Monday, August 28, 2017

36 Vayathinile - Stand-up Comedy Show Review

With Praveen in traditional attire
of Veshti (not Lungi :-)
#36Vayathinile - My debut stand-up comedy show as audience and I took my Mom and Sister as well. There were loads of interesting stuff about this show, the first and foremost being that I got to see my college friend - Praveen Kumar -  after 15 years & to see him perform live, keeping us entertained for over an hour, incl. 200+ audience !

With social media (WhatsApp, FB etc.), I had watched video clips of stand-up comdy shows, I have had my own apprehensions on such shows because many of them ridicule a section of population or make fun at the cost of someone/group of people (with no understanding whatsoever about the person or the section of the society) or by tastelessly mocking the system of stereotyping.

Praveen boasts of clean comedy and claims that his career achievement as a Stand-up Comediean was his ability to entertain a whole class full of 7-year olds :-) True to his tagline - "Clean comedy" - his entire show had anecdotes from his personal experiences that each and every one of us could relate to on a daily basis. I was not sure if my family would like the show, but all three of us laughed so much that our cheeks hurt. There was not one dull moment in the entire program. I wished that the rest of my family were also present and been a part of this laughter riot.

During the course of the show, I was also reminded of our college days and all the late-night "Lachcha sessions" (BITSian slang for meaningless but entertaining discussion sessions) that we used to have while preparing for the various Cultural, Science & Management Fests.

Chennai Museum Theater: Venue of the Tamil Standup
Comedy show "36 Vayathinile"
#36Vayathinile is a Tamil comedy show that talks about the dilemmas of being stuck inbetween two generations at the age of 36, touches upon the daily mind voices that all of us can very easily relate to. Using comedy as a medium, Praveen was able to touch upon subjects relating to the state of education system, international & national political scenario, language debate and more and bring forth many valid, effective but simple suggestions to be able to bring about a positive change in at least some of the issues currently prevailing, one of which being (that we do in our family as well), to talk in one's mother tongue at least inside the house among family members instead of depending on a link language or English.

Added bonus was Mervyn Rozz opening the show, engage and interact with the audience, before calling Praveen on to the stage.

Thank you for an amazing show and an evening filled with laughter. My wishes for him to reach greater successes. Waiting for the time when I can attend his show again, and the next time with my husband and children as well !

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Welcoming Positive Changes in the Indian mindset !

When you are growing up in India, depending on the parenting styles of your parents, each of us get a very minor glimpse (so as to say the tip of an iceberg) of what it means to spearhead the running of a household seamlessly. But when you are married and on your own, nothing prepares you for what hits you straight on. If you want to continue having a happy, contended, and satisfying life for not just yourself but for those around you, there are several decisions that you will make that you may not fully agree with, one or both of us have to arrive at a compromise - the fondly called middle ground/road in our household - so as to not rock the boat. In such cases, some choose to keep their career on the back burner (which is what I did and did it willingly and voluntarily and had the complete support of my spouse), but there are others who do not want to. They give it their all to still hold on to both their personal job profile and a professional job profile but I feel are not duly appreciated/acknowledged. In some scenarios, women give up their career or take a short/long break from their career to relocate due to the demands of their husbands (in rare cases in India, and a slightly higher numbers in other countries, the reverse where the husband gives up his career for his wife's career progress).

In my case, when I decided to take a small break from my work to sort out my time and home management mess before I start looking for another job and add on the professional work management angle to the existing mess. Then I got pregnant and I saw no point in going back to work because, anywhere I join, my job will be evaluated based on my marital status, my pregnancy and my motherhood rather than my work output and capability. I know this to be true because, I have heard comments (made by colleagues when I was part of the paid work force and friends - male/female - alike) to the extent where it is discussed openly, without fear of being unfairly biased, about how marriage will reduce the productivity of a woman (sometimes - a rarity - even for men as they will have to keep up to the so called undue demands of the newly wedded wife and her family) as she will have to choose between home and work. I have also noticed that there is a kind of unwritten policy across most organisations (even in teaching profession) where, the promotion of a deserving woman might not happen either because she is pregnant and expecting or she is getting married and there is a possibility of her moving from the current work location. This is not so in the case of a man who is about to become a husband or a father. Despite having proven their capabilities by working twice as hard and delivering much better than their male counterparts, sometimes, the female employee gets thrown out of the promotion list (if questioned on this, they would be told that they were given a salary hike for their performance but were not deserving of a promotion) if they are pregnant or going to get married due to which they might anticipate a physical relocation.

I do not know if it was coincidence or there is a change in the thought process of people in general, advertisements these days have more progressive messages. Most of these advertisements have English subtitles as well.


The expressions on both the actors faces (the subtle pride in the face of the husband when he tells his wife about what her choice meant to him and the mixture of surprise and  gratitude - on her face is priceless to watch.

The concept of being thankful and acknowledging the choices that the woman had to make in her life for the man to be able to pursue his career (or vice versa where applicable) itself a welcome change. Personally, I think it is brilliant to bring about this change in advertisements as it reaches maximum number of people, different age groups and genders and will have the maximum impact to bring about the needed change in the thought process.

Other such advertisement series that caught my attention and are my favourite these days are

Myntra's "Bold is Beautiful" series - A couple of them that I loved the most:

 

The Move  Ad talking about how it is this society is skewed in thinking it is normal for women to always be ready to follow their husband's job relocation, irrespective of the impact it will have on their own personal careers as this is the "norm", but when the reverse is expected, the man does not feel obligated to support his wife and relocate if the situation demanded him to. The advertisement shows the decisiveness of the woman to go ahead with the decision to relocate in lieu of her career and how she explains it to him.


In The Calling  Ad, Radhika Apte being the pregnant executive having a conversation with an older, maybe a senior female executive, about how the hypocritical the decision to sideline her from the promotion that she much deserves by considering her pregnancy as a hinderance, despite the fact that it was her tireless effort in getting the deal/project for the company. The way she makes herself heard and at the same time brings forth the discriminative behaviour of the management with dignity, poise and confidence won my heart and filled me with pride to see that the thought at least is out in the open (or should I say, "the cat is out of the bag"), the rectification for the problem will surely follow through.
BIBA - Change the conversation series of Ads


This Ad talks about how a pre-marriage discussion turns into something quite delightful! The ad has English subtitles as well for people who do not understand the language spoken. 


A prospective bride groom and his family visiting a prospective bride's family to meet her and then decide if the families can move forward with the marriage proposal. A typical first step in any Indian arranged marriage scenario. The bride is apprehensive about how this would go and below is the conversation between the father and daughter and the rest of the gang assembled in her living room (have tried to translate the Hindi conversation below)

Father: Aren't you ready yet? Everyone is waiting for you downstairs.
Daughter: Papa (Dad), how can I decide over a samosa and a coffee that he is the one with whom I can spend my entire life with?
A stern stare from the father followed by " Come soon" and then he turns and leaves.She sighs and follows suit and joins the rest of the family in the living room.
Boy's mother: No Thank you. You have liberally fed us. (Transliteration. Intended meaning being,"Your hospitality is overwhelming"). We like your daughter, Payal, a lot and are happy to agree for this marriage proposal from our end. Do we assume that it is the same from your end as well?
Payal's father: Of course! But we would also like to visit yor in your home.
Boy's mother: You are most welcome. But why?
Payal's father: Our daughter would also like to see if your son can manage a household or not? If he can cook or not! Only then can we decide on giving her hand in marriage.
Boy's mother: (laughs) He doesn't even know to boil water. On rare occassions, he makes noodles in a microwave.
Payal's father: I am sorry, but my daughter cannot live her entire life on just noodles.
A pregnant pause. The boy himself speaks up.
Boy: Sir, why don't you come to our home after 10 days?
Payal's Dad: Why in 10 days?
Boy: Sir, by then I will learn to cook / create something. You can then come to meet the boy!
Smiles all around.
The scenario is very different and refreshing in comparison to the traditional norm of the Indian society.

Preganews Ad: Another brilliant ad film on how the corporate is being sensitive to the life of a professional woman/asset who is pregnant instead of making her life more difficult by excluding her out of major meetings quoting her pregnancy, and the challenges that it bring with it, as a reason.


Here is the script for the benefit of those who do not understand the language that the Ad is in:

Two collegues are discussing in the conference room when one tells the other that something needs to be done about the staff cost as the result of this quarter are very low. The other is deep in thought and enquires about a specfic staff named Swetha to the peon for which he answers that he is going to get her things next. The executive instructs the peon that from now on in every meeting he is to bring in water for her every 30 minutes.

This specific staff's cubicle is cleared after office hours, all her things are placed in a box and moved. A lady staff asks the peon if the fan does not give out smell and another lady staff talks to someone on the phone instructing them to place the new chair ordered downstairs and leaves for the night. Next day morning, you see a lady climbing up the stairs and coming into office. She smiles and wishes someone good morning only to turn to her desk and find nothing. She asks, "Where's my stuff?"

A colleague answers, "Go down and talk to the HR".

She talks to herself, "How could they do this to me when I am pregnant?" She assumes the worst under the circumstances. She lets out a frustrated sigh, turns around, and walks back down the stairs towards the HR, while she passes a cabin that lights up sensing movement. She turns and on the door sees her name and enters. The rest of the conversation is in English.

Even some of the Tamil daily soaps are interesting. A daily soap called "Maapillai" on Vijay TV talks about how a man marries and goes to live in the house of his wife with her 4 sisters and parents. The emotions, feelings and thoughts that a woman goes through after marriage while trying to adjust into a new family and their routine is now the norm for this man who has moved into his wife's home. A revolutionary thought in itself considering that the norm in Indian marriages is for the girl to move out from her parental home into the in-laws home after marriage. This soap also talks about the general parenting mistakes (like how the boys are completely pampered by their mothers to the extent that they cannot function independently even to get their own coffee or clean and iron their own clothes) and touches upon the other societal stereotypes that are not so nice.

These ads and the new story-lines that are trying to break stereotypes, bring in hope that the change in the thought process will soon happen even where it matters and not just remain as advertisements or movies on screen or in words as blogs/books. More power to the positive change that is slowly but steadily taking over the society at large. Cheers to a better future in the making !

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Drawing Parallels - Could religious symbols signify similarities?

I recently had the opportunity to visit St. Mary's Church, Harrow (London) and had the pleasure to discover more about various Christian symbols and practices. It was an euphoric moment for me when I heard the narrative given by the church representatives and I just could not help myself but draw parallels to the Hindu Temples that I grew up knowing about. Below are some of them:

Tall Tower - At the entrance of the church we were introduced to the Spire (alternatively called the Steeple), the tall structure in the church. She explained that the presence of Spire was as a symbol to point us to heaven and heavenly things that makes us forget about the earthly things that surround us and we start concentrating on the beautiful sky and think about God and Angels bringing about a shift in our thoughts. This was the start of the euphoric moment that I mentioned about. As a Hindu (practising or by birth - I am not sure where I would put myself) I was immediately able to relate it to the Gopura Dharisanam (the Kalasam present atop the tallest tower or gateway tower in front of the temple is looked at in a similar fashion for almost the exact same reasons) symbolisation.

We went inside and sat down at the prayer hall where we were introduced to the other members present there including the Vicar (who was also the Chaplin at the school nearby), who was the highest person of importance as far as this church was concerned.

Design - The first explanation given was about the design of the church. She told us that all churches were built with a basic design of the Cross and this was common for all churches and this was to symbolise that Jesus Christ died on the cross and hence Cross represented the most important event in the history of Christianity and considered to be very holy. So that was the length of the church with the altar at one end and the entrance on the other end of the long vertical side of the cross while the short and horizontal portion of the cross had chapels for other important people/things. Over the years, other structures get built around this main structure (like hall of peace that is used as place of meditation or prayer for people from other beliefs) and hence it might be difficult to see the Cross on an aerial view of the Church but if you see from inside, this basic design will be present as a common element. 

This made me draw a parallel to the Hindu Temples and their basic structure of commonality of having a Sannidhi (or Sanctorum) for Lord Ganesha as the God at the entrance of every temple, and then a main sannidhi that houses the main diety of that temple. Then there is the Navagraha (that represent the Sun, Moon and the eight planets). In addition to these three features depending on the temple, there may be more additions to the temple in the form of halls for conducting prayers/poojas and functions.

Functionality - The next parallel I drew was in olden days, Church was the centre point for almost everything including reading, teaching, healing, spreading the word of the Lord and such. Similarly, Temples were the epicentre of power for similar reasons like teaching, lecture, healing, spreading spirituality and the teachings of Gurus (or Saints) to common people. 

Paintings & Carvings - There were tinted glass paintings that tell a story because in olden days, people did not know to read and write and hence art came to the forefront to spread the message. The roof of the church had wooden carvings of angels, saints, musicians and so on. Parallel to Hinduism is the carvings on the Temple towers and pillars, paintings on the inner walls and ceilings that each told a story and conveyed a life in that village/town where the temple was located.

The Holy Water Font or the Stoup - A Symbol to denote that the water is a cleansing agent and hence sprinkling of water is to denote the cleansing of the person/thing. 

The Temple Pond – A parallel to the Stoup - A dip in the Temple pond (Teppam – a pond found outside the temple) is supposed to cleanse one completely. If this pond is absent, the sprinkling of holy water (water mixed with turmeric, camphor, Tulasi - Indian holy basil) is supposed to do the job. 

A final tit-bit that I learnt about the altar was the significance behind the presence of the table present at the altar. This is to symbolise Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples.

These insights probably indicate that different religions indeed have similar notions and commonalities, adapted to local context.

Pictures courtesy:  Google search

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Baahubali: A Tribute, not a movie review..

If you are expecting a review or spoilers about the movie , then read no further. It is not what this article is about.


Adjectives like stupendous, wow, amazing, spell-bound, brilliant... are probably not enough to describe the "Visual Treat" that the 2-part epic movie "Baahubali" has given Indian Cinema. 

I recently watched the second part - "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" - with my family (with two generations - youngest being 5 yrs old and the oldest 38 yrs old). The entire movie was a exhilarating masterpiece, executed flawlessly without a dull moment. There were sequences where my young children could not stop their excitement, and clapped & shouted, along with the audience. Each frame of the movie keeps running in front of my eyes even after 48 hours of having watched it in a cinema hall. My husband & I are already making plans to watch it at least once more in the cinema again soon.

I was WOWed with the director S.S. Rajamouli's earlier venture - Mahadeera, but Baahubali surpasses anything that I have seen so far. Having a husband who loves epic movies and having had to give him company watching them, including likes of Brave Heart, Gladiator.. I have had the pleasure of enjoying various war formations and techniques. Also, having grown up in a South Indian household, it is literally impossible to be have grown up without being told about the movie marvel called Chandralekha (1948), directed and produced by Mr. S.S. Vaasan. For an 80-born, I could never relate to the wondrous feeling that my previous generation (50-born) felt about the movie. Yes, I could understand that to have created the sets needed for the famous song that had the huge Murasus (an ancient percussion instrument that was used like the Trojan Horse) and dancers atop these would have needed lot of man power, creativity, budget, and dedication, but it could never give me the WOW feeling that they had. Now, after Baahubali, I know exactly what they would have felt in their time. It would not be wrong if I said, that Baahubali for me and my generation is what Chandralekha was for my parents and grandparents.

Usually we are the last ones to leave the cinema hall. In this case, we were amazed by the entire movie crew's dedication, that when the credits were run in the theatre at the end of the movie, and we stayed till the last frame came up (and the cleaning crew popped in). Kudos to 600+ VFX artists from more than 15 VFX companies for CG, and other technicians including stunt masters, artists, musicians, cinematographers, art directors, ... who came together to create this visual grandeur for us to cherish for generations to come. 

#Baahubali @BaahubaliMovie ‏ #SSRajamouli @ssrajamouli

We take a bow!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"Beauty and the Beast": Movie Review & My Perspectives

!! Spoiler Alert !! - The review will be extensively descriptive about the movie.

This is one movie that broke my belief that a book is always better than the movie version. I always believed that the words in the book are much more intense and has the ability to transform you into the world that the author creates for the reader and the places and characters come alive, based on the depth of our imagination. So it is more an inclusive process. This movie was pure magic. I watched this Disney's retold Classic in a movie theater today, but not for a minute was I distracted enough to notice the audience around me (thanks to my hubby and 2 kids who were engrossed in their own ways). The magical journey took me through each and every frame of the decorum of the Castle, the feelings and characterization of every cast of the village where Belle lives, the emotions of the Prince as a pompous spoiled brat, the love stricken Beast, the concerned Father, the loving Daughter, the callous Romeo (Gaston), the avoiding Damsel... I could go on and on.. 

An avid reader from childhood - brought up in a family filled with readers - I had the pleasure of reading all genres of books. In fairy tales, "Beauty and the Beast" always held a special place in my heart because of the character of Belle. A girl who is happy to live in her books, different from the rest of them, not conforming to the "norms" of the society, is a character that I could relate to, rather than a princess. Also the fact that she is fearless and can stand up to a Bully and a Beast all by herself is a trait that I wished to inculcate in myself as a child.

This simple story did not convey complex elements of life, during my initial reading. It seems to have layers of concepts, intricately woven into a simple story line, that every time I read it (or see it), I am able to see a new interpretation and a new meaning to every aspect of the story.

Now when I watched the movie as a parent, it brought some new perspectives: 

The initial narration on how the Prince was cursed to be a Beast is absolutely brilliant, conveying a very strong message that the outer beauty is shallow and might be lost instantly, while inner beauty is what matters. 

Belle is introduced and the various emotions that the villagers have towards her is beautifully captured where debutantes are jealous of her, men are wary of her and look down upon the fact that she can read and write at a time when education was meant only for men, a few older women who adore her for being different from the rest (maybe because they see her as an inspiration or a beacon of change in a small village like theirs).

Gaston's introduction was also good with him being characterized as arrogant, self-centred snobbish rake who thought that the place of a woman was only to serve the men.

When Belle comes to the castle and takes the place of her father and gets closer to the beast, she is able to see beyond the outer facade of the beastly appearance and find the gentle and confused person buried deep within. They start to spend more time with each other when the Beast helps her visit her past and find out something about her childhood which heals her wounds. It is a kind of fantasy time travel where she is taken back to the time and place when she lost her mother, but knowing why they had to leave her mother and move helps her to come to terms with that aspect of her yearning to know more about her.

While Belle tries to understand why the castle crew were enduring the same curse as their Prince, Mrs. Pots explains that their inaction during the Prince's unmindful upbringing by his father (the King) after the Queen's demise, justifies them to also bear the burden of the curse. This drives home a strong message of not to be a silent spectator when a wrong-doing happens around us.

The ball room dance itself was so magical and the moments before the couple arrive on the dance floor was absolutely, fantastically magical with the way Belle is dressed in a ball gown and the finishing touches are added with glittering gold flying down from the ceilings of the castle and drawing intricate designs on her yellow ball gown making it absolutely stunning. Simultaneously, how the nervous Beast is primed up to look like a Prince who is to take a princess to her first ball dance was well directed and executed. 

There is a situation where Belle sees her father in trouble in the enchanted mirror, the Beast sets her free, instead of professing his love for her (as was the plan to at the end of the dance), gifts her the mirror as a way to think of him where ever she is. As she is heading towards the village, the song that plays had me wanting to give the Beast a hug, when he sings that he will never be alone hereafter as she will always be close to him in his heart and that she would be the central force of every action of his from now on. The core of true love is its ability to set you and the one you love free of all bonds and be happy and content even in their absence.

This scene gives a well needed link to the exchange between the father and daughter at the village when Belle tells her father that she understands why he did what he did and why he feels that he needs to protect his child. The next moment where the father realises that his daughter is a grown woman and that despite the lurking danger in every corner of life, his grown child now needs to pave her own path and have her own experience to have a fulfilling life, is exquisitely performed by both the actors. 

This magic stays till the end of the movie when Belle professes her love to the Beast when he is almost dead and how the transformation happens and the castle comes alive with all the villagers remembering everything again and curse being removed. Supporting characters like Mrs. Pot, Mr. Lumiere, and Agatha (sorceress) play pivotal role in ensuring that the events unfolding to alleviate the curse happen as they must. After 2 full hours of this magical experience, I did not feel like getting up from my seat and come to the reality of my life but, I had to ! What a wonderful experience it was to be transformed into a magical world that was on a visual medium. You will agree that the castle is indeed "alive" all through the movie (thanks to the cinematography and CG works). Kudos to the entire movie crew !

Maybe, personally for me, the music and songs might also have been a reason for this magic to have worked. I have always loved the movie "Sound of Music" which my Aunt introduced me to starting with the songs that we listened together on the good-old-days' record player and watching the movie. After those moments, guess this is another movie that gave me a similar experience. 

Would definitely recommend this movie to all fairy tale and fantasy movie lovers and parents with young children, who like feel-good stories and tons of sing-along songs !

Monday, March 06, 2017

To Work or not to Work? A Stay-At-Home-Mom's Perspective

If you think this is about me a stay-at-home-mom's (SAHM) dilemma before or after I had kids, you are partially right, but this is not just about that. This question "To work or not to Work" is something that I have asked myself millions of times at various stages in my life, after I completed my basic education (12 + 5 years of college in one of the esteemed universities - probably the only university - that offers integrated dual degrees in India). This is also a question I have been asked by many (family, friends and strangers alike) over the years. This is also a question, I know for a fact that my husband also keep asking himself and has been asked by many others that he has come across in his life so far including our children and me. Now I can see cog wheels turning inside your heads when you are contemplating the various scenarios and instances that this could have happened. So let me start with the most obvious of this scenario that deals with me (because as humans we are always self obsessed and like to talk a lot about what goes on with our lives, especially the imbalances in it and I am no exception) and then move on to the more intriguing aspect which is for a husband, the male (for whom to work is the norm and there can never be any other question especially one) that even considers about not working.

The female/wife/mother/woman angle


A couple of years ago, while I was travelling to my husband's home town, during our India visit with the children (just me and my 2 children), in a train journey, I happened to strike a conversation with a co-passenger, a stranger, who was also travelling to a destination close to mine. She was travelling to her home town to visit her parents after year of her second delivery and was travelling alone with 2 children. So this was a conversation between two recent time mothers (My youngest was couple of years older than her youngest).

She had recently resigned her job after using up her maternity vacation (paid and unpaid), and was doubting herself if she took the right choice. Somehow, she found me safe enough to share her personal information with me (which I might not have done without a little prodding). Guess it must have more to do with the intensity of the self doubting that she was going through rather than my being a safe enough sounding board.

"I just resigned my job as a Team Lead an IT firm. I used to draw a good salary and now I am wondering if I did the right thing by giving up my job. But when I see my children and the fact that I am able to make sure what I put in my daughter's lunch box is something fresh, home cooked and healthy, when she leaves for school in the morning, and the fact that I can attend to beck and call of my younger daughter every time she cries for a comforting hug or has melt down for my complete attention, makes me think it was the right thing to do. When I meet my friends from school and college, I start doubting myself as they have progressed in their career and they also have a family. Some days are so depressing, I do not have peers around me to have intellectual conversations with, I feel there is lack of challenge to my thought process. I feel that I am wasting away my life by choosing to stay at home instead of working and putting to use the education that I was privileged to have. I feel that I am doing injustice to my qualifications." Listening to her made me think how similar she sounded and looked to how I felt when I resigned my job a few years back. She asked me, "Are you working?". I said "I am not". Then, she asked me about my educational qualifications and when I told her that I had an integrated dual-degree from one of the prestigious institutes in India and a PG diploma, she was surprised and her immediate next question was "With a single Bachelors degree, I am doubting myself for not working, with your educational qualifications don't you feel you are wasting it by staying home?"

I contemplated a bit before I answered her. This involved opening up about my personal life (including opinions, state of mind, and choices) to a stranger and I wanted to be absolutely sure if I was ready to. But then, looking at her dilemma, made me think how nice it would have been if I did have someone to talk to every time I went through this kind of self doubt myself. So we continued our conversation. I told her, "The choice to work or to stay at home depends on your personal take on what your priority is. As clichéd as it sounds, that is the truth. You need to have your choices and priorities right. Otherwise it is going to be a very difficult task to stay happy and contended in the long run."

"You make it sound simple.", she said. "Believe it or not, it is that simple, but to arrive at this state of clarity is a long journey which is filled with self doubt and struggles. When we compare ourselves with those friends / colleagues of ours who have decided to continue to pursue their career (what ever their reasons behind it are), then we are doing injustice to ourselves. You cannot compare apples with oranges. It is not a fair comparison. A good option is to list what your needs are and proceed from there. No solution is perfect. There is always scope for improvements and adjustments. Do what is needed to make life easier and happier for yourself and your family."

"Don't you ever feel that you made a mistake by deciding to quit your job?" she asked.

"Yes, almost every instance I feel taken for granted or ignored, I wonder if I took the right decision. Then, I think if I had continued to work, would I have been happier than what I am now? Every time the answer to that question is NO, and immediately my doubts vanish. The reason behind is the fact that I know I would not have given my 100% to the 'paying job' (career) and then come back home to give a 100% to my family. And personally, if I cannot do that, then I cannot be content, in turn affecting my family. So it all drills down to what you really want - a successful career (where you will need at least some dependency from others around you to tackle day-to-day chores), or just concentrate full-time on your family (giving up your professional career, being able to better manage a Home-Maker role hands on)". We continued to converse till the children slept & parted ways at our respective destinations.

Now it is 11 years since I resigned my last job and I did not resign just because I became a mother. I resigned because, I was struggling to balance between a demanding professional life and tiring needs at home. I was just married (a year into marriage when I resigned) and was immediately in-charge of managing a household (about which I had a vague idea but was unprepared when the whole thing was starring at my face). If I could not do justice to the roles that I chose to play without having to depend on others around me for support to even deliver my basic job requirements, then I would not be personally satisfied and happy. So the better option for me was to give up my professional career so that I could give my 100% to my personal career (Home Management)! But from the time I made this decision, I am constantly challenged by many (family and friends alike) that I am wasting my studies by staying at home. How am I wasting my knowledge gained, If I can use what I have studied / learnt to apply them in my day-to-day tasks and make it enriching to everyone whose life I touch including my own family?

When I put down my resignation, my colleagues asked me, "What would you do sitting at home all day? I will go mad if I had to do that!". My answer was, "For now, I am just taking a break from professional life, take a step back, re-assess my stakes and then move forward from there depending on what I decide as my future path. Till then I am going to enjoy a vacation.". But truth be told, the "vacation" never came. When I resigned from job, I tried my level best to keep in touch with family and friends. I thought I had 8 hours of free time (the time I spent in an office when I was working) at hand and could pursue anything that I wanted to including to revive my hobbies. That never happened. At risk of repeating what many have already said, the day of a home maker is filled with tasks that never end. So instead of doing that, let me tell you how my typical day would be. My typical day would start at 6 in the morning and end at 10 p.m. (ideally it should and used to till I had children) I do have free hours during the day when I can basically laze around in front of the TV and watch serials or programmes of my choice. But that comes with the tough choice that I had to make to forego the organised world of profession where my work would be periodically evaluated and accolades and brick bats would follow the normal course, based on the kind of deliverable/output I gave, and follow a path where the word "organised" becomes a case of luxury. Any work I do is taken for "granted", because I am at home and have all the time in the world to do it, and unless I really went all out to make sure that I spell out exactly what I do, and what it translates into when put in monetary, time and effort perspective (difficult to bring it into that perspective but with some effort can be done) contributes a hell a lot of roles and responsibilities clubbed into one complete package, I would never have a peer review or appraisal that will put my household work in the right perspective and give me a sense of achievement from someone else's point of view.

Every time I visit my relatives or friends, they never fail to ask me about what I do now that both my children are in school full time. I used to try to tell them how my day is filled with tasks to ensure that the rest of the family has a peaceful life especially with a travelling husband (his job requirement demands him to), and a young family settled abroad with a single earning member. I had friends remark jovially that somehow I always tend to remain busy despite no employment. There used to be time when that statement hurt me, because I am not "jobless". I just do not have a job that pays money. I do not have a job that has a regular evaluation process set up. I do not have set standard or benchmark to which I can compare myself and readjust or re-position my progress. My job requires me to wear multiple hats that include the roles of a:

  • Day Planner - every day I plan to finish 10 odd jobs but at the end of the day, I see that the jobs that I planned to finish have not been started at all while I ended up doing 15 other jobs which were not part of my day's plan. 
  • Cook/Chef - try to start making a particular spread for lunch or dinner and then suddenly figure out that during the course of the day, you had planned to get the necessary ingredients for it but never got around to do the shopping because something else came up and this got left out and so mid way you get creative and come up with a new dish of your own and guess what, it becomes a hit, but you do not know how to replicate it again.
  • Child Carer - You just dropped off your older one at school, finished shopping and running some errands that might or might not have included a visit to government offices or any such place that required you to patiently wait for an hour in queue for a job that took less that 5 minutes once you reached the counter, and are entering home while the younger one is sleeping in the stroller/buggy peacefully, so you decide to leave the child in the stroller so as not to disturb and try to catch up on the zzzzs that you lost the previous night because your older one was complaining of pain in the ear/nose/eyes/teeth/stomach/back/knee/there between the legs/pinky toes... and you get a call from the school saying that you need to come to school because the older child has had a small accident and though there is nothing to worry, needs to be picked up and taken home so that the rest of the day can be spent at home resting. So you rush back to school in what ever mode of transport necessary with the younger one waking up mid way and yelling all the way back till you reach home and there goes your zzzzzzzzzs.
  • Personnel Assistant & Accountant - Irrespective of whether you are educated or uneducated, I think every wife (in the current scenario I should be saying the staying home partner but I would not be sure if I would be stating the facts as I only know what goes on in my home) goes through this. Act as a reminder service for the husband for even keeping in touch with family and friends, to pay bills on time, to ensure the posting of those odd letters/applications that still need to be done by manual post and not through emails, fill out forms online for stuff like passport renewal, visa processing, ordering gifts for the birthday parties that the children might end up attending over the weekends, scan bills that need to submitted for reimbursements, and sometimes even proxy for the husband not being able to get away from work to attend to the extended family's needs.
  • Nurse - any day any time to attend to the first aid to reduce pain and discomfort for the family members until the time that the actual doctor's appointment is available (which most of the times happens to be after the pain or discomfort or ailment disappears with the home based remedies that have been tried)
  • Tutor & Governess - After school, the children need to practice what they have learnt in school and for families like ours where we are not sure where we are going to settle down, the necessity to keep up with what other parts of the world also do including learning mother tongue or a language that the country that we might possibly move to next has as its primary or secondary language, fill the gaps that the current curriculum might have in comparison with the rest of the education systems...
  • Domestic Helper - Includes dish cleaning, window cleaning, spring cleaning, weekly cleaning, moping floors, regular laundry and ironing, small fixes like fixing buttons and tears in the seams in dresses/pants/shirts, fixing DIY shelves and work table that get delivered home in a box, minor fixes in scooters/bicycles, electrical fixtures at home like replacing worn out bulbs, mend minor leaks...
are some that I creatively could name and provide a sample of what that particular role would demand. Over the years, I have learned to condition myself to smile at such questions. I smile not because, I can't answer them, but I do not see a point in answering it as what ever answer I give will never completely convey my experience of my day.

When a sibling/cousin or a working friend or spouse callously says, "You would not understand the stress that the work place politics and expectations have on me", "I am paid to work not to take time off from work", I used to feel like an outsider and subdued. I remember when I used to work, my mentor told me once, "If you want to understand how to effectively play work place politics, then learn to play politics at home. There is never a better place than there to learn how to do it". I did not understand what he meant at that time as it was my first job and I was just fresh out of college living by myself. But now, almost 2 decades after that "gyan" session, after living as a full time home maker, I completely understand what he meant. I can tell you there is no better place to learn the nuances of Organisational Behaviour and master the art of excelling in the game of Organisational Politics than home, where there is an additional twist of emotions and relationships coming into play which is non-existent in a professional environment. If I have to elaborate on it, then I am sure I will end up writing a complete book on this. Suffice it to say, family is nothing less than an organisation and even more complicated than it and the experience, personal growth and sense of achievement, well rounded (read emotionally beaten up) approach and humility that it has given me to have crossed the hurdles that I have with or without help, I doubt I would have had it if I had chosen to lead a professional career. Enough said about myself. Moving on to the other side.

The Male/husband/father angle


When I decided to quit my job, we had just married and a year into marriage and had to make adjustments to ensure that the financial void that my leaving the job would create can be balanced by what ever job, whatever role that my husband took up. We were in a city living in a rented apartment with substantial rental cost. Added to this was we were planning to expand our family and hence had to save up for that as well. Both of us being family centric, we did not want to leave our respective families in the lurch, not that they were financially dependent on us but we wanted to do our share of providing for them financially as well in addition to being available to them physically and emotionally. This being said, he did not even think before he congratulated me on deciding to quit my job. He has never, till date, asked why I decided to quit (I did talk with him before putting down my papers but not for permission, more as informing him of my decision and discuss when and how to execute the decision) without consulting him. For my in-laws it was a happy news as they belonged to the section of people (including some of the text books that till date have the same clichéd role definitions) who thought once married the wife managed the home, while the husband went out to work. This decision taken, we both were not really prepared for what was to hit us after this. The initial days where I was enjoying my new-found free time, I am sure he was going through the turmoil of having to carry the burden of financial stability of the entire family on his shoulders all by himself. But there has never been a single day or single instance when he has complained of having to carry that burden alone.

Instead, every time I talked to him about getting back to work only to help out in easing this burden, his answer to me has always been "I am fine. The home management is in the hands of a capable person who is doing a good job of doing it with just single income. So you do not need to go to work just for the financial aspect of it; but if you do want to work because you think that would give you personal happiness and contentment, then go ahead. Otherwise, we are fine as we are."

To ensure that we lead a comfortable life and not have to compromise on our standard of living, he decided to take up Onsite roles (overseas). A person who is more than happy to go back to his home town and home land at the drop of a hat because he can stay closer to extended family and friends, decided to spread his wings and explore the world purely because it provided him with opportunities to scale heights that he needed to scale to keep up the standard of living for us, provide for his family, as well as, it was an opportunity to give my young family an experience of a life time that many have not had the pleasure of having. We have been lucky to live in 3 countries outside India (US, France and now UK) and enjoy the cultural experience that each country gave us, travel to more places than most in my family have ever travelled in our age and give our children an openness to the concept of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable because of our extensive travel and meeting people with different points of view.

There have been several instances where me and my children included, have blamed my husband, of prioritising work ahead of anything else because he has had to miss birthdays, anniversaries, and marriages in the family as there was probably some meeting or some travel scheduled that he could not miss (even if those events were on weekends). During these times, there were extensive exchange of words between us which have been quite hurtful, but he did what he did because he thought that that was the best option at that time.

Both of us have matured in our thoughts and probably in our level of self worth as well. Now he follows a strict code of not working (official) during weekends and spends all of his time for the family and during these two days, he also manages to give me at least a half day of break from my home maker's role where he handles the kitchen, chores, children, attends to their needs, dons all of my multiple hats, makes time to keep in touch with family and friends. Despite this, he goes through a hell a lot criticism for doing a "woman's job", to which he turns a deaf ear and moves on with a smile that never fades . I would say, in my home, even I manage to get half a day off, but the man of my home never has time away from his work. Right from the time when my oldest was 5 months old and I felt like a milk production unit, my husband never once frowned on me when I used to literally shove our child in his hand the minute he steps through the front door after a tiring day at work (so that I can then peacefully attend to the task of making dinner and clearing the dishes), or to happily be the play partner to her when she decided that she was going be playing during her Indian evening while we were residing in the USA and then next morning leave for work despite not having been able to sleep off the tiredness of the previous day (and night) only to come back in the evening and go through the entire thing once again with the never fading smile.


Do what works for you


We are at a happy state of mind now, with the choices that we have made in our lives. By choosing to stay at home and not work at all, I am available to my children always at home for what ever and when ever they need me. I keep my house in order all on my own with no additional domestic help or help from family. I spend time with my children to help them with their studies and play. And even after all this, I am not remunerated, never go through regular appraisal cycles to evaluate the quality of my work, nor am I acknowledged on a daily basis for the job I do to make life easier for others around me. Equally my husband, after toiling for 5 days at his regular paid job, does not even think twice before he takes up the job to support me on the 2 days of the week, when most would like to kick back and relax.

To do a job when you are paid for it, appreciated for it, remunerated in the form of hike and promotions is easier to do mainly because of the external motivation that the job gives you, but to continue to doing this job of stay-at-home-mom, and to jump in to share equal responsibility from your spouse and even go the extra mile of giving her the much needed break from routine (or the lack of it) after toiling the entire working week in a regular paid job instead of taking the weekend off to recuperate for the next week, after doing it for 11 years now, I can say that, to keep doing this despite all that I mentioned above, requires immense courage and self motivation that can only come if you really like what you have chosen to do. So for all those who are going through this dilemma (life is filled with them - a statement that even my 9-yr old daughter seems to have understood which I consider as my achievement as a mother), think of what you want and then choose the path that would give you exactly what you want. Never compare yourself with anyone else because, each person is unique. You can have help manuals for products, not for people. What works for me might not work for you. So you are the best judge of what will work for you and never allow anyone else to tell you otherwise. It is okay to get opinions from others but do not let others decide for you. It is you and only you who can answer that question of "To Work or Not to Work?" #NoConditionsApply

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Today's Media - A Boon or Bane?


Reach of Media today is global and diverse - be it Mass Media (Press, Print, Television, Radio...) or Social Media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogs..). The Community that plays a vital role in collating, and delivering news, information, ideas, opinions, through the Media, need to realise the fact that, what they put out there will remain (thanks to Digital), be (sp)read, inferred and acted upon by people from different countries, cultures, social backgrounds & age groups. Hence, the reported information should be factual, unbiased and/or needs to have an open mindset that can ignite healthy debates or discussions on varied topics. But, off late, it is quite depressing (and saddening) to read or see news, or follow posted information on networking sites, as everything gets "sensationalised" for no good reason. Anything and everything is presented with a gossip-like tone, without clear rationale or factual references. Adding to this, are some subscribers or followers, who dwell into such poorly-complied information and fight it out with a do-or-die fervour and make comments / judgements, without verifying the sanity of the source of information.

Some of you might relate this to "Echo Chamber" effect, rising the readers' "tunnel vision" or Upvoting (aligning to similar personal opinions) ideas or memes floated around, and in turn increase the popularity of such unverified information and "trending" them. This indeed promotes a "false" sense of opinions, against the stark truth of reality. Eventually, the involved parties are shocked to discover / digest true facts and go back to playing the "blame game" of finger-pointing rather than looking within or open to changing their personal views.

Today, everyone has easy access to voice out their opinions. If someone does not share the same view, it is becoming a norm to start using abusive language, to fuel rage and attract maximum "digital attention". During pre-Digital era, if such behaviour was displayed in public, most of them were looked down with utmost disgust. Even within the walls of one's own home, such unwarranted arguments were unwelcome by families. Today's growing fad is to lash it out though social media, wide open to the world, using expletives, with no guilt or sense of social responsibility. Such people forget the fact that ill-mannered behaviour will be etched for ever in the Digital realm, to be read by their future generations (including their own children and families).

How many of you can think of the last time, when the cover page of your newspaper had a positive news in its headline? While "sensational" news start to take centre-stage, most positive or pragmatic information (considered boring) are now are pushed to an inconspicuous corner. The most "trending" information on social media inadvertently tends to be news that promotes rage (e.g. War, Terror..), fake news, Gossips or dwells into private affairs of Civil Administrators or Celebrities. Most talk-shows and debates that are broadcast today on televisions & radios, promote sensationalising topics, rather than to focus on healthy & factual presentation of information. In some cases, the hosts, panellists or broadcasters are already affiliated to certain political or cult organisations, strongly fuelling such thoughts and spreading biased information. 

The freedom of anonymity that social media seems to give us, has made us forget the basic "etiquette" of sharing our opinions in public forums. All of us become news/gossip reporters, chain-cascaders and critiques, without understanding of the impact it can create. With the advanced tech gadgets and apps, it is very easy to "fabricate" information as an authentic one. Tons of such fabricated information being generated and circulated around every day makes me wonder about the quality of information accessible to our next generation and the impact it will have on their thought process and mind conditioning. Will they be able to "filter" out the junk and verify & absorb only the right information or will they soon be "corrupted" by the information overload around them and evolve into "shallow" citizens, with a restricted view? Does Big Data or Internet of Things (IoT) come to rescue? 

It seems to be a worldwide phenomenon, where people seem to ignore Mainstream (authentic & verified) media for news & research, while relying solely on Memes and other "forwarded" articles (It is ironical that sometimes even the mainstream media picks information from social media). Isn't mainstream media all about giving unbiased views without sensationalising them? Present only facts and leave the interpretation and polarisation to the readers and viewers? For example, during the Chennai floods in 2015, I kept surfing news channels in the hope to learn if things were okay with people of Chennai (as that was the only thing I could do staying abroad - Read my blog on my reflections on the same at My ordeal with Chennai rains as a Non-Resident Chennaite!). But there was not a TV channel or News website, that could give me this assurance and instead they were successful in instilling fear for the safety of my family showing devastation (with strong background music) on a continuous loop. Yes, nature had its devastation, but there was also humanity at work. There were thousands of humanitarians who came out to the streets to rescue and provide support. That was probably a few seconds of the screen time, while the dramatisation of the havoc and ruins, took up most of the prime time and headlines. It has been the same during recent Serbian War atrocities, hordes of Immigration to EU or terror incidents across Europe. If negativity is what sells, then how can we expect positive thoughts to prevail? Everyday heroes are not idealised as they remain invisible despite doing their social responsibility correctly. One such recent example being the people who worked for years together for lifting the ban on Jallikattu (Bull Wrestling) in Tamilnadu and who are still working towards the goal of saving native breeds all over the Indian nation), while on-screen heroes are demonised by media irrespective of what do (or don't).

Many celebrities have also raised similar concerns across the world, including Denzel Washington (a victim of fake news and appeals to the media to differentiate "Truth" and "Gossip"), Meryl Streeps (to do responsible reporting and be able to question the wrongful happenings, irrespective of the power equation of the perpetrators involved), Kamal Hassan (challenges the media to report facts to common man and then have them deliberate), Shahrukh Khan (calls out on the media's ability to twist every opinion uttered by famous personalities to suit their personal vendetta and TRP ratings) and the most recent one by Renuka Sahani.

We collectively fail to understand that it is always easy to be opinionated, when you do not have to "walk-the-path" that the person or groups about whom you are being opinionated or criticising. If we all start living the lives of the people whom we criticise, even for just 24 hours, before we are given the right to criticise, I am sure none of us will have anything better to add than what that person has to say. Let us be open to hearing alternate views, instead of shooting it down even before someone starts talking about it. Let us learn to "walk-the-path", before blindly criticising someone and to maintain decency, to challenge others' views politely, without hurting their sentiments.

It is our utmost responsibility to create this awareness to our today's generation, to help them filter such information and teach them to identify unbiased news & factual reports to help them channelise & articulate their opinions with an open mindset and encourage healthy debates with their families and friends, without being offended or making the others uncomfortable.

We still proudly make references to our classical texts like Avvaiyar's Aathichudi and Thiruvalluvar's Thirukkural, because they remain neutral to every facet of life or belief systems, and not biased. Don't we intend to leave behind such learning and experience sharing in the Media, for our future generations to cherish?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hello Dear Zindagi!

After watching the entire movie, my 9-yr old daughter asked, "Is this the end of the movie?" 
B: "Yes. That's the end." 
M: "That's amazing Appa (father in my mother tongue). No love or lived happily ever after?"
Now, I join the conversation between father and daughter to make a point - "There is happily ever after Dear. Why do you ask so?"
M: "No boy-girl love, senseless pursuit and then struggle, no kissing on the lips (ewwwwwwwww - her expression) and then finally happily ever after?"

That was the discussion at the end of the movie in addition to many more such Q & A session during the course of the movie. The parent in me felt really happy that I do not have to explain (read having to justify against my sense of better judgement, just so that she does not get scared of the big bad world out there) to my child that some of the scenarios that are portrayed in the movie does not necessarily happen in real life (mind voice cynically saying, "Really??" at the exact same instance).

For the first time, watching a movie with a fast-growing-up toddler moving towards her teens, was not a stress but a pleasure. Thanks to Gauri Shinde for another wonderful movie, that was a pleasure to watch with the entire family. It is a movie that we could relate to with our everyday problems in modern context. Personally, I felt that the movie beautifully conveyed a lot of important things that are so much the need of the hour and also, it does the job of a "counsellor" pretty well and costs way less than what one would spend to get themselves treated by a DD "Dhimag ka Doctor" (as the movie calls the psychologist). 

Dialogues like:

1. "Do you go to a DD because you want to tell the world that you are gay?" "No, I go to DD because I want to tell myself that I am gay."
2. "Why should you have to choose the tough path to reach for your most important dream and why not take the easy route if you are not even ready to navigate the tough route that lays ahead of you?" - a wise suggestion for anyone facing a dilemma in life (which is ever existing is everyone's life irrespective of the age or role).
3. "Who are these people that keep following you around who get to decide what is right and what is wrong about the choices in your life?"
4. "When you are comfortable with what you want from life and accept who you are now, then why worry about what others would think?"
5. "Don't let your past blackmail your present to ruin your beautiful future"
6. "Think of your parents are normal people and then look at their actions"

are learning that each of us need in our lives to move forward and embrace the present and welcome the beautiful future that can come tomorrow. Dreading what the future will hold, is a sign that we have let our failures or disappointments from the past to take over our present and hence our future to be scary.

To write one post about the greatness of this movie is not enough. Looking at the movie from various perspectives only makes me in awe of the director's finesse to have handled the concept and importance of Psychotherapy, the taboo attached to getting help for emotional stress one faces in their life, the emotional baggage all of us carry around with us trying to compare us with the unrealistic expectation (which is also probably a self interpretation of what the society wants from us), the misguided mindset of wanting to credit someone other than the one deserving of credit alone to their success in life, attributing personality and status to the dress code and conduct (I can go on and lose track of what I wanted to say when I started the statement). 

The part where Kaira (played by Alia Bhatt) opens up about that one instance that created a fear in her mind which has ruled over her entire life up until that point was well captured. To define what is that one thing that pushes you into the disruptive cycle of depression and fear is a very difficult thing and to bring it on a screen using imagination is even tougher. But the writer, and the actors both have done a phenomenal job. Also, the point where Kaira and Dr.Jug (played by King Khan) part during their last session, is also a brilliant portrayal of reality. This particular concept has been talked about in many movies both in Bollywood and Hollywood in varied levels fo elaboration right from a passing comment in speed "I have to warn you. I've heard relationships based on intense experiences never work." to the Kiss that the teacher gives to the blind girl in movie "Black". This movie has dealt it with openly talking about it and saying it is okay to have such strong feelings towards someone who has emotionally or physically helped you, but equally reciprocating might not be possible or even if a similar reaction is existing from the other person involved also, it may not always be ethically right and/or have a detrimental effect on the emotional progress and then bid adieu and part as just a therapist and patient to go about their separate ways.

The movie ended on another great message about how you just need to fight the battle outside yourself and not within, only then will you be able to achieve your dreams in their fullest glory. This was not the only strong message. When Kaira's uncle (or father) tells Raghuvendra (played by Kunal Kapoor) that she achieved her dream because of him coming into her life for which Raghuvendra pauses a couple of seconds, and then says "She did what she did only because I was NOT part of her life" and raises a toast to it, then both Kaira's father and his uncle tend to agree reluctantly. 

This is one movie, I would probably be buying a personal copy to keep to myself. After movie "Salangai Oli", this is one movie, I am sure I am going to be seeing in repetitions and never get tired of watching even after the point where I can narrate the dialogues by heart. 

#DearZindagi