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.

Continue Reading Here

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

#25SilverLinings - Getting Ready for Surgery

It has been quite some time since my last post of 25 Silver Linings. It was an emotional upheaval for everyone at home, and I think I was a bit hesitant to go back there and relive it. But I think I should do it to overcome it permanently.

My parents and siblings were devastated that I would be losing my whole left breast at age of 29 years. They did not completely agree with my decision to go the allopathy way, though later as I went on surviving, I could say - “I told you so”.

My sister who already was fighting cancer which had progressed to the last stages had a tough time knowing I will be fighting it as well. She was worried more about me since I had two children aged 11 months and nearly 5 years. She loved them and worried a lot.

My sister loved my son a lot
My sister with her loving Nephew
I constantly wore the mask of a brave person, since I did not have anyone with whom I could share my pain, insecurity or fear. My husband was kind of frustrated, irritated, angry and complaining all the time. My dad was confused and did not know what to say but I knew he was suffering immensely. My mom was struggling between my sister’s progress of cancer, my decision to proceed with surgery and my children’s future in case something happened to me. My siblings were too young and inexperienced to deal with cancer of two elder sisters in the family. They were kind of broken and emotionally very vulnerable. My children were affected emotionally as well though they did not know exactly what was happening. Farheena was especially very cranky and crying most of the time. 
How could I leave them behind?

In all the drama, my parents had to manage the Hospital Canteen I was running at the time, all on their own. Customers who knew the situation reacted in two different ways to this. One group gave them support, the other group started tormenting and bullying them. No matter when or where you are, the devils and angels are always there. 

The hospital was a walking distance from my home, so I decided that I would calmly walk away to the hospital when my parents were not around. They were anyway spending a lot of time in the canteen, struggling to manage it without me. Many had food and did not pay and my parents were emotionally broken to do something about it. The business soon started sucking our funds, rather than bringing in profits. I knew I couldn’t help them manage it in any way for at least 10 more days. 

Saturday afternoon I bathed and dressed up both my children and gave Rayyan some activity to keep him engaged. I fed Farheena and ensured she would sleep when I left. My brother was away but both my sisters were at home with a helper we had engaged. I did not want to tell my sisters either that I was going for my surgery, though they both knew the date and time. I calmly wanted to slip away, but my sister came to my room and started weeping. It is one of the most painful experiences for me and has remained etched in my mind. She was battling cancer which had spread on her chest, and she had to deal with this? How fair was it? It appeared to me that my own diagnosis had hurt her more than her own cancer. I did not know how to console her. I throttled all my emotions and killed them instantly, put up a stoic face and assured her I will be back safely in a few days. 

She came up to the gate with me, while my poor younger sister did not know who to attend to. Was she supposed to say bye to me, take care of my sister or pay attention to my children who were in the house? As I stepped out, my sister hugged me tightly and wept saying let us forgive each other any wrong we had done in the past. I told her we have no such grudges at all… and indeed we did not have any. I had a tough time holding back my own emotions, and I am not sure how I did that. Finally I started walking towards the hospital, not turning back to look at anyone or anything I was walking away from. I did not meet my parents either.  

When we talk about cancer treatment, we just look at the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation part of it. What we ignore is the effect it leaves on the person going through it and their loved ones. I was constantly worried about my family and their emotional state rather than my own surgery. I decided then that I had to be brave, stay strong and get back to them. I still value what my sister said that day and forgive my family whenever something goes wrong - because I feel her tell it to me even now. I decided to be there for my family like my sister had always been, before she entered the last stages of cancer and had to resort to Morphine for managing the pain. All that experience started changing something within me and I know I am not the same person I was before my cancer experience. 

When I entered the hospital, the staff who were familiar with me since I visited the hospital twice every week for Farheena’s assessment and therapies were sad and emotional as well. I just sighed and went to the room assigned to me. Soon the medical procedure would start which would get me ready for the surgery on Sunday morning. I decided to resign to whatever was happening because it was beyond me to deal with this. I settled down without worry with my husband being there with me.. all scared and confused as well. 

At this age, they needed their mom more than I needed my breast.

My sister, as always, taking the lead, and leading us (here me)
Tired and exhausted. In fact this was me trying to show my happiness..

Behind is the house that saw a lot of shit happening to my family

Looks tired and exhausted as well

Miss those carefree and happy times with my sister...


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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