Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Women, glass, ceiling and slippers

So we met, after a long time, women I went to undergrad with. Women who have achieved much, reached far, know a lot of things and people. Senior managers, hedge fund owners, wives of owners, investment bankers, academics, dancers, lawyers, PR and HR partners - we met. To chat, to park our lives at work aside, to eat a bit, drink a little and discuss how things are. At home, with the little ones, the leaving the nest ones and the ones who decided that giving birth was not for them. We talked about schools, nannies as always. And then about work. About coming home at midnight to a child asleep wrapped in a substantial duvet of maternal guilt. The clash between work and life and the nonsense that is the lean in approach.
And the well and truly glued, drilled and wedged in glass ceiling that exists.
The rules for dress and regulations for shoes that exist.
The lack of time and the misplaced family hierarchies.
The gender pay gap and the reality of it.
The male owned and run management boards, committees and groups.
And then I see a post by a colleague and a well respected ex-boss and friend about being senior academic and female in the UK.
Am I disappointed? Yes.
Am I worried? Of course
Am I angry? An angry feminist anyone? Yes.
It's 2017. We can vote, we can marry, we can inherit and adopt. We can drive and study. We can abort and use contraception. We can Be Whatvever We Want to Be.
But, not much has changed. There is a long, long, long way to go. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Idle Chit Chat

So, it was idle chat taking place between two young women of Indian origin at a beauty salon in North West London - both employees of the said salon, well dressed and with heavily Punjabi accented English with minor grammatical errors.

Both from Kurukshetra in India, and they spoke about their enhanced lifestyle in UK and how they could earn as much as they wanted at any time. They could work around the clock and earn a decent wage which matched their energy and effort input. They both had a child at home being looked after by the grandparents, whilst the couple worked hard here to 'change' their children's lives.
Enter smart arse english woman, who came to get her eyebrows tinted, and was asked to take off her eye makeup. Which she did with no questions at that moment. When it came to payment she threw the biggest fuss ever about how her eye makeup had nothing to do with eyebrow tint etc etc. She hurled her complaint at the poor shop assistant who spoke little English and it got worse as she got nervous. The client had managed to get her eyebrows tinted the right shade but demanded her treatment be made free as her instructions were not listened to. The beautician promptly apologised, passed on the complaint email and then rang her boss and got a 10% discount the disgruntled client. The client in the meantime was talking rapidly and loudly about how businesses should not be run by people who cant hear or those who cant understand or speak English or those who dont pay attention to the client - she did rant a fair bit. Apologies and discount later - she calmed down.

After the noisy customer leaves, the two women turn to me and tell me - we could sell that woman in a market in a matter of minutes and she would not know. She does not know how to deal with a hard life, heck, she does not know a hard life. She thinks cooking once in a while and cleaning every now and then makes life hard..well, they both agreed - those bits make life easy and predictable. Trouble and struggle - they discuss, has a whole new level and definition outside of UK.

I nod my agreement.
And wonder how fluency of English is often seen as a barometer of knowledge and confidence and many parts of the world.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Silence is weird

I find it weird to have disappeared from this space as silently as I have done. It is strange to reflect on the prolific writing I had done at some point of time in this space. It is also randomly odd that a message reminding me that I was MIA made me return here. I miss all that I used to read..and also at some level, all that I used to write. It now feels like I am back and the world is just the same, all of you still reading, commenting, trawling through the web, chatting, making connections in your mind and writing good stuff, that remains creative, entertaining and honest. Its like resurfacing from a deep dive, waking up from a long sleep - choose the metaphorical equivalent.

As of now I am limited, to very limited news related reading, the odd link shared on facebook and truck loads of marking. I am back at work with new found respect for all women who maintain careers post baby, and also yet higher respect for single parents of all sorts. Its strange that it all seemed so 'normal' and 'possible' to do that the finest level of exhaustion and despair, are met with a giant dose of self deprecation and critical thought. I just about manage to switch from being mommy - to being an academic and then switching back at 5pm to Mommy. I do meet friends, do talk on skype/phone etc. Do go out, do shop, eat, sleep...but its all done with an element of urgency, with a healthy dose of clock watching and guilt.

Am I managing? - not as well as I thought I would really. This whole palaver of being daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother blah blah is all good on paper - but damn hard to execute. And perhaps being one person at a time is all that one can do well enough to not feel bad about. 

So whilst I be the wiper of nose, the maker of food, the driver to birthday parties, the deliverer of lectures, the writer of (academic) books, I stay away from this space. Perhaps I should update technology and see if I can do this writing/reading/sharing of thoughts more seamlessly from another source.

Just thought this silence is weird.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Of tears and fears

I dont think any of us recall our first day at our very first school. Well really the first time we went at a fixed time, on a fixed day, to a fixed place, where Mommmy was not around. Do we rememeber the tears? Probably not.
Well I did not know how much I cried, if at all. I am told that I skipped off to nursery without looking back because I was seriously bored at home by myself.

So the time comes to get back to work and send 'my precious' to the nursery. After having his company - 9 in and 12 out - it was hard to let go. To let someone else know how to look after my precious, how to soothe him, make him smile and feed him, how to lay him to sleep, how to wipe his nose and when to give him water. It was hard just thinking about it. The time approached for him to be left at the nursery and so I gathered the troops - the husband was booked on leave for the first day at nursery, and who else did I summon - but my mom, yes I needed to hold her hand in mine, while I let go of my other hand and handed over precious to his key worker. The husband and I smoked a sneaky stressed out 'this-is-hard cigarette' and that DID not help at all. We both felt and looked quite helpless and pleased at the lack of tears, but felt a giant punch of emotion at leaving precious in the nursery for a few hours.

There are few, if any, things that a parent would do, that would make their child unhappy and cry..and this is one of them (the other being medicines and vaccinations). And it was hard to say bye, watch his face turn upside down, and leave. The fact that I cried hard and long enough for my contact lenses to actually fall out..did not make things better. Perhaps some day I shall laugh about this. But for now we are trying to settle in and learn to live apart! All this time I worried about precious having a hard time and crying..and I forgot, well honestly, I did not even think/imagine how hard it would be for me as well. But hey I am all grown up and should behave so. WELL!!!

So this grown up, ofcourse turned to her mother and told her, almost enlightened in her approach, that it is hard to let go of a child. And she nodded sagely back at me, smiled and said, 'I know'. And I am well over the 30 mark, and yet I still thinking, ma knows everything!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Women We Become

This is from Maggie O'Farrell's new book - The Hand that First Held Mine. Found it touching. Here is goes.

The Women We Become After Children:
We change shape, we buy low heeled shoes, we cut off long hair. We begin to carry in our bags half-eaten rusks, a small tractor, a shred of beloved fabric, a plastic doll. We lose muscle tone, sleep, reason, perspective. Our hearts begin to live outside our bodies. They breathe, they eat, they crawl and - look! - they walk, they begin to speak to us. We learn that we must sometimes walk an inch at a time, to stop and examine every stick, every stone, every squashed tin along the way. We get used to not getting where we were going. We learn to darn, perhaps cook, to patch the knees of dungarees. We get used to living with a love that suffuses us, suffocates us, blinds us, controls us. We live. We contemplate our bodies, our stretched skin, those threads of silver around our brows, our strangely enlarged feet. We learn to look less in the mirror. We put our dry-clean-only clothes to the back of the wardrobe. Eventually, we throw them away. We school ourselves to stop saying 'shit' and 'damn' and learn to say 'my goodness' and 'heavens above'. We give up smoking, we colour our hair, we search vistas of parks, swimming-pools, libraries, cafes for others of our kind. We know each other by our pushchairs, our sleepless gazes, the beakers we carry. We learn how to cool a fever, ease a cough, the four indicators of meningitis, that one must sometimes push a swing for two hours. We buy biscuit cutters, washable paints, aprons, plastic bowls. We no longer tolerate delayed buses, fighting in the street, smoking in restaurants, sex after midnight, inconsistency, laziness, being cold. We contemplate younger women, as they pass us in the street, with their cigarettes, their makeup, their tight-seamed dresses, their tiny handbags, their smooth, washed hair, and we turn away, we put down our heads, we keep pushing the pram up the hill.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Time does fly. And its been flying superfast for the past few months or so.
I have done nothing much apart from being mommy and doing my best at that. And that I can tell you is a lot of work. this time. I have spent the longest time ever in India in the past 11 years..spent a whole 3 months wallowing in the nothingness at home. enjoying afternoon naps with mommy, eating lovely food with MIL and not missing the husband as he kept dropping by..because he 'missed us' though i think he dropped by because he thought he was 'missing out' on something!

Apart from that..i missed out the cold cold snowy part of London..which somehow i wish i had not..i like the cold. the colder, the better for me. I missed new year coming in and going out. I still dont think of Cameron as PM and the CSR in India recently dawned on me. So I am have missed on feeling of elation, surprise, delight, disgust and indignation.

The boy went to India as a cute baby, got the delhi-belly business and came back thinner, longer and now turned into an ape. tail-less monkey indeed. Impossible is nothing. well he gives this cliched line a proper shot. from copying me by trilling, grabbing what he cant/shouldnt etc. and also discovering his yelling voice. ah. that at 3am! go figure!

I have missed not being at work. I have missed the banter at work and the feeling of not being home, so finding returning home...well something to look forward to and something i liked doing. I miss not wearing smart clothes each morning and walking out of the door. I also miss not being able to get out and about on my own. to not be able to talk and call people when i want. I miss the feeling of being one of the commuters on the train to work, with alarm clock woken eyes, damp hair and a newspaper. I have missed out on the news and dont know much about what happens outside the little world of baby and me. Have stopped playing with my iPhone. Just a lot of things have gone. Life has changed into something beyond recognition.

yet. I have the time to read, slow progress and no book gobbling happening..but yes I do read. I like that.
Yet. I have the time to talk my family, quite often. I like that.
I sometimes have the time to speak to my friends who have not abandoned all hope of my reappearing. i like that.
Some family and friends drop by, invite me to meals, to give me a break. I like that.
I escape to watch the odd film, chat till late night over pizza with friends while baby is with his papa. I like that.
Plans on work in kashmir continue to be made. I like that.

Life has changed. Sometimes the degree of the change gets to me and I am desperate for a breather...and I dont always get one. But imagining a life without my smiley bubba with his 1.5 teeth is not possible. I guess the fact that he shall go into a day care centre sometime soon..keeps me sane. Its all fun being around a baby, but its tiring and you do need a break. Lets hope I am not the one who cries more when i drop him off at the nursery.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Oh boy.
Yes I know I have a little baby and should have little time to do nosing around into things which are not relevant to me or even of any significant interest to me..but is turning out to be a cool guy, called 'Buddha' by my pals and 'chinese Buddha' by those who have noticed his girth, mirth and high raised hands pose while asleep.

So I did get a shock of my life, reading about the various types of mothers who exist, discovered by nosing around the school gate, here is a list (courtesy Mumsnet):

The Queen Bee Mum
The unfeasably glam mum, done up to the nines and whip-thin
The Busybody Mum with too much time on her hands who likes to get everyone's email address and send everyone APBs about cake sales etc
The Keepfit Mum who does the school run in lycra before jogging off over the horizon.
The late mum who lives very near the school but is always rushing in just as the door is shutting.
There's always a Sporty Mum, and there's always Ageing Hippy Mum.
There's always a Popular Mum, who is really nice and smiley and knows everyone.
There's usually Mum of Disruptive Child, who keeps her head down and everyone feels a bit sorry for (but not sorry enough to invite Disruptive Child home to play).
And there's usually a Very Young Mum, and a Very Old Mum.
The mummy who wears sunglasses on her head all year round.
The super-efficient working mum who is always wearing a designer suit, and engrossed in important work on Blackberry until the minute her child comes out of school.
The precious mum who is constantly fussing over her child.
The pushy, competitive mum (loads of those) who enrolls child in every activity possible to give her child the edge.
The 'worn out' mum......fleece and baggy tracksuit bottoms
The 'serial mum'.....a horde of kids,all in different schools/classes

I am Gobsmacked. I am.