How smart phones have made my parents teenagers

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As usual I’ll start with a quick backstory – When I was in 10th grade, I’d called a radio station to request for a song and the radio jockey had told me that I have a very hazy and seductive voice for a 14 year old. I got yelled at by my dad for being told that by a boy on public radio, yada yada yada. A year later, I was recounting the incident to a new classmate in school and he refused to believe that any radio jockey could have told me that and I offered to call him later that evening so he could hear my phone voice. As promised, I call this boy later that evening and I say, “Hey, whats up? What are you upto?” and the boy says “I’m in the toilet”! I say “Yikes, why would you take your phone to the loo, and I’m going to hang up because that’s gross!” Now, 14 years later, I am guilty of doing the same. Ok, no, I am not typing this post on the pot, but just saying.

Every time I am about to poop, I first look for my phone, because I think I won’t be able to do it alone – I need my WhatsApp groups (yeah, next time you add me to a group, think again!), Instagram Explore feeds and so on. It’s absolutely mental how these smart phones have taken over our entire lives. I am from a generation who recognises this is mental and once in a while tries to detox, take social media sabbaticals and may be even go on a phone-free meditation workshops. I don’t know what the younger generations are doing, I guess I’m going to find out as my daughter grows up. But my parents and grandparents’ generation on the other hand, have gone completely reckless like teenagers who’ve found cheap dope.

We were visiting some friends yesterday and they were talking about how their parents, uncles, aunties, etc. have now replaced the post lunch nap with a two hour WhatsApp marathon.  They are basically busy reading all forwards they have received and doing the responsible thing to do as dutiful whatsappers – forward them onto other groups they are a part of. I remember calling my mum from the US every night (when it would be her mornings) and she’d talk to me for a bit and then say she has tonnes to get done before leaving to work and hang up. When I asked her why she couldn’t finish all the work given that she’d wake up at 4:30 am, one of the big agendas for early mornings apart from doing dishes from the previous night, washing the front yard, etc., was reading all the WhatsApp messages and deleting them. Yes, you read that right, deleting WhatsApp messages is a thing amongst these uncles and aunties.

For starters, most people don’t exactly know that you can disable auto download of media onto your phones, which means you are bound to run out of space on your phone. Now, once you enlighten people about this feature, they are faced with a bigger dilemma, “I don’t always have the time to see all videos/ photos immediately, and so I may forget to download them. Also, it takes longer to download one by one for assessment.” All very fair reasons, but my response to that would be – “It’s a WhatsApp forward for god’s sake, why are you wasting your time on it, get a life!!!” My mum’s poker faced response to that would be – “Some are very important messages and are quite useful, I don’t always have the time to go looking for it on the internet”. This is usually when I give up and spend time backing up all these photos and videos onto google photos so they can move on with their lives.

I remember my parents would keep nagging us about being on our phones back in the early 2000s, and now, our roles are reversed. We are probably the first generation that is seeing our parents act like teenagers even before they fully grow old. I’ve heard/ seen that people start behaving like babies as they grow older, start to become dependent on children for being taken care off, but acting like teenagers in their 50s? Swalpa new this is for us I would say. I remember being in a team meeting a couple of years ago when I lived in Barcelona, and my mum texted me around 7pm (10:30pm IST) asking me to call her back.

The last time I’d got a message like that from my mum was when my dad was suddenly admitted to the ICU a couple of days after I’d moved to Barcelona, so you can imagine my anxiety. I immediately excused myself from my team meeting to run out to make a call and my mum picks up the phone within one ring, and says “Pinky, I can’t find the folder with all the photos I’ve downloaded from Facebook on my phone, how do I find it”. I couldn’t figure out if I was relieved to find out that everyone back home was well, or if I was amused to see what kept my mum up at night. It was the first time I was living in a different country, and I was still living with some age old ideas about what was a late night trunk call worthy news.

While we all exchange amusing stories about our respective parents and their revelations with technology, I think it is absolutely amazing that my parents’ generation have a way to keep their social lives active, even if it were just virtual because growing up, I remember wondering why my parents didn’t have a lot of friends (to be fair, as a parent myself, I now understand how hard it is to keep an active social life while juggling full-time jobs and children, and I am sure my parents did their best). I also think it’s amazing that I can see my granny every other weekend even though we live miles apart and that my entire family back home can see Berry grow up.

While technology enables me to feel at home while staying away, I do hope someday in the near future, we can just take our virtual communities from WhatsApp and recreate those into real physical communities, and restore the past. Growing up, my mum would always say that history repeats itself and what was fashionable in the past would become fashionable in the future again, and for once, I really hope that comes true.

 

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Letters to my Berry#14

IMG_9037You turned 14 months 3 days ago, but given that things have been mental at work this month and will continue to be until the end of this year, I am only getting around to writing to you now. But hey, you are 1.16 now. Woohoo. As you can see from the picture above, you are scaling new heights, quite literally – you managed to climb onto the chair and stand up on it all by yourself. You also wake up, get off the bed quietly and come to the living room like a big girl. I can see that you are discovering a lot of things for yourself and prefer to do everything independently – you prefer to not be carried, because you want to run and explore the world all by yourself. You like to touch and eat everything, that too, all by yourself.

For the last two weeks, you had been making it very difficult for us to feed you dinner and so, one day, I finally plonked you onto your high chair, put your food onto your plate and left. Guess what? You happily started to eat by yourself. Excited by this, I came back to feed you and you got so upset, so I let you finish your dinner on your own. This meant that you threw food all around you and I spent a few minutes cleaning up after you were done, but it was all worth it. Now, you eat your meals all by yourself, thanks to your nursery.

Since last week, you have been going to a new nursery just on Fridays, since it’s impossible for me to work from home with you around. I never felt guilty when I first left you at Smithfield back in March as I was excited to start a new adventure (at work!). But now, whenever I drop you off at your Friday nursery, I feel so guilty for leaving you there since you cry so much, and you don’t even look at me when you do and I think that makes it worse since it feels like you are clearly upset with me for leaving you. If I had to choose between you and work right now, I would choose you any day hands down but I don’t have that choice, atleast not right now.

But as always, you are making peace with how we have been treating you. Thank you. Sometimes I wish we did better as parents, because I have seen mine do better, but it’s okay. For instance, you probably had some viral infection over the last 2-3 weeks and I don’t think we even realised you were unwell because we kept thinking you were hurting from your molars beginning to pop out. I guess we are raising you the British way given that by the time you can get an appointment with the NHS, you would have kissed your sickness goodbye. In a way I don’t mind since it helps build your immunity.

There are a few other British things you seem to have picked up on your own – drinking imaginary tea from your tea cup all the time, and saying  things like “hiya”, “yeah”, etc. with an accent. You love playing with kitchen play things – I don’t blame you given that you see either appa or me in the kitchen most of your waking hours (mornings before work and evenings after work). The one cool thing that has come out of playing with kitchen things is that you have learnt to count from 1 to 10, I mean count, that too from a musical tea pot that Smitha gave you for your birthday. At first, I thought you can only say these numbers, but it’s only when I started saying ABCD and whenever I got to I, you would say 10, that I realised you have actually learnt to keep count. So, you aren’t so bad at Math, huh? Although you only like to say 2,3,5,7,8,9 and 10.

You aren’t that quiet kid who will just sit with her toys and books, you keep coming into the kitchen to pull out all the vessels and cutlery from the shelves, and you like to run away with the empty milk cans screaming “haala (milk)” repeatedly. You also love riding the buggy on wheels which we got you for your birthday and the musical walker that Sam got you for your birthday. You might be learning a few things from the walker also, who knows?! You know how to ask for milk, food and water, which is quite useful since we can use that as a cue to feed you, and be assured that you will finish what is given.

You have started to communicate just a little bit. You keep saying “yeah” at all opportune moments. You can understand what we say to you in both Kannada and English fairly well. You follow instructions like a bot – you bring things we ask you to bring, sit when told, etc. It’s quite cute. Oh, you also have the cutest sad face when we scold you for doing something naughty such as pull my hair, etc. You are appa’s pet, who brings his socks, his shoes and also yours every morning as we get ready to go to work. You also bring your jacket from the room because you love going out and you know the drill. You also wait like the dog at Shibuya station for appa coming back home and as soon as you hear the door downstairs you run to the gate at the head of the stairs to see him. You babble some gibberish as soon as you see him and it’s the cutest sight ever.

It’s not funny how quickly you are growing up – Appa and I were just watching photos and videos from the day you were born and you were sooooo tiny and quiet and now you are one big dada who demands maggi and soft drinks as if it’s your birth right. I can’t wait to take you home next month to see how you’ll react to everyone back home. You are a people lover and love socialising, so I am sure you’ll love it because everyone is waiting to see you.

More exciting stories for next month. Toodles.

 

 

 

In India, we date in English.

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I was researching dating apps in India and stumbled upon videos created by some of the big players in the space – this was a combination of testimonials from real success stories and other promotional content. As I watched most of the videos on a particular youtube channel – I found a huge disconnect between the real people who’d found success on this app and the actors from the promotional videos who were portraying potential users of the app. The most apparent difference was that these two sets of people were conversing in different languages – the real people in English and actors in Hindi.

Fortunately or unfortunately, for having learnt English for more number of years than any other language (Kannada/ Telugu/ Hindi/ Sanskrit/ Japanese/ Spanish), and for also having grown up in a house where the mother tongue was Telugu but the spoken word was Kannada, my preferred language of communication is English. Given that I am a native English speaker, it was easy for me to not relate to the app but I wondered if you would relate better as a native Hindi speaker? The real people from the testimonials all had “hindi speaking” surnames, so why were they all speaking in English? Do we prefer to speak in English when we talk about love/ dating?

In order to test my hypothesis, I quickly re-watched a few Hindi movies that popped up on top of my netflix page – Raja Hindustani, Jab we Met and Kabhie Haan, Kabhie Na. Barring the last one (given that this was based in Goa, where people do speak English quite commonly!), the other two are classic hindi heavy movies. In both movies, the first words/ conversation between the actors is in English, especially when they recognise the other person as a potential interest. Maybe we prefer to date in English?

This is not surprising, given that dating has not been a part of our culture atleast for the last 200 years, and it has come around as a result of western influence. Thanks to penetration of western television, and Titanic, we like to now “date” in India, and date in English. If someone texted me on Tinder and said, “Hai wanna hav sex?”, I’d still prefer that to someone saying “oye chodhna hai?” or “yenema keyonva?”, despite the spelling mistakes (Yes!), because we like to date in English. The countless hindi movies in the 90s, early 2000s that had the hero pull off some English stunt with the heroine when he was hitting on her, have made it cool to date in English in India.

Now, if we like to date in English, why are these apps making ads in Hindi? Do they even get their customers? For all the apps that are stagnating at less than a million unique users in India, remember that we date in English – whether we are from Bangalore or Bhatinda.

 

Fail if you have to, but fail fast

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No, this is not gyaan about start ups. Although there is a lot to learn from them. Last evening, quite unexpectedly, I got a call from a very good friend back home, who I had also worked with through Marriage Broker Auntie in it’s previous avatar. He told me he was getting married in two weeks. I love it when people reach out to me and share the news of them getting married even if I hadn’t really been able to successfully set them with their chosen partner, because Marriage Broker Auntie is that person who you can always count on through your relationship journey and if someone thought I provided any form of support through their hunt, that’s a big win for me. Also, I love listening to relationship stories, and the one I listened to yesterday, is definitely worth sharing.

This friend was looking to recruit someone for his start-up and found someone whose profile he found interesting. When the girl came in for an interview, they chatted for a couple of hours and they clearly stuck a good rapport. When asked what her plans in life were, she told him that her family was currently looking to get her arranged married, being in the same position himself, our man clearly sensed an opportunity. She even said something that was a “violins playing in the background” type moment from an arranged marriage perspective – she said she didn’t have time to fall in love given her career choices and she would probably consider marrying someone only if she deemed them to be marriage ready/ fit without having to spend years figuring it out.This is exactly how our man felt too, so it was almost now or never.

So, he suggested they go out dinner after the “interview” so they would have a chance to get to know each other better beyond the basics. At the end of the evening, given that there was a good fit, our man knew he had to take a chance, fail if needed, but fail fast and so he just popped the question – “Do you want to get married to me?” Obviously the girl was shell-shocked/ taken aback but our man assured her that it would be like a regular arranged marriage proposal with parents verifying fit through jatakas and what not, and if it were to not work out, there would be no love lost. It was almost like a put option from his perspective.

I was too impressed by his guts, especially because I always tell people the same thing – if you like someone, just say it out loud, fail if needed but fail fast because life is too short Although this is easier said than done, so when I asked him how he mustered enough courage to say it out loud, he said something that was even more impressive – he said “well, I liked her and she surpassed a fundamental threshold I had for a woman I wanted to marry but I wasn’t ready to spend years chasing this, wondering if I would clear her threshold or not and then brood over things not working out the way I wanted so I had very little to lose if I just asked her straight away because anyway she would come work with us in the future when he had a project, worst case.

The longer you hold something within your head, the more you build it up without any real feedback. Given that most men lack the ability to read women or their intentions very well, they are most susceptible to being led on with the wrong imagined feedback. So, when they finally receive real feedback, it’s too big to deal with rejection and the stakes her too high to fail, resulting in the whole thing dragging along for longer. This is a vicious cycle that you don’t want to get into. This is probably also why people can get over one night stands quicker than something they’ve been at for ages, because the downside is limited – one less person to copulate with.

What about if you are a woman and you think you are better at reading a man’s intentions and given social norms, you believe you must wait around long enough until the man has made his move? Should you really wait or apply the fail fast rule and just tell him how you feel and get it over with? Unfortunately, I don’t have a simple answer for this.

There are two parts to this answer – Ask any guy and he will tell you it’s far easier for a woman to get any man she wants than the other way around. So, if it’s so easy for a woman to get who she wants without much more than the blink of an eye (which is the code for hitting on someone anyway!), being more explicit makes it more likely for a woman to seem like a lemon (although we can debate if she is really a lemon or not). The second part – given the social pressure around seeming like a lemon, women have a harder time being rejected when they have made the first move. Women find it close to impossible to just move on, unlike men. Women take it very personally as we are generally more self critical, and go into this vicious circle of trying to prove our worth to someone who is not even interested in us and make things worse.

However, if you are a woman who is beyond this social pressure, I say, fail, and fail fast because nothing like trying a 100 men vs being stuck trying to pursue one, because you don’t even know how much harder the battle to make it work with this one is. For those who are single and think you can relax after once you find a partner, you can’t be more wrong – relationships are a LOT of work. So, if you’re optimising for no work post marriage and chasing that “perfect” partner, let me break your bubble right away – there is no perfect partner for anyone. Optimising for the battles you can handle post marriage  is a more realistic challenge to take on – As I’ve said before, love is not blind, but it’s about all the faults you don’t mind.

 

 

 

Letters to my Berry#13

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I am a week too late, but I am glad I waited to write this. I was PMSing (something you will experience when you grow up) and so I wasn’t completely in control of my emotions to provide with you a fair report of the last one month. For starters, I yelled at you towards the end of month 13, I gave you “hatta” on your back since you wouldn’t let me work on Fridays and spent the rest of the day crying about being so mean to you. I also realised what it must have felt like for ajji when she once hit me a 7 year old for doing something stupid. Neither of us are right in what we did, but I feel a bit more empathetic towards her than I ever did. That’s the great thing about being a mum – to see what I was like as a child right in front of my eyes, and to feel what ajji felt as my mum first handed.

I saw fear in you this month, for the first time. There are these moments when I watch you and wonder if I have damaged you for good, and the next minute you just start laughing and come give me a hug and rubbish my doubts. You got three vaccines on one day, you didn’t react for the 1st one, you winced and held your pain back for the second and you only cried for 30 seconds for the last one. As I watched you, I wondered if we learn resilience that early in life because you are surely fearless, as your name suggests, my little Abheri.

You show resilience as you learn to run. A few weeks back, we were out near King’s cross in a square with little fountains and as soon as we put you down, you started walking and then running, away from us. You loved being chased by us around the square and went absolutely mental when we tried to pick you back up. You are a runner, you absolutely enjoy running in parks – we took you to Walpole park last sunday and you just kept running and falling, picking yourself up and running again. You even enjoyed playing on the swing, slide, see-saw and the little merry go round type thingie. You refused to leave the park, which means we have to live in an Ealing like neighbourhood even next year when we move. I wonder if you’ll ever get a chance to run around so freely if we went back to Bangalore?

Among the other big milestones this month, you are showing more signs of fulling understanding what we say. You do peekaboo when we ask you to, you sit when we ask you to, dance, sing, kick the ball, throw it and even say 1, 2, 3 when we ask you to, and when you are in the mood. Talking about 1,2,3 – the funniest thing about this month has to be the 5 page report we got from your daycare about your progress, which said you aren’t very strong in math and your carers plan to help you get better. Hahahaha.

You are one!!!!! I don’t care if you aren’t good at math, as long as you are eating and alive. But hey, I may not say this when you are 10, so enjoy this as long as it lasts. 5 pages, I still can’t believe they had so much to say about my little person – this is the nice thing about living in London where you have daycares that are run professionally, albeit being expensive. It makes my job of entertaining you that much harder, but I don’t mind being challenged to do better as a parent.

The one thing I still struggle to keep up with is your obsession with books. You wake up in the morning, the first thing you do is go find appa, since he is busy working away in the kitchen in the mornings, have a babbalogue with him and then come back to me to drink milk and once that’s out of the way, you hit the books. You flip pages, make strange sounds, want us to read out stuff from the same books, over and over again and you keep giggling at the animals sounds we make, over and over again. You never get bored of the repetition, it amazes me and we play along. I will get old someday and might enjoy repetition just like you do right now, but will you have the patience to indulge me?

You love the computer, kindle and phone, just like any other kid your age, thanks to us for overexposing you to gadgets. Although you surprised us by picking up the phone one day and holding it to your ear and pretended to talk to someone, because you’ve only seen us video call people and so, we didn’t know where you had learnt to make voice calls. You’d apparently picked this up at your nursery, I learnt later. It was a revelation to learn that we don’t entirely control what you learn even as a one year old, and that there are so many influences outside of home and outside of our control. It was both re-assuring and unsettling at the same time, because what if people could make you do what ever they wanted and it wasn’t necessarily in your best interest?

You are not a big fan of toys really, you prefer books, and music making toys, the piano and your tea cup, from which you keep pretending to drink out of. You even pretend to take food from our hands and pretend it. You even pick your chest and pretend to be feeding yourself milk (Lulz!), but I guess you being able to pretend and imagine things is a sign of you becoming more and more human everyday. Of course, your ability to socialise (thanks to your great grandmum’s genes) always made you more human, from a very young age and I really do hope you will use your ability to make everyone around you smile for years to come.

Ok, happy 13th month for now (you came and disturbed my flow of thoughts, so this is what you get – an abrupt ending!). Can’t wait to experience many more revelations with you. Hugs.

 

Can we just be humane sometimes?

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I frantically finished work early to go pick up my daughter from her nursery, so I could reach home before a call with my mentor at 6:30pm. I arrived at the nursery door only to realise I didn’t have the access key with me, which is normally in the same bunch as my house keys. Thankfully, there was another parent walking ahead of me, who had opened the door and I ran in behind him. My mind was now racing as it was busy calculating the time it would take to go from Farringdon to Victoria (where my husband’s office was) and then to Ealing (where I live) all before my call at 6:30. I had about an hour and a half, so it was almost impossible to make it back home in time, and so I decided to ring my husband up while I walked behind the other parent as I hoped to be let in through the door behind him.

The man in front of me just stopped, and stepped aside. As I stayed on the phone hearing my husband’s number ring without being answered, I asked the man if he could let me in as I didn’t have my access key with me. The man looked me straight in the eye and said, “I am sorry, I don’t know who you are and I can’t just let anybody into the nursery like this.” At first, my mind was too pre-occupied to even comprehend what he was saying because I wasn’t expecting him to say anything but “of course”. Now, if this man had never seen me before, I would still be okay with him saying that but we had seen each other almost every day when we both went to pick up our respective children from the nursery.

When I finally understood what he was saying after a few seconds, I wanted to scream at him asking if he is completely out of his mind to say what he just said given that he has seen me picking up my daughter several times before, but I was too shellshocked that anyone could be so rude to say anything at all. Thankfully, before anything else could happen, someone from the nursery came in from behind the door and let me in. But I couldn’t stop thinking about why that man said what he said. Was it just a lack of decency? or was it racism?

I don’t know, but sometimes I wonder what stops people from just being humane? There’s way too much hatred in the world already, thanks to the comment section of any piece of writing on the internet. Why can’t we just be nice to people we can physically see in front of us? It’s not like I was asking this guy for his kidney, all I was asking was for him to let me pass through the door behind him.

There are so many parents I see everyday when I go to the nursery, and we all acknowledge each other in some form or the other – hello, smile, half-smile, nod, etc. You wouldn’t do that if you saw the same people on the tube or even in your own office every day, but you would somehow do this with other young parents – almost in a “I get your pain” sort of way. It’s nice, even if this is short lived. It’s nice to know that there will be intermittent phases in the life of a human being where we can all relate to each other irrespective of class, colour, creed or religion, just like we did as little babies. It gives me hope.

Relationships, spinach and their expiry dates

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If you’ve gone grocery shopping to a super market, you’ll know that the fresher stock (with later expiry dates) is always stocked up behind the older stuff because supermarkets like to follow FIFO (first in first out). However, what they probably don’t realise is that there are people like me who know this and they will end up with LIFO (last in first out) instead. Someone like my husband would think why bother making the effort of sorting through the stock as long as they are all within the expiry date – what’s the big difference anyway? It makes a huge difference – If I know the spinach is going to expire in 7 days instead of 3, I could happily dump the spinach in the fridge for a few extra days not worrying about making the decision of salvaging it. It’s not always because I want to cook with fresher spinach, sometimes, it’s about having the option to not cook with it immediately despite buying it. Strange you think?

Think about this – When you are fresh in a relationship, you could have a fight or two in a day and still be snuggling up in bed later that night, but if you’ve been together for a long time, a fight is always ugly – you always have to deal with it immediately, it can take a few days for you to “resolve” it before you can snuggle up in bed. The fresher a relationship, the longer you can keep stuff in the fridge and not bother about it (until the expiry date), whereas older relationships can’t be taken for granted for too long because relationships have expiry dates, egos that grow with time and the longer you’ve been in a relationship, the more likely you are closer to its expiry date.

With age, relationships mature, like old wine or single malts – so in a way, they don’t really ever expire. But some people enjoy the taste of it, some don’t. For those that don’t, that relationship has an expiry date. We all want fresher spinach because some of us want our relationship to retain its novelty, some of us want to take it for granted for longer, but we all want it to be fresher for longer. So when you’ve picked up spinach that is going to expire in 4 days and you see someone next to you who has picked up a packet that’s due to expire in 5 days, you want their packet so bad because apparently even one extra day can make all the difference.

We always want to go back in our relationships, even if it’s one step, because we are a day farther away from it’s expiry, its fresher by one day or we have a day longer to take it for granted. Familiarity increases with time, quirks become exposed, our reactions to the other person’s quirks mellow down over time (because you can’t possible break up with someone because they leave the toilet seat up all the time, come on!! that’s what men do right?), we start to become comfortable with things that were unthinkable at one point. Then, someday, something hits you hard, an expiry date or existential crisis for instance, and you start thinking and overthinking all the changes in your life and suddenly, you want your neighbour’s packet of spinach, you want to go back in time, just so you can shove your problems in the fridge for longer and not have to make the decision of whether you need to salvage it now or not.

God, this is such a morbid view of relationships. Sometimes, I can be very cynical. Most of us are, and it’s okay. As Yuval Noah Harari says, it’s also just our imagined order.