Thursday, 29 December 2016

Revisiting year 2016 - Fashion now has new faces - Acid attack survivors

Acid attacks on women happen all over the world. They are brutal in a peculiar sense because the attacker aims not to kill the victim but to disfigure her and kill her soul. Attackers indulge in this frightful crime and force the victim to live a life of suffering if she survives. In our country, the cases stand out despite the existence of laws and directives to prevent the horrific crime. Even cases involving throwing acid have been on the rise. And here attacks follow a pattern.In an analysis of cases, it has been found that 35% of the incidents cited rejection of marriage or refusal by women.Acid attacks not only physically hurt victims but bring a social isolation that compounds the trauma. However, in this year 2016, I came to read many of the acid attack survivor’s stories which are so powerful and inspiring.


I never heard or had seen how those women face the challenges of their further life which are full of hatred and criticism. But in this year 2016, I found many such women who are crossing barriers and proving themselves no different than a normal woman. They are even setting themselves as role models for others to follow and adore. Today I very well know activist Laxmi who works for the welfare of acid attack victims. At the age of 15 years, a 32-year-old man came up to Laxmi on the street and threw acid on her face for rejecting his offer of marriage. Rather than let it defeat her, Laxmi became an influence peddler inspiring other women who underwent a similar ordeal. Laxmi received a 2014 International Women of Courage award by US First Lady Michelle Obama. In January this year, I read about the campaign ‘Face of Courage’ by fashion Brand Viva N Diva. They signed on Laxmi to be the new face for their designer outfits. Then another example came. Reshma Qureshi, an acid attack survivor, walked the ramp at the New York Fashion Week in September this year. Reshma's life changed drastically in 2014 when, during a visit to her hometown in Uttar Pradesh, her brother-in-law, and his friends threw acid on her face. Reshma's brother-in-law mistook her for her elder sister since both of them were wearing burqas, and that's how the attack took place. Reshma went into depression after this. However, things started taking a turn for the better when Reshma met Ria Sharma, the founder of Make Love Not Scars, an NGO that started the #EndAcidSale movement in India. Reshma became the ambassador of this #EndAcidSale campaign.


There are many photo shoots happening in our country featuring the acid attack victims. Instead of taking professional models professional photographers are taking these beautiful girls as models because they actually define beauty, courage, positivity. So I feel in this year 2016, more and more acid attack survivors came forwards and inspired the world with their fighting spirit and positivity. When these girls say that “their face mirror society”, I feel so pain and so anger. Pain for those victims who, despite going through plenty of operations and surgeries, are still struggling to get their charm back. And anger for those losers who get mad and throw acid only because they are rejected by a woman. Why these accidents happen, why acid is openly available and why anyone has the courage to attempt such a brutal crime are only some of the questions that can be debated for long. But I love that in this year 2016 many of the acid attack survivors gave thumbs down to the people who hate them and abhor them. 

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Lost Art of Letter Writing..

Do you remember the last time when you wrote a letter to someone? Honestly, I can't tell when the last time I wrote a personal letter to someone. My last written communication was in the year 2009 when something was wrong with my SBI account and I wrote an application to the branch manager regarding that. But it's been 7 long years since I have not used pen and paper for writing anything thoughtful as a letter! Why am I tossing around letter writing? Because recently I got a chance to listen to a lady who made me realize that nothing can replace letter writing, although we now have better new age communication mediums like email, texting, Facebook and more.


The lady, Laxmi, is a social entrepreneur and most importantly a family person. She shared that she traveled countries to countries for many years because of her work needs. And during these years, she couldn't meet her aging father with much of time. However, her father did an amazing thing in last two years of his life as he was continuously sick. He wrote letters to his daughter and filled a notebook with his thoughts about her. He addressed the strength and weaknesses of his daughter. He also gave her suggestions for improvement of her life in that notebook. After he passed away, Laxmi felt guilty of not giving much time to her father. But she has letters of her father and those letters changed her panorama about communication. Those handwritten letters still make her feel the presence of his father. Letters have the same, unique yet very known handwriting which is the best font of this world for her.  Laxmi says "whenever I read these letters, I feel connected with my father. This is the same paper which my father had touched and now it is in my hands." How thoughtful is that! Far after we are gone, no one will care about the million texts we have sent. But a letter lasts. 

I got emotional hearing Laxmi's story how letter writing has become special in her life. Letter writing is becoming a disappearing art, a vintage skill. The flow of the pen gracefully etching out one's thoughts into the paper about someone else. I know it is crazy to think about letter writing in this text-crazy world but I miss it.My childhood has seen the charm of letter writing and whenever I recall those days, I get nostalgic. I remember my massi (my mother's elder sister) used to send my mother a letter every month and my mother used to cry after reading massi's letter. The affectionate way in which my massi used to write letters to my mother, was really beautiful. I used to write postcards to my grandfather. It was really fun to write a letter to someone. You wanted to write so many things but space was limited. Still, feelings got exchanged gracefully. There was no assurance when the letter would reach its destination yet people used to write to their loved ones. And receiving a letter from your dear ones was no less than an award which people used to treasure.
I have taken a mission; it is to convince others that handwritten letters should and could make a comeback! Every parent wants kids to inherit good part of his/her life. And I am thinking about passing the legacy of letter writing to my son. For that, I would also write letters to my son which I am hoping he'll read in future.
Start writing a letter to your loved ones, it feels really good, believe me!

How to be productive in office?

“Productivity” We corporate people hear this word every now and then. We are always asked to push towards giving more productivity. But simple it looks; productivity is a hard nut to crack. Productivity is not about working complete 8 hours of the day without taking any breaks. Or stretching your day beyond regular 8 hours and making other envious. Productivity is giving our best in working hours. Having said that, I also believe in having a few extra hours where we can think about just us. But the question is from where those extra hours will come?


With best of my understanding and experience of 8 years in IT sector, I have a suggestion.  Start your morning on the productive note and by the end of the day, you’ll have at least an hour for yourself. And this absolutely doesn’t mean skipping those short coffee and tea breaks. You can take them and still can enjoy a productive day.

Rule 1. Don’t check your email until it’s necessary: Many of us have a habit of checking email as they get up in the morning. Every notification, every attachment and every meeting request we try to check and respond and ultimately we end up getting late for office. Checking emails frequently is the biggest reason for losing focus and getting bored with the office. So do yourself a favor, don’t even look at your phone in the morning hours. If needed, you can jot down a TODO list in your diary and can start your work after reaching office.

Rule 2. Start with trickiest task first thing in the morning: In the morning we generally have a clear and light head so our creative bones work faster. This means eat that frog first which is giving you the biggest challenge.  If during the day, you feel that you have given enough mind over something and it’s still not done, leave it for next morning. You can, of course, discuss this with your boss if the task can wait till next morning. And if he is not agreeing then you can’t delay it. Keep on breaking it. The Boss is always right (you know that)!

Rule 3. Exercise is important: This we often ignore. It’s a kind of habit which is easy to cultivate and even easier to ignore. A daily morning workout is not only good for your body, but also for your mind. It helps relieve the stress points and gives energies in return. If not much then for 10 minutes every day. Get that heart beat racing and fight the day with full power! It boosts your creativity and keeps you fit!

Rule 4: No facebook, twitter or other social media till you complete 3 hours of work: The minutes you open your eyes in the morning, you pick your phone and facebooking gets on. You fear that today might be your friend’s birthday or even your anniversary and facebook can save a lot of your blood. So you check facebook/twitter updates and your work starts right from there. While wishing everyone and commenting on political stuff, you don’t realize that you have only 30 minutes to get ready for office. So don’t get into a loop and set a deadline for yourself. Unless you get at least 3 hours (or at least 2 hours) of work in, do not even think about going near that notification! 

Rule 5: Make your TODOs the night before: Maintaining a diary is always assumed good. It’s the best way to ensure you are on track. Just spend 15 minutes every night to write down things which you are about to target next day. Be it work or other stuff like phone bill payment or calling a relative. No fumbling around then and you can get straight to business next day. 

Rule 6: Most importantly, start your day with wishing others:  Not every day ends on a happy note. We get killing emails from clients and resignation of teammates makes us go mad. But believe me, the world is not ending yet. So start your day with a smile on your face. Everyone in this world is facing his/her challenges and your smile can give someone that little extra strength to face them. So why not giving a free medicine to your office mates. 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

I am ready to change my name now

The number of women changing their names after marriage is decreasing and this is what I have observed.  I also kept my name. Among my friends, only a few of them have changed their surnames after getting married. It’s no surprise I kept my last name. These days, changing the name is clashing with the idea of having own space and identity for modern women. And naturally, I never liked the way women seemed to disappear into their husband’s name. When I got married, I was at the peak of my career. I was dreaming about going out of India and even about settling down in the US. Changing my surname was going to add little paper and official work (affidavit for PAN card, driving license, bank document and passport etc) for us. While registering our marriage when asked the name of the wife, my husband said “Shipra Pandey”. Yes, it’s my original name. Since then, we are man and wife with different surnames.  Although, there was no confusion ever that our kid(s) are going to take their father’s surname.  But with realizing my family responsibilities and realities of life, my career aspirations opted to slow down and I understood why changing name is still important.

Our marriage started on a turbulent note. Initial days were tough, rough and cloudy. There were problems and problems. And my husband, for the first time, made a bitter remark on my name then. I still had my father’s surname and somehow reasons of our bumpy married life were around me and my family. Things were settled in next few months. However, I always had occasional pangs of wondering if my husband, doubted my commitment, or was at all disappointed by the fact that I didn’t want to share his name. And our recent argument confirmed my doubt. My commitments are still questionable as per him. And after close to five years of married life, the reason he gives is again around my surname.  

Although till date, I never faced any problem in having a different surname with occasional questioning by other people. But as I am enjoying my married life, I am more inclined towards changing my name. Even in this blogging space (and in many other), I write with my husband’s surname. With the course of time, I have started feeling that the husband (mostly) takes this as a proof of pledge and liability towards married life if the wife changes the name. But, more importantly, I also started to feel a strange sense of vulnerability and the need to reconnect myself to my husband who is the father of my son and keeper of my lighthouse, in every possible way. Including in name and fame. 


A few days back, I was reading a post and wife expressed her feeling over the loss of his husband. “At least I have his name with me, always!”  If a woman takes her husband’s name or carries her own name can never change her inner self. Changing name can never cast any kind of spell over her. But there are few things we do just to make other people happy. And if any how I have failed to give my husband the assurance that our relationship is important for me, then I would like to correct it right away. If taking husband’s name is crucial to seal the package of our marriage. I am ready now. The sooner the better!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Emotional weight of being a wife

A few days back, I had a fight with my husband. And as always happens, after a couple of counter arguments, I had to stop. The fight was then dominated by my better half and eventually I was in tears. It’s being four years, I am trying to understand him but I failed and the cost was always very painful. During our heated talks, he asked me if I know the meaning of being a wife. Since then this question is hitting me till deep. Am I not a wife (good or bad is next thing)? Am I not somebody with whom he wants to spend his life? Am I having some problem which is hindering me from being a wife (at least)?

As my profession gives handy, I googled this question, “What is being a wife?” And I found most of the answers/blogs/posts about this topic are written by women writers. The first page of my search result was full of advice from female audience and almost all of them suggest that women need to do more. But one thing surprised me that there was no such post in which any male has given suggestion on how to help your marriage. Or, at least I couldn’t get any on my first search page. I also found out those posts were divided into two categories. First, n things good wives go and second, n things good wives don’t do. I went through each of them carefully but none of the articles can answer my queries. What is being a wife? I have no courage to ask this very question to my husband who has originated it. I don’t want him to raise many other questions around this. I am scared of his questing ability!

Many of us are raised with the ideologies that a good wife sacrifices everything for her family. A good wife is patient with her husband's quirk. She never nags, flaunts, or demands. Okay, I may not be fitting on each of these criteria but this doesn’t mean I don’t comply to be a wife. I find this an injustice that my husband is asking me this question with whom I have spent my four precious years of life. When for every success of mine, I have given credit to him. When for every problem, I have taken help from him. And when every of my prayers I have wished to strengthen our relationship. However, I feel this is often assumed that relationship problems are meant to be fixed by women with giving MORE. "Wives are the fixers" pattern is one I still find despite we are part of a so-called new generation. 

Everything has changed and got advanced with time but there are few things which are still hanging in between. Like, the definition of a good wife and a good mother.
With increasing emotional weight of being a wife, I often find it suffocating and slaying when I am expected to behave well for whole 365 days. I go out, meet diverse people, deal with problems, get frustrated with my failures and it is possible I fail to understand situations at home. I may behave inappropriately but this never means I hate being a wife. Or, I hate being in this relationship. I have far more value of this thing in my life and I fall for it. But sometimes I am wrong and I expect correction then. However, I don’t like this questing over my commitment for being A WIFE. I am picking pieces when our relationship gets hurt but I need help at times and who better can help me other than my husband! 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

My boy is growing up so fast..

When I faced my family members after delivering my boy, the first thing I heard was “Beta maa pr gaya hai..” It was always being told by many of my known ones that little boys love their mumas so much.  This made me think about a parenting quote “There’s nothing like the bond between a mother and son.” Although the idea that boys love their mothers differently than girls is both silly and a little gender discriminating, but l accepted it as being a lucky woman who gave birth to a healthy baby. And the baby is by chance a boy. I have no brother and because of that, I was really unaware of how it feels to see a boy growing in front of you. I only remember how my younger sister grew with me. May be that is the reason I am blessed with a boy so that I could understand what is the depth of relation between a mother and a son, a father and a son and a boy and his siblings.

Amazingly after my boy joined the daycare (in my office), we have come so close to each other. This might be confusing why after he joins an outside facility? Earlier, for the whole day, my mother in law used to look after him and I was near to him only after my office hours.  That time also had divisions in terms of my household chores and other stuff.  We, mother and son, didn’t get much time to make our bond muscular. However, this arrangement worked like this for almost 1 and half years. After he joined the day care (in April this year), now we spend a good portion of the day together. Thus last six months were wildly affectionate. His love for me has taken a real high jump. He kissed me every single day since then. His kisses were so sloppy and many that I felt rich. He was always so happy to see me as I went to pick him up in the evening from his day care. He liked to hold my face in his hands and give me a kiss on the lips, cheeks and the tip of my nose. 


However, that abruptly stopped a month ago. My son doesn’t kiss me anymore. He is not angry with me, but he is noticeably less cuddly. When I ask for a kiss after coming out of his daycare, he just puts his cheeks on mine, more like how celebrities hug and kiss each other cordially. I tried many times to make him remember how he used to give me THAT kiss. But he refrains. And I respect that, he just doesn't like to do it that way. Now instead of coming in my arms, he prefers rushing outside.

I feel my 2ish-year-old son’s independent streak has emerged now. He wants control over things which are related to him. He wants to eat by own, wear clothes by own, walk by own and struggle by own.  These may be the signs that he is growing up. And boys grow like this only. I have only seen how daughters keep on sticking to their mother’s tummy since long. I only remember how girls want to be sweet and overly affectionate to their fathers. But with raising a boy, I have learned that nothing is permanent in parenthood. Teething is over. Sleeping troubles have gone. And now kisses have disappeared. Perhaps I should be ready for more such things in future which will be less lovey dovey like a kiss or a tight hug. My boy is budding so fast. Still, I am for sure certain about one thing that “There’s nothing like the bond between a mother and son.”



Monday, 12 December 2016

People, please don't say or do these things to a pregnant woman

I still remember the weirdest question that I have been repeatedly asked by others when I was pregnant. “Are you carrying twins?”  This question always embarrassed me and even made me furious at times. When I was in my cool vibes, I took it as a normal way of talking to a pregnant lady. But when I was not in my best mood, I felt offended. “Do I look that big? Twins, are you serious?”  This inappropriate question (at least I think so) was asked by even a lady doctor who did my 8th month’s ultrasound.  I admit I was big, sweaty, and crabby but was that really necessary to make a pregnant lady think that she was FAT?

There are other things which people around me (mostly my office mates) did and I hated that. Still, I was really lucky that those incidences were very few.  Some of my (girl) friends used to touch my belly and ask how my baby was doing. I know their intentions were good but I found that really unreasonable. This belly touching was only allowed and authorized for my husband. He used to touch it and used to talk to my baby inside. Like for every pregnant woman, this was really a special gesture for me. When other people did this, I was grinning thinking in mind how to say DONT to them.

Welcome to the strange world of pregnancy etiquette, where even the most educated and sensible people can lose sight of and spy a bulging belly. There are many ill-timed questions that people ask seeing a pregnant lady. Have a look at some of the strange questions I was asked and what I felt like replying:

  1. Are you pregnant? (YES, else what is the reason of this coming out belly?)
  2. How much weight have you have put on so far? (This is something very personal, it is rude.)
  3. So you want a boy or a girl? (Is that really matter?)
  4. Are you planning to go for a natural delivery or C-section? (That’s none of your business.)

5.       Who is going to look after your baby as you are working? Will you quit your job? (Why should I quit my job? Are you interested in doing babysitting in my house?)
People fail to understand that every person has his/her own defined boundary of privacy. And he/she would not like to get this breached for resolving queries of other people. A pregnant lady might be carrying her first baby and she might not like to reveal how her pregnancy trek is going. On the other hand, for some ladies, this could be their second or third pregnancy and they would feel happy to answer your question. However, my advice for those curious people would be to err on the side of caution rather than plough right in.

I have a list of GOOD question that they can ask rather:
  • 1.       How are you doing today?
  • 2.       Have you decided about the nursery?
  • 3.       Are you taking your supplements properly?
  • 4.       Is your husband excited about coming happiness?
  • 5.       When is your big day planned?
  • 6.       May I help you in any way?

Best would be to just don’t bombard the questions over an expecting lady. She is going through a tough time of her life. She needs a lot of encouragement and motivation. So, whenever you see any pregnant woman, just say “You look AMAZING.” Finally, a word of advice for the stars of the show, the pregnant ladies. Don’t let other people bother you with such questions again and again. Answer them and make them realize that whatever you have is beautiful and whatever you do would be the best, for sure!




Thursday, 8 December 2016

Are we expecting too much from our marriages?

Have you ever felt that your spouse is not the one you wished for? Don’t get me wrong but it’s normal to think that what we expect from our spouses is never getting fulfilled or the percentage is very low. The majority of the couples, who fought for getting married, eventually find themselves disappointed with marriage. And if you ask any honest married person to estimate the number of those that find themselves disappointed with matrimony, this will be closer to 100%. That’s because no matter how compatible our spouse is or how prepared we feel for our wedding, it is natural to experience a discrepancy between what we hoped marriage would be and what it actually is. But why expectations are too high? Why we feel disappointed?

Over the years the relationship between a husband and a wife has been stretched so much. Which means they have started expecting way higher than it can be executed. Hopes from marriages in the time of my mother or grandmother was not like what we have today. Those days people had different people for different needs. They used to talk and share appropriate things to suitable people (parents, sisters, brothers and other family members). Now we want all our needs met by one person, our spouse. Apparently, we are turning too inward towards our families. And as a result, friendships and other relationships are losing importance and being neglected, and people are looking to their spouses to fulfill all their social needs. In past, there used to be very limited notions for spouses. But now we expect our spouses to be a lover, friend, confidant, disciple, bread earner and even an adventure game partner. This kind of pressure to be “everything” for our spouse has become a burden with time. And this might not be the best way to cultivate a healthy, lasting, fulfilling relationship.

Also, we are people of an era which believes in bullet trains and smart devices. We want everything super fast and always up to the mark. We wish our spouses to understand us, our family and our innersole so agile that we never care if our second half is losing breath. Every person is different and the family in which he/she belongs is obviously unique. We want our partners to get adjusted into other’s family and that too without any hitch. We are humans, not a machine part which can be seamlessly tuned. It actually takes a good decade of giving yourself to another person to obtain the true benefits of oneness. And we want our better half to understand us in just one or two years. Not good.

Love is not a day to celebrate every year on anniversaries. It’s a beautiful journey of daily choices to give ourselves to another person. True love is all those maddening daily irritations that we generously and graciously ignore. Ways to earn love from other and getting our expectations fulfilled are intentional sacrifices and selflessness. If we want to stay happily married, we need to give time and ease to our second half to understand us. We also should look outside of our nest for some of our expectations. We are not married to a superhero or a cat woman. He/she can’t be everywhere and can't be right always. True love is accepting our partners even if they are wrong. And a successful marriage needs less expectations and lots of true love.




Friday, 2 December 2016

I stand up for the National Anthem. And I also stand by SC's order.

After reading so many blogs and post which are condemning supreme court‘s order that the national anthem must be played inside all movie theaters, across the country, I want to convey my thoughts in support of this order. On this Wednesday, November 30, SC of India passed the verdict on a petition filed by Bhopal’s Shyam Narayan Chouski, who is an ex-army person, alleged the misuse of the anthem in TV shows and movies. The court also stated that everyone should respect our national anthem and its commercialization and dramatization on objectionable stuff should be stopped. "When the national anthem is played it is imperative for everyone to show honor and respect. It would instill a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism," said the judges.
I believe respecting the national anthem or our flag is respecting the idea of being an Indian. When I was in school, I was taught that standing for the national anthem is giving honor to our freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for giving us this freedom. So until I was not THAT mature to identify flaws in this standing and respecting rule, I religiously followed this. Not only I but all my classmates used to follow this. Our anthem is not only a song, but inherent in these words is the idea that India was, is and, will remain a great nation.
Now coming to what SC has ordered, I really see no point in playing the national anthem at a theater before a Bollywood pot-boiler is about to be screened. It should be prohibited to play the national anthem in places (like theaters) where standing up could cause disorder and confusion. But if somehow our judiciary thinks that it should be done then it should be done. And we should not have any problem with it. Of course, we are going to sit for next couple of hours to watch a movie then why there is an issue in standing up for 52 seconds in the beginning?
It is widely seen that in our country, people need enforcement of laws. Until they fear of punishment, they keep on doing unethical and inappropriate things. To spit in public is prohibited but people do. To urinate is also a NO NO, still, people do. Cleanliness in an obvious requisite but our PM has to run a whole new campaign for making people aware of its importance. And no wonder there exists people who think they are not supposed to respect the national anthem. OR, it is unnecessary. They take it as a joke that our country is giving us so much and it is our duty to respect it. I know that nationalism doesn’t only mean standing up for the national anthem. But we should have no dispute in giving mere 52 seconds of our lives for showing our nationalism. Hence I don’t consider it as a Nazi order when Supreme Court is forcing people to stand up for the national anthem. However, I don’t want the implementation of this rule at the cost of humiliating a person for his/her physical disability. I wish to get an exemption for folks, who are not doing good health wise, parent who is carrying a baby in lap and elderly people. A law is a law but it is never a digital instruction which can only be either 0 or 1. Robots work on binary instructions (zero or one), we humans are so diverse and critical in terms of applying rules and instruction. So being with this order, I am also in favor of giving relief from this rule to a subset of people, for sure. But again I am against of misusing this exemption window.