Monday, Oct 23rd

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New Delhi Rape Victim

New Delhi Rape victimThe girl’s name was never released but that didn’t stop people from providing inspiring names to her like Damini (after the thought provoking Raj Kumar Santoshi’s movie on rape), Darshini (one who shows the path) or Amanat (legacy).  Yes, I am talking about the Delhi rape victim. The heinous and the barbaric nature of the assault is distressing as we try to shield ourselves from trying to think what the girl went through and forces us for some soul searching. Every girl in India, who has ever lived alone or used the public transportation, has at least one incident in her life where she knows she was so lucky that the situation did not turn as bad as this one, but it could have! You thank your lucky stars and every God you know that you were saved; but girls and ladies, we need more protection than a prayer.

A patriarchal society as ours has strict codes of conduct which doesn’t mean they are followed but that it merely sweeps away a lot of these difficult conversations under the rug. There have been violent and barbaric incidents against women that have shocked the nation before, but most of them have taken place in villages and did not bring out the media attention and mobilized the cosmopolitan crowds of cities. As the men from the villages have migrated to the cities and the behavior that they got away with in villages, comes to the cities, it shocks our sensibilities. Now I am not categorizing all the villagers into these monsters but my point is if one gets away with a certain behavior it only emboldens to try the next limit.  Growing up, my hostel was next to the beach but we rarely went to the beach because of the crowd of ogling boys right by the hostel gate and on the beach. Then came a new Commissioner of Police in town and banned such “boy crowding”. It was a breath of fresh air for us that we could go out the gates without fear of listening to lewd whistling and the name calling. The first step to prevent similar future incidents probably lies in nipping bad behavior in the bud.

The harder battle lies in changing our attitudes. Look at our scriptures the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. I believe that Sage Valmiki’s original Ramayan ended with Ayodhya Kand or when Rama returned to Ayodhya. The uttara - kand  about Rama banishing his pregnant wife Sita to the forest was added much later that tells the story about our society’s  changing attitudes towards women. In Mahabharat, which was written much later than Ramayan, the two points made by the Draupadi “Chir haran” incident is the complete humiliation of Pandavas and the glory of Lord Krishna. If the Pandavas could not save Draupadi then what we need is the eradication of Duryodhan from within us.

India is country of paradoxes in every sphere, the tall luxury skyscraper rises next to a slum, a Mercedes car is surrounded by young begging urchins and a religion that elevates women to the stature of Goddess, who is in no way less than a God; has female infanticides. We will pray to Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) but cry on our misfortune when Lakshmi ( a newborn baby girl is often referred to as Lakshmi) is born. This isn’t just about punishing the guilty and having laws that are a deterrent, but it is about changing our mindset and about our attitude. This is harder challenge that has more to do with each one of us changing our personal beliefs than law and order.

 As the legal proceedings dance out in the court of law I am hopeful the guilty will be given exemplary punishment, I am hopeful the changes in law will be comprehensive and don’t just focus on the last mile and above all I am hopeful it will sparks real meaningful conversations about our attitudes to bring long lasting change.

Long Live Damini aka Darshini aka Amanat, may your sacrifice not go in vain!

You may also like this article on Busy Bee's take on eve teasing

New Delhi Rape Victim

The Day Of Ma, Amma, Mummy, Aai, Ammi, Mother

Mother’s Day is just around the corner…every retail store in US is trying to cash on this day, drown you in feelings of love for your mom, guilt of how you don’t give her back enough and encourage you to spend that cash you may or may not have to express your love and gratitude. But truly, what should this day really mean? Is it even possible to express your feelings by doing something special once a year for your mom? Now that I am a mother myself, I understand what being a mother means…it means putting your children’s happiness before your own. It means no matter how hard the day was, when she sees her children, a smile always overcomes the frowns on the face and no matter how tired she is, she wants to play peek-a-boo and any other game to make sure, her child smiles through out the evening, eat their healthy dinner and sleep with the sound of her lullaby or story narration, in her arms.. (even if it means asking the dearest hubby for a back rub or sitting in a massage chair later on).

It means always being suspicious of strangers…always feel a little guilty when she indulges in a little bit of ‘me time’ with friends or that occasional date night. It means never asking for something for her own self in prayers again. It means waking up at random hours in nights through their life…sometimes to ease out a scared child from a frightening dream, sometimes to see if the temperature in the room is appropriate, sometimes to check if the teenager is off the technology and is getting the rest he needs, sometimes to see if the ‘professional in the making’ doesn’t need hot chocolate while he is preparing for a big exam and sometimes to help the new mom-or dad take care of her grand child…mothering never ends.

How can we pay an ode to this amazing relationship by doing something nice just one day? What a mother does all her life can only be respected and appreciated when we show her that love and respect in some way all year around, though out our life. So what does a mother truly need?

Be Loving: Hugs and kisses when you are around…a phone call a day to tell her that you are happy, and find out about how she is doing when you are away, is really all she cares about…simple huh?

Show her Respect: She always has your best interests in her mind and heart. True, she may be out dated sometimes, she may not be abreast with your generation’s hopes and desires, in sync with today’s technology but still, if you are in sync with this generation, understand the technology today, can pay for it, then somewhere she has done her job right of parenting you. Always respect her for that, if you have to disagree then, disagree with respect and show that you know that she wants nothing but the best for you. If she doesn’t understand you…help her understand.

Appreciate Her: Appreciate all that she does in the front seat and behind the scenes too. The truth is, a lot of what you are not just in career, but in terms of personality too is because of how she raised you, what she taught you and what she believed in. You are in many ways, reflection of that upbringing she gave you by putting in all that time and effort. Appreciate her for that and for everyday mundane tasks…that she does out of love. The favorite dish she makes when you come home without even asking, how she keeps the room ready for you…how she knows what your needs and desires are, it is all because she loves you.

Get her involved: Now that you have grown up and have a life, don’t forget to keep her involved. She is very interested in knowing what is new at your end. Are you planning to buy a house, propose to your girlfriend, missing a friend…share your life and show interest in her life too. Encourage her to keep her passions and dreams alive even if she thinks she is a little old…get her to experience new things too. Help her overcome her anxieties and weaknesses and become her mentor in things that she can learn from you.

Be Thoughtful: Show her sometimes that you know her too, you care about her too…help her pursue something she gave up to be a mother, she forgot about when she got so busy in her domestic life, ask her about her childhood, her dreams, for once find out what she likes, what is her favorite dish, teach her about new technologies so she can be better connected, help her keep pace with your life and help her in her journey from being your mother to being your friend…

That truly will be a real ‘Mother’s Day Gift’…a mother honestly does not care for a spa gift card from a child who hasn’t called her in 3 months!!! It is the gift of love, care, respect and thoughtfulness, in little pieces everyday that she seeks. And a day of togetherness on Mother’s day will just be the icing on cake.

Here is a song that puts the ‘motherhood’ in true perspective J Enjoy and have a wonderful Mother’s day:

The Day Of Ma, Amma, Mummy, Aai, Ammi, Mother

Top ten baby products you must have before baby comes home

Top 10 baby products to have1. Snuggle Nest: Forget bassinet or Crib, but you definitely need a Snuggle nest before the baby is ready to come home. It is a cozy little place he can call his own, you can move him around the house with ease and no matter where you are, baby can nap. It can be easily placed on bed at night and baby can co-sleep safely with you for those night time feedings. I did not buy a bassinet and had my baby in this for upto 2 months. And then gradually transferred him to the crib.

2. Diaper Disposal: For me it has been Diaper Genie Elite for three years. No matter which one you choose to go with, you definitely need one from day one because babies start having diapers from day 1 and trust me the first ten days, the diapers smell the worst because of muconium.
I highly recommend Diaper Genie Elite II, it has worked for us for past 3 years ( between 2 kids) and never given away those smelly diapers.

3. Infant Formula and Bottles: No matter how determined you are to breast feed exclusively, sometimes things don't go the way you are on medications or baby needs more than what you produce. So if you realize at 9pm that baby needs more and you don't have any, that formula is a blessing without having to run to grocery store when you are already exhausted.

A lot of times, when you sign up on parenting websites, you get introductory sample formulas but bottles you need to invest in. Playtex with Liners is what I have used and I love the ease of not having to worry about left over formula, smell in the bottle or cleaning up with brush. The disposable liners are Godsend for working mothers like me and they are BPA free.

4. Breast Pump: Another product that is a must at home is 'breast pump'. New borns are not on a schedule or sleep cycle and there may be times when you are ready for a feed but he is in deep sleep with no interest in feeding what so ever. Breast pump is a great help in such situations. I know friends who left the hospital with some heavy medicines for a week and could not be breast feed in that period and the first thing they had to research and buy was breast pump. You will need one sooner or later so buy it at your own convenience ahead of time.

5.Washed clothes: This includes baby clothes, socks, blankets, towels, bibs, burp clothes and hats. Buy this before going to hospital, laundry and fold them, ready to use when you come back.

 6. Diaper changing products: Have a small pack of newborn diapers, diaper rash cream, Softening cream like Aquaphor, Wipes, Tissues all bought and put away in the area where you and baby plan to sleep. You will need these almost as soon as you get home. You will be waking up for feedings and diaper changes but having things next to you will atleast minimize getting up from the bed.

 7. Swing: Infact swing is a must have I have realized. Babies love to be rocked and having swing from day one allows them to get used to it and gives you some breather. If you plan to buy one on your own, check out the Fisher Price Papasan Cradle Swing, I loved it. It was comfy, had a small light projector under the canopy and best of all, worked both on batteries and power adapter. I had it running sometimes all night and never had a problem.

 8. Lansinoh or breast moisturizer: I say you keep it in your hospital bag as well because vaseline just doesn't work, atleast it didn't for me. You will need it if you plan to breast feed. Also, it is something you can rub on your babies lips if they get dry too.

 9. Mylecon or any other gas medicine: My husband had to make a trip to the store the very next day for this. Babies get gassy easily and nothing soothes them better than a gas medicine. The generic brand at Walgreen works equally good and is much cheaper.

10: Camera: A small point and shoot camera that also allows you to take small videos coz with the baby around, forget the SLR and a camcorder...the picture moments are frequent and pass quickly, you wont have time to adjust those lenses :) Get a small point and shoot and click away making memories.
Above all PACIFIERS. There is a reason they are called pacifiers and they do what they claim, pacify a irritated, confused and upset baby. So get atleast 4 of these and make sure you buy the ones that come with a lid.
No product can replace a supporting husband or partner who understands what you have just gone through physically, emotionally to bring this baby in this world, family support in form of parents or in-laws and friends who come to play with the baby so you can take a they say that is PRICELESS. For everything else above, there is a credit card :)
The pictures here are the products I have been using and have been very happy with but there are tons of new ones out there.
And here is the link to my very favorite song from 'Tere Mere Sapne'...jeevan ki bagiya mehkegi….it captures the essence of parenthood between a couple so beautifully.

Top ten baby products you must have before baby comes home

Five things used in India forgotten in USA:

Neel: Rings a bell? The blue powder that mom used to put in water and rinse white clothes in...I wonder why? What was the purpose? In fact I distinctly remember her getting mad at the dhobi that the white shirt got blue stains due to neel. People even put it in white paint when whitewashing their houses in Diwali. I am not sure if it is still around...later a good brand came out with a very catchy campaign which claimed to keep clothes white and made much more sense than that lumpy blue powder.

Maadh/Starch: Have never starched a single piece of cloth in my last 10 years in USA. But I remember getting upset at my dhoban if my school uniform dupatta wasn't starched right. Is it because our American attire just doesn't need starch? I am not complaining :) Usually boiled rice water or sabudana water is used for starch in India. USA does have starching product available in grocery stores.


Using a rag to clean : Don't know if using that same old rag every day to clean, made the floor/counter tops cleaner or actually more dirty..and God I hated that phenol smelling water to disinfect. And to think that hands were used to actually hold and mop floors using that rag...yuck! I prefer the Swiffer Mops here better. But when you don't know any just don't know, right?


Handkerchiefs: When I landed in USA and went out with my cousins the first day, I had a hanky with me. My cousin asked me "why was I carrying a rag around"? and I had no clue he was referring to my dearest brand new hanky. Well, we don't use them here at all though it was a regular part of my outings in India. Hanky set was a perfect birthday gift growing up.


Home made bags/jhola: In her spare time, I often found my mom making cloth bags out of worn out pillow covers, Sheets etc. They used to be durable and good looking, bio friendly and would cost nothing. My dad or household helper would take these bags from home to the market and get vegetables and other stuff in it. And then plastic was invented and everything changed. In India or USA, it is all plastic bags or more recently the expensive recycled bags that are bio-friendly and cost an arm and a leg as compared to those home made bags. I miss those jholas as we called them in Hindi.

Five things used in India forgotten in USA:

Right and wrong...the good and the bad..Who gets to decide?

Somethings I love about being in USA:

Well, anyone who has lived in India will agree that 'right' and 'wrong' or 'good' and 'bad' are very well defined in the country. At least that was the case 10 years back when I was there as a teenager and to question those and try to switch or step out of those categories was again 'WRONG" :)
Here are some of the rights and wrongs that are taught to us growing up. I never liked and understood them when I was there but once I was away from the country, I just could not relate to it anymore:

Friendship & Dating (Super wrong, specially if you are a girl): Yup! Good girls do not have boy friends. Meeting a boy outside of your home, who is not a friend or rakhi brother...totally out of line. In fact the Delhi government actually launched a sick program called 'operation majnu' where they would lock up couples who were out on a date at Delhi parks. The famous movie Maine Pyar Kiya boasts of a dialogue that says "Ek jawan ladka aur ek jawan ladki kabhi dost nahin hote Prem" and Prem then knows he is in love with the girl. But this is so not true. A boy and girl can definitely be friends..I have had many. I am the living proof :)
Now coming back to boyfriends, don't see what is wrong with that? Indian culture expects a girl to never be with a guy, never date, kiss or touch but then take seven circles around the fire and submit her body, soul and mind to the man she is married to (which may not even be of her choice). That for me is a no no..highly questionable...something I cant relate to or understand.
The fascination with fair skin: India is crazy about fair/gori skin. Again Fair is good, dark is bad is already established in India. I don't know if this love affair started after Britishers invaded India or has existed before that but I know it hasn't diminished. Actresses like Priyanka Chopra star in the commercials that show Saif choosing Neha Dhupia over Priyanka because Neha is fairer and I wonder the message that is being sent to masses. Pick up any matrimonial column and the ad starts with.."wanted a fair, tall bride.." lol
What is the deal with fair skin, folks? Never understood it, and will never be able to relate to it. I am pretty happy with my dark skin and let me say that the confidence that dark is equally good came only after I left India. Isn't that sad?
Kids and their life: I feel like most of the Indian moms are obsessed with their kids. Go to any party or get together and they will not talk about anything but kids. Whose kids got what grades, what are they planning to or engineer, are they dating, are they looking for a match...the only idea is to discuss and make decisions for their lives with the help of these strange aunties. If someone's son or daughter is doing a different course or career, these aunties and uncles are quick to dismiss and brain wash the parents even though they may have no idea about it. It is really crazy...there is so much pressure on the kids growing up to not just be best in the class but also be best among the kids from the social circle their parents move around in, that it is ridiculous. The good and bad categories already exist in the sense that doctor and engineering is good and every other career is not good. This is another thing I don't see happening so much when parents in America get together and I really like it that way.


Eve Teasing: We all see this everyday in India...the crowded places like train stations or markets are the worst. When I asked my cousin in USA about eve teasing he said he has never heard the term :)
But I have to admit that in 10 years of stay in USA which included living alone, working alone, walking at nights alone, I have never experienced this (yeyyy). In India it is accepted as part of being a female to a large extent unless it goes totally out of one frets about it. I find that crazy and ridiculous. Once someone I know is a mother of a 4 year old daughter told me that one reason she would want to stay in USA is so that her daughter does not expect eve teasing as part of her everyday life. I don't disagree with that sentiment to be honest. I have no tolerance for it now that I know of a world where it does not have to be a part of my everyday life and existence as a woman.


Freedom: In a way where everyone is free to do what they want, I always felt bound by the rights and the wrongs, good and the bads..and the need to conform to these pre-existing notions. And if you don't then well, you are judged and everyone and anyone feels that they have a right to come and give you a piece of their mind. And who wants to be the topic of next get together to these aunties and uncles, seriously? The idea of personal choices and space did not exist. I never liked not having it before and now after having it for years there is no way I can give it up. Because I have learn t the theory of relativity :)
My theory says that right, wrong, good and bad are all relative. What is good for my friend may just not qualify as good for me and I get to decide that.  The freedom to be able to understand this and make my own judgment is priceless!

Here is a cool song on "Kayda" from film Khoobsurat:

Click here if the video does not work

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Right and wrong...the good and the bad..Who gets to decide?

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