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.