Saturday, December 29, 2012

Anamika...the nameless one!

I feel angry... I am a woman,
I feel shame...I am a woman
I feel helpless...I am a woman.

  • There is a rape in India every 22 minutes
  • 51% of the rape victims are below the age of 18
  • New Delhi has the dubious distinction of being the rape capital of the world
  • The rate of rapes in India has doubled (so much for emancipation!) in the past 10 years
  • Ironically, about 90% of the rape victims do not report in India due to social pressure and fear of being shunned ( Dalit Women and women in Kashmir stand out as classic examples)
  • Interestingly, India is but 3rd in the world for reported rape cases, US is first (18 K rapes registered in the first 3 quarters of 2012 in India vs. 93K in the US)

I grew up with a understanding that there was a clear disparity, my mother was overly cautious where I was home by six, I don't want you going out late in the night etc. etc....I understood  but resented the fact that I didn't have the same level of freedom my brother had..

I wrote and studied dutifully about the statistics of  rape, female infanticide, dowry deaths in India...I knew all the facts in theory, yet it became a real issue in my mind in 1991, when there was a case of a 8 year old girl who was raped by 3 men and then drowned...I wrote a poem about it (and then hid the diary in the back of my cupboard, I felt all the things I mentioned above every time I read it...angry, helpless and shamed)...there was but one article in "The Indian Express" after which the issue became a non-issue. I remembered the incident every time I opened the diary and read the poem (which became fewer and far between with the passage of time), I read it again today -

Painful gasps
Dried Blood...
A sense of degradation.
No-one to hear my anguish and pain,
No-one to cover my naked body.

Stripped to my soul,
Treated like a whore.
I lie a helpless animal,
A prey of social attitude...
A toy, an object to use and abuse.

So I give up my will to live,
Death does come in the end.

I was born in a country where Gandhi taught us Ahimsa (non-violence), he said - Your voice has been heard," "It deepens our determination to battle the pervasive and the shameful social attitudes that allow men to rape and molest women with such impunity." Yet with Ahimsa, we have achieved status quo in the past 65 years...what we need now is rapid action. My hope is that the 6 men who were involved in the brutal  rape and murder of the young woman on a bus in Delhi are given nothing short of capital punishment ....Capital Punishment is our society's recognition of the sanctity of human life.

May she find peace and justice (Anamika in my books, called so many different names by others who has now evolved into a Shakti)....this nameless girl who in her death has created a revolution.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mea Culpa...

The lady doth protest too much...but give the lady a break, she has been through a lot in the past 3 weeks - her 1st grader had 5 days of Jet Lag, followed by a viral flu and a huge load of work backlog, other events out of her control...

The last straw was when Dish Network slapped her with a bill that was 3 times what she normally paid, so of course she rang them up and blew a gasket...they gave her  a conciliatory credit to the account and a half-assed explanation which left her fuming . So she wasn't too surprised when  this heavily accented guy (  he was Indian with the name Martin  ;-) ) called from the Dish Network Customer Loyalty department the next day with a blazing hot deal ( prepay 6 months and you will get 12 months free plus 2 channels free). She was suspicious that the deal was too good to be she asked him why she should believe him, he gave her details on the account (credits that had happened the day before and she couldn't view), turned off Auto Pay, added Zee and HBO channels on the fly to her she believed and he said - we are trying to promote a new billing method - Green Dot Money Pack...she realized 15 minutes after providing the scratch number that she had been lost was wisdom gained.

But a few hypotheses here :
  1.  Dish Network has incredibly lax security measures
  2. This was definitely an inside job from a call center - otherwise how was the person able to see credits not posted to my account and add channels on the fly
  3. - if a deal  seems too good to be true, there is always a catch

Lesson learnt: (Note to self) -  If the deal seems too good to be probably is. I am now $200 lighter but I see it as $200 wiser. I of course blame Dish Network for abysmal customer service, incredibly low security checks and total disorganized chaos ( they don't do what they say and they do what they don't say). However, for all the beating that I am giving Dish Network, at the end of the day I put my hands up in the air and say "Mea Culpa" much for the street smart, savvy, totally infallible person who is now someone who has just been scammed.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

She was but 6...

When I heard about the shooting on Friday, I was shocked and then scared...I am the mother of a 6 year old, a first grader and I can't bear to imagine the anguish, gut wrenching pain and emptiness that the parents of these beautiful babies are going through...I hugged my son close the past two days, not letting him too far away from sight...

Innocence was lost on this day...
All  that was left with the parents was silence...
And the ricochet of bullets...
Birthdays lost, proms unattended...
Field trips, Impish Smiles and teen love no more...
Life obliterated.

Yet the ones that live,
Left with an awareness so keen,
Unexplained violence,
Bloodshed and tears...
In temples, schools, malls, theaters...

I cannot tell my little boy -
Go play outside with your friends,
You are safe...watched over.
I hover over my little one, 
Anxious, Paranoid, Afraid....
When will I ever feel safe again...

Will I ever speak to my little boy of the ugliness?
Of those beautiful children lying bloody and mangled...
Victims of a sick, depraved and lost soul.
The words stick in my throat,
A reluctance to strip away more innocence...
All I am left with is - an image and a thought...
She was but 6....

Dedicated to Emilie and all the beautiful souls lost on Dec 14th....Say No to Violence !!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Women are from Earth and Men are Aliens....

It is so true that our work and personal lives are strife with it thirty years back when my Ma commented on the lack of looks or cooking skills and hoped I would make it into medical school ( or even dental school) and redeem the lack of domestic/and other skills...that didn't happen. I did redeem myself on the face of it and did it on my terms (I am still surprised that I managed to do it...and count the blessings, its not all hard work and I will be the first to admit it).

Fighting, struggling and slowly surfacing into a generation where these stereotypes were dusted/hidden under a carpet...a work culture where 95% of the team attending a happy hour were men, 99% attending a high brow M&A meeting in Europe were men ( do the waiters in the conference room count), 99% of the folks in a product meeting are men....we are emancipated....yes there is a woman CEO at Xerox, Pepsi and Yahoo...but why then is that number plateauing at 3%...are we our own enemies?

I feel righteously virtuous that I work a full schedule, plan and cook organic meals for my family (weekly  visits to the farmer's market), do the laundry (ok with a little help from K1), manage all finances and keep a clean organized house....yet the reality is I barely keep my to-do list and life together. K1 says - let go...easy for him to say when he is not anal about cleanliness, checks balancing or giving my son meals which are not outsourced all time. You see me whining in my blog, in real life and on the phone on "how hard it is to keep things together"...the reality is it is what I said before just whining .  When I meet a man who actually takes a stand and says I am ok with my wife working and me being a stay-at-home dad...I look at him weird ( go right ahead, judge me...but it's true I faced that situation and I confess I was not as sans stereotyping....).

How can working women meet life on their own terms. Here are my seven don't agree well then you can just go stuff it, it's OK to come up with your own list.

  1. Lose the Guilt - Remember the famous Peter Principle...I can be a good home maker and a good product manager. When you expect me to cook, clean, make lunch boxes, keep an organized house, organize finances, meet work deadlines, deal with extraordinary degrees of organizational politics, hit vague MBOs PLUS be an amazing mother who volunteers time at her son's public school, bakes amazing cookies, spearheads associations ain't happening and I get in way in over my head. Well, I felt extremely guilty initially about not being able to juggle all the balls in the air and missing quite a all I try to feel is gratitude that I am doing my best.
  2. Outsource - I outsource some of the household work - laundry, cleaning...the cooking is very bare bones and mostly healthy stuff and we sometimes outsource that to a lady who comes and cooks some Indian food for us (when we are actively sick of my dals, pastas and soups). I am too anal about  Finances to outsource - so I end up doing bills, budgets, taxes on my own...that is a choice I am making.
  3. Lean Heavily - I feel understood by a handful of women in the same boat as me...I think we have an informal support network...if I didn't have these ladies I don't think I could take some of the really long, hard, disheartening days
  4. Communicate Openly - I think I overdo this one with K1 and K2....I keep letting them know what irks the crap out of me, what needs to be fixed. I think what I miss to let them know is how much I appreciate K1 taking an earlier flight and getting back home when I was sick, or doing the laundry, taking K2 to soccer games, cleaning the garage uncomplaining after our geriatric four legged companion...or K2 for all the blue faces that he gets or the sweet things that he says and all the help he tries to offer me in the kitchen 
  5. Seek Balance - For me it is this blog -  an outlet. So is my Yoga class, I love putting my body through those complicated poses because while I put my body thro' those poses, my mind eases down and decompresses.
  6. Set Priorities - My yoga teacher of the past 10 years said in every single one of his classes - set an intent for your practice. About a month back I said, why not set an intent/priority for that can be high level and I can execute to the extent that I can...for example for this week it was to Organize my Kitchen and finish up on an XXX strategy document which isn't really due till next week and I am steadily seeing progress in both areas.
  7. Team Work- I ask K1 for help...I refuse to be the victim who is doing all the work on her own and is tired all the time. I need help with grocery, K2's homework etc. etc. I have started asking for help...I don't get it sometimes and we end up having an argument on work load etc...both of us feeling wronged...however at the end of the day, we are in this together...we figure it out.
What's playing on my computer today? Ekla Chalo by Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali Poem) sung by Shreya Ghosal

Loosely translated - if no one listens to your call for help, learn how to walk alone....those are my learnings...your biggest support system is YOU, so don't let that support system crumble -- nurture and cherish it...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fairy tales and the Work Place...

I recently got hooked to a TV series called "Once upon a Time"  - the crossroad between real life and fairy tales...had me immediately think about Fairy Tales and the Work Place...I had some time back read an article on the same by Michael Wade ( put into a back file in the brain as interesting information for future retrieval)

  1. The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf (he says on Friday) : We need this report  by Monday at the absolute latest. I don’t care what you need to do to meet that deadline, but get it done.” Fast forward two weeks after Monday (he says) : “Oh, your report? We haven’t gotten around to it yet.”....lesson learnt : might work once or twice but people remember
  2. Hansel and Gretel: “Granted, she seemed a little strange at the interview, but her department looks like it would be a cozy place to work. And they serve free pastry at the coffee breaks!”....lesson learnt : if it looks too good to be true it probably is
  3. The Gingerbread Man: "I've got an MBA, a Porsche  and a way with words. No one can touch me!”....lesson learnt : no one is invincible, watch out for the fox there is always one out there
  4. Goldilocks and the Three Bears:  “Do a lot? Do nothing? Those sound risky. Let’s go with the middle option: the gruel (pun intended)....lesson learnt : Don't take something without permission (yes even ideas) and the middle ground ain't such a bad thing
  5. The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs: “Why tinker with targeted improvements? The entire system should be changed.”....lesson learnt : sometimes radical change is what screws you over...I still cringe when I hear the word code merge or integrating an acquisition
  6. The Grasshopper and the Ants: “It is unfair, but, while you were toiling away, he was making connections and, you've got to admit, he’s fun to be around.”....lesson learnt : sometimes life just doesn't seem fair, bide your time...your time will come
  7. The Adventures of Pinocchio: “Technically speaking, our advertising campaign doesn't lie. It just doesn't mention the bad stuff.”....lesson learnt : Choose Ethics and Honesty, it will stand you good stead
  8. Rumpelstiltskin: “Yes, the deal involves giving up your firstborn, but look at the benefits.”...lesson learnt : Some deals are as bad as they sound... 
How does all this mumbo jumbo relate to us beyond  this...I believe  that

We all are : modern day Snow Whites who can thwart the evil queen (substitute evil queen with what irks you the most at workplace)....or Rapunzels who are stuck in  towers ( maybe career plateau, no stretch, lack of purpose) and  can break free ...or maybe even Cinderellas with the power of visualizing a better future for themselves and making it happen....

Fairy Tales  and  Real Life go together...maybe that is the reason for my fascination with this series  that I am hooked what's your story... I mean Fairy Tale?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Human Pin Cushion

Don't worry this won't be one of those blogs that talks about someone getting stuck with needles, blood tests etc...though given the fact that my mind is fuzzy, the fever in my body at 101 and every time I swallow the pain in my throat unbearable...a needle with some meds giving me quick relief ain't such a bad thing.

This week has been torturous...the weather gloomy, K1 missing in action and K2 more than his usual boisterous self and me with this godawful viral flu. A shout out to A, my dear friend who helped me survive this minor tempest...I suffered silently on Tuesday, hoping that Wednesday would be better. Zero expectations for help...especially when you live in this atomistic society "zero expectation" is the right attitude. Wednesday turned out to be worse...I somehow dragged myself out of bed, got K2 and his snack box ready and dropped him in school. A simple SMS from A asking how are you had me uncharacteristically sending a long SMS back with all that was wrong (sorry babe!)...she came from work and left me a hot lunch at my door, picked K2 from school and kept him with her awesome twosome (A & R), they ate together in the evening and then R dropped him back with hot dinner for say I am overwhelmed is an understatement...makes me a little less cynical about people and relationships.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

I was doodling today...and you and I know I doodle bad...I found myself doodling a sad person with pins stuck into her...that was the inspiration for the blog post...this doodle.

Money is not one of my worries (God has been kind and we have been frugal)...yet with Food I feel like I constantly struggle with the need to go vegetarian (even vegan)...and the inability (read : lack of will power) to do it (yet).
Let me also share a pet-peeve with you...this was my son's Tuesday lunch box, done with a 101 fever and all of it came back home except for the cheese...I took away his ipad hours for the rest of the week...

How are you holding up this week?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gustakh Dil...

32 walks with Bapa, 11 Yoga classes, 6 meals eaten out but the 70+ simple exhaustive spread of my favorite foods at home overshadowing the meals eaten out, 6 amazing acupressure massages, 15 auto rickshaw rides...the flare-ups, the love and the lack of a schedule or timeline (unlike life as I know it)...made this trip almost dream-like. We still did the Kondhwa/Kothrud thing like last year but I was more comfortable with the separation from K2 this time around...
I tried to be chirpy and upbeat the day we left...yet there was a physical pain roundabout where the heart exists...K2 was quiet and K1 was his usual self - nothing really seems to faze him out (except in some cases yours truly) . Still can't justify the 2+ calls I make to Ma and Bapa every day, not much to say but it is re-assuring to hear their voices. The song playing in my head and my computer right now is from a movie I love (LOVE!)...Gustakh Dil. I watched this movie twice, once with K1 and K2 and the second time with K2 and Ma.

The words ring so true  :
This stubborn heart,
Creates so many problems,

My heart is in problems,

This stubborn heart,
a little hard on itself,
a little timid..

Why is it stuck on the door of pain,

Why does it punish itself in new ways

Why does it laugh when all it wants to do is cry

Why doesn't it understand what's right and what's wrong..

The breaths are cold as snow, and there is smoke in the eyes,

why does my heart play a gamble with sorrow and joy

it's full of hopes,
But it's afraid of itself..
why is it tangled in convoluted threads..
it doesn't pay heed to its own suggestions..

It almost seems like this city is as depressed to have me back as I am depressed to be back...the incessant rains a testament to the fact

Saturday has been quiet - breakfast at home followed by a 90 minute Yoga Class and a 35 mile drive to get to Ahadu Restaurant for Ethiopian food...just time spent with the 2 K's. How has your weekend been?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tentative Parenting :The story of the little yogi and the working mom

K2 broke a flowerpot today at his grandparents place and I asked to speak to him, he quickly said - Hi Mama, can I speak to Aai (my mother). I gave the phone to my mother knowing fully well it was an evasion tactic from getting a "howling" from his mama. A minute later he did own up to his mistake and said something profound "Own up when you mess up"...this is something they are taught at school and is impeccable learning from a work ethics perspective. We strongly believe that credit needs to be given where it is due, so if things go wrong why not apply the same principle and take responsibility. He has made a couple other comments which apply so aptly to life in general and work in particular. I have been learning from this precocious child the hard art of being a yogi. Here are his top 3 sayings not listed in the order of frequency of use :

  1. You get what you get, and you don't get upset - Patanjali speaks of Santosha or contentment and it is critical to practice this in our work place and ambition are all great but it is important to take a moment and take a breather and enjoy where we are (we are there for a reason)
  2. Sharing doubles the fun - K2 who seeks to share what he already has, case in point his Beyblades with his sister and his friend D .This simple saying has elements of a yama that Pantanjali spoke of - aparigraha, or nonpossessiveness (wish that applied to his Ma too, he can't stand me holding another child in his presence...yet)...sharing knowledge, information and credit makes team work more than just a buzz word.
  3. If it's not your sack, put it back - This final offering speaks to the  yama, asteya, or non-stealing, we refrain from stealing not because we fear getting caught but because we want to engage in right action and preserve our integrity. Learning from my son and life in general I have practiced at work giving credit, praise and recognition for ideas, work and has held me good stead at the work place and helped me sleep easier at night.
Does this mean K2 is out of the dog house for breaking the pot - not quite. However, this little yogi has taught me the value of remembering that the simple principles in life are the foundation for all things black and white in our value system. I hope I can help him practice, remember and value these strong parenting (yes roles reversed) lessons he has given me. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thoda Gupshup...Thoda Chai Vai.

Thoda = A little
Gupshup = social chitchat (not to be confused with the  popular Mobile SMS service in India)
Chai = wonderful Indian beverage...made with strong black tea, laced generously with cardamom and full-fat milk and who can forget sugar ( the cuppa in India is 1/4th the size of the chai in the US, thereby justifying more than just one cup+ the extra sweetness...that's my story and I am sticking to it  ;-) )

It is when I am in India that I realize that I am somewhat socially inept...I lose practice in the US you see...most of my time is spent running after my son, household errands, conference calls, work, gym...not something I am complaining about... things I enjoy doing...but I lose out on taking a breather and sitting down for a cuppa with my friends for inane conversations skimming the superficial (maid, pictures, beauty salon, diet) -- why is it that every time I have a conversation with P or N or even M...we end up with the heavy thing I am really enjoying here is my cups of chai with all the small eats. Here is a picture of some of the things that go with my cuppa

You see in the picture Diet Chiwda, Sesame Cookies and an amazing fruit cake from Diamond Bakery. I have  recreated the fruit cake at home  multiple times (I usually substitute the maida used in Indian bakeries with whole wheat and that makes my cake denser...way more interesting though)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup light butter 
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk (made from 2 1/2 tsp low fat curd )
1 tsp orange rind
Handful of dried cranberries, blueberries, walnuts.
Preheat the oven at 400 F/ 200C. Grease a bundt pan or a cake pan and keep aside.
Sieve the wheat flour and baking powder together and keep aside
Cream the butter and sugar  together in a bowl (mix them together until soft)
Add the buttermilk, rind, dried fruits and wheat flour mixture. Mix well.
Pour batter into greased tin.
Bake for 20-25 min at 400 F / 250 C until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Enjoy with a cuppa tea like me....this recipe goes out to Nupur for her event - What's with my cuppa?  and Kid's Delight - Healthy Makeovers hosted by Rasi  (brainchild of Valli )

Things have been quiet here on my end...lots of simple home-cooked meals with the stars being my favorite vegetables. My mother made me Guvar (Cluster Beans), Begun Bhaja ( Eggplant), Red Greens cooked with Pumpkin, Dry fried Cauliflower (my absolute favorite, I could probably finish 2 cauliflower heads on my own)...enough of talking about them and here are the pictures...

How has your chai time been lately

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Inside Out...Outside looking In.

I am inside out, outside looking in,
No matter where I go,
I can't escape my skin
I can act cool, I can act proud
No matter where I go, I am still alone in the crowd
Inside Out, On the outside looking in
                                                 --- Tony Emmanuel 
These lyrics resonated to me from a random song that Pandora played for me as I was lost in spreadsheets. Why is it that even when we  are surrounded by people, things, events and conversations....there is mostly a tiny part of us (and sometimes a big part of us) that remains untouched...unaffected...almost like from the outside looking in. Things have been quiet...spending time with my parents. Occasional flare-ups, I guess once you are a certain age, advise is almost like excess baggage, something you strongly prefer not to get. 

What a hypocrite I am though - I grow old for Ma's advise but never too old for her food -- and she made me all the things I don't have a chance to cook for myself back home. Here is a glimpse of some of the things I ate the past few days...

For those of you wondering what these vegetables are : Karela (Bitter Melon), Tondli (Gherkin), the 3rd one I  only know of as  Avvarakai  in Tamil and Simbo in Oriya (Broad Beans). 

The lyrics seem apt especially for my Karela...the inside is out and the outside is in...:)

So how has life been treating you the past few days...have you been watching the sunrise like me in the mornings...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Excess Baggage and Nostalgia on a plate

A 22 hour journey with a hyperactive kid (who unfortunately sounds like me : High Pitched and Loud) with zero sleep seemed less daunting than the luggage that I was carrying on United...fortunately there was someone up higher who took a healthy interest in making my journey smooth and introduced me to A, this young 25 year old who was stuck between a mother unwilling to relinquish her aisle seat and an equally stubborn 6 year old who refused to give up his window...A handled the situation with a lot of grace and charm. He waited at baggage claim for my bags to arrive....any surprises they were one of the last ones to come!

 I reached Pune at 6.45 AM yesterday in the morning ... a hot breakfast of homemade dosa and two kinds of chutney with hot ginger chai.

My memorable meal for the day was a mild yellow Dal, Bhindi and Aloo Gobi (cooked oriya style). Reminded me of the many meals had at home over the years ( different vegetables - guvar, karela, beans etc)...simple but so satisfying.

Another wonderfully satisfying meal where the main stars were dal, cabbage and is so true that what makes you happy eventually are the simple things in life...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

20,000 Views and an odd sort of a day...

I had started a blog in 2004 to test out the new trends and see if there was ways to monetize blogging as a part of messaging...our company didn't figure out the monetization part but I got totally hooked to blogging. Yahoo 360 was spectacular...I made hundreds of friends, had 200,000+ views in the first year of blogging...made me arrogant. I stopped blogging in 2007 when Yahoo 360 was shut down (or migrated over to Yahoo Profiles)...I restarted blogging in 2009 mostly to stay in touch with family and friends...yet there is a part of me which wants to be at the center of it all...aka have an happening blog. The truth is that everything is hard work and a labor of love...and  beyond using this blog for expressing myself, I haven't really gone out of my way to do much with I promise this will change, don't think so...however if you stick around as a thank you, I will  post drool-worthy pictures of what I eat in India...yes it is Return of the Native - Part 3...This week has been very odd, especially today where the weather couldn't decide what it wanted to sunny,cloudy or it picked something in between. I couldn't resist taking a picture on my Nokia Lumia 900

I found a picture of mine from 2004 (about the time I started my first blog)...and did a quick compare to a picture from two months ago, narcissistic I know... since 2009, I have lost about 15 pounds without dieting, eating consciously...but without depriving myself of the things I like to eat...I think life is a balancing act and the key is finding that balance that works for you.

Today is Dushera in India and growing up in the south, I learnt about  how the woman makes this world function (discovered it first hand at home with Ma..). In Tamil Nadu, it was all about worshipping the Ma's - Durga, Lakshmi and Calcutta (I lived in Ballygunge) it was about the pandals and pujas and the scrumptious feasts...Happy Dushera to all...and thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What my 5 year old teaches me about Product Management (and life)....

From my wordpress blog (written on June 12th, 2012):
A good friend who is an excellent architect with years of experience hit anomie (want to read my post on PMs and anomie go here) and  I actively encouraged him to investigate options beyond his comfort zone. He decided to give Product Management a go and I think he loves it with I warned him and a number of my other friends -- Being a PM is an extremely rewarding job, yet you need patience and you need the will to last the grind ( something that over the years I seem to be losing) the end whatever career you choose, ask yourself the question : is this something both my head and my heart want me to do?
Life has been a good teacher in general but over the past 5 years so has my son. My son reminds me every day of the following things :
(A) Prioritize  : K2 is ruthless about what matters in his life - it is his playtime, his ipad time and then parents time... I have learnt from K2 whether it is a backlog plan or my meal plan at home, it is critical that I get to first things of them is weekly meals for my family...I came up with a grandiose weekly plan, haven't yet gotten around to executing 100% to plan -- hey but it is prioritized.
(B) Communicate : whether it is a "small" question to letting us know he needs to use the bathroom, to he is hungry, sleepy or grumpy...K2 is annoying at times but useful most times...I would rather he tell me he has a tummy ache to me second guessing it. Similarly whether it is to Development, Sales, Customers, peers or Management - I believe in appropriate data and information sharing. Every quarter after revenue was posted - I did an all-hands with the development team to walk them through revenues, wins-losses, roadmap snapshots and the next 3 month outlook ...I think these communications helped serve the purpose of Establishing Direction and there was no alienation from the product (remember Karl Marx).
(C) Simplify : Man tends to overcomplicate, overthink life...K2 breaks things down to the basics (classic Maslow) - "When you learn how to say yes to the things you want in your life and no to the things you don't want in your life – your life becomes simpler."
(D) Think Win-Win : As we grew up in India our life was very competitive -- we learnt to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. We thought about succeeding in terms of someone else failing–i.e.,  if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose. Life almost became a zero-sum game.-- however, with K2 I see that he is in a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions -- he wants to share, his attitude is "there is plenty for all"

This weekend - I conquered my fear of heights to help K2 conquer his...we watched Madagascar 3...strolled the farmer's market and splurged on the healthy (beans,brocolli, brinjal) and the not-so-healthy (pies and brownies)...we stared at the Golden Gate bridge in awe and explored Sausalito (for the first time)...ready for Monday and the rest of the week. As my Bapa always tells me - sometimes it just about changing the perspective and life falls into has life been treating you?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Happy Birthday to You !

K2 is fast asleep, gently snoring...dreaming of bey-blade fights, Mario Olympics Wii, his Ninjago Lego...after I read him the Dr.Seuss book - Happy Birthday to you! 
How true ring the words :

These six years have been a  medley, a bundle of contradictions...yet something I don't stop and over analyze ..from the first smile to the first tantrum, a trip to the zoo to a trip to ER, a tooth lost, a best friend found to a discipline note and a blue monkey face (all in the same week)...for me K2 there is no one who can be more you-er than you...Happy Birthday to You!

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Story of the Wall Flower and a Madrasi Crustacean

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." Lou Holtz

As we ended our Yoga Class today, Keith read this quote to us (thanks N for sending it to me..). it rang so true for me...I have had a crappy attitude for a while now and am trying very hard to channel it in positive directions.
This was a week of many firsts for me -
  • My first Oracle Openworld which was awe-inspiring - sheer magnitude and energy
  • My son's first blue face (extraordinary behavior)
  • Watched Larry's interview live with Maria B. of CNBC (see me...the perfect Wall Flower)
  • First visit to Dosa on Filmore (I have been to the one on Valencia) and the food was exquisite

The prawn curry I had there with coconut rice reminded me of a prawn curry my Ma had made for me years back...Ma's curry was spicy and tangy and filled with love but this one was a close second.
photo credit : Dosa, Filmore

Madrasi Prawn Masala
  1. You need : Chopped Onions (2 Big), Tomatoes (1 big), Ginger-Garlic paste, sambar masala, Coconut (2 tbsp),  Cashew Nuts (handful), 2 Serrano Chillies (use less or more depending on spice tolerance)
  2. Marinate Prawns in Lemon Juice, Salt to taste, Turmeric Powder, Chili Powder, Salt and Ginger Garlic paste for 1/2 hour 
  3. Heat Oil and put the pan on the stove. Add urad dal and mustard seeds and curry leaves, fry the ginger garlic paste, add the onions and fry till carmelized. Now add the tomatoes and fry some more till it is all mushy and mixed in. Add the Sambhar powder
  4. Grind - the fried masala with the shredded coconut, cashews and serrano chillies to a smooth paste
  5. Now add 1 tbsp of oil and fry the marinated shrimp till it is cooked through. Add the ground masala paste. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Add Salt to taste, sprinkle some cinnamon powder on top if you so please. Now shut of the stove and garnish the prawns with cilantro
  6. Enjoy with hot steaming rice or some dosas
This recipe goes out to the Seafood Fest event hosted by Usha of My spicy kitchen.

I am looking forward to a quiet weekend : a zumba class, hair cut for K2 at Snip-it  tomorrow, maybe watch SriDevi's new movie - English Vinglish,Clean K1 and K2's cupboards. 

I would like to leave you for the weekend with a thought in mind stolen very aptly from The Perks of Being a Wallflower -

“I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.” 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seven Steps to a Perfect Day...and the perfect cutlet

Perfect Day - I ask myself what the hell that is today...a laundry load to fold, homework to finish with K2, sleepless night, headache, lunch box to pack, rush to get K2 to school, a discipline note from K2's school to deal with (don't ask I won't tell) I sit in an Yoga class and breathe deeply and focus on nothing...all the mad rush and angst vanishes away and the focus is on the breath and all things good...and  it hits me that the choice to whether my day is perfect or not is up to me. Why Seven...because I like the number seven...this could be thirteen, sixteen or even 2 for you...but ask yourself what makes your day perfect...till you figure it out here is my list :-)
  1. Don't sweat the small stuff : Fancy that advise coming from the master planner who plans, organizes, builds meal plans, weekly plans, budgets, to-do lists and other minutia in life to the nth detail...however truth is I am trying (and to some extent succeeding) to quit sweating the small stuff...the reality that we are really not in control punched me in the face couple times already and I am slowly learning
  2. Listen to Music : As I listen to Pandora Radio ( whether it is the Eagles (Hotel California) or the Carpenters (Top of the World)...or some idiotic tune from Rowdy Rathore), I automatically perk up and the workload seems a lot more manageable
  3. Treat yourself and others nice : I went for a restorative yoga class today and just made myself a hot cup of green tea that I am drinking and munching Nonni's Cinnamon Raisin Thins and it is relaxing.I won't be too hard on K2 ( I took  tv away for 3 days amidst tears, as consequence for the note) 
  4. Goof Around : On Sunday, K2 and I played "Just Dance 3"...we danced the Halloween Dance about 3 times and I lost every time....reason was : my son has danced this song about 20 times at his "choice time" at extended care and is something of a pro at it....I would have danced it a 4th time just to see the sheer joy on his face after he won....and the bonus was I burnt some calories along the way
  5. Do something you love : For me it is different things on different day - today it was about checking 2-3 things off my To-Do list. Yesterday it was about making yummy cheese dosas for my son and listening to his over-the-top praises ....yup! he realizes I am a sucker for his compliments....on Sunday, it was hanging out with my kooky brother and the 2K's and being thankful for it
  6. Help Someone : I was a score keeper...cynical...even with K1 - divide the work equally, not too flexible. I am not saying that I have 100% changed but I am aware and trying...K2 and I were at the farmer's market 3 weeks back and there was this woman sitting on the road with a 2 month old baby asking for help...I bought some bread and gave it to her...the feeling of warmth that came from helping her for no other reason but just because I felt like it...was "priceless" and there was K2 watching and internalizing something from that incident...
  7. Love Hard : Something the master in Kung Fu Panda (yes the cartoon!) said stayed with me -  Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, but Today is a gift. That is why it is called the "present." I still worry, plan and organize...that is an intrinsic nature that I won't let go easy BUT I also value and cherish what I have...the love of family, don't forget to tell them you love them...and don't worry about tomorrow...coz it will happen the way it has to happen no matter what...
As K2 and I were chatting yesterday evening (he was sitting on the kitchen counter and I was standing making dosas)...I asked him what his favorite food was : he said - Ma, I love your dosas but Aai's (my mother) Cutlets are without much ado here is my Ma's Beetroot Cutlet recipe (in Indian cooking cutlet is not a cut of can be but in most cases it is a vegetarian patty with a huge flavor impact)...this was my go-to dish as a kid and I didn't realize it was fabulously healthy too...(I have done a couple swaps that I will mention and you decide how you want to make it ...with the swaps or my Ma's classic)

You Need :
  1. 2 Beetroots (finely grated)
  2. 2 Carrots (finely grated)
  3. 2 Sweet Potatoes (Boiled - my mother uses regular potatoes, the sweet potatoes make it sweeter)
  4. Fresh chopped Cilantro
  5. 1 medium finely grated onion, small knob of grated ginger, 3 cloves garlic
  6. Secret Ingredient - Roopak Kadhai Masala (don't know where to get that, I don't either -- my sister in law picks it up from Delhi for me OR Use your favorite brand of garam masala)
  7. Panko Bread Crumbs, Egg White for binding 
SWAP : I shallow fry my cutlets in a  pan, my mother used to deepfry them in a deep kadai (I think she shallow fries now too).

What you do :

  1. In a mixing bowl mash the boiled Sweet Potato
  2. Microwave the grated vegetables for 2-3 minutes
  3. In a little oil fry the onions, ginger and garlic
  4. Add the grated veggies and the boiled mashed sweet potatoes, cilantro and the spices. Add Salt ( I usually don't add any chili powder but you can kick it up with chili powder).
  5.  I make oval patties. Dip in the Eggwhite , Roll in Panko Bread Crumbs and Shallow Fry. Serve with Ketchup. 
I usually serve this with a yogurt cucumber dip, a boiled egg (for added protein) and a whole wheat butter toast to make it a complete balanced meal.This is one of K2's favorite foods. He is happy because he gets something  that is crunchy and yummy and I am really happy because he is getting healthy veggies, some hard hitting carbs (from Sweet Potato) and a myriad of nutrients including beta carotene's, antioxidants etc.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Creativity Unleashed : A Doodle and a Poem...

"Vakratund mahakaay, Suryakoti samaprabha, Nirvighnam kuru me dev, sarvakaryeshu sarvada."-
O large-bodied Lord with a curved trunk, you who have the brilliance of ten million suns, I pray to you to always make all my activities obstacle-free."

Yesterday as I was sitting in a looooooong meeting, with my raspy throat feeling generally sick...I started thinking of  Ganesha...Who is Ganesha you ask me? He is my buddy...been by me all the years of my life, I rub his tummy anytime I get anxious or worried and I feel better, I make deals with him all the time (now you know if you see me talking to myself in the car), you might even see him around my house, my car, even my neck (the pendant on my chain) - he is the elephant god....the remover of all obstacles...and my not-so-creative self started doodling ( I even used the Orange, Blue and Yellow highlighters at my desk) is what I came up with (and yes I am very proud of it) and I gave it to K2 for safe keeping - Happy Ganesh Chathurthi !

When K2 was born  in 2006, I got 8 weeks of maternity leave and like some new mothers I was both overwhelmed and bored. In the nights I  took to this exciting hobby of blog hopping... During one such blog hop, I discovered a poetry competition that had been organized and I got hooked (JL do you remember?). Every week we were given a couple words and we had to come up with a poem around those words. The words for the first competition were - Changeling…Fury…Paramount…Aphrodisiac…Tantalizing…Shrouded…Weave…Engage...and Empower. I was very creative as a young girl but lost it somewhere along the way...this was my first effort at poetry (rusty with 15+ years of disuse)...

Looking at me with huge longing eyes was this wee changeling...

Standing half drenched in the fury that the skies had unleashed...

Her hair unkempt, her body so thin that the ribs one could count.

I looked away from that barely shrouded picture of poverty...

She showed me a glimpse of a world I did not want to see.
Weaving her way unsteadily to me,
She stared at prosperity a tantalizing bait of things unknown
Yet paramount in her was the need to survive,
Looking in through the windows of my fancy car,
She implored with her expressive eyes..and I drove away...
Leaving behind a trail of dirt.
Money... my ultimate aphrodisiac,
Why should I engage in this fruitless battle with my conscience,
When I could empower my capitalistic self to multiply,
In my world, there is no time for pity....

So there...don't you think this is Creativity Unleashed....well you ain't heard the last of it...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In the Pursuit of Happiness..

Happiness is only 50% preset by genes and the other 50% by our intentions and choices...happiness is within our control, a skill that we can choose to develop. 

I am an unhappy camper today...hit by a myriad of aches and pains...huddled under the comforter, a rasp in my throat, procrastinating on some work it today on a weekend or do it needs to get done anyway...I was surfing movies on Netflix and I reached a documentary "Happy" which seemed like the perfect antidote for my grouchy, grumpy self...

This movie was like Warm Apple Pie topped with rich whipped started in Calcutta following the life of a rickshaw puller who found happiness in abject poverty from the love of his family to a tour guide in Louisiana whose happiness was in the Bayou trawling in his boat for a glimpse of wildlife, the stillness and the sheer beauty of mother nature...following a 106 year old woman in Okinawa, a single mother in a coop in Denmark....and ending back in Calcutta.This movie was 6 years in making...not whimsical but very deep insightful and thought provoking.

 Here are 7 things that  are my key takeaway from this documentary

  1. Practice Happiness : Don't wait for happiness to come to you...find it in everything you do. As I was watching the documentary, sipping a cup of herbal tea the aches and pains slowly subsided and I had an Aha! moment
  2. Invest in yourself : Find what makes you happy - it could be as simple as a book, a yoga class, lunch with a friend, a good meal...find it and invest the time to do what makes you happy. A Sunday walk in the farmers market makes me happy and I try to take the time to go to the Farmers Market  once a week come rain or shine.
  3. Invest in Community : Whether it is your child clamoring for your attention, a ladies night out, tennis with your neighbor, a dinner with close friends or just ordering out pizza and hanging together...investing time beyond yourself helps expand your sense of well-being and makes you belong.
  4. Rethink Success : Japan is a highly successful country with the dubious title of having the most number of suicides in a developed country...ever thought of why? The movie talked about a young man in Japan who literally overworked himself to his death..."Karoshi" as the Japanese call it...he has a grieving widow in her early twenties and a 3 year old who does not yet comprehend the magnitude of her success at any cost worth it...or do we as a culture need to revisit our definition of success...
  5. Prioritize Helping Others : My mother in law is a doctor who retired 7 years back. She chose to for the past 7 years to practice at the Ramakrishna Math every day seeing between 25-30 sick people for  free...she has prioritized helping others here and I think in that she has found happiness.  
  6. Practice Gratitude : I got an email a year back from someone close (and yet not so close) saying - Thank You...I was surprised and skeptical (maybe I am not used to someone saying thanks)...however, I remember slowly feeling good as I read and re-read that was a warm ray of sunshine that is not very hard being grateful for all that life has given us...and when you really think about has given us a lot
  7. Become Self-Aware : Self knowledge and happiness are often a parallel journey. It's  pretty simple; happy people do the things that make them happy. As you become happy you connect more closely to who you truly are. Figuring out what you want and what is really important to you will improve your happiness - the key is being authentic vs. faking positivity.
How has your weekend been? We did make a trip to the Farmer's Market - I got a small winter melon, green beans, organic apples, asian pears, white egg plants, brownies, snickerdoodle cookies, 3-seed bread, brown eggs....and yes, that made me happy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Conscious Box & Metamorphosis...

"Any transition serious enough to alter your definition of self will require not just small adjustments in your way of living and thinking but a full-on metamorphosis"

My mind is tired....tired of thinking thoughts it should not be...K2's butterfly garden has flowered...the 5 pupae have transformed to 5 beautiful painted ladies...K2 is ecstatic and I think he has learnt some important lessons in metamorphosis. The hope is as time goes he will understands how this relates to change and transformation in life.

Today I received my first vegan  Conscious Box - Discover the best in the planet every month is their mantra. Compact box...very thoughtfully packed... Here are a couple pictures I took...

the next picture is the welcome card in my box :

 the third picture is of the super cute postcard included in the box : 

Here is a quick run-down of what was in my box :

  1. C3 for Stress : All natural stress relief (how did they know?)
  2. Teecino : Herbal Coffee (French Roast, Hazel Nut, Vanilla Nut)
  3. Funky Monkey - Purple Funk ( this will go in K2's Lunch Box)
  4. Happy Baby : Orange Mango Coconut Milk ( this will go in K2's Lunch Box)
  5. Vaska : Laundry Detergent
  6. Clean Well : Disinfectant Wipe
  7. Purity Cosmetics (2 Lotion Sample)
  8. Artisana : Goji & Milk Thistle Butter
  9. Ancient Minerals (Magnesium Oil)
  10. Hurraw - Coconut Lip Balm
  11. Kelapo : Virgin Coconut Oil Sample
  12. Vega : Pre-Workout Energizer
  13. Madecasse - Chocolate (80% cocoa)
What surprised me was the fact that I had used exactly 4 (Funky Monkey, Happy Baby, Artisana and Madecasse)  out of the 13 items they had sent and knew about 2 (Vega, Clean Well), while the others were all new news for me...I am definitely looking forward to trying the Magnesium Oil and the lip balm and will be packing the Funky Monkey and the Happy Baby in K2's lunch box...Thanks Conscious Box for giving me some "Happy Thoughts" in a week that has been extremely intense....