Tuesday, September 27, 2011


...balance is in the air these days. Most working, young moms are pre-occupied with it. I've decided there's only work-life imbalance. How minimal you can keep this imbalance is the game of the day. Some days, the imbalance tilts toward work. On some, towards home. But I don't think anyone can keep it perfectly balanced. The sooner I accepted this, the more contented I became as a working mom.

There have been days when I've dropped the ball at home foregoing time with baby G. Those are the hard days when I feel guilty and sad that I've had to make this choice. But work-wise, those days were probably the most satisfying. I would've cracked a hard problem or written some miraculous code. The personal fulfilment that comes from that is hard to brush away.

Anyway, you can tell I am caught in the classic dilemma -- to work or not to work. And I don't have any answers yet. But one good thing has come out of my personal Motherhood journey: I truly, really understand the plight of working mothers from the previous generation.

These women, at least in India, were probably judged too harshly for opting to work. No matter how hard they worked in the office, society expected them to put in equal hours at home. If not, they were condemned to the "bad mother" or "bad daughter-in-law" status. So these women would put in 14 hour workdays, commute back home and immediately jump into making fluffy, white idlis for the folks at home. How did they do it? Hats off to them!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where is the professionalism?

I've gotten used to people knowing their stuff in the US. From personal trainers to dog walkers to house cleaners, most people know the ins-and-outs of their business and will confidently answer questions. In the process, they also educate you. In short, you come out of a conversation in the US feeling productive. 

In India, it shocks me how irresponsible professionals can be. I walked into SBI on some personal business recently. I took a seat with the nearest teller. The lady was busy writing something in a ledger. I waited for some sign of acknowledgement or welcome. None was forthcoming. She looked up, nodded, started sipping some tea and talked to her colleague next door.

After about 5 minutes, I was asked what I wanted. I told her and her first response was, 

"Last week, another NRI asked the same thing. We simply can't do that because we don't have the originating bank info."

"I transferred electronically. Surely the bank will have some means of tracking it down?"

"Last week, this lady asked the same thing. Not possible."

"What information do you need? I will provide it."

"Do you have the originating bank info?"

"Yes, I'll write it down"

"We can't do this."

I was getting exasperated by how this idiot lady was hung up on the problem, not the solution. I finally had to barge in on the manager, who helped me out. 

All this leads me to wonder:

1. How does this poor bank manager deal with daily work life with such stupid underlings? 
2. How does any business get transacted given this babu mentality?
3. When is customer service going to become more than lip service? 
4. Is there no pride in the job one is doing?

I am not one of those NRIs that constantly crib about India. But, as a working professional myself, it shocks me that people could work in an industry for years and not be able to grasp the basics of their job. Sigh. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

TM Krishna's interview in "The Hindu"

In this day and age, almost every public personality gives media-savvy answers designed to build their "brand". There's nothing wrong with that but most people end up giving cliched answers like beauty queens.

This interview by T.M. Krishna came as a breath of fresh air this morning. His answers feel genuine, honest and real. I, for one, could go for that every time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Importance Of Women In the Workforce

My workplace gender ratio is tipped heavily toward our male kind. I happen to be the youngest employee and the youngest female in my office.

For most parts, I am not complaining. Working with men is easy mainly because there's no tip-toeing around feelingsYou get upset with a guy for something, you can tell him,

"I don't like this. I am upset with you."

The great thing is you can be sure this will not be interpreted in any other way. i.e. he won't think you are upset with him because you forgot to invite him to lunch last week. It will never occur to him to think you are getting even with him because of some minor tiff 3 years ago. He will most definitely not think you are upset with him because he forgot to say bye to you on the way out yesterday. All the above things a woman can and will think if you happen to tell her off.  It just makes life a tad difficult because you have to be very careful what you say.

With men, it is very straightforward. You say exactly what you think and most of the times, they take it at face value. The good thing too is that they move on. Within a couple of days, they will forget about it and it will be as if nothing happened.

But the downside, if you ask me, of a male-majority environment is that there's no warmth, so to speak. Not that men cannot be warm. But they're mostly practical, solution-oriented and never indulge in boring old emotional behavior.

Consider this: when a woman announces she's pregnant or about to get married, (most) female colleagues will squeal with delight, hug her, share stories with her and immediately start planning a celebratory lunch. When I announced to my male colleagues about my pregnancy, one of them smiled and said,

"Congratulations. So, you planning to take epidural?"

You could almost hear a comical, deflating sound in the background -- the sound of my happy bubble bursting -- when you get these kinds of responses. Another male colleague  asked me if I had started thinking of daycare. What, already?

The other drawback is that if you are a woman in a male-dominated workforce, you will never, ever be interested in 90% of the conversations that swirl around. Plumbing, for instance, seems to be a hot topic in my workplace. I never cease to be amazed at how men can get excited about broken, moldy pipes in dark, damp, rat infested places. They will positively beam at you and expect you to commend them when they describe how they found the exact nut or alan key or wrench or whatchamacallit to fix this exciting plumbing problem. I usually go,


Ooh, here's a good one: the manifold virtues of having a big potty in the bathroom. The husband and his friends have beaten this topic to pulp, I think.

You get my drift. Talk to me about books (Why do men never discuss books, by the way?), movies, fashion, food and I would take it any day over discussions about potties, plumbing and the virtues of having a wonderful hub cap in the rear wheels of your car.

If not for anything else, we need more women in the workforce just to promote warmth, organize baby showers, farewell brunches, halloween parties and other fun stuff in life!

Excuse me. I have to go spread some good conversation in my office now.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Goodnight Moon

The little man is getting progressively harder to put to bed at night. The only way to calm him down is a series of complicated steps culminating in a bed time story. I've been reading "Goodnight Moon" for the past few nights. Yesterday, S picked up the story reading bit in high spirits and ended up doing a mini lecture demonstration on the ills of children's books.

So, shall we read this book, G? Let's see, "Goodnight Moon". 
"In the great green room, there was a telephone, a lamp and a red balloon.." 
Why is there a red balloon in this room?
"… and a picture of a cow jumping over the moon."
Huh?  Little G, cows never jump over the moon. Besides, what cow jumps like this? Feels like a long jumper trying to set a world record. Okay, whatever.
"…three bears sitting on chairs"
Why are three bears sitting like they're in timeout? Have you ever seen bears sit on chairs, G? 
Goodnight nobody?! Why does my son have to say good night to nothing? What is this book that your mom has got you? 

The upshot of his tirade was that by the time he was done, G was heavy lidded, half asleep. And I had a good laugh listening to his commentary. According to my dear husband, Goodnight Moon was written by a disgruntled parent who, upon seeing all the silly children's books on the market making millions, decided to write a silly one themselves. 

I confess I am not a big fan of Goodnight Moon either. But hey, it works with the little human and that's what really matters in the end. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

Virtual Persona Non-Grata

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from a gentleman in India looking for a bride. He laid out his qualifications in great detail and implored me to let him know if I knew of anyone suitable in the US. In my post-delivery, sleep deprived state, I sympathized with him mentally and promptly forgot about it. A couple of days later, he e-mailed me again. Did I find anyone suitable, he queried, and would I mind calling him?

A few months later, another gentleman who was new to Lexington called me and requested me to arrange accommodations  for him. Then it was a developer from Tanjore who wanted to sell coconut groves for a very reasonable price.

The result of all this is that I've developed a very complex relationship with my virtual existence including this blog. I enjoy blogging but I can't do it with the same naivete I had 4 years ago. Alas, many of my blog posts languish in draft mode and never see the light of day because I keep wondering, "Should I really be making this public information?"

My better half wisely recommends staying away from Orkut, Facebook, blogs et al. These are all time killers, he expounds. And as additional gyaan, he tells me I am indirectly contributing to earth pollution by encouraging the growth of huge server farms the likes of Google, Facebook etc..which gobble up electricity, water etc..

Gulp. Do I really want that on my karma?

After getting me all confused, S went onto say, "You really shouldn't be overthinking this, you know."

Yeah, right.

So here's my mind, all loaded with thoughts of the earth, karma, privacy, men selling coconut groves in Tanjore, the pitiable state of Indian bachelors, G's strange head banging habit, my ever-constant weight..the list goes on. It is a wonder I can even function much less write a blog.