I am not here to please you

“Well-behaved women seldom make history” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This is my first workplace experience of blatant sexism. I hope none of you have gone through anything like this, but if you have, please speak up and resist because this is NOT OK.

Setting the scene here – Our office design is very economic, meaning, we all sit in long rows, next to each other with more than enough private space. Each row is divided through the centre, which makes two people sitting facing each other, divided by a perpendicular separation. So if the person sitting opposite me is taller than average, he/she can directly look at me and we can talk without needing to stand up.

I have realised over the years, and through those pictures my friends clicked (very discreetly) to embarrass me, that my resting face whenever looking into my laptop, is a scowl. My brows will be all tensed and my expression would be so serious you might think I am mentally preparing for a war looking at my screen.

And this was how I looked this Friday afternoon in office to the person sitting opposite. As soon as I got up to stretch myself, I noticed him looking at me. He immediately said – “It’s ok Priya. You can smile.” I was confused and dint know what he meant. I thought he assumed I overheard some joke they just cracked and am not laughing so as not to give the idea that I was listening to them. So I asked him what he meant. And he snapped with, listen to this classically narcissistic statement – “I mean, you sit right opposite to me and I can see your face every now and then. If you will look so serious all the time, I will also start turning the same way, tensed all the time. So you should smile.”

I was in such shock that I couldn’t utter a single word in response. I kept staring at him for a minute, mostly to make myself believe what I heard.

Did he really just ask me to keep smiling all the time so that he can see a smiling face to cheer him up whenever he looks up?

While I am at it, why don’t I do a mini dance every now and then Sir, to keep you entertained? I am sure you must get tired every once in a while and take a break from all the chit-chat you do through the day with the pathetic guys gang you have around you? Wouldn’t you love that Sir?

I wanted to give him a fitting reply, which I think he immediately realised, because he started rambling some excuse and explanation of how he dint mean what I might think he meant, but I dint. I just kept thinking that if he can say such a thing to me, and mind you I have a really fierce reputation in office and nobody dares such conversation (even as a joke) with me, what kind of orders and directives these seniors might be giving to those younger and impressionable female contractors sitting on the other side? Those who have to suck up to such managers or those who are too innocent to realise that this is not the right expectation? No wonder female workers end up being judged based on how well they get along with others, without opposing or protesting against it!

Well, I am not here to get along with people and make them like me. I am here to do my assignment as best I can, even if that meant others having to see me with a frown on my face all the time. I will disagree where I need to and I will argue where I need to. I will also debate where I need to, even if that meant standing on the other side all alone. I will not go along picking up fights but don’t expect me to be quietly smiling like a celebrity, trying to be agreeable when I shouldn’t.

And no, I will not smile for no reason looking into the screen like a dimwit.

I hope all women in the workforce are aware that the same applies to all of them. You are not a mannequin on display trying to attract prospective customers.

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Forgotten happy dreams

And then some days you wake up and everything’s perfect.” – David Nicholls, One Day

I woke up today with a very happy feeling. This happens every once in a while and I call them my superpower days. For some reason, which I am still trying to figure out, these days go by so perfect. I am in a good mood, with unusual charge and strength. I get so much done on these days sometimes it makes me wonder (hence, the term ‘superpower’ day).

It was similar but different in a way today. I woke up feeling happy but I knew I was giddy with the dream I had seen during the night. I tried to travel back.

I remembered sometime during the night, I was woken up by a dream, a perfect dream. At the time I remember sitting up surprised but sleepy, thought about it, recalled it vividly, relived it, soaked in the warmth and went back to sleep. I even remember having a vague feeling of disbelief of such a grand and unexpected dream. It must have been something extraordinary!

When I got up in the morning, the happy feeling and warmth was still there but the dream itself was lost. Or maybe locked in a secure treasure box in my heart? As much as I tried to relive it or remember it, it dint come back. I tried thinking about my fav people, places, events and everything else that could make me glad but in vain. On usual days, this would have irritated me but nah, not today. There’s no getting me down today. What will we conquer? Everything! 🙂

Some people say if you think happy thoughts during the day, they metamorph into happy dreams during the night. I am not too sure about this because yesterday was a particularly shitty day for me. I was overworked and damn frustrated by the end, which happened to be sometime around 10PM!

So maybe this was a small gift transported in a mysterious way, from those thinking about me from far away, worrying about me all the time, wishing for my health and happiness.

Whatever it was, I wish I could savor more of it. I wish I could remember the dream.

Happy dreams, everyone!

Hey! What if my brain has it’s own dream pensieve, instead of a memory one like in HP, which my brain uses subconsciously after an awful day? Wattey thought 😀

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Did this really happen? Again?

While I am still in abject shock over what happened in Bangalore over New Year’s, I can’t believe our politicians, and in case they have forgotten, our custodians, keep making careless statements displaying their ignorance and indifference to this grave issue. Do they really don’t learn from mistakes? Dint we have enough examples through 2016?

Every time one of these assholes makes such a comment, I try not to be as shocked as I get. Most people have got used to it, but my question is why? Why have we got used to these democratically chosen MPs taking our safety and integrity so lightly? How dare he say ‘these things happen’? Well, why do they happen? And what are you doing so that they don’t happen?

I am tired of relying on politicians’ and society’s IQ and common sense to realise this is not ok. This is not normal. So maybe we need a more aggressive approach? Maybe its time we show our ‘Kaali’ version? We really can’t wait for the swift change. Its enough. We need a revolution. And we need it right now.

Although I am no champion in legal and political studies, even I can think of a few ways to mend this situation, maybe just a tiny bit. A criminal(?) case should be filed whenever one of these public servants make such a comment which puts a question mark on their line of thinking. They should be answerable to the court since they are clearly not answering us. EC has banned hate-speeches and caste/religion-based vote garnering. Why not ban misogynistic speech as well?

Barring all MPs/MLAs who have any pending criminal case against them from contesting elections is a sure shot way to filter out these bumpkins who we give power to rule us in any which way they like. All molestation/abuse/assault cases should be solved within a month or two of registering a FIR. If not solved, at least arrests should be made in a fortnight. I am pretty sure our police force have the capability to do this, they just don’t give a fuck.

We were so quick to arrest a petty university student under sedition charges for displaying his amazing oratory skills and verbally highlighting some of whats wrong with our country right now! Sedition by definition is ‘conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.‘ How come we dont have a law against the reverse? When the authority itself conducts a speech inciting people to rebel?

Without making people at every stage answerable, I dont think we are going anywhere. Since our society clearly lacks any sense of moral responsibility (did you watch those mute bystanders while the lady was being beaten and dragged in clear view? It disgusts me!), its really upto the judiciary to do us some justice.

I am sure there are numerous other legal ways to stop our nation’s rulers from disgracing and shaming us any more and understanding that it’s really absolutely totally not ok!

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New Year Resolutions anyone?

I personally dont like the idea of new year resolutions because overall, I am an organised person. Not very much organised in thoughts, but in actions, yes. I dont overindulge in anything and have very strong self restraint and self control, if I need to exercise it anytime.

But this year was different. It started on a sad note (although I was hopeful of the future in a new country), progressed with chaos and conflicts, moved towards growth and milestones, and ended with a long spell of clutter and anarchy. Two major failures were not being able to read as many books I had planned to and not being able to travel and visit as many places as I could. And this is just my personal space, about my own journey through the year. I am not even considering all the global drama which made the year quite hopeless.

The major highlight was the skydiving adventure which was long due in my bucket list!

But I still have a long list of career paths to choose from, I still need to fall in love with the city I am working in, I still need to figure out my workout routine and I still need to find more co-curricular activities outside of my work hours. There are just so many things happening all at the same time, without anything substantial actually happening. I still have so many decisions to make and its already the new year!

So maybe, new year resolution would be a good idea to declutter and organise, not just my actions, but my thoughts too. Because I sure dont want to end up chasing two rabbits and catching none.

I think I should start with being more optimistic 🙂

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Women – You need to keep rocking the boat

Every now and then, I hear my female colleagues mention how hard their life is, managing house and work, along with kids. This becomes frequent when their husband’s fall sick, even a minor cold. Their world stops and they become the babysitter.

My first question is – “Why don’t you involve your husband more in household chores and divide the work equally?” The looks I get! Either disdain for even suggesting this, after all household is their domain, or a look of disgust meaning ‘what do you know, being single an all’.

Well, I am single because its my choice and you are not because you chose not to be. You don’t have the right to crib about your own choices. You either fix them or shut up. These are the kind of people I dislike most. They are not happy with their lives but they won’t do anything about it other than complaining.

‘Hey, we planned a weekend trip with the gang.’ ‘Sorry, I won’t be able to join’ ‘But why not?’ ‘You remember how my parents created a ruckus when I came back late from the party?’ ‘But we dropped you safe and sound!’ ‘Yeah but I know they won’t agree this time and it will start another fight’.

Do you realise how pathetic it sounds?

The most common reason females don’t sort these kind of issues or speak-up? ‘I dont want to start another storm at home.’

Well, why not? This is what we call not wanting to rock the boat. You will be surprised this is the #1 reason females start getting into the Stockholm Syndrome mode and think that’s how life is supposed to be. Many of us are so tired of fighting over each and everything that the only option left for us to do to have a peaceful life, is to be quiet and accept the way things are.

Sorry, but excuse not accepted. I urge you to start as many fights as you need to, start as many storms as it takes for people to notice and rock your and others boats as many times as it takes for the society to accept that its not ok.

I understand a few parents/husbands/in-laws may not have the right perspectives to even realise that what has been going on might not be right or ethical. So you need to give them a chance, a direction to new thoughts.

Speak-up as often as you can because often, everyone ends up fighting their own battles, mostly alone.

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Women – Raise your bars, please!

A friend of mine recently got married and just came to the US a week back. She called me today to plan a meet-up.

I was so elated to hear her voice as I was speaking to her after a long time. Since I couldn’t attend her wedding, we hadn’t really caught-up in a few months. It was so great to talk to her and listen to her stories about the new experience; a new country, a husband, the wedding, post-wedding rituals etc. etc. There was so much to talk about.

I was curious to know how she was feeling in the new country and if she is doing ok. I was glad to hear she was considerably happy. I say ‘considerably’ now because of what she told me after a few mins of this. As we were on call for at least a couple of hours now, she was getting more comfortable and back to our old mode of chatting.

Slowly, she started revealing the common woes of all newly-wed brides; the cooking.

She, like most of the members in my girls gang, was a working women and never had to do much cooking at home or while staying in another city for work. We all had stayed with a group of 4-5 girlfriends and had hired a maid since it was difficult to prepare 3 healthy meals a day while managing a job. Plus, we were novices. Plus, there was no reason to not do so as we were financially capable enough to afford a maid.

So here is a newly-wed bride, in a new country, where paid labour for daily chores is neither convenient nor cheap, with her working husband, while she is on sabbatical to enjoy her marital bliss for a few months (although I could never understand why only women do this and not many men. Its almost as if this is thrust upon the bride).

While she continued with her little miseries of daily cooking and proudly told that one fine day, she woke up at 6AM in the morning to prepare breakfast and a full lunch for the husband to carry to work, a sudden gloom came over me. “He respected my gesture so much that he got me a big bouquet on the way back from work.” – her words. And she was floored with admiration and love.

Here was a girl I knew as strong and independent, smart and intelligent, turning into the stereotyped ‘Indian wife’. I dint want to think about the more severe consequences but couldn’t help it.

Do we really want our women to be this way? With such low expectations? The wife works her ass-off to make the husband happy and gets overwhelmed and overjoyed with a bouquet in return? They deserve better and much more!

We really need to teach our daughters, girlfriends and sisters to raise our standards! Stop patronising and gratifying the other half for every little insignificant act and glorifying it like an achievement.

The onus lies on all of us.

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To My Superman!

So my Dad retired last week after approx. 33 years of public service. While I expected him to be a little sad and quiet about it, it was really surprising for me to see him excited and in fact looking forward to it. I couldn’t help but think about it in my leisure. Here was this man, my role model, who never spent 1 minute of his life not doing something useful with his time and now can’t wait to get idle?

And then I realised all the pain and criticism he has been burdening all these years. It should have really exhausted him long before, fighting with the society ever since he had sense to form opinions, for not agreeing to the norm and following his heart, because he believed in himself more than the ‘suggestions’ of his ‘well-wishers’. And good for him, because he has been the envy of everyone around him since a long long time. He followed his guts and his intuitions and made his own way and got all the glory there is to be achieved in this earthly life.

While we had a great party organised for him, we also wanted to have some quiet family time. We did get a few hours late at night but by that time, my parents had got so emotional at what their 4 daughters had managed to successfully plan and execute without any help/support from either of them, that it felt a little too much for us to give any more emotional speeches. So this letter is what I was supposed to say that evening during the event but couldn’t. Although I expect my Papa to already know all this but just in case 🙂

My Dad’s personality can be easily judged by this short conversation that happened just a few days back. To give you a background, I am a 29-year-old single Indian female having worked all over the world, India, UK, US and currently continuing my profession in IT in the US. My parents don’t usually discuss the issue of marriage with me because I have already declared that my career is my priority until at least 5 more years. Plus, I need to fall in love to marry him, whoever it would be (if it will be). But in some way, thanks to the numerous “well-wishers”, my parents (specially my Mom) have to do the obligatory business of asking me indirectly. Initially it used to end up in a debate with me being too furious and aggressive to defend and justify myself and even though, my parents agreed with me eventually, I knew they kept feeling that they have failed in some way as a parent. But off late, our conversations around the topic have become much subdued, or they have got rather tired? 

Mom (to me but indirectly to Dad) – ‘I know you don’t want to marry and we are not forcing you to but we, as parents, have to do our duty to keep looking out for potential grooms. We can’t back away from that. Your Dad won’t do anything about it. He is really happy he got off one responsibility so easily.’

Me – ‘Mom! I can’t believe you are saying this. Since when has marrying your daughter become a duty for you? I thought my parents were so sensible and with wisdom much forward for their generation. But I’m disappointed.’

End of conversation.

Dad (when we were alone in the room) – ‘I hope you don’t think I am backing off from my responsibility. The thing is, as I read more and more about it, I realise that many of the successful leaders are single and unmarried, which I dint notice much before. I guess success trumps everything. And knowing you, I think marriage will only become a hindrance to your ambitions. Seeing how strongly you feel about your parents, gender equality etc., it would be a mistake if I was the one to force you into a wrong relationship and ruin what could have been an absolutely perfect life for you. So I know you are going to be fine. With or without marriage. You have lots of plans on your mind and lots of things to do, milestones to achieve and I don’t want you to slow down at all. I know you will marry when and with whom you want to whenever you are ready for it, mentally and consciously. So that’s the end of any discussions on marriage from my end. You have all the freedom I can give.’

I was speechless. I mean, I have always respected my parents to give me all the opportunities a son would get, in fact, I think, we (all 4 of us) got much more, thanks to all those sacrifices our parents did. But this was a new level of respect I felt for my Dad. This was it! It take guts for a parent in a small-town middle-class family of Uttar Pradesh to support their daughter in such a decision which breaks all barriers of society and peer-pressure. It establishes a new benchmark altogether! Suck it up, you patriarchs!

But these days my Dad thinks I undervalue him and think that he doesn’t know anything because I argue over everything. Well Dad, lets settle this for once and for all. I respect you and value your opinion as much as I used to when I was a little girl. You still and will always be my role model. Nothings going to change that ever. Now regarding the arguing over everything, that’s just my way of making you feel proud of your daughter that she is learned enough to form and have her own opinions, her own voice. I don’t want to behave like some dimwitted girl who blindly follows what anyone around them is telling, be it their parents. I am learning from my own experiences and I feel grateful that you have always given us this opportunity to carve our own path and decide for ourselves. So whats different now? I am just exercising that privilege with my family. I though you would understand this much better than anyone else.

You say I don’t listen to you anymore. But Dad, that’s what I inherited from you. You see, there are two kinds of people in this world. One, the followers and second, the leaders. I am a lone wolf and I don’t like to travel in a pack. I would rather burn my fingers to conclude that fire is beautiful but it hurts rather than not go near it just because someone said I shouldn’t. And you know it. Because you have been the same way. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?

You can’t imagine how privileged and lucky I feel myself for being born as your daughter. Our childhood can easily be an inspiration to all parents on how to raise strong and independent daughters who have their own voice and take only what they deserve.

As I look back, I can’t believe how those little things you and Mom brought into our formative years impacted us and made us into the kind of people we are today. The sharing of each chocolate bar among all 4 of us taught us the value of sharing and caring and in some way, helped us not to know what being jealous meant.

The concept of earning our pocket-money during summer vacations by doing household chores like ironing both of your’s clothes, folding washed clothes, making tea, sweeping the floors, made us financially conscious right from a very very young age. I remember we used count how many cups of tea we would have to make so that we could rent out the Digest comics (the thick ones with 4-5 volumes combined) for a day. And then all 4 of us would pool our money to get 1 digest and share it among us so that everyone can read that comics in a day. So much saving! Which could be used to buy anniversary gifts for Mom and Dad!

O yeah, the gifts and the celebrations! I remember the results day was always a celebration day for our family. While other kids used to get scared of the results day, we would look forward to it. Because no matter how bad we did, you would always buy samosas and rasgullas (Indian sweets and snacks) on the way back. I guess that’s why we were never scared of any exams. Even now. You both always told us that we should just give our best and then leave the rest. The results are not in our hands so why fret over it. We should be scared only if we haven’t been honest in giving it our 100%. I think this is a lesson for all the parents out there whose kids go for preparation of competitive exams. It’s important to assure them that whatever the results are, it’s going to be ok.

And lastly, thank you so much for never putting us under any pressure to perform. I remember I used to watch ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ even during my 10th board exams and still managed to score a 95%! For my non-Indian readers, this is like watching Hanna Montana just a day before you are going to war as the Captain of your platoon. Yes, it’s so dead serious and big a deal in my country. So why am I thanking for that? Because it inadvertently taught us to be calm in tough situations. To not lose our brains over a single fleeting event. There’ll be more to come, maybe worse, and it doesn’t help to stress ourselves out over thinking about how you would perform.

And then the scooty incident! When I used to go for tuition at 4:30AM in the winters when it still used to be dark outside. All alone on my scooty approx. 2kms. far from home in pitch darkness fearing somebody following me all the time. I came to you one day and demanded that you drop me to tuition in the morning from the next day or come with me all the way. You asked for the reason, I couldn’t explain that I feared something invisible lurking for me. And you denied. Oh how I hated you that day! And now that I know it was actually you keeping an eye on me without me relying on you, I can’t thank you enough Dad, because it taught me that in the toughest situations in life, you are mostly on your own. Everyone has to fight their own battles. And look, here I am, fighting and winning all my battles all the way.

There is so much more to say and frankly, I think I can write a whole novella on this. So Dad, thank you so much for just being who you are. I know it must be unimaginably challenging to survive in a society where having one daughter and no son is enough to be socially boycotted, let alone four and then educating all in top-class english-medium schools, sending to other states for higher degrees! It’s just nerve-wrecking to think you did all that without second thoughts. But you are my Superman and my hero! You will always be!

It has been a real privilege and honour to be born as your daughter. I realise it more day by day as I understand the condition of daughters all around the world and how lucky I got. It is because of under-the-hood stalwarts like you that women like us get the courage to keep fighting and believing that the battle is not yet lost, even though we have a long way to go. I know you are not aware but you have set an example and inspired numerous parents in our community to believe in their daughters and give them a chance.

So thankyou is no where close to express what I want to but what other option do I have? Here’s to my Superman!

‘Behind every strong, independent woman is an open-minded father who trusted her and not the society’

Note : This post was originally published on YourStory.com

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