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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.  

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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.

 

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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.

She’s Muslim and Married! God save her

8 Feb

I have been asked time and again, why I predominantly write about religion,(because of my Ramadan blog) and if that has got something to do with my marriage. As in, have I lost my identity after my marriage. Marriage in itself is seen by many as a death sentence to a fun life. That along with being photographed in “hijabs” and “burkhas” adds insult to injury, and becomes decisive in people determining that my marriage has oppressed me, and turned me into a shadow of a Muslim woman. “It’s surprising she still has a Facebook account?”  (Yes, having an active Facebook account somehow is now equated to women’s liberty)

Myth about marriage:  Marriage=chores. A married woman, spends all her waking hours, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and nagging the husband, to get groceries. If she still continues to work, which in itself is a shocker, she must be struggling to make “dabbas”, and packing her husband’s lunch.The minute I mention that I am married, I am inadvertently asked about cooking. So when do you cook? What do you eat? How do you eat at work? What about your husband’s food? As if, I  started eating after marriage. Or as if , by marriage, what my husband  got for himself was an in-house cook. The biggest dilemma or the thing of prime importance in a married woman’s life seems to be food/chores. That we are so consumed by chores, that we have no time for ourselves, and will become fat for sure.

One of my friends, once tried hard to convince me , few weeks before my own marriage, about how women let themselves go, and lose their looks, after marriage. I had to send him a gazillion pictures of my ever gorgeous friends, to tell him, how that isn’t always the case. Not to mention that my own married friends, especially women, always thought that all of my interests starting with books to being good at work, will come to a halt as I get married.

Truth:?

It has to be said that, I can cook a decent meal,  (or throw a party)  and now especially because I have a kitchen, I have the freedom to cook what I enjoy and not have to suffer my office canteen food. I have an option, which has made my life better, not worse. I do not spend every waking moment, doing chores. I don’t bother about laundry for more than 10 mins in a week, and the only hassle I face in getting groceries are in counting my sodexo coupons and struggling with my math. And NO my husband doesn’t spend his weekends doing grocery shopping either.

That being said, marriage has certainly made my life more comfortable. I just have a cleaner, bigger and a complete home. I spend most of my time, with someone I like, and am not stuck in a room with girls I do not know. I have a fridge, TV, microwave, all these are luxuries when you  have spent quite some time in a hostel with none of the above. I have an intelligent study partner at my beck and call, and I have read more books in my first year after my marriage, than I have in the past three years.  All these things have, as it should, made my life better and more interesting .

Faith and writing about religion

Myth: You just can’t be fun, if you are a Muslim. You especially can’t be fun or have a life, if you are practicing Muslim woman, who covers up.

My faith does determine a whole lot about me. It means a lot to me, and forms a vital part of who I am, and how I behave. However, the fact that I belong to a religion, which has sadly been equated to being oppressive to women and is probably the most misinterpreted religion in the world doesn’t help.

Also, I have been a practicing Muslim, since the time I was 8 years old. I have prayed and fasted all my life. That was ages before I ever met my husband.  I wasn’t forced or oppressed into it, (most Muslims aren’t) . I was more steadfast in prayers, than most adults in my family. That’s just the environment I grew up in and the brilliant teachers who taught me. Other than the fact that I pull out a prayer rug, once every two hours at work, and that you might see my foot in the sink, in the office restroom.(Read the link where Khalid Latif, who seems to have the same dilemma as me, explains the foot in the sink) My practicing prayer life, doesn’t take away any fun from my life. It doesn’t mean that the only thing I do is pray, it doesn’t mean that I am “too” religious that I can’t be living my life

It just means that I am more at peace, and don’t panic and worry about every other thing. It means that I am more confident, because I believe in a super power. It makes me more disciplined, and makes me a Believer, in all things good. And none of these should in effect make me boring or oppressed. I am extremely excited when Rima Kallingal starts following me on twitter or when Fahd Faasil replies to my tweets. I  jump up and down when Brody is exposed in HomeLand, and  Callie and Arizona of Grey’s Anatomy are my favorite TV couple. I am a normal person, who likes everything everyone else likes, but who also believes in the power of prayer.

Clothing

Myth: If you are modestly dressed means: you are not stylish or modern or logical or educated, and is definitely being oppressed. That poor thing!

Dressing sense is good sense. And as a woman, I duly note, woman and their dress sense. It does showcase a lot of qualities. Your aesthetic sense for one, your class, your grooming skills. That being said, I do know, very interesting and attractive people, who are just OK in their dressing sense and vice versa.

India is sadly a country, where it’s pretty tough to be stylish, while being modest. You walk into a mall, and all you can see is sleeveless clothes, and short skirts. However, with a keen eye, you can marry modesty to fashion in India. Though it’s tougher than probably in Pakistan, or in the middle east. ( I have plenty of Pakistani friends and spent my childhood in the middle east). And being modestly dressed doesn’t make any of us less of a style icon (if done correctly).

Most importantly it doesn’t mean oppression.  It could mean respect to the culture we are in, it could mean, finding clothing that suits your body type as against going with the latest fashion trends. It could also mean, that skin show, needn’t always equate to being fashionable. And you can be wearing the latest fashion fad, and still be oppressed, just that the world wouldn’t know. A dress or a piece of clothing doesn’t determine oppression. It just determines your sense of fashion, and that’s all there is to it.

What is FUN?

Now that Facebook, (and not someone’s eyes), is considered a window into a person’s soul. It remains to be asked, what makes any of us interesting? What makes us want to go over and over another person’s profile, till we know they are interesting (or boring) .Does our updates/profile pictures determine our happiness? Facebook does  showcase a lot of our lives, it shows the places we visited, what we like, who are our best friends (hopefully), where we work, what our professional qualification is, how do we celebrate birthdays/anniversaries? Do we play any sport? So in effect, it does showcase a LOT of who we are. However, it doesn’t determine how kind, accommodating or focused you are. It doesn’t show how judgmental encouraging or liberal you are. It just showcases the parts of you that you want to be showcased.

Can we determine oppression by looking at a person’s FB profile? Oppression means denying anyone the right to live their own life.  Ignoring their talents and forcing them to let go of their individuality. Your dressing sense, faith , pub crawls, or Facebook updates can never determine any of it.

Reminder to myself: Training Day

24 Jan

I was born a highly disciplined and meticulous student. I automatically KNEW how to study, made elaborate timetables,finished school portions daily, wrote exams with gusto, and was unbeatable in my class. All this, without stressing myself out, or without having any pressure or guidance from my parents . Studying hard, was just part of who I was as a child. Very unfortunately, teenage and my 11th and 12th std, pushed me out of this equation, and I never completely found my way back. I slipped from being a brilliant student, to a bad one, in my pre-degree days and then spend the rest of my student life as an above average student.

 

One of the very many advantages of being an adult is that, we do not have to study, or prepare for routine exams. The very few scenarios in which we do study, are if we are preparing ourselves for an interview, or if you have to get a professional certification. Both of which happens once in a few years, at best. Most of us completely forget how to learn .Taking life as it comes and becoming too comfortable with our steady income, and unchallenging life.

 

However, push did come to shove for me, and I had to STUDY, and with a deadline, when I was asked to conduct a training. I went from never reading more than two pages at a stretch to finishing 12 modules. And after five stressful days, of an (above average) training, I have come up with a method of studying, worth sharing, I believe.

This is as much for myself, as for any one else, who is struggling to learn, get back to studying/teaching, Or was never a good student in the first place, professional or otherwise.

The worst idea that stands between anyone  being a good student is the tag of being called “nerdy” (aka Buji in my mother tongue) . This doesn’t happen a lot in your workplace, but sure does happen in colleges and schools . Being good at studies, automatically means that we don’t have fun  a good dressing sense , let alone good looks. Being good in class, makes us “UNCOOL”. I really have never understood how this propaganda ever evolved. I still hear, some of my friends refer to some extremely successful people who studied with them  as “nerds”, as if it’s a bad thing to study. As if it’s a bad thing to know everything and top your class?

I have always been in awe of class toppers. I love good marks, gold medals and first ranks. All of these achievements never made anyone boring. It just made them extremely dedicated focused disciplined and attractive. And believe me I know some real head turners, who are gold medalists. So if you think studying makes you “uncool”, I think you are just plain stupid.

Before I lose my momentum and go back to my procrastinating ways, let me quickly jot down the many things that I took note of about how I could conduct a training, or study. I hope this helps everyone preparing for an exam and myself next time I have to study.

  1. Method of studying. 

With the advent of Multiple Choice question pattern, it is important to remember all the minute details, and the numbers, and the various options. But this also means we have lost touch with writing 500 word essays about a single topic. The art of writing an essay or a long answer, for a single sentence question, is that we need to remember a lot of characteristics of the particular topic. And we need to elaborate on them, as much as we know. Remember naming conventions. Terminology. Remember the advantages and disadvantages. Remember everything related to a single topic, with no cue.

Preparing for a training, is kind of like preparing to write a whole essay. Remembering all the relevant details, WITHOUT having to look back or read from a book. Cause reading from a book looks foolish when you are conducting a class. So as unfortunate as this is going to sound,  for a training , we need to know what comes next, and anything and everything related to a subtopic, BY HEART. The key word is by heart.

2.Basics

It’s good to start with basics. Basics people might have forgotten. Basics students are ashamed to ask questions about. Basics which will get your understanding of the subject right. And not be ashamed to touch upon basics, everytime you get a chance, no matter how simple or irrelevant it seems. So that people, who might be lost, amidst the training, could get back to what we are actually trying to teach them.

3. The 3-time Rule
I have mentioned in a previous study blog, which I will link to here. The importance of studying the same thing, multiple times. My magic number being three. Because each time you learn something, you will get more insight to it. The idea is to get it into your core being. Cause conducting a training means answering a lot of questions, which could get quite confusing. Unless you REALLY know, what you are talking about. The only way to really know is to learn the same thing multiple times, till you know it like the back of your hand.
4. Relating with the known.
There are concepts we know, and there are concepts we are learning afresh. There is no way we can learn something afresh, without relating it to something we know. This could be similies, comparisons, similar products or technologies we already have an idea about.
5.Create a flow in the training.
Start with something basic, slowly building it up, to form a new idea
6. Prepare timelines. 
If you are expected to take an 8 hour class, you should know how you are going to segregate  the hours for each topic. This is closely related to point no 1. Cause unless you know all the points related to a subtopic, by heart, and unless they are being presented in a flow, you will probably finish of everything you wanted to explain in 20 mins. And not have much to do for the next few hours.
7. Revise always
It always helps to cram up the whole portion the night before, or during breaks. Cause you remain fresh, and you are much more prepared to answer questions, while you are fresh. However, don’t expect to learn a topic anew during the cramming hours. It’s just to revise.
8. Avoid the powerpoint curse
In the beginning of my career, training’s usually consisted of, a person reading from a powerpoint presentation. He wasn’t bothered about if the people were listening, if we slept, snored or smsed.  It was refreshing that he didn’t care about how we behaved. What wasn’t refreshing was that he didn’t care about the training either. This was a norm for professional training.  That’s till my husband told me about his favorite trainer, and how he never used anything but a pen and a board. So if you are ever conducting a training, the only time I would say its ok to use your slides is, when you have a diagram to show, and when you aren’t good at drawing.
Finally try not to lose touch with seeking knowledge continuously. (Big reminder to myself). Maybe next time you will actually enjoy, writing an exam, or attending an interview, or conducting a class. Because you are so perfectly  prepared you just want to show off.