Archive for the ‘ Thoughts ’ Category

What I would say to my mother, but can’t

This has been on my mind for a while. My mother has dementia. While she does recognise me by face, she doesn’t know my name most of the time & we cannot have a real conversation.

I have been thinking about all the things I wish I could say to still her but can’t since she can no longer understand most of it..

1. I Love You.

2. When you said, eat all your vegetables… you were right. I even eat karela now. I eat everything you ever tried to make me eat, with no fuss.

3. When you said that you believe in me & that you know I will make my own path in life… you gave me strength. And still do.

4. When I got upset over something & reacted with irritation & anger, I know how bad you felt & I am sorry every single day for all those times. Because now even sorry doesn’t mean anything to you.

5. If I was in your place, and you were in mine, I know you would have done much more for me, than I am right now, with my best efforts. That’s what makes you so amazing.

6. I don’t think I will be half as inspiring to anyone as you are to me.

7. No one will ever love me the way you do. Everyday, you see me and smile and hold my hand. & that’s enough.

8. There are times when I wish you could comfort me and wipe away my tears. Then I realise that I don’t even know when you are sad now.

And a million other unsaid things. I love you, mom.

I can’t complete this post anymore.



There is a certain kind of rudeness that occurs in public places, be it roads or malls, where people cut lanes/ lines, brush past without apology etc, and that’s something you tend to come across and leave it be. Rudeness amongst strangers is something we encounter everyday. In a city and country as crowded as ours, I suppose it comes with the territory.

But rudeness in business meetings is harder to understand. This is not really a rant based on a recent event. It’s just an observation over a long period of time & having also heard the experiences of other people. So you are in a meeting, with people you haven’t met before, and despite there being no disparity in “status”, the other person visibly gives off body language and demeanor that’s condescending, for no reason. This continues through the meeting, until you are completely put off by it. Or you fix a meeting, the other person meets you but spends the entire time buried in their laptop or smartphone, looking up, saying hmm, nodding head but not really respecting you enough to look at you while you speak.Or keeps you waiting for an hour or more despite having fixed an appointment & confirmed it in advance, without apology.

It seems like this attitude is a way for the person to gain importance, to make you think, “this person must be really important or intelligent or brilliant if they have such an attitude”. But that’s wrong. Short of annoying you and making you disrespect the person, there really isn’t any favourable outcome. So really, what’s with being rude?

Personally, I ignore the attitude, don’t display any signs of being affected by it & leave at the end with my own conclusions. But I don’t understand it.

SlutWalk And Taking A Stand

Slut Walk

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There’s been a lot of debate over SlutWalk – is it the right way to protest or is it a misguided attempt that actually ends up trivialising the issue. First things first, if you don’t know what it is, in a nutshell:

It began in Toronto, when a police constable suggested in a lecture where he was speaking about crime prevention & safety that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” so that they are not victimised/ assaulted/ raped. This sparked off a protest by women where they marched wearing what is considered provocative clothing & called it SlutWalk – saying that women “are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result.”, “SlutWalk has become a mechanism for increased dialogue on victim-blaming, slut-shaming, misogynist and oppressive ideas that need to be challenged. These damaging ideas affect all of us and play into racist, ableist, homophobic discussions, discussions about status, class, sex work, indigenous rights and more that need to be challenged.”

This spread to Chicago, Glasgow, Sao Paulo, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Sydney, Brasilia & is scheduled in 12 other cities including New Delhi. (Source: Wikipedia)

Have read many opinions about this for e.g.:

  • I don’t want to take pride in the word “slut” and make it mainstream
  • This just gives men further license to ogle at you on the street
  • Why is it happening in Delhi, where women are unsafe anyway, the only people who will pay attention to them are the same men who treat women as sexual objects
  • Women shouldn’t take to the street for the right to be called “sluts”

These are natural reactions from men and women alike, understandable because its a protest aimed at provoking a reaction & the word “slut” is so ingrained in our language as being universally bad that having it used in any way would make a self-respecting person cringe (including myself).

Seema Goswami’s column in today’s HT Brunch says “So, no one is denying women the right to dress any way they feel like. But if you dress to be noticed, then don’t complain when you are noticed. If you dress to attract attention, then you must be reconciled to the fact that you can’t control what kind of attention you will attract. None of this can be used as a justification for rape – but yes, freedom does come with responsibility.” She likens this to leaving a door unlocked at home & someone stealing from you – its your responsibility too. I won’t go into the whole other connotation of leaving something unlocked (think chastity belt).

To me this is over-simplifying the issue. If you dress to be noticed, then don’t complain when you are noticed… as a woman who has been stared at, groped, had lewd things said to, been followed when walking down the street, when traveling in a regular bus/ AC bus, at music concerts etc & multiple times over, I can say that I don’t dress to be “noticed” except in as much as any woman who takes pride in grooming & appearance does. But that doesn’t mean I am not “noticed”. Am I the most beautiful woman in the world or the one with the most sexy figure? No. Nevertheless, I am noticed & treated with disrespect as a matter of course by complete strangers. I know how helpless it has made me feel and on not one of those occasions did I “ask for it”. I cannot imagine how horrific rape would be.

In fact, if you fight back, you get either a blank stare “I don’t know what you are talking about” or a “Who do you think you are, why would I do that considering how you look” (yes, some guy said that to me).

Frankly, I was so disgusted that I stopped using public transport altogether because I was lucky enough to have that option. (And this in Mumbai, the safest city for women in India – that’s definitely my belief). Most women don’t. I have had male friends who say, why do you get bothered by it, just let it go. Why should I let it go? I have a right to express displeasure at being disrespected. I can’t just go on saying this just happens & I should deal with it. That’s exactly why societal change is not taking place.

Sure, all the articles criticising SlutWalk state upfront that a woman has a right to refuse sex & no forced sex can be condoned however they have an issue with the “Slut” in the protest. But that’s exactly the point. The woman who is raped IS labelled a “slut” & it is assumed that she did something wrong by provoking the guy or by being alone with a guy in an enclosed space or in a deserted area,  therefore asking for it.  Time & again, we (men & women both) blame the person who is being victimised – not the person who is the oppressor. The worldwide protest shows that women in all kinds of countries – developed or developing – face this issue. It has struck a raw nerve.

What women are fighting for is the right to not be treated as sexual object whether its because of what they wear or what their character is assumed to be like. If you show cleavage or show bare legs, does that mean a guy has the right to grope you and say something dirty and attack you? When a guy walks down the street bare chested, do women whistle and rub their hands over his body? This doesn’t mean women do not see men in a sexual way. But what is in the mind and what translates into action are two different things.

So how would one protest about something like that? You could just do a standard march down the street or you could dress exactly as people assume you do when you are “asking for it” to make the point. Which would make for more attention thereby translating into awareness? If this wasn’t called SlutWalk, none of us would even be talking about it. Rather than trivialising the issue, it has ensured that the core message is understood by anyone who gets to know about it.

Will some men turn up just to ogle at the women? Maybe. But these kind of men would ogle in public anyway even if the women were fully clothed! What’s new about it? For that matter, its not just men. I have heard women criticising other women even in professional environments talking about a dominating or strong personality and saying “she needs to get laid”. So sex is the answer to making a woman softer & less aggressive? This is exactly what has been ingrained in our minds by patriarchal “values” of what women should be like & that it will take a man to make them like that.

There are too many deep seated notions about what women should and should not do that will take centuries to change. Its already taken many centuries to get here – though we all know that women are still discriminated against from birth on many counts. There are many factors for change such as examining the role of the woman in the house, the woman reinforcing the discriminatory attitude with her children, how media portrays women etc but all that would need a separate blogpost, in fact, a book.

Will SlutWalk change the attitude towards women who are sexually assaulted overnight? No. But its a legitimate form of protest & I believe in the end message – women “are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result.”

I am not a “feminist” or a “man-hater” or a “frustrated” woman. I have no doubt that some of those who read this post will think that of me. Nor do I believe that all men think this way about women. Some of my best friends are male & they are amazing human beings, husbands, fathers, sons, brothers. What I believe is that women have an equal place in society. I don’t believe in traditional role-playing & I don’t believe that being a woman automatically makes me a sex object or a man’s property.

What SlutWalk says to me is not that I am defending my right to be called a slut. I am defending my right NOT to be called one in disparaging terms and implying I am at fault.

When Moments Mean More Than The Continuum Of Life

Over the past few months, all I have been savouring are moments. No earth shattering events, no prominent blips, no fantastic activities that would make for great stories… just some moments that I will always remember, and that mean more to me than any stories that would be a fitting (and expected) answer to the “so what’s up with your life?” question.

What are they?

  • Every morning, my mom and I sit together when she wakes up; she holds my hand tight & talks to me with a big smile on her face. I love it. It’s a bond that needs no words.
  • In the past few months I have met many friends who no longer live in this city/ country and even our regular conversations have taken me back in time and made me feel many years younger. Ok, maybe I am just getting old.
  • I recently attended the wedding of one my closest friends and I was just in a serene, happy state throughout – and my life was on pause for those 3 days.
  • I occasionally listen to a few songs (that I love) on loop  & that has made my morning drive something I treasure – even with killer traffic. No, I don’t do that if someone is with me.
  • The flowers blooming in all my plants, with their myriad colours, make me pause to admire them & yes, I speak to my plants!
  • Some conversations have given me unexpected clarity – about myself, about life. No, I haven’t discovered the meaning of life.
  • I have made some great new friendships that I would have thought were unlikely. And it’s always a good feeling to have more friends!
  • I am trying to develop a new hobby – but more on that only if it works out!

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But it is! I couldn’t have been happier than I am, with all these little moments, making for a great life. This fragment from As I Walked Out One Evening always plays in my head.  “And Time will have his fancy,  To-morrow or to-day.” W H Auden


Back To The Future – My Version

I received an email last week, with the subject: happiness. When I read it, I was stumped. It was from a site called FutureMe, and was in fact from myself. I had forgotten all about it. This site lets you send an email to your future self, and you can set the date when you want it to be sent. It was spooky, to say the least, to get an email from the past, a mini “back-to-the-future” experience, especially since I had no memory of doing this, and I do have a pretty good memory.

So there was no Doc, no fancy time machine, no big clock that allowed me to set a date, no lightning. But it was pretty significant all the same.

This email was from last week, three years ago, and was a message I sent to myself. I won’t reproduce the message here, because it is private. But essentially it was about what I was going through then, and wondering if I would have found the answers, by the time I read this email, three years hence. There were a lot of hopes I mentioned in it as well. As I read it, I knew that while I hadn’t found the answers to a few things, the questions had changed! The things I was most concerned about then, have turned out to be things I needn’t have worried about. Some things have remained the same, but in doing so, are no longer a matter of concern either. As for the hopes, well, they remain hopes. Probably because they are best left at that.

It’s strange how much time one spends thinking or feeling about things that seem so critical to life, and then finds a few years later, that while they matter, they haven’t taken the form one feared or expected. It is in fact this very unpredictability about life that means we shouldn’t worry about these things at all. Just continue to do what you have to do. Easier said. But I found some proof! Sure, I have maintained diaries before, and when I read them now, I wonder why I thought like that. But this was a mail I sent to my future self. So it wasn’t as much a record of what I was doing then, as it was me telling myself what I wanted/ expected/ hoped. But what if things have turned out in a way that your worst fears are in fact quite benign?

I attended this session once, a philosophical/ spiritual discussion & the speaker said, the problem with the pursuit of happiness, is that you are always in pursuit. So you can never find it. Stop the pursuit and it will come to you. Sounds simple but trying to put it in practice is tough. This doesn’t mean you don’t do what you have to do. It just means you stop taking that moment and projecting it into a big ‘what if’ and building a whole set of expectations to go with it. This involves struggle and this involves friction. Whereas if you simply do what you do, in that moment, leave it there and go into the next moment, you stop struggling. You surrender.The crux of many of our historical & mythological texts. I have been trying to do this for a long, long time. Succeeded a few times, but sank back into it. This email really had an impact on me.

The very fact that many of those things had changed in context, and in doing so changed in significance, reminded me that my present should not be doing the same to my future. Projecting/ expecting/ wanting. It’s not the pursuit that matters, it’s the relentless surrender.

Am I writing to a note to my future self now? No. I don’t believe I need to.

Hostels & Startups: 2 Must-Have Experiences

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There was a time when I felt that one absolutely essential experience in life was to live in hostel. After I had to do so for post-graduation, I understood its value. Something new got added to the list – working in a start-up. Having done so for now my 6th year, I can say that it is an experience any working professional should go through to be able to broaden your world view. What is it about these experiences that shapes what you become?

Ability to handle unpredictable situations

Whether in a hostel or in a start-up, there are many things that you can be thrown into, that you could not necessarily anticipate. There is no choice but to adapt, and learn to live with that, and be able to handle it without letting it overpower you. In a hostel environment, you do not have a choice but to be able to co-exist with your classmates. Even if you are caught in conflict situations, you have to find a way to resolve them. You see your classmates everyday, they aren’t going anywhere and neither are you. So the only solution is to take all this in your stride, and find a way to see them the next day & the day after that without letting things rankle. Similarly in a start-up, you can face anything from recruitment issues, to a few unprofessional employees who choose to behave irresponsibly for no reason, to a dissatisfied customer who doesn’t see reason – and you don’t have the luxury of heirarchy, of letting someone else handle this. You have to take a  deep breath and get into each of these situations, switching roles from HR to client servicing to administration seamlessly.


This gets reinforced constantly. Living in a hostel, you will find people with different levels of aggression, some who aim to intimidate, others who intend to do what they want, even at the expense of others, & you have to be able to stand your ground without getting trampled over. Sure, this is to some extent an innate part of personality. But it needs a mindset that isn’t afraid of who says what & who does what. There are situations in which you have to be fearless. For e.g. job placements – the all important goal in a b-school. You may have an off day and be unable to impress the interviewer, you may be in the last few people to get placed (as I was) despite having a good track record. It isn’t the end of life (though it may seem like it at the time). You do the best with what you have & take the next opportunity that comes your way. When it comes to a start-up this is even more important. You could lose a big slice of business, you could lose your best talent, you could be thrown into a tricky situation in a meeting. It’s all on you. So you need to have the belief that you are not afraid, because fear breeds poor decision making. It’s only fearlessness that gives you the ability to overcome, to build, destroy and re-build.

Speed of response

How quickly you adapt to any situation makes a big difference to how you handle it. This could mean dealing with a mosquito swarm (of the kind that would give a bee swarm a downgrade) or a new expertise you need to acquire overnight because it’s suddenly a consumer favourite and hence your customers expect you to have it. They don’t care about how many resources you have or what it would take to develop. It’s the speed at which you respond that can save you from being bitten (literally & figuratively).

Focus, amidst many distractions

It isn’t easy to stay focused on your target if you have people around you who are pulling you into another direction, or if you are in a situation where you are tempted to take the short-cut, knowing that it will harm you in the long run. It’s important to not lose sight of the goal & more so in a start-up, if you waver from the goal, it has business implications that can spiral beyond your control. It’s easy to go running after every shiny new toy even when you know that it isn’t central to your (business) goal. But you will learn how detrimental it can be, and if you learn fast enough, you will ensure you don’t stray from the goal. The distractions could be ego-battles in the midst of assignments with deadlines or the temptation to start a new business line though it’s not aligned to the central vision. You have to ensure you focus on the target (even if it’s a moving one).

At the centre of it all, is the passion & energy that you are surrounded by. Nothing quite like it anywhere else!

India And The Art of Honking

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What is it about us in India and honking? This is something we have perfected as a skill over the years. The Art of Honking. My quiet neighbourhood has transformed into a busy lane with cars honking at all hours of the day & night with scant regard for it’s residential status. What’s worse is that the horns have gotten louder & shriller & are guaranteed to cause a pounding headache should you so desire to leave your windows open. In most countries, it is considered rude to honk and is only done in the case of emergencies. But here it’s non-stop. I have now learned to distinguish these from the countless cars that disturb the peace every second.

The Vuvuzela Rival Honking

Even before the World Cup happened, we had Vuvuzela equivalents – lean on the horn all the way down the road you are driving on, trying to get a hapless auto or other slow driver to give you space, where there is none. The belief is that honking non-stop will make the driver in front of you abandon his vehicle out of fear of debilitating damage to his eardrums. Invariably these honkers also have the loudest & most shrill horns and leave you with a repugnant feeling that’s equivalent to nails scratching a blackboard. This is why the Vuvuzela is so popular in India. There are already practitioners here.

Horn OK Please Inspired Honking

We have all grown up seeing this great sign painted on the back of every truck. Many of us seem to have taken this to heart as ‘it’s OK to honk’. in fact, says Wikipedia, “The popular ‘Horn OK Please’ seen on almost all trucks in India bears its roots in the second world war where the trucks were run on kerosene engines. Kerosene, being highly unstable in nature, would cause the trucks to explode at the slightest accident. Hence a warning would be painted on the back saying ‘Horn Please,On Kerosene’.Gradually this became a norm and is still seen on most trucks even today.” There are other explanations on the same wiki. But I am going this one.

I suppose, somewhere along the way, the part about kerosene got lost, and it became only about honking. So it’s OK to honk, and because it’s OK, it must be done at the slightest opportunity. Traffic slowing down? HONK. Traffic jammed & nothing moving for miles? HONK. Person crossing the street? HONK. Cyclist in your path? HONK. Building gate closed? HONK. Don’t like that you have to yield to “right of way”? HONK. Want to double park your car on a busy street? HONK. It’s all OK, please.

I Am Behind You Honking

There’s another set who honk for no apparent reason even if the traffic is moving smoothly and no pedestrian is jumping onto the road. The motivation for this appears to be purely as a warning for the car in front. In case, for some freakish reason that car is not equipped with a rear-view mirror, or it’s there but the driver forgets to look into it, this constant beep-beep is to remind them that there is a car behind them. After all, it’s so unexpected in our traffic, isn’t it?

Just In Case Honking

There’s another breed that believes that one should honk just in case… after all, life is unpredictable, you never what will happen next. So keep honking just in case someone or something materializes out of nowhere. I believe that this nifty trick is taught in our driving schools (as narrated by a friend who’s mum learnt driving) – just keep honking, to be on the safe side. Nevermind if no one else can understand what’s got your goat.

Watch The Signal Honking

This honking occurs the maximum within the 5 seconds before & after a signal turns green & is meant to test the reflex actions of drivers in front. Heaven forbid the driver has managed to relax for 20 seconds at a red traffic light, this incessant honking is a public service to alert him/ her that the signal is about to turn green & to prod them into moving their car at the very instant the light changes. Even a miniscule forward movement (that achieves nothing because no cars are moving yet) is enough to assure these drivers that you do in fact intend to move your car & are not just waiting at the signal for the joy of it.

Do you know more such honking traits? Feel free to comment!

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