Jul 16, 2015

Book Review - There's something about you by Yashodhara Lal

It has been a while since I read fiction. I love fiction novels which have a light-hearted but gripping story plot with funny and witty one-liners. And it makes it even better when there is a female protagonist with a regular girl-next-door image. Yashodhara Lal's new book "There's something about you" scores on all these parameters. I haven't read her earlier books, so I'm not sure about her writing style.

Though the book is marketed as "the romance novel of the year", I would categorize it as a novel based on relationships - relationships with parents, with friends, with colleagues, with others in the society and most importantly, with oneself. The story plot deals with every such relationships, the complexities, the told and the un-told feelings. At a few places, it makes you want to pause and think about your own relationships in contrast with the protagonist Trish's relationships.

Trish is a bundle of different characters etched together - cynical but caring, low on self-esteem but dares to venture into the unknown. She is someone who you can easily relate to. I wouldn't want to reveal more on the story as I fear I might end up spoiling the experience.

At times, though you can predict the storyline, it doesn't hamper the flow, thanks to interesting dialogues and the choice of right words. For example, Trish's responses as Amy are too good, that one wishes to read more such letters. The predicament that she goes through while responding to a serious letter is well thought out. We face such moral dilemmas often and can empathize with Trish and her feelings.

I also loved how the author has interlaced the principle of being in "FLOW' to identify one's purpose, which Trish discovers it towards the end. I have been doing the Coursera course on happiness and the same principle is elaborated in detail in Week 2 material.
"…I think I've finally just hit the sweet spot with my work. I'm doing something I enjoy, pays me a decent amount, is good for me and gets to spread happiness and help other people too! So it energizes me more than it takes it out of me. It's like I'm in some sort of flow"
Perfect for a relaxed weekend afternoon read, "There's something about you" would make you want to pause and think about what's unique about yourself.  Loved it and now I'm planning to check out the author's earlier books.

P.S. The book was sent to me by Flipkart as part of their "bloggers initiative". The review is my honest and unbiased feedback on the book.

Jul 7, 2015

Think beyond the first 6 months

It's really heartening to see technology companies taking the steps to support working mothers by extending the maternity leave upto 6 months. Kudos to Flipkart for thinking beyond these 6 months by supporting flexible working hours and supporting a year off without salary.

But there's also much more that can be done to enable mothers to return to workplace with a confident, happy and motivated mindset. Especially for mothers who do not have a family support system in place.

What happens to the mothers(and their infants) after 6 months? They would need to look for safe and secure day care options. Multiple factors have to be considered in order to narrow down this decision - the location, the care-takers, security, hygiene, food, number of children, child:care-taker ratio, timings etc.

It's extremely challenging to find a daycare that matches all the criteria that works best for the parents. Given the traffic situation, mothers have to spend an extra hour or two in managing commute. Considering these issues, most mothers choose to take a career break atleast for the first two years (if the financial situation at home is manageable).

If the mother chooses to raise the child at home by herself or with the help of a nanny, then it is clearly 4-5 years before the child can become a little independent. As the child starts play-school around the age of two, mothers can get anywhere between 4-6 hours for themselves, which they would love to invest in building their career.

Sadly, there are very few opportunities that can leverage these 4-6 hours of mothers effectively. Many mothers are fine if the career progression is slow during these formative years of their kids. They would like to stay in touch with their working domain/role/technology and continue to build their expertise in the pace that works for them and their family. Committing to a full-time job with typical work hours and a long commute is difficult and stressful at this stage.

I would love to see organizations think of ways so they can help mothers in dealing with these issues post maternity leave. Be it an in-campus daycare facility, flexible working hours, supporting work-from-home opportunities, moving away from in-presence to tele-presence location-independent working models, part-time consulting projects, outcome-focused(than time-focused) projects etc. I'm seriously hoping that initiatives like Sheroes and Jobsforher can bring a change in the way we think about work and enable mothers to find opportunities that work well for them.

P.S. I took a break for 2 years and then managed to find such flexible opportunities in the startup space. I realize that this is an exception and not the norm, as I hear from other mothers who had earlier worked in software development/QA/services/customer support domains.

Jul 3, 2015

The comeback

steel plates and glass bottles
cloth bags cottony crisp

tender greens and herbs
plucked from the window sill

fresh hot breakfast from the kitchen
prepared with care and love

a walk to the vegetable shop
fresh veggies in a jute bag

conversations with real people
face-to-face in no hurry

the clock takes its own sweet time
to cross the hours and days

lifestyle simple unhurried
moments to pause and reflect

neighborhood well known
and in perfect harmony

sharing and interacting
caring and giving

every living being
our closely knit family

respect and love
natural state of mind

Ruminating on the simple and beautiful lifestyle of 80s. Wishing this makes a comeback in general while I take conscious steps towards such a lifestyle for myself and my family.

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