#BreakingBarriers by Women’s Web

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I attended the #BreakingBarriers event organized by Women’s Web today at Bangalore. #BreakingBarriers is an event which brings together a lot of like-minded ambitious women, inspires them through each other’s stories, and provides a great networking platform. This is the 5th edition of the event and is being held in Bangalore, Mumbai, and Gurugram (Gurugram, is that really the name?).

Today’s event at Bangalore saw panel discussions with eminent marketeers and inspiring women on topics like content marketing, personal branding, breaking the real barriers of life to move ahead, along with a good sprinkling of information on personal wellness, growth hacking, and creating brand ambassadors.

The panel discussions involved extremely strong and successful women like Monica Samuel (Content Knockout), Srividya Sen (Tech Mahindra), Jonali Saikia Khasnabish (Heeya Crafts), Anju Maudgal Kadam (WebTV), Shalini Singh (Galvanise PR), Lakshmi Dasaka (Dropkaffe).  Mangal Karnad (Fablesquare) talked about creating a personal brand. Kavita Jhunjhunwala (Click Asia & Avocado Tree Digital) perked up the post-lunch session with inspiring stories of breaking barriers from the audience. Ravi Sangtani (Director, Target Accelerator) also enlightened the audience about growth hacking in the entrepreneurial industry.  Aparna Singh (Founder & CEO, Women’s Web), and Anju Jayaram (CMO, Women’s Web) spearheaded the entire event with aplomb.

What came across as striking was that every woman I met, every woman I interacted with showed passion. Passion for what she wants to achieve, passion for what she believes in, and passion in breaking the barriers that comes across her way. We were left speechless when we found a cancer survivor among us who has relentlessly fought on with her life and resumed her passion of writing and dancing even after suffering from a broken leg too!

The stories from the event made me realize that we, as women, often face a lot more challenges and rejections in life than we expect to. However, it is the never-say-die attitude and a fiercely positive outlook that helps us dash through the doors, fall face down but get up and run again. It’s the spirit that matters.

The spirit of #BreakingBarriers.

(Do register for the subsequent Mumbai and the Gurgaon events here).

(Sorry, I don’t have a photo from the event, so I put up my photo of an ambitious eagle competing with a jet plane).

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The Knotty Wardrobe

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I have almost stopped organizing my wardrobe. Each time I organize, I keep the wardrobe door open to celebrate the day as an admiration day.
Soon enough (exactly, 5 days), the admiration season gets over.  The clothes in there get back to hugging each other. The entire compartment becomes one mound of sleeves, and hooks, and legs, and pockets. I pull out one visible sleeve and the entire mound falls out. I pull and I pull until I can pull no more to extract that one sleeved tee from its communal hugging friends, hold the entire pile up and put it back into the shelf. The fight repeats itself every day.
Sometimes, I think of calling the fire-fighters, but I realize they would make it more messy. The wardrobe would become one heap of knotty wet pulp.

Then comes that one day when I get so tired of having to pull legs and sleeves that I give up and organize the section. I award myself with four doughnuts and an ice-cream for the effort and admire my closet with loving eyes.  Often, on such days, I also rest my head on the neatly folded clothes making them feel loved. My favorite tee looks at me with fluttering eyelids, and I pick it up. I smell it, the fresh smell of Surf Excel (the liquid one, to be precise) tantalizes me. I fold the tee back to its place. (No, Surf Excel is not paying me a penny to write this.)

Lifting my head, I go back to the chair right in front of the wardrobe. I sit there and watch it. My neat, colorful, organized wardrobe. What would I not pay to get this view everyday? Everyday, for 5 days?
It’s evening, and I’m rushing to get dinner done. I need to change into my pajamas. Clothes which don’t let in air from everywhere restrict my cooking abilities. I run to my room and pull out a pj from under four or five pieces of clothes which tumble down. I pile them up and put them back.
The saga restarts.
The day for the next four doughnuts and one ice-cream is far away.
Do you also have knotty wardrobe days?

Kindness in Kids

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I have a tiny one at home. A five-year old.
He talks incessantly, laughs monstrously, imagines creatively, and uses good adjectives like a pro.

A few days back, we were re-reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ and he creatively thought of how funny it would be if the hungry caterpillar from the book wormed out and fell on the ground. In fact, he built up an entire story on this which you can read here, however, this post is intended to point out how important it is to inculcate kindness in a kid, especially towards our tiny harmless co-creatures.

If I were to keep in mind that a kid thought of a caterpillar making its way out of a book and falling on the ground, the next thought I would have is that he or she would squish the poor larva.

However, he didn’t do that. He didn’t end the story right there by squishing the larva. He built an entire story by taking care of the tiny creature and budding it into a butterfly right in his home.

 

I’ve seen more instances of his kindness towards pets and people alike. Sometimes it makes me feel that he could be a 10 year old boy, but one look at him is enough to know that he has learned to be kind irrespective of his age.

Speaking of kindness, we all teach our children to be kind. We instruct, and we preach the importance of kindness. We read out stories of kindness from books. However, it is our own actions which speak more than our teaching. If we as parents show kindness to animals, both tiny and big, they remember our actions and try to imitate them. If we teach them to appreciate the smallest bugs and not squish them, they learn to appreciate the beauties of nature.

Instead of hurting a caterpillar, if we point out how beautiful it looks, how pronounced are the dots on its body, how its legs carry it from the head to the end of the body, our kids will also look at it with kindness and beauty and not really stamp it.

While I’m not saying that kids imitate everything parents do, or that all their actions are a reflection of parents, or that kids don’t have any individuality, I’m only pointing out how important it is for us as parents to show kindness towards smaller creatures and set an example before the tiny tots.

*Note that we are also definitely teaching him how to remain safe from harmful creatures.*

*Also, this is not THE only way to inculcate kindness in our children, but it is definitely one good way to do it*

Irony of a mom’s life

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I saw your eyes droop. You mumbled ‘Mama’ and slept.

I watched you sleep. I don’t know for how long.
The home is quiet. Absolutely quiet. Slowly, I disentangled my fingers from yours, careful not to wake you up.


You have already started sleeping in your room alone, and, to be honest, I don’t like it one bit.


Not one bit.

A lot of these nights, I just go and tuck myself in beside you. I love to hold your hands and sleep next to you. I pull your comforter on me and we sleep like the best buddies ever. I hold you, and you put your hand around my neck.


Let me tell you, as a parent, there is nothing more comforting than the hands of your sleeping little one around your neck. Nothing!

I love it when you hold me and sleep. I love it when you pat me in your sleep asking me to turn towards you.
I love it when we share the same blanket.
I love your smell.


I love it when, suddenly, some mornings, you come over and sleep on my bed curled under my quilt. When I sleepily ask you what happened, you say that you were cold. I hug you tight and we sleep facing each other, your little nostrils breathing warm air down and your tiny chin facing up. I want to hold those moments forever.
It is funny that if you are cold, you can just pull your comforter over yourself, but it is warming to know that you choose to slip in under ours. My eyes open the moment I can hear the silent patter of your feet walking up to our bed.

I can hear you.
In my sleep.


Yes, I can.

And now, now that you are growing up so fast, I feel insecure that these days will never come back. I feel that time is slipping away from my hands, and I’m trying to fist it up.
Harder and tighter. And faster before it slips away.


I notice how big you’ve grown. 5 years already, and I’m scared.
I’m scared that soon, you will not run after me because you will, consciously, be a bigger boy.
I’m scared that soon, you will not talk endlessly to me.
I’m scared that soon, you will not start everything with a screaming ‘Mamaa…’
I’m scared that soon, you will not hug me every time I stretch out my hands to you.
I’m scared that soon, you will not jump on my lap anymore.
I’m scared that soon, you will not curl your hands around my neck and sleep.

Soon.
Very soon.


Am I already feeling what they call the ‘empty nest syndrome,’ just a little early?

I have already realized that life can often be terribly ironical for a parent. Just until a year ago, I was trying to have you do a lot of your own work. That way, you could be independent, and I could also focus on the more mundane things we always strive to finish. Wearing clothes, taking a shower, eating, combing your hair, helping me with my work were few of the things on my to-do list for you. One step at a time, you helped me strike off these items on my list. Each time I struck out a bullet point, my heart both sank and danced. I felt weird.
My heart breaks when I see that you are getting so independent, but at the same time, it is very fulfilling to see your little nimble hands work out things for yourself. It is immensely satisfying to see your little fingers, soft palms, and tiny nails tugging at drawstrings, patiently buttoning a shirt, rubbing soap all over yourself.


While on one hand, I want you to grow up fast, on the other, I want to hold on to your childhood and not let it go! Grow up kid, just not so fast!
While on one hand my selfish mommy heart wants to hold you more and more, on the other hand, I understand how you are bracing yourself up for the times ahead, and how important it is to make you ready for your own life.

That consoles me.
That puts me at ease.
That makes me love you more.
And more.


The Woman

 

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I was going through Ellen Barry’s article in the New York Times that talks of how young rural women are moving to the city (Bangalore) with hopes of leading their own lives. Coincidentally, a friend of mine shared the same article on Facebook highlighting this section from the well-researched piece: ‘Each morning, before she is allowed to eat, the daughter-in-law must wash the feet of her husband’s parents and then drink the water she has used to wash them.’ My friend was almost flabbergasted to note that such practices still exist. Knowing that such neanderthal practices do exist, I replied to her, and a vigorous discussion ensued.

To be honest, a lot of such ignominous practices, or norms, rule women’s lives in our society, a little too strictly in the rural areas, and masked in the urban. It is surprising to note that a few of my friends too (highly educated, working in the top tech firms of the world) have been through these ‘societal norms’ after marriage; some of which, if not the same, are similar, and equally abominable. A few examples are as follows:

The daughter-in-law is not supposed to sit on a chair or a bed in the presence of other family members. Her ‘place’ is on ‘the ground.’  She is supposed to sit on the floor.

A daughter-in-law is supposed to touch the feet of her in-laws EVERY SINGLE MORNING. The sad part is that this rule has to be strongly followed even if the woman is heavily pregnant.

A newly-wed woman should not eat her meals in front of other members of her family. She should be eating away from anyone’s view, especially of the elders, and that can be in  a dark, dank, storeroom!

Why? I ask why?

Note that I’m not waging a war against in-laws here. I’m pointing out the daily oppression our daughters have to go through. Silently. At home.

If you dig deeper rationally, you will notice that the blanket of our customs and traditions is so huge, and so thick that a lot of such practices are easily covered under its hood.  Our girls suffer from some of these draconian rules, but they are expected to follow them. The moment a girl revolts, she becomes a stigma. Questioning or not willing to adhere to these ‘customs’ exacerbates the situations and makes her the wretched one.

Coming back to the discussion we had on Facebook, someone suggested boycotting the author of the article because she was portraying India in a bad light. I found the comment funnily fanatical. Rather than boycotting the author, we should boycott some of the oppressive and demeaning traditional practices that are widely prevalent here. We can choose not to speak about these maladies, because sub-consciously, we want to maintain the status quo of the society; but at the same time, we can’t really squelch the courageous one who chooses to talk about and bring such issues to the forefront. Sadly, the patriarchy ingrained in us makes us immune to these social ills around us, and we pretend that they don’t even exist.

In addition, the roots of such social malaise are so deep that thinking of changing anything makes us shudder. Uprooting them will probably take a few lifetimes. It is often sad to note that our with our education, we have not moved too far ahead from where we started.

Nevertheless, a change can start somewhere. It has already started. The fact that a Sashi or a Prabhati (from the article) can garner enough courage to be the aberrant daughters and move out of their homes is enlightening.

We can start the change with small steps.

In our own homes.

The article referred to in the post above is by Ellen Barry and appeared on the New York Times on September 24, 2016.