Hillary Clinton-A warrior at heart

Continue reading “Hillary Clinton-A warrior at heart”

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About Favorite Poems

I remember when I was in 5th or 6th grade, I had an English recitation competition for which I decided to recite the poem ” The Wasp and the Bee”. It was an easy poem to learn by heart with an important message in it and I loved it when I started to memorize it. I still remember one of the judges was nodding enthusiastically when my turn came to recite and I started off – I was encouraged and started off on a good note. But half way through I forgot the lines. Although I remembered where I left off, I took a few seconds pause in between so I didn’t win the competition. But to this day, it remains one of my favorite poems.

Another poem I love is Rudyard Kipling’s “If”. I find this poem so inspiring for people going through difficult situations. In fact I love it so much, I have taken a print out and displayed it near my office desk. Another reason I love it so much could be because I recently got moved to a team where back stabbing and bitching is very common. Each time a situation or confrontation depresses me, I read this poem to replenish my courage. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is another such inspiring poem.

In Hindi, I love the poem “Hum Panchhi Unmukt Gagan Ke”. This poem was a part of our curriculum in middle school and in many Hindi recitation competitions I have recited this poem. The poet has wonderfully expressed the angst of a caged bird. The simplicity of words but the power behind them really blows my mind. The movie Pink had a poem “Tu Khud ki Khoj mein nikal” recited by Amitabh Bachhan in the end it was so moving, it brought tears to my eyes. I wish I could write like that. I love poems which in their simplicity give a powerful message.

Do you have any poems that you love and have lingered with you from childhood? Please share me the links.

 

 

Sexism at work

Women face sexism everywhere, the worst is at work. As an IT professional with more than 13 years under my belt, I have seen from subtle to terrible instances where the professional capability of a woman is not utilized fully due to sexism.The few instances I have encountered personally are recounted below

1) Women are bad programmers

This is considered to be the truth by one and all although there is no proof that gender has anything to do with logic.It is assumed that women are bad at programming.I have worked in all women teams ,mixed and all mens teams.The same bug or programming error that a man can make when it is made by a woman is considered to be due to lesser capability. Due to this kind of thinking many times women don’t get to work on the juiciest projects which will provide them more visibility and promotion opportunities. Women are considered to be good testers and yes that is true- it’s not because of lesser capability but because women are more thorough.

2) Women don’t have anything to contribute in meetings

Many women don’t speak up in meetings due to the overwhelming male presence and even when she talks she is interrupted. I have seen this happen so many times- men interrupt when women are talking even when the women is at a senior position than him. They forget that the ideas women bring forth to the table is a different perspective. I agree that risk taking behavior is less in women but remember the best decisions need a good dose of pragmatism along with calculated risks. The recession in 2008 was partly caused by extreme risks taken by financial institutions.

3) Women are the default party planners, event coordinators for office functions.

Women are considered the default party planners. I have witnessed birthday parties for team members where after the bday boy/girl cuts the cake- the remaining cake is cut and served to others by women team members. Why does it need to fall on women? This patriarchal setup made by men to sit and get served without lifting a finger makes me really mad. On top of this, I hear men sniggering at these same women colleagues that they were hired for party planning not for actual work.

4) Women take lot of leave

This again is a well parroted  myth repeated by male managers. Tell me how does it make a difference if a women takes 10 different days off on different months compared to a man who takes 10 days vacation in the summer to travel? Both in my opinion are similar, it will cost the company the same. what is the women supposed to do if her child is sick? How many fathers volunteer to take care of a sick child? It is like a chicken and egg situation – women are told family should come first no matter what but when she considers family first she is penalized at work.

5) Women need flexibility in work hours

I myself work early shift and many of my friends do the same. But leaving early from work caused lot of snickering , grumbling and furtive bitching from other team members. However none of these colleagues are present when I come early morning to office. It seems like staying late in office is the only way to work. It doesn’t matter that I meet all the deadlines and my work ethic is immaculate. The managers pretend that they are doing some major favors by letting you work early shift.

6) Women don’t need salary or raises as they are secondary earners

This is another grudge male colleagues hold. Why do women need pay raises or promotions – since their salary is not primary in the house hold.Women’s salaries are for buying trinkets and for shopping.If that is so ,why do men prefer to marry girls who are employed. The double standards of men are staggering when you think about it. The fact of the matter is that the homes where women have a say in financial matters and decisions are the most financially sound families. So the lesser risk taking capabilities of ladies do serve them well in some instances.

7) Maternity leave is a paid vacation

There is nothing slightly vacation like in pushing out a baby from your womb, tending to the infant day and night, the exertions and stress of breast-feeding,vaccination rounds with doctors, and so on. The body needs time to heal – after all the woman’s body carried the baby for 9 months and the stress of delivery is  another thing all together. How many new fathers are willing to utilize the paternity leave, in case their organization provides the same. It is easy to say women are having a jolly good time during maternity leave but the kind of pressure of being a new mom can only be felt once you are in that position. The hormones after pregnancy are raging a war on your body. It is not easy, ask your mom.

8) If a woman is promoted, it is due to her flirting skills

This is another fallacy that makes me laugh. Are people so dumb to believe this? How will this newly promoted woman take care of her job responsibility if she does not have the capability – Which company will be stupid enough to promote someone if they don’t have the capability? Flirting skills will get you so far only. Most of the organizations promote inclusion and diversity in these days. Women are promoted solely on capability. It is proven that more team goals are achieved when the team is diverse rather than homogeneous.

9) Women should bring tastiest snacks and tiffins  to share with team

Although this is an implicit assumption, it is the funniest of all. Why are women asked to bring sweets and snacks to feed their team members? Where does it say women are born with an additional gene for cooking skills? On top of managing the expectations of cooking from family, she has to manage her team members’ expectation for food which is laughable. The comments come from one and all-as if the existence of woman depends solely on cooking and feeding others. This maid mentality is shown mostly by Indian males.

These are not fictional instances, I have personally encountered all of the above situations. Really makes me wonder – after all the progress women have made in every field, the ways in which sexism impacts her at every level is disheartening. The work place is one area where everyone should be rewarded on the basis of their work, not in the basis of pre-conceived notions and biases. Unfortunately for women, the harder they work, the harder people try to pull her down. But still we need to plod on, miles to go before we sleep!!!

 

 

The curse of mediocrity

Mediocrity is a curse in today’s world. Earlier days career choices were limited and people used to have the same job till they retire. If you excel in something in your life and choose the same as career, you are blessed. If not ,you are doomed to a mediocre life the life of an automaton working for money for the basic needs with no goals in mind. Life becomes full of boredom. The Parents also need to share the blame-especially the Indian parents who herd their kids to medicine or engineering without asking the kid for their wish. What does the child want to do is never asked in the household. Parents make the decision based on what society says. Even though the intention is right, it leads the child to hate what he chose as a career in few years.

This is what happened to me.Although my parents never pushed me to take up computers- but that was the trend in early 2000s and I decided to pursue a professional degree in computers like everyone else.I knew I was not very good at it from the beginning but there was no alternative. Thinking back choosing between Science and Commerce itself in high school was a no-brainer because all the best students chose Science and only Science stream. Luckily the job market improved by the time I completed my degree so I got a campus placement. Now 13 years down the line, I hate it. I hate being a programmer and I suck at it. But it pays the bills.And that’s that.

I wish I had the time and freedom to find out what I wanted to take up as my career. My teacher used to say I would be good at medicine as I had the empathy to be a doctor but I don’t know if I would have been a good doctor. I wish I have the time now to decide what my heart wants. But how will I pay the bills? I recently read the biography of Megyn Kelly- the ex Fox News anchor who was a lawyer and switched to a journalism career. It sounds like a dream – how easy it was for her. A change in career seems like a very hard path to follow. She was damn lucky and hard working to make it big in both fields.

I am in awe of J.K Rowling who continued with her passion of writing even after life threw setbacks at her- one after the other. How did she do it? She overcame abuse, depression, loneliness, miscarriage – every thing you can think of and finally succeeded. Hers’ is the kind of princess story we should tell our kids. It blows my mind. Reading her first book, I knew it would be a smash hit. I was and forever will be her fan- not only of her writing but of the way she leads her life. She found her passion in writing and decided to make a career out of it.

Being mediocre in something happens when the person does not have the passion to pursue the said field. Also for some personalities ,especially more in women ,being mediocre in something is kind of like an insult to ego. I feel girls have the innate urge to excel more than boys. Boys don’t take it to heart if they lose a game, or do badly in a test. For girls it’s a situation like the sky is falling down. I know because I was a girl and I see the same pattern for my daughter. Dads have a big role in building up a girl’s confidence. The encouragement and support provided by a dad helps the daughter to take challenges in her stride. She learns to let things go without taking everything to heart.

For women mediocrity is a double edged sword. With the level of multi tasking she is expected to do, how can she hope to be the best in everything – whether it is cooking, career or parenting. But us ladies will prefer death over being mediocre in cooking. I know first hand the shame and guilt in admitting to suck at cooking. With women expected to work in this age, the pressure is double- excel in career as well as home. God forbid if you are mediocre in either. So where do the mediocre people go, I wonder. Maybe they should run off to an alternative universe.

Recently I read an article on different personality types in a team in an HBR article (https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-new-science-of-team-chemistry?referral=03759&cm_vc=rr_item_page.bottom). The different types are Pioneers, Integrators, Guardians and Drivers. This article gave me a lot of hope by addressing my concerns on mediocrity. It appears that people who are mediocre may still be needed in team as they may act as integrators to hold the team together. So all is not lost, take heart my heart. You still have options.

An Ode to Freedom

Dear Diary,

Today is the day. The day I have been waiting for for years- yet did not fully realize it till 3 months ago. I have planned since then-day and night,step by step, little by little. And today I am free.I have moved to my new home with my sons- a clear break from my past life and my husband. I know the journey ahead is going to be hard and will test my patience and grit but I am ready for anything now.I have recorded my life in your pages but today with this last entry it will be a clean break with the past chapters of my life. Tomorrow I will write in a new diary about my new life. You have been my friend and confidant all these days but now I need to look ahead. I want to forget all the past hurts and pains and look forward for me and my son’s sake.

The decision to separate was not easy. I know ahead lies a bitter divorce battle but today I feel happy. I feel at peace. The past ten years of marriage were an agony, the likes of which I never imagined. I was a bright student, well liked in school and college. I finished my masters and was about to enroll in PhD when my marriage was fixed. My fiancé was an NRI , settled in Canada for many years with a good government job. My parents were overjoyed and married me in the best possible way.They did more than they could afford to do for my wedding. I waited for family visa in India for a few months and then flew to Canada.

Little did I know the horrors awaiting me in my new life. Within the first week I came to know my husband was an alcoholic. He could drink one case of beer in one sitting and go out to pubs for more after the drinking marathon at home. I requested him many times to at least have dinner with me , but his policy towards me was to have nothing to do with me unless it was sex.He was a sex maniac – he wanted to be intimate whether I was feeling it or not. Whenever he wanted to do it, I should be ready. I became pregnant quickly but was happy thinking a child would save my marriage. I would think -he will leave drinking once a daughter or son is born. I was wrong again. He did not take it well that my parents came to help me for my delivery. He misbehaved with them but the worst thing for me was that he did not even care for his son. He did not want to help me with anything- taking care of the child, managing the home everything fell on me- once my parents left to India.I somehow managed both. But relations between us soured with constant fights due to his alcoholism.

With the birth of my second son, the rift widened. He mentally harassed me- by not talking to me for months on end, by not eating the food I make, refusing to hold his younger son- in fact he refused to even look or talk to both kids. He wouldn’t let me work or drive. In front of kids he would demean me. My only request to him was not to drink and smoke in front of kids but even on that he did not cooperate. One day he was caught on DUI charges. Another time he started hitting my younger son, in an alcoholic rage and I had to call the cops. He was asked to stay away from us for 6 months. I still wanted to keep the family together and gave him another chance once the 6 months were over. For a few months he did not touch a drop of alcohol but again it started.

Finally one good thing happened in my life which was buying a house. I never imagined it would be possible for us, so I did everything in my power to make the transition to the new home as easy as possible for everyone. I was excited to decorate the house even though I was never consulted on anything- from furniture to curtains his word would be final. But still I was happy as I could see my sons were excited about our new home. But the saga of torture and abuse continued. I did not know domestic violence was not only physical- the mental abuse takes a lot more out of you. I was constantly derided and ridiculed. Since I did not work I had to depend on him for grocery. Many times essential things would be over at the house and I would wait for him to get it for days. Somehow I managed – looking back I don’t know how I managed with 2 little kids.

My patience gave out one fall day. After years I had planned to go to India to visit my parents for my bday. I told him the plan, pleaded with him to let me go for a vacation and somehow he agreed. I booked my tickets and the day before I was supposed to leave with kids to India- he refused to sign the consent letter for kids. In Canada if one parent is traveling out of country with kids, a consent needs to be taken from the other parent. I pleaded and pleaded- kids pleaded but to no avail.He refused to let us go. More than my disappointment it was my kids disappointment that I could not bear. That was the day I took my decision to get out of this marriage for good.

I prepared for 3 months before I stepped out of that house. I pride myself on how I prepared. My soon to be ex husband had disconnected the home phone after our last fight for India trip. So I had no means to talk to my parents or friends. I did not lose heart. I took a bus, went to the mall and bought a burner phone. I kept the phone switched off always except when he went to office and I had to call NGOs. I found an NGO which aids destitute women. They helped me in getting financial aid from govt and also found me an apartment to rent in a lower income area.

Today is the day I moved from that big house to a 2 bedroom apt. My sons are sad but I am happy. I know I will sleep well today since the door is closed and I am safe inside my home. You ask why? My soon to be ex husband used to get drinking urges in the middle of the night and many times I discovered he even forgot to lock the door in his haste.I found a lawyer again through the NGO who will take up my divorce filing. My lawyer advised me to call the cops as soon as I move to let them know about my separation from spouse. Otherwise my husband can file a report with police claiming I ran away with his kids.

I have a dream now- I want to study and get a job. I want to bring up my sons to be happy, well adjusted humans who are feminists. They have seen my struggles- and I hope to god they will always treat women with respect and kindness. He managed to bruise my ego and shattered my confidence but my soul is undamaged. Although the pain will always be there, with time the intensity may diminish. Who knows , I may find happiness with someone else?Future is bright and I am a kite in the sky-watch me soar in the winds of change. Thank you for being my friend and confidant.

Au reviour.

 

Depression

The pain is unbearable. The pain of seeing someone close to you going through any illness is bad, but when the illness is depression, the pain is worse. My mom suffers from depression. She explained how it feels when the cloud of depression descends-the sense of panic that comes over when it is dusk, the suffocative feeling in chest, the headaches that last for few days, the terrible mood swings, the crying jags for no reason, the feeling of drowning in sea. It is terrible to fathom the desperate feeling.

I have seen and observed few of the episodes. In my limited experience some ways I found effective in helping the loved one come out of such episodes are listed below

1) Listen

This is the best way for your loved one to cope. Please listen without judgements. Sometimes you may feel the rambling talks get nowhere but please do not offer solutions. Your loved one is not looking for a solution, they are looking for a validation of your love, of how much they are needed in your life.Limit your interjections and comments to showing encouragement, support and love towards them.

2) Walks

Mild forms of physical exercise like long walks and yoga help a lot. Go with your loved one for walks. Encourage them to go for walks with friends if you cannot go yourself. Yoga is an excellent way to prevent depressive episodes if practiced daily.

3) Books

Inspirational books and CDs provide lot of help in diverting attention of the patient. Get your loved one autobiographies and motivational books of people who have overcome depression. The bewilderment of depression and being alone suffering from this uncommon ailment is too much to take in. When they read or hear about depression, it will help them in coping with this disease.

4) Laughter

Watch comedy shows or movies with your loved one. This may help only in the initial stages of the episode but sometimes may help in deflecting a full mode depressive episode.  Make it a habit to daily watch some light comedies or humorous shows along with your loved one.

5) Change the family’s attitude

This is meant only for the family not for the person suffering from depression. The common myths associated with depression like depression is a form of madness need to be debunked and trashed. Depression is a disease just like heart attack.Many well known people have suffered from depression. Robin Williams and Abraham Lincoln are two famous personalities who suffered from this disease. Some patients may show suicidal tendencies but the family needs to be aware and on the lookout.

Treatments for depression are effective for many patients. In my mom’s case we started with treatment but it was causing side effects like weight gain, and a dependency on medicine for sleeplessness.What I remember of the origin of this disease is when my mom was very stressed out and it started out with insomnia. She started taking sleeping pills for insomnia and became dependent on it. Later on panic attacks, wild mood swings were the other symptoms. She attempted suicide twice but thankfully was unsuccessful in both attempts. The guilt I have is unbearable- not being there for her in time of her need since I live in another country. But with constant encouragements she is in a better position now. The panic attacks and episodes come, but she knows now that she can overcome them. I am forever indebted to God that she was unsuccessful in her attempts to take her life. May you and your loved one have the strength to beat this disease.

 

Comedy of errors

Dear friend,

Did you see yourself in the mirror today- how your eyes which were twinkling till few years ago have become deep pools of sorrow. Did the mirror tell you once the loveliest maiden in town has now become a caricature of her former self. Did you see the cuts and bruises on your soul?Why do you choose to live in such pain?Why are you suffering silently?Why oh why are you choosing to stay mum about how your life is ruined by domestic violence?Did you say what will society say if you choose to leave?To hell with them- they are not the ones living your life. They are not the ones comforting your kids after a fight. They are not the ones suffering the physical blows or the emotional abuse. It’s you and indirectly your kids.Being a martyr at the altar of marriage will not help you or your kids.

Let me tell you a story about 2 women and how their lives were affected due to DV.The first story begins with an extraordinarily beautiful and smart girl, who was the cynosure of her parents’s eyes-especially her dad.She was brimming with confidence ,beauty and health. She was a good student, chose a career of her liking and got a very good job. Then she got married and her life came crashing down. It was a fall from the top of the mountain to the deepest recess of the ocean floor.Within a few months of marriage she changed so much that her colleagues started enquiring about her health-why the dark circles under the eyes, what is wrong?

What went wrong? How could she tell – how do you explain the subtle verbal put-downs, the cutting off from family and friends in the disguise of possessiveness , the frequent fights. She stayed silent with her friends and withdrew into a shell. Then the most devastating event in her life happened- her dad passed away and with this she was completely alone. Her remaining family,she knew will never support her like her dad used to. Her mom came to live with her but instead of supporting her daughter, her mom took sides with her husband. In case you were wondering about the title, here is the first clue…

In due time a baby girl was born to her. She was ecstatic but her husband wanted a boy. With the second child also a girl, the issues between Her and husband escalated. During this time the younger sister in law came to stay with them.The care and love which was not given to her but freely was given to sister in law was the cause of more fights. A few fights ended in slaps which shattered the confidence she had. She had almost decided on divorce when the second devastating event happened – her youngest daughter was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. The lady’s confidence was completely shattered and finally she decided to continue with the sham of her marriage.Her daughters grew up lacking self confidence and self esteem.

This brings us to the second story- of her eldest daughter. The eldest daughter studied well, got a campus placement and then it was time for her marriage. She got married to an engineer settled abroad, it was an arranged alliance. She waited for her work visa and finally arrived in the new country to find all her dreams were straws in wind. She found in 2 weeks that her new husband was gay. Imagine the anguish and horror she went through. What do you think she did? She chose to continue her marriage. She did not have the courage to chuck the marriage and go back to her family. With no confidence in herself the daughter chose a similar path as her mother. This is a real story and the biggest comedy in both the above stories is that both the mother and daughter are the biggest feminists I know. Both of them are all about women’s equality but their lives turned out to be far from it. How much domestic violence impacted the mother, it did have a directly proportional  impact on the daughters life.

I told you the above stories to tell you the effects of DV- it does not only affect the woman going through it- it affects the children in the marriage the worst.  For boys, they grow up to become abusers seeing their fathers and for the girls they grow up and turn into the victims-both repeating the same horrific pattern. So if you are deciding to stick to your marriage for the sake of kids, that is the worst justification and worst thing you can do to them. You are showing your children what is right and wrong – please do not skew their judgement by staying in abusive relationship. Please love yourself by taking care of yourself. Never tolerate domestic violence. Raise your voice, May the force be with you.

Love

Your friend