Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Very Herself

Was trying to get the little one in the car to run some errands, but she just wanted to curl with her books and goldfish. "Just leave me home and you go do your work!".

So I tried to explain that she was too young for me to leave her home alone, and she had to be at least 10 years old for that. Very angry, she retorts, "Its not my fault that the earth is going so slowly!"

So the other day, she was telling me, "You know, many years back, people used to think that spanking is the way to get kids to do the right thing. Now they learnt that it is not correct." "So how do kids do the right thing now a days?", I asked.

"Oh, you just have to scold them".

She is absolutely convinced that we live inside the Earth and not on its surface. And keeps giving us reasons to prove it. One of the biggest reasons is, "If we were on the outside, we would have all fallen off as the earth moved." The second is that "If we weren't inside, we could have seen the space instead of the sky". Also that "I read that Earth's surface is rocky, but all around us its not rocky at all."

Somehow she is fascinated by planets, especially exo-planets. Its a joy to see her discover the world, and it is immensely entertaining to hear her interpretations of it.

She tells me, "Many years ago, humans always dragged their feet. Or maybe they just kept sliding on the ground". I suppose I was confused enough by the statement, so comes the explanation,
"Back when the dinosaurs lived, humans always just dragged their feet. Because the book said that the first human footprint fossil is after millions of years after the dinosaurs, so when the dinosaurs were there, humans just dragged their feet everywhere. So there are no footprints."

Friday, May 30, 2014

Of Karwa Chauth

Over an year ago, me and hubby were discussing Karwa Chauth. Hubby has banned Karwa Chauth since declaiming it as misogynist. I think, however, that banning Karwa Chauth is just addressing the symptom, not the cause.

The basic premise of Karwa Chauth is that the husband's life is very important for a woman. The wife will fast for her husband's long life. This is also the premise of the standard Hindi movie blessing of "sada suhagan raho". Now, folks ask, why do we not see any reciprocal traditions coming from the husband? Is the wife's life not equally important? Does he not love her as much?

 I think this is not a question of love. It is a question of economics. Without a husband, the Indian woman is fairly dispossessed. Without a wife, the husband is inconvenienced.

To begin with, under Indian inheritance laws, the father's wealth is divided among his sons.Until an amendment in 2005, the daughters did not have an equal claim to the wealth division. Societally, it is yet considered improper for a daughter to demand a portion of your parent's estate. The woman also has no claim to anything in her in-law's estate. So essentially, the woman's claim to property does not exist. It is only her husband who has the claim to any estate. So the woman does not "own" the asset.

Now why does this matter? Women are educated and capable of earning, so why depend on inheritence?

Firstly, they are educated and working, today. Just a generation ago, a woman going out to work was frowned upon. Even today, it is considered as optional. Secondly, only small percentage of women are educated. The illiteracy among women is staggering. Even among those educated, there are many with "check-mark" education and no real employable skills. So a loss of husband brings a definite loss of quality of life through lack of income, and the associated fall in the family's social bearing that goes with the income.

But the real issue is that India is an agrarian society, not an industrialized society. In an agrarian society, the land is the primary resource for a farmer as against in an industrialized one where employment is the primary source of income.. Without land a farmer has no employment. Now, land is, in most cases, inherited. Since a woman has no claim to asset (land) ownership either through her parents or her in-laws,  she is dependent on her husband. So, she remains economically dependent on her husband, with no recourse.

Until 1956, women were not entitled to inherit any of either their parents', in-laws' or husband's property. She did not even have residence rights, and could essentially be turned out. In 1956, the Hindu Inheritance Law allowed women to retain residency rights, but did not give them coparcenary (equal inheritance) rights.

So the tradition of Karwa Chauth and likes at hand here, which certainly predate 1956, are born off desperation. A woman in an agrarian society with no claim on land assets is a destitute without her husband. Any wonder why she so desperately hopes that her husband outlives her? The laws of the land and society left her at the mercy of her in-laws and parents, and in not-so-well-do households, she was a burden, either to be exploited domestically, or to be driven out of home or to be sent off to sati. Exploitation and abject destitution of widows was fairly common till early 1900s.

I have folks tell me that dowry system was in place to mitigate this. I do not buy it at all. Firstly, if you think inheritance laws are broken, fix them. Do not work around them by doling out handouts to the girl for which she is made to feel like a burden. Secondly, giving goods to her in-laws family does not replace giving her real control of assets. So, dowry does not hold.

The 2005 Amendment fixes this issue of inheritance. But socially, it is yet considered improper to demand for a share in inheritance. So there is no widespread application of the law in general cases. As we move to an industrialized society, the impact of this is diluted, but only for women who are equipped to participate in the industrialized economy. But it yet matters tremendously for the women who are outside this sliver of a category.

So I think going after Karwa Chauth is pointless. It is the laws and mindsets that perpetuate the situation that need to change.

And till then, let the girls have some fun. :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dude, why?

Watched Terminator2 over the weekend with kiddo. So, yesterday in car:

"Mom, if the leader of the men was alive in future, then obviously the robot didn't kill him back when he was a baby. And if the boy had been killed in the past then there would have been no need in the future to send a robot back in time because there would have been no leader. I don't get this."

I hate saying, "I have no clue", but.... 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Geeky-ness galore

So, kiddo was absorbed in his book and dear dad was trying to strike up a conversation. 

So, dad asks, "K, who do you think is the most beautiful woman in the world?" 

K: "I think its Mommy."

D: "What about the little one?"

K: "I think she is 3 billionth, 499 millionth, 999 thousandth, 998th ugliest girl in the world. Get that? That means she is second most beautiful.
Umm, actually that might be tough to say because there aren't exactly 7 billion people in the world, and I also read that there are more women than men in the world. Its tough to get all that correct."

He goes back to reading his book. Meanwhile, I am basking in the joy of being proclaimed as the most beautiful till, Dad wonders,

"K, why do you think Mommy is the most beautiful woman in the whole world?"

Without looking up from the book he is reading, K responds, "That was just a hypothesis."


Little one ill and I tell her "If you lie down, your fever will get better".

Naturally, she spends the whole day running about, doing everything else besides lying down while giving me periodic updates "See mommy, running didn't get me bukhar", "Jumping didn't get me bukhar" "I was playing in the yard but I am no bukhar" etc...

Till she exhausts herself and lies down on the bed. I go to her and say, "Look you have more fever now".

So, "I think mommy, sleeping on bed gives me bukhar".

 Need to tell her experiments must be designed very carefully.


 Being a nice mom, I decide to offer her warm drinks while she is ill.

She enjoys the first sips of warm lemonade with "This feels really nice, I love you mommy" and then gets distracted with something else. By the time she returns to her lemonade, its cooled off.

Come evening, I give her another glass of warm water to drink. She takes it and after some time, I see her kneeling before the glass staring at it intently.

 "What are you doing?", I ask her.

 "I am trying to see where all the hot goes"


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Time Together

I want to remember this in my heart, always.

The other day, kiddo was missing his Dadi. So he was looking at her picture. Being the geek he is,

K: So, will you be with me for only 27 more years? 

M: No. You cannot really say when a person will die. It could be shorter than that or much more than that. Like Nana lived for so long. So Ajoba had his Dad with him till Ajoba turned 62. So lets hope we will have very long time together. At least long enough for you to grow up and become a big person.

K: So you mean we could have like 50-60 more years together?

M: Yup, maybe.

Kiddo seems happy. But some thought ensues and...

K: Hmm... that's a very long time. If you look at it like this, it is a very long time. But I think that when we are on our last day, we will feel like we have hardly had enough time together.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kim Kardashian

Over the last couple of weeks, I have received this article and its analogies in my mailbox: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Leaves Work at 5:30. Should You? - with comments like "hey, work life balance isn't impossible", or "hey, there are people who can do it all", "its only about wanting", "prioritize your life".

I think this is pure BS. Bay Area is competitive. There is no way you can get off work at 5:30pm and yet reach where Sandberg has reached. I have done this, and so have some of you. And you know how the jungle rises to grab your place the moment you step out. Oh sure, you can leave 'office' at 5:30pm, but you are kidding if you say you leave 'work' at 5:30 and yet are climbing ladders. And working from home is not being with kids, folks. You are tuned into work; so don't say you are with kids.

"So why don't you just delete the mail and move on?", you will say.

I can't because these half truths hurt. This image that folks like Sandberg, Palin, Michele Obama are portraying: "Women who do it all" is hurting. "Look at us", they say, "We can have these high flying ambitious careers, look amazing, and yet be around for our family and hold everything together wonderfully." Left unsaid is - So can you, if you just try. And suddenly all those moms who are exhausted from holding down a job, getting through homeworks and soccer practices, putting dinners on table feel so small and worthless. Feel that they perhaps should be able to do much more... just like these Super-Ladies can. And that is also what everyone else around them think of them.

This is the image that is constantly being bombarded to women: You should be this blackberry toting high flying lady in a suit with an up-hill career path. Have a swim suit model body, eyebrows done, dressed up perfectly with just the right makeup. You should have a Martha Stewart home, tastefully decorated and always neat. Spend time with your kids who by the way must be gorgeously dressed, excelling at school, team sports and piano. You should be connected and tuned into your kids and husband. You have a wonderful real marriage with an ambitious husband. And of course have healthy, organic dinners together as a family. And doing this is just normal, ladies... nothing is out of the park here.

I have friends who are just so overwhelmed with trying to reach this 'expected normal', churning through life, working hard and wondering why they just don't feel happy or satisfied. Even if one does manage to do all of this all without falling apart, there is no contentment at the end. The society and media is always upping the ante, and there will be those cookies you should have baked with your kids.

So ladies, tune out. Find your own life, find what is important for you, and do that. Every time you see such 'do-it-all' blasted at you, put your feet on the ground and think: "Is this really what a normal smart, capable, hard working person can really do?" If not, press the delete button and move on [or blog about it :-)]. But don't take another todo list upon yourself.

Its tough to live on your own terms when there are so many societal pressures and expectations. But its worth the effort because then you are living for what is really important for you. We always forget that this is our own life, and we have only one of it.

I had read this lovely book Kim by Rudyard Kipling back in school. I don't remember most of it. But what I do remember is that in the book there is this Buddhist monk in search of the River of Eternal Happiness. He meets this street urchin, Kim, and they fall into travelling together where Kim kind-of looks out for the simple, innocent Lama. And in the end, the Lama finds his river, but comes back for Kim. Because, that is where his happiness is... inside him... its not an external quest.