08 December, 2015

Pollution Free Delhi

Respected Mr. Chief Minister,

Heard your radio spot on Radio One today and felt the urge to write in.

I have been born and brought up, studied and worked, married and had a child, and have basically spent 36years of my life, solely in Delhi. I love my city and have nothing but pain in heart, since the past five to ten years, as I noticed that we can't even see the stars, feel the 'sardi ki dhoop', pull our windows down in the car instead of wasting fuel on the AC anymore. If you go to any major crossing, you can really feel your lungs getting filled up with smoke. My 5years old daughter, born and brought up here, has several pollution-related ailments, for which we have had to keep her on medication for the past 2 years or so, in spite of the fact that she was born, in perfect health. As a lifelong resident, I would like to humbly request you on a few things.

1) Private owned as well as public transport vehicles in Delhi have been kept in check for years now, thanks to the 'pollution under control' certificate system, as well as CNG switch in case of all public transport.
2) The vehicles that still do not comply to the pollution-under-control norms are the following:
a) trucks
b) tempos
c) auto-sized tempos used to transport goods to grocery shops
d) government vehicles (ambassadors, gypsies, etc.) that have not been phased out still, while for personal/private owned vehicles makes of these years were outlawed ages ago
e) earth moving vehicles (concrete mixers, excavators, heavy machinery used to make roads, demolition trucks, garbage trucks, tow-trucks, etc) that (and the government ambassadors, gypsies etc.) clearly exhaust BLACK smoke, if you have ever seen one
3) Most ministers travel with a convoy of cars with them. Why waste so much fuel and cause pollution for a single person's commute? Do they find their own nation's capital not safe enough for them? Why not cut back to just one car per bureaucrat/ diplomat, with the exceptions of the PM and President?
4) All the construction work which has been going on SIMULTANEOUSLY in Delhi, for several years now. Be in Metro construction, rebuilding government buildings, roads, private kothis, DDA flats, etc. All have been the only major contributors to the Suspended Dust Particles that we have all become so familiar with. If you park your car anywhere around South Extension for five minutes, you'd come back to a car covered in very fine dust!
5) The garbage-collectors (safai-karmcharis) are constantly burning organic as well as inorganic trash. Even in affluent colonies like GK1. I shudder to I think about waste-disposal systems (or the lack of) in less than affluent localities.

So, instead of trying the completely impractical odd/even system, can we take care of the above mentioned first?

Reasons why odd/even system are impractical:
* My sister travels to work from South Extension to Gurgaon, and has to constantly make Noida/Haus Khas/ Central/ West Delhi trips during the same day. With the kind of hours all private firms keep, can you even guarantee her safety, when she's not allowed to take her own car three days of a week and rely completely on public transport?
* My husband also has to keep travelling between GK, Noida, Greater Noida, Gurgaon, Saket, West and Central Delhi throughout the day. Most taxis/autos still refuse any long/short distances, or fares that would take them away from their preferred 'zones'.
* I go to drop and pick up my daughter from GK to Lodhi Estate and back, everyday. As per your odd/even system, I would have to figure out if I want to spend 100/- one way on an auto (for a distance of 5kms), as per the gundagardi of autowalas, or take a rickshaw till the metro station, switch two metro trains and then take a rickshaw from that station to her school every day. Even though, the Almighty has graced us enough so that we can afford to buy a car, a pollution under control one, on top of that.
* We have also considered the school-bus option. Where there aren't even bars for the smaller kids to hold onto, forget about seat-belts, if they fall asleep. Bigger kids still bully smaller ones, in buses. And you must have read of enough child-molestation cases, to be aware how safe smaller kids really are, even in school transport. Frankly, even if there's only a one in a hundred chance that my child would face molestation in school transport, I would still not like to test it out on my daughter.
* Car-pools do not work for short distances, as especially in the wee hours, no one really has the time or patience to wait/ go pick up four other kids from the same school, when you might yourself be running behind. Mornings are chaotic enough as it is. Why throw in another factor that might get your kid late for school, and yourself in turn, late for work?
* I grew up travelling in DTCs and cannot even count the number of times I was sexually harassed on a single commute. I had no option then. So, had to tolerate being groped, fondled, stripped, poked and what not, for some 15years. But I would do anything to ensure that my daughter never has to witness that kind of disgusting horrors that make one wish one was dead. Really.
* Some people would seriously consider buying two cars, per person of their families; one with an even number plate and another an odd on, to ensure they are never stranded and have to 'Uber' it in the late hours after work and risk rape/robbery/abduction, even if they have to sell their property for it. Would you call that helpful for the environment? But alas, only the super-rich could afford this option. What about us, the middle-class?
* I and thousands like me, would again like to humbly request you to consider cleaning-up the commercial vehicles, government vehicles, the SDPs caused due to the construction work, and making the public transport well-connected, safe and clean for everyone first, before asking us Dilliwalas to give up the only thing that makes us feel independent, safe and capable, on a day-to-day basis.

Best regards

20 August, 2015

Internet Of Things

Something really interesting caught my attention sometime back. Wanted to share it with all of you...
Internet of Things (IoT) is a process, by which data can be transferred from biochips, sensors, monitors and devices, via the internet, to machines and datacenters, without human interaction. Built on cloud computing, and data-gathering sensors, IoT is a mobile, virtual and instantaneous technology, being developed, as we speak. A revolutionary tech, that goes beyond the techies and gets into our homes, appliances, vehicles, and even bodies. ‘Smart’ or ‘intelligent’ devices, appliances, gadgets, structures, are all, basically, IoT technology.
The term, Internet of Things, was coined by British entrepreneur, Kevin Ashton, in 1999. A vision, still in a nascent stage, this technology stems from the idea of optimizing things. IoT devices gather important data, with the help of numerous current technologies and then automatically feed the data to other devices, as they would have been programmed to. IoT allows ‘things’ to be sensed and controlled, remotely- across networks- generating prospects of integration of physical and virtual systems. Which results in better, efficient, accurate, and economic outcomes. IoT is likely to give us advanced connectivity of gadgets, machines, systems, and services and go beyond the Machine to Machine Communications, such as it is, at present. Another expectation from IoT is to produce data, in great numbers, from device locations, to compute them instantaneously, and thereby increasing the need for better indexing, storage and processing of data.
Some of the examples of the first few areas, where IoT is presently being used:
• Biochip transponders on farm animals
• Heart monitoring implants
• Computerized vending machines
• Smart parking assistance
• Wearable technology
• Foot traffic monitors
• Field operation devices to help fire-fighters in search and rescue
• Smart thermostats
• Smart Washer/Dryers that use WiFi
• Interconnectivity of machines and personal gadgets

Where IoT is expected to take us, in the near future:
o Intelligent datacenter which can generate relevant business insights, after having gone through all the company’s data
o Smart streetlights, energy-grids, buildings, roads, stop-lights, seaports, therefore smart cities, nations, and then world
o Monitoring the vibrations and material conditions of buildings, bridges and historical structures
o Monitoring traffic, air quality, waste management, water leakages, floods, forest fires, snow levels, air pollution, radiation levels, hazardous gases, chemicals leakages in water bodies, ozone presence
o Prevention of landslides, avalanches, early detection of earthquakes
o Smart lighting in homes and office places
o Portable monitor to check water quality
o Supply chain control in retail and manufacturing
o Intelligent shopping assistance based on habits, preferences, allergies, expiries, etc.
o Item tracking of shipments
o Smarter agriculture, animal farming, homes and health
IoT is the present and future of technology and not limited to any one field. It is expected to improve our lives, from basics to industrial. But since it is still a relatively new technology, policing and laws need to be strict, to keep crimes in check, before hackers start pulling-off ‘remote-robberies’ of IoT Smart Products.

Five Rules Working Women must know

1. Dress & behave professionally
As they say about first impressions, provocative clothing, excessive makeup, or jewelry, might distract others from taking you seriously.
Do not indulge in flirtations and romances at work. Same goes for keeping flirts at bay. This makes people around, doubt your commitment to work. Even in cases, where you may be keeping it discreet, sooner or later word would get out, and gossip would get difficult to manage. Most importantly, women are more likely to be fired, in such circumstances.
‘Thank yous’ go a long way. In day to day work, as well as when you are switching jobs, do not be tempted to burn any bridges.
When you see your superiors making a mistake, if you can, try to avoid pointing it out. If you must, do it subtly, to keep them from becoming over-analytical about you.
On the other hand, take criticism with a pinch of salt. Especially, in the beginning of your career, and when you are new in an organization.

2. Be assertive. Not aggressive
While a man would be said to have leadership skills, a woman might be seen as hostile, for the same amount of passion.
You must get your point across. Your job is redundant unless you make your voice heard and participate in the work.
Do not work for praises. Let your work speak for yourself.

3. Showing emotion
It is extremely important for us, if we want to be seen as an equal at work, to keep our emotions in check. If we cry, we do not only seem weak, but might be kept away from challenging jobs from that point on.
When pointing out mistakes, instead of being emotional, it is preferable to be coldly analytical about it.
Ignore and smile at all the, ‘is it that time of the month’, remarks. No good can ever come out of reacting to those.
Confidence is another thing that men bring to the table, where women remain unsure. Men get taken at face value, because of their sureness. Whereas women get grilled for their ideas, just because of seeming hesitant or shy.

4. Get Noticed
Be at the office, before the boss. And leave after them. Believe it or not, you have to let them see that you are working.
Be punctual. Gain the confidence of your peers.
Voice your inputs to get noted.
Be prompt at the work given to you and prove that you are reliable.
Respond to your emails. Let people know that you do not dilly dally.
And once you finish a task, and meet the objectives, then demand credit for it.
Make the reputation you want to be made of yourself.

5. Family vs Career
Get your priorities in place; work, family, social life, recreation. Create a system to give them all the kind of time, you want to give. Then stick to that system.
Be clear to your colleagues, of your priorities, commitment, and expectations from the job. Do not leave them in a limbo, mid-task, when there is no system in place for someone else to take over your work, when you leave on a child-related emergency.
Fathers are the best people to have as mentors or bosses, at workplaces. They are kinder. And fathers of daughters, even more so. They would be more understanding with the kind of their own daughters.
Have each other’s back. If we women, do not support one-another, then how can we expect men to give us a chance?

05 August, 2015

Let's Get By Together

The LGBT community has been in news all over the world, recently. The United States made same-sex marriages legal. All over the world, people are celebrating being themselves, through the Pride Parades. While, in India, we are still holding onto the laws the British had left upon us, centuries ago- who, by the by, have long since made same-sex marriages legal.
Most folks who are against it, say that the LGBT community are a bad influence on the kids, and our society, in general. Although, these same people would enjoy a spicy Bollywood item song, or drink a few till they pass-out, or shout at their wives and parents, just fine. A hated-murderer-of-100’s-terrorist’s hanging would take precedence over, a beloved-uncorrupt-ex-President’s passing, because. The story of corrupt-politician unfolding, in the news, would be found entertaining, something to be viewed with the entire family. Suicide cases of famous men’s wives or girlfriends, who had recently started speaking-out, would get brushed under the carpet. Every time, there is a rape-case reported and gets some media-mileage, millions would flood the streets, with candles in hand, only to ignore the neighbourhood/school/college/office/public-transport eve-teasing, sexual abuse, or harassment incidents that take place, right in front of them.
Now, you see how open our society is! And how fragile we thought it to be. To think that two same-sex people in love, who want to profess their love to one-another, legally, could bring our society down, when none of the gruesome, shameful, appalling, heinous things, we are surrounded with, could do it?
Some people are so vocal about their hatred for the LGBT community, you would think they are jealous of the lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and transsexuals. When we start thinking about it rationally, it would come to us that, whom anyone else has sex with or marries, should be of absolute no consequence to us. Unless we wanted them for ourselves, that is.
So, is that it? Do all the people against LGBT, hate them because they are jealous of them, want to have sex with them, or want to marry them? While, one can understand this vengeance. It’s just not fair to the LGBT people. Considering if we have such feeling for a heterosexual, when they weren’t interested in us, we couldn’t have done anything about it. And rightfully so.
Imagine the plight of someone, who has to spend most of their life, trying to live a lie. And then they remainder, trying to hide who they really are and be alone, while at it. First the denial, then the disbelief, then the worry, all of which, we as a society, have to offer to them. Just because of whom they have sex with. How terribly regressive, we as a society are, to still want to dictate whom someone can marry or not, have sex with, or not, love or not!
What message are we trying to give to our children, in all this? That it is abnormal to love, respect and then marry someone. But dowry, domestic-rapes, sexual abuse, physical abuse, bdsm, khaap panchayats, preference of a male-child, female-infanticide, patriarchy, corruption, medical malpractice, terrorism, rage, disrespect, hatred, violence are all, the norm?
Who died and made us God, to decide who others can love and marry or not?. Ponder on...S m i l e

Career scope for women today

When you think about career-women in the 2010’s, in urban India, you imagine a smartly-dressed executive, in high-flung, jet-setting jobs, who has it all. But the fact that this image does not give you the full picture, would be an understatement.
Our parent’s generation was the first, when the middle-class women started working. Only a few of them, but still, you started seeing women in workplaces. Most of these working women stuck to ‘safe’ careers; teaching, medicine, home boutiques, grocery-shops, etc. In our generation, even though, there was very limited exposure, zero career-counselling, the women managed to somewhat break that stereotype, sustained their careers, or at least went back to work after their kids grew up a bit. When you see the teen girls of today, aspiring for the world, you can see their mothers, grandmothers, and other well-meaning elders, still reminding them of the goodness of ‘safe’ career options. Careers that they could sustain, even after getting married and having children.
Men on the other hand, are never questioned about how they plan to give time to their wives, household or children, with long-work-hours, excessive travelling or frequent ‘networking’ dos. The modern urban Indian male, is stuck in a pool of contradictions. He was raised in a patriarchal environment. His mother always, only - if at all- had a ‘safe’ career. But, on the other hand, thanks to globalization, the internet and modern education, he has got exposed to things like ‘equality’, ‘respect’, ‘women’s rights’, ‘involved parenting’, and so on. So, even though, he means well, most of the times, he still can’t bring himself to pick a broom, when the maid bails. And he still finds it unnatural for himself to be changing diapers. He can’t understand the concept of cleaning-up, after himself. He is yet to feel the need to roll chapatis. He can’t understand what stops him from going out for drinks or gaming with his boys, a few times a week- even though he hasn’t seen his own child awake for 4 straight days- he needs a break once in a while, doesn’t he? And he certainly can’t relate to his wife looking tired, and haggard after a long day at work. He feels that she doesn’t need to work. He can earn enough or that they should manage within his income. And of course, he can’t stand it if she prioritizes her work, over him, even if that happens rarely.
Which brings us to urban Indian women of the 2010’s. We are driven, hardworking, eager and earnest. We got married, when we were ready. Had children, because we wanted to, and when we wanted to. We genuinely care about them, are involved in their lives and do not want to waste time at office, just sitting around, to seem like we work long hours. Our mother-in-laws, mothers and nannies, along with cooks, drivers, part-time cleaning staff, are our support-system. We want to be there for our kids. We want to be there for our families. We respect and love our husbands and parents more, after having been on the other side of making a living and bringing up our children. We like our homes. We love to dress. We know that we have earned it. And we love how upgraded a simple makeover, or even just wearing makeup, can make us feel. We do like the ladies-night outings also, a few times, a year. We make it work, in spite of the days, when our little ones have their summer, autumn, winter, fall school breaks, some 50 other holidays, or worse, are sick. In spite of the school-projects, they would remember at the 11th hour. In spite of the herculean crafts or culinary tasks, they expect to furnish, ignoring all our inabilities, in the kitchen and the toolshed.
What keeps us going, eventually, is our drive, and our need for an identity. In this volatile world, there are no guarantees. The knowledge that if his salary doesn’t come, you can still run the house, is a huge relief, in itself. And then, there is the pride you see in your loved-one’s eyes, when they see you happy, successful and involved, at work.
Ponder on...S m i l e

03 August, 2015

Aplava Products Review!!

Recently, I was given the task to review a few products from Aplava, by SHEROES.

The Aplava online store has a huge variety of skin & hair products, cosmetics, baby products, men’s range and accessories. After getting the assignment, I went to their website and found it quite user-friendly, easy to navigate and thorough.
Also to be noted, signing up on SHEROES gives the individuals discount codes for Aplava.com.

Dove Hair Therapy- Daily Shine Conditioner. With Nutritive Serum. Protects Normal Hair from daily wear and tear.
Priced at Rs. 165/- for a 180ml bottle, this conditioner falls in the drug-store price range.
Pros: I’ve been using this for a week now. And from the very first usage, my hair felt smoother and lighter, right from when I rinsed it off. It’s fragrance is light and calming.
Cons: Perhaps, because my hair is curly and since it is Monsoon season right now, it made my hair extremely frizzy. This problem got somewhat resolved, when I used an anti-frizz serum, though.

H2O+ Spa Sea Salt- Hydrating Body Butter
Priced at Rs. 200/- for a 60ml tube, this is a high-end product.
Pros: It genuinely leaves your skin feeling like you have spent a few hours at the spa. After a week of use, my skin has felt nourished and moisturized, even after 24hrs of application.
Cons: It smells quite bland and medicinal. And since it is currently, the most humid season and since I have oily skin, it made me start sweating, immediately after application.

Natio Ageless- Dual Action Cleanser and Exfoliator. Pure Plant Extracts with microfine polishing spheres to lift away the dull veil that hides skin’s natural glow. Helps stimulate skin cell renewal for a younger looking complexion. For all skin types. To be used thrice weekly.
Priced at Rs. 1,010/- for a 75gms tube, this is a high-end product.
Pros: This one smells like heaven and exfoliates the skin, without feeling rough. Every time I used it, in the past week, my skin felt suppler.
Cons: None that I could notice, in spite of my oily skin and 5-minute bath slots.

Lakme Enrich Satin lipstick- For an intense and vibrant pout. With added goodness of olive oil and Vitamin E, helps keep your lips feeling satin smooth.
Priced at Rs. 260/- this is a drug-store price range, product.
Pros: I wore this lipstick at 7am, and did not need a touchup, till at least after lunch. It stayed on, through breakfast, juices and several water breaks. Doesn’t bleed either. Has a nice, thick fragrance too. It keeps the lips feeling soft, rich and doesn’t let any lines form, either.
Cons: I was sent a bright red shade. My complexion is wheatish. And I never wear dark, especially red lipsticks. Just the colour made me feel quite self-conscious.

Repechange Foaming Gel Cleanser- for problem skin
Free sample pouch
Pros: Smells really fresh and cleanses the skin without any irritation.
Cons: None

Repechange Day Protection Cream- For sensitive skin
Free sample pouch
Pros: It smells amazing. Keeps the skin hydrated throughout the day.
Cons: Made my oily skin, oilier. But most creams do that, unless I use oily skin products specifically.

I was also sent a gift voucher of 300 rupees, in the goodie-bag. Thank you Aplava. Really great products!

23 July, 2015

Single parenting

So, the other day, after picking up our kids, after school, while they played together, I complimented a fellow mom, whom I had seen around a few times. “Your daughter makes the cutest faces, when your husband comes to pick her”, I said. I immediately noticed a whole variety of expressions on her face. She looked from hurt, to embarrassed, to angry, to sad, in all but a few moments. We both were called upon, by our respective daughters, just then, and could only exchange words, after a good ten minutes. When we did, she said, “We are actually divorced. And she doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with him”, along with a brave smile. After she’d said that, her daughter was ready to leave for home. So, they left. And how horrid I felt for using the word, ‘husband’, instead of ‘her father’. While, I usually would have almost always used the term ‘her father’. That just had to be the day, when I had to slip and make that nice lady uncomfortable. Before bed, when I was going over my day, this interaction actually made me start respecting the lady more. Being a single parent is not an easy task anywhere, but has got to be the hardest in a city like New Delhi. When just the other day, I was thinking about how hard it is to sustain a career, as a mother, in India. And here is a case, where this lady has had all odds stacked-up against her, but to her credit, has still managed to have her daughter grow into one of the cutest, sweetest, well-behaved and well-dressed little girls, you would ever come across. To imagine how lonely it must get, at times. And how does a woman maintain a love-life, in their 30’s in Delhi? Also, how do you make ‘me time’, when you must be as swamped as that? That made me I remember how genuinely she smiles, when she looks at her daughter. And how content this lady looks. And how that must make everything worth it. Just the way my DD makes me feel, all the time. Another thing to ponder upon is how over-rated marriage, really is. Is it really that important to have a piece of paper and the world’s approval, when you find the person you may or may not want to mate and have kids with? How often I have felt that it must be so much easier and less harassing to not have someone constantly contradict your parenting style, or argue with you, every now and then, over money, housekeeping, cooking, decorating, vacations, what you wear, whom you meet, what you do for a living, and the rest of the relationship drama. Saw her again today, at school, for the first time, since that day. And even though, I didn’t know how to recover from my bouncer the other day, I smiled, saw that she smiled. I talked to her daughter. Her daughter played with mine. Then we exchanged hellos ourselves. And again, all was good in the world. Here’s wishing the lady more power, for her parenting, career, and her own self...S m I l e

22 July, 2015

On how I got employed again! :D :D

It’s very easy to give up. When you have been looking for a work-from-home, flexihours job, for as long as I had been looking. Anything I could do, as and when I got time, something that I would enjoy doing and thrive. Especially, after having worked for almost two decades, joblessness can make you feel insignificant and completely useless. But, in spite of all my education and experience, I have been sitting at home, tending to DD and the house, for some 5 odd years now. As much as I love to do both of these things, I get at least 6 to 8hrs a day, when she’s away, or asleep, and I am completely idle. Since my interest lays in writing, I have been applying for all the WFH, flexihours writing jobs all this time. While, I did get quite a few writing assignments, they would either be on topics that I can’t relate with at all, like a religious website, where I was required to write about temples of India. Or they would be from fields where I had to research for 8hrs, for a 100 rupee job. Or in spite of having finished an assignment and doing it well, I would not get paid at all. How well we all know, how difficult it is for women to build and sustain their careers, how not agreeing to travel for work, or the long hours at the office are frowned upon, and how rarely any decent company agrees to offer flexihour opportunities at all. But alas, that has been my only option, given the nuclear family, with a traveling and ‘long hours at the office every day’ partner. People advised on Day Care Centers, which would not work, if my kid was sick, or on the Day Care Center’s holidays. People suggested leaving the kid home, with a full-time nanny. But that’s the thing, with all due respect to all women who pick this option, I have always wanted to be a mum. So much so, that it was my career goal, ever since I can remember. Now if I don’t even get to see my child growing up and sharing everything with her and just being around her- till she doesn’t want me to anymore- what’s the point of having had her! Yes, I am greedy. And yes, I do want it all. I want to be with my daughter all the time, and make money. Both, yes. Then, the other day, I get a call from my sister, who asks me to ‘fix’ a few product descriptions for their website. Which, I did, without realizing that I had just submitted samples for, what turned into a job application. Apparently her boss liked how I had written them so much that I started all the content jobs from her office. After a couple of months of writing for them, as soon as I added that into my resume on the various job portals, I started getting real and interesting offers immediately. The best possible future job offers, so far, have been for blogging and writing articles. How I have always wished to be able to write professionally. Can’t thank my stars enough for making this possible. So, watch this space now, for some professional blogging as well…hopefully. S m i l e