Tuesday, August 4, 2015

All the things you miss about pregnancy – once it is behind you!

A few days ago, I was at a mall when I happened to observe several pregnant women. I have this hypothesis that these happen in cycles. Like there are times when I see so many expectant mothers, and times when I don’t seem to know any one on the journey to motherhood. As a mother today, that phase of life is behind me. However, I thought why not go back on memory lane and list down what any woman misses about pregnancy when it is behind her.
  • That one thought which all women go through “Am I ready to be a mother” or “Will I be a good mother!” – Almost every pregnant woman goes through phases, feelings and thoughts of self-doubt. Well, let me tell you once you are a mother, you just are a mother. There is no time to think, prepare or judge. You just got to do the job – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year! Sigh! So, well you are a mother. Period.
  • Eat what you want, when you want and how you want without a care in the world. You can do it at any time in life – but let me tell you it feels 200% right when you do it during pregnancy!
  • People checking on you randomly – friends, family, neighbors, etc. – to ask if you are feeling OK! After that, all calls / messages are usually for the kids!
  • Random stories, unsolicited advice and feedback – The number of pregnancy stories, tales, myths is countless. But now, I miss them as they would always make you really wonder if there was any truth in them at all
  • A view of the aspiring-astrologers (future / fortune tellers) in your network – Every one wants to predict if it is a boy or a girl. Come on! There’s a 50% chance that you are right. Then, those whose predictions came true will claim credit for the rest of your life Ya! Like they played a part in the pregnancy!
  • Natural glow on your skin – There is something about what pregnancy does to you as a woman that brings out a beautiful natural glow – I don’t know if it is the hormones, happiness or something else. But it shows!
  • Sharing notes with pregnant mothers – Again, what you can share / talk and express is best left for behind closed doors! But I think women open up and lose a lot of inhibitions at this phase of life
  • Never ending photography sessions – when people fuss on you to take your pictures
  • Getting assistance even when you may not need it. Who does not like a little extra help and attention. Anyways with chivalry / sympathy / empathy in the list of dying virtues – So this does feel good
  • Saying what you want to say – and getting away with it – without an explanation or care in the world. Hormones speak more than they should – Many times!
  • Doing what you want to do – and getting away with it – without an explanation or care in the world. Again, Hormones (mis)behave more than they should – Many times!
  • Getting your spouse to fulfill any (and every) whim and fancy – After that, you have to wait till your kids start talking and route in the requests to Papa / Daddy 
  • Tell yourself “It’s OK! I’m doing this for my child” when actually the only reason you are doing it is to satiate yourself
  • Indulging in ‘retail therapy’ – with the pretext that you’ll never really be the same again! From experience, I can say that neither you nor life will ever be the same again!
  • Baby shopping – The joy in buying the first baby clothes or baby stuff. I still remember the very first attire I bought for my baby, and I know I will keep it with me for a long long time!
  • Doctor Visits / Scans – As much as many of us don’t like visits to the hospitals, this is one time when you look forward to meeting your doctor so she says “All is well“; not to mention – the rendezvous with your baby through the scans!
  • Genuine attempts to make positive changes in life / lifestyle – Again, almost all mothers I know promised / swore to make positive changes in their life / lifestyle for their kids and future. I don’t think anyone kept it beyond pregnancy.. But whatever! It is the hope and intent which counts
  • Playing a part in co(-creating) life – There is some unexplainable magic! While you may understand the physics, chemistry and biology in creating human life – The divine element of creation is beyond human comprehension
As I sign-off, I can say this – It is possibly one of the most memorable phases of life.. The ending of one chapter.. And beginning of a new one.. With the birth of your child, you are a new YOU!

What do you miss the most from those bygone pregnancy days? Leave a comment to let me know

A version of this post was first published on WomensWeb

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Being a startup mentor at StartUpPulse - An Inc42 event

Last week, I was an invited mentor to the Startup Pulse event, organized by Inc42 . It was an interesting experience for me personally. 

Here's why?
1) From the start of 2015, I've been keenly following the India start-up ecosystem, and keen to play a part. This was my first opportunity to do that!
2) I was the only woman mentor to be part of the 16 mentors! :)
3) Looking back, this opportunity landed at my door-step purely by the power of my writing and networks. So there is power in words and the power in networks.

Some lessons I took away from the event:

1) Dream Big, The Vision Matters | Key to taking the start-up route is to dream big, and think of how your idea can solve a problem, change the world and make a difference. Others might not agree / support, and that is probably the best indication that you are on the right path

2) Understanding the overall "business/ financials" is important | You need to know how to make money, and how to make money work for you. Some comes from learning and some from experience. But key is to stay on top of numbers

3) The idea matters, But execution even more | So you need to have a great team to take your idea to reality. Invest in the right founding team. That can be the only reason for you to have a fair shot at success

4) Women Entrepreneurs rock | I'm also totally amazed to see a new breed of no-nonsense women entrepreneurs who know what they want and how to get there.. Totally kick-ass women, and first time I am seeing many of them - who are surely but steadily growing their businesses...

5) Embrace Technology | I'm always happy to see how so many solutions are based purely on the power of technology . Some of them have used it in ways that will really blow your mind. I love how so many innovative mobile apps are coming up every single day! I also love how there are so many "marketplace" apps.. Like neither do they own the consumers / suppliers - They just build platforms to bring everyone together - from art, to education, to legal help.. range / diversity is awesome...

6) Age Matters | Average age of founders is between 24 to 30 years. Mostly single / newly married. I think your risk taking appetite reduces with age, unless you have nothing really to lose

7) Personal Finances should be planned | Don't get into loans, EMI's, etc. / buy things you don't need / can't afford. 3 years don't expect to take home too much, Have a fund to take care of regular expenses.. That way, you are not worrying about how to pay the bills..

Just my thoughts. Comments welcome..

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Open Letter for the case of India's Retired Workforce

First published on Huffingtonpost

According the 2014 World Fact Book, 5.8% of India's 1.2 billion population is above the age of 65 years. In terms of absolute numbers, that is 7,19,43,774 people. A vast majority of these individuals have retired from active employment. Many of them suffer from health issues, but somehow keep going through the rain and shine. What other options do many of them really have?

I observe and converse with many of these men and women at various occasions -- be it a social gathering, at the apartment community events, at the supermarket. They are (extended) family, friends of my parents/in-laws, my friends' parents or my children's friends' grandparents. They are diverse in terms of what they did in their past avatars in life -- from corporate executives to scientists to bankers to teachers to members of the armed forces to entrepreneurs to merchants to hoteliers...

As I ponder about this group of people, I consider some of the defining characteristics that are unique to this generation.  One, they have time at hand in an otherwise time-deficit economy. Two, they have real-life experiences and wisdom, which is invaluable.  Three, they've completed most of their key life responsibilities in terms of their children and family.

"They want to do something more meaningful and constructive with their time and life. They just don't know what and how."

Yet, many of them lack a purpose in life.

Purpose is that one thing which makes you want to get out of bed every day. Purpose is that fuel which energises you. Purpose is what keeps you going when all the cards are stacked against you. Purpose is that catalyst which helps you cross the chasm. The minute purpose goes out of your life equation, there is a void.

I sense this void in them too.

They want to do something more meaningful and constructive with their time and life. They just don't know what and how.

They want to share their knowledge, experience and wisdom of life. They just don't know who will listen and how to get them to listen.

They want to make a positive difference in their sphere of influence. They just don't know how to go about it.

Many of them expect very basic "compensation" for their time, advice and guidance. For starters, some respect, attentiveness and warmth. They also tend to value simplicity in transactions and operations - for example, they'd rather do what they have to do from within the confines of their homes.

On the other hand, I see  younger generations, who believe they are somewhat cool and hot in very many things. Yet they seem to be missing a warmth?

I see nuclear families (with mothers that work and not) that are struggling to raise their children, are torn between the traditional and modern because there is so much to do and so little time at hand. But missing out on an well-meaning guidance and support on a daily basis?

I see a vibrant start-up community and ecosystem in India. They have ideas, dreams, aspirations, passion, an appetite to try and take risks. But missing in experience, mentorship, practical wisdom and foresight?

When I look at the younger and older generations, I think they beautifully complement and supplement each other. What one has the other does not. What one gives the other desires to get.

All that is needed is to bring these worlds together. How? With the power of technology. The answer is really a marketplace ecosystem which brings potential opportunities to the retired workforce. So what does this mean?

For the retired workforce
Step 1: Register with your profile/skills.
Step 2: Search for any opportunity where you think you can/are keen to help.
Step 3: Help in whatever way you can.

On the other side, to post opportunities
Step 1: Register with your profile.
Step 2: Post an opportunity description with what exactly you need.

Sounds simple right? In reality, I know it is way more complicated. Things like background check, validity of the person/group, trust, etc. will need to be addressed.

But here's the thing -- there is an opportunity, be it for businesses, government or even innovative technology solutions. Right?

And whoever addresses this opportunity will be sure to amass the goodwill and blessings of very many. Is good karma lucrative enough? I don't know.

What do you think? Leave a comment to let me know!

Dedicated to D and all those men and women who continue to live their purpose irrespective of age.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Being "THE" Mother-in-law | The Good, Bad and Ugly

A friend of mine delivered a baby boy. As the good news spread among friends and family, the congratulatory words started pouring in. Some wished the couple for becoming parents. Many expressed their joy and happiness that the couple was blessed with a “son”, and a few expressed their emotions by telling her “Congrats! You’re going to be “THE” Mother-In-Law”. When I first heard this, I laughed. And so did my friend. So “You’re going to be “THE” Mother-In-Law. Just what kind?” I asked her. “I don’t know what kind, but not the kind of my Mother-In-Law” she said. We laughed about it!

A couple of days later I met another acquaintance (who has a son of marriageable age) and I observed behavioral changes in her. She appeared to be more serious, grumpy-faced, and uptight – which is not her usual personality. During idle-chat I asked her if all was well. I gathered that she is preparing herself to play the part of a mother-in-law! “In our community the mother-in-law has to be a certain way, so I figured it made sense to start preparing to be that way” she said. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

Another good friend of mine recently became a mother-in-law. Soon after her son’s wedding, she lost her spouse. She was broken. Her son and (extended) family meant everything to her. And I know for a fact that she put a lot of effort to bond with her daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, it never happened and her daughter-in-law made every effort to maintain a distance. It hurt my friend deeply and she asked me “Is this about me? Or it is about my daughter-in-law? Why can’t my bahu understand that family is all that I have left, and the relation with my son means the world to me?” I did not know how to respond.

I had it tough, so I don’t want my daughter-in-law to have it easy. I’ll do whatever it takes to make her life tough” said one mother-in-law. And another wise old lady I know said “Don’t call her daughter-in-law. She is like my daughter. I will do everything in my capacity to love her, accept her and make her life beautiful”

I’ve also seen (up close and personal) "THE" mother-in-law publicly criticizing and condemning her daughter-in-law. No matter how good she is and what she is doing, the mother-in-law will find some fault – from the daughter-in-laws dress, to food, to habits , to style, to family, to upbringing, to education, to value system, to name, to personality, to skills, to communication, to expressions, etc.. It amazes me how some of these women can find always a point of critique , and be so vocal in their public expression of the same. Too many friends have been deeply affected (mentally / emotionally) by these rebukes. Many of them feel humiliated, insulted, hurt and deeply embarrassed that they lose their self-confidence or start believing these factoids to be true. For e.g: A very good looking friend of mine got married into a joint family set-up where the mother-in-law always told her “I don’t know what my son agreed to marry you. Your features are lousy. You are so fat, dark-skinned and don’t look appealing”. At first she ignored these comments. But when she heard them every day, she started believing it to be true. Her spouse was silent during these discussions. That only re-enforced this belief system. She became so negative and depressed that she even started avoiding social gatherings. Fortunately, her family / friends sensed something was amiss, and helped her tide through the phase.

Looking at my own friend’s network, I observe that almost all my married friends have been influenced in some way or the other by their mother-in-law. I mean if you are in India, marriage means marriage of two families. So your in-laws are bound to be an influence in your life – You cannot escape it! In some cases the influence has been positive and many married women are at a happy place – Like someone I know discovered her love for cooking through her mother-in-law, someone else was introduced to music and art because of her mother-in-law, someone has a fashion designer in her mother-in-law, some have found their philosopher and guide in the mother-in-law, some have a friend in the mother-in-law, some has a teacher / Guru in the mother-in-law. Such tales are far and few though!

In most instances there is some “negative” emotion from both ends – be it disappointment, bitterness, animosity, hurt, jealousy, insecurity, etc. – and I’ve seen these emotions in the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law. Many times I wonder “Why?”. I mean a women should speak up, stand up and support another woman, but many times women tend to be each others “frenemies”.

Below reasons emerge as strong causes:   
  • Dealing with change in the family with the introduction of a new member – this means change in lifestyle, everyday routines, habits, priorities, interests and time. Everyone needs time to adjust and adapt
  • The “power equations” change – when the mother-in-law does not know how much power and control she will continue to exert on her son, and the daughter-in-law trying to exert her influence on her spouse / family
  • Fear of future, and need to set precedence today – The uncertainty of what the future will entail, and how everyone starts the relationship today will set the way for the future
  • Need for respect – one of the key aspects of marriage and relationships is the need to be respected. The thing about respect is that it needs to be earned. The other thing about respect is that its definition and manifestation is changing. So earlier, respect was a function of age. Respect meant you don’t question. Today, respect is really a function of how someone perceives you. And how they respect you is very personal to their value system – so it may feel right to the daughter-in-law to question age-old traditions which don’t seem logical or make sense.
  • The “Love” equation has more variables – There are indeed many types and ways to love. The mother’s love has its own defining characteristics, but so does the love between a couple. So the need to find a “love” equation with more variables, but yet balanced enough to keep things intact is important
As I sign-off, I leave with one parting thought | It takes effort from everyone to make a marriage work – the man, the woman, the mother-in-law. And the father-in-law plays a part too!

What do you think? Leave a comment to let me know…

First published on WomensWeb

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Published on NewsCred | Content Marketing Lessons from crafting 3000+ posts

So proud to be published on NewsCred​ | ContentMarketing Lessons from crafting 3000+ posts

For those who don't know, NewsCred is a leading global content marketing platform. I have been following them for several months now, Their content is awesome! They publish some amazing and unique insights and perspectives with contributors from all over the world, and are associated with top brands like Pepsi, Toyota, Visa, Cisco, etc.

From being a loyal reader to now being a contributor ; journey has been amazing.. -   And the learning continues...