Category Archives: Deccan Herald

Articles Published in Deccan Herald

Mommy glam or commercial sham?

While the one-day celebration might be a special thing to few moms, there are few others who maintain that it’s a commercial gimmick.

The Mother’s Day concept will be turning 99 years old since American President Woodrow Wilson signed the petition to bring it into effect in 1914. In modern times, the day is engulfed with a clout of new age consumerism where the day is just incomplete without greeting cards, chocolates, flowers or even spa indulgences for moms. Ironically, the inventor of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, was in favour of honoring mothers and not buying things for mothers. It is said that she regretted having this day as it went beyond her capacity and became a commercialized observance.

Media buzz has made Mother’s Day a chosen date for gifting as a thanks-giving activity. Adding to the popularity are enterprises that are cashing in on the hype – florists, restaurants, jewellery stores, activity centres, maternity hospitals, online shopping sites, baby stores, health products manufacturers and surely a few more will contribute to the glitz with their activities for moms and even would-be-moms.

But did our moms know of such special days when we were young? No, this is the celebration of new age moms in urban India. Though, of course, my mom and her peers in the last few years, have asked me how I felt on Mother’s Day and I wasn’t sure whether it made me happy or ignore it altogether as just another trend.

Says Nandini Hirianniah, an entrepreneur and mom to four year old Sanaa, “I think the mother-child relationship is beyond any of these marketing exercises. My daughter’s smile is an acknowledgement of my being. Her shaping up to be a confident individual who can make the right decisions for herself is in itself my celebration of being a mom. She is unaware of the concept of Mother’s Day right now. But when I see the love and gratitude in her eyes every day, that becomes the most fulfilling aspect of my being a mother”.

Echoing a similar view, says Roopa Rangaswamy, mom to ten year old Khushi, “The challenges faced by today’s kids are varied and far too many. Mothers have to be equipped to play the role of a friend, teacher, mentor and many roles rolled into one. In my opinion, Mother’s day is a big hype as you do not need a specific day to communicate your love to your mother. Relationships are built, managed and communicated on a daily basis and I think such single-day celebrations are a sham.”

But not all moms are against the celebration. Says Leela Gaur Sharma, a financial analyst and mom to six-month-old Tanya, “I am glad we celebrate it, even though it has traditionally not been part of Indian culture. I think people in India are less expressive. So, if this day is made to celebrate one of nature’s most beautiful  relationships, why not? It was on one such Mother’s Day that my brother got a perfume for my mother and it made her feel really special. It gives people opportunities to express their love. Regarding the hype over a specific day, why complain when just about everything is marketed today? And as it is, consumers, including growing kids these days, are mature enough to understand what is suitable for them.”

Dr Bhavana B, Corporate Relations Manager, a mother to growing sons Vivikth and Vishnu, feels glad about the day being marked as a recognition for mothers’ unconditional love. Says she, “The word ‘mother’ is often the first one to be used by most of us during happiness, sorrows, or any other emotions involved. Being a mom to today’s Gen Y kids has taken a new meaning unlike the earlier times. Today, one needs to stay updated and match the expectations of children. If we have a dedicated Mother’s Day celebration, it definitely adds value and cheer.”

A visibly hands-on full-time mother Geeta Chopra, a mom to three daughters, Sonali, Sejal, and Diti, who are triplets and are a little over two and half years, says, “Nature blessed me with three kids and that too together! I really understand how challenging, every minute, it is to be a mom. Occasions such as Mother’s day are good as it makes me feel very special. We have our own celebration at home, with the kids and my husband, and it definitely relaxes me”.

A lot of internet sites are brimming with content on what gifts to choose for moms or ideas that can make your mother feel happy.

Growing in parallel are opinions from moms and bloggers who reckon pre-packaged days are a passé. Many believe that if you want to express your love to your mother or wife, there is no need to hold on until Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. Rather, gifting and celebrating on personal occasions like your wedding anniversary or your mom’s birthday would be more natural.

It’s also that due to the hype reflected through mass media like television and nespapers or magazines, a lot of teenagers get fascinated with the Mother’s Day concept.
Defending her stance, says a thirteen old Harshita, “I love Mother’s Day. Mothers around the world are always highly stressed and do so much for their families. Occasions like these make them feel special. So why not take it in the positive spirit? But yes, there’s no need to be upset if your son or daughter didn’t wish you on Mother’s Day, it’s no big deal.”

In all the glitz and celebrations that will be held tomorrow across the city, perhaps you can think of celebrating the day in a unique manner that can make you and your mom feel happy. No matter what age you are, many of you are lucky to have a soul who understands, accepts, and lends a shoulder whenever you want.

So in case you want to make your mom feel good, here are some gestures she would appreciate:

* Write a personal letter to your Mom. (Anna Jarvis – the founder of modern day Mother’s Day wanted children to write letters and not really buy cards or flowers)

* Spend the Sunday with your Mom, helping her with the chores. This would be a great gift as her daily routine is otherwise taken for granted.

* Sit down to talk to her to know what makes her happy and try to bring one change in yourself that can make her feel good about you.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/331587/mommy-glam-commercial-sham.html

The article was published in Living supplement of Deccan Herald on May 11th 2013 (on the eve of Mother’s day).

Once birthed, twice the joy!

Reshma K Sharma, April 20, 2013:

TWIN BUNDLE

Anxiety soars high when a would-be mom is in for a double bundle of joy, writes Reshma K Sharma.

Preparing for motherhood brings a bag of mixed emotions for most would-be-moms. However the anxiousness, jitters and concerns are perhaps double-fold right through the pregnancy if a woman is expecting more than one baby. While it is a pleasurable phase for others to see twins dressed in identical clothes or just being together, it could be a daunting task for new mothers, especially for first-timers. Experts opine that the key to manage this phase is effective planning.

To avoid situations where you would get depressed about too many things falling on your lap make sure to get life simpler with good planning. This could be like getting enough clothes for both babies in advance, just in case you’re unable to get them washed everyday. Or it could be getting people to engage one baby at different schedules while you are busy with the other one. In other words, be aware of twin baby necessities right from their clothing requirements to crib to the daily schedule planned in advance if possible. Talk to others, who have had twins; it’ll help you go a long way. But most importantly, be flexible in your approach for last-minute changes in your life.

According to Dr Geetha Belliappa, Consultant Gynecologist & Obstetrician, “A twin pregnancy is as much a double blessing as it is a tough task. Twin pregnancies require more monitoring than single pregnancies. Twins can bring double the joy, but parenting twins means double the work – at least initially. The key is to be prepared. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and needless to say, financially.”

Dr Geeta shares a few insights that would-be-parents of twins or multiples may find useful:

* Breastfeed both babies simultaneously. It really is possible to feed both babies at the same time with one twin on each breast. But it takes great coordination and patience. But it saves you some time for yourself.
* Put the twins in the same crib initially. But shift them to separate cribs once they begin to roll. Otherwise, they may bump into one another and wake each other up. While one crib is fine, two car seats and a double-stroller are absolute musts for newborn twins.
* Twins may be similar, but they are also different. Encourage the differences between twins and never compare twins to one another. Separating the twins in the later stage is highly recommended. It is in their best interest to be separated and get their own group of friends.
* Parenting twins gets easier with time. Young twins are easier to raise as they have each other to play with, and sleep better than singletons once they reach the age of two.

Going by the practical experience of raising twin babies, now aged two, says Shilpa Nayak, a software engineer, “It is very essential to plan on who would be the actual hands-on mother or caretaker in the case of twins and be prepared for the journey. I had my mother all along and thankfully, because of her, I was able to get back to work. I felt that it was only their first year that was the toughest to handle. Especially when they learn to sit, crawl and move around, because you are constantly worried they might harm themselves. But once this phase passes, it’s a lot easier.

Another mother of 10-year-old twin boys, Jyoshna V, confirming this opinion, says “It is the initial one year that new mothers or parents have to cope up with. Challenges of sleep schedules, breast feeding, and potty training are hectic. After that I have felt that it is good as the twins give company to each other. It is indeed a fun experience to watch twins grow up.”

Twins, as most parents and experts feel, are good playmates and companions in the growing years. Many parents also feel it is a matter of time before you can sit back and feel that your job of raising two children is easier than going through parenting phase repeatedly. All it needs is a bit of sound planning and support from your loved ones, and you would be well on your way to bounce back in life.

This article was published in Deccan Herald in the Living supplement on April 20th 2013.

A pocketful of sunshine

It may seem harsh, but you are the only one who can help yourself through darkness, writes Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma.

 

Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma, March 2, 2013:

CROSSROADS

Life appears to be near perfect, if not absolutely perfect. Then, unexpectedly, monsters come your way, knocking on your doors. You encounter a major illness. Or a huge financial loss with which you have lost everything in one stroke – money, status, and relationships.
Or a situation where you lost the love of your life to death or divorce. Or an infertility diagnosis that leaves you feeling barren. A personal tragedy in life, needless to say, drains you emotionally.
The catastrophic personal loss becomes a phase that most of us struggle to come out of. Life just seems to be at crossroads that make you choose between giving up and surrendering to the situation, and starting your second innings in life. Surviving the situation is probably the trickiest part of these instances.
But the biggest challenge lay in finding happiness, or atleast comfort, after having battled out tragedies.

Says Dr Keerti Tewari, a breast cancer survivor in her thirties, post her treatment at HCG hospitals six years ago, “For a person who has studied medicine, I knew that there was something wrong with me, and finally decided to have a check-up. On conducting a random self-examination, the results confirmed that I had breast cancer. The very name of the disease or imagining its implications put me off completely. But my husband let me cry for about two days and then took control of the situation. We started going to several hospitals for consultations and zeroed in on HCG. But no matter what form of support system you may have, ultimately it is only you who has to stand up for yourself and battle out the negativity from your life.”
“The pain I underwent was unimaginable, both at an emotional level and at a physical level. I was balding, putting on weight due to the treatment, and even losing my eyelashes! It was not an easy path when I chose to battle with cancer and decided to have my life back.”
Life, at times, demands that you go harsh on yourself to make things better for yourself. If you can’t hold onto yourself, no one can. Sharanya Gupta (name changed), who recently had her divorce come through, says, “Everything seemed good when I married the man of my choice. I even had my family to support me. I took a sabbatical from work as I wanted to live this dream of being a happy wife. Now it seems so illusionary and a dream that was only mine and not my husband’s! I was trying to work on my marriage which was turning sour and soon got to know that my husband was cheating on me! The feelings of anger, frustration, and shock hit me hard. I had wasted my time on a relationship that was never meant to be a good one. Finally, it dawned on me that brooding over it would fetch me nothing and that I had to walk out of the marriage. I got back my job and let myself be consumed by work to forget everything else. I did everything that I wanted to, like going to watch good plays, travel a little bit, spending time with myself, though I had good friends and family with me. Today, living as a single woman has become a conscious and deliberate decision. If nothing else, I’m  atleast at peace with myself.”
If you can take control of your life and lead yourself towards a better you, nothing can stop you from being at peace.

Anish R, a young businessman who faced a huge financial crisis says, “Financial loss is something that just doesn’t take away only monetary assets. It can take away a person’s social status, lead to severe emotional breakdown and even break relationships. I had suffered so terribly in my business venture that there was a stage when I was close to losing my home. I was even worried about the next meal. The pressure was immense and I had to start all over again.

It does take a lot of courage to keep a straight face in front of people, especially when you do not want their sympathy, and just want to thrive on ideas and opportunities to stand tall once again. Today, my business is doing fine and I have built up another home. Being emotionally strong is a key aspect in getting over financial crisis.

Negative thoughts of anger, frustration and depression, or even suicidal tendencies, are going to hit you, but you must give up!”
You have only yourself to prove to and you must never let yourself down. Ali Khwaja, a counsellor, says, “Trauma or a breakdown can be the result of any major happening where the person is unable to cope, and it affects him/her emotionally. Individuals need to look for self-help mechanisms, where they build on inner strength to cope with such situations, and then talk about it to family or friends. Build a support system around you to help you sail through this phase and also, if required, talk to a professional counsellor to fight the battle.”
As a word of caution, he further adds, “Parents need to teach children to understand that failure is part of life and accept that it’s absolutely fine not to be an achiever in everything. That life has its ups and downs for every individual. People need to learn to survive the minor battles right from the beginning in case a situation arises where you need to be strong and this can happen only if you are emotionally secure.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross might have given the world five stages of grief to any form of catastrophic personal loss model in her book ‘On Death and Dying’. The stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are mechanisms of adjusting with grief and perhaps those who are survivors of personal loss or trauma may have undergone these stages or much more.
But a strong message from survivors is that it is only ‘you’ who can help yourself to overcome a burdening experience. Remember difficult times will definitely pass. It’s only a phase. Let go and live life as a fighter, and maybe the best is yet to come, so live on…

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/315821/a-pocketful-sunshine.html– The article was published in the Living Supplement of Deccan Herald on March 2nd 2013.

When the stork comes a-calling in style

Being pregnant has never been more fashionable than now, writes Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma

Thanks to Bollywood Moms, the average woman is now confident about her pregnancy, struts about in branded maternity clothing, and participates in fashion hunts. She may take a break to enjoy her pregnancy or she may continue to work. Either way, she wants to prove to herself and others around her that she is “pregnant, confident, and happy. Period.”

The Brits are celebrating the royal pregnancy in style with the much hyped Kate Middleton’s expected arrival in July 2013. Back home, we might not have a royal baby on the news as the next big arrival, but there are enough women celebrities who are married, and the next big announcement after their wedding seems to be of their pregnancy.

Yes, pregnancy has become a style statement! It has become a reason to be fashionable, to be in the limelight, and get fans to hear about the much-awaited news. Today anchors, models, and actresses take it in their stride to talk about pregnancy, as it adds a new dimension to their personality.

Who could forget Bollywood actress Aishwarya’s pregnancy announcement with her losing a film project due to pregnancy!

Her journey as a mother with baby Aaradhya, and of course, post–pregnancy weight were quite the eye-grabbers in all media. Celebrities like Shilpa Shetty, Mandira Bedi, Lara Dutta, and Celina Jaitley have all been in the limelight for pregnancy-related announcements promoting yoga CDs, baby pictures and more. In what has been seen as a global trend, women are becoming stronger in their decisions and like marriage, pregnancy too has become a natural phase of life that is accepted. It doesn’t bother women anymore as they believe with talent, work will come again, even if it is in the show business.

A decade ago, in India, this would seem inappropriate, especially if one were in the glam industry of films, small screen, and entertainment channels. A decade ago, no such hype existed. Women, especially under the arc lights, were reluctant to talk about pregnancy. Moms-to-be wanted to hide the growing bulge, as pregnancy was considered as an announcement that could hamper career prospects.

Today, however, pregnancy fashion has become a huge business opportunity to be cashed. The mom-to-be is bombarded with a host of products like pregnancy clothing, accessories, necessities like pregnancy pillows, stretch mark creams, specified pregnancy slip-on shoes to name a few. In all the gamut of assertion and the need for women to be recognized for their talent, no matter what event occurs in life, the phase has also become the perfect opportunity for marketeers to utilize the given opportunity with products and services to suit the category. This, they say, is all about “living in style” and “convenience”. The would-be-mother is made to feel special and privileged. Several events encourage the lady to be in the limelight with fashion shows or pregnancy calendars. Pregnancy photographers are a new breed of camera-persons on the block, who make you believe that pregnancy is a time to be cherished and stored as a wonderful memory.

In the last decade, a drastic change from multi-speciality hospitals to dedicated maternity hospitals has spruced up for the changing consumer. Today, many pregnant women want to go to a single speciality hospital when it comes to maternity care. No wonder these single speciality hospitals of pregnancy and paediatric care have enough activities to make the momma-to-be believe that this is once-in-a-life-time opportunity and that it needs to be special. With just one or two pregnancies being the norm in urban households today, it is not surprising that most moms-to-be are embracing activities from dedicated mother and child stores, hospitals, and websites that talk of pregnancy as a “never-before and never-after (perhaps)” experience. Many women have even become regular bloggers who write articles and stories detailing every month of their pregnancy and post pregnancy experiences!

Since ages, pregnant women have always been advised to exercise for an easy delivery. Now though, there is a fun alternative – dance therapy! Even classical dance forms are being appropriated and choreographed to suit pregnant women. This trend is fast catching up and even has the approval of many gynaecologists. It is probably not long before we see a pregnancy-speciality restaurant or a special pregnancy makeover by a noted salon to make the lady’s day.

Here are some of the most trendy ways to enjoy pregnancy:

– Get a makeover done with a noted beauty salon
– Get a specialized photographer to shoot you a pregnancy portfolio
– Get friends to arrange for a pregnancy get-together in someone’s home. It would be good to share an afternoon lunch with other pregnant women to talk about your current phase, especially with people who are in the same zone. Try and arrange for a movie screening on DVD with fresh juices and popcorn to munch on.
– Write a few letters to the unborn baby. Actual handwritten letters. Maybe on what you did that day. These can be stored in a well-decorated box and shared with your little one, once she is able to understand and of course, read well.
– Look-up a restaurant that can arrange for a lovely candle-light dinner in a beautiful ambience that will make you feel good.

Basking in motherly glory is certainly an in-thing now, and most pregnant women are lapping it up. And why not? Afterall, pregnancy is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a miracle the woman’s body was designed for!

 

The article was published on February 2nd 2012 in the Living Supplement of Deccan Herald.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/309197/when-stork-comes-calling-style.html

Kabhi, kabhi mere dil mein…

Jan 20,2012:

TOUCHING A CHORD

Lyrical melodies or funky upbeat numbers, Hindi film music has always connected with the whole country. Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma tries to explain its popularity.

EVERGREEN HITS Whether it is  foot-tapping numbers like Ra One’s Chhammak ChhalloIt’s been 100 years since cinema officially made its presence in India. ‘Pundalik’, a recording of a play directed by Ram Chandra Gopal Torne was released in 1912, while the more well known movie ‘Raja Harishchandra’, a full-length film directed by Dada Saheb Phalke released in the year 1913. It is over eighty years since India’s first talkie film, Alam Ara, was released. The movie and its music were a big hit including the first song of Indian cinema, “De de khuda ke naam par.”

Since then songs have become a key to film plots, and except for the rare filmmakers, none dare make movies without music. No wonder then that Hindi film songs have been a major source of entertainment for generations of Indians. Just ask middle-aged people about their younger days, and many will nostalgically reel off the popular songs of that period. In fact, after cricket, it is film songs that bind the country as one.

Hindi film songs have loyalists across the length and breadth of the country, regardless of regional differences. These songs, lift arrest their mood swings, keep them away from boredom, and most of all keep them entertained and happy. For example, Abhilash Sivadas, a visual artist, says he listens to the old time classic, Kabhi Kabhi, as an anthem everyday. “I cannot work without listening to film music, which means I am listening to them for about eight to nine hours a day.”

To cater to these fans, we have private FM radio stations playing film music, just as government-run stations like AIR and  FM Rainbow which have dedicated slots for loyalists. Moreover, the key ingredient of many of our events is film music. You’ll find fans jiving to these desi numbers,  books being churned out on Bollywood songs, and events organised to pay tribute to renowned singers, musicians and others from the film industry.

What is it that makes Hindi film songs so popular that radio stations, wedding celebrations, reality shows, discotheques, and parties are never complete without them?

Perhaps, it is because this music touches our senses and emotions in a special way.  In our country audiences tolerate hackneyed plots and characters, but when it comes to music, people demand and expect originality.

A strong factor that makes or breaks a film is its music. Many times, it is the music  that lives on even after the movie is forgotten. Film music has a tremendous amount of marketing glitz attached to it and every effort is made to make it a crowd puller every time a film is released. Even if the film flops, its music connects with us over a longer period of time.

Says Prithvi Vishwanath, a very popular RJ of Radio One, a station that plays only Bollywood music, “I have grown to be a Hindi film music fan from the time I joined Radio One.”

He further adds, “I find Hindi film music very popular amongst our listeners. Clever utilisation of the media, marketing, glitz and glamour, and of course some genuinely good music make for some potent ingredients to popularise Bollywood music. At our station, although we do play retro music, but it is more of the 90s. In fact recent research results point out that our people have quite an appetite for retro music and melodies rather than fast numbers.”

Another huge fan of Hindi film music, is an active participant of a semi formal group known as Recreational-Music Indian-Miscellaneous (RMIM), which strives to remember and revive old memorable songs. Chetan Vinchhi says, “Personally I do not like most of the music churned out in the last two decades, due to the fact that songs these days are more processed and synthetic and the voice is less important. But I must admit that Hindi film music has had a mass appeal for years. Undoubtedly, it is an art form with no parallel. It encompasses the common man’s cultural identity like nothing else does.”

So whilst there are weddings and other  functions at home that have us play these songs, there are also rituals like  the Mehndi and Sangeet that depend on Bollywood’s numbers. In fact, although these ceremonies were initially region-specific, they have now become a must in  many brides’ pre-wedding itinerary.

According to DJ Jasmeet, known for his penchant for playing funky and upbeat numbers, “Bollywood music is something that has tremendous mass appeal and many understand the songs and can dance to them even if they are not very conversant with the language. A lot of people can relate to them even if they are the kind who party only once in a while.”

Its ability to provide a temporary escape from mundane worries, as well as its ability to identify with personal situations have continually contributed to the popularity of film music. It has a certain style that even someone not trained in music can appreciate. This is an advantage that film music has as other forms may demand a deeper  understanding.

Most of us remember popular songs and associate actors and actresses with them, and subsequently singers and music directors. So, no matter which genre of music is introduced to further generations, as long as movies are made, Hindi film songs are going to be evergreen forms of entertainment.

Published in the Deccan Herald Living Supplement as Cover Story on January 21st 2012.

An online link to the story- http://www.deccanherald.com/content/220789/kabhi-kabhi-mere-dil-mein.html

It’s a brat’s world

PESTER POWER
They decide the kind of clothes to wear, where the family goes on Friday night dinners, which movie to watch and what books to buy. They are the new breed that advertisers hope to hook. No we’re not talking of high profile businessmen or jet-setting executives, here. We’re talking of little children. No longer, someone we can ignore or dismiss, the child has grown in more ways than one.

Consumerism has taken a tangent hitherto unforeseen in urban India. We just have to look at the way children influence our buying decisions to understand that. Marketing efforts are now directed towards this major section which is fast becoming a key segment for marketers to target. Surveys show that children are one of the strongest decision makers when it comes to family decisions.

So you have movies like Ra.One desperately attaching itself to toys, and fast food meals specifically tailored for kids at leading fast food restaurants; then there are malls, the food industry and even corporates who know an interactive session for children will be a definite success, as kids come with mothers in tow, and the situation can be utilised as a marketing event. So, when children want to frequent malls and spend time at restaurants and bookstores, you can be sure their parents will land up there, and shop, eat, or utilise some service, even if this wasn’t initially on the agenda.

This may be hard-core marketing to entice kids, and in the bargain get their parents to spend. However, aren’t kids becoming decision makers at home too? There are many families out there who instantly acknowledge that eating out decisions are made by children, who pick the restaurant and cuisine they want. Social upbringing, values taught at school, the icons that children idolise are all independent and have definite goals. These days, it is common to find young people to be expressive, extroverted and having a definite opinion. No wonder children are growing up to be assertive and opinionated and participate in family decisions.

Says Poornima Girish, a customer relationship manager who has taken a sabbatical from work to pay attention to her teenaged daughter who is in Class X, “Right from breakfast options to holidays, almost every major decision in my life gets materialised with my daughter, Deeksha’s opinion. It is obvious that in nuclear families children’s opinion is highly regarded. I remember when I was her age; my parents hardly considered our opinion in major buying decisions because the social environment was not as open as it is now. Neither were we as smart as today’s kids.”

Cute and smart kids always attract attention. In advertisements, the featured child models are shown to give tips to their parents and suggest solutions too. Children are shown to have an opinion right from the brand of dog food to buy for pet puppy, to the hair oil to get for mother, and the detergent to be used for clothes. A child’s pester power is of huge value.

The recently launched show on Colors, Badmaash Company-Ek Shararat Hone Ko Hai featuring Juhi Chawla has got her talking to kids as young as five on various subjects and each has an opinion on everything under the sun. That’s marketed as the highlight of the show and one can see kids wanting to be part of the show to prove they are smart as they hold an opinion. Children are being encouraged to be expressive in school and at home while advertisements are re-enforcing these values and opinions

Bhavana B, a marketing professional was surprised when her older son, Vishnu, all of twelve, commented on her dressing ways. “Yes, children these days are more expressive and that’s how the world works now. Children have an opinion on everything and I see all my son’s friends being assertive and influencing parents in major decisions at home. We encourage children to be open so why complain when they have an opinion or help us take decisions? Almost all our holidays are decided by my children and I have to acknowledge even my career choice was made, considering my children’s opinion and welfare.”

So you have electronic stores, bookstores, cinemas, fine-dining restaurants and branded pizza chains like Pizza Hut doing promotional activities, having a designated play area for kids, story sessions, merchandise, toys attached to favourite movie characters, to attract children. Weekends at libraries, theatre spaces, malls are sure to have fun and informative sessions to attract children. The idea is to get children enthused in these arenas and make them step in thus making way for adults too. Marketers can be sure they’ve hit the bull’s eye once they succeed in getting children convinced about buying something. Surely, when children demand, can parents refuse?

Double incomes and new lifestyles have meant higher pocket money for children. Kids have the option to spend on clothes, books, movies, restaurants, electronic gadgets, be seen at hangouts, or attend courses of their choice. The list goes endlessly on as far as opportunities for a child in an urban scenario is concerned. Technology, new career choices and education have made growing children feel it is their right to hold an opinion on every topic and they have every right to contribute to decisions at home, be it minor or something major.

Undoubtedly children are far more smarter than their parents who at that age were not allowed to even overhear the conversation of elders let alone participate in it. Today, you have parents who will involve children in a majority of their decisions, be it buying a new pet, making a career move or even the clothes mother should wear. Of course, mothers may not change their entire wardrobe, but there are moms like Kavitha Prasad, a communication professional, who gets constant feedback from her eleven-year-old daughter, Kruthi, who tells her what’s cool and what’s not.

Child psychologists and sociologists may opine that encouraging too much independence at such a young may not be such a wise thing. For how can a child of five decide on what his parents with all the wisdom of their combined ages, cannot? Parents and marketers couldn’t care less. For them at least, the world belongs to the brats.
Published in Deccan Herald in the Living supplement as cover story on December 3, 2011

The Kannada conundrum

What bothers me is when people assume I do not know Kannada.
It has always been that either my complete name or my face makes people guess and, as an instinct response, makes them speak the language they believe could be linked to my lingua franca.  And that has been everything, except the real one.

Perhaps there are many others like me who have a name that does not reveal their identity in terms of religion, caste. To add to the confusion some faces force people to assume. When I was in college, people would often approach me and ask:?Are you an Anglo-Indian, Gujarati, Muslim and so on. I never objected to this guessing game since I found it amusing and thought it added a certain mystery to my persona.

Off late though, since the way I way dress up, I have been spoken to a number of times in Hindi, and when I replied back in Kannada, the coconut vendor or bus conductor and the flower seller would be taken by surprise.

Recently, an attendant at a cash counter in a mall asked “Kannada ata hai kya?”. When I snapped out of the thought I was engrossed in, I questioned:?“Barutte, adare Kannadalle keli nange baruto illuvo anta?” I?have nothing against the national language as it is one of the languages I speak and use everyday.

What bothers me is when people assume I do not know Kannada and speak only English. Even autorickshaw drivers look at me differently when I respond to them in Kannada. I?have often discussed with friends that they should speak in Kannada, for, others might respond in the same language.

But some of them would quip, saying Bangaloreans take pride in speaking all languages and can even sense what linguistic background others are by simply sizing them up. By this logic they conclude that Bangaloreans are cosmopolitan.

While all this might be true why don’t we speak in Kannada to the person in front of us and if they don’t understand then we could always switch to another language. Maybe that would make us Bangaloreans more understanding in speaking a variety of languages while not abandoning our own. Else, the opportunity of speaking this state’s primary language will be lost to us.

So while Kannada Prasara Parishath takes pride in teaching lakhs of students over the years their month tongue, what we as citizens can do is not to impose the language on others. And yet we must make an attempt to speak in Kannada as often as possible — if not at the workplace, at cafeterias when among friends, with shop vendors, the bus conductor and, of course, with people who enjoy speaking Kannada.

Published under Right in the Middle Column in Deccan Herald on November 23, 2011

ETERNAL DILEMMA;The great balancing act

Managing a career is no smooth sailing with the arrival of your bundle of joy. How do scores of women do it, anyway? Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma tries finding out

An increasing number of women living in cities and metros are career focused. However, with the arrival of a baby much changes in a woman’s life.

Many of them opt to stay at home, while those who are keen to go back to work start out with a part time job or do freelance assignments. Does motherhood mean a stop to careers even for those women who are highly career centric? Or, are there options to manage the baby and focus on one’s career prospects?

Many women admit that motherhood brings a sea change in their lives, so a career for a large number of them, is not the immediate priority. While there are some who leave high profile jobs to become stay-at-home moms, there are quite a few who join work for various reasons.

Says Shreya Rao, Product Manager, Levis India, “I wanted to start work as I did not want to feel left behind in my career. Taking care of the baby for a year full time was fine. After that, however, I wanted to get back to work. Initially, it was good, but later I couldn’t do justice either to my job or to my child. So, after a year I took a break and joined work only when my child started going to pre-school for a longer duration of time.”

In a country where raising a child is considered a woman’s duty, the elders at home too advice the new mother to take time off her job, however high her position or salary may be. But, do all women go through the dilemma of whether to resume work at the earliest or embrace motherhood for life?

Asserting her decision to resume work within six months of her son being born, Mangai Varadrajan, a project manager at a leading software company, says “When you have a good family support system, I think it is important that the woman goes back to work so as to make her feel good in life. In my case, my family and my in-laws supported me whole-heartedly and I don’t regret going back to work. But if you are happy being a stay-at-home mother then it is entirely your decision.”

Padma Srinivas, a HR consultant who is trying out freelance, consciously decided to take a break from work to look after her baby. She balances her work and life by taking up fewer projects.

Having strong family support, and the ability to manage resources in terms of arranging for a caretaker to look after the baby at home, or to get the child to spend a few hours at a day care centre, allows women the option to get back to their careers or at least look for part time or freelancing opportunities.

Before you decide to rejoin the workforce, either full time or part time, ask yourself the following questions:

*How long are your working hours? Working long hours is bound to make you exhausted and irritable. Your child will not be able to understand this and will want to be with you when you get back home. So, whatever the working hours make sure to spend time effectively with your child.

*How much flexibility do you have at work? If your child is ill, will your boss or colleagues be able to understand it? Would you want to give some more time for this phase to pass before heading back to work?

*Can you arrange alternate resources in case your regular back up support system fails? If the normal care giver has to deal with an emergency, would you be able to take care of your child and still manage piled up work and meet deadlines?

*Are you sure you will be happy with your decision? Would you feel guilty about leaving your baby with a care giver? Be sure about what you want. You must be able to take off when you feel your child needs you the most.

According to Career Counselor Janet Parameshwar, “Try to choose a work place that is woman friendly; where you are valued as a professional but where your position as a mother is also understood. Also, in case you are not able to immediately join work because of various reasons, then, whenever you join make sure to be updated with the latest developments in the industry and try to start work at the earliest.”

However she has a word of caution, “Whatever you decide, do not neglect your child at the cost of your career. Believe in yourself; If you are talented opportunities will definitely come by.”

So, if you are confident of getting the right resources arranged to take care of your baby, then there is no one to stop you. But, experts opine that accepting fewer responsibilities at the beginning and lesser hours at work — even if it means a pay cut — makes more sense towards maintaining a work-life balance.

However, if you do feel that you deserve to be in a high profile position make sure you’re guilt-free and get the right resource to take care of your baby. As someone rightly said a happy woman makes a happy mother, so take the plunge after enough thought about you and the baby.

Published in She page of Living supplement of Deccan Herald on November 12th 2011

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/204056/balancing-act.html

Bandhini: Creating fine masterpieces

Traditional Craft

Fabric in vibrant hues, bandhini, also known as bandhej, enjoys popularity not only on the streets of Rajasthan and Gujarat, but all over the world too.

The rich colours have a huge sense of appeal for buyers and they instantly symbolise a certain element of Indianness for the person wearing it. The origin of this fabric has an interesting history weaved into it.

The word bandhini means “to tie” and is derived from Sanskrit. While some believe that Muslim Khatri women brought this art form to Kutch, a few others in Rajasthan believe that artists from Neelgar and Chippa communities were the original practitioners of this art form.

Interestingly, this tie-and-dye art has evolved over the years and today bandhini fabric is available in various forms — sarees, lehengas, cholis, dupattas, scarves, stoles, shawls, skirts, and even bed spreads and cushion covers. No wonder, this traditional art form has found its way into the glamorous world of fashion and films too.

It is said that the process of producing bandhini cloth is one among the oldest crafts of the world. It is a skilled task where the artisan has to initiate the process of creating a bandhej fabric either with malmal cotton or georgette which is folded to a quarter of its size. The cloth is then placed on a table and desired designs are marked using a wooden block dipped in red colour known as geru in Kutch.

This process is alternatively done by placing a clear thin sheet of plastic pierced with pin holes on this fabric and then transferring the imprint of the desired pattern on to the fabric using the thin sheet. A rag dipped in geru is then washed over the sheet, leaving an imprint of the desired pattern on the cloth. The craftsperson then pulls a small area of the fabric where each hole is placed and winds the thread tightly to form a tiny knot.

Hundreds of such knots are formed to retain the original colour in that portion. The cloth is then washed to remove the imprint and dipped in yellow or other lighter colours.

Following this, the fabric is rinsed, squeezed and tied and then dipped in a darker colour. After the last step in the dyeing process, the cloth is washed and, if necessary, starched. The folds are then pulled apart in a particular way, releasing the knots and revealing their pattern.

Traditionally, only natural colours were used, but today, the colour scheme involves the usage of synthetic colours for faster results and bulk production. According to Abdul Kayam, owner of a small manufacturing unit of bandhej in Jaipur, “Synthetic colours are used to save on time. Women do the tying using their nails that are specifically grown long for this purpose or a spiked metal ring is used to lift and tie the tiny knots. Men do the dyeing as it involves a lot of labour. The entire process of tie-and-dye may take anything from two days to 45 days, depending on the design and embroidery involved.”

According to Raju Bhai Navrathan Makwana from Kutch, “The bandhini created in Gujarat varies from that of Rajasthan in terms of quality and design even though the process is the same.” In their book on world textiles, John Gillow and Bryan Sentance mention that bandhini was so popular in the 18th century that spotted scarves in English came to be called bandana.

Though bandhini is worn across India on every possible occasion, in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the fabric is associated with certain special occasions. For instance, Gujarati women wear bandhini saris known as garcholas only for weddings. However, for the artisans, bandhini is not only a source of livelihood, but a reflection of their rich culture.

This was published under Sunday Herald ( from Deccan Herald) on July 10, 2011 under Arts and Culture page.

To go to the link click here http://www.deccanherald.com/content/174900/bandhini-creating-fine-masterpieces.html


Inevitable evils

If rocking music can substitute for crude lyrics, we do not need poets.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard my close friend’s four-year-old humming loudly a song that I had detested for many days now. Yup, the one Deepika is swaying her hips to the item song in ‘Dum Maro Dum’. I casually asked Sneha the little one, if she knew what the line in the song meant? Pat came the remark “Aunty it is potty pe bethe nanga’, don’t you know what it means?

Purvi her mom laughed loudly as she gave me a hug to calm my stunned expression and said, “C’mon it is this generation song what is there to feel so bad. The question left me wondering if the lyricist wrote the song actually in the studio or elsewhere. Wherever he wrote I am sure people like me would never appreciate language to be diluted so much that it causes me to be ashamed to spell it out.

It is not the first time that vulgar lyrics have been prompted in large scale mediums like films. One such song was the Karishma-Govinda starrer song ‘Sarkhai lo khatiya jada lage’, though popular made my parents to switch of the television sets in case little guests had come home or worse watch those movements danced to the dance number. I am sure Karishma now would never think of this song and she would get amnesia if someone mentioned that she had danced to this song.

Forget 2000 onwards; if one thinks of the era of great lyricists like the 50s-70s, I wonder if lyricists like Majrooh Sultanpuri or Shailendra would ever find a job of writing even one song in the current lyricist’s generation. Could they attempt to write in their wildest dreams lines like ‘Shaam ko daaru, Raat ko ladki’ from ‘Shoot out at Lokhandwala’ or ‘Kal meri skirt keechega’ from ‘Dum Maaro Dum’?

If people argue that rocking music can substitute for nonsensical or crude lyrics then we do not need poets. Obviously the need of the hour then is those who can write songs which are controversial and blend it with foot tapping beats. Better sill write songs that can make children and teenagers smirk when parents try to switch off the radio or TV set. Another opportunity for children to show they can rebel by listening or lip-syncing to such songs!

As I left my friend’s place in my car, the RJ on the radio announced the top 10 songs and the one that had been on my mind however much I detested all morning came back again. This time however I decided to accept it as a phase that will soon pass as I thought one needs such songs to cherish good from bad.

This was written for right in the middle column on editorial page.