Thursday, April 21, 2016

Stillness

The tentacles of stillness wrap me tight
It grows around me like a cocoon
My heart beats faster with painful efforts to look out
Promises to be kept, deadlines to scale and agendas galore calling out to me.

I slid my hand around those walls
And learned to enjoy the sweet taste of stillness
Oh why do I even think that I make things happen?
When I can’t even take my next breath if chance had a different plan
Everything blurs out to oblivion
And I try to mend myself in the warmth of stillness.

Like a caterpillar we scurry around
With thoughts on walls scaled and obstacles crossed
But it is this moment of waiting and knowing
That brings out the colors
It is this moment of stillness and humility
That brings out the wings.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tackling the two home/two name compromise that keeps the archaic traditions alive



 I am happy. I realized very early in life that a woman should set boundaries on what is expected out of her if her goal is to be happy.  I have seen enough women who start their married life with compromises only to end up bitter because their contribution to the family becomes a thankless duty. I work because I don't believe in role restrictions in a family. That makes it easier to negotiate my boundaries.

The first time I stayed in my partner's parents' home, he asked me to clear his plates. He asked that with a wink because that is how things are done in his home and though he didn't believe in such roles, he found it inconsequential. I winked back and washed my plates, leaving his dirty plate on the table. 

This might sound silly but I did not want to set a precedent. That seems to have worked in my favor.  

He later told me that he has seen a lot of women who talk about equality  compromise when it comes to such chores or taking the husband's name. That's not how it works for me. I believe that we are two individuals who left their respective families to start a new family together. His parents' home is not more important than my parents' home and our duties are not different. If he is not thrilled to change his name, I am not either and there is no way some one could convince me to do that. 

Will it make sense if we take out the gender part and explain duties that a certain race is good at/supposed to do because that's part of a culture? 'Why do we need X race to lead  when we have Y race with natural leadership qualities. X race is very good in answering the phones. Let's not trouble them with decision making. A natural order is necessary to prevent conflicts'. 

Most of us find this premise insane because our collective ideals denounce racism.  And yet, we are complacent about the roles of men and women in a family unit. Having said that, washing plates is not a big deal in our home. I generally wash the plates when the maid takes leave. He prefers to take up the cooking duty if our cook goes on leave. 

It's been 6 years and we still have not had a single fight that has lasted more than an hour. Granted, there have been disagreements but it never escalates to the point of discord. I believe it's because beyond love, we respect each other and remember to treat the other person the way we would like to be treated. I don't think any individual can be truly happy in an arrangement that treats that person unfairly. There is bound to be internal conflicts even if that person subscribes to that notion of inequality.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Is the single child hypothesis true? Are single children bratty and selfish

There are conflicting theories. That only proves that there is no conclusive answer to this. Individuals respond differently to circumstances and their choices ultimately make them who they are. There is no formula in life that can tell us how exactly things would go down, tying cause and effect. That's the gift or challenge of human life, however we see it.
 
An only child doesn't need to compete at home. This can go either way. The child could get extremely competitive outside to hoard attention to match the attention at home or be content and laid back because there is no need to overcompensate.
 
A child with siblings could learn to fight at home or share and that again depends on the individual in question. There is no way to predetermine behaviors.  An only child could use the same opportunity outside home and appreciate friendships and co-operation more.

I am an only child. I never missed siblings while growing up. But I do remember that my friendships were intense.  I grew up in a regressive society but I did not let that affect me. My internal compass was different. I spent more time with books and in a way that defined my culture. My parents supported my ideologies, even the ones they were not accustomed to. I was idealistic as a child and had complete disregard for consequences.

My parents used to praise me to high heavens while growing up and that did have an impact on me. I sincerely believed that I could succeed in anything I put my mind to and if not, it's probably not something that matters. It's scary to have that amount of confidence. There were times, I felt that I was better than someone or the other. I realized that this attitude could make me an egotist. 
 
I could not bring down my confidence and I dealt with that by raising up everyone else. I trained myself to see the potential in others and celebrate the differences. I don't participate in conversations where someone is called an idiot and I make it a point to not discuss beauty or the lack of it because it's about standards and standards change with time and place. I give myself a free pass to criticize only when hypocrisy or bigotry is in question. I am competitive at work but I also believe in helping others succeed. My circumstances had its own pros and cons but I make those choices every single day. I do slip but I notice that it gets less with time. 
 
Every 'cause' comes with multiple possibilities and the 'effect' doesn't entirely depend on that when other variables are in question. Ultimately, it's up to the individual.

Friday, April 01, 2016

What do you like the most about yourself and why? What would happen to you if that particular attribute was taken away?

Hope
 
It’s crazy how much I believe that everything happens for my own good. I see a silver lining in the direst of circumstances. I have been close to death and actually felt a surge of peace, accepting that death could prevail and that would be alright too.
 
I have never had a nightmare that ended badly.  Night terrors end with the ‘dream me’ praying and divine help lifting me from whatever that was. 
 
//What do you like the most about yourself and why? What would happen to you if that particular attribute was taken away?//

I wouldn’t recognize me if hope is taken away from me. I wouldn't have made the same choices that got me where I am.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

All things are made new!

We welcomed our babies into the fold on June 16th 2015. They share their birthday with the day of Magna Carta and this does open a new chapter in our lives. 





They shall be called Castiel San-Saj (Cas) and Seraphim San - Saj(Raf).
Castiel means Shield of God or God is my cover. It's been a while since I wanted to give a child this name. 
Seraphims are angels that are closest to the throne of God. (Isaiah 6) Sanju chose this name. 

We had decided long back that these would be the names of our children, irrespective of their gender identities.

Incidentally, Isaiah 6 was the Bible reading in all CSI churches in the Diocese the weekend they were born. Isaiah 6 is the only chapter in the Bible with a reference to Seraphims. What a cool coincidence!

Their surname is derived from our first names - Sanju , Sajithra. It was sort of a coin toss on what combination works well. We don't do role playing in our family life and this nomenclature felt natural. They are boys, making it all the more important to teach them that a person's birth identity doesn't limit or determine their options in life. And that starts with their most basic identity, their names.

When we saw our babies for the first time, we instantly knew what to call them. Seraphim cannot lay still unless he is swaddled. Well, not even then - He turns  a complete circle like an arm on an imaginary clock. Castiel is grounded and has very few complaints in life. 


This is Castiel







Cas is a happy, contented baby. He cries only if he gets hungry, gassy, or has got a wet diaper. The best part is he gives back a grateful smile after his problem is fixed. Mostly, he spends his time observing and is content just looking around if he wakes up. He doesn't need anyone as a sleep prop either. His pics look exactly like my baby pics.

This is Seraphim 



Fevicol baby! His left profile looks like Sanju and his right profile is like my dad. It's funny that this is even possible. He soaks in attention and is hyper active. We always find him in a different sleeping position.  He tolerates pain well. He is very particular about  what he wants. He spat out the pacifier and gave a disgusted look when Sanju pushed his finger inside his mouth for fun. 

Having babies at home mimics the initial days of falling in love. It's intense and consuming. Like all relationships, the success of this relationship  depends on how we manage this well to become better versions of ourselves. It's hard to stop obsessing and making the children the center of our life. However, a needy, obsessed  party sets up the stage for unhealthy dependencies and resentments later on. I don't want them to grow up into entitled kids either just because their family revolves around their whims. 

It's a privilege to be in a position to craft these little people. I hope they get their moral compass around the golden rule of treating others the way they would like to be treated. My dream is for them to grow up into mighty individuals who are comfortable with the way they are-Talents are no reasons for pride and shortcomings are no reasons for guilt.  Here's hoping that they work hard to become the best that they can be and have fun while they are at it. 

Welcome to the world, babies! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What happened after the Monkeys and Ice water spray experiment?

Most of us have heard of the Monkey, Banana, and Water spray experiment.

Is there a chance of a better ending? How can companies transform employee behavior when caught in this vicious cycle?
1) Change the standards

A major lesson from history is that no heroes are responsible for their success. Not entirely. The factor that governs what it means to be successful is the prevailing standards. The culture just follows suit. I wrote this poem a few months back.
The play of chance, the hand of times
Distracts our eyes from what it hides
Hunter in an Industrial Age
Writer facing the Dinosaur's rage
Flip the centuries, the Heroes fall
Yet the world is snared by illusion's trawl

All we know is the scale of standards
Pity what’s different, judge what threatens
Fear the outlaws or discredit with slanders
Worship the Heroes, scorn the strays
And continue till time tilts the scales
You can go here if you would like to read the entire poem. The crux is, the company is still in charge of introducing the variables into the experiment.
What happens if you introduce a new ladder and dangle a bunch of bananas on a rope? This will confuse the monkeys. When a monkey gets the courage to reach up, offer this monkey a new Reward too as a Bonus. Introduce multiple ropes with bananas so that there are enough Bananas for the monkeys to reach.
Lesson: Fine tune the standards of Rewards and enable people to set their own goals

2) Change the setting

The Organization is still in control of the environment
Grab 2 monkeys and place these monkeys in a different setting. Have a new trainer monkey to reinforce good behavior. Protect the trainer monkey and punish with ice water spray if the monkeys try to disrupt. Keep doing this for a week. After the monkeys learn this new behavior, put them back in their old setting. This time, place a barrier between the 3 monkeys that remained in the old setting and the 2 monkeys that learned new behavior. Repeat the experiment for a week.
Lesson: Train people and leverage them to influence others

3) Change the consequences

The pack of monkeys continues this behavior because they don’t see a negative consequence for their behavior. Bring a new monkey and introduce the ice water spray whenever they try to pull down the new one from climbing up the ladder. Continue the experiment till the monkeys learn about consequences. Go back to experiment 1 and change the standards. . When the standards change, culture follows.
Lesson: Evaluate people with the right goals and help them understand the concept of consequences to justify their potential.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Why emotions carve the political landscape in Tamilnadu?

Self immolations in Tamil Nadu when ADMK supremo Jayalalitha was arrested raised a lot of questions.  This was certainly not the first instance. A similar account can be found in the Wikipedia page on MGR "His death sparked off a frenzy of looting and rioting all over the state... The police had to resort issuing shoot-at-sight orders. Tamilians from Bangalore rushed to Madras in trains to see the mortal remains of MGR. Government had announced free train facility for this visit. The violence during the funeral alone left 29 people dead and 47 police personnel badly wounded. This state of affairs continued for almost a month across Tamil Nadu. Around one million people followed his remains, around 30 followers committed suicide and people had their heads tonsured"

Why emotions carve the political landscape in Tamilnadu?

Language plays a major role in the way we think and behave much more than we give it credit for.

A few years back, I read a study by Lera Broditsky, Professor in Stanford on how language determines thought process, values, knowledge, and behavior. HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK?

Her research includes her experience with Kuuk Thaayorre, a tribe in Australia. Their language has a lot of spatial words that are imperative to constructing a sentence (Equivalent to 'Move your cup to south, south west', 'Your north-west leg' etc). This forces them to stay alert on spatial attributes because they cannot communicate without that. She found them to have a very high level of spatial cognition.

Broditsky conducted an experiment asking people to arrange shuffled pictures to show temporal progression (E.g. a man aging). She found that native English speakers arranged the pictures from left to right and Hebrew speakers tend to arrange the pictures from right to left. People from the tribe Kuuk Thaayorre arranged the pictures from east to west. That is, when they were seated facing south, the cards went left to right. When they faced north, the cards went from right to left etc. and they were always aware of their spatial orientation.

Tamil as a language encourages valor, sacrifice, loyalty, idealism etc. at the cost of survival. If a native tamil speaker is not exposed to any other language, the language imparts such values with a higher intensity.

My husband, a Malayali values survival and that has to do with his language too. He is fluent in Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi, English, and can manage a conversation in Tamil and French. That does enable him in adapting to change better. Learning a new language or being exposed to other languages has a unique way of balancing us. Allowing our brain to consider different ways of thinking tempers intense beliefs.

Tamilians are fiercely loyal about their language. The unique vocabulary and the values it espouses shape one's thinking. Tamil was my second language in school and I found it intoxicating. The Heroes of Tamil literature valued Courage and Truth above everything else. They were always ready to lay down their life for a cause. Shrewdness was considered cowardice. The followers of the thalaivan (Head) followed him with intense loyalty. Death was the only choice if survival meant dishonor. Tamilians who know additional languages are less intense.