Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What Are Your New Year Resolutions?

What are your new year resolutions? (Photo credit)
As is the tradition, this time of the year we look back and reminisce and also get all futuristic and start making resolutions. And when I got to thinking about my plans or resolutions for next year - I like to call them goals - I found myself wondering how irrelevant our usual goals are. Work out regularly, get better at time management, finish that MBA, lose weight and get back into shape, get more business, be a better person. Do we change as people? Do we really address things that really matter and make the world a better place to live in? Just some random thoughts that came to my mind - this new year, how about:

a little less take and a little more give

a little less outrage and a little more calm

a little less worry about the world and a little more be yourself

a little less judgement and a little more understanding

a little more empathy and a little less apathy

a little less screen time and a little more people time

I know this isn't a long laundry list of life altering resolutions but I think they will need some good amount of work to accomplish. A worthwhile goal for the new year.

So what are your resolutions? Although, it is perfectly fine if you think like Calvin too! :)

(Photo credit)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Flashback 2016: Glimpses Of Books Read

What's on you reading list this year?
Yet another year is about to end and we are all taking stock of the good and the bad. And for avid readers like me, looking back on the good and bad books read is like a ritual, almost. So I was looking at my list and saw a fair mix of fiction and non fiction, work and non work books. Going nuts during the Amazon sale in August is also becoming a kinda tradition with me. I bought quite a few this year which also led to raised anxiety levels about finding the time to actually read them. I also realized that most books were work related nothing light and entertaining. I also tried out a subscription of Kindle Unlimited this year. And that became the source of my fiction/light reading. Although I was quite impressed when I decided to subscribe, but 11 months later, not so much. There are thousands of free books but not many that I’d like to read. Good authors and work related books that I’d want aren’t, obviously, on the free list. In fact, I ended up with a few stinkers which is just a waste of time and I could have used that to use more useful time. 

Anyways, here is a general trail of my reading list. Feel free to borrow some titles for your 2017 reading list.

Sophie Kinsella: I re-read some books this year since its nice to ease into the comfort of familiarity. And Sophie Kinsella is an all time comfort read for me. All her books have a unique flavour starting from the famed Shopaholic series. I read her last book, Shopoholic to the stars last year and bought the sequel, Shopoholic to the Rescue and finished reading it this year. One of the few authors I have read most of the books of. Waiting for her next release in 2017. 

Ruskin Bond: One good thing that Kindle Unlimited brought me was the discovery of Ruskin Bond books. No, I wasn’t unaware of this author but I hadn’t really read his books (Yes, we all have famous authors we haven’t yet read. So don’t give me that look!) I got hooked on to it and read quite a few of his books. Not only are the books great but one also falls in love with the endearing author. Potpourri, The Blue Umbrella, School Days, Falling in love again, When the Tiger was King - novels and short stories, both genres are a delight to read. 

Chitra Divakaruni: Who can resist the allure of her books after reading the Mistress of Spices! The magic she weaves with her words and plots makes you want to read more. So when Before We Visit The Goddess was released, I promptly bought and sunk into it. And it did not disappoint. 

A must read by Chitra Divakaruni (Photo credit)
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh: A special mention for this book since this was definitely the most riveting fiction I read this year. A gripping book about an accident which keeps you hooked till the end. And despite the grip of the plot, you will wonder how you reached where you are in the book! Go figure! :)

I also read a lot of work related books. On time management, coaching practices and towards the end of the year, a some books on speaking skills - in preparation for some modules I am going to launch in 2017. 

I also landed some stinkers - the ones you can add to your not-to-read list of books. Unladylike, the memoir of and by Radhika Vaz tops my list. To me, reading about someone’s life is worth it when it’s enlightening or up lifting. Or at least when one can identify with the struggles of the author. This book has no such quality. And if Ms. Vaz's  sense of humour is anything like the one in her book, I’m not sure I want to watch any of her performances either. 

Welcome to Americastan by Jabeen Akhtar - bought on a recommendation - also turned out to be a dud. It wasn’t as funny or interesting as the description of the book. 

Ms. Communications by Myra Kendrix - another (never ending) chick lit book I wasted my time on, thanks to Kindle Unlimited. It's got the most cliche plot where the new intern falls for her super arrogant boss. Not my type of fiction. 

Finding Audrey by Kinsella, pretty much the only book by her which I found a drag and couldn’t wait to finish it. (I was still in the finish-what-you-start phase at the time of reading this book )

For next year, I have decided to do a lot more fiction. After a year of serious, work related books, I have this strong urge to sink into the comfort of Jeffery Archer or even plough through Ken Follet. Apart from the old favourites, I intend to read famous authors I haven't touched yet. I have made a list and hope to attack the plan author by author instead of book by book. 

So how has this year for your reading list? I know people who finished 200 by November! I wont even hit half a century by 31st! But that's fine since I am not on a mission to dent their record. I like to read at my own pace and am looking forward to the the amazing fiction filled year that 2017 is going to be! 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why Should We Exclude Men?

Excluding any gender doesn't seem like the right thing to me (Photo credit)
I have had this idea for a post for quite some time now. But a high profile all women's event happening this weekend finally motivated me to write it. This is a 'women only event' for 2 days and the tweets specify that men are not allowed. There are talks, discussions and entertainment during the festival. But it's women only! When I came across this on Twitter a few months ago, I found the concept odd right from the start! I really don't understand why not want include men? I tweeted to them asking the same question but got no response.

There has been a surge of women friendly groups, associations etc in the recent past. Helping women come back to a second career, create more awareness about their rights, support in starting their own ventures. There are summits and meets that these groups organise. Women who have made it share their experiences, hurdles they faced and how they got to where they are now. The sense of camaraderie among women is the highest in such conferences. We are really there for each other. We create strong bonds of sisterhood! We are the height of our self-worth!

But guess what! Half the world population is men. Yes, this is exactly the opposite of what we hear all the time when we talk about including women - half the world population is women. The same applies to men too. While we are exhilarated at the success of other women and aspire to scale our own heights, there are men in our lives sitting at home blissfully unaware of the mental/emotional transformation we just went through. And then we complain that we don't have enough support for dreams and aspirations from the men in our lives.

And I don't think the exclusion is a new thing. From the time a woman gets her periods, the first ones to be alienated from the very information are men. We've finally woken up to how wrong that is and we are somewhere responsible for the awkward squirming of men in their seats at the mention of the P world! We are trying to right that wrong, albeit most workshops that happen about periods are women-only.

Research has proven that, when it comes to making changes at home that enables a woman spend more time at work, the women want solutions that involve only themselves. They don't want to discuss it with their spouses and get them to make changes. And when men aren't told that probably their habit of spending post-office time in front of the TV with a bottle of beer is causing inconvenience, how can they be blamed for not being more receptive! And guess who is learning this from the fathers? The kids, especially the sons, who think it's the job of woman to get into the kitchen and that a man is free from responsibility.

Every time I go to one of these women group summits, I always think how wonderful would it be for men to be a part of the stimulating conversations that we've heard. How much more sensitive would they be to the challenges women face if we openly included them. I don't know if this is our way of getting back at them for having all male panels - we are going to have all women events. And, just for fun, not include men!! (Imagine Russel Peters voice in your head for the comic effect! :))

To have an event that goes all out and excludes men is beyond me. On the one hand, we are fighting for a more inclusive, more equal world. We talk about raising boys to respect women, to consider them peers and partners - at home and at work and generally get along together. On the other, we have exclusive kitty parties where men aren't allowed.

Am I the only one who finds this odd? Don't you think it'd be more fun of we all got together to enjoy the serious and the fun bits of an event. A chance to spend time together in busy times. A great way to come back and discuss the wonderful happenings of the day and how that could make our lives better. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Day 30: The Finale - Gratitude Post

(Photo credit)
This post idea is inspired by another post I read earlier today but the tone and theme are quite different. I usually believe in counting my blessings and be thankful for what we have. Alana's post inspired me to find gratitude in blogging and the challenge that I have been taking this whole month. I'll accept that it hasn't been easy. I have had to push back a bit of work to prioritise writing the post for the day. I'd rather finish it first when I sit to work rather than scramble to meet the 12 am deadline (like I did last year)

Gratitude also seems like an apt finale rather than the usual lessons-learnt-from-the-challenge post that I did last year. There are things I learnt this year too but I'll be putting them differently. No listicles. :)

First of all it feels great to achieve my first 30 on 30 in a daily challenge! And I think this is possible only when it is set as a challenge. Goals are fine but challenges really drive us. We don't want to be left behind or accept defeat. When I took the challenge last year I was deluded into thinking that writing everyday can be so easy peasy! Just continue what I did for a month! And it took me 8 days to come back for my next post in December! Once the challenge is up, there are other things that jump at us which we have deferred for too long in the favour of the completing the challenge. So yeah! We all need a challenge once in a while to best ourselves. In fact, we should change some of our goals into challenges and we'll definitely have a better shot at making it!

I really enjoyed writing this time. Mainly because I got to dip into post ideas that I have been jotting down for pretty much the entire year. And I've really wanted to write on all of them. I covered quite a few. Plus, I ensured that I found the time to research and provide resources in my posts. It did cost extra time but it definitely improves the quality of and satisfaction from writing the post.

Another thing I managed to do this time, and loved it, is hopping on to others' blogs and reading them. I've found some great blogs and since this is an international fare, I read some posts on Thanksgiving, the US election and other things that aren't relevant in my country. The #NaBloPoMo community is truly international, all of us got talking about the issues that concern us in our immediate surroundings.

So to begin with, I think the first person/people I want to thank are people behind the amazing BlogHer community. Not just for organising this whole challenge, creating the blogroll, putting up prompts and being the encouraging, engaging community that it is. But also for the prompts that they put on their blog every month for us to pick and choose what we want to write on. Getting bloggers from across the world together is quite a feat!

I am also grateful - to the writing gods, I guess - that I could be part of another challenge and actually complete it. I love writing and it has been a great experience to write and put content out there for everyone to read after the abysmal year its been for blogging here.

Also, thanks to all my readers who've stuck around through times of no content and come back when new posts arrive. Also, a special thanks to bloggers from the #NaBloPoMo community who dropped by and left their encouraging comments. I have tried to return the favour and will continue to look up more blogs to read from the Blogher Facebook page.

I still have topics in my list left. And hopefully, if the streak of motivation continues, I should manage a post or two a week. Nothing ambitious for now! :) Looking forward to you all coming back for more posts.

This post is the final post for #NaBloPoMo blogging challenge of 2016 which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day 29: How To Cut Clutter In Your House

Clearing clutter can be quite overwhelming (Photo credit)
Another post on cutting clear? Really? I understand your scepticism at this. Why would you want to read my post when there is enough and more information online? Tried and tested step by step guides, do's and don't's, hacks, tips and what not. And if self-help books are your kind of thing, you are better off going through the spiritual journey of tidying up with Marie Kondo's book itself. (When I first discovered her I was quite astounded at someone making a fortune by helping you throw away your clutter! Amazing!) So why my post? I have no tips, tricks, hacks. What I have are insights from my own experiences in the last couple of years. I haven't read any fancy book on cleaning up nor do online articles make a lot of sense to me. I am not someone who will go around the house or a room tossing things into a bin and throw them away. I think the process is much more complex. But a few things have made it easier for me:

STOP shopping: If you are jostling for space in your wardrobe, this is the first thing to do. I have stopped buying sarees for a few years now since that's something I don't use often. I haven't bought T shirts in some time now. I have enough to go around. No matter how tempted, I wont buy anything full sleeeves because it doesnt work in the humid weather of Mumbai. And I still have more clothes than I need. If you dig deeper, you will find that you have enough clothes for all times - office, home, weekend wear etc

Put away stuff you 'might' wear: I can't explain the huge difference just doing this made to my wardrobe. There were impulse buys I kept hoping I'll wear. And leaving them in the wardrobe somehow felt I didnt waste money on them. But it makes no sense to let them occupy that space if I was never going to wear them. Accept it. and take them out. From sarees that were gifted to expensive anarkalis that didnt fit anymore, I found a way to get rid of them one way or the other. The latest ones to go out are palazzo pants. (I know they are so comfortable but I have never been happy in the flared ones. so except for a couple of straight cuts, the rest are out) Things that are worn out definitely make their way to the orphanage.

Tackle it section wise. This is common advice. But I say chop it further into sub sections. Clothes mean night wear, gym wear, party wear, office wear etc. This just makes it easy to quickly to look through the sub section and be done with it. With little things like make up and jewellery, start putting them away as you come across something you are no longer using.

Utility not sentimentality: I understand the emotions behind keeping your wedding dress and the first pair of shoes your little one wore. But if you insist on hoarding the shade card from the first time you got your house re-painted, you are going a bit too far. Take away menus you might need come under this category. Everything is available online. For most stuff, if you haven't used in the last 5 years - heck! make it 2 years- it's time to get rid of it.

While I was reading online on the topic, I came across this question:

If you lost everything, what would you need to replace?

I think this is a great guiding principle when you decide whether to keep an item or not. Or whether you should even buy something more. To me, clearing things up is following the law of nature. Even people die to make place for the ones that are born. And only then the natural balance is restored. You can't always bring things into your house and mind without tossing away the old and unused.

Are there any specific techniques that have worked for you? I am always looking for new ideas to try. Shoot! Looking forward! :)

This post is the penultimate post for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Day 28: The Selfie Tamasha

The selfie craze has moved beyond rational proportions! (Photo credit)

It was a pleasant saturday evening. The spouse and I were enjoying the sunset from the deck along with a cool glass of wine at the York Vineyards in Sula. But the experience was marred by something that was happening on the lawn in front of us. A bunch of college friends who were on a trip were constantly taking selfies on a phone. Sometimes using a selfie stick to cover the whole group. While the beautiful sun was setting behind them spreading crimson and orange across the sky, they were busy clicking selfies!! I wonder why they had to come all the way to the vineyards for that. They might as well have chosen their college lawn to make duck faces at the camera.

The front camera in phones is going to be the undoing of a generation. Clicking selfies is a craze beyond rational behaviour now. I can see people clicking selfies at restaurants while waiting for food etc. That's like a pastime till the food comes. "Can I have a selfie with you?" is such a common request for celebrities that I actually shy away from asking that. No matter what the occasion, whether alone or in a group, indoors or in open spaces, a selfie is in order. Click a selfie, post on all social media and then I don't know what's else is it worth.

Selfies are a part of popular culture we cannot ignore. There are different kinds of selfies depending on where someone is and what one is doing. Just add the word to the name or create a hashtag to make a new name. There are at least 15 kinds of selfies one can find. Since Instagram is the baap of photo networks, there are also selfie trends from time to time to keep the craze going. There was the fingermouthing selfie craze in July this year and the self five selfie trend in october.

It's fine as long as it's fun. But so crazy are people about capturing a unique selfie that might go viral online and get them fame, that they have somewhat lost their senses. They want selfies in front of running trains and from parapet walls of high bridges. India had the highest number of selfie related deaths in 2015. We all remember the recent incident of a man who got bit by a snake since he went too close to take a selfie. A college student slipped into a lake trying to take a selfie. 5 others who jumped to save her also lost their lives. This is a world wide trend and the internet is full of it - Wikipedia has a whole list of notable incidents.

The question to ask here is - where will this stupidity end? Is there a way to inject some sense into people? This is not about education since the smart phone toting generation is educated, modern and aware of what it is doing. Although selfies aren't officially cited as one of the causes people can die from, it is soon moving towards becoming one. And we need to really consider the consequences of giving into something as shallow as taking pictures of our own selfs!

When I look at people taking selfies I am reminded of this tweet by the celebrity blogger, Purba Ray:

And I think this is going to be a bigger tragedy since our future generations - if they survive deaths due to selfies - might be practically deformed! What more! Selfie addiction is also related mental disorders.

Look at it any which way, all this doesn't sound like good news to me. There has to be a way to overcome this and literally save lives. (Probably that could be a topic for another post)

What do you think about taking selfies? Do you take a lot of them?

This post is written for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Day 27: Why do "people" want to know?

Women get asked a lot more questions than men (Photo credit)
If I got a nickel for every time someone asked me a question that is none of their business, I'd be rich! Like RICH! And I've realised I don't even have to think of all the different questions I got asked over time. The one to top the list is - Where my (forever travelling) spouse is now? And trust me, sometimes even I wouldn't know the answer - or dint care to remember - if he was on a multi city tour in a week. But I'm guessing it's important for people to know.

The next one has got to be when am I going to have a baby! Boy! That's like a staple conversation topic with childless people. (Thankfully, the kid question dwindled out of my life after the initial years except for a few people in the family who just won't let it go! I should really start charging nickels, I guess! LOL!)

And I'll venture to put in a third one since the people who ask this have absolutely nothing to do with it and they still ask - When is a member in my family finishing her Ph.D? And if you know the Indian culture, you definitely can guess the conversation this question is leading to...yeah! you got it!

There are several others related to work too. People find it hard to comprehend that I have any real work to do without a job that keeps me out from 9-5. One question that really gets my goat is, "What plans?" And there's a whole lot of them throughout the year - Your birthday, spouse's birthday, long weekend, Holi, Diwali, Christmas, New Year or the wedding anniversary! Phew!!

And the frustration at this barrage of pointless questions definitely gives way to rolling on the floor kind of laughter. And I really want to ask people, no matter how life altering the topic - how the fuck is that any of their business?? But in our culture, (honestly, I don't know about other countries/cultures) it's everyone else's business but yours. From your marital status to the number of kids you have (or the absence of it), what you wear, what time to arrive home at night, what kind of lifestyle you lead is the business of everyone who has no other business.

And the scrutiny is more pronounced if you are a woman. There is "best by" date for an unmarried woman. And the friendly neighbourhood aunty -who obviously  has nothing else to do - will be able to give you the correct estimate. And if you shrug at it, she'll threaten you with, "It's already late!". By the way, the same threat - sometimes rephrased as, "It's time now" - applies to the having-a-baby question too. Try indulging her with answers and you had it! "Never" is never an acceptable answer. Pat comes the next one, "Why?" The thoughts furiously whirling in aunty's head are - Gay? Medical problem? Try giving them reasons - career, busy life - that sound valid to you and they'll shoot them right out as rubbish. After all, people know better about what we should be doing with our lives than we do! Trust them!

I have had women judged for having a job and taking care of kids. And eyebrows raised if she quit her career to care for her kids full time. "So, are you never getting back to your job?" There, you just trampled on the last of whatever was left of her self esteem!

If you ask me, all this is just a conspiracy of people who-have-not to drag us down with them. When a mom of two pulling her hair out tells me to have a baby since it's so life altering, I just know it! Since the neighbourhood aunty can't wear short dresses and party till 4 am, she is definitely going to tut tut and declare that as immoral.

Of late, my policy is to avoid running into neighbours altogether. I don't want to kill their joy of asking where my spouse is off to by telling them that he doesn't travel much now. And others who have questions about my work etc get generic responses enough to end the conversation. I now believe that the fewer people I meet, the lesser the nonsense in life!

Interestingly enough, I had this post idea in mind for a long time and today's cover story in Times Life - So, when are you settling down? - really pushed me to finally write it. While this post is my personal experience, the piece in Times is relevant to every woman even in today's times.

So, moral of the story: If you are ever confused about your life and you should go to random people. They always always know better than you about your own life.

Have you - I am sure you have - spill your experiences here! If there are any guys who read this post, I'd love to hear from you too! Are you guys also exposed to scrutiny and unwanted advice like women do?

This post is written for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Day 26: 11 Things Life Is Too Short To Do

We are all usually swamped with more work than time to do it in. Plus, there is also more information that you can probably ever process in this lifetime. I have deliberately given up looking at must read books lists, have pruned my Feedly and am trying to become more goal oriented. And of late, I have realised that there are somethings that I just couldn't be worried about. I don't do them because I don't want to. Call it mid life realisation or whatever you want but I think life is too short to do things you don't want to. And here are a few things, in no particular order, I think we should consider -

Life is too short to:

Complete a bad book just because you started reading it

Drink bad wine 

Let others' opinions affect you

Be someone others want you to be

Spend time with people you don't like (just to please others)

Worry about being nice to people you don't care about 

Ponder over things you can't change

Not re-read books you love 

Not spend time with people you really love 

Be nice to people you hate just because it is rude not to

Be stuck in traffic (find a way out)

To wear clothes you don't like/want to just because someone decided it's in fashion

I am sure that if you give it some thought, you will come up with your list of things you think life is to short to waste on. Can you think of anything at the moment? Do get back and leave your comment when you do! 

This post is written for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Day 25: If We Looked At It With A Child's Eyes?

We could do with adopting the innocence of children (Photo credit)
I decided to use the prompt for today - What do you think we could all do better with if we looked at it with a child's eyes? I think it is interesting. We all can do to think like children. Even when we grow up, we can keep the child in us alive. It is hard to do that in the world we live in. But we can try.

One thing we all could do better with if we looked at it with a child's eyes is the innocence of children. As opposed to adults who judge, children look at the world through their naive ignorance. It doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor, something as simple as a candy can make them happy. You can invent silly games and they will love you dearly instead of judging your intelligence or lack of it. They don't care about your social status. Treat them well and they will be your pals. They will never tell you it's time to get married or jump to conclusions for being single. It doesn't matter to them if your house is small as long as they are welcome in it. Whether you are white or black, a friendly smile is enough is draw them to you.

If they ask rude questions, it is only because they have heard the older people around them discussing things they should not. It is unfortunate that instead of learning from them, we corrupt them with our worldview. Teach them to sit in judgement of people and treat them differently based on our own criteria of looking at the world. All of us are better off being more like children and keep that child-like innocence alive.

Do you agree with me? What do you think we can learn from kids?

This post is written for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by Blogher.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Day 24: Public Speaking Lessons From The World Champion

I am passionate about speaking as a skill. Whether it is world famous speeches that have inspired us through the decades or the art of speaking impromptu. A powerful speech can galvanise nations and a commanding voice can change the course of history. But speaking is public is said to be feared worse than death itself. With so many pairs of eyes staring at you, the survival instincts kick in and we want to run to safety. However, speaking is a key skill if one wants to succeed in life in general.

I was thrilled a couple of years ago to discover a world championship of public speaking. The best of the world fought for the title over multiple rounds and only the best won. You could say that I am fascinated with this speech by the world champion in 2014 but it deserves to be watched again and again! It is amazing how neatly this 7 minute presentation uses so many things that make a great talk. The rose metaphor, the body language, intonation of voice, humour, emotion, a theme running though the talk, the delivery and the well practiced overall presentation.

This is a great piece to learn the art of effective speaking to make your own speaking more confident and powerful.

I want to share this post I wrote about this video on my work blog - 5 things to learn from the world champion of public speaking - where I dissect elements of the speech here and discuss they work so well.

Enjoy the video and do tell me how you liked it. If you wish to work on your speaking skills, drop me a line and I can help you.

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for November Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Day 23: 29 Awesome Reasons Why You Should Travel

Traveling is an eye opening experience and a great way to learn! (Photo credit)
I never travelled much for most of my life. But there has been a time when I got to travel the world and see different places. I have also traveled alone on work and otherwise. There is nothing more refreshing and eye opening than traveling. You a learn a lesson or two more when you travel alone. But it is also a great thing to do with family or friends. Here are a few reasons I have compiled:

1. It's fun
2. Broadens our mental horizons
3. Kicks us out of our comfort zone
4. Teaches cultural sensitivity
5. Hones our planning and packing skills
6. Takes us to different cuisines
7. Educates about local life
8. Boosts confidence
9. Leads to exciting experiences in life
10. Lets live life fully
11. Makes new friends
12. Gives a break from routine
13. Is for enjoyment and pleasure
14. Heals/destresses
15. Makes us more curious
16. Teaches us about history and civilisation
17. Helps discover ourself
18. Refreshes us
19. Offers new perspective to life
20. Gives more information about the world
21. Can make you a travel blogger
22. Gives an opportunity to appreciate monuments
23. Gets many stamps on your passport
24. Arouses our sense of adventure
25. Gives us stories/memories for life
26. Teaches us foreign languages
27. Helps reconnect with friends/partner over a vacation
28. Might teach us a survival skill or two
29. Creates opportunities to network

What other reasons would you like to add to this list? Share in the comments and let me know! Waiting to hear from you!

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Day 22: "I Just Sit At Home"

Household work is the hardest job in the world! (Photo credit)
I remember going along with my spouse to an event organised by his company. His colleagues came in with their wives and it was a nice social get together. During the wives' conversation, I asked one of them - yes, I have been guilty of asking this - "What do you do?". She got defensive and went to great lengths to explain how she is an architect and worked till after she had her baby. And how it got demanding with site visits and irregular schedules and she decided to call it quits to become a full time mother.

The evening did not end there. I put my large foot in my even bigger mouth and asked the same thing - as a general query, in my defence - to another of the wives. She resignedly replied that she took care of two kids full time and the tone suggested that there was no scope for taking up a job.

There's a reason why this incident is so clearly etched in my memory even after a year - the attitude of women when they spoke about not having a career outside of home. We - the society and the women - have made the "working woman" such an epitome of success that anyone who doesn't have a job feels inferior. Apologetic, defensive, resigned even. The malaise starts with, "So, what do you so?" which leaves a huge dent in the self esteem of women who do the most amazing job in the world - making a home sweet home! And I don't know who invented the phrase but most women who stay at home call it "just sitting at home".

Just sitting at home!!! If you analyse the phrase, the work that fits that job description is pretty much everything that keeps things functioning in a household. And keeps babies, if any, alive. This is exactly the job where you don't realise things are functioning till someone stops making them function. When I looked up online to research for this post, the stats objectively prove how hard housewives/homemakers/full time moms work. British women work 11 hours  a week more than their husbands. In Italy, women clock the highest - 21 hours per week - more than their spouses. And these numbers don't balance out even if women are part of the labour market and have jobs that pay. While we feel that men share the burden of household chores more frequently now, that's just a myth. According to a survey in 2014, only 19 men do household chores on a given day compared to 46 women. I don't think the numbers have evened out 2 years later.

All this proves that women 'just sitting at home' are mainly responsible for everything that works around the house. From the freshly laundered clothes in your closet to the clean bed you jump into at night and the hot meals at the table. And we should be proud of "just sitting at home". It's worth much more than any job can pay. We should be beaming when we talk about making things work 24/7/365 with no annual vacations or incentives of 401Ks. And this is what I call truly supporting the men go out and earn their 401ks! We should be unapologetic when it comes to nurturing the future of the world full time in the form of our kids.

Here are 8 reasons why it is harder to be a housewife than people think from a man's perspectives.

What do you think about this debate on housewives vs working women? Shouldn't we be proud of managing home full time too?

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Day 21: A Simple A-Z For A Happy Marriage

If marriage is forever! (Photo credit)
As I looked through some of the old posts, I realised that writing about marriage on my anniversary has unconsciously become a sort of tradition. Last year, I busted 5 myths about marriage and the year before that I wrote 2 posts since I had so much to say I guess. One is pondering over whether marriage is even worth it and the next one sharing the 7 lessons I learnt from being married for 7 years. So, for my 9th anniversary today, I think I am qualified to give out a quick A-Z guide to a happy marriage. Here:

Argue. Yes! A healthy discussion, venting out feelings and ironing out differences can be cathartic in a marriage.

Broken? Only then fix it. I don't understand online lists of how to make your relationship more exciting! If it's exciting enough, let it be! Don't go overboard.

Cook together. Helps bond and let's the spouses understand that household chores aren't a cake walk

Don't be best friends. I have said this earlier too. Find someone else to bitch about your respective mothers. Trust me! You don't want to ignore this one!

Express needs. You may feel down or want to go crazy. It's is hard to mind read unless you vocalise what's on your mind.

Flowers, sometimes. Who said flowers are meant only for dating! And who said only he has to get flowers for her? Although her face is going to light up brighter at the sight of flowers

Gifts aren't necessary. If you are in this for the long haul, you can't expect to make it a give and take for every little occasion.

Hug. Never goes out of fashion. And there's no per day limit!

I love you: Say it often enough. It never goes out of fashion

Joint decisions are great but it is okay to take up running a few things on your own and let your spouse off the hook about it

Keep at it: Marriage is a work in progress

Laugh together. Even if you read memes off the internet due to lack of one's own sense of humour

Make other friends. Marriage doesn't mean you can't be a person you were and socialise on your own.

"Nothing" means something. When a woman answers "nothing" to "what's wrong?", everything is! Do not take this lightly. I repeat, do not take this lightly

Open the car door. Doesn't matter how many years into your relationship, this will always make her smile!

Pardon. You can't hold on to grudges. Not even big ones

Question! Actually, don't! The moment you start wondering if you are happy together and if your relationship couldn't be as rocking as Jack and Susy's, you are going downhill. No one's perfect. And everyone's different. Just accept it

Respect each other's hobbies. If he wants to chase cars online all saturday evening, he should be allowed to. And if you want to go shopping every weekend, that should be okay too.

Say nice things: Underrated but important. Helps you notice the little things your spouse does for you

Together time: Even sitting together and doing your own thing counts. It doesn't have to be putting up with his/her idea of a good time

Unclutter. Whether it's the stuff you've accumulated over the years or thoughts that are saved in your mind, decide about each item and put it away.

Valentine's Day is over hyped. Trust me! Don't fall for it.

Welcome each other's quirks. People change over decades of their lives. Be accepting of who they gradually become through the years of marriage.

Xchange chores: That way you understand what each one goes through instead of assuming the other one has it easier

'You' time is as important as 'we' time. It's okay to watch a movie or go to the park by yourself.

Zing up. Well! Something with Z is hard to come by. So let's say that keeping things shiny for decades is hard. Do whatever that keeps the zing in the marriage

This is just a random list of things. There is tons of serious advice online on happy marriage if you wish to look up. Which one in this list is your favourite? Would you add more?

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Day 20: The First Time I Was In a Video

Recording yourself is fine. What's a pain is watching your own self in a replay! After pondering for over a year I took the plunge this year. With the support of an amazing team and their brilliant ideas, we shot the above video. I faced the camera for the first time. And it was NOT easy!

What made it harder was that it did not have any words! I'm a communication trainer and no words!! But's that was the challenge I had to rise up to I guess. Another reason why this video was conceived differently was to draw attention of people so they'd watch it and learn about coaching. It was a hot day in June and the humidity in Mumbai was at its best. We had to switch off the air conditioners during the actual take for audio quality. The entire team had to brave through the time I took to get it right. But they were supportive and let me do it at my own pace. There were multiple shots but I finally did it!

The video has the basics of coaching explained. Coaching - as opposed to popularly understood as coaching in sports - is a non-judgemental, advice free zone to help you achieve your goals through open-ended questions. This video talks about how 5 basic questions can help you gain clarity in your goals and keep you on track to achieve them. A coach help you, week after week, in making new action plans that gets the going on your goals.

What do you think about this? Do watch the others that we shot after this on YouTube channel of Soft Skills Studio and tell me what you think. I'd love to hear from you.

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Day 19: What Does Your Handwriting Tell About You

Our handwriting is as unique as our personality
While researching for this piece, I was thrilled to find some articles that echo my thoughts. I recommend that you read the first two pieces for sure. The first one is was written on National Handwriting Day - yes. it's on 23rd January - a couple of years ago:

 And the next one also talks about the unique and personal nature of our handwriting:

In case you are interested in how your handwriting can reveal things about your personality, here's an interesting infographic that explains it in great detail:

And here's some extra reading on how your handwriting can predict what kind of a lover you'll be in bed! 

When was the last time you sent out a hand written notes? What do you write apart from grocery lists or a note to remember something? 

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Day 18: Some Things People Don't Know About Me

This is me!!
Since I refer to this as my 'personal' blog as opposed to my work blog on communication and soft skills, I think there should be posts of personal nature too. So here are a few lesser known things about me: 

I am scared to use a mixer grinder (long story!). I am very careful when I rarely do

When I take the stairs down, I always have to hold the banister (thanks to a couple of bad falls)

I am not scared of lizards (cockroaches make me jump out of my skin in fright)

I have learnt to drive a car thrice but I still can't drive to save my life!

I hate sesame seeds in my food

I can't sing or dance to save my life

I am scared of heights

I'm very lazy! (Oh! You have no idea)

As soon as I am home, I have to tie my hair up. Everything else happens after that

I don't look at, read, hear or watch anything remotely, suspiciously spooky

Cheeni Kum amd The Devil Wears Prada are my all time favourite movies

I have traveled to all continents except Australia and South America

I won't pick a book to read if it has a small font. I'll find a Kindle version or a different copy 

I'd rather watch a movie I know is great than watch a new one to find out if it's great! 

This is a random list of things that came to my mind. I think we all have peculiarities and idiosyncrasies that make us unique! Do you have any strange ones? I'd love to hear them so that I can feel normal

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Day 17: What They Should Teach In Schools

Catch them young is the new mantra kids (Photo credit)
During research for this post, I ended with really long list of things that are important in life and should be taught to kids. I also realised that some of the skills are more of the parents' responsibility to teach at home. To me, school has always been the great leveller. We wear uniforms, learn from the same books, participate in the same extra curricular and travel by the same school bus. So it is important for the schools to play a bigger role. Move away from pure academics like history dates and reproductive systems of frogs to life skills and practical knowledge that will come in good stead in real life.

We live in a complex world. More than it was when we were kids. There are numerous distractions, indiscriminate use of technology, growing competition - just to name a few challenges our kids have to navigate through their childhood. And hence the skills they should have should also be different from what we learnt in school.

Here are a few things that I have short listed after paring down my list:

1. Reading, writing habits. These comprise 2 of the 3Rs a child should know as basic education. Being able to write a structured and well articulated piece is a skill which needs honing. And I can't even begin talking about why reading is such a life changing skill! Apart from academic work, kids should habitually read and write to hone the two skills. They can be given simple daily challenges on simple topics. (In fact, I made one such weekly challenge for my nieces aged 7 and 10 to coincide with this blogging challenge!) Or asked to write about the book they've been reading.

2. Expressing emotions: A friend of mine has her son go to a school where they regularly have feelings hour. The children are encouraged to talk about things that made them feel good, bad, happy, sad etc and share it with the class. Communicating what you feel is very important. And being able to express different emotions will only make children more emotionally intelligent. If you look up online, EQ has left the much coveted IQ behind as one of the most important skills necessary for success in life.

3. Managing failure: From what I know, the new trend is for proud mommies to post their kids' photos all over Whatsapp and Facebook for just much as getting an A. And I don't blame them since, as a society, we celebrate success. Social media is full of things we did great and no mention of where we failed. I think it is important to inculcate in children a feeling of perseverance rather than making a failure a setback in their lives. "It is okay to fail" - this is a life lesson that your kids will thank you for. Expressing emotions can come in very handy here and save a failed kid from developing an unexpressed complex.

4. Cyber safety: I am saying this is the duty of the school because parents may want to get their children gadgets just because they can afford them. or to keep up with the Joneses. Or perhaps children might borrow them from friends and use them in school, friends' homes or elsewhere. To ensure that our children are safe no matter where they try and get online, it is important to include this in the computer class curriculum. Inform them about safety and security. In fact, even parents should be given an advisory on the making their children responsible netizens if they wish to allow access to kids.

5. A growth mindset: This could be a mindset moment for a child. Simply put a growth mindset is telling a child that he or she can improve with hard work. As opposed to a fixed mindset which says that you are born with what you have and cannot get better. Encouraging children to get better with practice and perseverance is the best way to motivate them to take strides forward in any subject.

6. Boy-girl stuff: This is just the opposite of what happens in schools today. And I don't mean just the sex ed class. Emotions towards the opposite sex are a crucial part of growing up. It's not just about practical guide to safe sex but also the emotional implications of getting involved physically. It is about explaining to growing children how the hormones that are changing in their body will have mental and emotional implications too. Parents aren't too good at "the talk". At least not in our country. But teenage can be quite a confusing time. And knowing that it is okay to feel the highs and lows that kids do at that time can ease their minds a lot.

7. Practical things: From law to personal finance, from time management to first aid and self defence - there is no dearth of things kids will require in real life. Different subjects can be taught in different classes so that as children grow they are armed with relevant knowledge that they might need.

Here is another resource on 20 skills not taught in schools.

Which are the skills that make it to your list? I'd love to hear any that you'd like to add to this list.

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Day 16: Top 3 Most Viewed Posts This Year

Top 3 posts of the year! (Photo credit)
So, we have crossed the half way mark in this challenge! Kudos to everyone who's stuck around writing every single day. I have some amazing post ideas and need time to plan them for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, I thought I could do a blog round up for all you wonderful readers who've been dropping by to read and comment. Thank you so much!!

1. The most viewed post this year - more than 500 views - has been the one I wrote when the CBSE results came out this year. Obviously, I have argued that school results don't determine the course of one's lives and students shouldn't be pressured so much. I guess that touched a chord with people. The post was also picked up for the Spicy Saturday picks edition by BlogAdda. Here it is for your reading pleasure:

2. The next one is my account of surviving endometriosis, a condition in women that is believed to have no cure. It is a very painful condition during periods that a lot of women suffer from. I am happy that my post here and on some other sites generated awareness and I had people get in touch with me to know more about it. Please read it and spread the word. You could save someone's life from intense pain.

3. All of us have struggled with keeping up with a fitness routine. Even I've never been big on the regular exercise thing. Except when I worked out quite regularly for 2 years and it did make a difference to my life. Here are a few lessons working out regularly taught me:

Which one of these posts did you like the best? I'd love to hear your feedback on the posts. 

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Day 15: Why Are Men Missing From Menstruation?

Photo credit

The average woman endures some 456 total periods over 38 years, or roughly 2,280 days with her period -- 6.25 years of her life. And if roughly half the world is female, this is quite an important piece of information. Yet, tell a man you are on your period and see him squirm in his seat. Let's face it! Men aren't comfortable when it comes to this topic. I don't blame them. It must be hard to fully comprehend something they never go through, that women guard like a nuclear code and don't talk about themselves! But it's 2016 and women are opening up. And men - if they pay attention - you will find enough online and off it to stop making excuses and learn a thing or two about it.

Now, if you are wondering why am I dragging you out of your comfort zone and you probably know enough to get by, watch this video and you'll know how little men know about practical things involving periods. In fact, women also should watch this one even if it is for the laughs at men's funny answers about periods.

Dear men, let me start with the good news! You don't have to know EVERYTHING about periods! It's okay if you don't know how is a maxi pad different from a regular one. Or keep a calendar to keep track of your woman's cycle. But rolling your eyes at a woman and assuming it must be that time of the month for her is no longer acceptable. Here are a few things that might help you get a headstart:

Stop being uncomfortable. I'm sure it's hard to talk about something that happens to women's lady parts and I completely accept the blame on behalf of women for your discomfiture. But you can stop feeling uncomfortable now. Because even we aren't anymore. You need to do the next point to help you overcome this faster.

Read up. It isn't as hard anymore to find information. You don't have to rely on women in the family or probe your girl friends for basic information. Go online and there's tons of it. And given your interest, I am sure the women in your life will be happy to help you with their own insights too!

Every reaction isn't PMS. Every outburst of emotion isn't due to hormones. Have you ever considered that you may be THAT annoying and we might be genuinely frustrated? We are just people like you but with wombs.

Don't be so helpless. Cramps are a part of the process and just be there for the women in your life. Learn a few things that might help. And you should definitely know what works for your woman - yes, even if she is your sister!

Buying pads is like buying condoms. Except that, I agree, there can be different choices and preferences of women. Make an effort to understand what your woman prefers. The last thing she wants in an emergency is a clueless, embarrassed you who has has no idea what to do! You aren't illiterate to carry a piece of paper on which she writes exactly what she wants.

If this seemed like a lecture from a podium above, here is an awesome post for men by a man addressing common notions men typically have about periods. I recommend that you be patient and read it till the end. If it interests you, roam around the blog. You'll come back a lot wiser! :)

(I recommend that you - men or women - who read this post watch the videos I have shared! They are quite interesting!)

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Day 14: What Every Child Should Know

I meant this post to be for my nieces ages 7 and 10. Mid way through it, I began wondering if it was too early to tell them this and if any of it would make sense to them. Then again, all these points are relevant to any kid. (Except a couple which are more relevant to girls) Let's call them nuggets of wisdom from my life that I wish someone had told me when I was growing up. 

Don't lose the child in you. Always indulge in child like pleasure through out life.

Don't let people tell you what you can or cannot do. If people tell you that you can't, do it anyways to prove them wrong!

Speak up! You have the right to express your feelings and opinions. Whether you like something or not, say it. If you are right, fight for it.

Respect yourself. Or no one else will either!

What is it that gives you joy even if it keeps you up all night? Find that passion and pursue it!

Be tolerant! Your way of life maybe right. That doesn't make others' wrong

Count your blessings. Always! We always have more than we think we do!

Always be curious. Read. Travel. See the world. Always ask, "why not?"

The last one is specifically for my nieces both of whom are such darlings!

Friends will come and go but sisters are forever. Stay together and stick out for each other!

This is just a short list of points that came to my mind! Drop in more in the comments and lets add to the legacy we want to leave for our kids!

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Day 13: 3 Great Resources On Beating Writer's Block

For times when you are stuck! (Photo credit)
How can we have a daily challenge and not talk about writer's block! While we do have prompts to write on on weekdays, we may not want to use some of them. And weekends anyways need to be survived without prompts. Although, I feel, depending on the topic of your blog, there can be no dearth of topics...ever! If you read enough, you will know.

Anyways, since we do get stuck at times, here are a few brilliant resources to keep you going.

1. The first one is my own post that I wrote during the blogging challenge last year. I follow most of these tips and they have worked quite well for me:

2. The second one is from Wordpress. It has a few more tips to beat the block:

3. While you start on that list of topics/ideas, here are a few prompts to flex your creative muscles and get the creative juices flowing:

While this is a short post, it has enough food for thought to last a while! All the best for the rest of the challenge! Let the words flow...

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Day 12: What's Up With Your Weekend?

How's your weekend going? 
So, there is no prompt for the weekend and I have been wondering what to write since yesterday. I thought maybe I could do some freewheel writing today. Just talk about stuff happening in my life. The weekend is here and all of us are relaxed, probably, or planning to finish some errands. If you aren't sure what to do, you can find 96 ideas on what to do on a weekend in the post I wrote yesterday.

I am planning to have a relaxed weekend. I've pretty much been on a slow motion for most of the week due to health reasons. Mumbai did not have smog as bad as Delhi but there are health issues around this time of the year. The weather changing and the additional pollution that people produce through crackers despite all the social activism against it. I haven't had health issues like this since my Delhi days - where it was typical to have cold, cough and ear infection because of prolonged cold as the weather changed to winters. But since I have been living in Mumbai, my ear was spared and I reckon went back to being as good as new. But it's back to bulging ear drums and heavy antibiotics and trying to function at 50% hearing capacity! And trust me, it ain't a great feeling at all!

The worse consequence of all this has been a long break from my fitness class. I have been pretty much regular all year and had reached quite a good level with my workout routine. I was hoping to make much more progress by the end of the year than I will now. It'll take me pretty much the rest of the year to bounce back from this break. And I am not happy about it! Well! looking at it differently, what's life without a challenge! I hope to resume on Monday and give it everything I have got.

On a more positive note, I ran into this list of books I read in the last couple of years. I read 15 books in 2014 (seems like I forgot to add some books). 25 books in 2015 and this year I have already finished 40 books. This is a huge thing since I have been struggling for months to fit in decent time to read books. But I guess between all the reading on Kindle and stealing time late night for physical books, it did count for something!

So, I am going to get back to my weekend - relax a bit and run some errands! How's your blogging challenge going? In case you are stuck, watch out for my post tomorrow to help you keep up!

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.