Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Am I a good mom?

The husband wasn’t in his elements since a week. As the day drew close, he switched off, his diet parted ways, and as the clock started ticking he used the washroom more, too.

Our baby was going to travel alone. Her first international travel solo @13!

I attempted to be busy so as not to affect her and maintain some semblance at home. But my girl was as chirpy and lively as only she can be. Busy packing, repacking, modelling and making mock videos like her current favourite YouTuber Zoella.

The better part on the day of travel I spent reminding her to keep the passport safe, the keys, phone… which she dismissed with the same air as she does my finish-your-cornflakes-make-your-bed-put-your-stuff-back… instructions.

Finally at the airport… I had to ask for a hug. “Oh mama! You want a huggie,” she said and wrapped her long arms around me saying, “be a good girl, mama!” And she walked off excitedly, while I stood silently praying to the Divine to keep her safe.
At the airport...before I could ask for a hug

I returned home and sat wide awake into the wee hours until the take-off time. Later, my friend laughed, asking: “Crazy you. Didn’t you have an early morning the next day…”

But crazy and more I am. I was. And I will be.

Over a decade back, in 2002, on a chilly December night I stood weeping at the Dubai airport watching my one-year-old being carried away from me. Those were the years when the system had failed me. And people, too. Women especially. But none saw my tears. That I was determined about. Not even my family.

With no visa to sponsor our baby, we decided to let my mom take her while I stayed back to switch job. The toughest decision I have taken to date. I was called a hard-hearted person; accused of being too selfish… “Career can be made later. Not kids,” said a friend. A woman colleague even exclaimed, “Are you a mother!”

The taunts haven’t stopped. Even now old-timers find me a classic example for anything related to motherhood. One of them said at a recent gathering, “Nisha! she’s a different make. Imagine staying away from your newborn…” the laughter and expert comments at the lunch table continued, while I switched off as I’ve mastered that art effectively over the years.

But my mastery makes all know-it-all-women believe I deserve their advice. When my girl was asking her dad a doubt in Math, a friend who was at home, said: “Why are you wasting her time with subjects like algebra… children need to do what they love to do…” I can’t remember if I laughed.

On another occasion, on hearing my girl talk about her classmates, she spat, “Take her away from that damn school! Why don’t you put her in…”

Every time, I am privy to such accusatory comments, I wait for the night to fall, when my girl comes over to give me her good-night kiss. Those nights I hug my baby tight and thank the Divine for giving me such a wonderful child. I turn over, pretending sleep, so she walks off to her bedroom quickly. And then I let it flow under the covers….silently… I’ll let the world spew on me. I’ll soak it all in…silently... praying my baby blooms into a beautiful lady with a heart to understand people, women, especially!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

50 shades of Toastmasters

None can shake me like a rug to shed my real self. It's intrinsically woven like the finest silk threads that make a distinguished carpet.

Why am I speaking thus? Was I treated like one? That unique Persian carpet! Or a mat - a doormat? Several people, I have lost count now, have labelled, classified and spoken to me (read: talked me down) - only because I was being ME.

Is it necessary to give tit for tat? Or even rave about one's knowledge at the drop of the other's breath? Being a listener - giving a patient ear to another human - Or being accommodative - understanding another's need - is considered a weakness in today's so-called kickass world.

Mentioning every single incident would call for at least a novella, and covering all spheres of my life would require a wider canvas, so let me mention just a couple of instances from a very small part of my life - Toastmasters (TM). Why Toastmasters? Simply because this is the season of TMs. 

Give first before you grab! Learn first before you take!

Three years back when I joined Toastmasters club one senior TM, whom I considered one of my mentors until I decided to scrap the title I bestowed upon him - would give me his feedback after every single performance of mine. He dissected my speech, gave me tips, advices and a year later, tired of asking me to smile when speaking, threatened that he would get me debarred if I didn't smile when delivering speeches. He taught me the importance of appearing 'pleasant' in front of an audience - no matter what the speech topic and my state of mind.

Well, recently I happened to evaluate his advanced speech. Truth be told, I was dry nervous. My insides shaking like a leaf in wild monsoon. Called the Divine to see me through and set on the podium. Lo! I won the best evaluator award. He didn't make eye contact. He stopped giving me feedback. Worse, he did not smile when we met during subsequent meetings. 

Toastmasters will help you discover your real self!

In another instance... A senior lady TM caught me in the lift one evening after a meeting and spoke at length of the partiality at the club. She lectured on how the President should be setting an example and how he should follow Toastmaster International rules. [The President had over-ruled and allowed a newcomer who overshot his time to contest for the 'best speaker' award]

A couple of weeks later, a similar situation replayed. But this time, the lady TM herself had overshot her allotted time. Once again the President overruled, and pronounced her eligible to contest. She was all smiles when collecting the best evaluator award!

My tryst with Newsletter
In the most recent incident... playing the Editor of the Newsletter was an eye-opening experience. But one, which I enjoyed to the helm. Being an adhoc event, the 40-page magazine was literally put together in one week. Three weeks before the deadline, I began saying, informing, alerting, messaging, emailing the Chair about the consequences of the committee’s continued indecision and constant revisions. "But changes are inevitable," he maintained and assured, "Oye, we are one team." Every other day, he called. He shared with me his hectic schedules, the pressure, the immense responsibility on his shoulders... I heard him out, sympathized and assured to do all I could.

Two days before the event, he called with more revisions. This time, I requested not to make any more changes. It was our last chance of making it to the press. Please don't! I pleaded. He gave me a lengthy explanation as to the importance of incorporating them. 

Did I have a choice? May be, I could have put my foot down and walked out of the project. My conscience nudged at playing a spoilsport at the nth hour. I accommodated.

Well, the following morning -  one day before the event - when the copies were still at the printer, he sounded different. He demanded delivery. I reminded him of the number of times I had told him of having to face this day over the last month, and he shot back: "but you were not strong enough".

Excuse me! 

"This is me. I don't bully people, nor do I sweet-talk them into doing things for me."

I doubt if he understood, because he replied: "How can you even complain...you did the least work."

It doesn't matter. Because for a few unpleasant ones there are hordes of selfless virtuous souls in the world of Toastmasters. I've once again lost count of the number people who wrote to me, called me and personally shared their opinion on the work I did. 

I've been blessed to have mentors and am fortunate to have made wonderful friends in my three years as a Toastmaster, who see me through even in my personal dilemmas.

Oh, yes, to some Toastmasters is only a networking web. I dislike the breed that join the forum only with the intention of selling themselves. 

Give first before you grab! Or least, learn first before you take!!

For me, Toastmasters is also a forum that will test your morale and morals, a place that will chisel your conscience, and help you discover your real self and give you a choice to colour your life in shades varied. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

IIFA showcases another great Indian divide on global stage

Column grab...
Indians cry hoarse when Hollywood directors show our slums. They are damaging India's image; it's in bad taste; this is not the real India...Headlines scream out, channels pan out and film critics mince no words.

Then what do we do about it? Watch those movies, shout for some time and move on until someone else comes along. But, of late, as our actors are crossing over more frequently than before, we take heart and say, 'yes, we have arrived'! IIFA also seems to announce the same and further sooth the Indian ego.

Set up in 2000, it has been globe-trotting with an entire galaxy of glitterati  - from mega stars and super stars to the just-arrived starlets and the outdated and near-expiry ones to showcase what it claims 'Indian' films to world audience. Kudos to the academy for naming the awards aptly - The International Indian Film Academy Awards!

The IIFA act raises two pertinent questions - do we feel hurt or insulted when foreign directors show the poor shades of India or is it an inferiority complex in us, trying to compare ourselves to Hollywood? Else why should only the Bollywood glitz be presented to the world.

Bollywood may be the face of Indian cinema but it definitely does not represent Indian cinema at large. There are hordes of excellent films being made across the country each year, not to forget the versatile actors in other languages.

When India has no dearth of talent, why showcase only Hindi movies and Bollywood actors? It's time IIFA presents the real mosaic of country's film fraternity if the academy needs to be true to its name.

But that will take a lot of courage because old habits die hard. If the Bollywood bandwagon aka IIFA brainstormers care to change themselves they can begin by taking the most obvious cue out from their dream land. There are no mega stars and super stars in Hollywood. Only actors or artists. Think of what India would be sans stars!

Aping can be done either clumsily or with √©lan. If the 'Bollywood Oscar Academy' believes only Bollywood glitterati can be compared to Hollywood sheen, so be it. Let the Kapoors and Bachchans and Khans endorse a few regional picks and let the world see the true dimensions and reach of the true Indian cinema. And to begin with stop referring to regional films as the 'poorer cousins of Bollywood'.

Sadly, IIFA is putting yet another great Indian divide on the global stage - 'The glitz divide'! As if we didn't have enough already. Beginning with the Aryan-Dravidian divide; the urban-rural divide; the north-south divide, the rich-poor divide...the list only seems to get longer as the nation progresses. Little wonder foreigners film our country and describe it to their whim and fly out with impunity.