A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for January, 2012

Chapter 12 of my life.

Posted by Pepper on January 30, 2012

It’s late at night. I sit on my bed, listening to dreamy Hindi songs on my laptop. I see Mint next to me, working on his laptop. We exchange smiles and kisses every once in a while. Melodic notes from ‘Roja‘ fill the air. I look at my surrounding. The room is messy. We lie here, undisturbed by the disorderliness. This is the home we have built, far away in a world that belongs just to us. We are the sole rulers of this place. I look around once more. The familiarity of my surrounding is comforting.

And yet, we are going to abandon this world that we govern. Soon, we are going to move out of this house we so lovingly built. We are going to move out of this city that felt just like home. We are going to move out of this country that I have grown to love. And that, is the toughest decision we have made so far. We are moving back to India. It’s time I said it here. I thought if I didn’t put it on my blog now, I never will.

It’s been a hard choice. One that we chewed over for a long, long time. It would have been a lot simpler had I not loved this place the way I do. India is a country that I have started fearing. The lack of law and order frustrates me. The corruption makes me feel hopeless.  The everyday difficulties, the lack of efficiency, the sexist mindsets, the rigid views, the exploitative work culture, the recurring hardships, the lack of safety, the interference, it all made me question myself a million times. Do I really want to go back to that place? I love my life here, it is easy and hassle free. To give up this smooth and carefree life and jump into the chaos requires a strong gut.

The questioning made me feel uneasy. I did not want to confront my emotions, but it had to be done. As much as I love my life here, I knew I couldn’t be here forever. Ultimately, I knew I had to return to my family. I couldn’t be gone for good. It is sad that I have now started fearing my own country. The chaos and the lack of order that I once considered to be a very normal part of my life, now agitates me a lot more than it ever did. Maybe because living out of my country has been a reality check. Living in India had made me too immune to the negativity there. I now know how good it can get. This exposure to the good has made me less tolerant of the ugly realities that are a part of everyday India. On second thoughts, maybe that is a good thing. Maybe that will give me the added motivation to do my bit for my own country. Once I go back, I know I will resist the bad, instead of accepting it the way I did earlier. Maybe that will bring about some positive changes.

I don’t want to sound noble. My motive for moving back is not patriotic. I am only moving back to be close to my family. The physical distance is something I could not deal with. And I realised, the longer I stay, the harder it will be to go back. Just a few years away and the thought of returning to my country fills me with fright. I can only imagine how much more difficult the transition would be if I waited longer. The pain of leaving this place was inevitable. The sooner I get through with it, the better.

To say I am scared would be an understatement. Especially because moving back to India was not Mint’s preferred option. He is only doing it because that is what makes me happy. He has been away for too many years now. I worry about him. I worry he will find it too hard to get used to the Indian way of life. I am worried about the easy access my in laws will have to our lives. I am worried I will find it too hard to deal with the insanity that is India. I am scared and worried, yes, but more than that, I am excited.

I knew I would go back home someday. The someday is now in sight. It is less than 2 months away. The prospects excite me. India has a lot of positives. I can feel the thrill. The 2 BFFS had tears of joy when I told them. The sister has been counting days. My parents are ecstatic. A lot of action and excitement awaits us. Big changes lie ahead. And as usual, I am going to come back to this page to chronicle my journey and my experiences. All of you, please send us your good wishes, and say yay!

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Posted in Slices of life | 145 Comments »

You DON’T have to appreciate her!

Posted by Pepper on January 29, 2012

Have you seen this doing the rounds on the internet? I received it as a forward a long time ago. After sometime, I saw it on Facebook. Both the times, I tried hard not to react violently. I see the intent is good. But the underlying message that this piece conveys is dangerous. I have pasted the article in parts. You can read my frustration in between the lines. See the FB page here.

 Tomorrow you may get a working woman, but you should marry her with these facts as well…

Here is a girl, who is as much educated as you are ;
Who is earning almost as much as you do ;

One, who has dreams and aspirations just as
you have because she is as human as you are ;

One, who has never entered the kitchen in her life just like you or your
Sister haven’t, as she was busy in studies and competing in a system
that gives no special concession to girls for their culinary achievements.

One, who has lived and loved her parents & brothers & sisters, almost as much as you do for 20-25 years of her life ;

Having dreams, aspirations, having a career, competing in a ruthless system, these are attributes found in most humans. It’s a given. Agreeing to marry a girl who is just like you is no favour. I do not understand the “You should marry her with these facts as well..” part.

One, who has bravely agreed to leave behind all that, her home, people who love her, to adopt your home, your family, your ways and even your family ,name

Please! Stop already. Do not expect a girl to leave behind her home and the people who love her. Why does marrying you translate to her giving up the people who are a part of her life? Are you giving up on your parents and family just because you married her? She should adopt your home and family, but you shouldn’t adopt hers? She is expected to change her name, but you get to keep yours? Why?

One, who is somehow expected to be a master-chef from day #1, while you sleep oblivious to her predicament in her new circumstances, environment and that kitchen

Don’t! Don’t expect her to be a master-chef. Are you one? And if you sleep while she struggles in the kitchen to prepare a meal that will please you and your family, you are nothing but cruel. Get up! Cook with her. There is nothing that she can do and you can’t. If you both have to be present for a 9 am meeting in your respective offices, why do you think you have a right to sleep through the morning chores and she doesn’t? Does the Y chromosome come with a special privilege than I am not aware of?

One, who is expected to make the tea, first thing in the morning and cook food at the end of the day, even if she is as tired as you are, maybe more,

God. Why, why, why? Why do you expect her to hand you your tea and your meals at the end of a long day? Especially if you know she could be more tired than you are? So you, as a man, have all right to get back from work and throw yourself on the couch, while she takes her tired self to the kitchen to prepare you a meal?

and yet never ever expected to complain ;

Oh, I forgot. We’re talking about super humans.

to be a servant, a cook, a mother,a wife, even if she doesn’t want to ; and is learning just like you are as to what you want from her ; and is clumsy and sloppy at times and knows that you won’t like it if she is too demanding, or if she learns faster than you.

Wait. Now you expect her to have no demands, but you also expect her to ensure she never defeats you? She has to make sure she can’t learn as fast or faster than you? What else?

One, who has her own set of friends, and that includes boys and even men at her workplace too, those, who she knows from school days and yet is willing to put all that on the back-burners to avoid your irrational jealousy, unnecessary competition and your inherent insecurities.

She isn’t willing to put all that on the back burner. She has only conditioned her mind to believe she has no choice. You expect her to give up her family. If that is not enough, you expect her to give up her friends too? Oh, I forgot. How is it your fault if you are so irrationally jealous, so unnecessarily competitive and so inherently insecure?

Yes, she can drink and dance just as well as you can, but won’t, simply
Because you won’t like it, even though you say otherwise.

So even if her husband tells her she can drink and dance, she is supposed to know that you won’t like it? She is supposed to read a “No” when she hears a “Yes”? How come I didn’t know that. This is not only insulting to women, this is also very insulting to the men who mean what they say.

One, who can be late from work once in a while when deadlines, just like yours, are to be met ;

One, who is doing her level best and wants to make this most important relationship in her entire life a grand success, if you just help her some
and trust her.

Excuse me. By helping her and trusting her, you are not being noble. You are doing your duty. It is expected of you.

One, who just wants one thing from you, as you are the only one she knows in your entire house – your unstinted support, your sensitivities and most importantly – your understanding, or love, if you may call it.

She wants your love and support. But you can’t offer her that if you continue to have such sexist expectations from her.

But not many guys understand this……

Please appreciate “HER”

Dammit! You don’t have to appreciate her. Instead, get rid of the expectations you have been burying her under. If you don’t understand that,  let me put it in words that you will. Treat her the way you would treat another man.  Saying you “appreciate her” just rubs salt into my wounds. Look at the image that has been put up with this article? Does it resemble a healthy, happy being? Or are you saying a woman’s life is full of strife and she has no way out? You create such horrendous conditions for women. You give her no choice. And then you say you “appreciate her” for living like that? The anger makes me cry.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 41 Comments »

Until when?

Posted by Pepper on January 24, 2012

This post has been lying in my drafts for sometime. IHM’s recent post made me pull it out.

******

Until what age should parents make decisions for their children? That is one question that has baffled my mind forever. I was talking to an American friend of mine. She couldn’t stop complaining about her mother, who has the habit of calling her up if she isn’t home by 1 am. Honestly, I didn’t see anything wrong with a mother  being concerned if her child wasn’t home by a particular time at night. I asked her what was wrong with what her mom did and she said, “I am an adult for God’s sake! I don’t like being questioned about my whereabouts all the time. I will be where I want to, when I want to. I can make my own decisions and I hate it that she is constantly breathing down my back” I laughed. I told her a girl with her attitude would suffocate to death if she had to live with an Indian parent.

And then I thought about my own parents. I remember I had once gone for a friend’s birthday party. I told my parents I would be home by around 9 pm. I didn’t realise how time passed by, but it was 9 pm and I hadn’t even left. My friends kept urging me to stay for a while more. The birthday cake hadn’t even been brought out yet. So I called home and told my mom I would be late by an hour. She agreed. 10 pm, and I still had not left, neither had I realised the time. This time I got a call from my dad. I told him I hadn’t left yet and I was waiting for the cake cutting ceremony to take place. They were a little upset, and asked me to come home as soon as I can. I don’t really know what happened, but I stayed there waiting for the cake cutting to take place. Each time my parents called, I bargained for some more time. It was midnight before I knew it. That is when they brought out the cake. My parents were furious, and I kept getting calls every 15 minutes. I assured my dad that her driver would drop me back home, but that didn’t seem to help. By the time I got back home, it was 1 am. They were really mad at me. I apologised. We spoke about it and resolved the matter. They told me they didn’t want me coming back so late again. I understood. I was 20 years old then. My late nights were few and few in between, so that was never an issue with us. I respected their decision, because I knew they laid this restriction upon me only because my safety was their concern.

However, from what I have seen, most Indian parents are illogical and continue to assert their authority on their child their entire life. In India, we are made to believe, our parents are akin to God. Their will can never be questioned. So you only continue to be your parents child all your life, when do you get to be an individual who makes his own decisions?

Let me share an incident at this point. When Mint told his parents he wants to come to India for a day to surprise me on my birthday, they told him in clear terms that he cannot come. They will not allow it. He was an almost 26 year old adult, earning his own money, thinking for himself, I wondered how they could just slam their decision on his face like that? But well, they could. They believed he is their son and that gives them all right to make a decision for him. I wished he had argued, fought back and told them he was going to go. Instead, he chose to keep the whole visit a secret from them,  because he didn’t want to deal with them. My parents were against the idea of him not telling his parents, but what can they do? It was ultimately his decision. He requested my parents to keep it secret too. And so they did. Two days before we got married, his dad happened to go through Mint’s passport. That is when he saw the date stamps that told him Mint had actually come to India for a day during my birthday, despite their disapproval. Things got messy at that point. Very messy, because it happened just 2 days before our wedding ceremony took place. They were not only mad at Mint, they were also mad at my parents for deceiving them like that. I don’t blame them. But who can I blame here?

Till date, Mint’s parents do not “allow” their sons to drink. Both their sons are adults, financially independent ones at that. If they cannot chose for their own selves now, then when will they? Or are they never permitted to make their own decisions in life, because they will always remain their parents children?

I pierced my nose at 19. My dad hated it. I went and got a second piercing on my ear, he hated it even more. Then I went and got a third one done. He told me how much he disliked it, but also told me l could do what I want. He cannot choose for me, because I am now an adult. I was so grateful to him. I wanted to get those piercings done, and I was glad I could do what I want. My friend, with who I got the piercing done had to hide it from her parents. Each time she would go home, she would take off her nose stud and her earrings.

When at 18 we went to Goa for an industrial visit with our college, a friend of mine was not granted permission. Why? Because  apparently Goa is not a nice place to go. No further explanations. No questioning allowed. She had no choice but to abide by their decision. She still regrets not going for that trip. She still feels she missed out on a lot of fun, the kind of fun that can never be revived. I find it hard to accept this, but I will still give it to her parents. Their daughter was in her teens, maybe, just maybe they could still make a decision for her.

When we are kids, our parents make decisions on our behalf because as children, our brains are not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. At that stage, parents do know best! But once our brains develop fully, we should be left to make our own choices. I strongly believe it is a cultural thing. In India, our idea of respect is intermingled with the word ‘agreement’. By that logic, if I disagree with my parents, I do not respect them. That logic is completely flawed.

Then there is the issue of right and wrong. Parents might genuinely think their adult child is making the wrong choice. That makes them want to protect their children from the impending outcome. They do not want their children to experience, what they believe is ‘bad’. I still believe, your adult children should be left to make their own mistakes. Let them find have their own definitions of right and wrong. You cannot control your adult child’s choice all your life, even if you mean well.

So now when I see my 25 year old adult friends not being allowed to get tattoos done, not being permitted to streak their hair, not being permitted to drink, not being permitted to choose their own partners, not being permitted to go dancing in a club, not being permitted to wear what they want, not being permitted to live the way they want to, I feel really bad. I don’t think they are living a free life. And the sad part is, I don’t think they ever will. Not as long as their parents are alive. And after that, it might be too late. It’s sad. Really sad.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 61 Comments »

From his past

Posted by Pepper on January 23, 2012

Today morning, I was feeling very low because of a certain something that happened. The ongoing issue made me feel distraught. The weather outside seemed to be in sync with my internal state. It was a dark and rainy morning. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, and yet, I wanted somebody around. It was one of those times when you wish somebody could miraculously extract all the damaging emotions dancing through your veins without you having to exert yourself, explain or talk. I paced around the room trying to think of something that would bring me comfort. Finally, I hit upon it. I decided to spend some time at one of my favourite places – Mint’s blog. His posts always bring a smile to my face. Maybe it is because they take me to his past. I go back to his college days. The documented snippets from his student life pep me up. So that is exactly what I did. I poured myself some hot filter coffee in my small steel tumbler and sat back to read. It got me the desired results. I felt lighthearted almost instantly. I thought I should put up some posts from his blog every now and then. So here it is. A very random selection, as usual. Over to him!

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

Saturday, August 30, 2003
First of all, a big thanks to one and all who wished us luck for the treasure hunt.

Second of all, sadly, it didn’t work. We lost. We lost badly. We had our fun, yes. Still, it hurts. I must admit that the standard of the events in my college is coming down. Not all, but everyone will agree that defenitely some. In my first and second years, the treasure hunt was damn cool. No, this is not a case of sour grapes. We didn’t win it then either. But, it was conducted the way it is meant to be. Back then, the clues were cryptic. Solving those riddles was a huge task by itself. It was considered a privilege to be a part of the crack team. Unlike now, when the clues (if that’s what they have to be called) were so freaking direct that you don’t need a crack team to decipher them, a crackpot team would have sufficed. Reading the clue was like reading the instruction book of a do-it-yourself-kit-for-dummies. The only work to be done was the running around. Driving around rather. And in the midday sun, that wasn’t very pleasant. It used to be held from late evening to night before, the darkness lending a special touch to the hunt. For the past 2 years, in the name of being innovative, the coords are coming up with some real shitty ideas. Guys, we are not asking you to necessarily be innovative. You may want to be remembered for doing it differently, but keep in mind that you may end up being more infamous than famous for it. The best memories of an event are had when it is good and everyone enjoys it. Even if it was the same old thing.

Fourth of all, it makes me feel really good that Dolly and Serena have so much confidence in my mathematics. If only more people than just the three of you think the same way. :)) An excellent example showcasing my brilliant quantitative skills goes as below.

Me“Hey DMC! Heard we have an extra class today.” (Doesn’t make much of a difference. I bunked it anyway. But knowledge is power, or so they say. So, I wanted to know.)
DMC“Yeah. Pain pain ass ass.”
Me“Is it after the treasure hunt?”
DMC“It’s only in the afternoon. 1:30.”
Me“Shit! Thought I could use that as a valid reason to bunk.”
DMC: (Speechless. Staring at me with not much admiration or approval in his eyes.)
Me” Till when is it ?”
DMC“Upto 3 ‘o clock.”
Me“What! Two and half an hours long???”
DMC: (Vanished.)

And last of all, as a tribute to my forgetfulness, sometimes unwantedly, sometimes wantedly, but definitely accidentally this time, I completely forgot to bring with me the pic of the poster I had made for the intra-hostel treasure hunt. I’ll post it soon. Maybe that “soon” will be a tribute to my tendency to procrastinate.

I better stop now.

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

 

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 15 Comments »

Look!

Posted by Pepper on January 18, 2012

Have you seen these kind of warnings displayed in restaurants?

I’ve seen them a lot of times, and each time I wondered, what motivates us to ignore these warnings and consume such food?

This is what it says “Warning. Chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm may be present in foods or beverages sold or served here”

We were out having lunch this weekend, and I noticed the warning put up at the entrance of the restaurant. I pulled out my cell phone and took a picture. The irony was that the restaurant was bursting with people. Nobody seems to really care. Putting up these notices is a legal requirement in the state of California. A lot of restaurants display them. And we have all become so immune to these threats, we just pretend to not notice and binge on that favourite food of ours.

And even if we do care, can we really do anything about it? There are carcinogenic agents present in almost every single thing we ingest. Can we stop eating then? Sure we can cut down on the junk, but that doesn’t mean the non junky food is not adulterated. In India especially, the amount of pesticide present in fruits and vegetables makes them poisonous. It is scary.

This link says, “In the end what the consumers get is daily doses of a cocktail of deadly chemicals, in much higher quantities than safe limit.”

And this one that says, “Out of five internationally-banned pesticides, four were found to be common in vegetables sold in the Indian markets”

There is sufficient research to prove that we live in a very toxic environment. Neurological damage, kidney problems and cancer are on the rise. It is a terrifying reality and I don’t know what we can do to stop it. A lot of us remain oblivious to the fact that our daily consumption is poisonous. Our diet is toxic.

One of my goals this new year was to eat healthy. We can’t do much about the contamination around us, but I wanted to do all that I could within my means. I thought our diet was pathetic. No, we didn’t eat rice, we had absolutely no fried stuff, we didn’t consume too much of sugar, and yet, everything we ate seemed wrong. For one, we ate a lot of ‘chapatis’. We ate those with a good quantity of veggies and curries, but I wanted to do away with the daily consumption of rotis.

The past few days, we’ve been eating a lot of fresh salads, fruits, sandwiches, stuffed wraps, sprouts, greens, eggs, and other stuff. But that is dinner. Now that I am not working and I am home alone all day, I have no enthusiasm to eat right during the day. I have often wished Mint would come home for lunch. It would motivate me to cook a healthy meal, and most importantly, it would ensure I eat right, and at the right time.

Maybe it is just me, but the idea of having a solitary meal makes me feel devastatingly lonely. I always associate meals with good company. I do enjoy my own company during the day, but ask me to sit down on the dining table and eat a quiet meal by myself and the silence begins to prick me. It makes me feel like I am all alone. Since I have no interest in those lonely meals, I think of ways to get done soon. On most days, I eat quick, make do meals like Maggi or Mac n Cheese. And on some days, I don’t eat at all.

This is really not how I want it to be. I don’t know how long our healthy eating phase will last, but for now, I want to rectify my behaviour and make sure I eat something substantial during the day, even if I am all alone. I’ve made this resolve a number of times in the past, only to fail miserably in a few days. I’ve had grave fights with Mint because of this very attitude of mine. He says he feels most helpless when I don’t eat right and he isn’t around to make sure I do. I have made several promises to him in the past, and not lived up to them. This time, I want to give it another try, very sincerely. How hard can it be to take care of your own self? I will do it. I hope.

Posted in Slices of life | 54 Comments »

This is an attack. This is not me “reading between the lines”

Posted by Pepper on January 16, 2012

We as a society, have always been critical of each other’s choices. More often than not, if your choices don’t match with the ones made by the next person in line, he or she will try telling you that you did not choose right. I wonder why humans are made that way. With time, we as a species have only become worse. I have noticed a new trend in which we criticize the other person’s choice without saying a word to them. These indirect digs are much worse and harder to deal with, because it leaves the victim defenseless. I am going to speak with several examples.

“I do not believe in sucking the blood of other animals for food”, said my vegetarian friend to me. It angered me beyond words. Why can’t you just say you don’t eat meat? Why criticize those who do? “Oh, I am not criticizing anybody. I said I think eating meat means sucking on the blood of other beings. I only spoke for myself. Did I say anything to those who eat?”, she asked me. Yes, I said. You just called every meat eater a blood sucker, without saying a word to them directly. Now, I quit eating meat a few years ago myself, but I would never be so vicious towards those who enjoy a good piece of chicken. I made my choice, you make yours.

We’re all familiar with the Stay At Home Mom Vs the Working Mom debate, aren’t we? I happened to witness one in person. The stay at home mom, while talking to the working mom, said “I want to be there for my child at every stage, I can’t imagine leaving him with strangers. I want to welcome him with open arms when they come back from school, I want to spend time playing with him and nurturing him. These years are precious. I would never give it all up to go out and earn some money. The money fades in comparison. My child is worth a lot more….” She went on, and on, and on.  I wanted to ask the lady to shut the hell up! The working mom just nodded, looking stricken. The stay at home mom had not said a word criticizing the choice the working mother had made, not directly atleast. But what is the working mother supposed to take out of her statements? That money is more important to her than her child? That she doesn’t care to spend these “precious” years with her baby and so on and so forth? How can she even fight back? Because the stay at home mom is only speaking for herself, after all!

Now I very strongly dislike men with a  moustache. That is fine, isn’t it? We are all allowed to have our own likes and dislikes. I know girls who dislike men without a moustache. Fine, again. I don’t see anything wrong in having preferences. But sample this conversation. Me and a friend are talking to a third friend, who recently got engaged to a guy who has a moustache. My friend, also somebody with a strong dislike for moustaches told our newly engaged friend, “I just hate men who have a moustache. Stubble I can tolerate, but moustache? Eww! They are meant for people from our father’s generation. I associate moustaches only with old uncles. We are young girls. If I ended up having a partner who has a moustache, I would feel I am marrying an uncle of mine”. I was horrified when she said all this to our newly engaged friend, who just smiled. What can she say? After all, the friend is only stating her own opinion, not saying anything to her directly.

I have experienced these indirect digs a million times in the past year. Most girls would look at me and tell me, “Oh my God, I cannot imagine being financially dependent on my partner. I need to have my own money. If I didn’t, I would never be able to respect myself at all…” etc. I would keep quiet and smile. They could have said the same thing to me in one line “I would not like being financially dependent on my partner”. That is fine, a personal choice like I call it. But saying things like “I would not be able to respect myself at all?”, now what message am I supposed to take home from here? That if I am not earning, I shouldn’t respect myself? Even if I don’t subscribe to that theory myself, it tells me I am doing something wrong. It tells me I am supposed to feel that lack of respect for myself. That it is abnormal if I am able to respect myself despite not earning. I am now strong enough to discard that message before it reaches my brain, but there are plenty of people who are not. They are the ones whose interiors are crumbling.

I know a lot of people who say we should be confident about the choices we make. So much so, that we shouldn’t bother about how the world justifies theirs. While I agree to an extent, I also believe the society we live in is getting increasingly malicious. So not only do I feel the pain that these indirect jabs cause me, I am also accused of “reading between the lines” and being too insecure about the choice I have made? Sorry, however confident and secure I am about what I have chosen, if you hit me below the belt, it will hurt. Stop blaming me for feeling the pain! If I am bleeding, it is not because I lack a thick skin, it is only because you injured me that brutally.

I do realise this is a fine line to walk. The thing with choices is that they take a side. Not everybody is on the same side. And each time you justify a choice, you are inevitably going against the other side. I have always been very open about my desire to move back to India. The other day somebody asked me why I wanted to move back. I was about to say, “because I cannot imagine letting my parents grow old alone. I want to  be there for them when they need me”, but I stopped. By saying that, am I not guilty of the same behaviour? I am telling people who have chosen to live here that they do not care about their parents as much as I do, that they don’t want to be there for them when their parents need them. Honestly, saying that to them was not my intent. So I modified my words and said “I want to stay closer to my parents”. I did my part and tried to be more sensitive. It might have still hurt somebody, but atleast I did what I could to lessen that hurt.

I’ve thought about this for long. Sometimes if people question you and ask you to justify your choice, you have no other option but to speak honestly. And that honesty might hit somebody where it hurts. So this is how I go about it. I do not justify my choice to somebody unless asked. If I am questioned and I have no option but to speak the truth, I try to be as gentle as possible and say what I have to without attacking the other. I do believe all of us need to be more sensitive towards each other. I realise I am quite opinionated on my blog. I do justify my choices, without being asked, but this is the only place where I am true to myself. I do it here because I know, somebody who dislikes what they read always has the option of exiting this page. If only we could do the same with people whose unwanted opinions are thrust upon us…

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 80 Comments »

Tagging along!

Posted by Pepper on January 12, 2012

This time, it is a tag that comes from R’s Mom. It couldn’t have been tougher for me. This is what it is all about:

To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.Rules:

1) Blogger is nominated to take part

2) Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category.

The links are:
– Your most beautiful post
– Your most popular post
– Your most controversial post
– Your most helpful post
– A post whose success surprised you
– A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
– The post that you are most proud of

3) Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part.

4) These bloggers publish their 7 links and nominate another 5 more bloggers

Maybe that sounds simple. All we really got to do is dig out and link up 7 posts that we think are worth rereading. However, you have to know me in person to understand the extent of my misery. I wrote the first post on this blog in the first half of 2008. It’s been close to four years. From then to now, I have about 210 published posts. Asking me to chose 7 out of 210 means asking me to choose 1 post out of every 30 posts. I have stated this before – ask me to choose between A and B and I will be miserable. Here I have to pick one out of 30. Imagine 30 choices! And I have to do this 7 times! Gulp! Moreover, only a small percentage of people will actually bother to click on the link of the post I have so painfully selected. I don’t blame them. Most of us are lazy buggers. But I wonder if my efforts are really worth it.

Other than that, I don’t know if either of us can judge our own work without biases. Imagine an artist, a painter at an award’s ceremony announcing, “I am pleased to declare this painting of mine as ‘The most beautiful’ one from my collection”. Sounds stupid no? I mean, who is he to judge and then crown himself as the winner? I feel mighty stupid selecting a post from my own blog and calling it the “Most beautiful” one. I think the creator of this tag got it all wrong. I think the person who tags you should go through your blog themselves, and choose the winning post under each category and then present it to the world. Asking the author to choose from his/her own work is just , funny, to say the least.

Anyway, enough said. Let’s get down to business. I will follow the rules of the tag, without “twisting it” for a change.

“Your most beautiful post”
– Hmm. I went through my entire blog, twice. I really don’t know which post of mine qualifies as the most beautiful one. To start with, I tried to define ‘beauty’. For me, the people in my life and my relationship with them is what is truly beautiful.

This is the post I wrote for my papa on his birthday. While there are other posts I have written about dad, this one is particularly close to my heart.
This is the post I wrote when mama was here. It spoke about role reversal and how I treat her like my little baby.

There are other posts I have written about Mint, the sister and Oregano that are beautiful in my eyes. I won’t be linking them here because as per the rules, I can’t choose multiple posts. I already did break the rules by choosing two, however, I think I should stop there. If you do want to read more about the people that make my life beautiful, you can read posts that fall under ‘Meet the family” and “Splashes of Mint” category.

Your most popular post
– Sigh. What defines popularity? Comments? Readership? Number of hits you receive? Honestly, I think the concept of popularity in the blogworld is quite meaningless. It doesn’t take much to be popular. The more you blog hop and leave comments on other blogs, the more regularly you write, the more readers you will have. Of course, if you do write well, your readership will expand. But the truth is, some genuinely good writers have zero readers only because they live in isolated worlds. They do not comment on other blogs, therefore do not have readers themselves. And some very mediocre and average writers who visit every known blog have high readership. Other than that, the more you post, the more addicted people get to you and your writing. It doesn’t have much to do with how well you write. Just the fact that you give the world a regular dose of your life is enough to keep them coming back for more. Ofcourse, once you establish yourself as a good writer, things change. But what I say is applicable to most bloggers. With these views, I find myself in a fix when I am asked to choose my most popular post. I don’t feel like using the number of comments and hits as a judge.

Since I have to pick, I will choose a post that a lot of people could relate to. The post in which I tried to reevaluate my life. I wrote about how I lived on impulse, how I didn’t give much thought to moving to the US on a dependent visa, despite it taking away my chances to work for sometime. The number of emails I got from unknown readers who were in similar situations because of being on a ‘dependent visa’ amazed me. So many of them wrote in expressing their anguish, telling me how they overcame it, thanking me because my post made them feel more united. I felt happy I could strike a chord in so many people.

Your most controversial post
– Not too hard, this one. Opinions create controversies and I am quite opinionated on my blog. I will pick two posts.
My views on the “La Tomatina” fest in India.
The second and the most controversial post on my blog would be North Indians Vs. South Indians. This one I put under lock and key. It is password protected and no longer accessible. The comment section here drove me batty. The unending aggression got me mad. I thought the only way I could put a stop to it was by bringing down the post, and that is exactly what I did.

Your most helpful post
– Wonder what post of mine really helped someone. I would have picked the one in which I posted all the Maggi recipes I had tried and tested. And then I remembered an email I got from a reader, who after reading the letter I wrote to Mint on our first Anniversary, was inspired to give her own deteriorating relationship a new chance. If something I wrote helped even one person realise the worth of what they have, then I know what I have written is more than worth it.

A post whose success surprised you
– I would pick the letter I wrote to my mother in law. I wrote about our struggles and our relationship with such honesty. It was deeply personal. I didn’t think an outsider would be able to relate to it too well. The overwhelming response was a real surprise.

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
– Now this is hard. I blogged in isolation for the first part of my blogging journey. I lurked on other blogs and wrote in my own private world. None of my initial posts got any attention at all. Not that I am complaining, it was a choice I made at that time. But if you ask me to pick one, I am clueless. So let me choose something randomly. Here is a post that depicts my love for Chinese food available on Indian streets. This is one time, on a cold, wintry evening in UK, I sat in my lab, researching for a paper I had to write, craving for greasy Chinese food.

The post that you are most proud of
– Easy! The only post written by Mint on this blog. The one in which he talks about me, in a very flattering way. I can’t be more proud. My favourite – Mint speaks.

Phew. I am done. What a relief. I will cheat a little and not tag people individually. However if you want a chance to dust the cobwebs and bring out some of your old posts, do take this one up.

Posted in Tags | 24 Comments »

When we hope for equality

Posted by Pepper on January 10, 2012

I read a study somewhere that said about 68% of the employers in the world engage in “secret gender discrimination” at the time of hiring. The most common reason for having a strong preference for the male candidate is that they do not require maternity leave. Most women take a substantial amount of time off from work once they get pregnant, and them being granted maternity leave is a requirement by law in most places.

A part of me was enraged when I read this. How much more should women have to suffer? As if being raped, molested, discriminated against at home was not sufficient, they have to undergo such discrimination even at the work place? I spoke to Mint about this, and he asked me to think about it calmly. Accusing employers is easy, but does that in any way help the situation at hand? He made me think from the employer’s perspective. Imagine a hiring manager looking to fill the position of a ‘Team Lead’ for a very crucial and critical project. If he does hire a young, married female candidate, there is a good likelihood of her announcing her pregnancy within a few months and abandoning the project mid way. In a case like this, the employer might genuinely suffer huge loses in numerous ways. Do I blame him for thinking a male candidate is a safer choice? If he sees applications from both a male and a female candidate, both equally skilled people, would I blame him for wanting to chose the man? I wouldn’t. Yes, that does sound incredibly sexist, I know. However, every employer is concerned about the well being of his company, and whether we like it or not, the fact remains that because of biological reasons, women are at a disadvantage. Hiring them might hurt the business in some ways. Instead of pointlessly blaming the world for this inequality, maybe we should do everything within our power to make the professional set up more equal.

Add to this, as per the ‘Equal Opportunity Laws’, no employer is legally permitted to ask a woman personal questions like, “Are you married or pregnant?”, or “Are you considering having a baby anytime soon”?. As a result, they view every female candidate with certain biases. It is unfortunate. And the only way we can make this more even is by making ‘Paternity Leave’ a legal requirement, just the way ‘Maternity Leave’ is.

And why the hell not? Agreed, a mother, in the initial few months is not detachable because she is nursing the baby. The baby is physically dependent on her. But is that all it takes to nourish a baby? In fact, since the mother is already sore and sleep deprived with the endless cycles of breast feeding, it is only fair that the father is made to take on diaper changing and other sundry responsibilities. Why do we forget that the child is created by both, the man and the woman. The responsibility to raise the child lies on the parents, not the mother.

I have two friends who have recently had babies. Their days are spent cooing their little ones, changing diapers, rocking them, feeding them, entertaining them, it is tiring. They both have wonderful husbands who want to help, who want to do their bit for their child, but they are unable to because they are not granted any leave. As a result, they stay up all night, taking care of their infants, giving their tired wives some respite and some time to sleep, and they go back to work in the mornings, without getting much sleep themselves. How unfair is that?

And all this only because the society considers child raising to be solely a woman’s job. Apparently, a man’s job ends after shooting in some sperm.

How wonderful would it be if both the man and the woman got equal time off work to nurture their infant together? Unfortunately, the way I see it, even if they did introduce paternity leave, most men would consider it to be an extended holiday. The child’s responsibility would still lie with the mother. The average Indian man doesn’t think changing diapers is a part of his duty as a father. But there are a good number of men who consider their wives to be equal partners in a marriage, men who want to do their bit for their children, and they definitely deserve the chance. And only if we take the first step and instill the right ideas in the minds of the youth can we even hope for a better tomorrow. Most importantly, if paternity leave is made as common as maternity leave, employers and hiring managers would have one less reason to engage in gender discrimination.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 39 Comments »

Strength is what I ask for

Posted by Pepper on January 8, 2012

I am unimaginably close to my parents. So much so, that I find it really hard to write about them. Each time I’ve tried to describe our relationship, I’ve felt too overwhelmed. I fumble for words that will do a fair job in depicting that bond we share. It’s such a scary thought, but when I say I can kill for my parents and sister, I really mean it. My family is the magnetic force that draws me towards Bombay, my city.

So far, I have been resisting the force that is pulling me towards itself with increasing intensity. I don’t know how long I can resist it. I know one day I will be too weak to fight the powerful tugs that will take me home. Until then, I stay here, making do with phone calls that last for hours, every single day. I don’t think I can ever sleep without giggling on the phone with my mom and sis, without hearing my dad ask me “How is my gudiya?”

The biggest disadvantage of the distance, if you ask me, is the constant worry I am subjected to. I worry about my parents, and that is an understatement. They’re not young anymore. My mom, she has osteoporosis. I worry about the brittle state of her bones, her diet,  her ailments, however minor they are. She is extremely clumsy. And each time she steps out of the house, I worry. If she is travelling by train, I worry about her missing a step while climbing the stairs on the platform and having a fall, I worry about the possibility of a bomb blast or a terrorist attack when she is out.  During the monsoon, I worry about her slipping on a wet pavement. About a year ago, she had a fall on the road because she missed seeing the dug out road ahead.  She is that clumsy. And that one small fall resulted in five big fractures in her leg. Her bones are that brittle and weak. When I think of it,  I realise my list of worries is endless.

And my dad, well, I don’t know if I should even get there. He has the worst diet I have ever seen, he suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. Two years ago, he underwent Angioplasty. The medication continues till date, and so does my fear.

While my parents are not in the pink of health, there is nothing very majorly wrong with them and I thank God for that every single day. Worrying about the future and being grateful for the present has become a part of my life now. I’ve spoken to Mint about this several times. He says I need to stop worrying, at whatever cost. But considering how deeply attached I am to my parents, the thought of something happening to them makes my heart stop. I suppose it is like that for most of us.

Two days ago my parents and sister drove from Bombay to Pune. They wanted a change of scene and some quality time together. They were going to be there for about 3 days. We spoke on phone once they got to their hotel room. I could hear incessant laughter on the other end. Apparently, the three of them were competing with each other to see who could come up with the worst names for my unborn children. * Rolls eyes * Names like ‘Bholaprasad’, ‘Yashwanti devi’, were taken. They decided to call me and tell me the wonderful names they had come up with. We spoke for a long time, laughing on the phone together. Them telling me how they wished I was there with them, me telling them I will be there soon, it went on, as usual. We hung up when it was time for them to sleep.

The next day we spoke at our usual time again. This time, the sister’s “Hello” sounded tense. Before I could even ask her what was up, she told me in a single breath, “You know? Something very scary happened today. Dad felt very, very dizzy. I have never seen him like that. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t even lie still on the bed. Mom and I had to hold him. He wasn’t talking much sense at that time and he couldn’t balance his head. He seemed to be in a daze”

“What?!?!?”, I asked? Instantly, I could feel my heart pounding against my rib cage. My mouth felt dry. I gulped. Before I could ask her more questions, she said “He’s okay now. We called a doctor to the room immediately when it happened. They tested him and said his sugar had gone too low. They gave him the right medicines. Now he’s alright, but I am still scared. Don’t tell mom and dad I told you this. They asked me not to say anything to you”

When she passed on the phone to mom, I made her blurt it out to me on her own. She told me he really seemed okay now. She called a few people in Mumbai and they told her they would be there in Pune in case there was any emergency. She assured me things were under control and that he was fine now. I even spoke to him for a few minutes after that. He did sound totally alright. After a bit of general talk, we hung up.

Despite him sounding okay, I couldn’t come to terms with all that had happened. I sat there, trembling for a long time in Mint’s arms, his steady hands stroking my head, telling me I needn’t worry. I kept wishing I were in India, with them. I wanted to be there, I wanted to take charge of the situation, I wanted to be around when the doctor came, I wanted to, just be there.

It’s been almost two days, but the fear and the uneasiness refuses to leave me. I do consider myself to be a strong person, but when it comes to my parents, I am not strong at all. They always say having kids is like having your heart walk out of your body. That is how I feel about my parents. They’re my babies, those two. And now, my dad is going to be traveling for work, all alone. I have so many fears, but I want to push them away. I want to have nerves of steel. I want to be brave, because my parents would want me to be that way.

Posted in Meet the family | 99 Comments »

They say pictures speak more than words

Posted by Pepper on January 5, 2012

In no particular order, group or category.

Great wall of China

Leaning tower of Pisa

Colosseum

Great Pyramid of Giza

Taj Mahal

Mint watching a Shahrukh Khan movie. DDLJ at that.

Wonders of the world. Some new, some old.

Disclaimer: All images other than the last one have been taken from Google.

 

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 56 Comments »

A new found joy

Posted by Pepper on January 4, 2012

I heard about her from a common friend. I was told she got engaged. So I buzzed her on Gtalk. She told me all about him – how they met, how long they were seeing each other, what she liked about him and every other details. She was smitten. She couldn’t stop gushing. She sounded madly in love. I, as usual, was enchanted. I listened, pleased with all that I heard. I have a colossal appetite for love stories and that is no secret.

I spent a while listening to her talk about him. She told me, “He came all the way from Bangalore to Mumbai just for a day for my birthday! Can you believe it? Spending all that airfare just to please me on my birthday. I don’t think anybody can do something better than that. Isn’t he the bestest?”

My heart raced. I wanted to share my own joy and pride and tell her that Mint came to Mumbai all the way from USA, just for a day for my birthday. You see, that is something so close to my heart, I look for opportunities to tell people. Telling others and watching them look at me with admiration and awe gives me immeasurable pleasure. I was about to tell her all about it, but I stopped. I realised, all of a sudden, that me telling her about it now would make her happiness seem smaller. I didn’t want to subtract her joy, just to add to my own. I decided to let her believe she has the best deal.

“Yes, he is the bestest!”, I said with a graphical grin at the end of that line. I let her claim the best. The claim was false. Her visible delight, in return, gave me a new found joy. The joy, was genuine.

Posted in Uncategorized | 42 Comments »

When I let go

Posted by Pepper on January 3, 2012

I did it. I finally did what I was dying to do for months. I quit my job. The job I struggled to get. The job that gave me a respectable answer to the question that pierced my insides, “So what do you do?”.

It wasn’t easy. It requires courage to give up something that is the used as a measure to determine your worth. This world does have such shallow parameters, but that is how it is.

I struggled for months. I hated my job from the beginning, but I decided to put up with it. I had the world’s worst manager. She made my life hell. Every day was a battle.  I told myself to hold on, to not give up. I would wake up in the morning, full of dread. Once I was at   work, I would be counting minutes. We could not touch our cell phones, we could not exchange a few lines with a colleague, we could not step out for a minute unless we had her approval. She couldn’t get more tyrannical. Her behaviour was hard to live with it, but that was not all. We were overworked most of the time. Her ways were erratic. She wouldn’t take accountability for the mistakes she made. She wanted to micromanage our work and that added to our misery. I say “our”, because she did that to our entire team.

A bad manager I can still handle, what I couldn’t handle was the lack of interest in what I did. I felt absolutely no connection with the kind of work I had to do. It wasn’t my field, it wasn’t my area of interest. It was all so drab. I would force myself to complete the tasks I had to each day. Every single day I was tempted to call it quits, but each time I told myself how unwise that thought was. It made sense to hold onto  this job until I found another one.

One fine day I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. This isn’t the kind of life I want to live. I want to do something worthwhile and meaningful. I want to do something that fulfills me. I want to be passionate about my job. It’s amazing – the number of people who work  without any drive or passion. Some of them hate their jobs, and they only do it because they have absolutely no other choice.  But most others, well, they do have a choice. They might not hate their jobs, but they don’t love them either. They are just indifferent. But they will not walk away from them and chase their passion. Instead they will fool their minds into believing that they have a good deal. From what I have seen, most people choose to live stressful lives, swiveling in their corporate chairs. They feed their bank balance, but  starve their undernourished minds.

Honestly, I don’t judge them. We all make make choices that feel right to us. If we’re made to choose between a lesser paying job we’re passionate about and a higher paying job we’re indifferent to, different people would choose different things based on their priorities. For some, fulfillment means investing in their own property at 30 and taking foreign holidays annually. For a few others, fulfillment  means a job they love, a relatively slow paced life with more time to smell the flowers, even if it means a lower purchasing power. Who am I to judge?

My choice is to step back until I find a job that makes me happy. I am not willing to have a job I am indifferent to. I want to work towards the betterment of our society. That, I know will give me true happiness and will make me feel worthwhile. One of the things I want to do is work in the field of “Work Life Balance” in India. I think the work culture in our country is exploitative. It needs to be corrected. I have a degree in Human Resource Management and WLB was studied with a lot of interest. During my Masters, I spent hours researching this subject, writing long papers and doing more ground work. Unfortunately, in a country like India, I know this field has almost no scope. I hope to be able to change that someday. I know how beneficial, and even profitable WLB can be for an organisation if dealt with in the right way. I want to make more flexitime options available for working parents, not just mothers, but fathers too. I want every employee to have a better quality of life. There is so much I want to do in this field. I wonder if I will ever get the chance. For now, I keep the hope alive.

I do know chasing your passion comes at a premium that not all can afford. At this stage, I have the luxury of letting go of a job that doesn’t suit me. At a later point, I might not have this luxury. I don’t know. I hope it doesn’t ever come to that, but if it does, we’ll deal with it when we get there. Right now, I’ve been freed from a very toxic environment and I feel relieved. I now have time to do all that I want to. I hope to blog more. And after a break, I am going to spend all my time searching for a job that feels right to me. One I feel passionate and happy about. Wish me luck!

Posted in Slices of life | 103 Comments »

 
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