Togetherness

if men want to work on balancing their emotional and social quotient than they got to bond like women and support like women….

This past Monday I woke up to a barrage of messages. Completely taken aback by the sheer amount of attention, I first checked if it was my birthday. It wasn’t. I opened the first text, which read loud and clear, “Be the woman who fixes other woman’s crown without telling the world that it was crooked”.

Happy women’s day

Graduating together

Maybe not the kind of special day that gives you an excuse to bake, dress up and step out, but still special enough and worth all the love coming my way.

Growing up, I was surrounded by women. Even schooling from an all girls’ wing. Girls have always been an integral part of my life. Therefore, it was not a surprise that I grew up to be someone who appreciated having women around especially when I needed to express myself fully. They were there to listen to my emotional rants, which also more often than not were about women.

For graduation and higher studies, I went to a co-ed institute and it was then that as a person I felt emotions for both girls and boys alike (not like that!). Whether it was a technical presentation where I had an argument with a boy in a question rebuttal or a pang of jealousy for a girl classmate who scored more than me in a particular subject. I believed I expressed fairly healthy competitive streak of emotions under the exposure of both the genders.

The support system far away from home

Years later when I entered the workplace, a small start-up, I noticed a different competitive ambience. I was told under a particular team of ten members, the ratio of female to male was 1:5. I innocuously attributed this skewed ratio to comparatively less women members in the company on the whole. However, with time I came to know that the ones at the higher position felt that too many women lead to negative competition. They believed women often pit against each other for reasons more personal than professional and it slows the progress of the project unnecessarily. That was odd and unsettling!

I feel the need to delve a little deeper by taking these points one at a time:

  • Female Rivalry

 For so long we have been made to believe that no two girls can be best friends. The media harps on the clichéd idea of the tiffs between girls. Whether it is a regular fights of the mother in-law and the daughter in-law or two teenage girls pining for the same guy in their chawl (society), it is believed it benefits the TRP game.

Beyond this typical portrayal, there is a side of female bonding that is less spoken of. It is the diligent effort of the females in the family that make the house livable and loveable. I was once told by a daadi from the village about a strict rule that females were supposed to eat only after serving the men. All in the name of not coming in front of the elders (surprisingly males only), this resulted in girls finding refuge in each other. The kitchen banters, similar cleaning woes, like-mindedness to deal with husband’s tantrums led to creating a strong bond between the girls.

  • Girls are competitive

Girls most of the time are taught to consider their female counterparts competitors. The reason for this could be the lack of options to prove our worth are not as much as there are for the boys.

Haven’t we all heard a stereotype that “Girl HRs are malicious while men in the same role are easier to get along with”.

Pitting against each other is a human trait. Women are fierce warriors and take on challenges at home and work equally well.

  • We support each other

A woman alone is power and together we are an impact. Shelley from ForbesWomen could not have said it any better. As a new mother some years ago, my mental health went for a toss, it was then that my set of close mom girlfriends guided and helped me sail through.

Women communities that work to uplift fellow women work on this very idea. My Instagram handle is filled with women entrepreneurs promoting each other right. It only shows our mental roadmaps are equally aligned.

The one from the hostel

From my writing experience when I decided to start my blog, I had my own doubts. Some ten blogs later I had created a strong fan base of women who agreed with my experiences and till date motivate me to keep going.

  • We are together in this

As women we are emphatic to each other’s journey. I remember back in school if a girl spotted a period stain on another girl’s skirt she silently came to her and helped her. She didn’t mock at her with her friends. We are this close.

I once had a wardrobe malfunction while trekking with a group of friends, I accidently got my skirt torn. A girl on the same trek offered me her shrug and saved me from the embarrassment.  

In another incident at our girls hostel, our warden summoned the girls and directed us to avoid wearing shorts in the mess as it was a culture shock to the cooks and the helps. One of us argued that those ten men cannot lower their gaze but we are expected to cover our self for our dignity. Needless to say there was a loud cheer from all the girls, vociferously expressing their disgust at the new rule.

As girls we stand up for each other.

The workplace bondings

In a world where we are taught if you want to succeed you got to walk like a man, talk like a man and dress like a man. I can only add if men want to work on balancing their emotional and social quotient than they got to bond like a woman and support like a woman.

As a woman I cannot emphasize more on the idea of togetherness.

After all,

“behind every successful woman is a tribe of successful women who have her back”

French Connection

Bonjour fellas!

For anybody who has developed even the slightest interest in reading in the English language would have observed an interesting game of words. The language is abundant with words which have origins in and around the world. After all, English today, is a global language.

This week I decided to dig deeper into one such influence and dedicated my research to the usage of words of French origin in the English language.

French words and its associated vocabulary made entry into English language after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. It became the new language of the elites. Even after the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), French words continue to form a significant part of English. Figuratively 58% of the modern English vocabulary has words with French and Latin origin.

The term used to describe the origin and history of words is ‘Etymology’. Say for example, if we consider the word etymology then it is derived from the Greek word etumos which means true. Etumolgia can be explained as the study of words “true meanings”. The old French further tweaked ethimolgie as etymology.

There are many words in English which have really interesting and unheard of French origins. Listed below are some examples:

  • Cliché

Pronunciation: cli·​ché 

Figure of speech: Noun

The word is derived from the French word clicher which as a figure of speech is a verb. The meaning of the word clicher is ‘to click’, obviously because of the sound it makes. The word cliché however means an over-used expression. The google states ‘stereotype’ as a synonym for the same.

Usage: Honesty is the best policy is a cliché.

  • Déjà vu

Pronunciation: /deɪʒɑː ˈvu

Figure of speech: Noun

This word is used in same manner as it is used in French language. The meaning of the word is “already seen’. It is used to describe a feeling in a present situation that has been felt previously also. The word came to usage from 1903. The scientific origin of the word is from promnesia which means pro+ mnesia meaning before+ memory in the respective order.

Usage: I felt a sense of déjà vu when I left my wallet in the car.

  • Milieu

Pronunciation: ˈmiːljəː,mɪˈljə

Figure of speech: Noun

It is a word with two French sub words. The division is mi +lieu. Lieu stands for a locus or a place and the word mi means middle. The English borrowed this word from French word milieu in the 1800s. The meaning of the word thus becomes the environment, background or the setting in which something takes place.

Usage: Theirs was a bohemian milieu in which people often played romantic musical chairs.

  • Bon voyage

Pronunciation: /bōⁿ-ˌvȯi-ˈäzh/

Figure of speech: Noun

The word came to usage inn the year 1670. It is made up of two words bon +voyage. The word bon is an adjective and means good. It is further used in bon appetite. The word voyage means journey, travel or errand. The meaning of the complete word bon voyage thus becomes good journey or a pleasant trip.

Usage: With a bon voyage toast, the couple’s family wished them a safe honeymoon journey

  • Voila

Pronunciation:   vwä-ˈlä 

Figure of speech: Interjection

It is used as an expression of joy or relief. The word came into usage in 1739. It is assumed that voila is actually a variation wallah but with a French connection. The word voila if dismantled combines two words voir +la where voir stands for to see and la means there.

Usage: My mother sat one full day to write 20 pages of her upcoming book and voila she had achieved her target.

  • Rendezvous

Pronunciation: ˈrän-di-ˌvü 

Figure of speech: Noun and Verb

This French word is used in English without altering its spelling. Initially in the year 1582, the word was used as noun which meant a meeting place. In the year 1642, the word usage changed into a verb and its meaning also changed to meet or come together at a time or place.

Usage:  I had a rendezvous with Amit after ditching all my plans for the weekend. (Used a verb)

  • Solicitor

Pronunciation:  sə-ˈli-sə-tər

Figure of speech: noun

In the early 15th century, the old French used the word soliciteur for the “one who urges’. It was derived from the word solicit. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a solicitor is also, a British lawyer who advises clients, represents them in the lower courts, and prepares cases for barristers to try in higher courts”.

Usage: Money is that great solicitor that has often succeeded in persuading people to sell their very souls.

  • Souvenir

Pronunciation: ˈsü-və-ˌnir

Figure of speech: noun

The word originates in France and has the following details quoted from the Wikipedia page. From Middle French soubvenir, from Old French sovenir, from Latin subvenīre, present active infinitive of subveniō (“come to mind, occur to”), from sub + veniōDoublet of subvenir.

The word is used to describe a token of remembrance.

Usage: I kept the ticket to the movie as a souvenir of our first date.

  • Fiancé

Pronunciation: ˌfē-ˌän-ˈsā 

Figure of speech: Noun

This is one word that has maximum usage in English. It is used very often. It describes a man who is engaged to get married.in case of a woman who is engaged then she referred to as fiancée. It is past particle of fiancer meaning “to betroth”. It came into effect in 1864 from French.

Usage: Linda was dying to make her friends meet her fiancé.

  • Connoisseur

Pronunciation: kaw-nuh-suh

Figure of speech: Noun

There were many terms in old French which have been used sparingly. One such obsolete term was conoistre which meant “to know”. This word was modified in French into connoisseur.

A connoisseur is a person who has great knowledge about fine arts. The expertise ranges from cuisines and wines and comes off as an expert in the matter of taste.

Usage: he was well known connoisseur of fine wine.

In this session I have tried to acquaint you with few French words that have made way in our English conversations. The words I have picked are conventional and hence it is easier to understand them. The idea is to make one familiar with their history, their origin, their pronunciation and their derivation. This helps us remember them easily and make them a part of our communication effectively.

Another point I wish to make is how we can expand our vocabulary. Just like everyone we all have twenty four hours at our disposal. Time will never increase or decrease as per our whims and fancies, however we can continue working on ourselves by making a judicious choice. My aim is not to be philosophical but to simply assert the saying, “If you want it you will find a way, else you will not.”

Until then happy reading and au revoir just the way the French say 🙂

Happily married (with kids)?

Agree to disagree!

Tiny little hands and feet. Cute humming and cooing filling the silent house. The best foot, hand and body put forward , all for the little one. Well well there is so much happening in the house after the arrival of the little one. It takes a while before the overwhelming feelings sink in.

It is said every new relationship needs lots of time and energy for it to work. In the initial days of the first year there is definitely a dearth of these two. The journey from love laced couple to a new parent takes far from those happy and cute pictures on the social media.

The immense demand posed in the initial days takes a toll on the physical and mental well being of the parents. The mothers go through a healing body and the postpartum challenges. The fathers have to deal with the mother and the baby and often feel left out as the baby becomes the highest priority.

An obvious consequence of this transition is increased stress levels. The couples start arguing over small issues. The constant nagging in the house creates an unhealthy atmosphere. Both husband and wife know that there is so much to be done both in and out for the baby yet they vent out by snapping at each other. An unwarranted form of expression.Isn’t it?

I know one mother, for instance who was so sleep deprived that she was unable to prepare meals on time. When her husband did offer to help, she hushed him away citing him as knowing less about cooking.It is this hard core conditioning of the women that often let’s them want to do it all!

Image taken from Instagram page momthesedays

As my child enters her second year, we have definitely gotten over the shock of new parenthood. I have realised that our arguments have the same underlying concern which is the well being of our baby girl. It took us a while to get there but we finally agreed to disagree to maintain our sanity.

A very common scene leading to a goodnight scene in our house is as follows. As a mother I am a believer of following the baby routine to the T and hence I dim the lights and read books to my toddler so that she drifts off to sleep. However my husband has other plans. After having worked an entire day and not spending enough time with both his girls he fills the room with a playful energy. This obviously charges my little girl and she evades sleep. And before we know it, a verbal spat ensues!

A friend of mine once told me that her husband was not supportive to her idea of sleep training the baby. She wanted to let the baby cry it out and sleep while she would only cuddle and caress and not feed the little one.Her partner was bothered by the wailing baby and assumed it caused the baby agony and no comfort. In this scenario again they both fought, with the baby being their prime concern.

As a parent with some experience I have realised there is mostly a tiff about food, sleep and discipline around the kid. So the question becomes how does the couple then make sure they don’t lose themselves in the process?

Image courtesy Instagram page therock

Below are some of the common scenarios leading to arguments and how they can be dealt with:

1.There are no date nights but family time: A date night after the baby is unimaginable. But there is always room to spend time together. Go out for those evening/night walks by making the baby sit in its pram and enjoy each other’s company without worrying.

2. Intimacy after the baby goes for a toss: Yes yes we all know how a tiny being takes up the space in your life.Due to biological and hormonal changes women feel touched out. Even men feel the pressure and burn out. Intimacy is very important for the husband and wife. It might seem impossible to regain the earlier chemistry but it is never too late to restart. Hug it out and engage in pillow talks to bring back the fading marital lustre.

3.Resentment:New mothers feel overburndened for natural reasons, of course the father cannot feed the baby in the night. This leads to loneliness and feeling a loss of identity in some. Why don’t you start by waking your husband and talking it out to him. He will be happy to lean in.

4.Me time: Your husband has had a rough week at work and then the atmosphere at home has not really helped him much. Dear ladies allow your men to unwind, let him enjoy that weekend biking trip or a Friday night party with his boys. You can fix a get together with your girls, even better call over your mommie friends and talk. Dance and enjoy the virgin mohito if nothing else!

5.Communicate as a team:We all know conflicts are unavoidable when you live together. Especially couples fight owing to their different parenting styles. Ladies let the father do his bit, don’t be a motherhood gatekeeper and guide him at every step. If you feel burdened, speak about it instead of taunting. Men prefer to be told what you need. Dear men be a little patient, your friends are coming to meet the baby, please clear the house instead of expecting all from the wife.

As a parent still in the learning process we have our share of ups and down. We both express our displeasure. But we always come back after a fight and make it up. Remember to keep each other over and above. The babies are no doubt your biggest investment and they will test your patience. However sooner or later these birds will fly out of the nest to fend for themselves and it is then that you will have the most of each other again.

A break is all you need to rejuvenate

Until then hang in there. Choose each other everyday, choose to be a family and choose love ❤

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.”

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