Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Today I read my friend Piper's blog and suggest anyone especially,women who find themselves in the dilemma to work or not to work to read it at http://mishyroy.blogspot.com/. The blog is titled " To be or not to Be".

In continuation of that stream of thought and with the belief in the therapeutic powers of writing I give expression to my own angst here. Though it is about my personal confusion, doubts, misgivings and deep frustration, I believe it is an issue for many, many young "educated" women. I put educated within quotes because I think the definition of an educated person is where the problem begins, followed by the societal expectations of how that "education" can be put to use. Being an Indian raised in India my context is the Indian Educational system and the Indian Society. I think what we call an "Education" is basically livelihood training. There are a handful of fortunate people who study for the love of the subject they are studying, and for the quest for knowledge. I cannot speak for the universality of this problem but I know certainly this is a common phenomena in the semi-urban, urban Indian middle/service class.

To make it more real I cite my own experiences. I struggled through school thanks to despairingly low marks in Maths and Science(barring biology which I enjoyed). I lived in a residential colony which produced Engineers and Doctors at an alarming rate. No points in guessing how hard it made everything. Well to cut the story short this resulted in a totally different me, personality wise. If my classmates from school and college were to exchange notes about me they would think they were talking about different individuals . Well this is a natural consequence if you force a person to do something he/she does not like and take away everything they enjoy in my case for e.g. social sciences, humanities, theatre etc. A note to all the parents out there: success in school or college does not always mean a better life monetarily or otherwise.

Luckily by the time I reached high school there was a change in school and city( though I love my previous school and have very fond memories) and most importantly the subjects I was to study. Gone were maths and science and in came politics and history and geography, everything I loved. And things changed. From a nobody to a school topper , to the University topper....But most importantly I was happy , deliriously happy and was doing what I really wanted to...debating, theatre, running for vice president and winning in college elections.

But then there is always some trouble in paradise. With academic excellence comes unreasonably high expectations. I was expected to and wanted to be your next District Commissioner. The lure of the laal batti was just too much. But, what I had not bargained for ,was love to come knocking. So like the heroine of a corny romantic novel I gave up everything to be with my hero. That was and is not an issue because I know I have found my soul mate in him.

But what I did not not know and nobody told me so...that being a wife and a mother means amongst other things giving up a lot and your life is.. kinda on hold. The part of your brain which houses your dreams and ambitions for your professional life keeps hearing this non stop litany of "kripya prateeksha karien aap kataar mein hain".
The disconnect arises due to the fact that you all your life until now you have been told to study and you believe, and wrongly so that, that is all there is. My mom added" if you do not study you will be washing dishes" Now moms are always right, and being in America without the luxury of domestic help means that, that is one thing I am doing a lot of. Though certainly not because of a lack of academic qualifications. And since we have been brought up to think that the measure or worth of a man/woman is equivalent to the salary he draws and the post he holds it can be a very painful and confusing condition...being a stay at home wife or mom. I have spent the first few years of my "staying at home" oscillating between depression,sense of persecution and then martyrdom and finally hopeless resignation. And I agree with my friend Piper, this stay a home situation can be equally bothersome for your "friends" and "well wishers".This needless to say results in a lot of unsolicited advise coming your way, followed by nagging and constant comparisons, and finally regret and pity for the glory lost.

A female cousin who was working and had a 16 month old child once told me that her male senior at work said that your child will respect you more if you have a full time career. Well I support and respect all the working mothers and applaud the juggling they have to do. But I disagree with this argument. If my child has an iota of common sense he/she should see the sacrifices mommy made. What it took to put aside a brilliant or a not so brilliant academic resume and to stay at home. I have not been forced to stay at home. It is a conscious decision though not an easy one. But though I was extremely ambitious and career oriented I also now know that there are somethings one cannot do for you like - having a haircut and raising your kids. And yes the quality of time spent vs the quantity is a baseless argument. Nobody can substitute for a parent. I am not here to make judgement on others but this is how it works for me....now

I know the Indian middle class culture puts a lot of importance to the kind of job you do and the amount of money you make. We put the designation of the Bride's/Groom's fathers on the wedding card???, But our vedic culture does not support this. If only we could all read and understand Gita and other scriptures...but that again is another blog. For those who think it is beneath them to read the Indian Vedic scriptures and for those who like me (I am struggling with Gita these days) who genuinely find it difficult to comprehend and have access to such literature I suggest reading The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle for the time being.

But being a mother does give you a new perspective. That is if you give it time to sink in and do not rush off to do the next thing in your Things to Do List. Do not get me wrong I am a feminist, a believer of equal rights for women and would want to go back to working one day. But I am waiting for the day I do it without guilt and at my own terms. So that I can have a blast because I really love my job and since I deal with people's lives I cannot afford to give anything but my 100%.

Motherhood has resulted in an - evolving me. It has pulled me out of my doldrums. Made me less envious of the professional feats of my contemporaries. I have ranted and raved less about what could have been. I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that a great job/post/professional/financial success, though still desirable do not define me. I am more than that. I am not going to cry for what I thought could have been(I still secretly lust after the laal batti gaadi) but am going to BE and the best that I can. Simply put I am going to try and have pure,unadulterated fun with life.Yes I am evolving ...bit by bit....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Indian Ambassador

Today I had decided to revisit my TISS, Mumbai days. The days when I was thrown into this world which had so much poverty, pain, and yes surprisingly triumph too. I must mention here that I did my Masters in Social Work, specializing in Criminology and Correctional Administration. So by the end of my stint at TISS I had visited 1 Government run children's home, 3 police Stations, 3 prisons,1 Police Academy, 2 Forensic Science Centers, National Human Rights Center, remand homes, baalwadis (govt. run creches for children), countless NGOs etc etc etc. And since by my second year I was heart and soul into human trafficking issues...I knew the red light districts of Grant Road and Kamathipura, Mumbai like the back of my hand. ( I promise I will spend many a blogs dedicated to my red light district "travels", including a 4 day trip to Sonagachhi in Kolkata, and a short conversation with a stripper from NYC)

Anyways I decided this must all wait in favor of the day I had today. My day started as normally as possible. I missed gym in the morning for which I have to get up at an unearthly hour , 5:15 a.m to be precise. This is yet another example of my bending over to accommodate everybody and everything. I am not a morning person people and sheer grit, determination, fear of my mom's ailments thanks to excess weight, a husband who looks like he is still in college (and is always asked to produce an id when he goes to buy beer) and yes yes I have to admit ...conceit( I love when people say "you look just the same, you do not look like a mother of 2 kids.....") gets me going.
I woke up at 8 am which is an hour late considering it was a school day for my 3 year old and I tried making oatmeal without panicking. We all had breakfast including my 17 month old daughter and though I was 5 Min's late we reached school safe and minus any meltdowns and the last minute, potty making my daughter specializes in which leads to further delay and definitely a maniacal, raving, mommy behind the wheel does not bode well for anyone.

Well as soon as I reached school I found out that it being the last day of school the parent is expected to give gifts to the teachers and the children. I thought I was done with gift giving during the staff appreciation week.The enormity of my blunder took time sinking in but sink in it did when I saw all the gori/white mothers bring in huge gift bags and gift cards. I started telling myself that I am an Indian, raised in India, will be going back to my country in 2 years time, I am ignorant of the traditions here and everybody should understand this. I am certainly not a penny pinching, obsessed with saving my precious dollars, desi mom. To make matters worse, the second and the only other desi kid in the class too came empty handed. Now it became even more complicated. The other desi mom who has an accent and has been here since she was 14 stuttered and stammered through her excuses. I felt better off since I have been here only for the last 4 years and haven't had a single gora/white friend and hence still clueless about many of the American traditions . I guess I am not invested enough for I know I will be going back to my beloved Bharat Mata.

But still this makes me even more conscious of the fact that I am an ambassador for my country. And for an India loving , patriotic me this was the call for battle. I would not allow stereotyping of all Indians as miserly people. I would make sure that the gori mothers, a couple of whom are rude and have looked through me , know India and Indians in all their glory. All this adrenaline rush and melodrama ( I was drowning in Veer ras by this time...being an actress and a theatre lover makes the histrionics only better) even though I had yet to have my dose of caffeine. I shudder to think of the consequences if I had time to drink my morning cuppa coffee.

I rushed to Target with vande maatram playing in my head and bought gifts for all the children and the 2 teachers. Well the middle class Indian in me did mind the more expensive than the gifts, gift bags, but my daughter was happily munching away crackers which she usually does not get to gorge on. (P.S children are born manipulators and blackmailers with razor sharp instincts telling them to make a demand when it will not and cannot be refused) and I could not risk disturbing this equilibrium. Admittedly a mental picture of my savings account balance page prevented me from going overboard. I hurried back to the school and very grandly handed over the loot to the teachers who thanked me politely. With my nations pride and honor restored, I mentally saluted the Indian flag and drove back home listening to Om Shanti Om remix numbers, with a daughter in the back seat wolfing down her 10Th cracker. Though my moments of joy and peace came crashing down when I realized I had left my cell phone in the shopping cart, which was somewhere in the Target Parking lot. But that's another story and all is well that ends well. I got my cell phone back, had a happily burping daughter who was high on crackers and junk food and most importantly I walked proud, when I finally went to pick up my son from school.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I, Me Myself

I, Me Myself is a title I choose at the risk of seeming like an egoistic,narcissistic, self centered, individual. But though I have always enjoyed attention(ever since my wanting to fade into the wallpaper childhood and schooldays) I have never really done anything stupid (I hope so) to get it. I believe and its purely my opinion there are subtler, graceful ways to do it. I am not the loudmouthed variety. But cannot resist from giving an opinion on any matter that is at any level comprehensible to me. I am, I think a very passionate person and dislike sitting on the fence kinda people. I enjoy the company of people who take a stand, however different it might be from mine.

Anyways on the subject of self centered I think I am not ...because for the last 6.5 years I have been doing a lot of bending, compromising, adjusting all in the name of love and family...not too many regrets, though there have been many dark moments where I have resented the very source of all this change. I am a mother of two now and its very difficult to be a mother and be self absorbed. You don't have the time for that kind of self indulgence. And since I love to read and write( my parting gifts to all me friends have usually been long letters and funny and forced to rhyme poems) and believe this is one of the ways to hang on to the remnants of the person I was and want to be. I dedicate this blog to my classmate whose blog I read today, loved it and decided to not procrastinate any longer. So here it is and here I am.