Thursday, February 25, 2016

Of bragging and the social phenomenon it has become

There was a time once when bragging used to be seen as bad manners.  People believed that it could cause others to feel hurt or envious that their fortune was not as great as yours.  This happened because it was a generally held belief that no matter the amount of hard work or talent that you have, nothing really happens in a major fashion unless destiny dictates that it happen.  For e.g. what difference is there between the child who gets 98.6 and 98.7 - can you really say that the child who has got a score of 98.7 is that much more smarter or exceptional compared to the child who has got 98.6?  But the child who got 98.7 could get admission into a medical college if that were the right cut off - he could end up becoming the doctor.  The child with 98.6 would not become the doctor, he would have to choose to do something else.  So destiny plays a major role in the direction our lives take.
But of late, it's become so fashionable to constantly brag.  You always want to write about your child's achievements - whether it's a dance they performed in, a show n tell they performed fabulously at, an olympiad they won a prize for and the list goes on and on.  And if you child, by God's grace seemed to be talented at all of these things, it would be really difficult to find the anchor to keep you from floating away into the sky.
Being a parent of young children means that I have many friends on facebook and whatsapp that are in the same age group that I am in.  And since I am in India, that means that most of my friends are also parents of young kids.  It's a dog-eat-dog world, this world of parents.  Parents are constantly posting pictures of certificates that their children won, sharing pictures of children's art, children wearing medals they have won or holding aloft cups and beaming.  While I am all for encouraging children and giving them incentives to perform really well, do I really need to be made aware of how many prizes your child has won?  This constant sharing pressurizes the parent to push the child to achieve more just for the sake of having something share-worthy, not even for the sake of the award itself.  If you find yourself thinking about the facebook post or whatsapp share you are going to do when you just watch some art being made by your preschooler or while your preschooler is being handed over a cup, you know you are in trouble.  Make no mistake - the child is constantly aware of this pressure as well. Most kids I know are fully fluent at using their parents' smartphones and understand that the parents constantly receive pictures or information on achievements from moms' or dads' friends on the phone.  So much so that they will ask you to take a photo of them or the achievement as soon as they have one, so you can also share.  It comes to a point where the child feels really miserable when they know they can't give you something to share or feel happy about.  And then the usual talk of how winning doesn't matter, that everybody does not win at everything, blah blah etc starts sounding like real blah blah blah.  Stuff that does not really matter because if winning did not really matter, why would you celebrate it so much when the winning happened?  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Scribblings from an unfocussed mind

Random thoughts - where do my right to express my views stop?  When I can see that they hurt you?  When I can see that they offend you?  Humour is such a subjective thing - what makes me laugh could make you cry.  Have been thinking about verbal offences these days and how much we think they should be tolerated just because they are not physical.  If i slap you today, out of the blue, then I could be jailed with physical assault but if i just tell you that you are an arrogant asshole, that you are among the scum of the planet, I may get off without any physical harm done to me.  After all, I just exercised my right to freedom of expression.

Things that I want to do - reduce my screen time at home.  Read a story every day with the kids.  Teach them slokas.  Run an organized home.  Reduce my consumption of sugar.  Finish my pending project tasks.  Spend some time dreaming about the day I can stop going to work. Hmmmm.

I am back from a long weekend at home today.  Not able to focus so much on my pending tasks especially given that I am going on another vacation the day after tomorrow.

My cup overflows with work.  In another four weeks time, I need to complete another sprint at work - this time with test case preparation, test execution, development and design from my team.  My Hyderabad team is due a visit.  I have not seen them since October this year.  I feel overwhelmed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

This little imp

This little imp
He's my son
Dimples flashing
Eyes searching
He'll charm your heart
And win his way

Friday, July 25, 2014

WWW Diaries - Sheryl Sandberg with 'Lean In' and the WLDP

This is my first entry to the WWW Diaries and I don't know where to begin.  Not for a lack of topics but simply because my brain gets overwhelmed with the number of topics that come to mind when i put pen to paper (ok ok.. I meant fingers to keypad!).

I was part of the recently conducted Women's Leadership Development programme at Chennai and thought that if the powers that be are ok with it, I would write my first entry on this.  It was a great session and lots of fun and bonding amongst the women that attended the session.  The session led us through a discovery of our own self through administration of the DISC personality test and helped us identify our core strengths and weaknesses and how we could leverage them in different scenarios.  We also learnt a lot about how much social conditioning plays a role in shaping our identity and how we could differentiate between biology-imposed sex roles and society-imposed gender roles.  Before I begin to give away too much about the session, let me quickly move on :-)

My key take away from the session was Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk that was played to us.  She made just three points and made them so powerful.

Number one:  Sit at the table.  It means just what it states.  When you are in a meeting of significance, with your boss or may be your boss's bosses... Don't be shy and sit on the side of the table.  Don't underestimate yourself.  You are who you are.  Sit at the table and make your opinions known when you need to.  Be confident and take charge.

The second one:  Make your partner a 'real partner'.  This one should really resonate with all of us Indian women.  How many Indian women do you know that claim their husbands can't cook, clean or fold clothes?  That the men can't teach children, run the washing machine or clear up the table?  Quite a lot, right?  And do you really believe this must be true?  We should give men more credit.  They are fully capable of contributing to all types of tasks, except the biological tasks of carrying a child and breastfeeding it.  As women, we need to provide them with the chances to help us out more.  How many times have you requested your husband to do something and then re-done it in front of him, muttering about how it's never done the right way, if someone other than you does it.  Give up this control.  Make your husband a true partner and trust them to be able to contribute well, really well.  You DON'T have to do everything.

The third one:  Don't leave before you leave.  This was the one that was really true for me.  As women, many of us tend to over think and analyze stuff.  And sometimes this goes too far.  Sheryl talks about a woman she knew who was yet to have a boyfriend but was already planning how to balance her career when she had a child.  With this balancing in mind, she was taking lesser challenges than her male colleagues of the same age and giving up exciting opportunities.  Don't we do this as well?  Many young women, only 3 or 4 years experienced, will tell you that they don't want to make the project change or that onshore opportunity or the change in role - because their family is looking out for a suitable alliance and they might have to move locations/jobs after the wedding.  So why bother to take up the new opportunity now?  By doing this, they are effectively closing out on career growth options and make their jobs lesser interesting to them while they wait for the magical alliance to turn up.  If marriage itself is this tough, more so is pregnancy and leaving the baby and getting back to work.  Many women begin planning how they will balance their lives with a baby when they start planning to have the baby - with the effect that they leave behind boring jobs when they go on maternity leave. Any one will tell you that it's tough to return from being with your baby on maternity leave.  Does it not make it tougher to come back if you have a less than exciting job to come back to?  Just because you gave up on those opportunities when you started planning your baby?  So, again, don't leave before you leave.

I walked out of the session determined to buy Sheryl's book 'Lean In' next.  Will make my next post on that book once I finish reading it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From one giant to another

Once upon a time, there lived a herd of elephants in a forest.  They loved their forest and whiled away the time happily there.  One night, the littlest elephant in the group was found sitting all alone by herself, by the side of the forest pond.  She seemed to be talking to herself.  Her mother was searching for her and found her there.  Mother then asked her why she was sitting there, all alone.  The baby elephant informed the mother matter-of-factly that she was talking to the moon.  It was then that the mother saw the moon, a full moon, hanging like a golden ball in the sky.
"What did the moon say?", asked the mother.
"I was asking the moon about the water and where it comes from.  The moon says there is a lot of water on earth.  In fact, more water than land - did you know that, mama?"
"Why no, I didn't... is that so, dear? "
"Yes, the moon says that most of the water is in something called an ocean and that in fact our forest is not so far away from the ocean.  Is that true?"
"I'm not sure.  I've never seen it myself.  But we can ask grandmother.  May be we can even visit sometime."
"Let's go now, mama.. now!!!"
"Hush now, don't shout... I don't know if we can do that.  Come let's ask grandmother."
And so they went up to grandmother and asked her.  Grandmother knew about the ocean's existence, of course.  To their surprise, she even agreed to leave immediately for a visit to the beach.
So the elephant herd got together and decided to leave for the ocean.  They walked through most of that night and reached the seashore around dawn.  What a lovely sight it was for them to see..  The pale pink sky, reflected in the calm waters of the never ending sea.... They played and frolicked in the water.  The baby elephant was happiest of them all.  She walked along the surf, watching the water curl around her legs. Her grandmother held her tightly by the trunk for she was afraid the waves would carry away her baby.
It was then that they saw a strange sight.  They saw what they thought to be a huge fish lying on the beach.  It was really huge, about 4 to 5 times their size.  Grandmother finally realized that it was a whale.  She held onto the baby elephant who wanted to go near the whale and look at it more closely.  They could not be sure it was not dangerous.  And then the whale spoke to them!!!
"Help me, please help me", it cried.
That was all it took for Baby Elephant to shake free of Grandmother's hold.  She ran to the whale.
"Who are you?  How did you get here?"
"I'm a whale", replied the huge animal.  "I came here following some dolphins and got trapped onshore when the waves receded with the tide.  I might still live if you push me out to sea.".
Baby elephant looked at the animal with wondrous eyes.
"Let's help him, grandma!"
Grandmother elephant too could not bear to leave the animal helpless and stranded like that.  She decided to help.  She call out to her herd of elephants and together they heaved and shoved at the whale.  It took so many of them to do the job but they finally succeeded in pushing it out to a depth enough that it was able to swim away.
The happy whale circled around in the ocean and they could see it's flat back in the ocean with the water occasionally rising out of it's blowhole.  It sang a happy song and called out to the baby elephant:
"Baby, come, I'll give you a ride!"
The baby elephant ran into the surf and sat atop the whale and literally had 'a whale of a time'!!

"Life and the Beautiful Land"

This was a story that Sammu told me yesterday.  Putting it down here before I forget because I loved the little details she added to the story.  It's of course tied to the fact that they are learning about 'Life Around Us' at their school and inspired by a dozen other stories that we tell each other almost every day.  Here is the story, almost all in words that she used.

There was once a family that lived in a little hut.  They had a beautiful garden with lots of lovely flowers.  They lived happily in this hut.  One day there was a 'puzhal' (tamil for cyclonic storms that are somewhat common in the coastal part of Tamil Nadu during the monsoon season).  To escape the wrath of the storm, the family crawled into a burrow type of hole in the ground.  They took all the living things (not the plants of course because they can't move) with them into the hole.  They had a parrot that built up a mud wall to cover the hole so they would be covered during the storm.  The parrot built up the wall from outside and then made a small opening in it so she could then go inside the hole herself.  She then filled that wall also with mud from the inside.  So the family and their animals stayed in the hole for a long time, until the storm passed away.  They even slept there!

And then they came out... and do you know what they saw?!!  Their beautiful garden, so full of flowers in all colours, buzzing with the sound of honeybees and pretty butterflies.  They could also see vegetable plants in their garden with many carrots and pumpkins.  There were rabbits in this vegetable patch too!!  The family loved their garden so much and they came out and lived their lives happily ever after in that little hut with the garden.

This is the story of 'Life and the Beautiful Land' :-D

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bindaas Bandhar

We have been inspired by the recent visit to Karadi Rhymes' Once upon a bak-bak tree.  The kids have not heard much of Karadi rhymes but Sammu and I really loved some of the songs Usha Uthup sang at the show.  Since then we have been singing 'Monkeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey' and 'Chai-chai' at home and even Ani has picked up the 'Chai-chai' song from our broken renditions.

So today's story was about a monkey.  We are calling it the Bindaas Bandhar.  Bindaas bandhar was a little monkey who lived in the middle of a dense forest.  She had a minor fight with her mother and decided to go away from home for a while.  So she jumps from branch to branch, muttering to herself angrily under her breath and before she knows it, she is lost.  She has come a far way from home.  She peeps out from the branches and finds strange things under her.  A black ground... that travels like a snake along the side of the treees... and things that go 'Vroooom', 'Vroooom' in the flash of a second before she can really make out what they are on that black ground.  Across the black ground, some distance away, she can see more inviting green trees and what looks like a group of banana plants.  But how to get across the black ground, she is scared that the 'vrooom' things will hit her.  She waits it out.  Soon the sun is disappearing in the sky and Bindaas is really hungry.  The banana plants that she thinks she sees are calling out to her.  So she decides to risk a dash across the black ground.  She waits until she can't see those 'vroom' things in the near distance and darts across the black ground - running until she reaches the other side.

Phew!! Panting a little, she reaches the other side and scrambles up a tree.  She jumps from tree to tree until she reaches the banana plant and devours the not so ripe bananas she sees there.  Blech... but something is better than nothing and she is really hungry, so she eats them.  She thinks longingly of the bananas her father would have given her back at home.  Then she decides to climb up a tall tree so she can search for a way home.  She climbs up, up and up.  From the top of the tree, she sees a strange sight.  The line of trees end a small distance away and she can see coloured rectangle somethings.... she does not know what they are called.  She sees some strange lights and decides to go closer.  She goes closer to one of the rectangular tall objects (taller than many trees) and nearer to the lights.  She can see flashing lights and a tinny voice from inside.  She sees a little girl sitting on a seemingly soft something, holding colorful sticks in her hand and dragging them across some white somethings...

She is exhausted by all this watching and decides to sleep awhile.  She finds a corner of the tree that she likes and curls up to sleep.  The next day, she wakes up, hungry as always.  She can see the girl again and decides to go say hi.  The girl screams on seeing her and Bindaas motions for her to keep quiet.  'Be quiet, i won't harm you', she says and strangely the girl seems to understand!!  The rest will be continued tomorrow...

Our Bindaas bandhar story cost us a few precious minutes in the school rush this morning and I ended up putting Sammu in uniform to school on a Friday morning, when she is expected to be in colour dress...  But that is a story for a different day!

In other news, we are having a lot of precious conversations between the siblings these days , a few days back, Ani was trying to get his father's attention.  'Appa', he began... There was no response from R, so this progressed to 'Dai Appa'!! Still no response but his sister piped up:  'Ani, you should not say Dai Appa.' I was listening to this with amusement and wondering when she grew up so much when she continued, 'you should say, 'Aei, appa'!!! I burst out laughing and could not control myself when Ani looked at her soberly and continued... 'Aay, appa'!! :-D  And finally he had his father's attention!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Another story - after a long break

So we will call this - the story of the talking vegetables.
My daughter has a need to give vegetables faces and voices.  Not all, because then she would not be able to eat them.   But just those that come in a story.  So we had to come up with a story about a carrot and a beetroot.  Here we go:

There was once a carrot and a beetroot that lived on a farm near the banks of a golden river.  This carrot and beetroot were the talking kind and had faces.  They were also very good friends.  But the carrot was not a happy one.  She was always sad.  She kept moaning and whining that she did not like her colour - Orange.  She kept asking the beetroot how to change it.  And since they both did not know what to do, they decided to take a walk by the river.  Along the golden river they walked.... quite a long distance for them, you see, because a carrot and beetroot are quite small.

And after some time, they saw a row of pots on the other side of the river.  So many pots and when they looked closely, they found that these were pots of paints.  Pink and fuschia and maroon.  Peach and purple and mauve.  Pale greens and dark greens and oh so many colours.  It was such a wonderful sight to see.

And it was then that the carrot got an IDEA!  Let's go across the river and use those pots to change my colours, she said.  What a wonderful idea, said the beetroot.  Let's do just that.  And they tried to go across the river and then realized that they were neither tall enough to wade through it and neither did they know any swimming.  They wondered what to do next.  It was now the beetroot's turn to have an IDEA!  Let's use a banana leaf to float across the river, he said.  Super idea, beamed the carrot.  So they walked across to the banana plant to get a leaf to float across the river.  The beetroot spoke to it's friend, the banana and asked it for a leaf.  The banana agreed but then they realized that a banana leaf is slippery, so they did not know what to do.  And then.... the carrot said it would ask it's friend the tailor bird to stitch up the banana leaf into a boat.  So they went to meet the tailor bird and stitched a banana boat.

Sometime later, the banana boat was ready.  The two friends clambered into the boat with great joy and anticipation.  The boat went across the river.  And they found themselves amidst all the pots and pans.  What a jolly time they had.  They poured the paints on one another and had a jolly good time.  The carrot was no longer just orange.  It was a multi colored carrot.  And then they came back to their own side to stay happy ever after!!