20 July 2014

Way to a woman's heart..

Saw the new ad for Vicks tablets on TV today. Its raining outside and the husband says "Kitna maza aayega agar aise mausam mein pakode mil jaate". The wife is trying to respond but is experiencing sore throat. She pops a vicks tablet and then quips "Kitna maza aata agar aise mausam mein tumhare haath ke pakode mil jaate!"

Earlier mothers used to advise their newly-wedded daughters - the way to your man's heart is through his stomach. Cook his favorite dishes well and you will have his love for life.

Nowadays, in this age of woman's liberation, as more and more women are becoming full time career women, their men have taken to helping out in the kitchen. Actually, many single men who are living away from home have learnt to cook so that they do not have to be at the mercy of mess and hotels. A lot of men are into cooking meals with variety and take pleasure in surprising their family with their preparations. So much so, that in the latest show of Jhalak Dikhlaja there was a dance by one of the participants where he actually baked a cheese cake while dancing! The chefs who used to dominate the 5-star restaurants are now catering to a more domestic audience.

Indeed, culinary skills are turning out to be one of the most important qualities that women seek while choosing a life partner these days. I am reminded of the time when hubby and I were in the US. Both of us were working, but my commute was much longer than his which meant he usually reached home before me in the evenings. Many times, he used to start the dinner and I'd then finish the remaining when I reached home. It used to feel to good to arrive to a home smelling of food being cooked! Even now, the morning breakfast is served by hubby at least a couple of days a week.

There was a time when men used to say that a woman who can talk sports, politics or business is a welcome addition to the dining table. Nowadays its the women who say that a man who can talk at length about food, recipes and nutrition is a welcome addition in her life. Zamana sachmuch badal raha hai. The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach these days.

15 July 2014

Of white lies, garbage trucks, life and business

I have attended quite a few corporate soft skills workshops directed especially for professionals and also follow posts on LinkedIn on these topics. There are tips on how to deal with office politics without burning bridges, or how to present to an executive with a confidence you do not really feel or how to deal with a troublesome peer in a non-confrontational manner. All these etiquette lessons basically teach you to hide your true feelings and present a more positive 'body language' so that your image at work is enhanced.

In families too, this is an undocumented truth. Especially in big or joint families, by unspoken agreement, every member follows this mutely. You never question the most powerful or popular member of the family and hide unpleasant facts from him/her whenever possible. You try to please them, as well as their favorites, as that would keep you in their good books and therefore in the family. I get jittery when I hear ladies, or even gentlemen, mouthing back-handed compliments, doling out blatantly false flattery or handing out platitudes at every social opportunity. Sometimes the double standards in their behavior to people at a lesser social status than themselves and to those whom they regard as higher up socially is downright nauseating. Yet, the recipients as well as the spectators swallow it all silently. Its like watching a well-choreographed play where everyone knows their dialogues without a prompter. From families, moving onto society, a similar by-play of little white lies is observed at all levels.

As you enter middle age and become victim to life's myraid eccentricities and diseases, you are introduced to the world of spiritualism. One of the topmost tenets of all spirituality is that we let loose that which is our true self. We should first meditate / introspect deeply and then accept or come to terms with what our inner mind is saying to us. Only when we are honest with that, can we find true peace. You see a lot of folks quitting work, starting their own businesses, divorcing their long time life partner, overhauling their social life and even their eating, sleeping and exercise habits as a result.

Can this whole rigmarole be avoided if people are honest with each other and themselves all the time? Is that even possible? Why do we human beings go through so much trouble to hide what we truly feel and cloak it in layers of camouflage? In our attempt to show the world how happy, successful or powerful we are, we weave such a complex web of deceit that it becomes hopeless to unravel it sometimes. Its not as if everyone is out to rob a bank, but more of applying pancake to the face to hide their true emotions and put on a mask quite unlike themselves.

A very common bone of contention between my hubby and myself - probably between most of the world and myself is - should we judge others by their words or by their action? I am a firm believer in "Actions speak louder than words." If someone has said a lot of unkind words to me but their actions have been just and correct in all their interactions with me, then I see no reason to think ill of them. However, most folks think that how we say something matters most whether or not we act on those words. If I shout while saying something then I'm the most unreasonable person around. If I point out bare facts without sugarcoating my words, then I am spreading negativity at work. Are we not curbing honesty by this? Even if I have been mistaken in judging someone to be too negative or mistakenly badmouthed someone, should that really matter to that person? If one is confident of one's intentions and actions, should the misunderstanding or misinterpretation of others be so upsetting? Of course in such a case, the minute I find that I was mistaken I should issue a heartfelt apology to the person in question immediately. As long as everyone follows this rule, I believe we all can live uncomplicated and peaceful lives.

Sadly, the fact is most folks are too sensitive, too egoistic and too hung up on words. Someone once forwarded me a post on FB - "90% of conflicts start due to tone of voice and only 10% are started due to real issues". Though this is statistically a fact, it is sadly so not right.

To be honest, I myself have been angry at peoples' tone of voice or raised voice against me, or perceived insult to me or my loved ones. By being upset by it and dwelling on it, I only end up spoiling my own health and peace of mind. Is all this trauma really worth it? Yet another FB post (FB guru ki jai ho!) told me that some folks are 'Garbage Trucks' who are intent on offloading their garbage onto you. So if someone suddenly yells at you at work through no provocation from you, then its some other anger that they are taking out on you. But should you assimilate that garbage? Of course not, you just shrug if off your shoulders and get on with your day. If someday they choose to apologize, great! If not, you don't remember it anyway. After all, what they think of you is their business not yours.

Life and business work on such contrasting beliefs. In business, perception management is everything; whereas in life truth is everything. Its a fine line to traverse. Those who excel at business are hence rarely great in life and vice versa. Food for thought?

There is no work life balance, only work life integration

Rediff.com  » Getahead » 'There is no work-life balance, only work-life integration'

'There is no work-life balance, only work-life integration'

July 08, 2014 16:44 IST

I am a career woman working from the last 15 years. I have a daughter in kindergarten, and yes, I feel guilty about leaving her while working, especially since I do not have any extended family staying with us.

I read Indra Nooyi's interview and I do agree that a woman cannot have it all. At the same time, there are always some sacrifices to be made, even by a man. For a woman, there is always the tussle between balancing her time with her family and household duties with that spent at work.

In the current era of digital explosion, the concept of work-life balance ceases to exist as the line between the two is blurring by the day. There can only be a 'healthy work-life integration'. Here are some ways in which I cope-

1. Be efficient at whatever you do -- be it cooking, household chores, spending time with kids viz. their activities, feeding, homework etc and also in your work. That way, you do not end up spending a lot of unproductive time leading to frustration at any of the above tasks. 'Being efficient' means being able to do a task in the minimal amount of time without unnecessary effort. If this requires you to upskill yourself in any of the above, then do so at the earliest.

2. Go for organisations that offer flexibility such work-from-home, sabbaticals or flexible working hours. Most organisations, these days, encourage this and it acts as a great motivator at hiring events.

3. Have a good support system in place such as in-laws, parents, neighbours and maids or nannies. Be sure to set the right expectations from them and do not scrimp on their salaries or perks. They are the people who will make your life easy and hence deserve a lot of respect and commitment from you.

4. Split up chores or duties with your spouse for kids, home, family etc. It is very important to take your spouse into confidence. Without his support, it is impossible to carry this off.

5. Take vacations, time-offs, sabbaticals whenever required to rejuvenate. Keep your boss in the loop of what is happening in your life to make this easier.

6. Take care of your diet, health and exercise regime. Without this, you will never have the energy to fire on all cylinders.

09 June 2014

Women - are they truly independent today?

It is heartening to see that nowadays rape victims are getting sympathy and action due to them for a long time. Journalists and media are giving due coverage to these incidents thereby accelerating the justice process for these victims. The victims and their families themselves are no longer fearful, or at the very least, less fearful of coming out in the open. The recent episode of 'Satyamev Jayate' by Aamir Khan was quite an eye-opener on this issue.

Though there is some respite, the atrocities still continue all over India and even in the world. Perhaps it was always so, but reading about the gory details of the inhumanities suffered by these victims sure sends a shiver down my spine. One wonders what causes an individual to be so cruel and inhuman to another. What does he get from it other than a transient feeling of power over another.

I used to get this same feeling on watching old movies where a daughter-in-law gets abused (verbally and physically) by her in-laws. We used to hear about dowry deaths, incineration etc. of brides at the hands of her husband or in-laws. Also, the apathy shown by the bride's own family to her plight and the urging by her parents to 'stick it out' used to fill me with rage and frustration. In some cases, the bride herself decided to 'stick it out' without informing her family of the truth of her situation. The utter and unnecessary waste of a happy, carefree life for the sake of 'society' and 'duty & responsibility' used to depress my soul. It still does....

Cut to the current day, the situation of the bride has not changed that much. Though a lot of couples are situated far away from their families due to work and both spouses working etc., the expectation from the daughter-in-law has not changed that much. It has just assumed a more civilized veneer. The daughter-in-law is now not only expected to be good-looking, excellent cook and mother, but also a career woman who helps out the hubby with providing for the family, socially active by throwing parties or planning vacations/outings at exotic locations. Though she need not wear a ghoonghat or a sari, the lack of a bindi, sindoor or mangalsutra is still frowned upon. The elders have taken to annual vacations, club 60s or shuttling between the homes of their various children so that the support system that used to be available to couples in running household or babysitting is almost non-existent.

I see women multi-tasking in this unforgiving rat race to keep up and collapsing in the process. Some are fortunate enough that their husbands are very supportive and hands-on. Others have to compromise on some or the other aspects - viz. career or kids or social life. Amidst all this, they are still judged by people on whether they are "sarva gun sampanna", "sushil", "obedient", "bahu material" etc. Even though mothers-in-law are wearing track pants and frequenting salons these days, their attitude remains archaic toward the daughter-in-law. Expectation is that she should adjust, give up on her wishes and sacrifice for others, heed the advice of her elders though she herself is far more qualified and experienced in her career to take a decision independently. The expectation is a legacy from her own in-laws.

All this judgmental behavior is taking a toll on the emotional and physical health of women. Yet the (elder) members of their family do not realize that. They feel that not cooking a 5-course meal with variety everyday is a major failing. They feel that working and all is fine, but kids should be getting 100% attention of the mother and meals should be served at the exact times to everyone irrespective of how tired she is. There is no giving; only taking. The judgmental comments leaves scars which never get healed, only concealed by makeup. No wonder, a sizeable population of today's generation of young women does not wish to get married.

Though we have imbibed a lot of the western culture in terms of food, fashion and gadgets, corporates, malls etc. the family fabric refuses to adapt to the Western way of life. By that I do not mean ignoring your elders completely, but meeting them on a regular basis and having a healthy communication. A lot of families have turned nuclear due to this. There will always be debates between pros and cons of nuclear and joint families. Being a child of a nuclear family myself, I naturally tend toward it. However, I can see the advantages of a joint family too especially once the children arrive. But wherever there are people, there are bound to be conflicts, envy, one-upmanship which can be emotionally draining. And in today's hectic life, who needs that extra stress?

To come back to the cruelty and inhumanity part that I started with. Why resort to judgmental comments on a newly married girl/woman who has probably been working for a few years before marriage and has her own independent viewpoint on life? Life has a way of evening things out and what she lacks in "bahu material" today may more than make up for in being a "wife or mother material". She is a human being with her own outlook and opinions. Just as you respect them in your neighbors or colleagues, why not respect hers? Why scar the soul of the woman who is going to give birth and raise the next generation of your family tree? When will this mindset change happen in India?

02 February 2014

Bollywood Movies - then and now...

I watched quite a few films off late. Couldn't help but compare them and write about them.

Some movies I watched-

  1. Dhoom 3
  2. Madras Cafe
  3. Bombay Talkies
  4. The Lunchbox
  5. Dedh Ishqiya
  6. Phata Poster Nikla Hero 
  7. Katha
  8. Silsila
The first six are all contemporary movies but frankly I wasn't moved by any of them as much as the last two. While all of them were first time watches for me, Silsila was a repeat. But it still managed to touch a chord.

There have been endless comparisons between the 3 versions of Dhoom series, and by common consensus, D3 seems to have come up worse. However, I liked the sincerity of Aamir Khan, the whole plot of D3, less slapstick humor by Uday and honest effort put in by Katrina. Admittedly, there are gaping holes in the plot but the punch during intermission takes you by surprise. The end was predictable though.

Madras Cafe has a decent performance by John Abraham. The pace is gripping and there are no distractions in the form of songs. This very fact however gives it a feel of being a documentary than a commercial film.

Bombay Talkies, a tribute to the 100 years completion of Bollywood, comprises of 4 stories directed by 4 different directors. The first one by Karan Johar is ordinary and even Rani could not save it. The one with Amitabh was very confusing and I was left scrambling as to what to make of it. The one with the boy wanting to be a dancer touched a chord as also the one with an unsuccessful actor trying to fulfill his dream. The overall result was bit of a let-down however.

The Lunchbox is another hatke take on romance in the busy, middle-class Mumbai. The story is a bit after its times. Its hard to imagine two people communicating through letters in this era of email and whatsapp. But, it is cute and touching nevertheless. Performances by all actors in the film are classic- even Bharati Acharekar as the invisible neighbor manages to leave a mark.  I loved the fact that the end was left open to interpretation and being the die-hard romantic that I am, I chose to be optimistic:) Its good to know that love can surpass boundaries of marriage and age.

Dedh Ishqiya is a dud in my opinion and should never have been made. And what the actors of high calibre such as Naseer, Huma & Vijay Raaz were doing in this movie beats me. Arshad is the only saving grace of the movie. Madam Madhuri, the single most overhyped actor of current times, fails to make an impact and thereby a comeback. The first Isqiya was far too superior  and they should have left it at that.

Phata Poster Nikla Hero - The plot is too straight-forward and oft-repeated. The moral is relevant to current generation though - its worthwhile being a hero in real life rather than in reel life. Shahid looks good, dances impressively, mimics awesomely but somehow this movie failed to be his comeback film. The actor still needs to find his niche in the industry. The songs are really good and well choreographed. Ileana is eminently forgettable.

Katha was aired as part of Farookh Shaikh movies on TV and I watched it more because of that. But it left an impact due to the sheer boldness of its subject. Even though the plot is in the backdrop of a Mumbai chawl, that too more than 20 years ago, Sai Paranjape's direction and the performances by lead actors gave it an extra-ordinary treatment. Both Farookh and Naseer were trying to break their stereotypes and succeeded amazingly well.

Silsila - what can I say? Another movie far ahead of its times. It is tremendously well-directed and succeeds primarily because of the direction and performances by some of the stalwarts of Bollywod. Jaya Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar are simply mind-blowing. Shashi Kapoor made his presence felt even in a short appearance. Amitabh and Rekha share a sizzling chemistry and the songs are all well-picturized. The subject is debatable - can compromise and duty be the foundation for a successful marriage? Is it wise to leave a love story unfinished for it will always come back for a finish eventually? Everyone has their own answer to this quandary, as does the director.

Having written all this - what I concluded was that the impact made by movies of more than 20 years lasts longer than the current ones. What could be reason? After all, we are making movies on more diverse subjects, today's audience is more accepting and broad-minded to sample the fare offered by upcoming maverick directors. Yet, somehow they fail to make history. Is it because we are making way too many movies and the actors are stretched beyond their abilities to do real justice to their roles? Or is it because, the novelty of some subjects, dialogues and scenes has simply worn off by now? The jury is still out on that.

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