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?