Posted in Women & Family

Face Of The Bharathiya Naari

Style or Substance?

I am sick of the so-called feminists who are trying to beautify even acid-attack victims with brush and paint. Why should rich and spoilt chicks continue to represent Indian women.

I downloaded this picture from the Facebook page ‘People’s Archive of Rural India.’

This is a farmer woman from Vellore district in Tamil Nadu. Has any feminist group that makes it its mission to fight just for women’s rights featured a face of this dignity and pride ever. Shame on you ladies!

These are women who do NOT conform to the kind of womanhood you seem to associate with or project – the face of millions who are India’s daughters who will not probably adorn your pages.

Thanks to the archives, I get to see some real and beautiful women of India than the fake plastic ones. Aditi Rao Hyderi, Priyanka Chopra, Neeta Gupta, Sushmita Sen – I never saw/do not see anything common as a Bharathiya Nari, with any of these women. TOTAL DISCONNECT. You are more a feminist in India if you are an unwed mother who will not reveal who fathered your kid or if you have had your nude picture published in the media. Or if you are a bollywood star braving the men in celluloid screens who will make headlines with startling statements and outlandish views. Or if you are a no-substance Page 3 celebrity whose sole credentials could be the socialite parties which you cannot do without. Or if you are in (and out of) live-in relationship(s). Or if you take out banners and placards in Left rallies but would later step into a beauty salon to take care of the ‘tan’ you got with it.

For women to think of themselves at par with men, first you have to come out of this ‘beauty’ obsession. ‘Beauty’ is a relative term. It has to be earned rather than be inherited by gene or cosmetics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I dare the feminists to share a face like I have posted here. So brimming with happiness, contentment, completeness and pride.

The beautiful face of the Bharathiya Naari. #Respect with an R capital.

Posted in Women & Family

The Importance Of Not Letting Cowardice Confine You …

This is a pretty lengthy write-up (not unusual for me) but I feel compelled to post this. Because it PAINS….

I have spent years shuttling between India and Qatar, but mostly based in India as my son went on completing his schooling as well as undergrad course in our hometown Chennai. I had to double up as both mother and father who was permanently outstation. Just how much to control my teenage son as a mother (i grew up in a dominating women’s household) and how much leverage to allow him like his father might in reality was a big dilemma for me. To my knowledge I think I did justice to my dual role. I drew up some balancing parameters that we had to stick to under any and all circumstances. For instance, I disallowed my son, our only child, from riding a motorbike because young guys tend to speed or race in their bikes. I am averse to rash driving and get totally unnerved by the idea even if I myself have driven a two-wheeler. Instead I promised my son to let him drive our car which I thought was comparatively safe.

As a mother and father rolled into one, I have been for my son’s school admissions and university admissions. Mother and son even stood for USIS interview in hot sun for 6 hours! We have done so many things together right from the time I started homeschooling him at the age of 4 years in Malaysia. He went on to learn up to standard 2 at home, with me as his first and most memorable teacher and our first computer’s monitor as his classroom blackboard right from the year 1998-99. Standard 3 back in regular school in Chennai was like KG admission for my boy – schooling had become a new concept to him at 7 years by which time most Indian kids would be pretty well settled in academic school life. A complete misfit in his first couple of years of primary school back home in India, my son however was already reading the latest Harry Potter that was a universal hot-seller.

We weren’t the regular mother-son. In many ways we were the unconventional parent-ward thanks to our enforced solitary existence in Malaysia for 3+ years. Homeschooling changed both our way of thinking. May be that sets us apart from many others in our bracket.

How much ever you may try, you still cannot become a 100% perfect parent just the way your child can never become the 100% perfect son/daughter. In our case, my son blames us for his low sport quotient which I accept as our fault. I could only take him for swimming and music lessons, there were limits to my capacity to function as a father.

THE DEFINING YEARS

The high school and higher secondary years are the real formative years for teenagers in my opinion. Their peers’ circle expands by this time. Any good or bad association is formed at this phase of life that may have nothing to do with the way they were raised in their pre-teens. This age finally determines how the rest of the lives will be for our children. Essential character formation happens. Confidence building time. Trust is earned. Lessons learned. Friendships and relationships made in the late teens remain a lifelong bond. A very influential age in short. This is the time, parents need to keep a close watch on their wards. I have to give credit to my son’s school and his friends who have had a great role to play in shaping him into what he is today. Parents’ role gets limited with age. Peers step in who will have a big say in your children’s future which will have a lasting impact on their lives. The company our kids keep is very important. This company can make or break our kid. Parents can have a dialogue with their children without antagonizing them and without attempting to control outright. Hormones go for a swing not only for our teens, but invariably for us parents too when biological changes like an impending menopause may push us into losing control/temper. Where parents remained cold and unapproachable, the kids I have known have dared to stray. A mother’s job is 24 hours whether she is a full time homemaker or working woman.

Upto 21 years I guess, this tough period lasts for our kids starting from their 13th. Girl children get periods so they are relatively safe with this release. As for boys, it is very difficult to control. A couple of my friends got concerned when their teenage boys would lock themselves up for hours in their rooms not coming out. Real testy time for us parents as we know by this time boys will be on to every vice you can think of: smoking, boozing, girls, drugs, porn stuff – unless of course you instill in them beforehand the moral fear and discipline. This is where good parenting comes in.

On another side there is the burgeoning academics. If Indian kids are least addicted to drugs, booze etc., compared to other parts of the world, i would say it is because of our heavy school syllabus and homework!!! Back to back assignments and test papers. (The flip side in this case is frightening depression in aspiring kids, which I am not going into here).

Wading through these rough waters is not easy. Balancing the tight rope of parenting is an art. I am no expert and I haven’t mothered a dozen kids either, but here are a few life experiences that I would like to share. This is the combined and collective wisdom of mine and my friends.

CHILDREN & TEENS IN MODERN INDIA

Why it is important to know your ward’s friends and their parents and their full peer circle

Once my son and his friends started driving by 18 years, the boys started going out as a gang. They attended co-education school and later university where boys and girls mixed freely. Girls (note: skimpily clad!) came home all the time to our house and my son as well as other boys frequented the girls’ homes. Birthdays and New year and Diwali celebrations were also gala events for them. I got used to girls driving back my son home in the middle of nights after cinema, because I was against him driving in unearthly hours! So the girls would drop him back home safe! They knew I would be staying awake agitated until he returned home.

I also got to know my son’s friends parents. We have attended birthday parties together. We also routinely met each other in school Open days, Sports days, Annual days, Boy scouts camps etc. I practically had everyone’s phone number and address. I knew where the friends’ parents worked, who their siblings were, what class they attended. In fact some of my friends’ parents became our family friends. That’s the beauty of parenthood. Parents of our children invariably become our good friends, sometimes even best friends.

I have had the distinctive opportunity of cooking for my son’s friends on very many occasions over years thanks to my homemaker status. That is one sure way of bonding for lifetime. Boys who eat together hang out together. Their loyalty  is ours.

I also discovered that the girls who were my sons friends were very smart, extremely intelligent, brainy and totally independent. Indeed that did not surprise me. They are this generation. The best thing about them was, they also groomed well, dressed well unlike ours that was a little hesitant in these matters. Boys and girls sitting packed in a single sofa brushing each other, patting each other became normal thing for us. We parents learned to accept the inevitable that education will one day lead to such an equality between men and women in every sphere. Indian women are well accomplished and are on equal footing as their male counterparts today. In a traditionally conservative society however, this sometimes leads to ripples.  I am personal witness to watching my son as well as his friends develop enormous respect for the fairer sex who they’re gallant enough to admit, were better than them in every conceivable way! Mostly, the male mindset is like this in India. Our media unfortunately chooses to focus on the negligible bad apples with an agenda and also for TRP .

I am for allowing our kids a free rein after establishing certain limits with mutual consent. Both parents and wards have to respect these boundaries. The best parents do not teach or reprimand their children; they inspire and lead by example. At the same time, when you say ‘NO’, mean ‘NO’ firmly and finally. Any dillydallying and weaknesses can make our kids get their way with us against our intuitive warnings. If you want to refuse permission to your son/daughter for a picnic or outing for valid reasons, do not yield to emotional blackmail. Stay unwavering and do not give in to temper tantrums. Always ask your child to account the pocket money. Yes, you can spy on their phones and laptops. You are the parent remember. A PARENT CAN NEVER BECOME A FRIEND. A PARENT WILL BE PARENT TO SON/DAUGHTER FOR LIFETIME. Do not believe in the bullshit that you can become your son/daughter’s friend. Do not compromise on your kids academic scores. Stay alert for any change in their mood swings and body language.

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But I agree generally and basically, all our children are sweet and smart. Sometimes, we parents come to learn a lesson or two from our children.

One day my son took out our car  by 6 pm in the evening, to go for group studies in his friend’s place. It was showering lightly and I asked him to return before 11 pm. I had his dinner ready in the table by 8. Then it started pouring cats and dogs as the monsoon unleashed its full fury for next 2 hours without a let-up. I ran to our balcony and noticed that the water level was starting to rise in my street. By this time, there was knee level water and draining had almost come to a stop. Just then the power was switched off by the department as with alarm I watched the water rise to hip level below my window.

I rang my son asking him to stay indoors in his friend’s place whose parents were also abroad. No need to come home in the rains as parking was impossible. Even steering into my street was not possible. The boys said they were hungry and they had had nothing. I said, nothing would happen to them if they went to bed on empty stomach for a night.

I called up my husband abroad and he in turn rang up the boys and advised them the same. I was restless that night – call it a mother’s instinct. Its almost like a premonition.

I used to rise by 3.45 always then. By 5 am my son was back and I was surprised that I did not hear the car parking sound. When I opened the door to the ringing bell, he calmly walked in and sat me in the living. Then he said in a very reassuring tone, ‘Ma, first of all, let me tell you this. I am fine, I am not hurt, I am healthy and have not suffered any injury. Neither did my friend. Both us are 100% okay’ . As my eyebrows creased in concern, he stopped me from asking questions and continued. “I did not obey your words, took out the car with my friend in midnight after the rains stopped because we were hungry and we wanted to eat out. Power was out completely and I rammed the car into a road roller parked haphazardly. There were warning signs in the middle of the road but they were invisible in the pitch dark with power out. It was a major accident and our airbags burst open and saved our lives.’

By this time I was completely shaken and started crying. I started fussing over my baby when he said, ‘we called our other friends rather than calling you in those midnight hours. The car had stalled. We pushed it into a by-lane out of view of traffic where it is quiet. There is no sign of accident in the road now. The road roller driver was already driving it out of spot a few minute before. No damage to the road roller either which belonged to city corporation. Not even a scratch but our car has suffered a heavy damage.’

Our car was only one year old then, but it was least of my concern. I broke down but I immediately thanked God for sparing my son’s life and also that of his friend’s. The friend’s life was also then my son’s responsibility. I had tossed and turned the entire night not sleeping well. Insurance matters could wait. I thought of calling my husband for whom it was 3 am then. Then decided against it. My son had just taught me a lesson: of how not to alarm or panic people. I fixed him a hot chocolate and calmed myself down. I decided to call the insurance people first.’

By the time I called my husband, it was 6 am his local time. I decided to adopt my son’s strategy of breaking the news calm and cool.

My husband told me this in equal calm, ‘first things first. Make sure, our son and his friend have no internal injury.. Ask them to visit a doctor. Secondly DO NOT REPRIMAND or correct our son. He did the expected thing for his age. Do not blame him for insurance loss or for car damage or for reckless driving or irresponsibility. We all learn from mistakes. This is a lesson he will not forget in his life. Do not say a word that might crush his confidence or make him feel guilty. Thirdly follow up with insurance/police. Verify and keep all the relevant documents like driver’s licence, etc ready. Follow up and by God’s grace we can afford the damages not covered by insurance.

However, the shock of the accident stayed with us for days. It took a month for my son to take back to his wheels. With a great difficulty I tried avoiding uttering a single negative word to him or his friend. They were only 18 then. I did not get to see the car but my insurance agent who inspected it personally said the damage was heavy on the front.

Being young, the boys bounced back in no time because we parents took it all in light spirit. I decided however to bring up the matter again to my son a few months after. I drew his attention to the financial loss but stressed, he mattered to us more than the car. And he for his part understood, why parents are always right and why parents have this instinct about their children always.

This incident is not only an eye opener for my son, but also for me as to how to handle things. How to be in control of yourselves always. The manner in which the gang of boys decided to break the news to me still impresses me. How gently I was told about it, the positive things first, the negative things finally. Their entire gang turned out in the middle of the night to the accident site with no parent having any knowledge about the accident. They decided to hand-push the car to safety and under a tree that covered it with branches after they physically force-opened the car doors with machines to rescue my trapped son and his friend. They left no tell tale sign in the road that returned to normalcy soon as they moved the car. Such a self-assured cool attitude really bowled me over. Then the boys method of seeking a practical solution to the situation… without inviting attention… without complicating matters… where did they even learn this maturity. They had even considered the insurance claims, police complaint everything. The insurers re-drafted their claim in the absence of evidence and paid only 60% of damages. The other parties were city corporation who allowed parking of road roller in the street middle (there were signboards that did not help), the electricity board department who switched off power who were impossible to deal with.

So often we underestimate our children. They deserve better treatment. Three of my son’s friends also lost their fathers in their early 50s due to sudden massive heart attacks in the next couple of years. The boys have taken the harshest blows. They handled pressure extremely well and are already adults.

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HEART TO HEART

Make no bones about what is expected of your kid. Spell it out in concrete terms what you want in and what you want out.

In his undergrad years, I would tell my son this: ‘if you want to smoke, smoke at home in my presence. I don’t want to know of it through a third party. But remember, it is addictive and in future, you will have to spend a part of your hard earned money on cigarettes even if you are not bothered about your health.’ Being this generation, the boys need not have to be told of the ill-effects of smoking.

Same advice about boozing. I only tell my son that it is not good to even try often the things that can become addictive by nature. First it will be a weekly beer. Then it might become a daily habit. Alcoholics are born this way. Health is secondary. Time and finance and family peace are the first and major casualties.

Dealing openly in these matters can preempt any plans our boys may have about smoking/boozing. It kills their golden goose called ‘thrill!’ They will hate us for this, but will be grateful one day in future!

As for love affairs, I make it straight. ‘Only a Hindu girl’ I tell my son, ‘I just cannot accept a christian girl or muslim girl for my daughter-in-law. Do not have ideas that if you live in America, you can change my mind!!!’ Also I tell him, if he is not ready to marry a girl, it is not good to have a fling with her. Unless and until you can afford to run your own family, these things can wait.’

My friends have similar frank conversations with their daughters. My friends make it clear to their daughters that in our Indian/Hindu culture, a girl is expected to stay chaste until her marriage. We can be progressive by all means without compromising on our native culture and morality/ethics. Most times, this honestly helps. Especially if your kid is to study/reside/work abroad or even in a different town/city within India, reiterate the Indian values a thousand times and every time you converse with him/her. Once your kid, always your kid even if you may be 60 or 70 and he/she is 30 or 40.

Through every crisis in life, it is also very important for us parents to instill courage in our children over anything. We should not turn them into cowards over-protecting them. We can let them reach far, still holding the leash in our hands. Dissuade and discourage gently if you have to, never forcefully. Encourage and prod, wherever you must. Be there when your ward slips/falters. This is one time you must NEVER criticize. Never compare either with siblings or peers. Every kid’s pace of maturity is different.

Taking the crowded town bus and sweating it out with masses under hot tropical Indian sun are essential life conditioning processes our children have to undergo. No point in cushioning them and softening the blows for them. Let our children face their own demons, but let us be there for them for moral support  should need there be. In today’s man-eat-mat world, it is important for your son and daughter to be raised STREET SMART because this is basic survival skill.

Many ask me, how it is possible for me to let my only child (he is an adult now) live abroad. It was not my decision, it was his. One day when he was 20 years my son said he wanted to go to the United States for his higher studies. I laid down only one condition: that he had to earn it by merit. If he could secure with his grades a good university admission that we could approve of, then we would be ready to foot his expenses. We never helped him in any other way. He did everything on his own – my role now was limited to swiping my card.

A girl who was with my son in school topped the Carnegie Melon university in US with a gold medal. One  boy in Bangalore is a start-up wizard. One was handpicked by Microsoft to work in their Seattle office. One is with MGM working around the world. One is a sailor in a merchant vessel. One sells bikes in Chennai taking over his father’s business. My friend’s daughter was one of the 10 participants to be selected by Google for their Innovators conference. She is a hacking queen. She traveled to and fro America on a fully sponsored trip. Another spent a month in Canadian cold in January braving -30 c temperature where she was on an assignment for the bank she works for.

THE GOOD TOUCH-BAD TOUCH LOGIC

‘How it is always the woman’s fault.’

Is it possible to lock up girls anymore in this 21st century. One Pollachi and already I am rained with advices to stop blogging. That I blog controversial. That I need to think twice before I post something in social media. I am 50 for god’s sake and no man can be having ideas about me at this stage of life. Yet, as some friends insist, ‘women are women!!’

About Pollachi, a friend asserts, the caste rigidity complicates matters there. Families are extremely conservative even if forward when it comes to girls’ education or employment. Family honour means more to the southern districts of Tamil Nad. Daughters can be either pride or shame – only one of the two.  This explains the reluctance of the women victims from reporting sex crimes to the law enforcement agencies.

You switch on any tv channel and there are 24 hours sermons as to how ‘girls invite this to themselves.’ So much so that even my husband is asking me to stay safe !!! Mother-in-law asking me not to post pictures in social media as if I am a teenager waiting to be kidnapped! The kind of panic mode that has set in is alarming. Instead of stopping the criminals and rapists from committing further crimes, our society is asking us women to play it safe, avoid late night outings, clubs, bars, dress ‘decent’ and do away with drawing inadvertent attention to ourselves!

Schools in India, teach KG girls of 3 years how to distinguish between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch.’ My friends’ daughters grew up this way – being taught not to allow the school bus driver to touch them, to watch out for dirty uncles and cousins and neighbours. Do our schools ever teach our boys about how to ‘touch good’ and ‘not touch bad.’ 

You are asking our sisters and daughters and mothers and nieces and aunts to stay safe and play it safe. How many of us ask our brothers and sons and fathers and nephews and uncles to make it a safe world for women.

One Pollachi cannot be a reason for us to restrain our daughters and lock them behind doors. One ‘Nirbhaya’ (of the Delhi gang rape case) cannot put our daughters always on backfoot. This is so cowardly. Asking your daughter to carry pepperspray to protect herself (which is wise i don’t deny) but doing nothing to rein in the criminal who is out to offend/hurt her. Tweak our laws Govt of India – make ‘rape’ a non-bailable criminal offence which carries death for maximum sentence.

A friend said, it is also important not to victim-shame girls who have been through the worst. We as humans, have to rise above that. What a thought! Refreshing to come across this in Whatsapp: What a wonderful write-up.

CRIMES HAPPEN EVERYWHERE. 

Where is not crime in this world. I think of the Austrian girl impregnated by her own father in a dungeon-basement for years who finally escaped to freedom. Child pregnancies are too very common in America. We know the story in Afghanistan/Arab world. South American women are worst abused with drugs and initiated into prostitution. Tribes in Africa mutilate women’s genitals for fertility. Some are classified as crimes, some have societies’ sanction that’s the difference. Many a time, it is trusted family members and closest kin/friends who abuse women. If women do not report, this is most likely the case. Only in India we have caste/community prejudice clouding these issues. Naming and shaming criminals is not allowed to happen which encourages wrong elements. Questions to be asked are never asked. Fingers to be pointed are never pointed.

THE HORRIBLE TAMIL CINEMA LOGIC OF A VICTIM MARRYING HER RAPIST TO SAVE HER HONOUR.

Is marriage the only salvation for a woman?

I am sick of Tamil films that show the rape victims marrying their rapists. This is what our masses are fed or brainwashed with. I can recall at least two films from 1980s – my teens. Today, Kamal Hasan is into politics. To be specific, I recall his picture ‘Sagalakala Vallavan.’ Kamal’s sister in the film gets raped (why the rape scene at all. what a perverse mind would film a rape scene even in celluloid). He gets her married to the villain-rapist who finally he reforms. Visu shot to fame producing/directing family dramas. In one of his films, he shows actress Jayashree marrying/accepting as her husband Pandiyan who forcefully ties the Mangal Sutra in her neck. Is marriage only about Mangal sutra?  Visu later went on to become a popular tv personality debating social issues. Vijaykanth is another actor-turned politician from Tamil Nadu. In his film ‘Amman kovil kizhakkale’ he forcefully ties the knot around heroine Radha’s neck and makes him his wife publicly against her wishes. Radha is advised – like Visu film’s Jayashree – to accept the man and live with him and ‘reform’ .  Vijay is another upcoming actor-turned politician. You can see him stalk girls until they would fall in love with him in many of his pictures – same with Dhanush (who mercifully has so far kept out of politics). Most Tamil heroes in our pictures do not leave girls in peace shadowing them everywhere. The richest girls are shown to fall for the scummiest slum boys which never happens in real life.

One thing that completely belies me is that, how when so much is happening in your daughter’s life, a parent especially the mother can remain totally ignorant about it, completely blind to what nightmare the child is going through. You can’t pick up anything from her body language? Mood swings? What kind of mother you are.

Social media is a double edged weapon. You can use it to your benefit or to your detriment. And I trust our girls are literate enough to make an intelligent choice. Nothing happens without our consent at some level. Even in Nirbhaya’s case, I was shocked at the naivety of the young couple taking a lift from total strangers. I am not asking parents to keep your daughters at home sun down. But just talk some sense into your daughters. How to stay wise. I refuse to use the word safe. This is just commonsense. Always letting a third party know about our whereabouts is a smart thing to do.

Finally I wouldn’t want to condemn the entire male species to being nasty and dirty (that they are anyway) – because in my life personally, I have come across only the best men. May be that’s a blessing. I have been under the protective wings of my father, uncles and I have a loving family. Men in my family wouldn’t hurt a fly. They respect women a lot. Of course they are today’s men at the same time. I have said this before, i am repeating it now. When I complained that I had to take a midnight taxi to airport for my 4.30 am flight, my husband said, then if I wanted to feel safe, I should be ready to leave home by 8 pm and reach airport before 10. No concession because I am a woman.

Let us women steel ourselves – that is our first line of defence. Never ignore your intuition/natural instinct, this is your best guard, heed to it.  And when a crime still does take place, let us REPORT it. It will go a long way in stopping the crime from reoccurring. Let us be each other’s support system. Let us celebrate boldness and bravery and not find an excuse to prop up any cowardice in us. Let us take care of ourselves.

Boys or girls, they are our children. Boys are equally vulnerable. Let us be parents who our children can trust and confide in, than someone who they may fear. Love and affection and respect and trust and confidence our children repose in us will keep them in good stead. Last but not the least, avoid ugly scenes like bickering/arguing in front of your kids. Children feel safe and secure when parents make a happy home.

 

Posted in Women & Family

Why India does not celebrate the International Women’s Day

I am the daughter of a working mother who taught the deaf and dumb high school girls (they were still called that then, not referred to as the speech and hearing impaired), earning her living as a bold and fiercely independent woman since 1964. Yes, half a century before, my mother was a teacher who was trained to teach special kids. She passed away in service, working until the last day of her life. I am enjoying the fruits of my mother’s sweat and labour by way of investments to the present as she secured our lives the best she could when she was around. This woman I hardly knew. She is kind of a stranger to me now, yet she is one woman who can bring me to tears right this moment even as I blog away about her. I cannot pass through her school 36-37 years after she left, without breaking down. That is her powerful presence that shadows me forever. She is there with me when she is not there. What I love most about my mom is that, she made her own decisions. She shopped, she went to cinemas and plays, visited temples, enjoyed good music and food and books (Tamil) and lived it up. She was also a smart investor. My mother was clearly ahead of her times. She missed only one thing: looking after her own health. A big lesson for my generation women here. Women tend to neglect their health, but its a huge, huge mistake. Family suffers for this lack of foresight. Women must take their health rather seriously because they are the backbone of their families. Their indisposition may have a cascading effect on our entire systems – for worse. My Women’s Day message is always for women to take better care of themselves first. The short life of my mother that was rich in every other way is a reminder to me as I pledge to eat right, exercise and stay healthy as long as I can.

Women who can manage their homes well only can shoulder further responsibilities at national level.

Our External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj became the first woman minister to speak as Guest of Honour from India at OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) summit this week. Sushmaji went on to quote from sacred Hindu texts the Vedas and Shri Vivekananda, the world renowned Hindu saint who attended the Chicago World Parliament of Religions over a century before.

Hindu women remain the most underestimated ladies in the world because we don’t give up our traditions and customs, and we refuse to get anglicized/westernized or ‘arabised.’ Clothes or accessories or  your English language prowess have nothing to do with who you are. Strong and bold women from India emphasize this naked truth every time they are on world stage. Thank you ministers, you did India proud! India is your responsibility – this 1.3 billion nation. Our PM Shri Narendra Modiji cannot have better ambassadors.

“If women are gifts, then the sari is the best gift wrap”

Indian women abroad are also representatives of the Hindu Dharma outside India. Indian culture is something that must never be compromised. Wear your heritage and pedigree proudly on your sleeve. Do not succumb to the temptation of becoming a cheap duplicate of the West or Middle East. We are Indians, we are the Hindus, and we are what we are.

This is how women are described in ancient Sanskrit scripture. The Shloka was penned thousands of years before when women did not work outside their homes.

  • Karyeshu Dasi: dutiful like a servant
  • Karaneshu Mantri : gives intelligent advice like a minister
  • Bhojeshu Mata: feeds like a mother (in this context, feeds her husband the same way his mother would have fed him)
  • Shayaneshu Ramba : Pleases in bed like the heavenly beauty Rambha (celestial courtesan in Hindy mythology)
  • Roopeshu Lakshmi : Beautiful like Goddess Lakshmi (beautiful and bountiful like the very Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi – lucky omen for her husband)
  • Kshmayeshu Dharitri : Having patience and forbearance like Earth
  • Shat dharma yuktah: woman who has these six virtues
  • Kula dharma Patni : woman married into the Kula (family) (Kula is a family tree/clan; each Hindu is born with a Kula and Gotra which was why conversion was impossible. Only in recent years, Hindu Dharma sees voluntary conversions in large numbers from around the world) (the family tree grows with the woman becoming part of a specific Kula once she marries into the circle)

Feminists may disagree. My kind of feminism is not that of the placard holders. My idea of feminism is practical. Building a happy home, raising a responsible family (our children, future citizens of the nation) are more of a woman’s responsibility, the way I see it. For the simple reason, I don’t trust men for the role except in very extraordinary circumstances. Women continue to get pregnant when men don’t. Courts still give custody of children to mother over father on priority, in divorce proceedings. I wouldn’t want to deny my biological factor which shapes me the way I am. Men and women and equal in some ways and different in others. In the name of feminism, no woman can still take off her shirt in public and parade topless even in America. Being feminine today earns you the label ‘sexist.’ Being Tomboy has come to mean ‘feminist’. This is such a wrong and ill-conceived notion. Where I come from, women are an intriguing mix of everything. Indian women at least, are an enigma. Why should we fit into stereotypes.

In India, Navrathri – the 9 day Hindu festival that culminates in the 10th day Dushshera-Vijayadashami, is women-centric. Hindu Goddesses constitute equal and 50% of their male counterparts in our culture. I am a She Worshiper as much. An all-male God is unthinkable for a Hindu. The International Women’s Day makes no sense to us. It is for those who deny women equal rights. India has had a woman Prime Minister for 17 long years in the past: the charismatic Indira Gandhi, the woman who led India to a crucial war against Pakistan in 1971, who took on the likes of the then US President Nixon and Henry Kissinger bravely and defended the nation from foreign aggression.

Who says we have patriarchy in India. They cannot be more wrong. No society can be more matriarchal in reality than India.

Yesterday was still a time to recap little things from grassroots. Of how my friend who went to work in scooter in 1994 some 40 km up and down during her pregnancy – until she had her normal delivery. Roads then were potholed and a week before she went into labour, she even met with an accident and fell off her two-wheeler. Miraculously neither the mother nor the unborn daughter of hers got hurt.  An other friend is a single parent who has raised her son amid hardship, who is excelling in his chosen field of study today. She is an innocent divorcee, from her son’s second year and a working mother who never remarried. Another one is a widow but is always on road to earn her living. She tended to her husband who was ailing for years with ‘cerebral atrophy.’ My friends are made of steel. My aunt who served as a teacher too for a whopping 35 years, has had a double mastectomy – yes she is a cancer survivor. She has also had a double knee replacement surgery. She is a fountain of inspiration when it comes to women’s health – and in fact used to counsel breast cancer patients.

My bosom buddy from school was paralyzed head to foot thanks to JBS (a syndrome that affects our nervous system) virus for 4 years, soon after her delivery when her bodily defences were low. She not only recovered fully with physiotherapy, she continues to light our way as a beacon of hope by leading a normal life like any of us today, a good 15 years after she was afflicted and confined to bed.

Every woman has a story to tell. Every woman has a story she can relate to. A woman i know takes care of her mentally and physically retarded son from birth. The boy is now 7 years. The infinite patience and love of this young mother will break your heart. Another elegant septuagenarian lady, my friend’s mother, raised her younger daughter who was born with Down’s syndrome. She is a retired school teacher who tours the world with her 35 year old childish daughter in toe always. Together the mother and daughter have a whale of a good time. The daughter can take care of herself, a rarity given her condition. The mother trained her in personal hygiene through grueling years. Only a woman can be this, can do this. The half-child daughter of hers is in her fertile years. She leads a physically normal life without help which is a feat.

I doubt how many men have this kind of patience, tolerance, love, affection. Women are gifted by nature with these incomparable qualities. It is easy to tag some of us as ‘housewives’ who do nothing productive. Is it. I have always believed we women, and more so we housewives, function as catacomb binding and securing the family together under one roof. Our rewards are not financial. We get paid by way of quality life for our family.

Indian women are extremely strong and made of sterner stuff. There is substance to our women, not mere exterior sheen. Let us raise a toast to our womanhood – I see my Devis (Goddesses) in my friends, in my mother-in-law, in my nieces and cousins, in my sister, in my aunts. They are the living goddesses who enrich my life. I do not know of others. As far as I am concerned, I can gel well only with women friends of mine. Making male friends is still difficult for me, and is probably too late. With my women, I can be myself. With men – even if their intentions may be good – I have to be formal, i have to even watch my clothes. I am comfortable in women’s company. I cherish my women friends and feel blessed they are part of my life.

My friends do not frequent beauty salon. They do not hide their age. They take care of their elders. They have raised beautiful families they are proud of. In this hour, I wish to remember my two friends who have not lived to see this day. They both passed away due to cancer two years back. The girls who attended same class with me. One sat next to me for 2 years in standard 11 and 12 at school. She ran her own school for autistic children and was an exponent of classical Carnatic music. She was also a double PhD in teaching children with special needs.

My women are doctors, engineers, directors of companies, accountants, fitness instructors, teachers, journalists, lawyers and of course housewives. India teems with brilliant womenfolk. Our Chennai-born Indra Nooyi was world Pepsico boss. Indian born and Indian origin astronauts have flown into space. Women drive trains in my country. I have been flown twice to Doha by women pilots in an Indian airline. Sky is our limit. Literally.

We are proud of the outgoing Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi who has asserted in many interviews worldwide, how she is a mother at home to her daughters, wife to her husband and daughter to her mother.

Today is also the day to remember our housemaids, women nurses, janitors, farmhands, tailors, factory workers, bus drivers, women masons, cooks, street hawkers, vegetable, fruit and flower vendors, sales girls, receptionists, clerks, beauticians, women in armed forces, actors, etc., who make our life more comfortable. There is dignity in labour.  If not for these sisters of ours, rest of us cannot be having it this easy.

And finally everyone of us is a worthy woman in her own right. We may be singles/spinsters, lesbians, widows, divorcees, childless – but we are complete by ourselves. Lord Shiva is also called the ‘Ardhanaari’ because He absorbed Shakthi as His other Half. In Tamil we say, ‘Shivam illayel Shakthi Illai, Shakthi Illaiyel Shivam Illai’ – it means ‘There is no Shiva without Shakthi, and no Shakthi without Shiva.’ I beg to differ even in that. Shakthi is wholesome on Her own. If Shiva can complement her, fine. Bonus.

This year we school girls are celebrating our golden jubilee – all of us girls are 50. Most of us have also celebrated in last few years our silver wedding anniversaries. We look forward to bat to 75 not out at least! That’s our spirit as we work out, practise Yoga, eat healthy, go on all-girls tours without spouse/family, party yet philosophize (are we that age already?!) and generally stay healthy and happy! We shop till we drop and we drink up on life! Kudos to womanhood! The Feminine.

Posted in Women & Family

Definition Of Rape In Different Countries

Recently there was this media report that claimed, consensual sex between a 11 year old girl child and an adult male (in this case a man in his 30s) was deemed to be perfectly legal in a Scandinavian country. Girls as young as 12 or 13 can marry adult men and bear their children in certain states of the United States, as per law.

Shift the scene to India: A boy and a girl (whether under 18 or over 18 years is immaterial) fall in love. Boy refuses to marry the girl but has consensual sex with the girl before they fall out. Under IPC the Indian Penal Code, the man can be held for rape by way of cheating. This is Indian law. This is how Indian constitution defines rape (partly at least).

Suppose the boy and girl do get married albeit without parental permission from the girl’s side. The girl’s parents can still file a criminal case of abduction against the boy with the law enforcement agencies and get the boy booked for kidnap and rape (!)  so this is India, where law is on the women’s side mostly and the onus of proving innocence always rests on the Indian male. Parents of girls who do not approve of their daughters’ choice of boys have been known to exploit this legal provision to rein in their rebel daughters.

And if a girl must end her life, God forbid, leaving a note that her lover broke her heart abetting her suicide refusing to marry her, then he is finished. Chapter closed.

If a woman commits suicide before the seventh year completion of her marriage, then again not only her husband but his entire family can be remanded for non bailable criminal offence, pending RTO inquiry. 

Marital rape is another common crime as per law in India which can get a man behind bars. Also statistically counted as rape.

So this is how the crime of ‘Rape’ is defined in India. Any man who refuses to marry the girl he may be courting is automatically vulnerable to legal suits and harassment and rape charges in India. Asian values, no more word.

I wonder what those who argue for women’s rights and equality for women have to say on that.

India counts these cases as Rape statistics and these figure in a big way in sum total crimes committed against women in the country. In a nation where parental approval is still viewed as a must, and a majority until today opt for arranged marriages, imagine the power some disgruntled parents may exercise upon young men they disapprove of for their daughters.

Girls as young as 10, 11 and 12 have been becoming mothers in America. I am not only talking of black or mexican girls. I am talking of the so-called literate caucasian girls as well. The US boasts of one of highest number of teen pregnancies and marriages in the world despite their advanced economic status unlike a third world country like India.

Whereas marriage under 18 years is deemed illegal in every district of India and the husband/man who enters one with/without legal sanction is dubbed rapist by Indian law and media. Consummation of marriage with an underage girl below 18 years constitutes statutory rape.

This is one of the reasons for high rate of rape statistics reported from India.

Where is the scope for rape when law permits pre-teen girls to have sex with adult men in Scandinavian countries. Where is the scope for rape in Europe or America where girl children lose their virginity before they turn 12 or 13. How can you even compare these countries with India where most of the girls remain chaste until they marry even in this 21st century. And by the way, chastity is not only a girl’s prerogative in India, it is also as much a boy’s. If you think the west will understand this, you are doomed. Yet divorce stats in India is poor and almost negligible compared to the west. Why. Which countries record maximum broken homes?

Who defines parameters for what is permissible, what is emancipation, what is development, what is decent, what is individual’s right to anything. Who defines women’s rights and equality.

Most of these so-called developed nations also have legalized prostitution, same sex marriage, euthanasia, single parenthood using partner/unknown donor’s sperm/egg (even if he/she may be alive no more), marijuana etc none of which is legal in India. Every town and city in India too has a red light area, but this is strictly illegal business. Another reason for high incident of rapes in India.

Rape of foreign women tourists is a very common crime in coastal Italy. Under reported, naturally.

When elite America can legally permit a 12 year old girl to go ahead with pregnancy and become a mother, when Norway or Sweden can look at sex between a 12 year girl with an adult man as consensual and legal, what right these nations have to prescribe what defines rape. Who are these men sitting on a high pedestal thinking they are the most civilized and liberal people in the world when much of what they are practising is scum. Nude beaches and orgies are the norm of these societies that frown upon arranged marriages in the other side of the world. If consensus is what is meant by equal rights for women, then a 6 year old girl child too can be coaxed with an ice cream into sex. Sometimes the word called ‘pedophilia’ loses its meaning or relevance. World’s worst pedophiles or the child sex offenders are Europeans and Americans who prey on Thai and Filipino and Vietnamese and Sri Lankan and other Asian girls by way of child sex tourism. Europe and America also record the highest number in statistics when it comes pedophiles/pedophilia. What a nerve to advocate to others on social/economic issues. Very soon these nations will be legalizing even pedophilia , with their human rights activists proclaiming that it is every little girl’s legal right to sex and that oppressing it equals suppression of women’s rights. Women’s Lib and feminism is all about this for these sick people!

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/welcome-to-the-child-sex-capital-of-europe-1.339827

How many stories do we come by on perverted European pedophile predators in CNN or BBC. How many on male rapes in UK that is chart busting.

It is more important for these first world nations to be politically correct than morally or ethically which is not the case with India.

Seriously, every culture, every society goes by its own norms and customs. In India, we have a 10,000 year civilization. We need none to advise us on how we have to take care of our women.

The US or UN or Europe cannot be the ultimate authority in defining what is what. What is rape to us Indians is fine for these countries. If we have to measure rape in these countries the way we take stock in India, there won’t be any male left to walk on their streets.

Even so, the total number of reported rapes in India/US (recent statistics) (copy paste job from a source) (note: India’s head count is 1.3 billion whereas US population is less than one third of ours)

HARD DATA (no perception): 
Total number of rapes in the US – 84,767;
in India – 22,172

Are CNN and BBC reporting each and every rape case with its gory detail as Indian media is projecting without a care in the world? What is Indian media upto? Simple: Indian media (both print and visual) is mostly owned by the foreign church, funded by America and Europe. Defiling India is yet another way of brandishing Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) they would like to dismantle from the Indian soil.

One way of giving them back is for the Indian government to build a strong Indian broadcasting station on the lines of Al Jazeera, that is now a name to be reckoned with.

Propaganda has to be fought with propaganda.

Such a vibrant and strong and powerful Indian media must routinely beam the crime stories of America and Europe with all the dirty deeds exposed round the clock.

Brit girls are the toast of grooming gangs of Pakistan men in UK. White meat. So what could Britain do about it. How many reports in mainstream global media on the sensitive issue that could undermine the future of the British children. Aahhh, meanwhile our BBC guys are busy shooting the slums in India and scourging the Indian media for latest rape cases reported from Delhi to sensationalize their news bulletins.

An overwhelming majority of Indian men are decent – and you cannot judge my nation by a handful of the rapists publicized by your dirty media, understood? I have no respect for western culture either where women copulate (cohabit?) with any number of men and vise versa and bring children irresponsibly into this world who turn to drugs and low life. Is this the case of India. Just come and see Indian families. How much we love our culture and traditions and how we lavish love on our family. Materialism alone is not the meaning or end of life. Individual rights and freedom are not suppressed in India by/for our women, rather SACRIFICED in the interests of the family. It is never I, mine. It is always us, ours.

I and a majority of us Indian women cannot even wear jeans for a whole 24 hours. I  worship my Desi God, not the imported Gods from Israel or Arabia. 800 million Hindu Indians live the way I do. Are we fools. When I cannot even accept your God or your food or your clothes or your music or your way of life, how will I accept your set (double) standards about anything and everything. I stand by my native Hindu culture. To hell with others opinions and judgments!

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Note: The purpose of this blog post is not to play down the crime of rape in India. It is to point out how biased and mischievous world media is who seem to have a vendetta against India. Not even Shariah countries where swift justice is awarded for rape by way of death sentence are clean and free of rapes entirely. Crimes happen everywhere.

Posted in Women & Family

Health Watch For Girls & Guys Under 35

Recently someone conceived through IVF (which is as normal these days as normal conception whereas normal conception is now like a miracle for urban Indian couples by the way) and the first thing her gynaec asked her to do was to stay away from restaurant and processed food, insisting on home food and fruits and nuts. In fact, the girl was asked to stop eating out right away when she approached a fertility clinic after being married for a couple of years. Until then the girl had been practically eating out almost every weekend. Working for a multinational IT company made matters worse with coffee machines and carbonated drinks and potato chips and fast food available aplenty to the staff working at all odd hours round the clock – sleeping through day time and keeping awake entire night going against the biological clock. How do you expect these stressed young couples always panicking about deadlines they have to meet in work – to engage in any act of procreation. They drop dead in their bed the moment they arrive home. The lucky ones have parents or in-laws to take care of their homes. For the rest, it is restaurant take-aways or home delivery for dinner.

No wonder not just this girl but many in Chennai today, women under 35, happen to come up with polycystic ovaries or fibroid in their uterus. This is the direct implication of foods loaded with chemical preservatives served in restaurants: with artificial colours and synthetic flavours. Reheated oil is not new. How many meat eaters are aware, even the top-of-the-line restaurants may procure poultry/meat mostly frozen that are shortly about to expire their shelf life. The day the restaurants serve you the menu, the meat you may consume already could be beyond the date of expiry, but the restaurants still tend to get away because they are violating no law of the land. Frozen food fast approaching expiry date are sold by supermarkets at throwaway prices which are bulk-purchased by restaurants. Now take into account the steroids injected into the poultry along with vaccines… If at all you have to have meat, look for country chicken or mutton.

Rather than wanting to be young, we ladies who are 40 or 45+ today are relieved we had a narrow escape living this kind of precarious life in our 20s and 30s.

Admittedly even vegetables and fruits and greens today contain residual pesticides/sprays but hopefully a good rinse in running water or Indian way of cooking at very high temperatures in direct fire helps in warding off most of the harmful chemicals.

Today if our children are fine, it is because we parents ate healthy food when we were young. We preserved our bodies and kept out toxic substances that could have had a damaging effect on the physical and mental health of our children.

What a harm the Pizzas and Colas and KFC chicken are inflicting on young Indians. Already in last few years there is a big spurt in children born with learning disabilities and other impairments. A good percentage of kids born after the millennium especially after 2005 are at least mildly autistic. With the air and ground water polluted to the maximum, what is happening to India’s future generations?

Whereas today, for younger generation, it is fashionable to eat out at the latest trendy restaurant – never thinking of future implications. It is not a one-off dining experience. It is year round, for every weekend, for decades. What happens with the cumulative effect.

Already we have pumped too many vaccines into our kids – that they have as such only a 50-50 chance for natural conception, the understated side-effect of life-saving vaccinations. Not to speak of the perils from radiation emitted from gadgets like mobile phones and laptops and appliances including microwave ovens… 

The wrong kind of health and food supplements promoted in this country is further worrisome. Energy drinks are nothing but steroid and sugar 200 times over. Soya, the much touted super food, is GM (Genetically Modified) basically that can have a detrimental effect on the hormones of young men and women. Under 40 while you are in your productive years, it is not advisable to consume soya on a regular basis. It could make one go sterile.

Its true India has made remarkable strides in last 20 years, but often makes me wonder at what cost? Our men are dying of cardiac arrest at the age of 25 and 27 years and our women are reaching their menopause by even 29 these days.

The side-effects are felt like after-shocks after a mere 20 year since the opening up of the Indian economy.

What is making us forego our balanced, rich and diversified traditional food and opt for junk from the west? Is that affordability?

Recently I got my hair treated for severe hair loss. For the first time in my life I stepped into a unisex salon where the hair stylists gave me multiple options including going for straightening but out of the lot, I selected Keratin because it was stated to be organic, from Brazil. I am uncertain how far this is true but the word ‘organic’ worked for me. Not that keratin is helping in anyway. But after research I found that it is believably a better option than other chemical treatments. (On double-checking it is scary to note that any kind of hair treatment involves administering carcinogen in your scalp even if the names of chemical compounds may differ.)

Next to me I saw young girls tweaking, colouring their hair with chemical dyes (even if its Loreal it is still chemical). One was undergoing straightening. She said it was her second time and she could not have been over 20. I understand, the process involves a lot of chemical use, with the strong serums rubbed into your scalp to be absorbed by your skin cells. What a toxic thing to expose your body to, at such a tender age. I shuddered – even at 48, I was nervous about hair treatment. I am still wondering about the side-effects although I was assured mine was totally organic. Is it worth it. What if like Angelina Jolie, we are carriers of BRCA gene predisposed to cancer?

What about the long term effects on young girls subjecting themselves to such an unhealthy (formaldehyde) treatment?

What about the girls who undergo facial? Got my first at the age of 36. Upto 35 years never been into a beauty salon. Yes, we girls are old world plain Janes and we have poorest dressing sense and we are terrible in grooming and accessorizing, but it is also a fact that we the ladies on wrong side of 40s are much more fitter and looking a lot younger to heavily made-up and cosmetic-dripping 20-35 girls of today. Our faces have not matured beyond our age. One main reason is staying away from chemical cosmetics and relying heavily on coconut oil, henna, egg, haldi, sandalwood, neem etc that are our cheap and best and natural beauty aids. The other reason is our healthy dietary habits. And even if some of us do not get to work out on regular basis, we still undergo physical exertion by way of domestic chores, always on our feet to serve our families. No word to add for working women.

Girls, throw the ‘Dove’ soap out of your windows. Along with the shampoo and conditioner. Lipsticks have lead content while dyes contain arsenic or its equivalent substitute. Go desi, switch over to Margo, Chandrika, Himalaya and/or even Pathanjali brand neem soaps, sandal soaps, haldi soaps etc that are not only desi but come laden with least toxic chemicals. The more international you may go like Loreal and Pantene, the most toxic substance is what you end up buying. Desi cosmetics like Lakme are known safe players. Go for Lakme Kajal and skin care, if at all you have to. Do not use anti-ageing concoctions even if its Olay: these are very complex formula, remember they are very addictive and your skin could get even more elastic if you stop using them.

And if you can, wear loose fitting clothes that can breathe – like cotton if you are in a tropical country like India. Tight fitting clothes such as denim restrict blood flow to vital organs of our body and raise our body temperature.

It angers me to see mothers get their daughters as young as 6-10 years for haircut and grooming for weddings, birthday parties etc. Well, none of my friends did that to their daughters! Do not use anything other than a mild moisturizer in your face until 35 years. Even that light application, do not start before 20 years. Coconut oil before you shower will do.

Our health is in our own hands. Distracting little girls diverting their attention towards grooming will prove to be counter-productive. In an age when the girls have to achieve academically, they will instead start focusing on trivial, banal issues. They will grow up more conscious of superficial appeal.

Eating out and grooming: attractive to everyone not mere young ladies. Just ask housewives, how much we long to go out and eat and shop because we are bored of eating our own food day in and day out? It is not entirely possible to stop eating out – but make a conscious effort to cut down the number of times you may eat out.

Make a serious attempt to eat at home during weekends and shift the eating-out day to mid week for starters. Gradually it must be possible for you to minimise if not quit eating out even in midweek.

Eat a rich diet of vegetables, fruits, greens, nuts, sprouts, whole grains, pulses, millet and fish and lean meat that are a good source of minerals, proteins and anti-oxidants. Avoid the processed and baked and the deep-fried. Would you believe that we in the third world nation called India,still eat a lot better and balanced and healthier meal than those in the west? Our milk is fresh and pasteurized for not longer than 2 days. Most of our fish and meat are fresh and not frozen. Our vegetables and fruits plucked are barely a few days older before they reach our dining table. In reality, we are having a feast at home, fit for kings. Sadly, not many Indians reckon this truth. None in the world gets to taste the 5 rasas in their tongue like we Indians do: salt, sweet, sour, bitter and savoury. And which other cuisine combines and infuses the benefits of a plethora spices and seeds and exotic veggies and roots like ours does.

As for cosmetics, just quit it. Enough is enough. I am more worried about the powerful chemicals that may enter our body through hair dyes, face creams, shampoos etc. Shampoos: go for the mildest and desi.

Even those of us with cleanest habits still get cancer. I am not saying this is a 100% foolproof method of staying healthy for the rest of your life. But at least let us make a sincere try.

Recently got to check out Pathanjali toothpaste : full lavang (clove) like I have never tasted in any foreign brand toothpaste like Colgate, Closeup, etc. Many of my friends have moved over to Pathanjali.

There is no harm in parents telling their sons and daughters the harmful effects of junk food and chemical cosmetics. It is time we have a frank word with our children: it is time girls learn how anything and everything they do in young age will have an effect on their reproductive system in future. I don’t hesitate telling my son what I have to on the subject.

After 40, when your domestic duties are at least 50% accomplished, you may feel free to freak out, but even then keep a limit. By this time, your kids will be in high school or college, still you will be doing them a great favour by staying healthy.

And finally, WORK OUT! Exercise! Do anything that you are comfortable with: walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics, dance fitness, Yoga, Pilates, etc. This truly is the only beauty aid that cleanses your system from within. Keep your body and mind healthy reading books and with other interesting hobbies like music and art. Fitness is wholesome when you give it a holistic approach.

Last word: A happy mind is a healthy mind. A healthy body and mind is a reflection of your inner beauty.

Posted in Women & Family

Five Sixers And One Dot Ball…

Recently two Indian American kids hogged the limelight in social media for winning the annual Spelling Bee contest in the United States.  A regular phenomenon now that’s no more a surprise. After all, this is the 9th consecutive year an Indian origin kid has claimed the prestigious title in America, one more feather to our cap, given that we are increasingly acknowledged now as a nation of human potential over anything. Gone are the days when foreigners conjured up images of snake-charmers and elephants whenever and wherever the name ‘India’ cropped up. It is undeniably an exhilarating feeling that the NRIs in the Middle-East may as well concede. The global Indian has arrived. It started with the IT boom in the ’90s and as India started churning out record number of physicians, scientists, engineers and techies to service around the world and we became the world’s largest ever back-office even as China became the universal shopping front for swiss knives to cell phones.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/nri/us-canada-news/Two-Indian-Americans-joint-winners-of-US-Spelling-Bee-championship/articleshow/52470573.cms

So it is no coincidence that Chennai-born Sundar Pichai is heading Google or Indira Krishnamurthy Nooyi chairs the world Pepsico. Or that Satya Nadella of Microsoft is from Andhra Pradesh.

The Indian footprint is there even in outerspace – from the moon to Mars.

Successful Indians have raised the bar for rest of us mere mortals to follow suit, especially the younger generation. Only resources are shrinking faster than ever before and the rat race is killing already.

As accolades for the young wizards of Spelling bee poured in at both international and desi media, there was finally a kind of oasis like sanity amid the blare of all the pomp – which read like the most sensible thing I laid my hands on in quite sometime. Basking for too long in the glory of Nadellas and Pitchais, the latest updates on Spelling Bee had bored me down with its insipidity and stale content until there was this break that came as a breather (though probably from over an year before):

http://www.indiawest.com/letters_to_editor/the-problem-with-indian-kids-winning-spelling-bees/article_ffff7a3a-1518-11e5-bfc5-ffcd73e827d3.html

Follows on the heels of Abhishek Bachchan trolled not long ago in Twitter ‘(Five sixers and One dot ball’)  (the dot ball referring to him obviously) in the awards ceremony of the recently concluded World Cup T20 Cricket, for sharing the stage with stalwarts like his father Amitabh and Sachin Tendulkar, the doyen of Indian cricket. Now, why should Abhishek turn out to be as successful or as exactly as his superstar dad? The two men grew up in entirely different set of circumstances, so the environment that shaped them must have had a marked difference. Bachchan junior won my sympathy for the unrealistic expectation the nation pinned on him, trying to cast him in the same mold as his father. Very unfair comparison and cruel to an extent. Let him be him. Just him. Why are we Indians obsessed with the father-son succession story? Fathers may leave impressive footprints that sons may sometimes willingly follow, but why should the younger men have to travel the same journey as their illustrious fathers.

Not that I am a fan of Abhishek or his ilk including the Kapoors. The junior Bachchan is equally to blame for the embarrassing episode, for taking his undue place in a stage that did not befit him.

Still, extrapolating the single Bachchan story, it is easy to generalize the prevailing panorama in the Indian diaspora. Indian parents are pushing their kids beyond a decent boundary ‘to go and get’ and the strain is showing.

The unabated suicides at Kota, Rajastan of IIT aspirants among young Indians is a trigger for this post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/06/01/life-and-death-in-kota_n_10232456.html

There is not a month that goes by without a fresh suicide story from the otherwise nondescript dusty town in the desert state of India that shot to its fame with its ‘distinguished feat’ of creating record number of IIT entrants. The heart-wrenching suicide notes penned by promising young talents to their over-ambitious parents underscores the insensitivity of us parents. The case of a young girl ending her life on clearing the IIT-JEE part I, qualifying for the advanced, raises troubling questions. There is a huge emotional cost to pay here.

But Kota hardly surprises me.  Witness to equally grueling round-the-clock rigours of IIT coaching centers in Ongole, the head quarters of Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh where children from the surrounding villages and towns got enrolled for months and at times years bidding to crack the IIT-JEE, the very arduous exercise of trying to tackle the entrance in a dogged manner would make me think. Coming from a city like Chennai, I least expected a laidback ‘taluk’ like Ongole to boast of IIT calibre children, and by this I mean no disrespect to rural communities. To my utter surprise and shock, not only was Andhra teeming with IIT aspirants, their success rate was also much over and above what you may generally expect to see in urban metros like Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai.  The key to the puzzle lay in the grind the teenagers were subject to. The preparation was not scientific as it was laborious; it was more like kind of systematic, a foolproof method by which you just couldn’t go wrong.

A mother myself of a young man who is pursuing his higher studies, I am painfully aware of the stress the younger generation are subject to, at a very early stage in their lives compared to how we ourselves fared in the same age. The shocking statistic of over 15-20 fresh engineering graduates from his class sporting a receding hairline highlights certain socio-physical factors that desperately seek our attention, the primary reason being environmental degradation and resultant poisoning and pollution of our soil, air and water; the  other equally important cause is the accumulated stress. The pressure starts right from high school. But hair-loss is hardly something we need to worry about when we have more pressing issues on hand: more than 3-4 boys had elevated blood pressure levels and type-2 diabetes when they had to undertake medicals in their final year, when they’re hardly 21 years old. It is this vital observation that upsets the cart, a clear pointer to the health of our nation. What kind of young India is in the making?

If we dig deeper, pressure for Indian kids starts right by 3 years. Indian school curriculum is heavy right from the start and it is not a surprise that by the age of 5 years in primary school, our kids can not only read and write full sentences in English language along with doing some basic arithmetic like addition and subtraction, they are also ready to learn a second language and move on to writing answers to printed questions in exam halls. The second languages are invariably local tongues such as Tamil etc which are tougher to master with advanced grammars. From standard 6 joins the third language as per the 3-language formula. Some say, this is the reason Indian kids perform well in foreign universities. The grueling exercise prepares them the best to stay ahead of many of their peers from around the world.

Most kids do adapt to the syllabus to various degrees, but there is also a handsome percentage in each class who cannot keep up. It is precisely this mass that is left behind in the rat-race that grows increasingly restless . There are now Montessories and IB schools that are steadily gaining popularity in Chennai and other cities. Although expensive, for those who can afford them the schools open a new vista of knowledge and holistic learning with a motivating curriculum. ‘Special children’ cannot be having it any better.

IIT may be worth it for those kids that have the aptitude. If children have the potential, there is no reason to stop them from applying the same to their advantage. But if kids show a lesser inclination to academics, it is unwise to put them through run-of-the-mill tech courses where 100% employment is still not feasible. The kids feel miserable and even depressed at times.

Where is the time to pursue hobbies like art or music these days for our children? It is only IPL that has saved cricket in India. Otherwise you won’t be seeing so many boys out there in the hot sun playing street cricket. IPL is a money spinner, a game-changer, so when I was talking to a kid he said, he did not want to play for Team India but said he wanted to pursue his dream of a stint in IPL! It is enough if you reach up to first division, you will be in for reckoning for IPL teams. Other than that, interest is waning in sports and other extra-curricular activities in Indian children. After standard 9, all other avenues are closed to them forever.

The news that the Swiss were voting for a fixed income as per government provisions came as a pleasant surprise last week. Even if the citizens voted down the referendum, it is laudable that the state wanted to spare their countrymen the drudgery of structured occupation so that they would be able to devote more of their time, energy and resources in passionate, creative pursuits of what really make for a happy humanity. After all, ancient man only hunted for his basic needs although later on, he went on to make his life as well as that of his community more comfortable. Human civilization did not dictate work-life as a mandatory doctrine for ages and centuries that rolled by. This present 9-5 routine is a very recent evolutionary phase. Homo Sapiens are the only species on earth that have to ‘work’ in order to make a living.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/Money-for-nothing-Swiss-vote-on-basic-income-for-all/articleshow/52603391.cms

What a refreshing perspective of life. If all us are going to have to become physicians, engineers and astronauts, who will do the masonry, carpentry, hospitality, nursing, teaching, tailoring, accounting, why even scavenging works for us? How can we still hope to run the show???

To every Indian parent who relentlessly pushes his/her kid to perfection, I would like to ask, ‘why didn’t you do it yourself???!!!’

 

 

Posted in Women & Family

A Ready Reference Handbook For Every Family

This International Woman’s Day Cultivate Awareness Ladies! Because Ignorance Is NOT Bliss!!

On Women’s Day March 8th, this is what I want every Indian woman to know: where exactly she stands and what is the corresponding status of her family in case of any unforeseen eventuality/emergency crisis. Well, I am not talking about something we are all totally unaware of. In fact, quite a few of us must have put into practice something like what I am going to suggest herein. I am blogging this piece for those who have not yet been as thoughtful.

So this is a winding post, I must caution but I hope it is worth a quick browsing.

An expat Indian worker died in service with his currency balances locked into foreign bank accounts in Middle East. That was when his wife (and the rest of us) came to know, there are no nomination facilities in this part of the world. The balance (that was substantial) in her spouse’s account stood to be frozen and later transferred to a welfare fund (that keeps swelling owing to many such an unfortunate and untimely death). The couple did not share a joint account and the lady did not know the card details of her husband either. The sudden demise of the head of the family dealt them a twin blow: emotional as well as financial.  Overnight the family found themselves at the mercy of others, having been denied access to what rightfully belonged to them. With school going children and the woman being a housewife, it couldn’t have gotten worse.

This is an eye-opener for all of us out there. A woman/mother/wife/daughter needs to know what is going on with the man of her life. I would suggest, it is imperative for even the children getting to know what is the family position.

The following is a check-list I am trying to make up. It is better if both spouses share all issues among themselves. They say, making hard copy and maintaining one is risky. I guess, it is a must to have a hardcopy, like a summary of all our savings and investments. Such a physical evidence can be taken care of personally the way we handle our passports and IDs for instance with diligent care.

Make a hard copy like a Diary with following entries (even if you have gone green completely) for the sake of your beloved ones. Who knows when it should come in handy (God forbid). Educate your younger children on the relevance and drop a hint where in the event of any unforeseen accident or health issues, they could find help in financial matters. If the children are over 18, include them in family discussions. Let them get the complete picture, it is high time.

A HANDBOOK  OF REFERENCE FOR MAINTENANCE OF FAMILY RECORDS/ACCOUNTS 

INDEX I

What the Hard Copy of Handwritten Diaries and Back-up of Soft Copies like saved Mails/Hard Discs/Pen Drives must contain:

  1. Make a list of all your bank accounts: SB (savings bank), NRI (non resident Indian), RD (recurring deposit), FD (fixed deposit) etc. Include the Account name, Number, Bank address, Debit/Credit card number, PIN, the 3 digit CVV code, the Internet Banking User ID, Password, Transaction Password, Registered Mobile No., Registered Mail ID, Phone Banking Code, Phone banking password. Update the Relationship Manager’s phone number everytime for quick access. This will enable your family to operate your account in distress situations when they could be facing crunch of funds.
  2. Make sure your register NOMINATIONS for all your bank accounts. In India, one can still go for Legal Heir Certificate and Succession Certificate,  even if it is mandatory to register nominations in the first place. Update your nominations when your relationship status changes. That is, when you marry, you may update the legal nominee as your spouse and the second nominee as your kid (minor or major) etc. For each bank account you make a list of, add the nominee names in the diary.
  3. PF (provident fund) accounts have to have nominations. Make sure you share the PF account and nomination details with your family through the diary.
  4. Make a list of your other liquid assets such as Shares in Equity Markets, Mutual Funds, Bonds etc. This is no more possible in physical form. Share your Demat account details with passwords in the diary you keep. Update password everytime you change it.
  5. Make a list of your Immovable Properties/Real Estate investments. List them one by one as per order of value and importance. Let each entry include, a detailed description of the property as to whether it is a parcel of land/plot or house/flat with complete address. Include the distinctive property ID, the date of registration, the address of the registrar’s office, the Patta No., the registered document no., the latest EC (encumbrance certificate no.) and in which spouse name it is registered.
  6. Make a list of your Life Insurance policies. Update it on every premium subscription. Let the recordings include the date of maturity and premium amount. Include riders if any on the policies like Critical Illness apart from death benefit. This is very important. Now that we pay premiums online, add the User ID to log in to the insurers’ website with password. Save the premium receipts online either in mail boxes or in your computer. If you are in touch with your agent, include his/her phone number.
  7. Do not forget to file nominations for each and every of your life insurance policies.
  8. Make a list of the Health Insurance policies of the family members with renewal dates and amount covered. Most urban Indians hold cashless Medical insurance policies in which case, let the health cards be kept at an easily accessible and retrievable place of safety. Let the children know about the cards. Do not forget to renew health insurance every year when it is due. It could come handy if any of us should suffer a sudden heart attack or stroke or accident or such misfortune or mishap. However young the kids could be, they must be educated about the health policies and must be told about the health insurance cards for cashless and spot hospitalization. As health policies are also payable online, save the relevant mails in separate e-folders.
  9. Let your children know your health conditions: whether you suffer from lifestyle diseases such as Blood Pressure, Diabetes or Cholesterol or heart condition etc.  Write down your prescription medicines and dosages clearly mentioning at what intervals they must be taken. Please include details of drugs allergic to you. A short gist of previous history can also be included. Give the name of your doctor/hospital/consultant with address and phone number.
  10. Make a list of Vaccination histories thoroughly for each family member and update each new vaccine administered.
  11. Libel Suits if any also have to be brought to the attention of your children. Please do not leave any ugly surprise for them. Give details of your attorney and make a gist of the pending cases.
  12. Make a list of your Vehicles with their Insurances (with renewal date), RC book, Road tax details. Note down the phone number of your Car/Bike insurance agent and office.
  13. Make a page for jotting down all of your Driving Licence numbers – be it for bike or car. Add the renewal dates.
  14. Create a page for details of your PAN (Permanent Assessment Number) cards (for all adults in the family over the age of 21 years).
  15. Note down the details of your Ration (PDS) cards with zone number, serial number, issuing office, circle.
  16. It is now important to list even our Aadhar cards with distinctive individual ID numbers.
  17. Both spouses must be able to operate all Bank Lockers (the contents of which could be hinted to your children if they are minor). Ask your kid to sign for joint bank locker operation the day he/she turns 18. Take your adult children to banks and demonstrate to them the locker procedure. Introduction to ATM can be by pre-teen years.  Maintain a record of your annual visits for reference even if you sign in the bank register.
  18. Make a list of Bank Locker contents briefly.
  19. A page mentioning the Bank Locker numbers is important. Let your know children where the bank locker keys are in safe-keeping at home.
  20. If you have a Will registered, let your legal heirs know of its existence. If there is no animosity/conflict of interests in the family, I see no reason to keep it hidden. Let them know where to find the will (whether it is safekept in bank locker or at home).
  21. Make a gist of Property Taxes paid. What corporation circle, zone. What is the property ID. Tax amount, paid upto which date. Update Corporation official phone number if possible. Now that the taxes are paid online, add the Login ID applicable for the corporation website with password for easy access. Make sure to save the paid receipts in e-folders either in your mail box or in computer or both.
  22. Make a list of Water taxes, Sewage taxes paid with details of corporation zone/circle and property ID. Add the Internet Login ID with password. Save the electronic receipts.
  23. A Jewelry list is a must. If you hold the purchases receipt, please note down the value of your gold/diamond ornaments. The jewelry list can include diamond, gold, silver, other precious stones and any other valuable ornament piece/articles.
  24. Do you have a House insurance. Share the details in case of theft, fire etc.
  25. Any debtors/creditors the family must know about
  26. Details of Pension policies with or without death benefits with maturity details. Remember to record your nomination for the policies.
  27. School/University certificates – date of registration/graduation, serial number, issuing authority etc.
  28. Work details like original Appointment letters, letters of appreciation and other service records
  29. Antique collections of any value with description
  30. Passport details updated periodically
  31. Have you delegated Power to anyone and registered the same? Details of Power vested in who, when, valid upto when must be entered. Are you standing in as POA (power of attorney) for anyone. Details please.
  32. LPG details with Consumer No., LPG agent number and contact phone and address
  33. Loan details. Housing loan/car loan EMIs, names of the banks/lenders, tenure of the loan(s), pre-closure if any, part-payment made etc.
  34. Land line phones/Mobile phones – connection/user name details.
  35. And awww, as a typical NRI on and off for last few years I have omitted including filing of your Income Tax Returns!!!  Most important of all in India! Make an entry everytime with brief particulars.
  36. Any Fines/Penalties paid? Make a list.

It is wise to prepare both soft copies and hard copies of the important particulars and mail them to your spouse/children IN GOOD FAITH. Hopefully we all are blessed with sweet kids not wayward ones. Trust is the main factor. If there is a trust deficit in the family, kindly do not share. Instead, details can be listed in the diary and the existence of the diary could be confided to someone trustworthy – with information of finding it where should any emergency arise.

Children need not be revealed the complete details either. It is sufficient if they are told about the diary and where to find it in times of sudden crisis.  Sons and daughters over 18 must be shown the book/diary/record and given a soft copy of their own.

Don’t take the secrets to your grave leaving your family stranded.  Weaving one’s way through legal tangles is a messy and long drawn-out affair. A drain of our time and energy. Rather than bereaving for the departed, the legal heirs could be cursing the spirits for making it hard for them!

Make 1 or 2 hard copy diaries and store them in your Godrej almirah or any other steel safe in the house which is fire-resistant.  Lock up one in your bank locker. Let your kids and spouse know about it.

Send the soft copy to your family members and ask them to save it with password protection. The same can also be stored in hard disc/pen drives out of reach of others who are not family.

************************************

The Financial Security of a family lies principally in mutual and trustworthy sharing of information and proper planning.

*************************************

INDEX II

What should you put away in Bank Lockers:

  1. We Indians mostly reserve bank lockers for stashing gold/diamond jewelry. Now that property values have appreciated to sky levels in our cities, it is prudent to use the lockers first for safe-keeping your legal documents. If you can afford bigger size lockers, get them to put away safety the property files in proper order. File each property document neatly in individual labelled folder with brief description detailed on the front fly. This will make it easier for the legal heirs to retrieve papers, if it comes to that. Use different folders for each property. Let every folder include the original registered document with all other originals like the Patta and EC.
  2. All original Life Insurance and Health Insurance policies
  3. Original Pension policies and PF originals
  4. FD originals (if any) but these are mostly soft copies only now
  5. Any other legal paper pertaining to pending court cases
  6. Original School/University certificates
  7. Original Employment certificates
  8. Original car RC book, life time tax receipt etc. Make sure to change/update this folder every time you switch your car/bike.
  9. Any other original bank documents /share certificates etc if any
  10. Loan documents if any – property or car (original signed) with original receipts for pre-closures/part-payments
  11. Original POA if you are representing legally anyone and attested copies in case you have issued POA to any party
  12. One hardcopy of handwritten diary with the afore mentioned paritculars neat and legible as listed in Index I
  13. Finally if there is space remaining in your lockers, you may use it for stashing jewelry that you seldom wear!

Make a habit of recording physically your daily expenses if you have not so far. Let it be in Excel sheet if that’s how you may want it. 

An Excel sheet, by the way, is a precise and scientific method of maintaining family records like real estate holdings and bank account details.

INDEX III

What you must have at home in Steel Safe:

  1. Copies of all the above mentioned documents/papers you put into Bank Lockers. Just like in bank lockers, make a file folder for each entry separately. The only difference should be that, the bank lockers contain the originals whereas the steel safe at home has the photocopies. In short, copies of all listings under Index II.
  2. Bank locker keys in a distinctive pouch that the children must know about with numbers of the lockers clearly earmarked
  3. Minimal jewelry
  4. Taxes paid if any. Online taxes are applicable only in last 7-8 years. If you have any hardcopies from the past, put them away in bank lockers and store at home their photocopies. For property/water/sewage taxes paid – store the print-outs if you take one. I don’t.
  5. Original passports with multiple copies
  6. Original Ration cards with good number of photo copies
  7. Original Aadhar cards with good number of photo copies
  8. Copies of School/University certificates
  9. Copies of Employment certificates
  10. Old Salary certificates
  11. Copies of loan documents
  12. Copies of POA issued/standing in for
  13. Original Health Insurances Policies and Cashless Medical Insurance Cards
  14. Vaccination Records original
  15. Other Health/Medical records like previous histories/hospitalization 
  16. Original Driving Licences with good number of photo copies
  17. Copies of RC book of your car/bike and Life Road Tax paid
  18. Original car/bike insurance with third party cover plus some copies
  19. Passport size photos of all family members – multiple copies
  20. Original LPG booklet with copies, and one or two latest LPG refill receipts if possible
  21. Vacation ownership holdings – with copies
  22. Warranties of electronics, kitchen equipment, furniture etc
  23. Land line/Mobile phone connection Customer ID number/details
  24. Satellite tv subscription details
  25. AMC contract details for Water Purifier, Air Conditioner, Pest Control etc
  26. Lift Insurance/AMC details (if applicable)
  27. Maintenance charges records (in case of apartment residents)
  28. Club subscriptions
  29. Details of School/College fees paid with original receipts
  30. Any other substantial payment made/remittance received
  31. Original receipts of Fines/Penalties paid
  32. Rental receipts
  33. Original Agreements with copies made
  34. Income Tax Returns filed
  35. One hard copy of handwritten diary of all the listed items under Index I

It is better to file the details in separate individual folders with flaps briefing on the contents for ready reference and easy access. I prefer this method to huge box office files.

The keys to your steel safe must be kept in place known to your spouse and children but at the same time inaccessible to house maids/drivers/repairs persons/frequent visitors/relatives and guests.

Workings wives MUST share details with their husbands and housewives do have a right to know what the family stands to lose if faced with emergency crisis. I don’t see why children over 18 years should be excluded from sharing family particulars either. Under-aged minors can be briefed and told about the diary and precocious ones can be let into the ‘inner circle.’

Finally it is all for the family. Not many Indians are aware that an Indian male can leave more than one direct legal heir: his wife, his children and his mother. Bitter family disputes have since made the government and our banks strictly enforce the nomination facility. Unfortunately quite a few Indian men are in the habit of keeping their women in the dark when it comes to their economic standing.

Women’s Empowerment?

Ladies, you have every right to get the correct picture of your financial standings. If you have been kept away from these very important and necessary family details, demand to know of them. Educate your children and bring in an awareness. Maintain meticulous, systematic records in chronological order. Your future generations will thank you!

CAUTION FOR NRIs. 

How many of you are aware that nomination facilities are unavailable in some countries like in Middle-East for instance. Please repatriate your savings to mother country in that case for your own sake and the sake of your family, leaving a safe margin for comfortable living in the host country where you are a temporary guest (as employee). Share all account details with Internet Login ID, ATM password etc with your spouse and grown-up children.

Keep your loan commitments to the minimum even if foreign banks offer you attractive lendings at very reasonable rates of interests. Remember these are constraining traps which can prevent you from leaving the port of your employment at your will anytime you wish.

May there never arise an emergency situation in your life! But it is better to stay prepared in case of any eventuality, is it not.

How many diaries to make:

One for the Bank Locker, One for the Steel Safe at Home and One for handy reference that you can tuck into wardrobe for instance – for easy retrieval. It may be prudent to include even your e-mail IDs and passwords. But please take care that the sensitive records stay out the eyes and reach of any/all outsiders other than family members. Minors like under-aged kids can be hinted about the diary whereas the adults must have 100% awareness.

Soft copies to be password protected and saved in mail boxes in registered E-mail IDs or in Computer/Hard Discs/Pen Drives. Preserve them the way you take care of your physical IDs and Passports. Stay alert.

Before writing this up, I did reflect on the sensitivity of the information we could be sharing in diaries/soft copies. Is it worth the risk. I guess it is, because online transfers are safer with OTP (one time password)s generated with every single transaction in your registered mobile number. Still it will be prudent to exercise due caution and keep the material out of reach of anyone other than trusted intimate family members.