Monthly Archives: September 2008

>Are we okay with adultery too?

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We go through our social lives pretending that these things don’t happen with people we know. We pretend that the “other woman” who is always seen with the couple is just a friend when we know she isn’t. We pretend that the reason why we’ve distanced ourselves from the boy whom we used to call a friend is not that he’s been cheating on his wife. We pretend it doesn’t bother us when it evidently does. And how can it not? Can we be so broadminded so as to not care that our friend’s husband may be cheating on her?

Apparently, I’m not supposed to raise my eyebrows in surprise when I hear that someone’s wife has been sleeping around with someone else. I’m supposed to mind my own business, ignore and not get judgemental. But these are not people I read about in magazines, these are not people I see in the paper. It’s not like I’m not talking about Saif Ali Khan leaving his wife for a younger woman. These are people I know, whom I meet, who’ve attended parties at my place and invited me to theirs. How can I not judge them?

Tell me also, how I can see married people hooking up with their friends’ wives/husbands and be okay with it? And dismiss the whole thing by saying, “What’s new?” I wasn’t brought up to think adultery is okay and I’m finding it hard to condition myself to believe that. And if it is acceptable to me – all this adultery that I see around me – I shouldn’t be surprised if it happens to me as well. Because I’m married too and it could very easily be me or my husband instead of that man or woman.

There used to be a time when I felt secure in the knowledge that no matter how much somebody flirted with my husband, they would know when to stop because he’s married. Or that my husband would know when to stop. I felt safe indulging in some harmless flirting myself because I thought nobody would misconstrue it to be anything else but that – harmless flirting. But I can no longer look at the picture the same way – because it seems so easy for people to take that flirting just a little bit forward and then still more till it becomes something totally unacceptable – for me at least.

It doesn’t matter how many incidents of this kind I see or hear of – it will still be something that evokes mixed emotions in me: from anger and surprise to bewilderment and repulsion. Two wrongs don’t make a right. And just because someone’s wife chooses to ignore how her husband manages his mistress, and someone’s husband is okay with his wife having a physical relationship with another man doesn’t mean it should be okay for me too. I mean, there has to be a full stop somewhere, some place where we draw the line and say no more.

I still attach some amount of sanctity to the institution of marriage. And even though I understand it’s futile to be in a loveless marriage or that a marriage may be beset with other more complicated problems leading people to act the way they do, I do not understand adultery. And such blatant display of it as I see around me now is unsettling.

I can give my husband as much space as he wants but I can’t give him enough space to go ahead and find a girl friend for himself. I will be jealous if he showers one woman with too much attention and I will be insecure if that woman makes eyes at him. Even if it’s all in jest! I will not have someone swooning over my man and be proud he’s so charming. I might be a little proud but I’ll also be a typical wife and make sure that that someone keeps her distance from him. My relationship with my husband is still not so evolved that I’d be able to share him with another woman. And I don’t think it ever will be. Thankfully.

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>Work Ethics – Part Two

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An undergraduate with good communication skills, looking for a part time job after college hours: her profile suited the vacancy I was looking to fill. Young, smart and seemingly dynamic she was and I was mighty pleased with my luck and patience for having waited long enough to come across the right candidate. That was on Day 1.

Day 17, she became another stat in my office. She was the fourth person I had hired for that position – all of them had been young, all capable, all lazy. She’s the third person I had to, quite literally, chuck out because of inefficiency, unprofessional behaviour and lack of commitment to work.

I’m trying to make a point in case. And my case is that it might be all too well that we have a young workforce around, but are the young serious about their career or their jobs? Or are they only interested in making a quick buck? I know it’s not fair to generalise but I deal with scores of students everyday who fall in the age bracket of 18 to 22 years and I’m surprised at how badly they want to start earning early and how little they are ready to work for it.

I started working when I was all of 22, and I worked very hard for very little. My take-home salary was around Rs. 4000 per month that time. And I never cribbed. I was so happy just proving my worth at the workplace. The youngsters I’m talking about aren’t happy with a starting salary of Rs. 10,000 at age 20!

So inflation in India is at an all time high, but these boys and girls aren’t looking to run households. They just think 10 grands is no big deal! Really? Either I must be ancient or times have changed very fast!

And let’s just suppose they are high-paying jobs being offered to young people. Like this 18-year-old girl who was being paid Rs. 20,000 for her first job. She joined like any excited teenager would. And quit before she’d completed her training period. Another one of her ilk couldn’t cope with the training and resigned even before her!

There are plenty of examples I can quote. Like of this girl who was looking for a job but refused to go for an interview because her hair was oiled that day. Heard of a shampoo, anyone? Another young girl gave up a job offer for the post of Assistant Manager because… of no apparent reason! A bunch of 20-somethings were sent for a training in a 5-star hotel in another city. After the first day, they were all ready to come back home because they had missed a meal trying to find accommodation for themselves and didn’t get dalroti for their next meal!

What I’m trying to say is that it’s great to have landed a job that pays a bomb, but you still have to work for it. Is there a minimum age to realise that? Is an 18-year-old not mature enough to understand what it means to be working for the remuneration you get? What attitudinal shift has ensured that the young these days do not know how precious the money they earn is and expect a respectable job and a handsome pay cheque served to them on a platter? They will willingly spend thousands of rupees on collecting diplomas and certificates for professional courses, but they won’t move their butt to make those diplomas and certificates work for them!

It may be an extension of the call centre culture where qualifications do not matter and you get a substantial amount as your first salary. But even working in a call centre is no mean task. And you have to slog to justify that pay cheque.

There could also be some economic/social trend behind all of this but all I see is scant respect for work – of any kind – that I thought was essential to succeed in life. A young employee is preferred for a job because he’s likely to be more enthusiastic about his work, give in more than a 100% in terms of effort and be willing to learn. Ironically, it is the absence of all these qualities that characterises freshers in the job market these days.

Who is to tell them that to reach the top you still have to start from scratch? Who is to tell them that there is no short cut to success? Who is to tell them that there is no better recipe for success than hard work? You could be lucky for a while, but when that spell is over, you’ll be expected to know your work. These aren’t some startling revelations; these are facts that one learns through the years in school or college. Why then are youngsters averse to accepting them?

What also rankles is that they have the tacit support of their parents in behaving the way they do. The girl whom I had to sack from my office had her father call me up two days later to ask what would be her remuneration for the days that she had worked. I was appalled: the father was just not ashamed or apologetic for her daughter’s behaviour. On the contrary, by calling up on her behalf, he was giving his tacit support to his daughter’s impropriety.

You would expect parents who’ve worked their way up to know what it takes to reach the top. Ironically, they are the ones giving in to the whimsical demands and unreasonable professional ambitions of their children. This blindness to their children’s faults isn’t acceptable: even if you love your child and believe in his capabilities so blindly, you need to push him to perform. You need to know everyone’s is not going to look at him the way you do. You cannot keep finding fault with others – teachers, employers, organisations – to justify the behaviour of your own ward. Perhaps, the children simply know to have their parents dancing to their tunes! But it’s not a tune that the rest of the world will dance to.

>Work Ethics – Part One

>An undergraduate with good communication skills, looking for a part time job after college hours: her profile suited the vacancy I was looking to fill. Young, smart and seemingly dynamic she was and I was mighty pleased with my luck and patience for having waited long enough to come across the right candidate. That was on Day 1.

Day 3, and she was already beginning to come late to work. It was her first job, so I continued being patient with her, trying to ease her into a working life.

Day 7, she called up someone in the office to say she was ill and wouldn’t be coming to work. I had been a little late in handing her her appointment letter telling her she was still on probation and not entitled to any paid leaves during that time. Next day, I promptly handed over the letter so that the terms and conditions of her employment would be clear to her. I was also miffed with her for not seeking my permission for the leave and made it clear to her that any communication regarding leaves was to be made directly with me.

Day 8, she didn’t turn up at all. I was alarmed by her absence from office without intimation, forget prior permission. Her cell phone was switched off and I couldn’t fathom what could have gone wrong, imagining the worst, hoping everything was alright with her! She called me up late in the evening to inform me her relative had had an accident and she had to leave urgently for the neighbouring city of Kanpur – a two-hour run from Lucknow – that morning. So urgently that she forgot to carry her cell phone and also forgot inform us at the office about her leave. She hadn’t quite realised she needed to call us up until she saw the missed calls on her phone. Not quite convinced, I still let her off with a warning and the benefit of doubt.

Day 13, she wanted to leave early because she had “some work” with her mother and it was “very important”!

Day 15, she called up an hour later than her reporting time to take a leave because she was “too unwell”. She sounded it and I had no option but to grant her permission.

Day 16 was supposed to be a hectic day at work and we desperately needed hands. I asked one of my team members to call her and tell her as much. Despite that, she did the vanishing act. We again tried calling her in the afternoon from the office number – no response. Then we called up from a cell number and she took the call. We politely inquired if all was well. She said she’d call us back in half an hour. That meant the rest of the day.

Day 17, she sauntered into office only half an hour late and apologised for not being able to come because she had “very high fever”. “Very high”, I assume, means, you’re unable to take calls from office numbers but okay to receive calls from unknown numbers. It also means, I assume, that you cannot call back and are totally incapable of informing your boss you’re not coming to work. I have had “very high fever” in the past – all of us do at some time or the other – but I do not remember that condition being so bad that I wouldn’t be able to at least SMS my boss. Of course, I had lost my cool by then. I very politely and curtly told her about her failings before telling her to go home and never come back.

By the way, she’s the fourth person I had hired for that position. She’s the third person I had to, quite literally, chuck out because of inefficiency, unprofessional behaviour and lack of commitment to work.

>Hum Hindustani

>Apathy, acceptance or anger – we’ve heard about reactions of all kinds to the Delhi serial blasts. But this isn’t about the blasts, it’s about us – people like me who still cannot imagine migrating to another country despite everything that is wrong with ours, who live with terror and hope, who may wait or will a change.

What makes me an Indian who believes in Indian-ness?

I know about the corruption, I face it every single day. I know about our inefficient government machinery too. I also know about poverty, politics, and population issues, perhaps not as statistically well as some other people may know it. But I still call this country my home and wouldn’t willingly change that for anything. Am I a romantic fool who believes in high-sounding emotions such as patriotism? Or am I unnecessarily complacent?

Like most of us living in India, I have relatives settled in various developed nations of the world. And I also know how different their living is from ours: how much safer, how much more organised, how much more hassle-free. I wish too my life back home was a little like theirs: with more manageable traffic, with better public service amenities, with more law-abiding citizens to call my countrymen, with fewer politicians with a criminal record – you get the idea. But I do not wish to be anything but Indian, be anywhere else except India. Even when I come back from a holiday abroad and can see how poorly we score in comparison, I never once wish I was born elsewhere or that I lived some place else. I hate the dust, the climate, the allergens that make me ill. And I know I would even be medically better off in another land, but I have never given a serious thought to it in all my life.

Perhaps, it has something to do with my upbringing. My parents are not landed people: my father is a lawyer by profession and could have easily made a living anywhere in the world. But he chose to stay in India. My parents were never enamoured by the idea of getting my sister and me married off to green card holders, affluent NRIs or software engineers earning big bucks. But they didn’t close that option for us; we did. Perhaps, this isn’t about our upbringing after all.

The Guy’s NRI relatives in Australia believe we’re (‘we’ being the Indians who live in India) too lazy and so used to domestic help that we cannot contemplate a life anywhere else in the world. It’s far from the truth, I know: we’re not lazy by any standards even if we have house help. But that rather mean perception of us has forced me to think what it is that keeps me rooted to my country. Sometimes, exasperated with all the red-tapism and the judicial malpractices, my F-I-L suggests The Guy and I should think of shifting base to another country. That’s not even an option I see for myself. So what is it that keeps me from aspiring for an American or Australian citizenship?

I hope this doesn’t sound clichéd, but for me, my country is like a parent. I’m not blind to her faults, I only love her despite them. You can’t disown your parents because they aren’t the best in the world, can you? I feel the same way about this nation. I am so much a part of it, I can never hate it enough to leave it. And if the whole truth be told, living here isn’t so bad, is it? There’s so much I love about India, so much that makes me proud: the history, the culture, the arts and crafts, the places, the monuments, the achievements, the people too. I know if I leave the bad stuff, I will also leave the good.

All this, of course, is not being said to judge other choices made by other people. It might be okay for someone to move bag and baggage to another country and it might be okay for them to live with an inexplicable longing for their motherland despite making a deliberate decision to migrate. But it’s not okay with me. I wouldn’t be able to live my life reiterating to myself the reasons that justify the migration to another country and ignoring the reasons that make it difficult for me to be happy there. I’m happy being an Indian.

>Updates

> I’ve got the Brilliant Weblog award again from Monika and Roop. Thank you people 🙂

And Chandni has given me this wonderful BFF Gold Card which I shall flaunt here:

Thank you Chandu! And I’m going to pass this on to lots of new and old friends in blogosphere – people I would love to meet one day, some day soon:
I’ve also been tagged by Blue Mist to do this little interview. And though I can’t do it as innovatively as her, I’m just going to do it the only way I know – by being me!
The rules for the tag are:
RULE #1 People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by themselves.
RULE #2 Tag 6 people to do this quiz and those who are tagged cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by continue this game by sending it to other people.
1. If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?
I’d be angry and hurt and extremely so.

2. If you can have a dream come true, what would it be?
I’d dream for a happy home.

3. Whose butt would you like to kick?
Oh, that’s such a long list. To begin with, the government of India.

4. What would do with a billion dollars?
Blow them up: build myself a mansion, indulge in all my silly whims and fancies, travel the world and go back to the places I love, invest so that I don’t have to worry about my old age, give away to a charity.

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?
I did once, and married him.

6. Which is more blessed: loving someone or being loved by someone?
The latter, because when you love someone you give a part of yourself to him/her. But when you are loved, you become whole.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you love?
As long as it’s worthwhile.

8. If the person you secretly like is attached, what will you do?
Continue to like him secretly. And make my peace with it.

9. If you could root for one social cause, what would it be?
It would be women’s rights.

10. What takes you down the fastest?
Lies.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Tough one because I never think of ten years ahead!

12. What’s your fear?
Besides losing my loved one, I fear being a bad mother.

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
Creative, to say the least.

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married and poor?
Single and rich definitely.

15. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously who will you pick?
The person who loves me back more.

16. Would you give all in a relationship?
Yes, there are no half measures for me.

17. Would you forgive and forget someone no matter how horrible a thing he has done?
I’m incapable of such maturity and equanimity yet.

18. Do you prefer being single or in a relationship?
If the relationship is marriage, I prefer being single.

19. List of 6 people to tag:
I’d like to tag some new acquaintances so I can get to know them better.

>What’s your score on the popularity index?

>And if that’s a relevant question for you, let me also ask: would you rather be popular than right? Because sometimes I see people losing the line that divides the two. They lose that distinction between real and fake because they are trying so hard to be popular.

And if truth be told, I’ve done it too: faked a smile, an expression of joy, a familiarity with people where none exists. But friendships? No, those cannot be faked, not by me.
But then, I’m not popular either, you see. And not half as desperate as some others to notch up a few brownie points on the popularity chart to actually fake a friendship.

It’s the art of social networking, I’m told, and the investment of time and energy apart from money of course, pays rich dividends. You throw parties for perfect strangers, lavish them with the best of wines served in the most expensive crystal, open your house to the scrutiny of those strangers, show off your outrageously priced furniture and what-have-you and indulge in some mundane conversations – just so that you can call those strangers friends.

It’s the desperation to be seen with the rich and the famous of your city, to have your name on the invitation list of the high profile parties in town. Don’t mislead yourself to believe that any of that is friendship because friendship isn’t about enjoying meaningless conversations, or pandering to appearances. It isn’t not about toeing the popular line, or mouthing the ‘right’ words. It’s not about using someone’s contacts for your benefits or dropping names to show your clout. It’s not about popularity.

I don’t need to say this, but I want to: friendship is about standing up for a person, about wishing him well, about treating him as more than fodder for gossip. It’s about being able to laugh at somebody’s face and not behind his back. It’s about knowing how you’re different from your friend and accepting him for who he is. But not accepting him for what he is because he’s rich and famous. It’s about being able to tell him he’s without fear of your name being struck off the invitation list to his party.

I may not be popular, but I hope I’ve been a friend.

>What’s a man’s job?

>Or a woman’s, for that matter? And who decides?

Sometimes important questions are raised in seemingly unimportant conversations. Yesterday, one of our banker friends came over for some work. His parents – his mother, more specifically – are running a school in the city for some 700 children. And I candidly asked him if he also helps them out. “I think it’s more of a woman’s job,” he replied without taking a minute to pause and think. The Guy and I reacted with just an amused expression on our faces because The Guy does run a kindergarten school and is designated as Principal there, though he is involved in a lot of managerial level work and teaching per se.

I wasn’t just amused by that reply, I was also slightly taken aback. I know of quite a few men who’ve been excellent teachers, famous and popular as well in their profession. And yet, teaching is a job we usually associate with women. So when I commented on a blog recently about how The Guy gave up his job in the corporate sector to do something of his own – start a playschool – it raised a few eyebrows, appreciative yet surprised. A man taking care of pre-schoolers is seen as unconventional because in her role as a mother and nurturer, a woman is expected to perfectly fit into the shoes of a teacher while a man is expected to be awkward and inept.

But women like me were never made to fit that cast. And men like The Guy do such a good job of it. Why the stereotyping then? Do people forget that the reason we celebrate September 5 as Teacher’s Day in India is to commemorate the birthday of a teacher who was not a woman but a man?

There are other reasons why the teaching profession is highly recommended for women – you go to work at the same time as your children go to school and come back with them. So you can perfect the balancing act between work and home with ease. Because managing home is also such a woman’s job, right? The rationale does not take into account the woman’s aptitude or her ability to be a good teacher. It’s a job that allows our patriarchal society to feel good about letting its women work without compromising on her role at home.

A teacher is such an important part of anyone’s growing up years that it’s unsettling to know that the profession is often deemed as an arrangement of convenience for women – a half-hearted attempt at allowing them to have a career.

It’s quite okay for a man to be a college prof or lecturer, but as a school teacher, he’s not seen as fulfilling his duties as the breadwinner of the family. It’s true that teachers in schools are usually underpaid. However, it’s also true that the education industry in our country is now booming. And a good teacher is much in demand even after school hours, for private tuitions and coachings that have become quite a norm with school-going children these days. Not too hard to figure out that the take-home package for teachers is more than decent now.

The boundaries between what a man can do and what a woman must do are blurring in most professions and there are stories aplenty of women who’ve broken into male bastions: army, stock brokering, real estate and what have you. It’s time now to let the men in to women strongholds.