Friday, July 3, 2020

Well, Well, Well - We're Talking Wellbeing!

(Crossposted from Allsomeness.in - yes, I've launched my coaching venture, check it out!)

Last week, I was invited to hold a session on Wellbeing for a creative organization- we had over a 150 people attend, and it ended up being really productive and even a lot of fun. The founder was personally keen on equipping the entire team with some tools for coping with the current situation – speaking to their Culture team, we discussed how everyone seems to be under stress - with adjusting to working from home with limited domestic help and space, client businesses under pressure - as well as much disturbing news and social media conversation on mental health floating about. It turned out to be really engaging and conversational session despite the large number of people on the Zoom meeting (of course, we had some comical moments that tend to ensue when people leave their mics on by accident) – I had picked some of my favourite tools from my coaching conversations; everyone had their pen and paper handy; we did a series of exercises together, with space for individual reflection followed by people sharing their thoughts.
The four sections in the conversation were as follows - 
1) Taking a Step Back:
We used the Life Wheel for this. The basic idea was that we often get overwhelmed by one aspect of our lives – for example, work – and then we end up missing the big picture. I particularly love the Life wheel because it is so simple, intuitive and clarifying: And in fact, within a few minutes, everyone had drawn their own wheel, which included life areas important to them. We then reflected on few key questions involving their current levels of satisfaction with each area, what needed work, the ideas that came up for them immediately and so on. The folks who shared their findings mostly that it was improvement in personal relationships and self-care around mental health/spirituality practices/meditation that they felt would most impact their overall wellbeing. A sample wheel that one lady shared with me is below - she ticked 'Spiritual' development as her own area of focus.

2) Stepping Within:
The idea here was to reinforce the importance of silence and reflection. We had some active meditators in the group, but the vast majority of folks did not have a regular practice. The main idea of this section was to get them to actually get them to experience a meditative silence for just two minutes – but to do so without self-judgment. When I was learning Transcendental Meditation last year, my teacher drilled it into my head that the process supposed to be effortless. ‘I’ll try to remember that.’ I promised him.  ‘No trying.’ Was his immediate rejoinder. ‘Effortless!’ The penny dropped for me when he told me that thoughts were supposed to be part of the meditative process - so this is what I emphasized to the group before we got into the two minutes silence together. After this exercise, someone shared their realization that the job of the brain is to think, so why attempt to stop it? I agreed, and said that we were going for something else – the awareness that comes from just watching a thought. Another lady shared that she realized from this exercise and the previous one on the wheel that the reason she was in decent shape during the pandemic was because she had invested time in working on her self through her meditative practice, and this has helped her get strength in all other areas. By this time, we were all beginning to sense a theme here.
3) Finding Your Rhythm:
Given that the main issue is the lack of clear structuring of time due to the changed situation of working from home without help ( and often without clear boundaries for personal time), I wanted the group to know that they could create their own rhythm. I shared with the group my concepts of Flow and Pause ( two words that I love so much that I’ve got them tattooed on my own wrists as reminders). For years, I was personally incorporating many flow activities into my schedule ( dance, fitness, writing and so on); and it was the lack of rest and ‘doing nothing’ time that caused me to get really stressed. Things only changed when I allowed myself some time to rest and be unproductive; I also shared my own time-table with the group ( a childish, colourful creation that I’ve stuck on my wall a couple of months ago). The exercise for the group was to identify their own flow and pause activities and commit to creating their own calendar to reclaim their personal time before they burn out. One lady described her favourite pause activity – a cup of tea while curled up with her cat as she stared out the window for a few minutes every evening. The bliss in her voice really made me want to get a cat myself. Some day.
4) Challenging Your Beliefs:
Possibly my favourite section because we had a conversation around limiting beliefs and the Inner voice. In my coaching conversations with so many clients, I’ve found a common theme – so many of us carry around some constant, repetitive self-critical inner chatter and this can really hold us back in so many ways. I am personally quite wary of this inner bully and enjoy the moments when a coachee realizes that this voice is really not their own. So when one lady shared that as a result of a simple two minute reflection on their common self-criticisms and asking the question ‘whose voice is this?’, she was able to realize this: She often judged herself for making a mistake by saying to herself ‘You’re so stupid.’ For the first time, she said, she realized it was her mother’s voice – as a child, she’d heard the phrase used a lot for situations where she didn’t get something immediately. I picked up on the wonder in her voice at this insight, and told her that when the voice did come up, she really had to just notice it – there really isn’t a point in either ignoring or trying to fight our inner bullies. The act of noticing them and realizing they aren’t ours is usually enough to quiet them down so we can move ahead. The last part of this section was a quick evaluation of the four stages of growth as per Michael Beckwith ( Victim, Manifestor, Channel, Being); and we had a discussion around where we thought we are at the current moment, with an invitation to see what it might take to get to the next stage. And ended with a recognition that it’s entirely possible to climb a stage, slip back down, and even go around in circles. I talked about my feeling that I’m often playing a game of Snakes and Ladders myself – making great progress and then finding myself at the mouth of a snake and finding myself at the starting point again. And how that is really okay.
‘Everyone is Okay’ and that ‘Everyone has the resources within themselves that they need to solve their problems’ are two basic principles of both the Solution Focussed Model of Coaching and Transactional Analysis Therapy; it is these principles that first attracted me to both schools, and this was also the basic message of the session. I had to take care to include a last word: while we seek to strengthen ourselves, it is a hundred percent okay to ask for help as well. Whether it’s from a friend, colleagues, manager or getting an intervention such as coaching/therapy – this is the time to recognize that we can not – and need not – always do it alone.
I’m really happy this company is recognizing the need to invest seriously in the wellbeing of their employees – they’ve committed to do these Wellbeing sessions as a series - so it's not a one-time thing.
If more organizations take such initiatives – well, that will mean many more employees will get exposure to the simple, little, oft-ignored ideas that can make a huge difference to the quality of their lives. And that would be pretty awesome.


(If you would like to run a session for your organization, you can reach me at yashodhara.lal@gmail.com)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Living La Vida Lockdown

1. Virtual classes for 3 children. They're great and result in a lot of learning. 

Papad (Indignant): 'You won't believe what the kids in my class keep doing while teacher is teaching! Someone has a dog in their lap! Someone is eating popcorn during storytime! Someone...'
Me : didn't I see YOU eating popcorn?
Papad (casually) : ya, that one was me.


Pickle (Sighing) : 'Such a tough day. We learned SO much stuff.'
Me : what did you learn?
Pickle : I learned a lot about - what's that - oh ya Gattedi - Gattedi.
Me: Umm...
Peanut (all the irritation of older sibling, snapping at her brother) :Oh, for heaven's sake, Galileo Galilei, you moron.

2.  Twin Things

Pickle (waving out at a kid out cycling solo) : Hey, Hey, Victor! Hi!
Cycling Victor-kid : 'Hello there Papad. ( Breezes past and calls back) Or whoever you are.'


Pickle (mournfully): Mom, I have a problem.
Me: Hmm?
Pickle: I can't roast my brother properly. Because if I say he looks like a buttface, it means I also look like one. It's not fair.
Me: You're right. This is a real big problem. Life is unfair.
Pickle (satisfied): Yeah


Papad (in middle of conversation with his sister): ....and I'm Papad, by the way.
Peanut ( snapping, of course): I KNOW who you are.


Me (upset with Pickle): Stop doing that! Just go!
Pickle ( gets angry and locks himself in bathroom).
Me ( calming down): Is your bro still in the bathroom?
Papad ( calmly): Yip.
Me: Is he doing potty?
Papad: Nope.
Me: How do you know?
Papad: I know - because he's locked the door.
(Peanut and me keel over laughing. Papad just doesn't get why its funny)

3. Home Schooling Fails

Me (Finishes long patient explanation): And that's how you calculate averages. Get that?
Pickle: No.
Vijay (Stepping in finally): Pickle, if there are 100 runs in 20 overs, what's the average run rate?
Pickle: Oh Run rate? Five!
Me: !!!
(Papad meanders in)
Me: Papad, do you know averages!
Papad (scornfully): Of course I know averages. It's like if there are three,four,five then four is the average.
Me (soothed by his confidence): Okay, very good.
Papad (whispers) Like Average Kill Streak in RoBlox.


Peanut (after lights are out, quizzing her brothers): Name SIX countries that speak Spanish.
Papad ( Eager): I know I know! Spain...Italy...
Peanut: Oh My GOD! Do you know anything?
Pickle (Emerges from bathroom after pretending to brush teeth): What, what? Ask me.
Peanut: Name SIX countries that speak Spanish.
Pickle (Eager): I know, I know! Spain...Italy...
Peanut: Oh My GOD YOU GUYS.

4. All Seeing, All Knowing 

Papad: What is my teacher calling tomorrow's online meeting for? What is she going to say?
Me (Amazing parent mode on): How should I know? I can't tell the future.
Pickle: But Mom. You're the ONLY one who can tell the future.
Me: Huh?
Pickle: Yeah, you decide if we get any screen time tomorrow or not...if we can play baddy in the house...you can tell the future!

5. Peanut Gets Her Own Back

Me: ...and just because there's a lockdown it doesn't mean that you operate without any sort of schedule and laze around in the afternoons and don't even
Peanut ( leaves the room breezily): Thanks mom. Good talk, good talk.


Peanut: Want to hear something funny?
Me: I'm all agog.
Peanut: I just told the twins about sex-ed class.
Me (trying not to look worried): Well, that's good that you can actually give them a heads up on what to expect.
Peanut ( practically bursting) I told them they'll be invited as volunteers!
Me (getting horrified): For what?
Peanut: You know, to explain the anatomy.
Me: Ummm
Peanut: Oh you know. I told them they'll have to show the class their family jewels. You should have seen how freaked they were!
Me: That is NOT FUNNY.
Peanut: Hahahahahahahahahaha.

I ask her to make a sign for the bathroom door. 



6. The Man of the Family is Always Prepared

Lockdown is announced for next day. Vijay disappears immediately.
Me (calling him on phone) Where are you?
Vijay: Stocking up on supplies.
(Comes home a while later, looking relieved)
Me: What did you get? Bread, Eggs...
Vijay ( looks surprised): Nope. Got my Glenlivet. Phew!


(Every night)
Vijay : (Pours himself a drink)
Me: Every night. Seriously?
Vijay: It's just an appetizer.
Me: But you're in the middle of your dinner right now!!
Vijay: (grins) Cheers!

7. Pickle learns to Email 

Mail 1

Mail 2


Mail 3

Mail 4 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Allsomeness!

Last month, I quit. I quit not just my job - I quit my corporate career.

I have seventeen years in that world, and have been through a range of great organizations - from Unilever ( yes, the 'CEO factory'), Hindustan Times Media Limited, Micromax, Genpact, Dyson, Yum Brands, Micromax. Genpact was the only non-marketing stint I had, leading CSR and Gender diversity - before I went back into the marketing game for the last three years.

I turned forty last month, and just feel so ready to move on. I've had rich experiences and made some amazing friends - but I decided to finally listen to  my inner voice, which was saying I was really meant to do something else with my life. Well, that something else is coaching and more, under the name Allsomeness. Cool name, right? Pretty self-explanatory, but it's meant to indicate you can embrace All of yourself and make life Awesome...which is how it's meant to be.

Allsomeness is going to be based on the vision of helping people discover and reconnect with all their passions, and to design & live the fullest versions of their lives. It will include my coaching services ( I've certified to be a coach in the Erickson Solution Focussed model of coaching, training in the advanced modules last year); and will also be including psychotherapy into the practice ( I'm currently in training in Transactional Analysis, a fascinating field). This coaching and therapy, along with my writing and my public speaking, will be the services that I will offer; and over time, I'll be working towards products and programs in the space too.

I have experience in in crafting a life that lets me live all my passions . Over the last ten years, ever since the fateful July of 2010, things just changed for me- from just being this unidimensional ( and angry) young corporate geek, I'm now a far more multifaceted ( and still angry, to be sure) woman. I managed to continue building on my corporate career, making it to marketing director while still studying yoga, the piano, the guitar, vocals, and training to be a certified coach and a licensed fitness instructor, while raising three children until I realized - I just need to truly figure out a different path for the rest of my life.

So I look back fondly at the 17 years in the world of desks and laptops and colleagues and coffee machines and thank it for everything that it taught me. I want to work with both individuals and groups to help them live full lives; and I'm thrilled to actually be studying psychotherapy - a stated interest for several years but one that I am acting on only now. I'm just glad it would appear that it's never too late.

I look forward to making a difference someday in the space of social impact, too, and my year and a half at Genpact has connected me to the space.  At the moment, though, I'm keen to study the human mind, and see how we operate as individuals and groups and how we can achieve our full potential. And yes - the corporate space, with all its stresses, anxieties and quirks, will be a place of particular interest for me; I would love to work towards a step change in the space of wellness at the workplace - physical, mental and emotional. And to that end, I'm also writing something this year which I hope will really give people insights into the process of rediscovering themselves.

It's been a great run, and I'm thankful for it. And now - onwards to the next decade and we shall see what it will bring. I'm sure it's going to be...Allsomeness!

P.S - what is it about the age of forty that finally convinces many of us it's time to do something drastically different?
P.P.S - does life at fifty and sixty also involve such shifts? Does it get better and better? I hope so.
P.P.S - damn the virus, I can only hope several of us don't have it cut short. But I have to say, it's been a good life anyway. My instructions to the family are to throw a party in place of a funeral for my life. Anyone reading this bears witness. That means you. Thank you! 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

On Writing & Other Things

Dear Lord, has it been almost a year since I updated this thing?

Jeez. I guess I've had a lot going on.

Oh, who am I kidding. I'm just busy with work, and then updating silly things on Facebook these days. It's like something I read in Deep Work by Cal Newport, about a guy who said he could be writing 10,000 emails in a year that didn't eventually matter, or end up with a bestselling novel. Ironically, I couldn't deep enough into Deep Work. Must try and finish it...tomorrow!

Okay, but speaking of Novels hopefully which will be bestsellers....



So this little beauty of a cover will be on the shelves next month, along with some half-day decent writing inside it  ( at least I think so).

Apart from that, what's going on? Hmmm. Well, I'm working in the food industry now and am a few months into a highly interesting job marketing none other than pizzzzaaas, which is just so much fun! That's been keeping me terribly busy, and I've realized that ever since I've gone back into mainstream marketing leadership roles over the last few years, I've had hardly any time to write. This book, Those Days in Delhi, was written originally several years ago during the time that I was on my sabbatical.

I really am amazed by how much I wrote during that sabbatical. Even the sequel to my first book, 'Just Married, Please Excuse' could be out sometime next year IF I get around to actually working on the draft that I had created back then. Happily, my editors have already expressed interest in this sequel and that should theoretically provide me with a lot of motivation to work on it. But I think I have something else whirling around in my mind, and am yet to kick myself hard enough on the butt to get moving on it. From past experience, this will happen when it happens. Or then again, it may not.

At this point, as far as the writing goes, I can pause and take stock -

Just Married, Please Excuse ( 2012)
Sorting Out Sid ( 2014)
There's Something About You (2015)
When Love Finds You ( 2016)
Peanut Has a Plan (2016)
How I Became a Farmer's Wife ( 2018)
Peanut vs. The Piano ( 2018)
Those Days in Delhi ( 2019)

I know what you're thinking. Don't say it. You're thinking 'Hmmm. And what were you doing in 2013 and 2017?'

Just kidding. I remember good ol' Arco of HarperCollins saying to me in 2012 'When it comes to creating a social media presence, do it for your author profile, not for your book. After all, by the time you're 40, you'll perhaps have written five books.'

I'm 39 years old now. That's eight books in the Indian market. It's not meant any financial success at all. In fact, here's what young Peanut had to say about it a few years ago -


 That's right. She wrote 'My Mom is an author and a famous one. We're not really that rich like I expect other famous authors to be.'

Nice, Peanut. Real nice.

She wasn't exactly accurate about the famous part either. Over the years, my books would have reached a few tens of thousands of readers, and look how prolific I've been. But over time, I've also lowered my expectations of money and fame from writing. In fact, it serves me greatly in my professional sphere to be able to keep my author-identity and my work-identity separate. And not worrying too much about marketing and sales when it comes to my own creations is a real relief in so many ways. I wouldn't say anything cliched like 'It allows me to focus on the art form itself' - writing is merely self-expression for me, a great release, and more than anything else a way of just sharing my own imperfections with the world; which I hope in turn helps at least some people also look at their own imperfect lives with a little more humour and kindness and understanding. I think that's enough for me.

What else? Since last year, what has transpired? Vijay is still at it with his farming, resilient in the face of all the strange vagaries of nature, local panchayats, and what not, with some ten acres that he purchased in some obscure part of MP. The kids are doing well - young Peanut is now almost as tall as me ( I cannot believe how time flies), and Pickle and Papad are long-legged bratty pre-teens as well (gasp!). My sister and brother-in-law moved to Dublin, of all places, just a little further along from Gurgaon where they were our neighbours - we visited them last month and the place is just so nice. Wouldn't mind living there, if you ask me. The work scene is interesting and challenging, to say the least, although I will tell you that I can make a fantastic pizza now thanks to three weeks of in-store training ( with many of my friends remarking this is the longest I've ever spent in a kitchen). Music continues, and this year I am apparently going in for a vocal exam - the first I've ever given and my teacher is pushing me straight into Grade 5 (!) - I might fail, but I think it will be fun anyway, since Peanut and I are practising together. The piano and guitar haven't seen much progress, but I've decided that since I have trouble meditating, I'm going to be pretending my music is meditation. Well, it is really. Weekend Zumba and Strong by Zumba continue, although that's sporadic. I think it's largely thanks to practice during my sabbatical that I genuinely don't think any of this is too much. Okay, that's a lie, I have been feeling really frazzled of late, but I feel that it's not so much the doing of all of these things; it's in the thinking about it in a judgmental way 'Didn't practice today...what's the point...when will I ever finish that..and what about....oh dear.' You get the picture.

Sometimes I look at back this video and want to kick this happy smiling sorted version of me in the shins. But then I remember how I was genuinely so excited  to share this idea with the world - the idea that you can do so much more with your life. My happiness actually shines through in this talk, and I meant every word.




By the way, just because I felt like I had a little extra time on my hands, this year I also have got got trained and certified to be a coach. You know - the life coach, executive coach variety? I've currently managed to do about 25 hours of coaching, and am aiming at accreditation sometime next year, but not putting any hard timeline around it yet. I have 6 coachees from different walks of lives and the weekends that I get to sit down with them for an hour or so each are amazing; this simple thing about giving someone the space to just talk and be themselves, it opens up so many insights and is as fabulous an experience for as it seems useful and productive and sometimes, fascinating for them. I feel as though sometime in the future I'll be doing something serious in this space.

Finally - yes, I turned 39 this year. I'm much older and a little wiser than when I started this blog, oh, 12 years ago! And this year I did the best possible thing by way of gifts - I threw myself a party (okay, Vijay did all the actual work), but I curated a list of books that I wanted my friends to give me and each of them sent or bought me 2-3 books - I've got a very, very rich library of books to go through this year. It's such a win-win. They didn't have to think much about what to get me; no clutter in my house with vases and sweaters; no heartburn about getting the wrong gift; no wastage of money because the average outlay was a few hundred bucks. I just wish I'd thought of this several years ago. There's nothing like a great bookshelf to make some people happy.

Which brings it back nicely to the theme of books. I don't know when I'll write next. I don't know what I'll write next. But I do know that I'd like to just do it my way. 'Those Days in Delhi' is an unusual book in itself, very different from my previous ones. It's set in Delhi of the nineties and is a pretty personal tale, told with humour and love, and I'm hoping it resonates with a large number of people, who will relate with the trials and tribulations of growing up as an awkward, middle-class kid. It may or may not sell a huge number of copies. I just hope it makes a number of people laugh and maybe sniffle a little as they are transported back to their own days of summer holidays and peacock feather hunts and climbing mango-trees and being the misfit in middle-school. That's actually enough for me.

Until later.




Sunday, August 12, 2018

Parenting Lessons, Mostly from the Kids


God Vs. Ma

Pickle is very fascinated by an author of funny poems, whose name escapes me at the moment. But he has been reading out poems from a big fat black book to us and one of his favourites is one titled God Vs. Ma - all about the contradictory instructions that children get from God ( play with lovely stray dogs) versus Ma ( don't touch him, be careful). You get the drift.

So the kids were debating in front of me about who's right in general - God versus Mom. And Peanut says slyly -

'Well, you know, that's hard to decide...because God is also very important...and Ma, well, she's here right now and listening so it's hard to tell the truth.'

Thanks, kids.

What's the Time?

At the bus-stop, Pickle displays his usual patience. 'Mom, what time is it?'

'It's 8.15 a.m.' I say automatically.

'How can it still be 8.15?' He demands. 'That's what you said earlier too.'

'Yes.' I admit. 'But earlier was 10 seconds ago.'

'It's not 8.15, mom.' He whines. 'It's LATER and the bus is LATE and...'

'Oh, just give it a rest, Pickle. It'll be here soon.'

'Show me your phone!' He insists.

'No!' I put it out of reach.

'MOM' He grapples for it, and finally grabs my other wrist and looks at the time on my fitness tracker, just as the numbers on it changes.

'See?' He says sagely. 'I TOLD you it was wasn't 8.15!' The bus pulls up just then as he finishes triumphantly. 'And the bus is LATE.''

The kids pick up their bags and run off, and I swallow my irritation and stand waving at them. I silently wish them a good day, but even more, their teachers.

So Good a Tune

We're walking around the colony together, Pickle and I and he's humming to himself, a bounce in his step.

He's enthusiastic but a little tone-deaf and so it takes me a while to figure it out.

'Pickle?'

'Yes Mum?'

'Were you just humming...the National Anthem?'

He beams. 'Yes Mum.'

'Er, why? You know we're supposed to stand at attention with it, right, and...'

He bursts out. 'I can't HELP it MUM it's SO GOOD a tune they made it! Na-na-na-na-mana-adhinayaka..na-na-na...'

He continues to hum the tune, skipping alongside me. I smile and let him violate the rule I don't even know who made up. It's nice that a kid actually likes the tune. It is a pretty cool tune.

Doesn't quite know me yet, but he will

The twins are excited to have been put into the Sports program at school. Which is nice because it helps channel their excess energy, of which they have a lot, and it keeps them at school longer these days which is always nice for me too.

Papad says 'I'm so happy with morning sports! And I made a new friend! He's SO nice and he plays really well, and he was on my team. I like him!'

I'm glad. 'Really? That's great. What's his name?'

Papad looks confused. 'I'm not sure. I'll ask him tomorrow.'

'Well that's great.' I'm always amused how kids don't think details such as names are necessary for establishing friendships. 'Yeah, ask your new friend tomorrow.'

Papad seems to be thinking it's time to confess. 'Actually, he doesn't know I'm his friend yet. But I'll tell him that tomorrow too.'

I stifle a chuckle.

'Yeah, son. Good idea. Do that.'

Bad Parenting

'So, Mom.' Papad says. 'I have a queschun. '

'Okay, what?'

'Is it Man Day Tory to go to college?'

'Yes. It's mandatory.' I secretly marvel at his growing vocabulary even as I swallow my horror at the question.

'But then how will I play football in the World Cup?'

'Er,' I don't know the details here but it's best to nip these things in the bud. 'You can play football in the World Cup and study, you know. You'll just have to make sure you continue to read and study for the exams even while you're on the field, in the bus, and so on.'

He considers this for a moment and then concludes. 'I think I'll just skip college.'

'Oh no you can't.' I say immediately, and then more gently 'It's Man Day Tory, remember?'

'What does that mean, Mom? Will the police come and arrest me if they find out I didn't go to college?'

I know very well what I'm supposed to say at this point.

'Yes, son,' I nod slowly. ' That's exactly what will happen. Best to avoid it.'

It's just easier this way. I'll tell him some other year, if it comes up again.

Making Herself Useful

Sundays are really weird for me. I can't quite wait for the chance to breathe. But when I do get an hour that looks suspiciously free, it bothers me and I become very restless and start tidying up. Just like my mother used to weekends.

Peanut has no such qualms - she can lie about on the sofa languidly for hours, reading or re-reading one of the three hundred books that she has somehow secreted into the house. But right now, she's been in infected by some strange kind of enthusiasm, possibly from her pesky brothers. So she's practicing some sort of Taekwondo kicks by herself in the drawing room, and narrowly misses kicking my ear as I pass her carrying an armful of books to put on the shelf.

'Peanut.' I scold crossly. 'Stop that. And why don't you do something to make yourself useful?'

Peanut stops with the kicks and begins bobbing up and down on the spot itself. 'Okay Mom. Shall I scream because I'm happy? Is that something useful?'

I'm about to tell her off but I open and then shut my mouth.

'Whatever. ' I manage finally, in a gruff manner. 'Go ahead if you must.' I walk away as quickly as I can, get into my ear and cover my ears as the high-pitched squealing begins.

Truth is, that's probably a pretty good way to spend a Sunday.



Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hindustan Times Reviews 'How I Became A Farmer's Wife'

I loved this! View it on Ht.com


Midway through this narrative, one pauses to wonder what the fuss about being a farmer’s wife is all about. In these troubling times when farmers are in the news for all the wrong reasons, no woman in her wildest dreams would think longingly about being a farmer’s wife. Neither did Yashodhara Lal, a working mother of three hyperactive kids, whose life swings between the extremes of managing a dreary boss and a husband in pursuit of creating a steady supply of organic milk from his own farm.

Part memoir and part fiction, How I became a Farmer’s Wife is really about the quest for change, for something different from the repetitive conditioning of urban life. Outwardly everything looks calm, but the turmoil within disturbs life’s rhythms. The comfortable steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurugram with their challenges, the author seems to imply, are like a tea cup with soggy biscuit bits lumped at the bottom to destroy the tea-drinking experience.

In the now familiar genre of tales of techies quitting their high-paying jobs, this story is about the coming to life of Vijay who, only a short while before, was slump-shouldered and resigned to his daily routine. That he found a new meaning in cows and crops is only part of the story; that his better half finds comfort in yoga as she unwillingly pursues a corporate career to help him with his dream is the second part. ‘Why don’t you take up yoga again; you seemed to feel a little better at that time?’ is the subtle advice given by the budding farmer to the lady of the house. Lal successfully captures the change sweeping through her household, the delicate moments, the cheeky encounters, and the weird incidents as she writes of what it takes to be a farmer’s wife.

With the choice thrust on her, there is little the author could do but float in her partner’s dream world of fresh milk and organic gobhi. The list of items coming out of the leased farm did grow in the dream sequence, but it was really only the milk which started flowing with a few packs of organic veggies tossed in. The family was forced into the on-the-job-exposure of getting into farming with some surprising results. Away from tabs, weekly visits to the farm were engaging experiences for the kids. Choosing nature over technology, they learnt to be empathetic towards puppies, cows and the crows. But it did take some getting used to. Jatropha sounded like Jethro Tull to the author, and her children took a fancy to savouring dung cakes. Still, farming turned into an engaging and entertaining vocation for everybody. Despite her initial reservations, Lal soon discovered the similarities between tending to cows and to children, and her sympathy for Vijay translated into unconditional support for him as a farmer.

Written with wit, flair and purpose, How I became a Farmer’s Wife chronicles the mid-career crises that many techies often go through. But farming is not easy, and it soon became clear that comprehending weather vagaries, understanding crop rotations, learning to milk cows, and dealing with rural eccentricity is more challenging than punching keyboards in air-conditioned cubicles.

Towards the latter half of the story, the author realises that success is more than winning the race. Even if the transition wasn’t entirely completed, the experience did create a farmer in her husband and made her accept herself as a farmer’s wife. The passion Vijay exuded and the freedom he acquired lifted the morale of the entire family. As the couple rode out of the farm for the last time, Lal writes that she felt a distinct sense of connection with her husband. Finally, the parallel tracks had begun to merge.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

You Can Take Her Out of the Corporate World...

'When are you going to call that lady about the painting and all?'

We're driving to the mall, and I'm asking Vijay about the ONE thing that I've asked him to do to get our house in better order. Over the last few weeks, I've had someone come in, check out the place and email us a quote.

'Soon, soon.' He grunts, squinting against the sunlight in his eyes. Vijay doesn't believe in sunglasses. He thinks only show-offs wear sunglasses. I am wearing my new sunglasses and turn towards him, exasperated.

'Soon?' I cry. 'You've been saying this for DAYS. I've gone and done all the scoping and pre-work for it...all I'm saying now is step in and just get it done! Call her up today and just fix the start date...I'm travelling anyway so much in the next couple of weeks, you'll have to supervise everything, and...'

'Oh, yes, of course, I will.' He says soothingly, his eyes crinkling even further. He casts an amused glance at me. 'I understand my role better now...so...YOU did all the hard work of calling up someone and getting them to come and submit a quote...and I have the simple task of just actually getting it all executed, right?'

'Right.' I mumble unconvincingly. 'Now, it's just about...'

'Execution.' He swoops in. 'Naturally. All the management decisions have now been taken...now it is just about the rigor, the details, the actual doing of the work...so I must take over. Because as the boss, you just need to set direction and targets and review, right?'

'Don't be so silly.' I say coldly and turn to look out the window.

'You can take Yashodhara out of the corporate world.' My husband muses as we hit the highway. 'But you can't take the corporate world out of Yashodhara.'

'Very funny.'

'No, I'm serious.' He insists. 'It's like...even if I were to tell you...let's just do nothing...you'd still want to see a plan around it.'

'Now you're being...'

'Yes...what has to be done?' He uses a high-pitched whiny voice to imitate my pretend-reply. 'Nothing? But we have to plan for it....(deep voice) Why?....(whiny voice)...Because if you don't plan for doing nothing, how do you know that you might not accidentally end up doing something?...(Deep voice) But, but, no one is going to do anything! ...(Whiny voice) Yes, but unless we do a weekly review to make sure that no one is doing anything, someone might end up doing something! Just put it on my calendar okay, send me a meeting invite...

I glare out of the window ignoring him, while his conversation with himself continues. My children in the back seat aren't sure what the hell is going on, but that doesn't stop them from picking up the gist and laughing along with their father at me. Ha ha ha, Bossy-Mama.

No wonder why some weekends, I can't wait for Monday to be here again.