The Women “these” days. Uff!

30 Aug

 

One of my friends asked me recently how I managed to write blogs, while being a “full time” working mother. I said people irritate me enough, that I am always inspired to write. Yay!  That is one source of inspiration you are never going to run out of.

 

I went to meet my lactation consultant last week, to discuss with her plans to safely move my EBFed baby into solid foods , since I am physically joining work back in October. So after telling me what solids to give my baby and how to “only” feed my baby with a spoon. And blah blah blah. She said these lines, “Nowadays (I hate that word), people have such a tough time breast feeding. Earlier (another word I dislike) people fed very easily”. My counter and valid question “ But EBF is a very recent phenomenon, I for one, was never BFed and none of my siblings or cousins were EBFed” Her answer: “Maybe not in cities but the “village” set up beautifully breastfed”.

Only If that wasn’t a hospital, and if she wasn’t older than my grandmother.. Only if..

 

The “village” set up.

 

First of all a look at the facts: India is a developing country, where more than 60% live in “villages”. And why is the Indian government hell bent on making EBF a practice in new mothers? Is it to stop the urban woman from returning to work? Is it to make life for the urban woman who is reading up, studying , attending classes and doing her very best to become a good mother, feel inadequate? Is it because urban mothers are bad and jump to formula?

 

NO.

It is because in these said villages, there are multiple wrong practices, which includes feeding honey, sugar water , unclean water which are fed to babies, who then die of complications relating to these practices. And it is among these people, that infant mortality rates are high. But why is that so, if they “beautifully” breast feed?

Generally the most common cause worldwide has been dehydration from diarrhea, a preventable disease; however, a variety of programs combating this problem have decreased the rate of children dying from dehydration. Many factors contribute to infant mortality such as the mother’s level of education, environmental conditions.

and though it is very easy to misunderstand this sentence as maybe because the mother is “too educated” that she doesn’t “have time” to feed her baby. It is not. A mother who doesn’t know a thing, about hygiene, will essentially feed her baby whatever is available.

So which “village” set up, are people speaking about here?

Squatting and Sweeping

Now while I was pregnant, there was a VERY STRONG notion of how physically active women gave birth “Easily”. Ok . I bought it. I was constantly made to feel guilty for my “desk job”, and how I actually “sat and worked” and how that is going to interfere with my natural delivery. Most phone calls which intended to ask for my wellbeing, always started and ended with, do you walk? And please walk more.

I was the sedentary woman, because I had a job. (Which also took care of all my medical expenses post-delivery and ensures that my child get the best of health facilities, and that I get to see the best doctors, and get the best supplements and that I have access to the latest information on pregnancy health care and babies, but that isn’t vital. A well-meaning husband could also pay for these, while I squat). I have always wondered, if the fact that I was in a mentally stimulated environment, using my mind, solving problems, having creative conversations, studying , improving my work , interacting with like-minded individuals, laughing, having a good and happy time etc would have no positive effect on my fetus. And if the only thing that is going to help my baby is sitting on the floor, sweeping and of course “walking”. So if I am squatting and watching a mindless Hindi saas bahu serial, my baby will be healthier than if I am sitting on my chair doing something very creative?

So then I hear about the “village” set up again, the comparison to cows, (They aren’t surrounded by doctors while giving birth then why are we? (GAWD NO!)), and the worst comparison, the comparison to our grandmothers who gave birth to 16 children. Suddenly we who have improved in every other aspect of life, who use mixers and grinders and washing machines and top of the notch cars, tablets. Phones, slim TVs and what not, wants to follow our grandmother and give birth the way she did, if she can why can’t you? Oh, because “these” days women have “desk jobs”. Better at least start “Walking”.

Secondly, our grandmothers did it with little help, why do you need so many doctor visits and calcium tablets and medical care?

First things first, walking is an overrated exercise and I know that now. More on that later. So yes if you don’t exercise you won’t be healthy even if you are not pregnant and getting some form of exercise is good for everyone. But if you decide to magically turn into your grandmother or feel like you aren’t a woman because you cannot give birth like your grandmother is foolishness. So who knows if your grandmother “Easily” gave birth, what if she had issues, which you didn’t know about. How many of her deliveries resulted in healthy off spring? Do you know if she had still births in between?  Maybe she prayed for an epidural and God decided to make it available for her granddaughter. Most importantly do you intend to have 16 kids? Of course no, you probably intend to have one or maybe 2. So do not go down the cow road, because even if a cow has a malnourished off spring, it will not affect anyone including the cow. But if each and every off spring of yours need to be healthy, you need to have your doctor visits and your supplements and maybe have six doctors around you at the time of delivery and maybe even a c section (ooops!) . And yes even if you squat there are chances that you will have a c section.

You know in “villages” and “olden” times, women used to squat on the floor and cook. So they had easy deliveries. So then every baby born in a village should be 100% healthy and all the women should be having a great time and no delivery related deaths, no malnutrition problems. No nothing. They cook while squatting, so then problem solved. Then why can’t the answer of pregnancies be : 1) Sweep 2) Squat. And there, you will have healthy babies and an uncomplicated delivery. Squat is a great exercise for giving birth and it’s great to have strong muscles in your legs. But please don’t compare the village and olden times.

 

Nowadays

Then my lactation consultant continued: In olden days, people used to work to live. Now people live to work. è means you are a bad person because you have a passion in your life, because you are blessed to not be about thinking how to make money for your next meal, so you are just a bad “today’s” person. Oh and it is assumed that we don’t bf.

In the “village” set up, women I am pretty positive didn’t have the time to sit and feed the baby every 1 hour. They had to go to the fields to earn a living, because they worked to live, again no idea what utopian “village” “beautiful” set up is being spoken about. Also ask your mother. Grandmother, anyone and they will cringe when you mention exclusive and say that you should supplement way sooner than six months. So olden days are so out of the picture.

The infant mortality rates and death of mothers during childbirth are much more in these said villages, and the Indian Government is taking lot of effort to decrease these. By Educating the woman (yes that very bad thing), and by increasing access to hospitals etc. So denigrating any of these acts as why women need doctors to give birth, its au so naturale, and your grandmother did it, why can’t you? Are not valid points of discussion and please stop with the village comparison. Instead maybe work for the empowerment of those women in the villages. And if you really like to squat by all means do, but don’t make squatting and sweeping and “Walking” and the village life, the beginning and end of childcare. Btw Women who breastfeed tend to be wealthier and better educated than women who don’t. Proven fact.

 

Oh and in the village set up there will be one job that will definitely be laughed at and guffawed: that of the “Lactation Consultant”

 

P.S: This article doesn’t intend to question women who chose to give birth naturally. I totally respect that and know the effort and dedication that goes into it. This however does question everyone who thinks urban woman are “useless” and know nothing. 

 

Every year, 2 million children under five die in India – the largest number of child deaths in any country in the world. – See more at: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/health/healthcare-and-lobbying-for-change#sthash.CN3A774X.dpuf

 

 

 

3 Books That Changed My Life

23 Aug

 

When I love a book , I LOVE a book, I get totally addicted to its ideas and my friends have a really tough time having to deal with my admiration for it.

I have decided to “vent” my intense love for 3 BOOKS that changed my life here on my blog. I also truly believe that : A book always finds its reader. In fact any creative work of art always finds its art lover. It could be a painting,a book, a movie, a documentary, a software (yes even a software is a form of art).

So here goes: the 3 LIFE ALTERING books I have read.

 

The books !

The Secret

Author: Rhonda Bryne

Yes, the multi million copy best seller phenomenon, which I believe is now also dealing with a lot of controversy.

 How did the book find me?

I heard about it by chance from my Reiki Master Ashwita’s husband, while I was at their home for my first level Reiki attunement.

How did it change me?

For a good part of my student life, I didn’t know how to deal with an exam. As in, should I expect the best? Should I prepare for the worst? We Indians, are just preprogrammed to expect the worst. I don’t remember “dreaming” about a good outcome or believing in the best ever in my life. It could be that some people are just born with a particular temperament. Or we as a culture or nation or human beings in general are just not positive. We generally lack in gratitude. We just can’t see or enjoy what we have, we automatically and easily see what we DO NOT HAVE.I remember before one of my lab exams, wondering what to think or believe in. Worrying seemed the right thing to do. I believed that if I didn’t worry, I wasn’t giving the exam the due importance. So I decided to worry full on. Being confident about an exam, because I was well prepared,was something unheard of. You HAD to worry and crib about not having learnt enough. It was just the cool thing to do. And then I didn’t pass that particular exam. I was so confused. What did I do wrong? I worried about it enough. I cribbed about not knowing ANYTHING all the time and then why didn’t I pass?

When I started working things were pretty much the same. Yes I got a job, but becoming good at my job, or performing well, wasn’t anywhere near my agenda or anywhere in my goals. (Did I even have a goal?). What about dreaming big? Seriously I hadn’t even understood what that term meant. Dream big how? And then I read Secret.

It revolutionized my life. And everything that I had ever thought about. From believing that being sad and expecting the worst  worrying and cribbing was the normal way to be, it taught me expect much more from life. It taught me to be calm and composed under most circumstances. Most importantly it taught me that worrying wasn’t a natural state. That there is something called attracting the best and there was no limit to dreams. Wow! What a relief that was.

 This must be the book that I have gifted to people the most. Other than very few, most people have profusely thanked me for it.

 Most Vital Point:

Out of all the “blind faith” stuff that Secret is criticized about, the most important teaching that everyone miss out on is gratitude. Gratitude for what we already have. Because it’s too easy to forget to count our blessings. And even more easy to remember what we lack. So though we have been hearing a lot about counting our blessings and seeing the glass as half full. Secret teaches us to be grateful, with step by step techniques. Its one thing to say “Be Grateful” it’s another to give us daily exercises to teach us what gratitude is. And that is where this book succeeds.

So the question would be, did I achieve all my dreams using Secret? Or using the “techniques” they have mentioned? I would like to believe that I am definitely more peaceful and calmer and my unnecessary worry drastically reduced after reading the book. Did every single thing work out the way I “attracted” it, is a matter of a different discussion and I don’t think that’s what the Secret even intends to convey. But dreaming big is definitely a pre requisite to a better life. And the secret teaches us just how to do that

 Negatives, if any?

If as a result of reading this book, anyone end up blaming their thought process for a previous tragedy in their life, would do the opposite effect of what it aims to attain.

 How to use the book?

Read it frequently. Since its learned behavior, we can easily slip back into old patterns of cribbing and ingratitude in no time. Buy a hardbound copy, it’s awesome to touch. And of course it’s worth the cost, it’s worth every penny, so if you can afford it, get an original one from a bookshop.

 

The Feminine Mistake: Are we giving up too much

Author: Leslie Bennets (Editor, Vanity Fair)

Yes that dirty word. Feminism, essentially isn’t all bad as it’s made out to be. It’s just wanting women to have individual lives and dreams like men. Period. And this book has it all.

 
How the book found me:

Long story. I follow Demi Moore on twitter. And she tweeted about an Interview series she was producing, called The Conversation which was conducted by Amanda De Cadenet. (Brilliant! To say the least). In an episode of this program they interview Vanity Fair editor, Leslie Bennetts, who is the Author of The Feminine Mistake. And I heard her speak about it, and I got the book, thanks to Flipkart.

 
How did it change me?

Most of the ideas mentioned in the book, were vaguely present in my mind. But this book gave them structure and defined that most of my thoughts and ideas could be backed up by research. It has been criticized by housewives and people who have chosen to give up their career for their family. While I am not here to debate the topic, this book is a must read for women who are in that frail position of their lives, where they are contemplating leaving their jobs to care for their families and are confused about which way to choose.

 
Most vital point to look out for:

Most women decide to quit their jobs, when they feel paying for childcare will leave them with nothing left of their salaries. This point is discussed in detail backed by some solid data and research saying, how carrying on with the low paying job and paying for child care will in the long run benefit everyone. It also discusses people’s worry about baby sitters/ nannies and child care.

 

Negatives, if any?

Not a very easy read. It is written based on research solely done in the USA, so though most of her ideas are universal, her research isn’t. Also it’s a heavily researched book, for all the right reasons, because no one would believe these, if it wasn’t researched, but that also means we need to see a lot of numbers and % which u can just skip.

How to use the book?

[This is just a review of a book, and again, I am not here to debate which path to choose. But if you are CONFUSED, then read it. If you are sure of your choice, there’s nothing to read or discuss about, is there? If before spending the 1000 Rs you need to get a small idea of what she is talking about, its here.

 

Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha:

Author: Rujuta Diwekar (Bollywood Celerbity Dietician)

 The term weightloss in the subject will definitely attract readers. However, this is not a weight loss book. This must be the first women’s empowerment book ever written by anyone remotely connected to Bollywood. And that is what makes this book not just stand out, but pop out!

 
How the book found me:

Got it as an ebook from Flipkart Ebooks during their promotional offer, and what a promotional offer it was!

 Must read for EVERY Indian woman, it discusses the varying stages of an Indian women’s life, teenage, marry-able age, post marriage, post menopause etc, and how women deal with it. Most importantly how women or girls deal with it in all the wrong ways, and how we always put ourselves last and then our bodies bear the brunt of it, and why that affects weight loss. It unabashedly discusses most of the negative “Indian” mindsets towards women and how those should change, my favorite being how every man wants the “thin, tall, fair” bride and how every girl wants to be her. Girls are made to feel inadequate about their weight and looks from a very young age and how to counter that with healthy eating and not fad diets.

 How did it change me?

I look forward to stop self-deprecating my looks for once. Or my weight.

 Most vital point to look out for:

is that weight loss, which EVERYONE craves for, comes with having self-respect. How many dieticians have told you that?

 
Negatives, if any?

Karisma Kapoor’s 24 kilo weight loss added in the backside of the cover. Was a downer. We aren’t discussing weight loss tips/tricks. So don’t expect a pill to lose 24 kilos (which would have never made the book this unique). Kareena Kapoor’s foreword however, is endearing. The mention of the Kapoor sister’s names all over the book might have been responsible for the 1 lakh copies that it sold, but if you ask me for such a phenomenal book, it was unnecessary. There is also a little bit of hindi thrown in here and there, which I personally loved, but if you don’t know hindi well, you could miss the humour but not her idea.

 How to use the book:

If it is her diet plans that you are looking for buy her before and after books, Don’t lose your mind , lose your weight and Don’t lose out , work out. If it’s your self-esteem issues that you need to work on, read this book.

 
So there!

What was the World Health Organisation (WHO) thinking?

12 Aug

So as we all know WHO is on a rampage about promoting EBF.( If you do not know the full form of EBF, stop right there. This article is not for you).  I was handed pamphlets and what not, and thoroughly being educated about EBFing throughout my pregnancy. And I REALLY wanted to do it. Like REALLY. So I read up on it like crazy. (Don’t even start with the it’s natural why did you read about it, angle. Don’t even)

So now my baby is around four months + and I have successfully been able to EBF till now. And no this is not a gloating article, NO. I hope it doesn’t sound like one.  I just had to share how this journey has been for me so far. I need to say this out loud, the “support”, appreciation and innumerable BIG pats on the back that an EBFing mother, or any mother for that matter, deserves is, something I don’t see around me at all. She is to say the least, terribly, under appreciated.  Forget appreciation, instead she is also judged, heavily. Being an Indian, we have the custom of having a lady for the first 40 days after birth (which is also a period of seclusion) who is there to take care of the new mother, I don’t know what she is called, or if she has a special name. but she is here to give you exclusive care  .I keep hearing about cultures where mothers don’t get any such grace period, and how they have little to no help right after having a baby. That sounds terribly sad. However, I , being in india, did have a lot of physical help. (I am grateful for it)

The key word here being physical.  There are people to do the dishes, wash clothes, cook etc etc. “Physical” help which is of course a very vital part of mental health, if you are too exhausted it will most definitely affect your mind. That being said, I think , for new mothers, it is important that they get the adequate mental support, as much as the physical help everyone keeps offering. Or am I asking for too much. The minute a woman steps into motherhood, in any form, she is subjected to constant scrutiny. Constant intense scrutiny. Nothing is ever good enough, and this begins from the hospital. From the nurses in the hospital. I had extensively read about EBFing and even met with a lactation consultant before baby and then she routinely visited after. I had heard horror stories of cousins and sister in laws about how they gave up BFing before even beginning, and I didn’t want this to happen to me. This is my layman’s take on the importance of mental support for this crucial face for a mother.

  1. Don’t belittle it as “natural” and something everyone has done for ages.

The biggest problem with all things related to motherhood is , it has been going around for ages, and everyone from the street sweeper to Gwyneth Paltrow has a baby through the same mechanisms. But the point is no matter how many women have done all of this it is the first time for this particular woman. And yes, not the first time in the world, but it is tough. Coming to EBFing, it hasn’t been around for ages. People never fed colostrum, never had the intense pressure of “Exclusive” thrust upon them till now. Exclusive is not easy, so belittling it to something supposedly everyone is doing and calling it “natural” is not helping anyone. Yes it is natural, yes it is free, but it is NOT EASY

  1. I had a very painful experience BFing. It may not be the same for everyone, but at least largely BFing first time mothers have a very tough time. Now what comes into picture is “pain” threshold. My pain threshold is poor, and I am not ashamed to say that. I am not anyone who earns a living depending on my pain threshold. So please don’t say the horrible statements “she can’t  even take that much of a pain? ” it’s not a little bit, its horrifying pain. The only thing that can beat it is of course, labor pain. Don’t even get me started on that.

Here I digress to say how to survive the horrifying initial pain. Bite through it. Yes. That’s it. End of advice. No ointment, do this apply that, its wrong latching . no! It isn’t wrong latching, no matter what your lactation consultant aunty tells you. If you are an FTM, 90% chances are it will hurt like hell. My only words of advise, are , Watch a lot of TV, first 40 days (if you are in seclusion, and you are not allowed to read/watch TV, like some of us were, all the best. God save you!) and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel is very very long, and after 9 harrowing months it is not a tunnel you are looking forward to, I know. All I can say is I survived it, and I am a very low pain threshold person, so you can too. There have been many days, where I have been on the verge of giving up, but somehow I survived. And during these crucial phases, the 40 day lady should ideally tell you, you are doing a great job girl, keep it up. But what mine did, and what usually they do, is give us those judging looks. In spite of the fact that my doctor was very happy with my baby’s weight gain and in spite of the fact that I was always ALWAYS feeding, she had to say how I was “timing” my feeds and I should remember that all the milk is FOR the baby. Yes exactly, she was there to “help”, and I was pretty sure if I had the energy in me I would have killed her.

Here, I would like to add another statement, yes “mother’s milk is best”. But sometimes while seeing the extremities we have to undergo to get it done, and if you think you are losing your mind, just supplement. Don’t kill yourself over it. Yes there, I said it. Try your best, don’t give up too fast though. But your sanity is also important. For one, I wasn’t bfed (at all) and I turned out OK.

At least where I come from, all the help you can get is only physical. There is absolutely zero mental support, everyone has to judge you. At every step, always. If the baby as much as sobs, you are, almost definitely starving her. So your choice to EBF will be questioned always throughout. You wonder why the , you chose , this path. Only to blamed for everything that your baby does, if her poop is green (which is natural), you will be asked about why you aren’t having enough rice. Do you even have enough milk, with that disgusted look on their face.

So today I took my mother to the dentist leaving my 4 month old with my husband for an hour. My husband can easily handle our baby. Not to mention it was for hardly one and a half hour, and it wasn’t for vanity reasons, it was so that I needn’t have to carry my baby to the dentist. YET, the min, I returned my kaamwaali had to say how my baby STARVED. Needless to say I lost it. And when I lost it , I was asked why I had to respond to all these “silly” stuff. At least the people who I pay to work for me shouldn’t be judging me (keep dreaming!). So if I was supplementing my baby, of course, I wouldn’t be starving her even if I was away for an hour. So what was my mistake? Yes of course that I am  EBFing. That I chose that path and then decided to step away for an hour.

Word of advise here, you need to leave your kid with someone who can handle kids.  the key word being HANDLE. Trust is a given. So someone whom you trust AND can handle children. children cry out of boredom, they cry because they are sleepy, and within an hour of feeding most babies at 4 months WILL NOT Be hungry. So if the person you decide to leave your kid with cannot rock a baby to sleep, or play with him/her, you are going to be called back in 10 mins, saying she/he is hungry, when she/he may not be. My husband is someone who can handle kids, so though, my silly kaamwali thought I left my baby for “vanity” (btw, everyone is just waiting for a mother to turn vain, to call you a BAD mother), I was NOT called back in 10 mins because of a wailing baby. But as long as you are EBFing, you will not be able to stay away, without having that massive burden on your shoulders of having starved your child thrust upon you. And because BFing in public is NEVER easy, most mothers, if they can, just stay at home put. But of course I couldn’t, I had to travel a lot to “show” my baby to ageing great grand parents and family members. Which means get lot of nursing covers, and try your best, to go to places with child care rooms.  I spent a bomb on these, especially because I chose air travel for even the smallest routes, and even if I was judged on this , I didn’t care.

My intention in writing this article is to SUPPORT women who are struggling even when they have lot of physical help around including mothers and aunts and other help. Who get too much advise, who get discouraged from EBFing, because they are blamed for everything or because it is too difficult.

The first 40 days is the toughest when it comes to EBF. Because the baby is tiny and your body is recovering from a major physical ordeal. Baby needs to feed constantly. And you just want to sleep. But you cant. You cant sleep at night, or day. All I can say, is , please don’t compare yourself with those million women who did it before you, and how you are too weak that you are finding it difficult No you aren’t, you deserve a very HUGE pat on your back and a big warm hug for even trying. After 9 testing months to have another 40 days of this. And I need to specifically add that, this hasn’t been done for millions of years. Colostrum wasn’t fed to babies till recently. Its various antibody medicinal properties are being hailed, and God bless. But feeding colostrum is a very tough act, and when you add the word exclusive to colostrum, then you will be in lot of pain. So if the older generation, doesn’t get it, it’s because they were never asked to exclusively feed colostrum. In India, you get physical help, try to get mental support too, and mostly you won’t get it from your family. Unless you have young cousins who just have been through it. That’s the benefit of friends, the family that you chose, they are from your generation, they are people who won’t judge you, they probably had babies recently, as against your family, who probably can’t remember a thing about their struggles 20 plus years back. There are also lot of groups and online forums for those lucky ones who can and are allowed to access internet in the 40 day period . if nothing else, I am here to support you. You go girl!

If you have a lenient family, get a TV in your room, chances are they won’t allow that., but you could try. Get a good set of (non humorous movies if you had a c section) to watch while b fing. In fact you can start collecting this during your last months of pregnancy. So that you don’t feel like it’s never ending. Because believe me first 40 days you will be at it 24 hours of the day.

The night feeds, and the sleepless nights. What helped me? One word answer: Entourage. And no, you don’t have to stop reading if you don’t know what it means. It’s one of the best things to happen to TV and the best thing to happen to a sleep deprived me. A series, whose seven seasons  hand held me through the sleepless nights.

The 40 day bright light shining end of tunnel. Once this never ending 40 days is over, things will look good. For one, the lady who has come to “help” (whom you have been praying to leave), will leave. You can step out. You can walk around. Your BFing frequency will reduce substantially. SUBSTANTIALLY. The next challenge is however about staying close to your baby, for the next 6 months.

I have 2 more months left to cross the WHO mark. And I pray that I survive, though the struggled have reduced now, i have to wakeup at least 4 times every night, and I have everyone in every home I have ever been to,  telling me that my baby is hungry always all the time. and I still can’t step out anywhere without thinking a 100 times over, vanity or otherwise.

For one, what this journey has taught me is to not JUDGE any mother. Ever. I survived this ordeal, they may not be able to. It could be a million reasons, which is incomparable. Every mother has their own set of reasons and their own set of “individual” struggles. And every mother, is a GOOD mother, EBF or otherwise. Every single one of them.

This is dedicated to four wonderful women in my life, who have helped me through this journey, Zareen, Lavanya , Sreeja, and my dear Rakhi. Four amazing mothers, not amazing, but PERFECT mothers.  

I had to blog because Indira Nooyi was asked to get milk

2 Jul

 I read something today, and I had to blog. My current medium of fuming when reading something I don’t agree with, is ranting about it to my friends, or cousins who are friends. If you ask me, this isn’t healthy, my ideas aren’t going anywhere, and they might think I am just obsessed about few things, like, let’s say, Manju Warrier and women’s equality.

But as I said I read something today and HAD to blog, this was, Indira Nooi’s “Women can’t have it all” Interview which is trending across the internet, for what I believe to be the wrong reasons.

Let me just say it out loud first. This is not a stay at home/working mom dispute. I have no idea what it means to work outside of your home leaving a child behind. But this blog is about mothers, the mothers who respond like Ms Nooyi’s did. I am leaving out the rest of her interview, but focusing on the  response of her mother, on the day she became Pepsi’s president.

 

Image

So it wasn’t a silly promotion, she became the president of  PEPSI and was included in the board of directors. Which is no minor achievement. Not for a man or woman or  anyone else. And her mother asks her to get milk. Followed by the below explanation. “Let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.” Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/why-pepsico-ceo-indra-k-nooyi-cant-have-it-all/373750/#ixzz36JWBDzNM

So what about this response is wrong? Is it hurtful? Is it sentimental? And why is this response the talk of the town.

If you ask me, I would have been crushed by this response .I know of many bright successful adults, who never share their success at work with their family saying, “My family doesn’t get it”. This includes men. I am reminded of this incident that happened to one of my friends. He is called the “whiz kid” at work. Because he is just that, he magically resolves issues. He is extremely successful, highly paid, goes on world tours all the time, has a stellar car. So we would expect him to demand the same kind of respect at home. However during his brother’s wedding his father after giving him instructions to get things done, said “It’s useless explaining all this to you! I would rather do it myself”. The very successful whiz kid belittled because he couldn’t arrange furniture. I have also heard a mother talk about her (very successful and bright, if you ask me) daughter, in a similar way. “She’s an engineer, alright. Just that she makes bad tea”.

So what is with these parents?

At first reading her mother’s response I was shocked, angry, irritated. Why would she say that? Why would any mother say that to her own daughter? What did she do wrong btw? Not know that they have run out of milk?

Out of the multiple interpretations we can give to her mother’s response. Few of them are

  1. The mother is bananas. Who does she think she is!!

She knows nothing about business or what it means to be CEO. She is trying to make the daughter guilty for achieving everything she herself has not been able to. Ask her to get a life!

 

  1. The mother is putting her in her place. Making sure that she remains grounded, is reminded of who she is, and not get carried away by the CEO “crown” (which is damned btw, no idea why)

I know a lot of parents who has taken it upon themselves to teach humility to their kids, by belittling their achievements. I am not sure if it’s an Indian thing, but let me tell you, it doesn’t always work. Rather than become humble, children  are more disappointed that the parents,the very people who need to be proud of you, are least bothered.

  1. She’s reminding Indira of her “primary” duties as a woman.

This is the part that bothers me. Imagine a man entering the household to say he got a promotion. Imagine the wife/mother replying “You are the father, the son, the son in law, so to hell with your promotion”, or worse “go get milk”. The wife maybe thinking it, but in most cases wouldn’t dare  say it. Because the man pays for your livelihood, his promotion means more “money” to the family and so it’s more important. It’s not about a person forgetting to become a mother, or earning for “selfish” reasons.

  1. Was having a bad day

She must have been having a bad day with all the work at home. And snapped. This is the only explanation that gives me any peace. Yes she snapped, everyone does. It’s ok!

Why is Indira made to feel guilty of her achievements? Why is any woman made to feel guilty about hers, like it’s a selfish “hobby” she’s pursuing out of her own interest, because she HATES her family.

Secondly she says about not being able to have it all. This has caused a red flag among few of my aspiring to-be-working-in-the-future women friends. Even before beginning a career, they are worried about this very thing, the curse of the absentee mother. The one who doesn’t attend the coffee stuff on Wednesday mornings. (Read whole interview to know what I am talking about)

I have a pretty simple and straightforward question to schools who do this, Who schedule PTAs on 9 am on Wednesdays expecting “mothers” (some even expect fathers) to be there. The donations, the high school fees, not to mention the innumerable other expenses that a child and the school incurs. Where do you think the money comes from? Or do they think daddy alone should be burdened with the whole responsibility of that, and you can just blame parents for not being present, while also expecting the money to flow. Really? From where?

When our children are born, we really believe (at some very early point in their life) that they are going to change the world. So how exactly are they going to change the world? By getting milk on time you say?

Sachin Tendulkar (who did change the world) said in his mesmerizing farewell speech about how he missed a lot of his kid’s events. I didn’t hear any headlines being made on that? I didn’t hear anyone say “Sachin says. He can’t have it all” of course not. Because he is a man, he is supposed to change the world.

Dulquer Salmaan in his interview, when asked about his father (film star Mammotty), his involuntary response was, “He wasn’t always around, but he is a good dad, “blah blah. Alia Bhatt’s response on being asked about her father, director, Mahesh Bhatt, was on the same lines, “He wasn’t around always, but I was very proud of being mahesh bhatt’s daughter”. So if you are out there changing the world, you won’t be that much around your kids. Probably their mothers took the slack, and WERE around for the kids. But I hate to ask this, why didn’t anyone ask Dulquer about his mother? Why didn’t anyone ask Alia Bhatt about her mother, or how it was growing up as the daughter of her mother, (who I don’t know anything about). The mothers roles are important, but if a person has the talent, will, education, and skill to change the world, and if , in the rare by chance they turn out to be women, we need to cut them some slack.

Holding down a job is no EASY feat. It’s not easy for men, it’s not easy for women. So for those who really work hard and achieve that status. For those who change the world, like Indira and Sachin did, we need to allow them to miss a few of those school events, without being reminded of how they can’t have it all. Like Indira said, she coopted her family, the grandparents are involved, her secretary is involved, she has help at home. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.

 

 

 

The beauty of large families

26 Apr

Disclaimer: I am not sure if I should start every blog of mine with a disclaimer. However here goes, I am aware that I am an Indian citizen, and that India has a population problem.I am also aware,  that educated citizens, should think about their nation’s prosperity before their own. While the financial implications of having more children, might also be a cause of worry, I am not discussing them here.

I was brought up in the Middle East, and most of my close friends were Pakistanis or North Kerala Muslims (I am a south Kerala Muslim, and yes there is a huge cultural difference between the two).  All my classmates had big families, the fact that I had “only” one brother, was something everyone rolled their eyes at.

I fondly remember, my Pakistani classmate, Tusadaf Akram. She was the eldest of, from what I remember,8 siblings. She was a talented little girl, her paintings looked as good as today’s graphic novels, when she must have hardly been 10 years old. Till her 5th class, she was just that, a very pretty girl, who was great in painting.

 Then something took over her. She started studying really really hard. So from being an average student, she catapulted to a class topper, in a very short time. I remember how inspired I was by her. Till date, I don’t know what took over her, or why she studied so hard.  I may have been a better student than she was, but yet I wanted to be just like her. I was in awe of her, and I especially loved that she had a big family. I am not sure if having a big family helped her, or hindered her. But as a 10 year old, I believed that, not having as many siblings as her and the rest of my classmates I was missing out on life. I also played make-believe and day dreamed about having 4 elder brothers (3 imaginary and 1 real) and 3 younger siblings.

Later, I returned back to my hometown, Trivandrum. Here of course, all the oddness of being a 2-child family drained out. It was the norm, and as years passed by, I forgot everything about big families. The kids in my family, also started demanding they do not want other siblings. This again became the norm. one-child families. Not that I have anything against it, I know of amazingly grounded and wonderful people who are single children.

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The cute and large family from The Bill Cosby Show

And THEN I got married into a north-kerala family. My childhood came rushing back to me.

In Kannur, my husband’s hometown, the families are big, an average no of children, for today’s couples is 4.  So naturally people in my generation had  4 (or more) siblings. Since I personally never belonged to a big family, as a kid, I always wondered, how mothers took equal care of all of them. Did they forget about any of their kids? Were they treated unequally? Were the children less loved, because there were too many to love?

After marriage, however, I became part of a big family, and got the answers to all of my life-long questions.

I am not a parent, and hence can’t speak for them. But as a part-time aunt/sister-in-law to more than 13 kids (below the age of 10), I can say for sure, I understand and celebrate each of their uniqueness. And I miss the ones who aren’t there, even when there are 7 other kids to distract me. I have noticed time and again how my mother-in-law remembers what each of the kids in her and her husband’s family like for dinner. I, for one, fall sick every time I visit, and my husband’s grandmother who has her hands-full to say the least, alters my diet easily and accordingly, and I am cured the very next day. The grandfather gives a wake-up call to all of his 7 kids, (whoever is in his timezone) for the morning prayer, every day . I realized love isn’t something that gets distracted or divided among family. Even if you are the fifth daughter’s third child, you are as much included, and taken care of, (and worried about) as the rest of them are.  

The difference of course being that, parents do not get time to obsess over every little detail of their children. (which happens a lot from where I come from). Jennifer Grant, mother of four, and author of Momumental, mentions in her book, that the beauty of having four children is that, she didn’t obsess and spoil any one of her children. So each of them had their own secrets, independence, and individuality. The parents themselves remain young and busy for a very long part of their lives, as the whole “empty-nest” descends on them pretty late, and for some of them never.Most importantly, the kids have each other to play and grow up with, and for the large part aren’t interested in adults

Then of course, there is loads of unadulterated fun that you never have to switch on the television again. And, if you ask me, life is meant to have fun

With the Hijab! Again

24 Apr

For those who do not know what a Hijab is: It’s the headscarf used by Muslim women.

I am sorry: But I really had to write about this again.

So it’s been months since I updated my blog. I contemplated writing a review about the books I read: (Feminine Mistake and Momumental), then I wanted to write about Veda Pierce a particularly disturbing character from the brilliant mini-series Mildred Pierce. But as always life got in the way, and then the hijab related questions started again. So here I go again.

Recently , a complete stranger send me a Facebook message asking me why I “liked” the photo of one of my Muslim friend’s when I very well knew that she  was married to a Hindu man. And if that meant that  I support inter-religious marriages. Considering that the photo was liked by at least a 100 people, and that he didn’t know me, why did he chose to ask ME, of all people?

Of course, the Hijab. The fact that I am seen wearing a hijab in my profile picture, made him automatically assume that I am against  inter-religious marriages, and that I had taken it upon myself to advice every one of my friends who I think are going the “wrong” way. Now that I have FB blocked him, I am sure he won’t be reading this. But yet, to clarify to everyone, I have NOTHING against an inter-religious marriage. I am proud to be an Indian who interact and live amicably a midst different religions. And  living amicably includes, marrying a person of a different religion. India gives its citizens the legal right to choose their own life partner. And I stand by it, tooth and nail. In short, the hijab hasn’t made me a radical. It doesn’t make me anything I wasn’t before.

Second: One of my ex colleagues who is a Muslim, told me that he has “converted” a Hindu girl and will be marrying her soon. Now considering that I never was one of his close friends, and merely an acquaintance, I was wondering why he chose ME to share this kind of sensitive information. Of course the Hijab. He expected me to applaud his decision. However I am sure he wasn’t happy with the response he received.

Not to mention, he said, he considered me an “ideal” Muslim woman.  I know how men equate Hijab to ideal-ness, all the time. He doesn’t know about my prayer life,about how spiritually advanced I am, he hardly knows me, and yet I am “ideal”. I was flattered alright, but , it wasn’t appealing to know that wearing a hijab ALONE made me ideal.

Third: One another Muslim acquaintance pinged me early this morning, asking if he can buy a pet dog, and if it’s allowed in Islam. I know the Islamic standing on pet dogs, but I knew it when I was probably 10 years old, and never wore a hijab.  I was raised in Al-Ain, and any person who spends their childhood in a Muslim country has an idea about it. This doesn’t mean I am an Islamic scholar. I shouldn’t be asked such questions, really, I shouldn’t.

Hijab is made out into so much more than its supposed to be.  It’s a piece of cloth and is considered a fashion statement, in my husband’s place. I wear it as much out of respect, as out of vanity and the need to remain “fashionable” (Like all women?).
It doesn’t make me anything I wasn’t before. It doesn’t make me a scholar or a radical. Most importantly it doesn’t make me  Non-Indian.

I AM A SECULAR INDIAN. And always will be.

P.S: There! I have gotten rid of my writer’s block aka laziness, now let me get back to the reviews and Veda Pierce.

Do-it-first in your friends circle: Treating females with respect

26 Feb

Disclaimer: I am in no way intending that ALL men are like what I have mentioned below, or that all men behave like animals when in groups.

There has been a much needed hue and cry about women’s safety in India. It’s starting to die down as the news channels find newer stories to cover and obsess about.  The Government has also promised some changes, like  fast track courts, better governance, implementing stricter laws for offenders etc. Also much have been written , in some very impressive op-ed articles about what we as common citizens of India should do, to make India and the world at large a safer place for women.

However, I do need to say, TWO very important factors, which maybe dismissed as trivial, but which I believe is in most cases, the root cause of  assault and harassment of women, and how men and boys could stop it in their own circle of friends.

The mob mentality:

Men when they are in groups, even the most educated ones, speak about women as a commodity. That seem to be their favorite time pass, along with video games, and playing ball. Some men stop  at this level, but a good number of others, take it to the next. They whistle at, or pass a lewd comment, at every single female who pass by them. The gang of men/boys they hang out with, usually encourage this. Eve teasing and groping is a fun task, which only the “brave” among them can do.  A boy/man who has the guts to touch a girl (against her wishes obviously)   is the “REAL” man . They dare each other to do something harassing to an innocent woman, which personally they might consider just a normal every day fun activity. These very men might be harmless and even nice when they aren’t with the above said group.

Like one of my friends told me when in groups men’s morality drops down to the one with the lowest morals.  

I was shocked, recently to hear about an acquaintance, who is educated and now happily married with a baby, who used to be an “expert” in groping girls in his younger years, and he wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed or guilty about it.  I was enraged to put it mildly, how could he? He seemed a decent normal man to me. What made him do that?

  1. He thought it would do no harm. And it was just for “fun”. He had  no idea (like most abusers), the kind of psychological damage and general fear a woman can be filled with , if subjected to such a treatment even if it’s just once.
  2. “Some” girls enjoy it, after all she dresses up to attract men.
  3. His friends thought it was fun and encouraged him. I do not know how to put it across to all the men and the boys who think its “fun” and that harassing someone makes them manly. It is not fun, (wait till you get into prison and is subjected to the same treatment by your fellow mates.)
  4. There are no strict laws which discourage this kind of behavior.

I am astonished most times, when I hear what men talk among themselves. And maybe a little talk can do no harm. However this is my sincere request to all men, or boys who in groups behave abnormally. Who sometimes do horrible things just to feel included in a group.

Stand your ground.

If your friend boasts about how he misbehaved with a girl, or how he pursued a girl while she was returning from college/school, discourage it. Tell him, there’s nothing manly about harassment. Tell him, (even if that means, being subjected to ridicule,) that it just makes him seem desperate and not manly.

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The mob mentality and treating women/girls like commodity is also closely linked with having no personal relationships with girls/women. The only females most of these men interact with are family, which brings us to the second topic.

II) The lack of Co-Education

By segregating girls and boys in their growing years, the whole stigma around the female, is only developed many times more. I have no idea, why people just love to send their kids to girls-only and boys-only schools. Parents believe that doing so, means the girls and boys will have no chance to have a “relationship” and that is best for them. However, the opposite is what happens. Boys who grow up in boys-only schools may not have a relationship with a girl, but that means, they are also completely de-sensitized to girls, and girls are just a bunch of stories, they make up among each other. Their idea of girls and woman are built on never existing stereotypes, that if they do not grope or harass woman, they end up oppressing and harassing the women they meet in their adult lives, who they want to fit into the “good” girl stereotype, which believe me no normal woman/girl can ever fit into.

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Usually girls in girls-only schools have ZERO clue about boys and men, and due to their complete lack of exposure,  they are easy prey to the only men they do meet. That could be a  bus conductor, auto driver, or someone with a fake facebook id .

The men who say that women in their family shouldn’t  carry a cell phone, or that she should wear her dupatta in this particular way are all just an extension of the children who grew up hearing too many stereotypical stories about “good” and “bad” women. Having  a complete lack of exposure to the opposite gender while growing up, doesnt make boys good or worthy. It just makes them have no idea of what a real woman is.  It is important to have healthy friendships with the opposite gender, do science projects with them, study, play, fight, with them as children, and know  women/girls closely, for men to understand that women are complex beings.

Not commodities and most importantly not someone who takes being assaulted or whistled at or groped lightly.