Story of My Life

It is me

I am working on the presentation for tomorrow, but somehow my mind is not able to concentrate. I open the thick black cover of my phone to check for any missed calls or messages. Nothing there! I chide myself. I just checked my phone status 5 minutes back. If there is any change in status, I will hear it. I don’t need to check again on the same. I should concentrate on the presentation. I need to finish it today.

A few minutes later the door bell rings. My blood races causing my heart to jump. Yes! Finally! I rush to the door and open it. “Shilpa Roy?”, the man outside nonchalantly asks. I nod my head and he hands me the courier. I sign the slip, close the door, placing the courier on the table. I don’t care what bill or tender or notice that slim white envelope holds. My mind is elsewhere. My heart is beating fast again, but this time because of anxiety. No sign still! Where are you? Where can you possibly be? Why haven’t you even called till now?

Million questions race through my head as I continue to wait for a word from your end. What if, you are not able to come today? What if, you are not happy with me and choose never to return at all? How will I lead my life without you? How will I manage the kids without you? Leave alone the kids, I cannot even manage the house or the office without you. No, No! I should stop this train of thought. I have no reason to believe that you are not happy with me. You would have told me so, if that was the case. I should stay positive. I need to believe that you care for us as much as we care for you. I need to believe that you will come back.

Seconds slowly turn to minutes and minutes to hours. I give up on the presentation and try and finish the dishes from lunch. Anything, to distract me from the tension. The bell rings again. I am no longer expecting you today, so I don’t rush to the door. I ask loudly, standing in the kitchen, “Who is it?”. The reply, “Akka, it is me!”. How can it be?? It is indeed you, my maid in shining armor,  back from her unplanned holiday. I am going to have a heart attack from the relief flooding my veins. I stop for a second before the temple door to thank God for his mercy. I take my time to reach the main door. I cannot show how anxiously I was waiting for you to come back. I feign anger when all I want is to hug you and welcome you back into the house.

I take two seconds to explain the pending work including the dirty dishes and with that I shut myself in my room. After all, I have a very important presentation to finish today.

Two Mothers and Two Fathers

Dont cry my sister

Since the time Yog was born, two years ago, life has been more or less revolving around him. Food, vaccinations, clothes, toys and even hospitals have been predominantly focused on his requirements. Toyna, eight at the time when Yog was born, was used to being the Princess of the house but easily shifted into the backseat. Over these years, we have been accustomed to Yog falling sick and the entire household including Toyna, running around him, trying anything to make him feel better.

Today, after a long long time, the tables were turned. Toyna fell sick; sick enough for me to panic a little and rush her to the hospital. The doctor checked her out, wrote his prescriptions, and sent us back home. As we entered the house, Yog was super excited to see his Akka (elder sister) back. However, the excitement turned into confusion as he saw his Akka crying and shivering in pain. It was for the first time in his life that he saw his Akka weak and incapable of taking care of him. His brow tightened and his eyes narrowed a little as he tried to fathom, what in the world could possibly be wrong. Observing him, I was a little perplexed at how he would react to all this. I honestly did not have time handle him right now. I just hoped he would get distracted soon and leave me alone to tend to Toyna. I was mistaken.

Within a minute of Toyna settling down on the living room couch, Yog took charge. He rushed to the refrigerator and took out a Yogurt. Then he scurried to the spoon stand, picked a spoon and handed the Yogurt with the spoon to Akka, indicating that she should eat it. Toyna barely aware of her surroundings didn’t respond to his gesture. Undeterred, he left the yogurt on the table and went ahead to extract a heavy juice tetra pack from the refrigerator. Toyna refused this as well and he realized that his Akka didn’t want anything to eat or drink. He abandoned the juice and the yogurt and softly came and stood guard by Toynas side. He held on to her arm to comfort her, trying to tell her that he was there beside her and she should not worry about a thing.

Slowly I helped Toyna gather herself and climb the steps up to her bedroom. Without a word, Yog followed both of us into the room and tried his best to cheer his Akka with toys, hugs and adorable smiles. But in spite of his best efforts, he could do little to make Toyna feel any better. Disappointed, he left the room, through the open door.

Two seconds, after he was gone, Toyna opened her eyes with a startle, as if something was wrong. She quickly enquired, “Where is Yog??”, to make sure someone was still watching over him. My eyes welled up with tears. All along, I was thinking that she was barely aware of him being around. But she was not only aware of his presence but worried about his well being, even when she herself was not feeling well. Yog too, had only disappeared to fetch some medicines for Toyna. He ran back inside the room holding a Vicks bottle in his hand. His sense of purpose as he went in and out of the room, amazed me. He clearly understood Toyna needed help and he was very sure on how he could help. The rest of the day, went about on the same note. He would get water, juice, toys, medicines and above all, his love to make sure that his Akka felt better.

I have always known the love and concern that Toyna shares for Yog. It is evident in the smallest of things that she does for him. But to see the same love and concern reciprocated by a two year old Yog, melted my heart away. He can barely talk, leave alone manage his own basic needs of food, water and sleep. But when it came to his Akka, he knew exactly what to do.  I am not sure when and how this bond developed. But, I just pray that this grows like this into the future. Yog is blessed to have a second mother in Toyna, and now I am pretty sure that Toyna is blessed to have a second father in Yog.

There is no shame in being a Working Parent

Play TimeIn the past, I have often felt guilty when my children screamed for attention in the middle of late evening office conference calls. No matter how hard you try and avoid such calls; lets face it, we all end up getting into those just to connect with folks who are unreachable during the day. I have apologized profusely for the interruptions and begged to be ignored for a while. For a long time, I have even considered myself incapable of being a good professional as long as I had children by my side.

10 years of juggling children and work, and yet rising in my career, has taught me one thing – Children don’t hold you back in your career. When your manager promotes you in spite of the many interrupted conference calls, it shows that you are much more valuable to him than the interruptions. Of late, I have encouraged my team not to feel guilty about their home situation during office meetings. Just the fact that they have been able to get on to the call, leaving the family at a stand by, shows the commitment they have towards their work. So what, if the little one wants a toy RIGHT NOW or has an urgent need to go relieve himself, in between the call. It is perfectly all right! You can just put the phone on mute and let the water run in the background.

The career options we have chosen, doesn’t have to necessarily translate into a less active family life. My son and daughter are both known to work on my laptop, once in a while, and send gibberish messages to the office chat groups. Well, if my manager expects me to carry work home, he better be prepared for the gibberish messages as well. I refuse to apologize for them anymore. In fact, the office teams have a good laugh at the messages, trying to interpret the coded words.

Being a parent is a blessing! Being able to adopt a full time career along with being a parent is a double blessing. Why should I ever feel guilty about it? As long as I am adding more positive value than the nuisance value that my children bring to the table, I know, my organization will continue to promote me.

Dear Team,

If you are reading this, please have your children be more active during office meetings/activities and office. I sincerely believe children have a lot to learn from, once in a while, office experience. If we can bring work home, we have every right to take our home to work too!

P.S. We have a nice little children area in our Hyderabad office. We can look at creating something in our other offices too.

The Gift of Good Health

Flowers

Most days Yogs unlimited energy can be the source of real strain on everyone in the house. Jumping on chairs, climbing on tables, trying to get the TV down or putting his hands between the elevator doors, all these pranks manage to keep everyone on their toes. On extreme days, I wish he would be a little less active, a little more calmer and a lot more disciplined.

I guess, my prayers were answered and I was gifted such a day today. Yog contracted a bad stomach infection and he lay in bed barely able to move, dirtying diaper after diaper. There was no jumping around, no broken cups, and absolutely no mess in the house. In spite of the absolute cleanliness in the house, the whole house turned gloomy as the cheer disappeared from every corner. Yog was on medication, ORS, and buttermilk the whole day. On the face of it, I could not afford to show my worry, but inside I was waiting every minute to see a sign that he was improving. Anything, just anything to show me that the medication was working and he was getting better. And then God heard my prayers again. Yog was was playing with his blocks while eating dinner. He got bored and threw the whole set across to the other end of the room. The blocks crashed down and turned the clean room into a big mess within a second. Yogs face lit up with satisfaction and he smiled happily. Even though I pretended to be angry, my heart heaved a sigh of relief. This was definitely a sign that he was feeling better.

As the evening progressed and his energy returned, so did the naughty pranks. The only difference today was that my sense of appreciation for these pranks was far more than on normal days. Each new mess meant that he was a little bit more better.  How in the world could I have ever prayed for a clean and calmer house? After today, I can never imagine to trade the mess and the strain for  cleanliness and peace. The broken cups no longer mean mischief. They are a sign that Yog is growing taller each day and his mind becoming more aware of his surroundings. He wants to learn and explore the world around him. Which mother could possibly see a problem with that?

Later in the night, as Yog decided to mix his drinks (both ORS and buttermilk together) and try the concoction, I silently thanked God for always listening to my prayers. I now know that, God is definitely out there to grant all our wishes. It is up to us to be careful in what we ask for.

Genes

Most parents I know regret the fact that their children have taken after their spouse. They secretly wish that their children were more like themselves. For me it is completely the opposite.

I am really glad that both my children have taken after their father. It works out extremely well for me, as their father himself is on the move quite often. In such a scenario, just looking at both of them, I see glimpses of him in the food we eat, in the way we go for walks, in the way we roll over with laughter. He is always midst of us even when he is miles away.

I actually feel bad for him, cause when I am no more in this world, he would really have no one like me, with him. When such a time comes, I am pretty sure he is going to miss me really bad. Knowing the rare piece that I am, he would have such a difficult time finding someone like me out in the world too.

I am blessed to have children who are like their father. I experienced him as an adult, and I now get to experience him like a child too. 🙂

 

Network with the Second Level Supplier

Washer ManI have learnt that in order to find the right resource for your project you should create a relationship with the suppliers who provide resources to the resource you need.

For example: When searching for a cook for my household, we approached agents, bakeries, and sweet shops but did not get any response. After all these people consume the resource in demand (in this case a cook) themselves. So why would they pass on their own valuable resource to me.

Then one evening, when I was buying vegetables with our neighborhood Green Grocer, I broached the subject for a cook with her. She thought for a while and said she will let me know. We exchanged numbers and parted ways. She referred two cooks to me. I didn’t like them, but I found the connection working. I dropped my number with three more vegetable sellers in my neighborhood and my phone has been ringing non stop since then.

This experience taught me that these second level suppliers are much more willing to share their client details upstream. By doing so, they are actually doing a favor to their client and hence creating loyalty for their own brand. So the next time, I am looking for a good resource, I will need to identify the supply chain for that resource and make a relationship with the second level supplier directly.

See, I always told you, there is a lot to learn on Project Management from simply running a household.

The Master Key

Space Rocket

I hereby make a prophecy that 20 years from now, Yog will become some form of automobile engineer. While a car mechanic is also an automobile engineer, like any other starry eyes mother, I think he will be somewhere in the likes of Dilip Chaabria or working with the ISRO on the creating the shuttle to reach the black hole near Saturn. This prophecy is based on a simple fact that ever since Yog was able to focus his two eyes together, he is just obsessed with engines, cycles, bikes, cars, tractors, trucks and aeroplanes. For someone like me, who just not into automobiles of any kind, this is really a very big deal.

When he steps down to play in the evening, on the road, his favorite pass time is to climb on top of parked motorcycles and try to open car doors to see if he can climb into the driver seat. He is also happy to take a free ride with the passing auto-rickshaws. He loves to carry my scooter key with him and will try and fit that key in all the machines that he passes by. The same key in the ignition, in the petrol lock, in the trunk, in the cycle and in the auto as well. In his eyes, it is the Master Key which will make the hidden engine run to his commands.

Similar to Yogs Master Key for automobiles, Yog and Toyna, both have a master key for life as well. That Master Key is called “Mama”. Right from the time they wake up, till the time they get into bed (and sometimes in the middle of the sleep as well) they have one solution to all problems of their life – Mama.  Where is my book, my pen, my shorts, my homework, my friends, my father, my sleep, my fun, my life? All answers are supposed to be with Mama. As a mother, I think I ought to feel proud that they love me so much. But I cannot fool myself into believing that. This is not love. This is a one way, life endangering dependence. I think as a mother, my role is not be the answer to all their problems. My role is to be help them discover their own answers. If they are dependent on me for such basic life surviving skills, then I am surely not doing my job well.

The easiest way to solve this problem would be to let them fall, let them fail. In the process, they would learn that one, falling hurts and two, how to walk more carefully next time, so that they don’t fall. But then, as a mother, it is so difficult to let your child fall, let her fail.  Would I ever be able to live with the guilt, that I could have protected them from falling, but I still let them fall and get hurt? As each new school session starts, I promise to myself, I will let Toyna decide how much she wants to study. I will not intervene. I will let her fail or let her stand first, based on what she wants to do herself. It cannot be my decision. It has to be hers. But then, I cannot help check her books at the end of the evening for unfinished homework or incorrect sums. It is just in my blood. I guess I cannot digest my food till I know her homework is done.

So at the end of the day, if Toyna is dependent on me for her studies, I think it is because I have made her dependent. Because, I cannot afford to have her fail one class. Because, I think that she is not ready to own up her life, just yet. So the next time that she yells at the top of her lungs, standing in the middle of the bathroom, asking for her towel, I guess I better not complain. I did have a choice, after all, and I still chose to be their Master Key. Alas! I am not proud of this fact, but I guess I am willing to live with the guilt of having them dependent on me, than living with the guilt that I didn’t do enough.

Welcome to the Real World

Nirbhaya in December 2012 changed the world that we live in. The outrage, in those days, was so high that it managed to break down a lot of dams that the society had carefully built over centuries. The flood that followed soaked, tumbled and rinsed the whole country pretty much like a fully automated washing machine. As an after effect of the Nirbhaya tragedy, we now have more and more men and women stepping up for women rights. We have Deepika Padukone going to the extent of suggesting that extra marital sex is fine. We have Leslee Udwin trying to show the lack of remorse in the rapist. We have a number of writers, painters, bollywood stars, business leaders talking about women equality. And then we have this…

Human Body

This is a page from the EVS text book of my 10 year old daughter. She is in the fifth standard. For the first time in her curriculum, she was introduced to different systems in the human body. Right from nervous system, digestive system, excretory system, all the way till the reproductive system. I was helping her learn all these systems and comparing the Text book to her class work book. I realized that her teacher had missed explaining one system to the class. You guessed it – the teacher had forgotten to teach about the reproductive system. I explained the system in simple terms to my daughter. She already knows how babies are formed, so she was able to relate to it.

I was amazed at how could a Science teacher of an international school avoid the subject of Reproduction also knows as Sex, all together? I thought times had changed. I thought Nibhaya had woken us all up. I was wrong. The reality of today still remains that we are not addressing the problem where it needs to be addressed – in our education system. The teacher might argue that children of this tender age need not be exposed to this knowledge. Does she know that puberty for a girl child can start anywhere between 7 to 13 years of age? Given this fact and the fact that with each new generation the average age of achieving puberty is coming down, I think my daughter has every right to know these facts.

Deep inside, I felt the outrage rising again. How in the world, do we expect to address issues on women equality, domestic violence, rape and female infanticide, when we cannot or rather do not even want to talk about human reproductive systems?? For me, all these issues stem from a common root cause – the lack of Sex Education amongst the masses. The hype related to sex, creates these different notions in Men and Women. Notions like Men are more superior than Women. Therefore, Men can treat Women as objects for pleasure or objects for venting frustration. So many children are raped and molested each day, but these children don’t even know that what is happening to them is wrong; that they need to protest and stop it.

For me, all these issues are related. And the solution is very simple, talk about them openly.

  • “Sex is not taboo. You don’t have to avoid talking about it.”
  • “If you are raped, it is not your fault.”
  • “A girl child is equally important in the ecosystem, else the whole balance will collapse.”
  • “Women are not objects, they have an equally valuable role to play.”

These are very simple messages, but our society does not want to talk about it. Schools as the primary mode of education for our society, have a very important role to play. It is in these schools that children learn the fundamentals about life through objective, rational facts. If schools cannot handle this responsibility then we really have a very serious problem at hand. If we cannot talk about Sex Education to our children, we will need at least a thousand more Nirbhayas to smack us in our face, before we wake up. Just remember that one of those Nirbhayas could be your own daughter or granddaughter as well.