords or plastic Hanuman gadas, eating all kind of junk food and finally the fireworks ! Its worth waiting a whole year just for that....

Vijaydashami was also when my mom would drag me to my 'Paatu' teachers house (Carnatic teacher), make me fall on her feet and give her a tray full of god knows what! After a few years, i was a robot, used to just fall without any cues ! It would also mean a small paatu katcheri at my teachers house where she would make the students sing for the benefit of the parents and then give individual feedbacks on each one of them. The group singing was always funny for some reason and it would always end up in a giggling fit. Someone invariably would start with a whimper of a giggle and then before you know it the entire batch of about 12-15 girls would just start giggling. Despite the fact that it would happen every single year, my teacher was always very stoic about it. She used to keep a pen next to her and if she saw anyone with a hint of giggle or a bad note (shruthi/scale) for that matter, she would literally throw the pen at the poor soul...I think we have all had our share of pens being thrown at us and it didn't faze at a tiny bit :) Every year, she would also tell my mom that your daughter has a very nice voice but she is just not interested, if only she puts in some effort she can be wonderful... I think about that nostalgically even now because during all those years, I used to hate singing and was forced to learn. Now that I do like singing, I can't go back....

Back to the present, it has been a lovely week so far. Families getting together, people visiting every day, Kolu's in people's houses and temple visits. It has been a nice reminder of what could be had despite busy schedules and disparate lives.

Some things haven't changed - like my granny screaming at me for not taking a shower even at 11 in the morning and touching her 'prasadam' without taking a bath, my mom making me wear a bigger an bigger bindi coz whatever i wear is apparently just not visible enough !
Some things have - I can now sit and watch my younger cousins in their teens go thru the torture of 'Oru paatu paaden' and smile and it is somehow much more significantly important that Viv sits or at least watches all the puja and no one really cares if I even make an appearance near the god.

I watch the kids running around screaming and laughing while my granny is running behind them to make them stop (not so much running as waddling, but nonetheless) and it feels like yesterday that she was doing the same for me, my bro and my cousins. And now its the same but the next generation doing the exact same thing :) Life is funny that way....But all in all there is a lot to be thankful for and I hope someday Viv sees that too.....