Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Treasure of Memories and Present

 6/6/1996, 1/1/2006 and 9/9/2009

These dates may not hold any significance to many, but for me, they are reminders of great pain and loss a person will suffer because earlier they had enjoyed the love and company of their loved ones. These are days when I lost my sister, mom and dad. For some weird reason, the dates have the same day and month for all three of them. I am not sure if life, nature and their souls are sending some code through those dates for us - those still living and loving them. 

Madiha, my daughter-in-law also has something similar as her birth date - because she was born on 6th of June as well. 6/6. Somehow this makes my connection a bit special. Slowly she has reduced the pain of losing a loving sister which is always more severe for me than losing my parents. Knowing someone was born on the same day and fate got her to marry Rayyan looks a bit more dramatic than just coincidence to me. For my sister, Rayyan was definitely the most favorite person. 

My sister was older than me by a little more than 3 years. She was a physically very strong person and always took care of me. She would never allow anyone to bully me, though she would do it at times. Even after my marriage, she would be there anytime she sensed I was having trouble. Though I very well knew I could defend myself, I never stopped her. I loved the way she protected me, a habit which naturally comes to the elder sibling. I do the same with my younger siblings, especially my brother though he is very well capable of handling himself.

I lost her support though, when I actually needed her the most. I was struggling with my chemotherapy, Farheena’s diagnosis and uncertain future when I lost her. Something changed in me all of sudden. I became very tough, emotionally very strong and very practical. Slowly I took up her role in my life as well, protecting me as strongly as she had always done. Gradually, everyone started looking up to me as a person who is strong and doesn’t need any support at all. I get a lot of love from my children, but both of them look up to me as someone who can do anything - almost like a supermom. 

It is after many years, I am being defended against again now. Madiha somehow sees me as a normal person and she jumps in my defense at home - against everyone. I found it funny initially, but slowly it started creating the feeling of being with my sister for me. The feeling itself is not strong, but a whiff of it passes by  me whenever Madiha fights on my behalf or stops me from overdoing things. I feel life has compensated me for the losses a little through giving me a happy and strong bonding with my daughter-in-law. It is funny to see that I failed in bonding with the person I  married but could do so with the one my son married. 

The pain of losing a loved one never goes away, but it feels good to have some love to ease that pain.

Friday, April 28, 2023

My Life Is Worth Fighting Cancer

27 years ago on this day, I woke up with two breasts but went back to bed with only one. In terms of changes happening in my life, this was the biggest change to happen in a day.
Of course being a special parent is more challenging, but then it doesn’t happen in a day.
Back then I had regrets with the demands of cancer treatment, but today I am damn sure that it was totally worth it. All these years I have upgraded myself with new skills. Every year I have taken up a goal to achieve and done that. Last year it was the re-opening of My Giggle Garden which has run successfully for a year. I hope to see some profits from the coming Academic Year.
This year I will be trying my hand at Standups - Storytelling + Comedy. Links from a few recorded ones shared here.
It is very tragic to be a side character in your own story and that is what I was prior to cancer. I had to change that. Much of the credit goes to Rayyan for not just guiding me but standing by me as well to bring about the much needed change. When I decided to study, many people, even those who cared for me, told me I was not doing the right thing, but Rayyan stood by me. I know I love my two daughters a lot, but there will always be a special place for Rayyan in my heart. It is very different from love and affection. It is very rare that I get to guide Rayyan as a Mom.
My journey was tough but that is what made it interesting. I decided not to allow anyone to push me down, not cancer, not people nor the situation. I had given up my education, career, financial independence and a lot more earlier, but I wanted to take back my life. I did not wish to continue as a side character in the movie of my life. I wanted to be the heroine of at least my own life.
I did not wait even for my treatment to be over, and started with the first step towards earning a small amount during my chemotherapy itself. I sold soft toys, made clothes, gave tuitions and did many other odd jobs. Taking up a profession is not possible without education or skill. I took the next step and started learning computers and the internet on my own.
I first got a diploma in Counselling skills, did my graduation and finally my masters in Counselling and psychotherapy. I funded my education through freelance writing and blogging. It was not as easy as it looks like. It took me all of 15 years to achieve my goals but finally I did.
I was finally back in the driver's seat of my life. I cannot say the Deewar dialogue mere paas building hai, bank balance hai, gaadi hai bangla hai…but I could once again choose the clothes I wanted to wear, the food I wanted to eat, the place I wanted to go and live the way I wanted within my limits. Limits because I am not a superhero - just the heroine of my own life.
There is a famous saying which says, when life gives you lemons - make lemonade. I changed my funda into - When life gives you tumour, change it into humour. Laugh loudly and live happily which is exactly what I am doing right now.
They say cancer kills but the good news is we can kill cancer as well, if we fight back. You can give up and expire or fight back to live to inspire. You can become statistic or fantastic, the choice is mostly yours. I am the living proof of that sharing my story happily today. Boo to cancer and yay to me.


Monday, April 17, 2023

25 Silver Linings - Bonding With My Breast


It is not easy for a young woman, who is nearing her 30’s to remove a whole breast to save her life. I had to take this horrible decision at the age of 29 and it was not easy though I did not express it out loud. I would like to share my simple experience a few hours before my surgery so that people who have someone in their family fighting breast cancer will empathize with them. I also want those who have been or may have to go through it to feel that they are not alone in this fight. There are others who have fought it and come out of it triumphantly. I myself have lived 25 years of fruitful and happy life after being through the treatment.

As I went through the decisions of choosing a treatment plan and going ahead with the surgery for removal of the whole breast, the bathroom itself had become a safe haven for me. It was a place I could lock myself in and no one would ask me why I had locked the door. It is always convenient to slip into the bathroom for some lonely time without anyone questioning you, especially when I want to avoid questions. Our well wishers do not realize that sometimes the good wishes, questions, guidance become too much for the patient themselves to tolerate.
My surgery was scheduled at 7 a.m. in the morning, 28th April 1996. It was past midnight, but I could not get a wink of sleep. I lay restless on the hospital bed, wondering how life would be without a breast. The emotions were confusing, because I knew deep in my heart that breasts do not mean much. None of the species other than humans have ever given so much importance to breasts. I haven’t seen any cow, dog or cat showing any special attention to this anatomy as we humans do. They really get down to the point quickly without any attention to the breasts. I had come up with all the arguments to make myself feel at ease, but still I felt something in my stomach crunch to think a part of me is going to be removed completely in a few hours. I did not expect these emotions, because as a mother of two children who were too young, I had decided that they needed their mom more than me needing my breast. I had argued enough to steel myself for this procedure, yet, here I was feeling confused, sad and angry emotions.
The emotions were quite confusing and conflicting, I was not sure how to deal with it. I got up and entered the bathroom, as this was fast becoming my safe refuge for thinking things over in my mind. As I looked into the mirror on the bathroom wall, my boobs stared back at me through the hospital gown. They were looking larger than their usual self, as though they were threatening me. Then I realized that those poor things were just swollen with a collection of milk, since I had abruptly stopped breastfeeding my daughter. I just wanted to have a look at myself as I am, before being cut and stitched.
I pulled the gown on top of my head and stood there naked, watching my breasts. They looked good side by side. I tried to imagine the chest with only one breast. I couldn’t. I felt a kind of bond developing with the breast I was throwing away because she had given shelter to the cancer tumor. I felt guilty that I had not given a thought to saving her, or salvaging her at all. When the doctor had given me the option of lumpectomy or mastectomy, I had chosen total radical mastectomy because I wanted to be sure that cancer would not be left behind in my breast. I did not want any risk involved.
But standing here in front of the mirror, looking at myself, I wondered about my decision. Will I be ever able to wear all regular dresses or do I need something different hereafter? How will my status as a woman be affected by this? I knew I had no answers.
Suddenly I could feel a rush of love for my breast that was going to be sacrificed tomorrow. It was as though she was an entity of her own, someone different from me and I was bidding her goodbye. I cupped both my hands around her and held her lovingly for 5 minutes. I am not sure whether I was comforting my breast or myself, but that was it. It was a bonding moment with my breast for me, like we share with another person with a hug. It was a soothing, comforting and releasing moment for me, a time when I could really let go of my breast even before the surgery.
I looked at myself for one final time trying to etch the picture of myself with two breasts in my mind. I wished I could photograph myself like this, but it was too late. Those were not the days of mobile phones or digital photos. My surgery was scheduled in a few hours. Sigh! I let the idea go and walked out of the bathroom and slept on my bed. I could actually catch some winks of sleep after that.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

A Letter To My Mommy.....

This was tough. There are a few things that have eluded me, because I am kind of a free soul who does whatever I want, even at times driving people around me to desperation. For the past week, I have been thinking about something I should do to start the year. I wish to do something that would remove a big negative vibe from my life. The thought got me thinking, and I got lost in the thoughts for nearly 6 days. On the 7th day, I realized that there is actually something I have never done before and it is high time I did it. 

New Year has never been the same for me since 2006, the year we lost our mom as the year was in transition and parties going on every day. My mom always believed that the decisions she made for her children were the best for them. Unfortunately, as expected they were not. 

One of those decisions included the guy she choose to me marry off to, though at that age I was not wise enough to sense the danger signals. She should have, but she did not. I carried a lot of anger/regret in my heart for the decision she made, and also how she trapped me into believing that this was the best choice I had. 

I decided to write a letter to my mom to erase those negative feelings from my heart forever. 

As my Mom was an illiterate person, I never got to write a letter for her. I always had to write a letter to my dad or sister and give instructions to tell Mommy this or that when I was not with her. Now that she is in heaven I think she can read or some angel will read it to her if she is stubborn and says, ‘I can’t read’. So finally this year I am writing my first personal letter to my Mom.  

The letter is going to be in English because my Mom always admired the way I handled the language and felt proud of it. I used to feel so embarrassed when she would prod me “Fari, show them how well you can speak. Go ahead talk in English with them”. LOL. Though she could not speak the language she could very well understand it. So here it goes.

“Hey, Mommy,
                            How is heaven? I miss you over here a lot. Don’t worry and start grumbling, “Why has Fari all of a sudden decided to write a letter to me? Is she going to ask me some weird questions even now?” Honestly, I am not having any more questions for you to answer for me, because the answers do not matter anymore. I know I always had so many questions for you. 
Why did you do that? 
How could you love my younger sister more than me? 
Why do you have to spend so much? 
All those questions have lost their significance. Even if you had answers for all of them, that would not change anything. You were a great Mommy to all of us, and whatever you did was for our own good. If things went wrong, it was only because you did not know what was good for us.
When bringing up my own children, on those rarest days when I got angry with them, I would stop myself before going ahead and say “What would I do if my parents were in this situation and not my children? I would not hit my parents or scold them for this mistake, right? Let me treat my children with the same respect I show to my parents and handle this sensibly”.  
For example, if my children break something precious, I just think that what I would do if my dad or mom had broken it, and respond in the same way to my children as I would to my parents. 
That way I have been able to stop myself from hurting my children emotionally. Also when they would not see things as I did or would act differently from what I expected, I would console myself saying, though they are my own kids, they are not ‘ME’. They are different individuals with their own characteristics and personality. I have been able to maintain peace with my children, more so after you left them. Taking good care of them and loving them is one best gifts I can give you. 

Today I am going to reverse that rule. I will think of you as my own child and let things go, as only a Mom can forgive and forget everything a child has done. It is very difficult for us to forgive our parents, but we usually very easily forgive our children.  I know you have done that with us a thousand times in our lives. Though this sounds funny, I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I type. 

When my children were born, I decided to accept them for who they are and love them unconditionally. Today, I decide to accept you for whatever you are because though you are my MOM, you are not ME. Why should I expect you to do everything right?  We are both different individuals with our own thoughts, characteristics, and personalities. Your extravagances, your fears of simple things, and all other characteristics are accepted by me today without finding fault in them. Even the high-fat content of your tasty food is all good with me now.   

I remember how badly you wanted me to get married to your ‘chosen one’ and how many weird tricks you played on me. You exaggerated your heart problems and told me you were dying. I still have no clue how I lost the bet to you. That is how you got the nickname ‘crow’ from me.  Remember how I would say “You are the Chiranjeevi crow Mommy. I am sure you will not die” whenever you tried to emotionally blackmail me ever again with your death threats? You said someday I will regret it. Though you are no more with me, I don’t regret it. It is so funny even today to think over and laugh at. I am so sure you would have survived my refusal of marriage. Studying and becoming an astrophysicist meant a lot to me. You never understood how important this was to me. All you could think was about getting me married to the person who you thought was best suited for your daughter. You even went ahead and said ‘I will cut off my right arm if I am ever proved wrong and he hurts you in any way. You had some dramatic ways, Mommy!

When your chosen one made a great fuss about me sending Farheena to school, for once I saw that regret in your eyes and when you said, “I made a mistake” it was like a final victory for me.  You asked me to forgive you for the wrong you have done. You also said, maybe I would have become a great 
scientist if not for your silliness. Back then I said, “No. I will not forgive you”, in my own hilarious style. Somehow it was difficult to forgive also back on that day.

Today I can say for sure that I don’t even feel a need to forgive you because I don’t feel you did anything wrong. In the words of Eric Segal, "Love means never having to say you're sorry". Your actions were based on your concern for my well-being. You were scared that I would get sucked into the black hole or go crazy by reading all the time. For us your fears were silly, but for you they were true. Today, as a mother when I worry about my children’s safety, I can understand you much better than I did back then.

Due to your choice, I have two wonderful children who have made life so much interesting and better for me for the past 3 decades. Now Madiha has become a part of our lives as well. Nothing in the world would have made me happier than being a mom to them. The feeling is mutual. They would never exchange their crazy Maa for anything. 

I take great pride in my parenting skills and the way I have brought up my children. I cherish every moment I spend with them. And to think all this has been possible only due to the silly choice you made. This has been lingering in my mind for a long time. Today I just officially announce it openly to you. I am very happy with the way you brought me up, instilled confidence in me by trusting me, gave me the freedom to explore all religions, got me married to the person of your choice, and for the amazingly tasty food which made me fat finally. 
Thank you for the amazing patience you showed when I threw around tantrums after tantrums in my childhood. Thank you for being my mom.
Though you made a decision back then for me, I realized lately that I always had a choice to continue or not with the situation I was in. Today I am moving ahead with my life in the way I want it. The past cannot be corrected but the future can be changed. No more blaming you or anyone for what I am today, but taking responsibility for what I am and sculpting my future the way I want it to be. I know you and Dad would be proud to see the work I am doing now. You both were always proud of me. The expression on your face when you said you regretted your decision to get me married was very painful. I am motivated now to make you feel at ease by getting my life back and being independent.

I miss seeing you laugh uncontrollably shaking all over and going red at the jokes I would crack. Just the other day your daughter-in-law was remembering how you would laugh and go red in the face when I said something funny. I miss you when Rayyan or Farheena achieves something because no one would praise them like you did. I miss you when I achieve something or when our family gets together and has fun. Most of all I miss your shrewdness which had people dancing to your tunes. Your words of wisdom make so much sense to me when I am going through a tough phase in life.

Now that Dad has left for the same place you went to, I hope you are both together there with your lovely daughter. Or are you hiding from dad and making fool of him. I hope someday we all will be together again like we were earlier. That was one of the happiest times of our lives.
Sigh! See you once I am done with my work here. Bye for now.

The people who have become a treasure in my memories. I miss them every moment of my life. 

Some good memories of my mom and my family.


Friday, November 5, 2021

25 Silver Linings - The Day Of The Surgery

It all started very early in the morning. I wanted to walk into the operation theater but the staff insisted they will wheel me in. By then I had stopped questioning why. I had surrendered myself to the medical staff.

Once inside, slowly and calmly one by one experts carried out their task under the guidance of my surgeon, Dr. Murad Lala. The vitals were checked. My doctor asked me whether I suffered from low BP. I said, “Not so far”. He said, “Usually patients will have a bit higher BP before surgery, your BP is perfectly fine. So I was wondering whether you had lower BP earlier which moved to regular now”. We laughed at that.

I did not completely understand what was about to happen to me. Neither did I want to understand that because it was tough to handle that thought. I kept wondering what my children were doing. The only person from my family I met before being wheeled into the operation theater was my husband. I did not want all of them to go through the trauma once again. I wondered how my parents and siblings must be handling this situation now.

Things just moved in fast forward mode once I was on the surgical table. My doctor talked to me one last time and asked me, “You understand the surgical procedure, right? Are you confident going ahead with this?” I am not sure whether he was giving me a choice of backing off or ensuring I am comfortable. I asked, “I am OK, how about you sir?” He laughed out loud at this and answered, “Honestly, I am a bit nervous. This is the first time I have taken all the independent decisions and gone ahead with the surgery outside the oncology hospital on my own. I am going to do my best”. By then the anesthesiologist was ready and he put a mask on my face. It was funny that I had expected them to give me a shot to make me unconscious. He informed me that as I breathe, I will slowly lose my consciousness. “Just relax and breathe,” he said. I worried about what would happen if I woke up during surgery. I am not sure my thoughts were even completed before anesthesia took over my consciousness.

The next thing I heard was the voice of my doctor, calling me out. “Farida, Farida, can you hear me?” He seemed to be in a deep well and called me from there. I was very much confused as to why the person who was supposed to do my surgery in a few minutes was calling me from somewhere far off. I wanted to see, but I couldn’t open my eyes. The lids were glued together. I found my voice though and said, “Where am I?” or “Where are you?” I am not sure which one. Then slowly I opened my eyes and found my doctor tapping my cheeks. That was confusing for some time before I realized that I was on the bed in the ward and he was trying to wake me up from sleep. I tried getting up, but he said, “No, please don’t move yet. I want you to wake up since it is already evening. How do you feel?” Slowly the dull ache on my chest informed me that the surgery was over. I was waking up from the anesthesia. I could see my dad and my husband in the background. I had some kind of emotion surging through me, but I cannot tell what it was. It was a one time feeling I had and I have no name for it.

Survived the Day to talk about it years later to create awareness.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

My Career Review in 10 Minutes


I have restarted my career thrice successfully, the third one as a Senior Curriculum developer with Chimple learning app at the age of 54. As a student, I did well in academics and was topping the class most of the time. I had a dream of becoming a scientist and working for space programs. I was highly inspired by the Cosmos show presented by Carl Sagan on DD. I had a dream career carved for myself as an astrophysicist. Meanwhile I started coaching children and also embarked on a mini stunt of successfully selling mixers and juicers when I was barely 13 year old. I had tasted the joy of earning at a young age. 

But life never goes as we predict it for many of us. I had everything in me to start a great career, but I ended up being a PUC dropout. My marriage was fixed with a guy working in Dubai and the conditions laid down before me were -

  • Do not study further

  • No working outside home 

  • No interacting with men

Working women carried a stigma in those times in middle class society, especially from where I came. For very few of those who worked other than in schools, we heard juicy gossip very often

I was good at academics but never smart about finances or good choices I could make about my own life. Soon I was married and living the life of someone else. I did a lot of things I did not believe in, just to please people, especially my husband. But again, life is unpredictable. We had a series of cancer running in my family. First my dad was diagnosed with cancer, in 1992, my sister in 1994 and myself in 1996. Believe me, 1998 was dreadful for me though I never expressed it. In between all the chaos, my daughter was diagnosed with special needs in 1995. She was 11 months old when I was diagnosed with cancer. Whew.. that was a hurricane hitting me at full force.

Things started to change soon after cancer. I realized that I had not much control over my life. My husband went back to the gulf during my treatment and I did not hear from him for nearly two years. I was completely confused at that stage. My ego prevented me from approaching him for help. Cancer changed me. 

With a special child to take care and attend to, a bald head due to chemotherapy and no proper education to boast off, I had to look out for a job. Now we see a lot of opportunities created for women as returnees, but back I heard nothing of that sort. Neither had I anything solid to return to. I decided to take up anything that I could do to start off. I started stitching clothes and making soft toys and selling them. It was a huge fall from my dream job, but it worked out well financially. Meanwhile my husband came back from the gulf and continued as though nothing had happened. My own insecurities of going through cancer and not knowing the lifespan I had earned through my treatment, made me keep quiet and welcome the parent. 

I did my diploma in Counseling skills and started working part-time as play-therapist and counselor/trainer in schools. Soon all the hell broke loose because I was the woman who broke the promise I made during my marriage. I cheated. I was wronging my husband. I blame myself for the mistake I made all over again. I gave up everything I had created in Bangalore, moved to the village  to my husband’s ancestral home to give my marriage, my children and my life a second chance. Being burnt once was not a lesson I learned. Believe me, I am super embarrassed talking about this.

Things started on a positive note, but slowly started to slide down. Once again, I had lost all control over my life. It was difficult coming back to Bangalore because I had no home to stay there. My mom passed away and my family moved to different places. I couldn't find a good job in a village and even if I did, my husband threatened to stop his support if I worked. The accusations of breaking promises came up again and again. On top of it, I had a special child to take care of. It was easy for me to give up and surrender my life to the circumstances. I had enough excuses to make up for not just one but two lives. 

But something in me kept prodding me not to give up. I started again with tuitions for children. I soon became very popular with students from my coaching class doing good not just academically but also in debates and competitions. My son, who was in 10th back then, once asked me why I was not doing something with the skills and talent I had. I told him about the conditions and promises. Believe me, at that young age, he had the wisdom to ask me, “Maa, did you know that you would go through cancer and bring up a special child when you made those promises? Did you expect this life? Don’t you deserve better?”

I answered, “I do, but how can I break a promise?” But he went to explain to me that there are rules, laws and promises and a consequence for breaking it. What would be the consequence for me breaking the promise? Was it discussed? How would I be rewarded for keeping the promise. Was that discussed. At that moment, I felt stupid. I was holding on to something and suffering for no reason. I decided to pay the fine like millions who break traffic rules everyday. I decided to kick the promise and get back my life.

Meanwhile, I learned about computers and started blogging. I slowly started getting offers for content writing as well. I realized my skills for learning had never diminished, because soon I was very familiar with Microsoft Office and computer functioning. I was good at internet research as well. I had a steady income of my own in a short period of time. I felt like the father of the prodigal son. Wow.. it meant a lot to me. 

As my son entered college, I started studying again. I completed my graduation. A lot of threats, pressure, withdrawal of support happened during the period but I did not give up. Two more years and I completed my post graduation as well. Within a month, I landed with a steady job paying me 45K. It was almost 5 times the money my husband sent from Dubai. Since then, I have never looked back financially. I am grateful to my son for giving me the much needed push and also being supportive throughout those days when I studied once again. It was not just the job, but it was my own life I got back again. Like  Edmund Hillary said, it is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. With the security of the job, I could be the main character in my life. Not many who haven’t been where I have been can understand how tough it is to lose your freedom because you are financially dependent on someone else. 

I had a dream of starting an inclusive preschool for children. I took the risk and started a preschool and daycare in 2017 with the money I had saved.

I ran a preschool for 3 years with inclusive education. It was tough at the beginning but then I tasted success with good admissions. Unfortunately, the lockdown forced me to close the school. With the future of reopening schools not clear, I started looking for a job once again. 

I wanted to make a difference in the education sector for children. I had heard about the Chimple learning app, the winners of X-prize and approached them for a job. I was lucky to be hired in a short period of time and I am very proud to be a part of Mr. Srikanth Talapadi’s team which is making revolutionary changes in early literacy and numeracy for children. I love and respect my job as a Senior Curriculum Developer with Chimple. 

Resilience, tenacity and determination helped me get back steady with my career once again at the age of 54. What helped me the most is, even though I was not working at a regular 9-5 job, I never stopped working. I did something or other to keep me engaged like training, coaching, counseling and teaching. I also ran a canteen in a hospital before cancer made me give it away. Even when I was not attending college, I kept learning. I never hesitated to check new waters like the internet and computers. So, when I was ready to work full time, I had enough skills to bring out good results. I never hesitate to learn even to this day. The continuous learning gave me confidence when I was interviewed I could say ‘yes’ to most of the questions. 

If the iPhone wouldn’t upgrade as often as it did, would it still be as popular? The same applies to us. Upgrading ourselves is the key to success. 

Lock up your excuses and reasons before you think of success. If you have them handy, things will always be difficult to work out. Have a shield against the guilt that will be thrown your way. You are never going to be a hero for making your life and your career a priority.

I may not have achieved the dream of becoming a astrophysicist, but the life I live now is close to it. 

What I have to say to anyone who is listening or reading this is - Do not underestimate the power of financial independence. If you are dependent on someone yet you can make your decisions and are in control, then it is fine. If you have to someone's bidding against your own choices because you are dependent on them for your finances, then it is time to wake up and take control of your life. No matter how small you start, it will finally be worth it!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Now A Dishwasher Is Said To Be Like A Mom, What Next?

 My article on Women's Web -

Shame on the IFB dishwasher ad for stereotyping mothers! I love my children and do take care of them, but that doesn’t mean I have to be ‘dutiful’ all the time.

At times I wonder why we women have to fight for equality. Isn’t it because we were indoctrinated and conditioned for centuries to feel and think we are inferior? Slowly but steadily, this inferiority of women was accepted by everyone, until few of them woke up.

This conditioning of women goes on sneakily in the background, without many of us even realizing it.

Let us not even think of Bollywood, which made all moms who sacrificed themselves the good ones and those who wanted happiness or pursue a career, villains. Things are changing on the Bollywood front a bit, but we still have a far way to go.

But are we in the 21st century progressive enough to realize that a ‘mother’ is not a martyr like species but just any other human being?

My thoughts were triggered by the IFB dishwasher ad where they say that their dishwashers function like a Mother.

Mothers are extraordinary individuals. They don’t settle, they don’t stop, they strive against all odds to deliver what’s best for their loved ones. We, at IFB, don’t just salute their incredible strength and sincerity but also ensure that we function with the same fundamentals. IFB Dishwashers are designed to take care of every little detail, just like a mother. And care is not just a word for us. From providing deep cleaning to hygienic steam drying, 70°C hot wash to built-in water softener, anti-bacterial filter to specially formulated detergents, adjustable baskets to flexible load options; we bring the best of care to you.

This IFB dishwasher ad needs some re-thinking

When the ad cropped up on my game page, I was playing, ignoring everyone around, including my special needs daughter, and I did not have a proper response to it.

Many tell me I am too old to play games like children. Are they kidding me? I am only 55!

Some prod me to cook healthy meals everyday telling me it is my duty. There is a list of chores everyone had for me, but I decided to ignore them, unless I feel like doing them.

WHY must I be pressured into being a ‘good’ mom?

This AD from IFB was shoved in my face, right when I was not being the person they were describing. I felt it was trying to pressurize me into a role it had carved for me. The pressure is not new. My family did a good job of it, pressuring me to be a good mom, though I never felt the pressure to be a good daughter.

Why do people create this image of a mother whose sole purpose in life is to take care of everyone other than herself? What happens to those who do not want to fit into the norm? I love my children and do take care of them, but that doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy myself by doing what I like to do, like writing this article here.

For generations, these subtle messages have influenced many minds. Even me, but it took a lot of experiences for me to step out of the stereotypical roles of Wife, Mother, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and many more. I don’t care who thinks I am a good person or bad person anymore, as long as I am out of legal crimes for which I can be arrested.

Dear IFB, I would say that your dishwasher needs a better description, you cannot say just like mother. That is not only stereotyping but also demeaning a relationship, which means a lot more. Hope they are listening.

Some Bad Things Happened to Me For Good


I’m Thankful To My Bad Marriage & Cancer As They Pushed Me Towards My Freedom! 

I was a topper but married a man who was uneducated. I had to follow his strange rules that restricted my freedom, but when cancer happened, I said enough!

I was a topper but married a man who was uneducated. I had to follow his strange rules that restricted my freedom, but when cancer happened, I said enough!

Today, I am a Senior Curriculum Developer for the app Chimple Learning. We reach out to those who do not have access to schools and educate them in basic literacy and numeracy.

This may sound very simple. Not a big deal when compared to women who have been to space, ruled the MNC’s or changed the history of nations. What’s the big deal about working and getting paid every month? But the challenges of the past make me treasure this.

Surrendering my freedom as a topper to marry a man who had never entered college

My education was in a convent. I was a topper and had high hopes of becoming a scientist, especially in astrophysics. I was a math genius. Seeing the pious nuns who I admired a lot, I never developed the craze for money. Finance was not on my agenda for happiness, success, or freedom.

Strangely, being a high scorer in exams worked as a catalyst for my marriage. My mother was worried I might end up as a mad scientist without a family, and she did not want that tragic ending for her daughter.

So somehow I got married without completing my PUC to a guy who had never even entered college. Additionally, there were few promises I had made and conditions that I had to agree to:

  • I will not speak to men.
  • Cover myself completely when venturing out.
  • I will never study ever again.
  • I will never take up a job that requires me to step out of my home. I was only ‘ALLOWED’ to work from home, which meant taking tuitions or stitching clothes.

From a math genius to housewife criticized for cooking

Today, I wonder what happened? It never actually appeared that way when my mom presented the proposal to me back then. It was an alluring proposal from a handsome guy working in Dubai, but because he was uneducated, he felt his wife should not be highly educated as well. Also, it seemed that since he loved his wife deeply, he was very concerned about other men looking at her.

My wish to work after marriage was not respected. Why should a woman work when her husband can provide and take care of her? Only greedy men sent their wives to earn money. In my defense, my mom had high diplomatic skills. Once, someone said, “She can easily sell a set of combs to a bald man”. I loved and trusted her. She believed what she was saying as well.

So from a girl who was a math genius, who helped her fellow students in studies, and taught math and science to her elder sister (who was three years my senior), I ended up a housewife criticized for not cooking well and not keeping the house clean. I had thrown away a bright career path I could carve for myself, just like that.

The circus of weird rules & respecting those who insulted me!

Thus began the circus of being pious, praying, wearing clothes I felt so uncomfortable in, pleasing my husband by following irrational rules set by him, and being respectful to those who were disrespectful to me just because they were older than me.

It also included my struggle to learn coastal fish cooking and living in a village environment with which I was not familiar. It did not take me long to regret what I had done, but again the diplomacy of my mom worked the magic of keeping me there.

My husband worked in the gulf, so he was with me only for a few months, after which he would leave for his job. He never took the financial responsibility nor any other though he bought things from the gulf whenever he came from there like clothes, chocolates, and a few things of his choice.

I needed money to raise my children…

I slowly lost control over not just my freedom but my life itself. My son was born, and I realized I needed a stable source of financial flow than what my husband was sending. I started with tuitions, stitching, and many other odd jobs. Yet, I continued. I started acting out my life rather than living it.

I was pretending to be a person I was not. There were a lot of differences and fights in our life. Then my daughter was born. She was diagnosed as a special child. Nothing much changed except the proportions of my problems, including the financial needs for her diagnosis, physiotherapy, and others.

My son had to start school as well. I had to struggle and at times remind my husband, again and again, to send money for our expenditures. I had lost complete control over what was happening to me.

Diagnosed with cancer but ego did not allow me to beg husband for help!

Then cancer happened. I was the third person in my family to be diagnosed with cancer. In 1992 my dad was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and in 1994 my elder sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When 1996 I was diagnosed, my sister was already in her last stages of cancer. My husband came down to be with me for my surgery and chemo, saw me undergo drastic changes with total radical mastectomy, hair loss, and went back to the gulf.

He also witnessed my sister lose her battle with cancer. My mom also went through cancer and lost her life to it. I could not do much to support her financially. I am grateful to him for ignoring my financial needs for two more years because it was only then I fought and snatched back my life not just from cancer but from everything I had given up for it.

It was a tough climb from there. I started stitching clothes and soft toys, because getting a job with a bald head, a special child, and fighting cancer at the same time was not easy. My ego did not allow me to beg my husband for help.

I had done that earlier, but cancer changed me. I decided to study once again. I first got my diploma in counselling skills. I ignored the rules and started working. Slowly the income started flowing, and in a few years, I was doing well.

I wanted to give my marriage a second chance but I was a fool…

I remember this saying– ‘Fool Me Once, Shame On you. Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me’. The first time I made a wrong choice, I was left with a few reasons to feel I was not a fool, but when the second time I did it, I had no excuse.

I was a fool to fall for the promises and move to my husband’s native village, giving up everything I started once again. I wanted to give my marriage a second chance.

Life is not a Bollywood movie where people reform on getting a chance. Things slowly slid back to the same old life. I was often threatened by the withdrawal of monthly finances if I broke any of those stupid rules set by my husband. It was not just a threat, he did it very often.

I was a ‘villain’ for working but I did not give up

It took a lot of courage for me to take the bold step to study once again. I started taking tuitions there. It was difficult to manage with it alone. I started counselling and teaching in a local school. Slowly seeing my skills and talent, my son started prodding me to do something with my life.

Of course, I was not allowed to do it, but I took the risk. Even if my husband was not going to send money or support me in any way, I was going to do it. A lot of pressure came from my family as well. I was considered a ‘villain’ breaking the promise I made when I married.

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Monday, September 27, 2021

Of Bladders, Rebellions and Learning Life Lessons

 Recently I have started sharing my articles on Women's Web .. and this was one of my first posts there. It is about my experience on road on a professional trip. 

As a child I would postpone peeing as much as possible. This was because I wouldn’t want to leave a task without completing it, whether it was reading, writing, doing homework, watching TV or playing.

I would hold back until the task ended and then casually walk towards the restroom. I think this habit of not giving in to the demands of my bladder, tamed it to obey me without rebelling!

I had tamed the bladder beast and ruled over it

Even when people around me would go in search of toilets, I would proudly announce, those were not fit for me. Slowly the aversion to unknown toilets became an obsession with my bladder itself refusing to oblige to throw the waste product out even when I tried.

Eventually it became so that I couldn’t pee easily in unknown toilets and had no trouble at times ignoring nature’s call for nearly 36 hours. During hospital emergencies, lab tests etc., it became a big challenge for me to make it happen.

It was a huge struggle to let it go rather than holding on. So, I became quite vain and proud that I have complete control over the bladder of mine, whereas mere humans and animals surrendered to it. I had tamed this beast and ruled over it. 


Everything in our lives has an expiry date

Years went by and somehow it was in my nature not to use restrooms unless they were very clean and I felt comfortable to use them. Since my daughter is with special needs and cannot use squat toilets, I started using adult diapers for her whenever we travelled.

Due to her mobility challenge, it was difficult for her to access most of the general toilets as well. I don’t know what the public toilets look like or even the toilets in the wedding halls where my son got married were, because I never went towards them. Both my children also started to avoid using toilets outside home unless it was absolutely necessary. 

Everything in our lives has an expiry date, no matter how sure we are of it. So finally my rule over the bladder reached its expiration.

I felt my bladder whisper…

We had to travel to Hanur from Bangalore for training a group of teachers under an educational program we were initiating from our company.

I was highly excited with this new development and was ready for the journey since 5.30 a.m. Everything went fine and the weather was amazing with slightly drizzling rain. The training went well. 

Our colleague who stayed in the village nearby organized a great veg-feast for us. We enjoyed our lunch and I had a good amount of fresh buttermilk to go with it.

I felt my bladder whisper something and decided to check out the toilet but then ignored it, because I knew they were squat toilets and since the past four years I had found it difficult to squat due to my foot injury.

Only three hours to Bangalore, not a big deal I decided. My pride and confidence goaded me to ignore the bladder beast completely and get into the vehicle. 

Continue reading here


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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