Indians are probably the biggest hypocrites. Growing up in this country, you experience several such moments every single day and after a while you get used to of it simply because you have no choice. Gender equality is an unheard of phenomenon in our great country. Religious freedom is another illusion. Freedom of speech is limited to a certain section of people. And don’t even get me started on the greatness of culture! A few examples that provoke me to shout it out are outlined in this post although I could write a similar piece every single day, several times in a day!

If we ever come across domestic violence, we do one or all of the following:

  • Refuse to believe the victim and advise them not to take the fight to ‘that level’ next time
  • Talk about the victim (man/woman) behind their back rather than the perpetrator of violence
  • Tell the victim they have no choice but to live with their spouse as that’s what the society expects

As a result, there are many men and women who choose to stay in violent relationships than become a topic of discussion. Women are scared every other man will hit on them because they don’t have a husband in their life. If a woman has left her husband, she must be ‘easy’ or ‘available’. She must have needs that any man is ready to swoop in to fulfill! Men, on the other hand, cannot even voice that they are physically abused because the society will blame them for not being man enough! What does that even mean?

When we hear of an extra marital affair, who do we blame? The woman. The woman must have used her charms to entice the man. Or, why would a man not indulge in sex when a woman is willing? Yes, of course, because it’s the birth right of men to get physical whenever they have an opportunity, while the women should be chaste and faithful.

When a child is abused by some relative, we ask them to be quiet about it. The child keeps wondering if they did something wrong. They grow up to believe they somehow were responsible for what happened to them.

When a woman wears short dresses and becomes a victim of eve-teasing or molestation, we say – well, what did she expect, dressing up like that? Why don’t we blame the molesters saying why did they do that? Of course, she aroused some feelings in them by her dress or behavior or any damn reason in the world. But the molesters are not to be blamed. I am unable to understand why all those memories of someone winking at me or groping me in a bus are painful for me and are probably something the man must have bragged about to his friends.

When we come to know that a certain guy is gay, what is the first reaction? Most of the time it is – he doesn’t look gay! How does someone ‘look’ gay? Or some people start analyzing why that person is gay. Well, does there always have to be a reason for something? Why are you straight? If you are exploring the reason behind someone’s sexuality, doesn’t it mean that you think something is abnormal against something else? I say – may be it is normal to be bisexual or gay, maybe it is abnormal to be straight. Who decides what is normal? Why should someone even want to define normal or abnormal in this case?

Take the other case in this matter. If you hear a woman being lesbian, most of the men start fantasizing about her making out with another woman. And for many people, being lesbian is a lesser abnormality than being gay. Why? Because the fantasies are far more exciting. Isn’t it?

Oh and we can’t understand a woman being expressive of her sexuality. That is such a big anomaly, an offense even, to our so called culture. If she knows what she desires and says it honestly without mincing her words, then she must be crazy or a whore. What else? Yes, there are other synonyms for such women, but she can never be called honest. Oh well, because the land of Kamasutra and Ajanta caves believes in sexual freedom for men only. After all, women are second rate humans. Right?

Now the matters of religion. We say Hinduism is a great religion etc. I agree that on the principles it is. In fact, all religions are great on the principles. But what about in practice? A religion is only as great as the people who practice it. Although I am very close to God, I don’t light a lamp every day. I don’t bow my head in front of each temple that I pass on the way. I have complete faith and I remember Him in happiness and sorrow. I am constantly thanking him for everything.  I may be called a Muslim supporter for this but I am going to say this. The whole country is voicing their support against triple talaq, but what about the dowry system, wife bashing, child marriages etc in Hinduism that we turn a blind eye to? Do we Hindus treat our women with respect? Does a Hindu woman have equal rights in marriage? Do Hindu men treat their wives with as much respect as they treat their sisters or mothers? Or worse, aren’t there any Hindu men who are violent towards their mothers and sisters as well? Do we rejoice as much when a daughter is born as we do on the birth of a son?

Now, let’s talk about working women. Although this is a global issue rather than a national one, yet I think we are still in the mindset that a woman is not a bread winner but is working as a hobby or just to pass time. We almost never take women employees seriously and they are paid much less than their male counterparts because of the assumption that she is not a bread winner. We always assume that if she is single then what does she need the money for? She doesn’t need to save for her wedding as her father would have saved the money for it. Plus, the husband will take care of her after marriage so she doesn’t really need to save anything. If she is married, then of course, she has a husband, so her salary is just a bonus for the family. And then, she would never be as dedicated towards her work as a man because she must be doing it just as a hobby! This assumption comes from both men and women, by the way. Even in IT industry which is very progressive so to say, there are very few women in high positions. In my organization, in the top most executive level, there is only one woman head, in the legal department.

Look at the other side of the coin. Take teaching industry, specially schools. Most of the teachers are female and the male teachers are looked down upon. The general thinking being a guy must not have got any good opportunity anywhere else so he became a teacher. Still, the male teachers are feared more by students and parents. Students hit on female teachers, objectify her and parents too sometimes think she is easier to talk down to. Male teachers may not have to go through these issues but do not earn as much respect from society in general as they would if they were not in this industry.

Then, look at how we treat our children. Oh we are so great parents, aren’t we? We allow our kids to stay with us beyond 18, unlike some western countries. We take so much pride in our so called “family values”. The truth of the matter is this. How good a child is considered in the family is directly dependent on how much potential he/she has to earn for the parents or help them in any way. As soon we have kids, we start teaching them how they have to take care of us or return our favor of taking care of them, in our old age. In fact, many parents shamelessly say that it was the reason to have kids, so that we have someone to care for us in our old age. After all, didn’t we bring them up, fulfill their wishes, spent all our lives on them? Well, we do spend a lifetime in bringing up the kids. But if you don’t want to see them as individuals, just as your caretakers, then it’s better you don’t have kids. I have seen parents forcing their children to do a certain course or a job just so that they can be near to their parents. I am not against children caring for their parents, I am against parents’ seeing their children having only that sole purpose in life. I personally look forward to the day when my children will start living their lives, doing what they want to do, what they are best at, going anywhere in the world their passion takes them. I don’t care if they live with me or not, they should just be happy in their lives and they should be trying to fulfill their life goals, not mine! I had a whole lifetime to do what I wanted, why force that on my kids? Why should they have the responsibility of living my dreams? They have a right to live their lives as they desire, it’s that simple. As a mother, I have and will make sacrifices for them, but I have no right to ask them to do it in return.

Look at relationships, specifically friendships. A man and woman can never be friends, says our revered Bollywood industry. Then, it must be true since that’s where the youth gets its education from. So the fact that a woman has many guy friends and she can discuss anything with them, must mean she has a ‘lose character’, correct? What about a guy who has many female friends? He must be so respectful towards them, he must be popular, he is even branded as “Kanhaiya” – God! Really? So it’s a God-like quality to have many women friends, but it is a slut-like quality to have many men friends.

A man making jokes about his wife, in her absence, in front of his colleagues is considered cool. If a woman does that, well, you guessed it, she is a thankless bitch! How dare she? Almost all the jokes about marriage out there put a wife in a negative light, not a husband. If a couple is working, then what does the man do when he returns home? Watches TV! After all, he has to know what is going around in the world, or he needs some form of entertainment, doesn’t he? What does the wife do? Well, she has to cook, watch the kids, prepare for the next day etc etc. And then, after all that, she is supposed to please the husband in bed, because he needs it, you know!

Although the wife is the primary caregiver for the kids, they carry the name of their father. In fact, in our great country, the school admission still requires a father’s name for filling up an application form, although mother’s name is optional. So a child is always required to have a father, but can be without a mother. Wow! Even in the case of a divorce, the children still carry the name of the father. The schools will allow admission to a child if the father just leaves the mother’s details blank, however, a mother will have to provide the name of the father as well as a reason why his details would be absent, from the application. What a wonderful system we have. How awesome it is that a woman is supposed to do everything for a man to make his life easier, yet when it comes to having rights, she has none. She just has roles – mother, sister, wife, friend, daughter-in-law, daughter…Men will be men. No roles, no responsibilities.

Well, isn’t it easier for men to remarry whatever the situation? So is the case when the spouse dies. Sad but true. A woman wanting to remarry is again going against the expectations of society, while a man has right to remarry even when he becomes a widower at 60.

Since I am writing all this, I must be someone who hates India or men or the institution of marriage, right? Go on, tell me to leave the country and stay where I don’t find such hypocrisy!

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This is not the first time I am coming to US and I thought I knew a lot about the American ways, having spend hours watching the American shows and movies. Hell, I know how Americans talk, how they behave, their eating habits and I have American friends! But surprise, surprise! It seems there were many funny and weird things that I had either forgotten from my last trip (after all, it was 12 years ago) or didn’t notice. So here goes the list of funny and weird things that only Americans do:

  • They talk a lot! Coming from me, this is really something. I love to talk to people, and Americans can talk to anyone about anything 🙂 Within 5 minutes of the remark ‘wow, it is so cold’, you can know the entire story of their lives. Blessing for a writer like me, if only I could write down all of the plots I keep hearing every day!
  • They are loud! I am just about half way there too. I too speak clearly and loudly, but not in private conversations. So whatever part of the story you could not gather while talking to an American friend, you can hear in their telephonic conversations or a friendly chit-chat with another stranger. I have heard about medical issues, boyfriend trouble, dogs, dirty jokes…everything, just by being there! Funnily enough, when a doctor is telling you your diagnosis, then it is preferred to have privacy ;-P Although I must point out, they are still so polite even at the top of their voices.
  • The have huge food portions! Seriously, what’s with the portion size. When I go out with my Indian friends, it’s becomes so tough to choose between ordering for everyone and wasting food and ordering only one dish and being labeled ‘miserly Indians’ ;-P Thank God though that in this country, you can carry the leftover stuff home without being seen as cheap.
  • They drink flavored water! Really, this one’s the hardest to get adjusted to. I like my water taste just like water, I don’t want grape-flavored, berry-flavored, lime-flavored, any-flavored water…give me just plain water. I won’t mind sparkling water once in a while, but my thirst quenches with only flavorless, plain old water.
  • They put cheese in every thing! I was never a cheese fan (though I used to love cheesecake), but it seems like if I stay in US for a long time, I will literally start hating cheese. There is cheese everywhere…omelette, potatoes, soups (broccoli with cheddar…gimme a break!!!)
  • They love sugar! We Indians have desert on special occasions, well, most of the times. Though I am a person who likes sweets, but since coming to US, I have hardly thought about desert. One doesn’t really need it here, every single meal has something sweet…especially the breakfast in my hotel has either sugary food or potato or carbs! How is a vegetarian supposed to have a hearty meal?
  • Their metric system. This one makes me feel stupid sometimes. Whenever someone says it’s only so many miles, I start converting it to km in my head. And, I don’t know if I will ever get used to of the degree Fahrenheit though…it’s not even a simple conversion! Funny thing though a friend didn’t feel cold in Chicago ’cause he thought it was 18 degree Celsius when it was actually -7 degrees 🙂 As soon as I burst his bubble, the weather became suddenly chilly for him!

Despite and for all the above, I love US! It is a wonderful country with very nice, chatty and friendly people. Someone at the front desk of the hotel told me she was sad that I would be leaving in a few days and it was a pleasure to have me 🙂 Yes, Americans love to talk, but that’s really a very good thing 😉

 

I have worked for about 10 years now, mostly in the IT industry and also as a professor in an engineering college. All the organizations have something weird in common. Most of the people I have worked with had what I call ‘I Don’t Know Why Women Work’ syndrome. Most of those who suffer from this problem are usually men, but women also can sometimes show the typical symptoms. The most common symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Treating women differently from men despite the same qualifications because they think that she is just working to pass her time since clearly she cannot be the bread-winner of the family.
  • Offering lesser salaries, lower designation to women for the same skill set and experience because they believe that she will never be as serious about her work as her male counterpart. And he needs it more.
  • Promoting an incompetent man over a well-deserving woman simply because he needs the extra money more than her. The reasons for thinking this may vary from him being the only bread-winner, having one degree more than her, needing a morale boost etc etc. (Note that none of the reasons pertain to his or her performances at workplace).
  • Labeling a man’s leave for sick children as ‘dedication’ towards his family while that of a woman as being ‘what do you expect from a woman!’
  • Viewing every married working woman as an ‘ambitious’ bitch who doesn’t care about her husband or children enough to leave them.
  • Viewing every single working woman as a ‘greedy’ witch wanting more and more money to spend on herself.
  • Gossiping about working women all the time and branding them as feminist, bitch, non-serious, undeserving, disloyal etc.

I was asked in an interview “Being a married woman, how will you balance work and family?” And I was like, “Are married men asked the same question?” Of course, I didn’t clear the interview!

One of my bosses told me that I had taken the most leaves in my team. And I asked him, “How many of these are ‘Leave Without Pay’ because if they are not, then it is the amount of leaves the organization has given me as part of my benefits.” He never mentioned my leaves to me again!

When I resigned from one organization in order to move out of the country with my husband, my boss gave me a hard time getting my clearances and salary because he thought I was lying about the reason! Even if I had been, did he have any right to stop me? On the other hand, when men resign, it is assumed they are doing so for more money and it is completely alright with everyone. Why? Do women not deserve to look for better opportunities?

But there are some good bosses out there too. I have known at least a couple myself. They did not treat me any different from my male colleagues. There was this organization where I worked only for a few months and had to leave due to personal reasons. My boss there did not even then have any issues with me. In fact, this was one of the jobs where I felt they gave me what I deserved in terms of salary and position. Also, I was never treated lesser than my male colleagues and never had any issues because of my gender at all. In fact, my boss even told me I was welcome to return anytime.

Then, there are those women bosses who mistreat other women because they think that the other women are not making as many sacrifices as they had to make. They even get into gossiping about other women with their male counterparts just to show that they are ‘one of the guys’. I was in a meeting when one of the managers started commenting on the waist size of a woman he had worked with at onsite and this lady manager who was also present actually started participating in the discussion. I had to get up and excuse myself from the meeting because I couldn’t take it any more. And then I was branded the ‘conscientious bitch’!

One of my bosses told me during an appraisal discussion that some people think I am after the position of one of the guys! When I was finally able to overcome the shock of such an unprofessional and unheard of accusation, I said – “Why his position? He is at the same level as I am. I am after your position!” That was enough to shut him up but till date, I am not able to understand the skewed mentality of this person and the entire team that was perhaps having this kind of discussion about me behind my back.

Then, I was told once that I did not get the highest rating in the appraisal because I leave in time while everyone else stays back. Though they understood I had a family yet I should make an effort! I asked, “Has there been any single task which I was not able to complete in time? Perhaps I manage my time better than everyone else and hence, don’t ‘need’ to stay back! And what about the extra 2 hours that I put in the mornings because I am the first one to arrive at work while everyone comes at their own leisure? What about the long coffee breaks that I don’t take?” Of course, it was all useless because I did not pretend to work by staying back after work hours! I always left ‘in time’!

I have on several occasions told people around me it is simple physics that efficiency is ‘output/input’ not the other way round. But somehow, this simple equation is not so simple to understand by the morons who think a woman who is working is doing so for fun, or for extra pocket money, or to get away from her children, or just because it is the trend.

One of my colleagues told me once that women do not know how to dress up in meetings since they wear an Indian attire to a meeting. I asked him does he look at the men’s attires in a meeting? And you don’t know but there might be someone else who would be criticizing my pant-suits because I was trying too hard!

I consider myself a very ambitious person, yet I have taken breaks from work after the birth of each of my children. When I know I won’t be fairly balancing the work-life, I quit. I was lucky to have the option but sometimes, some people cannot. But I think women who feel that they have to choose one thing over another, usually give more to both work and family and end up being even more effective and efficient than most of us.

In an ideal world, I would like to be treated the same as any colleague of mine, irrespective of my or their gender. But then, in this less than ideal world, I would appreciate if these smart-mouth, clearly-sick men and women kept their thoughts to themselves and when given a fitting answer, either take it in their stride or learn to shut up!

Maybe they are right….I am a feminist 🙂

I have steered clear of reading fiction in last few months. The average fiction books do not stimulate me and there are too many of them out there. So when I saw this novel, supposedly bestseller, from an Irish author, I thought to give it a try. At the end of it, I wondered why it was a bestseller. The story doesn’t really go anywhere, doesn’t make you sad or happy or feel anything at all, except of course relief that it is finally over (thus saving me from adding one more to the ‘unfinished reads’ list). But I did feel something – disgust at the way the author has branded ambitious women. The story has 2 ambitious women, both shown as bitches who do not deserve any kind of happiness. These two women have been shown to be lesser women as compared to the other women in the novel. The other women are better women since they never had any desire to reach at the top of professional ladder, hence had more time to ‘properly’ bring up their children. These women deserve to be happy as they are the ideal women while the ambitious women are to be hated by everyone as they are not fulfilling their ‘duties’ as a woman.

If a woman feels that any woman does not need a man in her life, then that women must be crazy! Isn’t it wonderful to spend all your time and energy in trying to get a man to marry you, elaborately planning your wedding, gossiping about the ‘ambitious’ women, congratulating yourself for bringing up your daughter in a way that her only ambition is to get married? Why wish for a good career, professional advancement, skill development and financial independence because desiring these things automatically makes you a bad wife and a bad mother? If you are serious about your job, then you obviously won’t have time to cook for your children and take care of your husband. Your child will be overweight and your husband will go after a ‘non-ambitious’ woman!

I do not understand what is with this branding? There are so many movies which show the same crap – an ambitious woman must be a bitch. She is always arrogant, snobbish, patronizing and crazy. Either she does not have a family or if she does, they are not happy because of her dedication to her job. I do not remember watching a movie or reading a book that brands men like that. The most disturbing thing about this is that the novel I am talking about it is written by a woman. This author earns her livelihood by writing novels that demean women! This particular novel is described as a “comfort read” by popular media. That is even more disgusting. A story that never moves forward, demeans career-oriented women, revolves around a wedding and showcases that as the ultimate goal of a woman is repulsive beyond words.

Why blame men when women themselves think that their true role in this world is that of only being a wife and mother; the true reason for their birth is to just find a husband, keep him and raise a family. So, the lives of women like Razia Sultan, Laxmi Bai, Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawla, Margaret Fuller, Marie Curie, Malala Yousafzai and several other such women have no meaning?

I think we women should learn to look inside us before we blame men for our status in the society; for not respecting us and for not letting us live our lives on our terms. We should first ask this question to ourselves – do I judge women for being ambitious/different/single; do I teach my daughter that all she needs to do is marry right (as if that is a thing); do I beat myself/someone else up for not being a perfect mother/wife; do I despise women who don’t have a care in the world; do I comment on those women who live free from any societal pressures?

Stop blaming others and start with yourself, your friends, your daughter, your sister, your mother. Let’s start with us women – be the change in bringing a revolution.

It was just another day of the usual chat between two girlfriends. And after such numerous chats with several friends, offering a shoulder or simply a listening ear to many women, I have realized that the story is the same. Despite the little logistical or realistic differences, it is essentially the same situation. An educated smart woman marries a guy from an educated family, having similar background in education, finance or any other factors considered important in Indian marriages. She thinks she will have a happy life since she has lots to offer. She can multitask, loves children, is okay (and sometimes good) at household chores, has a good professional life going and most importantly is willing to adjust/sacrifice for the man she loves. Whether it is a love marriage or an arranged one, she already loves the man ‘cause that is how she is brought up. Little does she know that when she was being prepared for being a complete woman, there was another kind of woman who was preparing her child (aka the hubby) to obey the command (the great mother-in-law) to the letter. Thus, was born the idea of writing a book on such a commonly occurring issue in India.

I hate to generalize things but I have seen so many such stories unfold right in front of my eyes that I wonder if there are any other types of in-laws or husbands. If there are, I would certainly want to know more about them! But mostly, I look around and am amazed to see that men might respect their friends, girlfriends, colleagues even, but when it comes to respecting the one woman who loves them the most, their wife, somehow they find many reasons not to. Is it because they have been brought up to resent the wife character, irrespective of who might be filling in the shoes? Or is it because “respect” is not something their ego permits them to have for their wife…after all, they are the “man of the house”.

Consider this. She is smart, earns almost as well as her husband, can cook, a good partner in every way – emotionally, financially, even ***ually, yet she is continuously ill-treated, ridiculed, abused even. Then there is the MIL, who might be equally educated but probably while she was graduating or specializing or getting various degrees, conveniently left the “education” part out (aka the ‘uneducated literate’).

From my numerous conversations, I can cite just a few examples of the kind of person this MIL is.

When the daughter in law is going for her delivery and the doctor declares a surgery is imminent for saving the two lives at stake, she says, “What’s the need? It’s not like the baby is going to stay in the womb! It will come out.” Yeah right, perhaps when the baby itself is dead and maybe even the mother. But I guess the MIL is happy anyway since she gets to win either way!

When the husband arrives back from a long business trip abroad and the wife plans to go and pick him up at the airport, the MIL quips, “Is he a little boy who cannot come himself.” If she stays, MIL will tell the son later how the wife had used those very words when the mother so lovingly asked her to go to the airport. If she goes anyway, then the MIL will be ready to show the couple how she had been cleaning the house and cooking dinner for them while the daughter-in-law so recklessly just went to welcome her husband. Now, that’s a win-win!

When the couple wants to take a vacation or perhaps even go for a drive all alone, the MIL will find several reasons to either accompany them or get their trip cancelled. She doesn’t even let them go for a honeymoon because there was some pooja that HAD to be done at that time of the year, or some long-lost relative/neighbor/friend has to throw a party in their honor or has suddenly fallen sick.

When she wants to work, the MIL says she is over-ambitious; when she quits her career to take care of the children, the MIL opines it is because she is a greedy bitch who likes to live off of her husband.

You get the picture!

Now, I am not saying there are no good mothers-in-law out there. Hell, I even know a few closely. One of them is so considerate of her teacher daughter-in-law that she does all household work and babysitting the kids till the daughter-in-law has finished her afternoon nap after coming back from her school. Even then, the MIL prepares the evening tea for waking up her DIL. Then, there is another one who doesn’t mind even doing laundry and ironing for her daughter-in-law as she believes wouldn’t she do the same for her own daughter. Then, there is another who when buys a piece of jewelry for her daughter, gets an equally priced or even more expensive one for her DIL. My own grandmother has been quite good at this role for all her daughters-in-law, and once she told mom her secret. She said, “It is not really required to ‘love’ your DIL to be a good MIL. All you have to do is just practice non-interference in the DIL’s family matters, including those between her and her husband. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to constantly interfere between you and your husband, would you?” And, that comes from an illiterate woman who has spent her entire adult life in one village. Wise!

Getting back to the main story, the MIL gives all kinds of crap to the DIL and the son is a moron who is never able to see what is right in front of him, because he has been conditioned to see only one side of the story (which most of the time is a lie), while the wife keeps claiming she is telling the truth, absolutely loves him, cares for the children etc etc. But it is never enough. It never will be.

This is the same man who had left no stone unturned to woo this woman to be his wife because she was so wonderful. Suddenly after marriage, he is convinced that she is out to get him, perhaps take some advantage of him. What advantage? She will take away some love for love in return? She will run off with the very little money that he has, which she can easily earn in as many years as he did? Or that she might get the joy of motherhood? Well, yeah, that might be an advantage because the children will clearly carry her name…right? I wish such men would grow a pair, stand up against their tyrannical mommy and instead of trying to control their wives, would really get a control over their mind first.

I do not understand such mothers also. Why does she do it to her own son? She was probably abused by her husband, brought up by indifferent parents, but what is the fault of the daughter-in-law in all this? Perhaps the MIL is simply a disgusting person who wants complete control over her son. For whatever reasons, she has made it her life’s agenda to screw her own son’s life to be in control. I wish such MIL would meet an equally nasty daughter-in-law. Well, sometimes they do when they have more than one son, but that still doesn’t stop some of them to keep screwing the one son who listens to them. Shame on such women! I just wish they were only a few of them, but reality is frightening.

Once someone I know was going through a similar phase and consulted a divorce lawyer, who gave them a shocking statistic. He said that 90% of the Indian marriages that end in divorce are because of such day-to-day issues created by the mother-in-law (in rare cases, it could be the wife’s mother too). But isn’t it sad that what we consider non-issues and advise our friends to simple ignore actually cause couples to split up? And then, there is another major divorce-causing issue – money. This is despite the fact that the average household income is higher now because more and more women work to support the family. The main reason behind this is also almost same – the husband expects the wife to give him everything she earns while he takes all the financial decisions alone, send money to his own parents, without bothering to even inform his wife where the money is spent. Yet, he expects her to still not spend anything on her or her parents simply because she is a woman. When the wife refuses to give him her hard-earned money, in rare cases, he either cajoles her or just refuses to have any cordial relationship with her until she agrees. Even if by some remote chance, they do arrive at a decision to keep money matters out of the relationship to avoid conflicts, he expects her to give him penny-by-penny detail of where she is spending her money.

Coming back to my dear friend, I wish she finds courage to break free from a man who just brings out the worst in her, has taken away several years of her life, has given her nothing except never-ending insults and still expects her to just adore him and his family. You know what the worst part is, if and when they separate, she will be the object of everyone’s ridicule and rumors. Men will hit on her, women will criticize her behind her back, and relatives will start keeping their distance. She will probably remain alone for the rest of her life. She might lose the ability to love or trust anyone.

This is the sad reality of many households in Indian society today. No wonder, there are so many unhappily married couples out there who have simply given up hope to be happy. Some of them have relationships outside their marriages just to fill the vacuum; some are even driven to kill themselves or others. There are many cases of domestic abuse which are never reported. There are still dowry deaths, which are now not even frowned upon.

When I had conceived the idea of my first novel, I knew I wanted to write on domestic violence since there are so many unreported cases where women just keep staying in a relationship because of fear of society, lack of courage etc. And these are capable and educated women who can make a life on their own. I wanted to write their story and also give them hope that second chances at happiness are possible. But then, when I explored lives of more women, I found that it is not just violence per se, it is also this kind of torture when you berate another human being so much that they just exist from one day to another wishing it to be over. No one should make another person feel so helpless that they are driven to ending lives. So now, I am still writing the book as I planned, but somehow I want to include the stories of women who survived it all and made a better life for them and their children. If you are reading this, and you want to tell your story or you know someone who wants to share their story, please do write to me. Of course, anonymity is guaranteed if you so desire. Perhaps, your story could be an inspiration to someone.

If there’s something I know about love…it is this. You never know how much you have and how much you can give. You never run out of it. You never don’t need it. You always have it. And it may not be enough sometimes, but most of the times in life, it is enough. Love is enough.

You ever wonder that love cannot solve the practical issues you face in life? It cannot pay your bills. It cannot help you live longer.  It cannot make you more successful (i.e. by your definition). It cannot wipe away the mistakes and regrets. It cannot do so many things in life that need to be done. Well, it might not, but does it not make life more full? More fulfilling? More life?

But there’s one another thing about love that we should understand. Love without respect does not mean so much. It withers out in the end. You know, you love your pet. Women even ‘love’ their shoes or dresses. Men ‘love’ their cars, their gadgets. So when you love another person, better add respect to that or it would be as dispensable as shoes or car.

I am a believer in the power of good things in life – love being one of the most important. That’s the reason I write love stories. I even google love stories around the world and read them. I love it when someone has a happy ending in their story. In real life. It gives you something to be glad about.

There is another wonderful thing about love. It does not only grow deeper, but it also becomes better. You can sometimes be surprised by how you can simply keep on loving someone and keep on growing in love, without you even realizing it. One fine day, you just know that you might have thought that you cannot love more since you are giving enough, but somehow you still have the capability to give more…love more or love the same person in a better way. It is like when I had my daughter, I thought I could never love anyone so much as much as I loved her. I thought that was the limit of my love. But then, my son was born after just one and a half years, and I realized I was so wrong. I could love him as much as I loved his sister. Then, I thought well, I have 2 children, so perhaps I have only that much love to give. Turns out, I was wrong again! I did find much more love inside my heart when I had my third. Eventually, I realized, I loved all the 3 of them more than I could have ever imagined. And, I loved hubby more than I thought I could. Basically, I still am discovering new depths, new ways, new expressions.

So yes, the thing about love is that it is beautiful and enough.

I thought I was a pro at being a parent. After all, I have two children – boy and girl, and I have done well with both of them, despite them being so different from one another. I have more than 8 years of experience at being a mother! So I thought I knew a lot, if not all! Well, that’s not how it is. I am sure if my parents read this, they would say they know a lot only after parenting for 34 years, but even that’s not enough. And I think they would be so right. In the last 3 months of being a mother to an infant again, I have unlearned and relearned and even learned so much.

I thought it is pretty simple and how different can it be from the first 2 times? I told myself that first one was anyways scary because of being first; and the second one was scary because I came back from dead and was practically sick for 4-5 months. Otherwise, it is not really tough to handle a new-born. Think about it – you just need to feed him every 2 hours, change him when he needs and bathe him once a day (though they say it is okay not to bathe an infant every single day but I do). Apart from that, what does a small baby need? Well, that feeding every 2 hours is round the clock, for one! Second, that 2 hours is actually not 2 hours, most of the time and then you have to take into account the time you spent feeding, burping, changing, rocking etc. And bathing such a small baby is scary (it seemed easier the first 2 times because my mom did it!). Period.

There ARE so many other things apart from that. Like, you are worried about what if you do something to the baby and he gets hurt – accidentally scratching by your nails or what if he falls when you are holding him, what if you are too tired to wake up at night and don’t feed him at all, what if he swallows some water in bath, what if he chokes on milk…the list is too long. So you end up cutting your nails too short, not really sleeping because you are too conscious, being very cautious while holding him, all the time keeping your eyes on him while he feeds or sleeps…basically, you end up crazy and exhausted! The long showers are a luxury; you are lucky if you can take a head bath once a week; you are extremely lucky if he doesn’t wake up when you decide to take a short nap; having a day without anything new in baby’s schedule (well, there IS actually no real ‘schedule’) and so many little things that you don’t notice until you actually go through the experience.

YET (a big one) it is so wonderful to do all that, despite the fact that you long for solitude; you feel like going out just on your own and know that it may not happen for another 5-6 months; and the baby might start sleeping for the whole night only after a year (you will NEVER really sleep like you used to, ever, after having children). Why is it so wonderful despite being so exhausting? Well, the list for reasons is even longer than that of learnings!

The little bundle that hardly opens his eyes for first few days, makes you fall in love again and again, several times a day and in several ways. You do not stop thinking that you are so lucky, so very lucky, to have so much love around you. This is really what got me through the initial few weeks, since it was not easy to recover from a 3rd major surgery, and I did breakdown a couple of times, yet I would not change a bit about that. Of course, the older children and my hubby were more of a cause for that feeling of thriving in the presence of love than the baby himself, but it seemed like we were an incomplete family without him…he was the bond that made it all make sense.

It becomes more rewarding when the baby starts recognizing your voice, your smell, your presence and all that exhaustion suddenly makes sense and even adds meaning to your life the first time he smiles at you. Oh that beautiful toothless grin, just pure joy at seeing you! And you feel that it is everything in the world…and you got to experience it for the third time in your life…that’s awesome!

When he starts expressing himself through those wonderful vowel sounds, and he tries to respond to everything you say or every facial movement you make, you tend to forget the world outside this beautiful world.

Of course, there are many many more milestones to come and be grateful for, yet these days are very precious. Soon, the baby will be a toddler and then, a teenager (who might “hate” you), and eventually an adult making his own family. Then, you will miss the sleepless nights, the constant cry for attention, the beautiful toothless smile, the amazing exhausting days…

Till that happens, I intend to enjoy every single bit of this phase…it will definitely seem easier once it is gone, and I will surely miss it like I did the first 2 times…so yes, having another baby is one of the most wonderful things I did…

I might not be a pro at parenting, I might never be one, but I am hell of a happy parent 🙂

Ten years of marriage, ten years of togetherness and loving someone despite rough situations, all the ups and downs in a typical marriage – have taught me many things. The expected things – patience, putting things in perspective, seeing bigger picture, thinking in ‘us/we’, putting someone else’s needs before yours etc etc…the list could go on. Now, I am very close to my due date and very hormonal, so cannot be writing about all of those…so let me make this specific to my Indian female friends who are confused about what they married into.

If your man has been raised in a typical Indian family, chances are he is dependent on someone else for little things. He might be good at doing household chores, but you have to specifically ask. He will definitely be used to of being pampered and not taking full responsibility of another human being, especially in emotional sense. So ladies, basically, whether you have known him before your wedding or whether you are getting to know him, the first thing you should do is – STOP expecting a Bollywood kind of marriage (aka happily ever after). In fact, expect that in the least, he will be lost and hence, will be acting out every now and then (sometimes, too often). But just remember one thing – if he is not doing what you expected him to do i.e. the ever-so romantic gestures other people seem to be doing, does not mean he doesn’t care about you. In all probability, he doesn’t have any idea how to care for you and your feelings.

Let me elaborate. Think of how a boy in an Indian family is prepared for his marriage. Chances are that he has been told time and ever again one or both of the two things below:

One, that his wife will listen to anything and everything he says and will be waiting to serve him anything that he needs (she would even wash his underwear!). He will be treated like a king once he is married and his wife will be someone who feels honored to leave her family, friends and loved ones to love him and his family. From the first day into the wedding, she will feel grateful to have been given an opportunity to take care of all his needs and even those of his family and relatives.

Two, that once he is married, he will have someone to count on. This person will be there for him no matter what, even when he is least bothered about being there for them. So he can save his tantrums and demands for her and she will happily mother him like an infant.

Finally, the boy grows up with as unrealistic expectations from marriage as we girls do. Of course the difference being that our expectations center around love and romance and theirs, around pampering and being the king of the universe, without giving anything in return. What do you expect from such a guy? He will probably take years to understand that he shares some responsibility in the relationship called marriage, like it will take years for you to realize that there are some small gestures that still show you that he cares, though they might not be grand or even what you expected.

I remember attending a seminar once where a counselor  told me that it takes Indian men to accept marriage much longer than it takes women since their upbringings are so different. Yes, things are changing now, but if you were born in the 80s, chances are you could be in a similar situation or know someone who is.

So be patient and start looking for those little things – like he calls you from work for no reason, just because you didn’t call to ask when he will be home; when you are not well, he asks if you want to eat out (most men won’t offer to cook, owing to an “Indian” upbringing); when you are irritated for no reason, he will not react thinking its PMS (it might not be, but at least there’s no fight just because he assumes it is!). Look for the not-so-grand things he does over the weeks, and you will see a pattern emerge. In the beginning, it would be unnoticeable gestures, which might start growing over time and before you know, he would one day do something that you did not expect him to do but meant a lot to you (might even be something you NEVER expected from him).

Here is an example of what my dear hubby did recently, apart from all the wonderful things he has been doing so far. We moved twice in my last trimester and I was experiencing all classical symptoms of premature delivery (thankfully. the baby decided to stay in till it was time), so I was stressed. My husband not only calmed me in those stressful moments, but also did most of the packing and unpacking. He even asked the kids to help me around and they happily did. In fact, I never expected moving and settling down into a new house could be so easy!

In conclusion, most Indian men brought up in a typical environment will behave like jerks for at least a year into the marriage, some even longer, depending on the conditioning. The trick is to be patient and look for the good things in him, tell him about those things and over the years, you will see the benefit of hanging on to him. He will love you more and more as you grow older.

…with you!

One of those days when you want to vent out because you were anyways stressed and there come along people who judge you, criticise you and demean you for no reason! They don’t even know you…so who gave them the right!

I am a ‘high-risk’ pregnancy case and hence, have to take more precautions than any one in a normal pregnancy would. I am advised not to walk much, climb stairs or any kind of physical activity that discomforts me. And one day, I meet this woman, who has known me barely for a few seconds and she might not even know that I am not a first-time mother (she didn’t bother to ask) and she starts judging me. We are sitting side by side in a bus and circumstances become such that they don’t drop us off at the entrance of the venue of a meeting, but far away in the parking lot. I mumbled something about having to walk such a long distance. This lady, who is pregnant for the first time and does not even any idea about “almost dying in delivery”, looks at me with wide eyes, mouth open and obviously in shock and says, “You are in your 7th month and you haven’t even started walking yet!!!” I look at her with disgust and wanted to blurt out that what did she know about being a mother, but I don’t feel like explaining myself to her, so I didn’t. Obviously, she must have told her friends or whoever was willing to listen that there was this woman who didn’t walk during her pregnancy and did not even feel guilty about it 😀

I saw her again another day (can’t really avoid if you work in the same organization). Someone asked her how far along she was and she mentioned the 9th month. The other lady was like “wow, and you are still coming to work”. That must have really encouraged her and then also, she had me as an audience so probably an opportunity to prove a point, she said, “Well, this is my last week of 9th month and I am well enough to come to work.” Yeah, lady, point taken. You are the only one who has ever done that and because of your “walks”! And a poor soul like me never gave birth to a child just after completing her household work, taking care of a toddler and even preparing food! Guess why? I do not walk! 😀

And now, compare this to the several men who regularly tell me that I should not be taking stairs since there are where many accidents happen; and many other men offering their seats to me, out of courtesy.

I do not want to be given a special treatment because I am pregnant or even because I am a woman. But I do not want to be judged because I behave differently that the ‘normal’ or ‘average’ pregnant woman.

So basically, please do not judge me. You just know my name (in many cases, not even that, perhaps just my ‘tummy’), not my story!

My Books

Read the review Love No More (Love, It Is!)

Read the review Love, It Is!

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