Sunday, December 24, 2017

Being a Millenial Parent

It takes a village to bring up a child. But with our villages and cities shrinking into fist-sized mobile phones, it is both parents who need to step in with more and more quality time for their children. It is a lot of strain on parents today to do their best for their child in the environment that we live in. Our neighbors are self-occupied, our families live miles away, our children do not even have a regular family doctor or friends in school - everyone keeps moving places all the time. 

On top of this, we are in a world where everyone is afflicted by what I call the "judgement-bug". We judge parents for having one child, we judge them for having more, we judge them for having children late in life (or choosing to not have any). We judge parents on many other parameters, based on our own belief of what ideal parenthood should be like. We scoff at new parents and make fun of them for differing in their ideas of parenthood - forgetting that they are adults who know what they are doing.

To give you a perspective of where the world is today - it is running faster than ever, the population growth of the world is exponential and resources inadequate. With the high volume workforce in the country and the number of graduates, the competition is fiercer than ever.  Big companies that were perceived as stable employers are knocked down in the matter of days by small start-up companies. The danger of losing jobs is very real and staring at all of us in our faces. Every company needs to act very fast or be bull-dozed by the next innovation. 

To keep up and get the best for our families we are always running a race. One does not know what adversity can knock you down - so let's face it - earning money is very important. All of this puts an immense amount of pressure on new parents. But how do we support each other? There is very little support that we give each other, honestly. 

I know a lot of working mums at my workplace and I often make observations. As children, girls were told to study more and focus on getting good grades. As soon as they grew up and had babies, along came an army of judgmental folks telling them to do exactly opposite of what they have been conditioned to think so far.  Forget your dreams and aspirations. To let the "men be men" and work. It is time for you to take a step back in your career. This is what leads to a cascade of job-quitting and women staying in not-so-senior roles. 

I say this at the risk of being wrong - I do not feel that people in more senior roles work any harder that those who are at the end of the food chain. They do have more responsibility - but that only means changing perspectives at work. It does not necessarily mean putting in more hours at work than someone who is not very senior. I believe that anyone can do these roles if given a chance - irrespective of gender. But women just don't stay long enough in the workforce to be able to do that.

I see that organizations are getting more and more women-friendly. Most realize that not all parents have the support at home in terms of a good dependable nanny. So crèches are being set up at workplaces. They are slowly treating men and women as parents - not just the women. We are being treated equally in the true sense. But this idea has not trickled downwards up to the society yet. A majority of people still live in a different world. 

In this equal corporate world, there is no room for women to be treated differently. Expectations are exactly the same from a female or male colleague. Again, this is not understood by the society. Often, I see capable and highly respected female professionals at my workplace are treated differently at home. They slog at work and they slog at home - not to mention judged at the end of it. I know many women who are also abused at home. Work takes a hit and their efficiency is lower. Most of them are determined enough to fight against all adversity and shine - but it comes at a cost and usually it is their health that suffers. 

Empathy in today's world for parents is almost zero. When someone we know vents about any parenting situation they are in, I have heard most other parents say, 
"If we did it, so can you. Stop whining, this is how life is for everyone." 

"Children fall ill all the time. Why are you so worried?". Well yes, children fall ill, but you have probably no recollection of what it is like to patiently care for a crying baby all night and then show a brave face at work the next morning. 

"Take the day off! Why do you work so hard?". Yeah, right. There was a phase when I was missing 1/3rd of my working days. I was thankful they still found me employable due to my past work-history and reputation. Fortunately they also thought they should pay me despite of everything. I have some conscience that tells me absconding in situations where they count on me as a senior colleague, is not just unfair but also dishonest. So, I would show up (disheveled and chronically sleep-deprived, but I did).

Being a working parents is not a bed of roses. It is pretty hard and the society is not at all helpful. My only request to everyone is - if you have nothing to say that can help, they don't say anything at all. Please. It is not just demeaning, it is downright disrespectful.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


"I am six years old!", said the tiny girl we met at the park. After a moment, she "corrected" herself by saying, "No I am ONE year old!". Her name was Aaruhi. She was adorable with her little pony-tail bobbing up and down as she skipped and jumped around in the park. Neil seemed to get along very well with her - at the park, this was rare.

After that, for about 20 mins Neil and Aaruhi played together. She would call me while climbing on some slides, "Aunty, mujhe pakkal-lo naa!". I asked her who she had come with and she pointed to her father who was reading a newspaper on a bench, absolutely oblivious of what his little girl was up to. I realized I was the only panicky parent in the park who was running beneath the maze of slides to track the pitter-patter of Neil's little feet. If I was allowed to climb up on it, I would have happily done so and followed him around too. 

As I was helping Neil climb one of the slides, we suddenly saw our little new friend strutting hurriedly towards her Dad's scooter with him. Within seconds, she sat on it and zoomed away - without as much a goodbye glance at us. 

When Neil realized she was going home, big fat tears started rolling down his face. He kept asking me to bring her back. I felt very helpless. I did my best to console him, but nothing seemed to help. 

Being with his grandparents that weekend seemed to help Neil get over his sadness. But the next weekend, he asked me about 'Aaruhi-didi' again. We went to the park, but she wasn't there. He was sad, but seemed to be better this time.

My little boy is a big, throbbing, walking-talking heart. With some people he gets along very well and seems to make long-lasting relationships. In the real world, I will struggle to explain to him how things work -

We live in a very dynamic world today. People come and go. They move schools, cities, countries, continents all the time.

With some people, you will make long-lasting, meaningful friendships. But sometimes you have to let them go. It is hard, but that's how it is. Some may not realize the impact they've had on you and may simply walk off. You need to let them go, happily. But when you are the one to leave, don't leave things unsaid. Say your good-byes graciously, sometimes with tears and warm hugs.

With some people, when u meet them again, nothing seems to have changed and you can pick up where you left off. With others, they are in a different time and world, changed completely due to experiences in life. All you can do is, live in the moment and hold on to the memories, experiences and the good times you share.. :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Losing my wisdom...

I have always heard of kids having cavities and visiting dentists. Somehow, I never really had to go to one. Not that I took special care of my teeth all the time. But somehow I never had to go, except for an occasional cleanup. So, I have always heard stories, but never experienced anything bad. I had heard people get to eat ice-cream after a visit to the dentist. It sounded pretty hunky-dory to me. Little did I know why kids hate dentists.

My wisdom teeth sprung up pretty late. I do not know why they are called wisdom teeth. I don't remember suddenly getting wiser or anything. Two years back, my dentist saw nothing where my wisdom teeth were supposed to be. But they suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started bothering me. I tried to ignore the pain for weeks, but woke up one night with an immense pain in my jaw. The next day I decided to go to a dentist who asked me to get an X-Ray. It showed that one of my wisdom teeth in the lower jaw was growing horizontal and was causing the pain. They advised to get it removed.

I held it off for a couple of days. There was a wedding coming up and I didn't want to have a huge inflamed cheek in the pictures. But I could wait no more. One Friday evening, I finally decided to get them removed.

All the dentists in the clinic convinced me to get two of my teeth removed. After a while, I agreed. They came with needles and with no prior warnings injected stuff in my mouth. I winced. Have you seen those little rescued animals on Animal Planet who don't know what's going on when the vets hold them and give them injections and what-not. I felt like one of those animals. 

Then they led me inside a mini OR. I looked at the surgeon who was wearing a tie, his face half-covered with a mask. My hands shivering, I told him with my benumbed jaw that I was "tewiffied". I could see the nurses around giggling.

"Why?! The painful part - the injection - is over! Don't worry..," said the doctor. After some time, he looked at the X-Ray and said, "Ohh...this will take time. It is very deep and seems to be near a nerve. It will be very, very difficult". My eyes widened. He quickly said, "Difficult for us, not for you!!" How is that supposed to make me feel better??

There was a screen that showed visitors in the waiting room. I could see my husband in it. :) Perhaps the only respite I was offered. (Yes, people, this is an awww moment.) 

Through the course of the surgery, I could feel the doc pull and push at something in my jaw and another guy use the vacuum to suck the debris. The doc kept referring to the X-Ray and said again and again, "This is very, very tricky".

I wished they would give me a general anesthesia or at least shut up! Oh, wait, they didn't have to..I saw something the next minute - which I will censor from here. I was surely going to pass out then - no general anesthesia needed! That's when I knew, why I could have never been a doctor. 

The drilling and noises with pointy instruments, I will never forget! Each little thump made me vow that I will always take good care of my teeth and never want to come back again in this chair. I regretted the fact that I came to get the wisdom teeth removed, I could have lived with the pain, perhaps? And there was a wedding around the corner, did I want to look like a little pumpkin! He kept asking me questions every now and then.
A peculiar thing about dentists - they ask questions when you have a thousand instruments in your mouth and you cannot talk or even nod.

After the surgery, the doc sat next to me, gave a big sigh and said, "It is going to be tough for you to heal. It will pain and you will have massive swelling." When he said 'massive swelling' his hands went far out. My expression was definitely like a goat in a lion's cage, but he was undeterred by that. He was very,very honest. He went on for a couple of minutes about dos and don'ts which I did not hear. I just kept nodding. (No one told me how complicated this was before the surgery! All the consulting dentists had also seen the same X-Ray and they had said nothing!)

After getting a shot (perhaps for pain-relief - I don't know), I went out to the sitting room to my husband and sat next to him with my eyes wide after the ordeal. I tried to tell him that I will have swelling for three days, but he could not decipher my dumb charades. Little did I know I had more audience, an old uncle, who piped up and tried to guess what I was trying to say every now and then. I was ecstatic, each time he would get it right.

Then the post-operative doc gave us another set of guidelines and very scary things about how much pain I would have. This time my husband was with me. I asked him if he would remember what she was saying. They charged me truckloads extra for the complicated tooth extraction. I did not and most importantly - could not - argue for not being warned before the surgery. Which patient would argue in a state like that?

A doc came out after some time and gave me a very sad "you-are-going-to-be-in-a-lot-of-pain" look. He did not have a mask on, so I realized this was the surgeon who had pulled out the teeth. "Come tomorrow morning. I will give you another injection". What?? Why??! :( The real pain started 3 days after the surgery. The whole thing terrified me so much, that I have promised myself I will never go to a dentist again!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Simple Joy

I jumped off the treadmill and as I was walking towards the cross trainer, I held on to whatever I could grasp to steady myself. The last sprint had made me all woozy. I was here at the gym after a gap of almost 2 weeks. This is what a break does. I *hate* taking breaks, but I could not help it this time. Yes, I published a long blog post a few months back admonishing women for avoiding exercise. But here I was myself, back to almost square one! I looked at all the other runners and then at the men in the weight training section with amazement as they lift very, very heavy weights. I frown each time I see them, coz it is almost unbelievable! What are they made of, and what do they eat!

Today, as I ran, I saw a bunch of people at the pani-puri stall in front of the gym, across the road. These people are immensely mean. They devour their pani-puris with relish while staring up at the runners - like we are in some TV show. It is so funny, I wonder how it does not wake them up from their pani-puri reverie and join the exercisers.

After some time, a guy came on the treadmill next to me. One glance at him and I knew I was in for a bit of a lecture. I knew him and had heard this lecture once before and it makes me feel like jumping off the cliff each time! He had, perhaps forgotten that I had been an audience to it before already.

After about 4-5 minutes he started running like Flash. I could not see him (well, almost). After 10 minutes, while he was cooling down (at the speed I usually run) he gave me a smirk that said, "Eh! Weakling!".  He jumped off the treadmill while it was still on and I glanced at his monitor sideways. My eyes widened at the numbers. That is what had "inspired" me to do my last sprint - but it got me all woozy.

When I was on the bicycle, he was right there and as I expected he struck up a conversation. I knew the sequence of the conversation too. So, I only smiled and nodded.
He said he weighed 130 kgs about 2 years back and he's lost oodles of weight because of running. "It is all in the mind, you should push yourself. There are women who are of age 52 and run the Ironman Triathlons covering about 70K! You are not obese, you can run more! And you have to follow a diet. Eat carbs in the morning and only fruits throughout the day. And NO alcohol, ok? NO ALCOHOL at all!" Alcohol does this, alcohol does that, blah, blah..(As if I look like someone who gulps down big bottles of alcohol everyday) Sigh! I could see he was trying to encourage me, but it was not helping somehow!

I am like Po from Kung Fu Panda. Stairs are my biggest enemy. But running - I love. However, I can only improve at my own pace. I am out of breath in no time compared to other runners, but I am not embarrassed of that any more, because I have come a long way from where I was, 10 months back. Frankly, it is not running that I like so much, but I like the exhilaration AFTER the run which is awesome..

My biggest inspiration and the person to push me the most has been my husband. He aims for higher goals and it pushes me to at least think of achieving them. A humble confession - my New Year resolution was the TCS 10 K but I am nowhere near achieving it!

When I see my niece and nephew run around, it seems to be so easy for them to do that. Why is it that a task that was so simple becomes so tough when we grow up! The age that I am at, most of us are fit, our blood reports are normal, our hearts are ok, our lungs are moderately healthy. Then why is it so tough, I wonder. (I do not want to know the reason, lest it becomes an excuse for me to justify my slow progress and empathize with myself!)

For now, I enjoy running in sprints. When I run, I feel like I am a child again devoid of all inhibitions. I love the fact that I am ABLE to run again.  Those 20 minutes on the treadmill make me forget everything that stresses me out. And when I achieve a tiny new target, I feel like I have achieved something huge. :) I try my best to leave everything that is not-so-important and make it to the treadmill for at least 20 minutes. For me to be able do the other important things, those 20 minutes hold a lot of significance. And of course, it helps me sleep better and on time.

My new friend at the gym tried to encourage me. But when I only hear of 50-70K runs, I start panting! But he did succeed in pushing me to start aiming towards being better - even if it means starting all over again. Even today, I get everything from muscle sores to fatigue. But this Po is not willing to give up yet. All of those who are in my league, I do not want to overwhelm you by big numbers that other people achieve. But I'd love to push everyone to experience the simple joy of running...