Help – in the Indian context

A friend asked me “Do you have help?”.

She was actually implying how I manage my job , family and a toddler .

I said yes, I have a cook and a maid. And the friend says ” That’s good ”

A few minutes of her asking that question, I sat down to write this blog note

When people ask this question, they usually mean ” Do you have some one that can help”

Is that all I wonder ??? Is help only in the form of additional hands ??

Of course, having that trust worthy someone, that can manage a home and the baby and allows you to whole heartedly pursue a career is indeed a bliss or a dream… How many of us have that luxury ???

A lot of working woman have that arrangement , where either set of grand parents take turns to take care of a baby and manage the home, while the lady gets to worry only about her career and job.

A lot of friends tell me , the grand parents manage the child and the child’s entertainment. The young couple takes care of “earning the money” and “keeping their career” without much alterations or major adjustments post baby. And that means not having to worry about groceries, bills, about refilling gas cylinders on working days, daycares, the associated illness that comes with sending kids to daycare etc.

Well ! we don’t fall into that category and hence this post.

As a working woman in her mid 30’s,it matters to me that I raise a child that is cared and loved for, it matters a lot more that I have a career that I am happy about, that I am not giving up my job because I had a baby. It also matters a lot that I have personal relations intact with my family, ensuring that I get back into a home which is not a bachelor pad ( and that means I am not entering into my house just to sleep and wake up to rush to work, that the fridge has edible food and not rotten stuff that was forgotten to be taken off and thrown away because I was too busy with work).

If I chose to do what I did for many years at work, since it gives me comfort and gives me some flexibilities such as a work from home occasionally – Isn’t that a help??

But if I am adamant, worry a lot about my career and make a move and take something very challenging that involves late working hours and travel ,it might help my career a lot. It might boost my confidence and make me happy. But it would not help my family at all. We would suffer if I am not home by 7 P.M at least. If I work weekends, we might have to leave the kid at an all day program on weekends too.
So while it helps my career, it gives a lot of headache and some friction in my life and lots of guilt … So is that help at all????

A few days back I talked to a very good friend, an ex-colleague, who left a very accommodative team because she wanted to grow technically.The price she pays for it is by working 7AM – 7PM , saturdays and sundays , once per month. She is told by her boss she is not very accommodating . This girl travels from Vijayanagar to Marathahalli and leaves office by 6 P.M so as to reach home at least by 8 P.M. . I asked her , “but aren’t you adjusting by working weekends? What more do they mean by “not an adjustive kind” Do they mean any shift, any time of the day ??????
To boot, she is a working mom and manages because she stays with her in-laws.She does not get a work from home.

I guess the word “Help” is so complex in modern Indian homes where women pursue a career and manage pretty much on their own

A help would mean

-Knowing to drive a car and staying independent
-Staying closer to work so you manage time more effectively
-Having a accommodative boss/team
-Work that you are familiar doing, or at the least that allows you to go home to see your kids before their sleep time !!
– A day time work ie a 9-6 PM or 7PM and not a night shift or UK , AUS or US shift !!!! because daycares don’t open before 8 AM in the mornings and they close by 7 P.M
-A accommodative team.. after all who wants to work with bitchy men and women all day??? and then worry and lose sleep and mind on it
-It could be a maid that shows up on time
-A cook that doesn’t mind waiting if you are late from work

..and above all

-A spouse that respects you and your career !
-In-laws that respect you and your career
-A spouse that can pitch in day-to-day tasks such as giving baby a bath, engaging him/her while mom is busy at work

So there you see, the word HELP is so complex.

I actually begin to wonder what do I reply when someone poses me that question !!!



Last evening, I decided to walk down to a near by Reliance fresh store to stock veggies and curd since my in-laws were arriving late in the night

And I decided to walk back home with all the load hanging from my right arm. Thank god my son wasn’t around.

The walk back was very tough indeed.

And as I was getting closer to home, I was stopped by a young lady and she asked me if I need a lift.

“I saw you from a distance ” . “I have done something like this before and I know its tough she says”

And she offers me a ride uptil a point closer to home.

When she asked me actually the first time, I really didn’t expect someone to stop , wait for me to catch up and help me. I was stunned. That moment , the thought I had was “Who is she? Does she know me . Is she from my apartment”

“Are you sure,this load will not fall off” I asked her, as I sat on her scooty . and there you go within a minute I reached closer to home !

..and I was so thankful and amazed at this passer by 🙂

Water woes

This summer has been bad for most parts of Bangalore.For the past few weeks, our taps have been running dry.This I get to realize more during the weekends . So while I waited for the water to show up , I was reminded of a dry situation I experienced while staying in Hyderabad.

Having grown up in a town which was famous for coal mining , we never once faced a water crisis.In fact there was a surplus of water , almost all houses had a huge garden that was well watered on a daily basis.

And then Hyderabad happened.The bore well went dry in the house that I had rented.Me and my roommate, you could gasp in disbelief, we actually managed a good 15 days or so by having a shower in the office gym every morning.We were single, so really didn’t have to worry too much.Office provided lunch and dinner.And all we needed was a few buckets. And I remember standing with a bucket early one morning at a road side tap . To this day, I remember a neighbor making way for me since I belonged to the IT crowd !! 🙂

On my way to work , early mornings these days, I see colorful plastic buckets lining road side taps, a crowd gathering and awaiting?? fighting for its turn . These plastic buckets and the crowd reminds me of my Hyderabad days.

The Hyderabad house also housed a small family, that had a house wife and a small baby.I remember how she fumed . It took a long time for the owner to dig another well to salvage the situation.None of that house wife’s condition made sense at that point of time.We managed because we came home only to sleep.

Today I have a family to run, food to cook, clothes to wash , a toddler to be bathed and cleaned .

And today after many years, I remembered the water crisis in Hyderabad and the house wife.And today, I gave a thought to all those women in my apartment complex who battle this every day.How tough and frustrating can it be for them!

Breaking away from stereotypes…

“Do you cook A” ?? Do you cook a typical Indian meal ???at all??

“Indian marriages expect a certain degree of socializing”. I mean with sis-in-law,in-laws, etc …so how you managing”

“Don’t you want to have babies”

Boy !! I bombarded her with questions , carefully reading her expressions so as not to hurt her or let her feel I am probing too much.

Whatever be the kind of marriage you may have had, be it arranged or love, Indian women are expected to fulfill some basic requirements out of a marriage such as raising a child, interacting well with the extended family, visiting them
every once in a while .. With the above list, I have tried to remove the not-so-essential ones such as visiting temples, staying with in-laws,lighting a lamp etc . But with what I have experienced and seen around, whether you work or don’t, Indian women are expected to have a baby, manage a family to say the least.

So how can someone that is silent, quiet, non-engaging and into herself fit in?? I wondered

My friend from college is one such girl.Somehow who is extremely quiet, non-engaging, prefers to be on her own, engages in reading and listens to her choice of English music and has immense interest in studies and research and is generally happy being on her own. And knowing her as a roommate for a good 4 years, its only now I thought hard how some one like her would find it to fit in a typical Indian family or marriage.

But I am glad. Glad because she has chosen her own path , not every one takes often.She did her Masters, only to realize that all she wants to do in life is study and do research. So she went ahead to do a Phd from a US university.Now after 14 years of having passed out of college , she now teaches in a US university, continues her study and publishes papers .

She went ahead and had a court wedding that lasted 2 minutes, she says.Again something I admire, because standing among unknown relatives and friends , draping in 6 yards of silk and an equal amount of gold and glitter is so unlike her.She chose to marry the man she met in university. And she got married at 34 to some one who pursued studies in the same university and was a very good friend she says. Today they both teach and pursue research. They don’t plan to have babies. They have a cat for company that strayed into their home. Neither her parents, nor her M-I-L interfere in their daily affairs.

Boy !!am I glad for her. I know her well, I breathed the same air as her in that tiny hostel room .So I know her better than anybody else did at that point of time

I am glad that this country has a new generation that is breaking away from stereotypes and doing what suits them.

And I admire her parents and her mother-in-law all the more. How many parents and in-laws do you find that let their kids solve and manage their lives on their own.

…And that is why in many posts of mine I said new India is changing. Oh!wait.She ain’t staying in India.

Will India allow young Indians to pursue what they truly love.Will India allow young woman to pursue studies well into their 40’s?, to respect their choices on marriage and raising children

The answer is obvious. No wonder a lot of young Indians chose the West, for the liberty and the respect it offers for the choices they make.

..And some self praise, she said I made the best room mate.Seems 14 years after college, now , when she met her mom, she told her that no one else but me (ie V) would have adjusted with her !! that made me all the more glaaaaad!!

And I realize college friendship is not about breaking into peels of laughter for silly jokes, or talking about boys, or sharing dirty jokes or talking about crushes.It can also mean relationships such as these where the words spoken are very less , yet intense.

The roads of Bengaluru

Did you ever have a day where a seemingly normal or innocent act can turn into something that is headache inducing , so much so you shudder to think about the consequences.

A few days back, I asked my cab driver to drop me at Bannerghatta road. I don’t pick my child from daycare everyday.His father does that.So I thought it will be nice to give my son a surprise and watch his face bright up if he sees me in his class in the evening.I pick him up, his face brightens up, I engage in talk with the class teacher, me and my son went to Spar which is next door to the daycare.We did some light shopping which in fact wasn’t essential at all.Even as we got our billing done, the husband turned up and waited at the daycare with the car for us to finish.He hates the Bannerghatta road , especially the narrow road leading up to the daycare which is a nuisance for vehicles to be parked.There have been days when he has received a ticket as well from the inspectors.There is no way you can park a car on Bannerghatta road and then pick a child and get moving.If you live or work around the Accenture area, you know what I am talking about.

And then the worse happens. A mini truck that was loaded with car oil , overturns just next to the car while the driver tried to climb a ramp.The mini truck narrowly misses our car and luckily does not hurt anyone around(this is evening pick up time , many parents land at the daycare , too many cars/autos/two wheelers etc). All the contents land on to the road.The narrow road now becomes even more messier and it takes additional 10 min to reverse the car and then get on the main road.

Had the truck landed on our car, or spilled its oil, well !! stopping those thoughts right there

Yesterday, the cab passed by BTM layout and as we waited at a residential colony for the traffic jam to clear up, we watched a family go furious at a motorist who landed on their car. This guy was conveniently using the walk path to drive on, due to the traffic pile up. And I wonder why a family would park their car on the foot path that was meant for pedestrians.

Last evening, the cab driver , had to apply sudden breaks. I landed with my hand forcibly on to the the front seat and had a bad ache on my left hand all evening.

The cab driver thinks you never know what you may encounter on Bengaluru roads. And I cannot agree more with him !