How to improve your vocabulary

From the word of mouth

Have you ever been around a child who is learning how to speak? Well, I have and I can tell you when the little ones are unable to convey their demands they turn cranky and throw fits. This is a basic example of understanding the importance of putting words in our communication. An effective way to exchange ideas relies heavily on the correct usage of words. The words that form an individual’s vocabulary.

For an individual it is easier to acquire proficiency in the native language. An obvious reason for this is the regularity and exposure to the tongue over and over again. The challenge however arises when the language you want to perfect is not as popularly spoken around you. This could even be your second language, such as English in India.

It is a point worth wondering that even though the medium of learning has gradually shifted from regional languages to English, yet a lot of our population struggles to speak fluent English. Why though?

As an English trainer, I come across candidates who can read and write well but find it difficult to speak fluently. While they are comfortable framing the thoughts in their head, when it comes to delivering them, they miss out on the details owing to the paucity of right words in their expressions.

Therefore, I decided to use my writing space to assist with this common yet significant issue; how to build your vocabulary.

  • Read Read Read!

If we look back at our student life, it had a defined routine with the regular drill to read and write in English. As years pass and we progress professionally, we lose out on the habit of reading. The trick is to start by picking up pieces that interest us. Say, for example you are into fashion then look up for quality content in this area and dive in.

On a lighter note, I came across a post on Twinkle Khanna’s social media handle where she and her daughter were comfortably couched on a sofa with their respective books to keep them engrossed. Twinkle wrote, “‘you have a quota-25 pages a day and so do I.’ She asks, ‘but who gives you the quota mama?’ ‘That’s the tricky part of being an adult. You have to give yourself these tasks and make sure you stick by them.’ With brushed teeth and uncombed hair, we begin our mornings in the best way possible. It may not be 25 pages every day, sometimes it’s merely 5, but it all adds up eventually.”

Set goals if you are a beginner and get going.

  • People Watching

We have all heard about bird watching. A hobby that many people enjoy through their eyes and ears. It involves sitting and observing the birds. If you are an environment enthusiast then you will realize that birds make more than the usual coo cooing and tweet tweet sound and each has a different meaning.

On the same lines we can watch people. If you are hesitant to contribute verbally then it is a good idea to listen to people communicate. It is similar to watching a video or audio but in a live set up. Listening and watching helps in understanding the tone and modulation and how to form sentences by blending words well.

  • Learn Roots

Another effective way to build a vocabulary is by following the roots of the words. I will personally recommend the book “Word Power made Easy” by Norman Lewis which is a complete handbook to understand English words and their usage.

For example, the words like vivacious, vivid, revive and convivial are all derived from the Latin root word vivo which means to live.

The book gives an insight into building words and deriving the meaning of words without having to refer to a dictionary.

My advice would be to designate half an hour a day to doing exercises given in this book. It is all be worth it.

  • Try board games

It is easier said than done when somebody tells you to memorize words to better your vocabulary. Wikipedia says, “Oxford Dictionary has 273,000 headwords; 171,476 of them being in current use, 47,156 being obsolete words and around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.” Too much numbers to take in!

Hence to ease the process, it is a good practice to get familiar with the English words. If you have  a group of friends who are in sync with your idea of having fun while learning than get your hands on some really popular board games like Scrabble, Crosswords, Hangover and  Pictionary.

  • Replacing empty words

It is a common practice to fill our speech with empty words like ‘uh’ and ‘um’. While it is natural to fumble once in a while speaking in English but if it bothers the listeners then these words need replacement. The best solution is to fill these gaps by using appropriate words.

I remember my last day at school, our headmaster concluded her speech by saying the words, “this is not end and it is only the beginning”. The same goes for every educative process. Unlike mathematics where revising certain set of formulae helps in solving problems, English is quite different.  It is an intellectual journey that needs to be continued with the same vigor as you began.

In short make English a part of your life:

  1. Text your friends in English.
  2. Develop practical vocabulary; learn words that are relevant to your task at end.
  3. Derive a game using new words, by associating higher degree terms—large, huge, gigantic
  4. Use flashcards if you really wish to memorize certain words.
  5. Talk out aloud in front of a mirror.

Until then, happy talking and happy reading!

Grandparents

My daughter has turned into a headstrong toddler and her demand off late has been to visit Bhopal. Bhopal is where her paternal grandparents live. Please do not judge me or my husband, we are just too occupied in our professions and traveling 900km without prior planning does not happen for us anymore.

As a mother my outlook towards my parents changed for the better and continue to still do as I take on motherhood one day at a time.  My grandmother who we lovingly addressed as amma was an integral part of my growing up years. As a grandparent she held a special place for my siblings and me.

Me with my amma and mom

I have some really fond memories with her. She was a treasure trove of stories. She would often joke about how we would rinse off oil before stepping out. This was in contrast to her times where one could only leave the house with heavily oiled neatly pleated pony tails. Imagine doing that now!

I still remember how she would guide me to oil my hair especially in the center stating the oil permeates inside and the other parts of the body get their desired fuel through this exercise. I am not too sure if I followed this tip on myself as often but I have till date oiled my baby girl just the way my amma said.

My parents posing as happy grandparents celebrating my daughter’s first birthday

I often wonder if my daughter will ever feel the same way about her grandparents.

As parents we often boast that our kids are being spoiled by the grandparents. The ones who stay with their grandchildren know the difference and the children also unknowingly develop a special bond with their Dada and Dadi. The maternal side grandparents also pour their love in the form of gifts as and when they can. It is no surprise when anyone questions my daughter on who got her a certain jacket and pat comes her reply, “Nanu”.

This past year our daughter got a chance to stay over her grandparents place for more days as compared to her usual visits. It was an upside to the lockdown. She happily participated in the festivities that came along. The occasional treats prepared monthly as an offering to God really fascinated her. Our yearly ritual of saying mourning prayers for the designated two months of Muharram made her see the culture more closely. It was only then that I realized that being around with elders does open a window to family history and traditions. The teachings that kids take away from the regular day to day chores can only happen in the presence of grandparents.

My baby girl celebrating her first Eid with her paternal grandparents

The current picture of child rearing is a bit different. As ambitious young professionals so many couples like us have taken refuge in metro cities. Our homes are equipped with everything that comforts our living and fulfills our purpose of leaving the small towns where we were born and brought up. This is not to say that our parents our neglected. They have a fancy wishful retired life back home and enjoy socializing and growing older with their set of people.

As more and more couples take time to settle down, the average age of the grandparents is more and so they are termed as the late boomers. Even at this age, the grandparents have a life of their own. They are happily thriving their second innings with their professions, passions and myriad interests. The idea is to not burden our parents by making them mere babysitters to our kids.

Our park scene with grandparents soaking the winter sun while enjoying with their grandchildren

The modern day guide to getting more connected with one’s grandchildren features video calling as an asset. It works as a win- win situation for both sides. I as a mother and a daughter value their role in her life and make efforts to keep her interest alive in these daily telephonic video and audio banters. I can hardly recall a day when I have not shared a picture of my little one goofing around the house with my mother. Her response to the little one’s rattles and stories are some priceless moments. My mother says it gives her a feel of déjà vu of her own parenting days.

My daughter may be too young currently to understand the difference her grandparents make in her life but as she grows up I am sure she will realize how meaningful this relationship is.

As Elizabeth Goudge puts it aptly, “The very old and the very young have something in common that makes it right that they should be left alone together. Dawn and sunset see stars shining in the blue sky; but morning and afternoon do not, poor things”

Upskilling

Unexpected, Unplanned, Impromptu …

These are words that come to mind when I look back at the past year!

If we flip back a few pages from the book of our life and think of the year 2018, we will realize our challenges and goals both in personal and professional life were very different.  Post pandemic our professional life demands some repair. But how?

One question, continues to haunt every working class. Will my job help me survive in this pandemic or will I survive in this job in this dismal scenario?

Image taken from rasmussen.edu

One of the many things that this period taught us is the importance of being professionally updated. It is no wonder that the social platforms are full of various certification ads.

A decade or more ago, our idea of education was investing your hard earned money into a professional degree. The return on investment (ROI) would be a well-paying 9-5 job, which would secure the financial needs of the family for the next 30-40 years.

The current scenario of education and work has changed drastically and continues to do so. The constant need to up-skill oneself is a necessity more than a requirement. From my personal experience, I can recall studying Java Computer language in my engineering coursework. When I joined as a lecturer some five years later I realized python was also a part of the curriculum and I had to put in efforts to learn it to be able to teach the young aspiring engineering students.

Many a times individuals shy away from changing fields or upgrading their skillset. The reasons vary from rigidity in attitude to blind reliance on knowledge amassed by working on a technology for years. Working professionals shy away from up skilling by putting their experience as an asset.

Upskilling needs to be seen in positive light. Today the technology is changing at a rapid pace. There is Big data, machine learning, virtual, augmented and mixed reality and more to know and learn about.

The point is are we willing?

Image taken from the report presented by Express Employment Professionals

A few weeks ago I came across a sensuous dancing video of Jahanvi Kapoor, the newbie starlet from the Kapoor clan. I started to compare how in the past years, actors were expected to just act well. Cut to the present setup, apart from the acting skills, there is a rise in demand of many other acquired traits. It is no surprise when actors hit the gym religiously for that toned body and those six pack abs. Survival of the fittest quite literally!

I am putting down a few skill sets here that can help software engineers enhance their existing skill sets:-

–           If you are the geeky and Musky (Elon Musk) kinds, you can look up some artificial intelligence courses, diplomas or even internships.

–           If you are interested in Machine Learning, look up some short term courses that provide learning of supervised and unsupervised ML models, predictive analytics and statistics etc.

–           For people that can speak to numbers, I’d suggest the area of Data Sciences covering data wrangling, data visualization and communication, data intuition etc.

–           There is so much on internet right now to learn about networking options on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Explore these learnings about interconnection among networks and load balancing.

The pandemic gave us a lot of time. Let us devote some time in learning new skills that can help better our resume. While you are at it, focus a bit also on polishing your transferable skills. These could be team building tactics, the verbal and communication skills, leadership qualities and numeracy skills to name a few. As an employer one focuses on recruiting potential resources.

Finally, assess those skill gaps in yourself. Work on your professional and developmental goals by using virtual classrooms to enhance your skillset.

As they say, learn while you earn!

Presentation

In an office meeting or at a college seminar, a good presentation has the effect of leaving lasting impressions. While it is important to project confidence and competence, another aspect that leaves a great impression is the way we dress. The last few blogs have been dedicatedly discussing development of the former skills. This week, I’d like us to take is easy and discuss something fun and yet important.

Dressing sense is important

I believe dressing sense is a reflection of one’s personality. Every time you dress, you wear something that speaks about your mood, your style and so much more. If you speak to an image analyst then he/she will have a lot to say about the concept of dressing as per the occasion. Feel the room!

The definition of clothes has changed over the years. A documentary on Netflix talks about acceptance of wearing spandex in public. Spandex by the way as Google puts it is, “A lightweight, synthetic fiber that is used to make stretchable clothing such as sportswear”. There is no surprise if we come across anybody pulling it off comfortably while running daily errands. Athleisure as it is popularly called now.

The importance of a flawless dressing style was demonstrated by the ladies at the Inauguration Day event at White House where Joe Biden swore in as the new President of the United States. As a common men my eyes could not miss the coats that were donned by the ladies. The synchronized monochromatic looks of Jill Biden’s (first lady) who wore a blue Markarian jacket or the selection of color purple by Vice President Kamala Harris to depict power, could not be missed. Of course the former first lady Michelle Obama in her splendid maroon Sergio Hudson Coat was seen as a modern style icon.

So does this mean one has to burn a whole in their pocket to give a fine first impression? 

Your thrifty blogger disagrees! Let’s explore.

Internal conflict!

My personal take on dressing always begins with a mental conflict. There is no denying that heels, well fitted shirts and trousers or skirts are the most sheik chic way to present yourself. But my idea of dressing always tilts more in the favor of comfort styling. Involuntarily, my picks at apparel shopping outlets has always been free and easy flowing kurtas or tops where I don’t have to think too much. This is not to say that I flinch from fashionable clothing items but comfort over glamour is the impression I would want to give away in my first meeting.

What is the right way to dress up?

If somebody comes up to me and says, girls have to be more conscientious with their dressing style than men, well then I beg to differ. I will base my observations on the way my father would dress up. As a young kid and well before the emergence of social media my father always stood out for me with his impeccable dressing sense. He had favorites too with white cotton starched kurta pajamas and a separate coloured Nehru Jacket to go along with a white, cream kurta. On some occasions he even chose coloured kurta.

I remember I once stepped out of the house wearing osho slippers which were trending during my college years. As a day’s scholar, my father did not appreciate my casual footwear and advised me to dress appropriately. The young rebellious college going kid in me did not like the restriction. Once I started living in a hostel by myself, I made sure I bought any and every shoe and sandal that appealed to me. That rebellion however died down as soon as I joined a workplace as a lecturer. The advice my father gave me, hit me hard when at workplace I twisted my ankle wearing a fancy chappal with a not so firm sole to support my gait.

My dad always believed and said, “For a 9-5 job always wear comfortable footwear, your clothes should be properly ironed and should give out an impression of a serious person”.

I am listing out some tips that can help us navigate the challenges of how to look well put:

  • A white shirt, a dark blue jeans and a grey sweater for the guys is the best bet.
  • Make space for more solid and neutral colors like white, black, navy blue and khaki in your wardrobe guys.
  • Spend on some colorful pants and lowers to mix and match and enter an informal event with style.
  • Dressing well is all about the right fit. Take special care in buying and getting clothes stitched with correct size.
  • De-clutter, it is important to give away clothes that lie in your wardrobe untouched. Spend wisely, if you can buy those five pieces then you might as well select one in the same budget.
  • Do not go blind shopping for the outfits that look good on somebody else. More often than not, something that looks good on your favorite model will not look the same on you.
  • Create your own style. Stop running behind changing trends.
  • Respect the occasion. Make it a point to adjust your regular style according to the occasion. You might be a casual wear person but if you end up in the same wear to your workplace, it might not go down so well.

All said and done, remember it is not always just the clothes that define your personality. It is important to spend on grooming yourself as well.

And as Coco Chanel says, “Keep your heels, head and standards high.”

Self care in Mommies

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

Well Osho got it right but have we as mothers? I doubt!!

Motherhood is one big responsibility and the constant attention demanded by a child leaves little time for the mother to care for her own self. Of course the rewards of this tiring never ending role are a plenty.

Image taken from instagram page kidovio

My mother once told me, how she stayed in a joint family and was assigned the work for cooking for all the members. Her day would start at 5 a.m and end at 12. In between when she would come in the room to feed me or rest for a while, the innocent smile of a 5month old me would cheer her up and fade her mental fatigue.

Cut to my present mommie days, there is considerably reduced house work owing to the nuclear family setup.  However, the  struggles for most women today have doubled and there is constant juggling between personal and professional life. Does our personal space feature self-care as much as it takes in to account the likes and dislikes of the other family members?

 I hear a feeble yes there!

Blame it on our conditioning or the biological wiring, women tend to associate “care” as a holistic term. A former colleague once told me she was not fond of cooking but when she realized her kids rejected basic home food, she enrolled herself for cooking classes and from then on offered variety on the daily platter. According to her, the scenes on the dining table changed into one happy picture. To her the satisfaction of a well fed family was more rewarding than doing something for herself.

During my school days I would often visit a friend’s place. I would see her mother reading a book while enjoying the winter sun as she prepared herself for the arrival of a new baby.  Years later when I conceived, I made sure I read that book titled-“mother & babycare” . I maintained a mental checklist of what I was passing on to the child growing inside me. I ate well and incorporated physical exercise in my daily routine. I rested well and stressed less.

Me time needs to be guilt free

Two months after the birth of my dear daughter, I realized a drastic fall in my attitude towards my own well-being. The initial days of motherhood were overwhelming, once my in-laws left, my daughter demanded my attention all day long and of-course the never ending night feeding sessions. It was only after the burn out that my husband and I decided to look for support.

I was once speaking to an experienced mother and she suggested I look out for an additional help before I delivered the baby. My question to her was,  “If she does all that then what will I do?”. Her instant reply was “Whatsapp”. We laughed it out then but I realized later how right she was because I was mostly pre occupied with the baby.

As a mother it is important to keep ourselves first. A happy mother can take good care of her kids and family. As a mother with a little experience and understanding,  I have some tips that can go a long way to keep us sane:

  1. Grooming: When my daughter was a month old, on the day of our wedding anniversary, my anxiety was at an all-time high. I feared leaving my little one even while she slept well. After the push from my mother I finally dressed up and made efforts to look good for the day. It was a very fulfilling feeling. For me how I felt inside reflected on my face. Take time to groom yourself. Look good, feel good.
  2. Evening walks: When the weather cleared up and sun did come out, I decided to take my daughter out of the room. I towed her pram into the campus lawn and believe me I felt different. Take time out for natural outings. All the poetry around fresh air, flowers and lush green trees is definitely not over-hyped. Nature has the power to heal your senses magically.
  3. Food: So, panjiri , gud laddoos, dry fruit powders, milk and so on are on your table during the initial months of nursing. They become an old story as years progress. Why though? Take charge of your healthy eating habits. One fruit a day, soaked almonds are easy food hacks to follow.
  4. Me Time: My neighbor who has high school going kids was telling me the other day, how she has stopped caring about her likes and dislikes because her kids keep her busy. In a day take out time for yourself.  Meditate or drink your favorite hot chocolate in that me-time. I personally took to writing to feel good.
  5. Get connected: Parenting is a 24*7 job. It is important to talk it out to fellow mommies to avoid feeling alone. Go meet your girl gang, talk to your friends and family often. Tough days are a phase, they pass, don’t lose yourself in this journey.

Our babies are most definitely the center of our universe. We as mothers strive to give the best of everything, we want them to grow up independent and content. This is in so many ways dependent on how we put ourselves in front of them. Set yourselves as role models for a healthy lifestyle they would copy guilt free.

As a fellow mommie says, “Monkey see, monkey do

Take care momma, you are doing a fabulous job.

How to improve your English Speaking Skills?

“I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English, because English is a funny language. Bhairon becomes barren and barren becomes Bhairon because their minds are very narrow…”

This popular dialogue from the movie, Namak Halal brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. Besides the entertainment value, it puts succinctly the obsession of Indians with spoken English. Everyone we know wants to talk English, walk English and laugh English.

The debate about westernization aside, English in this country is more a skill than just a language.  It has emerged as the primary mode of communication across India also because of the diverse linguistic spread. If one wishes to excel in the professional world, communication in English is imperative.

As a professional communications trainer, I come across multiple requests from qualified Engineers who are still struggling in the corporate world, owing to the lack of effective communication skills.  They tell me the inability to speak fluently in the English language affects their work, confidence and chances of success.

More often than not, my students’ primary desire is to be able to speak fluent English. My students range from regular college going kids to working professionals. All of them are looking to groom themselves and believe working on their speaking skills is the first step. I most definitely agree.

As a teacher

Based on experience with the students, I am sharing some of the key points that can help in this direction:

  • Listen: A friend of mine visited her doctor with the concern that her child was two years old and had not started to talk. The doctor advised her to talk to the kid as much as possible. Just like babies, adults also grasp by listening. Think of all possible avenues of listening.
  • Read: I once trained a student who had good command over grammar but could not complete his sentences. We together worked on building his vocabulary. This is not to say that I made me memorize the dictionary. I assigned him reading comprehensions. Reading develops the ability to understand the rules that makes sentence structuring easy.
  • Speak: People often complain that they hesitate to talk in English for the fear of making a fool of themselves. My advice to such students is to create a small friends circle, the ones they are most comfortable with. Talk to your bunch in English. Send out those long text messages in English. In driving lingo – unless I take my car out for a ride, I will not know where I need to improve.
  • Think in English: Many students break their sentences unevenly while speaking and use fillers like aaa. This shows the speaker is trying to translate thoughts he had in his native tongue into English. Stop this practice. Think in English. Start with a simple morning routine, while you are in bed think about your day and plan in English. All this is in your head, so no fear being judged. Simple!
  • See and learn: The mechanical way of learning grammar rules and then doing an exercise can get boring. I suggest my students watch English news channels, if politics and sports interest them. If you are looking to pass time casually tune on to F.R.I.E.N.D.S and laugh it away while learning.

  • Fluency training: A technique of working on your fluency is using mirrors. Give yourself a topic and practice speaking it out loud in front of it. You will be able to judge yourself best. One can also try image training, for instance you are waiting to place an order at a restaurant, practice what you will tell the waiter in your head before making a call. Remember how they show in cinema, love struck nervous guys in front of a mirror with a rose, practicing how to approach a girl. Use it now.

If you have done all of this and imagine yourself to be a pro at English speaking, I will leave you with these fun lines with you to twist your tongues:-

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
and chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would
if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”

Lineage

The past week has been a great run for my blog. The number of visitors to my blog was more than I had expected. More than I ever saw in the blog’s viewer statistics tab. Thank you to all of you.

I believe I have picked this trait from my father, celebrating simple joys in life with your loved ones. Let’s speak of traits then!

Inheriting curls

The first time the doctor handed our baby girl to us, the scrutiny of her features and resemblances began. My in-laws said she resembled her phupho, owing to those big and beautiful eyes. My mother said her lips were like mine and ears like my younger sister. We all finally settled on the common ground that she was a mix of both the families. I believe tangible features are easy to distinguish in one’s appearance because they are right out there. I am talking about the attributes that we inherit in our personalities.

As a young kid, I was close to my amma, my grandmother. Every morning, she would religiously take her trunk out from the store room and stack her clothes neatly. I never noticed her throwing away old and unused items from that trunk. Not even old trunk linings made out of newspaper. One of these days we were heading out for a birthday party and my husband asked for a bag to carry the gift. As an involuntary instinct I lifted the bed mattress and gave one. He was surprised to see paper bags kept under the mattress. For me it was a habit I had seen and learnt from amma. Piling polybags neatly under flat surfaces.

Like father like daughter

Organizing and tidying up our personal spaces has been a therapy in our family. Sundays are about emptying our cupboards and re-doing them. My sister had taken it to another level, in which she throws out all the clothes every morning and puts them back properly once she returns form work. My dad never threw out old wedding cards as much as they irked my mother. Every forthright he would grab a diary and jot down the contact numbers from the same cards and later use it with pride.

Having said that, not all inherited traits are therapeutic. My mother has this OCD of converting eatables from a bigger dishes to smaller ones. Imagine bulk cooking for guests, putting the prepared dishes in big containers then into smaller bowls for serving, then smaller ones for the leftovers for the fridges and then another set for the last ones that need to be washed by the maids. Phew! Inherited maybe. I should have asked my nani.

When I landed in Delhi for my first job, I settled in a PG. One fine morning my roommates and I called up a carpenter for some work. As he completed I offered him tea and biscuits. My roommates later laughed about the biscuits. They put their five and more years of staying in PGs and advised me to do away with just a glass of water or simple tea. I hail from a small city and I have grown up seeing my parents offering the same to anyone and everyone. We have had the same electrician, same carpenter vising our house and were like family. Fast moving lives of metro cities don’t allow us the space to do that as freely.

As we grow our personalities shape up owing to multiple factors. The good ones we are proud of independently, but the negative ones we easily to attribute it our lineage. One regular morning, my house help who comes in by 8 am every morning, was late. By 8.15, I was pacing across the house ranting to my husband how she is unprofessional and why I should give her a call in the next 15mins.The doorbell rang at 8.30 and I sheepishly looked at my husband and said, “ Mummy bhi ese hi gussa krti hai” (mom did the same) .

It isn’t just me. I was once riding with a friend for a movie for which we were running late. He abused the government for setting up damaged lights and causing more agony than comfort. Her sister who was on the backseat commented, don’t be like dad and stop accusing the government for trivial things. We find it so relieving to blame our emotional outburst or irrational behavior on our genes.

Ever since I started driving every time I have spotted a number plate with UP-15 (the vehicle codes for Meerut) I have made sure to look in, just in case it is somebody I know of. I recently came across a car in the society parking which read MP-04 with a Atharv and Ahana stickers on its back mirror, I instantly turned around to my husband and questioned if he knew anybody who had a kid named Atharv in Bhopal.

At a New Year’s party, I overheard somebody shout Zaidi. Accustomed to being addressed by my sur-name by friends back home, I looked around to check. It wasn’t for me. There was another Zaidi in town it seemed.  I went up to that guy and politely introduced myself and asked, “So where are you from?” He got a little uncomfortable, doused his cigarette and replied, “From Lucknow and I generally don’t smoke, this occasion demands it”. I smiled at him and went back to my friends. It is in unknown circles like these a mention of anything familial feels home to me.

Awaiting this swag to be passed on 🙂

When my daughter meticulously wipes off the sauce from the plate leaving the fried veggies lying untouched, I ring my mother and tell her she has taken this habit from her mamu. My brother who loves and eats ketchup with anything and everything gleams with pride on this comparison.

I read an article last week and was introduced to a musical track “Traces of you” by Anoushka Shankar which was released after the death of her father and she wrote, “People who have gone are still here, in us. Places we came from are carried to the places we go.”

Fathers

Millennial parenting is one of the most challenging roles taken up by our generation. We have set high standards of life both for ourselves, as working parents and for our kids as well. We want to raise our kids by giving them the best of luxuries but at the same time we want to ensure that they are grounded and imbibe robust moral values that define them and their humane characteristics.

There are no second thoughts that both mother and father play separate roles in raising the kids.  From my formative years, I can recall umpteen incidents of how my mother who donned the role of a house wife, taught us the basic life lessons of care by making me and my siblings as the caretakers for my old grandmother.

Fathers and their contribution to parenting has always been highly doubtful. It is therefore that many men fear fatherhood and its accompanied notions as a provider, somebody the family looks up to for need fulfillment. But there is definitely more to fatherhood than it meets the eye.

I recently lost my father and our grief found soothing refuge in stories and incidents from our childhood to adulthood, as my siblings and I firmly stand tall on our feet. My perspective on fatherhood is based a lot on how my father raised my sister, my brother and I without any difference.

A young growing teenage cousin of mine recently told me how she has started travelling to her college all by herself by boarding the Delhi metro. Her idea of independence was relatable enough. I was in class 7th when we finally got our first bicycle. As soon as I learnt how to ride without supporters, I was casually designated the work of buying biscuits and namkeens for guests who would visit unexpected. The joy of peddling and speeding a cycle for taking the clothes for ironing to the local press wale bhaiya was unmatched. It was obvious that by the time I was in class 12th I had graduated to a bigger cycle and I was using it for going to the tuition to any part of the city by throwing caution to the wind. It was to say the least instilling confidence and exposing us to the outside world.

In the year 2007, cabs were not even in the picture and one fine morning my father was at work and I needed to go watch a movie with friends. The only mall and Cineplex in town which was not very close to our house did not deter me. My father obviously after the discussion and debate around, “esi kya picture hai wo” (what is the big deal with that movie) guided me how to take a local bus and an auto and reach. As I look back as a parent, I am sure he had his apprehensions but with time and age he let us be. Parenting is about letting your kids free and independent but making sure you control the reins because I had to return home by 4 p.m.

I was in class 10th and my brother’s school fees needed to be paid. As usual mom was busy at home and my younger sister was at school. My father gave me those Rs.700 and asked me to do it and left for his office. With the social science book in one hand and money clutched to my heart I stood two hours in the school bank and paid the fees. Little did I know back then, that this was how he ingrained in me responsibility and trust. Ever since that work, the mundane bank work was solely on me and as a young perky teenager I was always up for it (without a cellphone to keep me entertained. Imagine!).

My father had his own ways of imparting life skills. He was not strict per say but we knew we had to turn off the television and sit with books every evening while he would return from work. He enforced the importance of studies as much as possible. It was our summer break, I must have been in class 8th and our neighbor kids, I and my sister decided to marry our bride doll to their groom doll. We secretly planned everything but as destiny had it, papa spotted the doll wear and cancelled everything. As much as we detested him then as we grew up we realized his intention was always to keep us away from gender specific games which in anyway could influence us. I could therefore relate when Pankaj Mishra’s character gave that aaloo paratha speech to his daughter in the movie, Gunjan Saxena. As a feminist father he pressed more on a progressive thought process.

This one is my favorite and maybe I have loved my dad most for this memory. Back in 2005, Harry Potter books were a rage. My siblings and I bought a small piggy-bank and started saving to buy and own the 5 books in the series. One afternoon he questioned us about the piggybank casually. Exactly an hour after we had detailed our little dream to him, we got to know that he was at “The Book Corner” a famous book shop in Meerut, ready to buy the sets for us. The next half of the day, we had all the five books in our hands, glee in our eyes and cheers in our hearts. Back in the days, when resources were limited, this instinctive and emotional spending would be considered a waste by many. But not by my father.

I can go on and on and pen down so many similar stories that define our special father daughter relationship but I know each one of us has such relatable heartwarming stories which make us value our parents even more. As my daughter grows I see many such traits in my husband and I hope both of us make her childhood days’ worth a beautiful memory she loves coming back to.

What is a good resume?

The role of a lecturer is multifaceted as compared to what one thinks when pursuing masters to get qualified to be a teacher. During one such day at my institute I was assigned the work to shortlist resumes for the interview round for the post of an Asst. Professor. The senior teachers and the head of the department gave me some ten pointers for selecting the desired resumes. As I sat down to read over 100 resumes, I realized what it was to be on the other side.

When I was finished I had segregated some 25 resumes. It took me less than 1 minute to go through each resume. I discovered some common mistakes that candidates usually make. Therefore I decided to cover in detail the nitty-gritties of an eye catching resume.

According to Investopedia, “a resume is a formal document that is created by a job applicant to itemize his or her qualifications for a position. Most often a resume is accompanied with a cover letter where the applicant expresses an interest in a specific organization or a job and draws attention to the skills which are most relevant to the job applied”.

When I was pursuing B.Tech I prepared my first resume for a small internship program. When I compared it with some of my classmates’, I realized there were so many ways of making a resume. It is said that a good face is a reference letter and when some of my batch mates put a picture on their resumes our seniors advised us against it. We were told that a resume of an engineer is supposed to be plain without any fancy borders and our projects and coding skills should do the talking.

Over the years I continue to update my resume for the lack of any one standard definition of a good resume. However, there are some basics that need to be addressed and are as follows:

  • Update Contact information

After the resume shortlisting, I was asked to make the relevant calls to the candidate and inform them via email for details of the next round. It was annoying when some of the emails bounced back owing to the wrong entry or when I heard the typical, “the number you have called does not exist” dial tone.

It is thus important to recheck and update the current contact information before applying to avoid missing out on a great opportunity.

  • Educational Qualification

This section is assumed to be the easiest to put in a resume. The trick is to make it as concise and to the point. If you are applying as a fresher then it is advisable to list your percentages or CGPA. It is very important to write the year of passing to make the information relevant.

During my college, some students opted to mention their marks in every semester. A 4 year course has 8 semesters and elaborate mark details are suitable only when they are asked, otherwise they appear of no use to the recruiter.

  • Work Experience

For recruiters who are looking for experienced employees, this is the section they directly come to. This is not to say that one should detail out everything that one has done in their career. Always stay relevant and list the work that relates to the current job profile you have applied for.

Follow a proper chronology; start with the current job and its descriptions preferably in pointers not more than 5. As you graduate to previous work descriptions, keep reducing the pointers to 2.

During my M.Tech I applied for internships for the android app developer position. I listed the two mini android projects that I had developed in the coursework. I further mentioned about the other projects I had submitted in B.Tech, highlighting my openness to learn other technologies as well.

  • Skillset

Some recruiters demand a clarity with the skills of a candidate. For engineering job profiles the hard core skills include one’s expertise with coding or knowledge of a specific development environment. Be precise and specific.

Soft skills for engineering positions do not need a separate mention. It is best to highlight traits like leadership, team-ship, flexibility and creativity through extracurricular involvements.

  • Hobbies and interests

This is mostly the last section in the resume. Many recruiters go through this section to get to know the candidate. If you have some fine hobbies like reading, singing, gardening or photography then make sure you mention them. Avoid lying just for the sake of creating an impression.

I once went for a walk in interview and we were asked to submit our resumes to the person in charge. The guy looked at me and exclaimed, “Just one page, is it?” I am still not very sure about the number of pages but I can add it is always a good practice to make changes as per the role demands. Once you align your resume with the expectations of the employer it is easier to get through to the next level.

Another interesting feature that I learnt while applying for jobs online was the use of ATS (Application Tracking System). This software selects resumes based on certain keywords which are commonly fed by the recruiter.

As the technology upgrades it is a good approach to get your resumes built using standard resume builders available on the internet.

Some of them that I came across were following:

  • Linkedin
  • CVMaker
  • Resume.com
  • Kickresume
  • Cakeresume

As one progresses on the professional ladder one realizes a resume is just a piece of paper which initially validates employee’s professional skills. In the end what gets us through is our clarity of facts and the practical knowledge. Thus be informed and updated with the job market and ensure a robust first impression by putting an impressive resume on the table.

Good Luck!

Campus Placement: My first job

In one of my blogs titled, “For speaking out loud” under the tag Soft Skills, I had written about the jitters felt thinking about the placement day in engineering. On one hand there was joy and happiness for the senior who was placed while on the other hand we all were anxious for our own placement. My friends and I, made sure we gathered as many useful tips as we could from his experiences.

We were in the final semester when we received the news that TCS, Wipro and Accenture; the major IT giants were soon going to visit our campus for the recruitment. The selection process was divided into three steps.

1. Written Round

2. Technical Round

3. HR Round

Students without any backlog and minimum 60% were eligible to appear for the written exam. Not to forget that the first three toppers of the class were exempted and had the privilege to be shortlisted for round two. Few of my closest friends were in this list and I had the same thought that Farhan and Raju had when Rancho topped the class in 3 Idiots (a Bollywood flick); jab dost fail hota hai toh bhot dukh hota hai but jab dost top krta hai toh aur bhi zada dukh hota hai (when your friend fails it hurts but it hurts even more when he tops and succeeds).

So for the selection in TCS, approximately 500 students appeared for the online written test. The test included quantitative, qualitative and aptitude questions. Most of the companies test the students for their basic mathematical and analytical skills. The idea is to judge the students based on fundamental problem solving which is not aimed at any particular engineering discipline. Some of the best sources to prepare for the written exams are as follows:

  • Freshersworld.com
  • Geeksforgeeks

One can go through previous year question papers and most of the time the pattern of the questions is very similar.

The confirmation mail from TCS after the final selection

The result of the written test was out the very next day and more than 200 students had made it to round 2. The technical round gave major goose-bumps because it meant being face to face with the panelists. As directed we all dressed formally and reached college on time. The atmosphere of anxiety and nervousness clouded the campus by-lanes. However, the area outside the rooms designated for the technical interviews was eerily silent. One by one the students went inside one of the 7 rooms and gradually the quiet murmurs outside transformed, replicating the same scene when a student comes out of the viva room and the others crowd him to extract the questions.

The questions posed by the TCS guys were generic and not specific to any stream. They were varied; some were asked the working of a pendulum, some came out with sheets where they were asked the algorithm for quicksort, many took over 45 mins describing the working of an electrical motor and some of us even answered questions about the resources needed in software development. Thus, if you were lucky and had the panelist from your core branch then questions were familiar otherwise the general engineering questions from Physics and Chemistry made many scratch their head for first year lectures. And just for the record, unlike internal exams you cannot say this is out of syllabus.

Mandatory weekend outings during the training days

This is not to say that clearing the technical round is just luck. I have detailed my experience of TCS on a particular campus placement day. In some colleges the students were asked about their core strengths and simultaneously grilled from that subject. The idea is to prepare two three core subjects thoroughly and brush on basic first year fundamentals.

The final round was the HR round which for most students mean almost selected. There are some basic questions that are commonly asked by the HRs. Going by the general perception of the HRs which is more towards the negative, in the final round, HRs come off as good people only, it is only later as one progresses on the professional ladder that this employer becomes less likeable.

Prepare for the HR round:

  1. Introduce yourself: This is the question mostly asked to break the ice, it is advisable to prepare it beforehand. Highlight your strong points. Emphasize on leadership and team building traits by quoting projects and extra-curricular involvements.
  2. Choice of location:  Are you comfortable being posted anywhere for the job profile?

Answer with thought. If you have liabilities back home, do not sign up for it. TCS trainings are usually conducted in Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Chennai, Trivandrum for a period of over 3 months and then one can be assigned projects anywhere across the country or maybe offsite.

I still remember my father’s reaction when I told him about Coimbatore as my joining location. He said, “Do you even know where it is on the map?”

3. Are you willing to work on support based projects?

On questions specific to role definitions be attentive. If you are looking to learn and enhance your skills in a particular domain then answer accordingly. As for a fresher who needs exposure, companies like TCS are a brand name and will be a good highlight on the resume. Gradually with experience one can look out for the relevant job specifics and switch.

I got placed in TCS and so did 100 more students from our college. We were notified through emails and the joy was unmatched.

TCS will always be a positive addition to my resume. I still remember how when I appeared for an interview for M.Tech, TCS always got me the right attention.

Last day at Coimbatore training center

I will agree that the engineering job prospects are not as rosy as they were some ten years ago but students continue to opt for the degree and land up in good IT companies through campus or off-campus and several other outside options.

Some options to apply for software jobs are as follows:

  1. E-litmus
  2. Amcat
  3. Cocubes

I ultimately called it quits at corporate, realizing teaching was my calling but I still look back to the campus placement days and feel mixed emotions of excitement and the fear for the unknown.

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