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If You Have a Son, Here’s What You can do to Bridge the Gender Gap

March 25, 2015

The world is evolving but the gender gap is still wide.

On one hand women are travelling to outer space, on the other hand they are raped by their male relatives, teachers, boyfriends and husbands. On one hand, women grace the top corporate positions, on the other hand they are married off with a huge dowry. On one hand women balance a demanding career with an equally demanding family, on the other hand they are still not allowed to be born.

Similarly, men are smothered with love while growing up, but they are considered a failure if they opt for a liberal arts/creative career. Men are allowed to marry girls of their choice, but are ridiculed if they come out as gay. Men can express violence in public but not tears.

What must be done to bridge the gender gap?

We have no control over the world around us; however what we can control is the future. We have, in our powers, the ability to shape the minds of the next generation of men and women. Let us begin, one step at a time.

This post is my two-cents on what today’s parents of boys can do to bridge the gender gap.

Start right at the beginning, from the moment your son is born.

Do not distribute laddoos because you have begotten a son, distribute laddoos because you have been blessed with a healthy child.

Do not feed him extra or spend extra money on his education just because he is the future cash cow and your ‘budape ka sahara’ (shelter of old age). Take good care of his meals and education because as a parent, your child is your responsibility till he is an adult.

Do not tell him that he must look after you when you are old. Tell him to always love and respect you till the end of your days.

Do not have a give-and-take relationship with your son. I feed you, give a roof over your head, send you to school and then expensive colleges so that you can earn money, live with us, always do as we tell you is nothing but a selfish give-and-take relationship and not the loving parent-child relationship that you should be nurturing.

Do not tell him the family is his responsibility. Do not impose your dreams of a 3-storied bungalow with a back-garden on your son. Do not imply that you wear old sarees/trousers so that he can wear new clothes during festivals. Give him the freedom to choose his means of income when he becomes an adult and not be pressurized to look after his aging parents. If you have taught him well, he will always be responsible for your well-being without the added pressure.

Do not tell him to be manly. Teach him to be a man. Do not tell him to protect his sister. Teach him to protect any woman he finds in need of his help. Do not advise him to run at the first sign of trouble. Tell him not to be afraid and offer his assistance if the situation so demands.

Do not allow him to be cruel to animals. Do not applaud his violence.

Do not make him dependant on you for every single need. Teach him basic cooking and cleaning. Teach him to fold his clothes and put away his shoes and socks in the right place.

Do not smother him with so much affection that he forgets how to stand on his own legs. Do not give him the impression that you will condone his mistakes. Pull him up when he is wrong.

Do not pander to each and every of his whims. Tell him to earn the money he wants to spend on after-school junk food. Do not hand-hold him. Teach him aspects of personal finance.

Encourage him to appreciate women in all their roles – mother, sister, friend, lover, wife, colleague, boss. Make him aware that women struggle twice as much in their professional career to be successful and yet they are often passed up for a promotion in favour of a man. Tell him that when the time comes, he should not differentiate his subordinates on the basis of gender.

Don’t give him the impression that he will be taken care of throughout his life – first by his mother and then by his wife. Tell him his wife is not a replacement for his mother. Tell him his wife is also not the replacement of a cook or maid.

Don’t sell your son during his wedding. Don’t be under the misconception that accepting furniture, flat, car or cash-in-lieu of car is not dowry. Don’t tell yourself that all these ‘gifts’ will be used by the daughter-in-law only. If your son is old enough to marry, then he is old enough to buy his own house and car and furniture. If it is a custom in your community, be the first to break it.

Don’t take the high ground during the wedding just because you are the ‘ladkewale’. Listen to the wishes of the bride’s family too – they are also marrying off their darling daughter. Do not make them overspend. Do not invite your long-lost childhood friend just to add up the invitee count at the expense of the ‘ladkiwale’.

Don’t allow your son to mistreat your daughter-in-law in any manner – emotionally or physically. Don’t sip your ‘adrak chai’ in front of the television while your son humiliates his wife openly for adding a little extra salt in the daal.

Tell your son to shoulder half the burden of household chores with his working-wife. Tell him it’s okay to rub the aching feet of his stay-at-home wife at the end of the day and lend a helping hand to her on weekends.

Teach him the boundaries that he should not cross with respect to the body of a woman, be it his wife or girlfriend or any other woman. Make sure your son knows that she has the right to say no and he does not have the right to force.

Teach him that rape is a criminal offence. Tell him that he does not have the right to assault, sexually or otherwise any woman.

And lastly, request him to inculcate your teachings into his children.

And what should parents of a daughter do? That’s for another post.

Happiness to me is…

March 21, 2015

Watching sunrise on the mountains and sunset in the sea while soaking in all the golden hue.

Food, in all forms, colours and taste, whether in a fine-dining place or a roadside dhaba.

Receiving the bank’s sms alert at the end of every month, notifying me of credit of salary.

Being indoors on rainy days, reading books, watching TV series and nibbling on khakras.

A hot cup of aromatic tea with two Marie biscuits or a kullad of thick, milk tea with bakery cookies from the tea stall.

Meeting an old friend after years and taking off from right where we left, making the same, old jokes and pulling each other’s legs.

Shopping spree, both online and offline.

Receiving parcels of online retailers – the big brown box with bubble wraps.

Walking the length and breadth of the Mall during Sale season and swiping my credit card.

Being under the blanket in a heated room on foggy winter mornings for the whole day in the same sweatshirt.

Gifting my near and dear ones, especially my parents, who are always reluctant to receive anything from their ‘kid daughter’.

The cool, South evening breeze after a hot and humid day in Kolkata.

Making the journey, rather than reaching the destination.

Receiving appreciation at my workplace.

Looking up recipe, sourcing ingredients, cutting and preparing and then cooking a dish from scratch after it turns out to be tasty.

New books by my bedside and a pile of unread books in the bookshelf, giving me the comfort that I will not run out of things to read.

Aisle seat in the emergency row on a long flight.

Taking a walk down Southern Avenue in Kolkata while trying all available street food – right from Doi Phuchka to Aloor Dum.

A long conversation with my mother consisting of nothing in particular.

Being asked my opinion on things that matter by my father, making me feel truly grown up.

A nice comment on my blog post, especially from someone unknown.

Receiving praises for my writing, from all and sundry.

Receiving little surprises from my husband.

Being with myself and not feeling lonely.

The pungency of mustard sauce or the aroma of paanch foron in fish gravy.

Chocolate – in cakes, ice creams, brownies, mousses, bars and wherever possible.

A jar of Nutella and a big spoon.

Marathon TV series watching especially if it is Game of Thrones.

Googling my name and seeing the results.

Dancing to my own tune or at a nightclub to Bollywood beats.

Getting drenched in the first rain of the season, after an extreme hot weather.

Drinking soda shikanji from a Delhi thelawala.

Going on a food sampling tour of Chandni Chowk.

And enjoying the little joys that life offers.

A day of optimism

March 18, 2015

I sometimes look back at the spring-summer months of 2008 and wonder whether all of it was a bad dream or did I actually go through it?

I had finished 4th year of my law school and arrived in Delhi for a two and half month internship with Luthra & Luthra, a leading law firm of the country.

When I was accepted by the law firm, I immediately began my research for a place to stay. Internet suggested Shakti Ahuja’s Women’s Hostel in East Patel Nagar, on the Blue Line of Delhi Metro and quite close to my office in Barakhamba Road. Assured by the decent reviews all over the internet, I asked my father to do an advance booking when he visited Delhi on a work trip two month’s prior.

I landed up in Delhi, alone and reached 7/17, East Patel Nagar. The hostel looked just like all other bungalows of Delhi. The owner, Ms Shakti Ahuja who lived in the ground floor of the house asked for the rest of the amount the moment I set my foot in. I was paying a steep Rs. 7.5k for only stay.

I was taken up the stairs by the servant, Raju to my room. To my utter horror, it turned out to be a tiny hell hole on the roof! It was what is usually the servant’s quarter in other houses! The bathroom was the worst I have encountered in my life till date (and I have encountered NDMC hostel a year ago). And top of it all, I had to figure out a way to feed myself.

For the next few weeks, I went through the worst phase of my life. I starved on the day of Holi because all restaurants were closed, had no friends because everybody else lived in proper rooms in the first two floors, got extremely lonely during weekends with nobody to hang out with, struggled to cope with the pressures of a corporate law firm and tried to fend off unwanted male attention.

And then one day, my expensive and branded formal  wear got stolen from the clothes line! My bravado crumpled as I broke down for the first time.

One of my closest friend was also in the city but he was staying quite far away and that’s why we hadn’t met till then. I called him up and told him how depressed and lonely I was.

“Let’s meet up one day,” said he.

He came down all the way to the Rajouri Garden malls, along with his boyfriend. We had coffee, talked our hearts out, teased each other and laughed a lot. They provided me with a much-needed break from the drudgery I was in. They made me understand the beauty of being alone rather than lonely.

For the remaining duration of my stay, I made friends with a few girls from my hostel, went out to explore Connaught Place by myself, bought books and read them in the terrace, went shopping for new formal clothes and took a stand with the offensive males – all by myself. That one day outing helped me get over my miserable state and tackle my remaining stay with optimism.

I encountered more hardship in the days to follow, especially when my luggage got stolen from my room! I managed to retrieve it (it was a handiwork of the servant) and left the hostel earlier than stipulated after telling Ms Ahuja exactly what I thought of her.

I vowed to myself never to return to the city.

Look where I am now :)

This post has been written for Housing.com

Postcards from Goa

March 18, 2015

 Vignettes of beauty gathered from a short work trip to Goa

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View of the small, commercial Goan town Madgaon from the terrace of the clean, no-frills hotel Nanutel

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 Madgaon, bathed in morning sun

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 Food is a large part of my travels, work or otherwise. How could I be in Goa and not have Masala Pomfret Fry and Sukka Chicken?

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Gateway to sun, sand and beauty.

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 The moment I entered the lobby of Park Hyatt in Arossim, Goa, pretty blue colours greeted me.

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 More prettiness from the lobby

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 The first time I managed to reach the beach was during the sunset.

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 After a tiring day of all work and no play, I unwound in my room with Pork Vindaloo and Goan Rice! I am sure I will die of gluttony one day.

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 When your room has a balcony with such a view, will you ever leave it?

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 Trees, sun and villas make up a Goan resort.

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 A bridge to reach the breakfast  place (and all-day dining coffee shop).

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 Yes, second time I visited the beach was during mid day! I was the only fully clothed idividual among the sunbathers.

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Tonic for the tired eyes.

All images have been taken by me with my Galaxy Note II and cannot be copied by anybody for any purpose whatsoever without my permission.

To Change or Not to Change #SurnameChange

March 13, 2015

A senior colleague to me: My younger son is getting married on Saturday next. Please do come and bring Mr Nandy along.

Me: Er.. My husband’s surname is Basu.

Him: Ok. Here, let me give you the wedding card.

And he wrote Mr and Mrs Basu on the envelope!

I have encountered many such incidents when I have tried to inform people that I have not changed my maiden surname after my marriage. Some understood while others raised eyebrows or questioned my reasons. The responses have been varied:

“I think you would have changed your surname if you loved your husband!”

“You may have a problem when you have kids; will you like it if they have a different surname than yours?”

“You mean you haven’t changed in the documents but you are socially Mrs Basu, right?”

“You will have difficulty travelling abroad if you have different names on passport.”

“You will have trouble inheriting if something happens to him.”

“Your gothra has changed, so even if you carry your maiden surname it means nothing.”

Ouch!

Either I kept quiet and smiled or gave counter arguments, depending on the nature of the allegation and the person making it. I explained that I wanted to keep my identity stable amidst the numerous changes I was dealing with, which ranged from a new family, a new city, a new workplace and a new sense of responsibility.

And I also informed that I was open to the idea of changing, as and when I feel the need.

It is all about choice – to change or not to change. Women’s liberation means allowing the women to choose for themselves, not impose upon them various rules just because the society had been following them since eternity. If a woman wants to take her husband’s surname or add it to her maiden one, by all means go ahead without caring two hoots for the so-called feminist’s finger-wagging.

If modernity has seen women to go outside home, work, earn, raise children alone, live as single, travel solo, own property, take care of their parent single-handedly, have pre-marital sex, vote, wear clothes according to their style, it has also given women the choice to be a stay-at-home mom, work from home, take care of ageing in-laws, wear a burqa, cook for the family, wait for her husband to return home, devote herself to her children and do all that she wants to.

No party should raise eyebrows at the other.

I do not want to be judged by anybody whether I am a good wife or mother just because I have a different surname. I do not want to be bracketed as a Mrs beside a Mr. I am my own identity and my name is a huge part of it since my birth. If my husband understood it, so should the rest of the world.

I have my marriage certificate to prove my status during travelling abroad or inheriting; surname is a flimsy way to claim wifehood.

 At a time when men have begun to add their wive’s surnames to their own, the question whether a woman should or should not change her surname has become passe. Embrace the power of choice and mould your life according to your wish and not anyone else’s.

This post is a part of IndiSpire, initiative for Indian Bloggers by IndiBlogger

A foggy trip to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

March 13, 2015

 For two entire winters, we have been planning to visit Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. It is quite close by, just about 15 kms from our place on the Gurgaon-Farrukh Nagar Road and is known to become the home of a great many migratory birds during the cold days,

We set out at 8 AM on a rare, sunny Sunday last December, hoping to spend a nice hour in the sanctuary by the lakeside and catch glimpses of the winged beauties. But the moment, we crossed NH8, we got covered with a thick blanket of fog. Determined to make the trip and hoping the weather would improve once we reach our destination, we drove on, excruciatingly slowly and in near-zero visibility.

We reached the sanctuary at 10 AM, after an hour and half more than what it would have otherwise taken. As our luck would have i, the whole place was shrouded in white mystery even in that hour. So we returned with only a few foggy pictures.

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The white blankness is supposed to be a big lake with tons of birds on a good day

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What we could have spotted, on a good day

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The trail leading to nowhere

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Educational signboards

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Lakeside

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Tall trees – a rare sight in the city of Gurgaon

 

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Cobwebs…Flowers…Macro photography

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All the necessary information for those interested.

All images have been taken by me with my Nikon D5100 AF-S 18-55mm VR lens and cannot be copied by anybody for any purpose whatsoever without my permission.

 

1st Crime Writers’ Festival 2015

March 11, 2015

What better way to spend a cold, foggy Delhi winter morning than to gather in the amphitheater of India Habitat Centre for a healthy dose of crime? So I landed up at the venue on 17 January 2015 to listen to a myriad of interesting sessions of the first edition of Crime Writers’ Festival, wrapped in the warmth of my thickest woollens.

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In case you are wondering, that tall steel structure is what provided excellent heat in the extremely cold weather and stopped my chattering teeth.

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While inaugurating the festival, Namita Gokhale shared how she conceived the idea of a genre-specific festival along with Kiswar Desai on a wet London afternoon and decided to bring the first crime-writers’ festival to India.

Ashwin Sanghi, a mentor of the Festival introduced Nordic Noir – a genre of crime fiction based in the dark, wintry Scandinavia, usually with psychologically complex plots. Whoever has read the Millennium Trilogy by Steig Larsson or watched The Killing will know the charm of the stories from the Nordic region.

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Nils Nordberg painted a wonderfully charming picture of the cold, foggy Scandinavia where murder and mystery always go hand-in-hand in its literature. He is an essayist, editor, dramatist, author, translator all rolled into one and has served two terms as the president of the Norwegian Crime Writers’ Association. He also spoke about his present project – that of translating the entire Sherlock Holmes stories in Norwegian.

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I was doubtful whether I would enjoy the next session, especially since I knew nothing about the author. At the end of it, I was ashamed of myself for never hearing about Surendra Mohan Pathak, a best-selling author of Hindi detective novels, who has sold more copies than Chetan Bhagat. He is the only author who has an active fan club and its members were present in the audience wearing tshirts bearing the cover of his latest offering! It was a pleasure listening to how he created an investigative journalist for his novels at a time when no one heard of such a career. When asked to offer advice to young, aspiring writers, he replied bitterly never to write in Hindi since there are no more takers for vernacular literature. Piyush Jha, the moderator wished aloud that we gain more and more writers who can gift the future generation great offerings in Hindi.

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The World of Ibn-e-Safi was another gem of a session where Khalid Jawed, an Urdu novelist and Mahmood Farooqui, the translator of Habib Tanvir’s memoirs, brought alive the magical world of Jasoosi Duniya and Imran, the series of novels written by Ibn-e-Safi. His books achieved massive popularity in South Asia and were all bests-sellers. The highlight of the session was readings by Mahmood Farooqui in his baritone voice with the right dose of drama and suspense.

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The highlight of the Festival, at least for me and MH was the session on Byomkesh Bakshi moderated by the actors Rajit Kapur and Dhritiman Chatterji and film-maker Dibakar Banerjee.. From Rajit Kapur’s anecdotes about how people still call him by his most-famous screen name to Dibakar Banerjee’s experiences of growing up on a staple diet of Byomkesh stories to Dhritiman Chatterji’s recollection of playing an older version of the detective on-screen – the audience was treated to enthralling snippets. Unlike other Literature Festivals where the speakers/authors vanish from stage the moment a session ends, the Crime Writers’ Festival had an unhurried pace. The speakers hung around and engaged in discussions with fans. MH even went up the stage and obtained this from his favourite childhood hero –       

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What I most enjoyed about the Festival was the workshops organised in Oxford Book Store in Connaught Place.

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First up was an engaging and enlightening workshop on How to Write Crime Fiction by Ashwin Sanghi. My impression that authors are a competitive lot who hug their secrets to their chest was shattered as Ashwin Sanghi debunked the process of writing a thriller in 12 points and shared his ways and methods. If I ever write a crime novel, then let me acknowledge right here that the inspiration came from him.

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On the second day, i.e. Sunday I ditched other sessions in India Habitat Centre with a heavy heart and arrived at the workshop venue to listen to Dibakar Banerjee give a few pointers about writing a screenplay. Script-writing has never been on my radar and I went just to listen to one of my favourite film-makers. I met aspiring scriptwriters and engaged in a wonderful 1.5 hours, learning tricks of an interesting craft.

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The two days of Crime Writers’ Festival brightened up my gloomy, cold Delhi days and I am already looking forward to the next edition. I only have one request for the organisers – please do not have separate venues for the sessions and the workshops and force people to choose either of them. It is not fair on greedy people like me who want both.

All images have been taken by me with my Nikon D5100 AF-S 18-55mm VR lens or Samsung Galaxy Note II and cannot be copied by anybody for any purpose whatsoever without my permission.

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