Apr 26, 2023

Labour laws and family structure


A pic of my home and a glimpse of my childhood in the late 80s.

Mom would leave for work around 8:30 AM and return home by 5:30 PM. She was working as a teacher.

Dad would leave for work around 8:45 AM and return home by 9:30 PM. He was working in the private sector.

My paternal grandma took over the complete responsibility of the house - cooking, cleaning, taking care of us and disciplining us.

My maternal grandparents' house was next door and we would spend most of our time there. Grandpa would have a strict eye on us and catch us red-handed when we were up to some mischief.

My aunt (mom's sister) helped us with school homework.

My aunt and maternal grandma would take turns, plaiting my long hair in the morning rush hours before school.

All of them took turns in dropping and picking us up from school when we were very young.

My paternal grandma would make evening snacks for us when we return from school.

The old saying goes - It takes a village to raise a child.

Having grown up with extended family members, I have observed how everyone took charge of various responsibilities. Since the workload was shared, this gave my parents ample time, bandwidth and most importantly, mental space toward their work commitments.

Many of us born in the 70s/80s would have gone through a similar upbringing.

Fast forward, 40 years.......The village is no longer available, due to shifts in societal norms - moving to different cities/countries, nuclear families, health issues of extended family members and a general lack of willingness to participate in sharing the workload.

As a result, it is now completely up to the parents to manage ALL responsibilities at home between the two of them. Help can be sought externally, but is it possible to outsource the majority of responsibilities? Not practical. Not financially viable either.

There are still exceptions, but most people I talk to are in a similar situation.

The trigger for this post is the latest news regarding the 12-hour work shift that is being implemented in manufacturing units in TN and the comments/posts circulating on how this would impact the workers.

Irrespective of the nature of the job, work demands have gone up over the past couple of decades, speaking from my experience in the IT industry.

The changes in family structure and increased responsibilities play a major role in whether such high work demands can be met reasonably well (without disrupting our well-being and sanity). 

The needs of children keep evolving at every stage of their growth. They look up to their parents at all stages for their cognitive, social, mental, emotional and nutritional needs.

These factors need to be considered when reframing labor laws or defining corporate policies and employee benefits, irrespective of the industry.

A recent report indicates that Indian women are facing a higher burnout rate as compared to their global peers. In my opinion, the spouse sharing home responsibilities isn't sufficient enough to solve this issue.

It requires holistic evaluation of the challenges at multiple levels -

rethinking work demands and job design from the ground up,

measuring work outcomes instead of work hours clocked in the office,

extending maternity benefits beyond 6 months through flexibility, remote work, hybrid work, and project-based outcomes.

The pandemic forced organizations to rethink the working models, but it now seems that prioritizing "what is easy" over "what is right" has taken precedence yet again.

Apr 23, 2023

A reader's journey

 "What you missed in your childhood is what you seek in your adulthood" - I don't know the source of this quote, but it pretty much sums up my relationship with books.

Growing up, apart from textbooks, I never read any story books or comics. Amma had bought a few GK and Quiz books that helped me in elocution, essay writing, and quiz competitions in school.

For some reason, there was always a yearning for books. I'd pester Appa to take me to the "Chennai book fair" that used to happen every Jan. He took me once and I was clueless about what to buy. Though I didn't burn a hole in his pocket, he wasn't happy about the trip. The next year, he got irritated when I brought up this topic.

I joined my first job in 2002. A small book fair was conducted at my office premises. I bought APJ Abdul Kalam's Wings of Fire, my first book purchase. Since then, slowly and steadily, the collection of books in my home library increased.

I remember taking a solo trip from BTM to Palace Grounds in 2003 to visit a book fair. No Google Maps or Ola/Uber back then. I had to figure the bus route by switching 2-3 buses in a new city. It felt adventurous and fun!

I bought my first bookshelf in 2005. And it still holds steady with books stuffed to the brim on all 6 shelves. 2 more bookshelves got added, and books started to spill over to my work desk.

K gifted me a Kindle in 2016. More books added to my digital library - some read, some unread.

Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription is going strong for years. Though I don't use it much these days, D devours all Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle comics.

In the last 2 decades ever since Wings of Fire arrived, my interest in genres kept changing from self-help, productivity, biography, business, marketing, nutrition, wellness, and behavioral psychology to philosophy and spirituality in my early 40s.

Whenever I visit a bookstore, I feel like a child in a candy store.

D and K make fun of me,

"That's it...she will be here for the whole afternoon. We should go and grab some snacks nearby"

"We need to hire a lorry for this mummy"

A few weeks back, I made a list of expenses I avoid compared to others leading an urban lifestyle. It was quite a long list.

But the one investment (not an expense) I make consciously is towards books as I believe they have been life-changing.

On the occasion of #worldbookday, this is my journey with books as a reader. Someday, I wish to experience the other side of being an author! *Fingers crossed*

Apr 22, 2023

Our food choices and beliefs we pass onto our children

Neither - might be our ideal answer. But there could be situations where we end up making a choice when we are going out.

When we have to decide between the two, we mostly end up choosing the second option. This is a pattern that I'm noticing over the past few years, especially since 2020. I have made similar decisions as well.

The reasons:

  1. It is made in the open. Not hygienic at all. Packaged is more hygienic (Fresh juices vs tetra-pack)
  2. These shops use ingredients of poor quality. Better to buy packaged (Hot chips shops vs Lays chips)
  3. We don't know what ingredients are being used in bakeries. In packaged cakes, we at least know the ingredients. (Cake slices vs Brittania cakes)
  4. These foods contain germs. Packaged foods don't. (ice gola vs frozen popsicles)

Most of the time, these decisions are being made in front of our kids for one of the above reasons. And we perpetuate our beliefs onto them.

Our rationale for choices is based on our beliefs. Are we 100% sure about them? Have we questioned them anytime?

Did we ever visit factories of packaged food manufacturers to conclude that they use better quality ingredients or that they are made in a hygienic environment?

Did we ever carry around a microscope to conclude that foods/drinks made in the open contain germs?

Is it because our fear of the known (germs) is higher than our fear of the unknown (effects of artificial ingredients)?

Is it because the ill effects are immediate if our choices go wrong (food poisoning on the very same day vs slow poisoning over months/years)?

Let's question our beliefs before we pass them down to our kids, as these will have health and socio-economic implications in the future.

Apr 17, 2023

What's the source of your thought?

 Conversation on a Saturday morning:

D: "Mommy, do you know we don't have one thought? We get 3 thoughts"

Me: "I don't understand. How?"

D: "See, let me give you an example.

The first thought can be - I want to bake a cake.

The second thought can be - I don't have all the ingredients.

The third thought can be - I will not bake today. Maybe some other day when I have the ingredients.

That's why in English we say sometimes - I have second thoughts about this"

Me: "Woah, that's very true. How did you come up with this?"

D: "I don't know...I just thought about it. Or maybe, you injected your philosophy serum into me!"🙂

D reads a lot of Amar Chitra Katha and mythology stories, while I read philosophy and spirituality-related books. We keep discussing "thathuvams" or "stories with thathuvams" often (thathuvam - thought with a deeper meaning).

As I started ruminating about her 3-thought perspective, a new insight emerged.

Our logical and analytical side of the brain creates second and third thoughts, based on available information. In many situations, this deeper analysis is very much needed for self-protection, moderation, control, and exercise of our free will.

Those situations where our instinct might drive us towards temptations and desires that we might regret later.

For eg,

My first thought - "I see a box of Dharwad Peda in a supermarket and I feel tempted to buy it".

Second thought - "I've had a lot of sweets the previous week"

Third thought - "I'll buy this box 2 weeks from now"

But there are also times when this can get to the other extreme, where we end up over-analyzing each thought that comes up and we draw up spreadsheets in our minds (and on our devices) to weigh the pros and cons.

The trigger for the first thought could be purely intuition or a message from a higher power. And there are chances that we might choose to ignore the message because of our overthinking and analysis.

For eg, you experience a thought.

Your first thought - "I feel like writing an article on foods and their role in spirituality"

Second thought - "Who would even pay attention to it? And am I qualified to write about this topic? What if some criticism comes my way?"

Third thought - "Edhukku vambu! let me keep quiet"

The trigger is gone. Maybe, the trigger might traverse the Universal energy and find another person (say, XYZ) who might respond to it.

XYZ's first thought - "I feel like writing an article on foods and their role in spirituality"

XYZ responds to it immediately without second thoughts.

XYZ writes the article and publishes it. It resonates with at least one person (say, ABC).

ABC starts making changes to her food habits.

ABC feels the difference and shares her experience with her friends and family.

The origin of a thought - Is it from our instinct? Is it from our intuition? Identifying the origin or the source - that's the key.

Apr 14, 2023

Festive day realizations

 I always get excited about festival days. I love to do a special Pooja and cook an elaborate meal. No one enforces any rules or rituals in my home. It is completely up to me to choose whether I want to push myself on such special days.

Today, being Tamil New Year's Day and a working day here in Bengaluru, I decided this morning to take it slow and not get too hyper to do multiple tasks.

The earlier me would have woken up earlier, did some Yoga practice or walking, taken a bath, did Pooja, and cooked a meal all in the morning before 10 AM.

Given that the Universe is hinting to me to slow down and go easy, I decided to change my default patterns of doing.

It is not just the desire to do multiple things, but trying to do them all at once within the limited time through multitasking, running around, not asking for help, and secretly wishing for Hermione's time-turner.

If there are 3 tasks that I would want to do and only an hour is available, I end up pushing myself and doing all 3 in a hurry and not enjoying the process.

This morning, I decided that this is not the way I want to operate anymore. If there are 3 tasks that I would like to do and only an hour is available, I'm gonna choose 1 of them, make peace with it and either drop or reschedule the other 2.

I woke up at 6:20 this morning. I was engrossed reading a book till 8:15 and I chose to skip Yoga practice. I then started cooking a slightly elaborate festive meal and wrapped up by 9:30. I decided to reschedule the Pooja routine for the evening. Around 5 PM, I made a paruppu payasam and then decorated my Pooja shelf, listened to Vishnu Sahasranamam, and chanted a few of my favorite Shlokas without any hurry. The one-hour felt so peaceful and relaxed.

The hustle mentality of our professional work environment rubs on our personal life too. Come weekends, we end up scheduling so many things to do that the weekend just goes off in a blink. And the same pattern gets transferred to our children, with multiple back-to-back classes to keep them "engaged" all the time.

It is NOT about the number of tasks we get done in a day. It is ALL about those tasks where we completely immerse ourselves and enjoy the process.

Apr 12, 2023

Book Review: Yoga in Daily Life by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

 During my previous trip to Blossoms, I picked up a set of booklets from the Bihar School of Yoga. These are short 80-100 pagers with a crisp and clear focus on a specific topic. Last week, I read and shared the review of "Karma and Karma Yoga".

I followed it up with another 80-page booklet titled "Yoga in Daily Life". This book mainly talks about the basics of Yoga and how to incorporate Yogic practices into our daily routine. If you are new to Yogic philosophy and the different streams of Yoga, this book is a beginner-friendly guide.

Before jumping into the practices and the actionable steps, the author sets a beautiful context on the relevance of Yoga in today's times. There were multiple aha moments in the first 2 chapters, starting with the story of a tree with thorns.

"When the wind of inherent desires blows through the mind, there can never be any fulfillment, contentment or peace".

"The identification with desires and sense objects leads to frustration and anxiety".

The role of Yoga is to help decondition oneself in life by fine-tuning the different areas of the personality - body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

"The mind is what is affected first; therefore, first manage the mind" => this statement struck a chord, as I realized over the past few years the role of our mind and its contribution to our life.

The author narrates a path of pursuing Yoga in tuning these areas:

Hatha Yoga - for managing the body

Raja Yoga - for managing the mind

Bhakti Yoga - for managing the emotions

Kriya Yoga - for awakening the spirit

He also summarizes the importance of Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga as a journey to rediscover oneself and develop the right attitude.

The 3rd and 4th chapters are all about integrating Yogic practices. A daily Yoga sadhana schedule is provided with clear guidelines for mantra chanting, asana, pranayama, meditation, and self-reflection. We don't need to block out hours to incorporate these aspects. The author provides guidelines for minimum time allocation for the required practices.

Highly recommend this book if you are getting started with Yoga philosophy and want to make Yoga a part of your lifestyle.

Apr 11, 2023

Qualification of wellness influencers

 Came across this news yesterday that Indian health and wellness influencers must now disclose their qualification on social media to prove that they are qualified to endorse health and wellness-related products and practices.

At a first glance, this seems like a great move. But there are two concerns to be addressed here:

(1) What does qualification here mean? There are certificate courses that you can take up (for a week or two) and become a "certified health coach". Many fitness influencers take up such short-term certification courses and recommend protein shakes, supplements, etc. The qualification criteria need to be spelled out or else this becomes an easy loophole.

(2) The most important one in my opinion - What is the guarantee that the intent of qualified professionals to promote certain healthy(?) products is pure and ethical AND not driven by commissions and profit sharing? There have been so many examples of qualified medical professionals promoting sugar-laden protein drinks, processed oats, digestive biscuits, and whatnot.

Qualification alone doesn't decide whether the influencer has the right intent. What matters is a sense of social responsibility and work ethics. These cannot be measured or declared. These are individual choices and can only be observed through their actions over a longer time.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for doctors working tirelessly with back-to-back consultations without a break.

But there is also a smaller group who think differently. With the popularity of social media and a possible attractive revenue source through sponsored posts, why slog and put in long hours in hospitals? Many qualified professionals use their degree as a mere front end to attract the audience, create content and build a business by doling out advice and pushing sponsored posts in front of their followers.

Qualification alone cannot decide whether the advice or recommendations shared on social media are trustworthy and reliable.

Apr 10, 2023

Which power source are you connected to?

 Summer is in full force in Bengaluru. Along with bright sunshine, it also brings in a boatload of mosquitos and frequent power cuts.

We aren't impacted much by the power cuts, thanks to the backup power through a diesel generator (DG).

Whenever DG mode is ON, the electricity provided is good enough to run basic types of equipment like fans, lights, etc. However, DG will not supply power for heavy-duty types of equipment like a geyser, washing machine, or oven.

There are certain times in our life when the main energy source isn't able to cope with the demands and the backup energy mode gets switched on. What are those times?

When self-care takes a backseat,

When the mind is being overworked,

When our sleep cycles are disturbed,

When there is a supply-demand mismatch between responsibilities and mental load

When the internal drive turns to self-inflicted pressure

When there is a lack of willingness to compromise or prioritize certain aspects over another

For the last few weeks, it feels like my body's connection to the main power supply got cut off and I'm pushing the backup generator for daily demands. So I'm consciously pressing the pause button on tasks that require high-voltage energy.

Taking a break from constant mental stimulation,

Doing the essential tasks,

Getting back to healthier cooking practices like including more greens, cooking in clay pots and iron kadais,

Deprioritizing certain goals,

Consciously avoiding overthinking,

Trying to stay grounded and in the present with gentle Yoga asanas and Pranayama.

Let's be aware of our internal power source - our Prana Shakti and take the time and effort to keep ourselves charged.

Apr 8, 2023

How long can you stay focused?

 A few days back, I installed the Instagram app on my phone to post Stories.

I publish my Instagram posts through Instagram web. I install (and uninstall) the app only when I want to share posts of others through Stories, typically 2-3 times a month.

Coming to the app experience, I habitually clicked on the 4th tab in the main nav bar to check for likes/comments. Habits once set are hardwired, even though you might have stopped them. It turns out that the 4th tab now leads to Reels section. And the likes/comments feed is now moved to the top right corner. Reels feed is fuelled by an infinite scroll (also called doomscroll) of short videos and it is not restricted to people whom you chose to follow.

I might be outdated on when these interaction changes were rolled out, but it is evident that such platforms want users to stay hooked onto short video format for a longer duration of time.

Such short videos (Reels/Shorts) switch our attention so rapidly. They also build up our anticipation of what's gonna come up next, wreaking havoc on the expected nature of neurotransmitters like dopamine.

Scientific research on the large-scale impact of these short videos will still take years to conclude whether these indeed have a detrimental effect on our attention and focus.

Instead of waiting for science-backed evidence to take corrective action, let's do a quick self-assessment to check your focus.

Pick up a non-fiction book on the subject of your choice. Set a timer and start reading. Observe whether you can concentrate fully. Observe when you are getting distracted or feeling fidgety. Note down the time when you reach for your phone.

If reading a book feels boring, try out a video lecture, preferably more than 30 minutes. Note down the time when you pause and move on to other distracting apps.

Try out any other activity - cooking, painting, mandala art, coloring, writing a short story, coding, etc. Apply the same principle to measure your focus time.

Focus and attention will become the new mandatory screening for job interviews, going forward. The ability to focus is critical to pursue any form of productive, creative, and meaningful work. Let's prioritize it now before it becomes too late.

Apr 7, 2023

Book Review: Karma and Karma Yoga by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati


Yet another insightful, crisp book from the Bihar School of Yoga. In under 80 pages, the author gives an in-depth understanding of Karma and Karma Yoga and how they are related.

Karma not only refers to action but is also the manifestation of human nature.

Everything in this creation is subject to the law of Karma.

The software analogy used to explain the operating system of Karma is so relatable. The author talks about four different backend software, which forms the core of this book - basic instincts, swabhava or nature, samskaras or impressions, and sense perceptions. Management of these four components is a pre-requisite to practicing Karma Yoga. The author takes up each of these components, breaks them down in detail, and shares perspectives on managing them.

It was quite interesting to understand how the interplay of consciousness and energy results in Karma. The author connects the role of three gunas - tamas, rajas, sattwa - with the four focus areas. He elaborates on how the gunas manifest in the mind and influence our senses and actions. Our mood is influenced by this combination of guna and mind.

The detailed chapter on 5 types of Karma gives a conceptual understanding of what is under our control and what is destined.

The author talks about how it is quite natural for humans to expect certain results from our actions (karmas). It isn't the expectation that is the problem, but the hankering for and obsession with the result. If there is an inner balance between the success and failure of karmas, it is karma yoga.

Every book that I pick up from the Bihar School of Yoga makes me curious to learn further about a topic. Reading "Karma and Karma Yoga" has now made me more interested to dive deeper into the concept of Pratyahara (the 5th limb of Ashtanga Yoga). I had initially understood Pratyahara as a withdrawal of the senses. But this particular sentence in the book made it clear that it is much more than senses:

"Pratyahara means to prune all that you feed to the mind - all thoughts, all ambitions, all desires, all association with success and failure"

Key takeaways:

Karma can be exhausted only through karma, not through sadhana, dhyana, mantra and austerities.

Behind every action, there was and is a desire.

You are progressing spiritually when your desires reduce.

Progress in life is realized when there is a reduction in desires and ambitions.

Our responses to life situations are guided by ego.

Apr 4, 2023

The Lamp


While doing Trataka dhyana a few days back, this thought came up.

When we light a lamp, we expose just a tiny portion of the wick outside.

If the exposed portion is more, the flame burns brighter than needed. It blows out quickly as it absorbs more oil in the process. When there is heavy wind, the brighter flame flickers heavily, and the chances of it turning off are high.

If the exposed portion is just right, the flame gives the required brightness steadily. It lasts a couple of hours, absorbing the right amount of oil. When there is heavy wind, the flame flickers for sure, but it doesn't turn off so easily.

We are the Lamp.

The wick is our conscious mind.

The oil is our Prana Shakti. It is refilled every morning after a good night of rest.

When we overexpose our conscious minds to the external world, we end up over-consuming Prana Shakti and we feel burnt out by the end of the day. Exposure here refers to too many decisions, too many thoughts, and too many responsibilities without clear priorities.

When we expose our conscious minds to the external demands of life at just the right level, the light we emanate is just enough. The daily Prana Shakti refill is good enough to sustain the demands. We feel steady and we don't end up exhausting ourselves in the process.

Let's keep our flames bright and steady.

Apr 1, 2023

Upgrades of Nature

"Are you an emotional person?

Do you cry often?

Don't get too attached to anything.

Practice letting go.

Practice detachment.

Don't strive to be a perfectionist.

How much of your day do you spend outdoors and expose yourself to sunlight?

Do you prefer asana or pranayama?

Which asanas do you practice regularly?

Practice simple deep breathing daily if meditation is hard for you.

Consciously incorporate cooling and grounding practices in your daily life.

Avoid thinking too much.


I met with an Ayurvedic doctor yesterday for certain issues I have been facing over the last few weeks. The above was a snippet of her conversation with me. Most of her questions were related to mind and daily lifestyle habits.

After going in circles wondering why certain symptoms had come up all of a sudden, I finally felt at peace after talking to her. Of all the lifestyle and health philosophies I have explored, Ayurveda is the one that resonates with me the most. The importance given to the individual's nature, needs, personality traits, and holistic approach is just phenomenal and very much relevant in today's times.

My key takeaway from yesterday's conversation with the doctor:

"What you are going through now, you will be going through similar feelings and emotions multiple times when you are 45+. Your body starts to prepare you for what you'll experience so that the transition doesn't feel so drastic and sudden".

Having been in the software space, this statement struck a chord.

The effort required to build a V2 version of a software app is huge. It involves multiple teams along with well-planned and coordinated efforts.

Imagine a running system that is due for an upgrade.

As women, we go through these major upgrades in our physical and energy systems. We don't switch from V1 to V2 one fine day. Every major upgrade is preceded by multiple minor upgrades:

Some are patch updates that require focus on one specific area,

Some require bug fixes to correct any imbalances,

Some require crash updates when the system is not able to scale owing to the demands being put in,

Some are silent ones where we don't feel anything in the physical realm,

Some are minor updates with perceivable changes on multiple realms.

Nature plans these upgrades so beautifully. Instead of resisting or fearing the upcoming upgrade, it is best that we surrender and listen to the needs of our physical, mental, and energy bodies.

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