Self-doubt

It’s been 15 months since I quit Amazon. Subsequently, I launched a small business called Marriage Broker Auntie (M.B.A.), which is a marriage-market advisory service. I provide 1:1 coaching and mentoring, I create content for the wider market in the form of blogs, newsletters and videos. I create products and services that help people in building more meaningful relationships. I also organise workshops, dating events and run several academic experiments for research purposes.

So far, I’ve been working independently. I occasionally partner up with other people on a project basis but I don’t have a permanent team at M.B.A. At least, not yet. In the last one year of its existence, there have been a couple of moments when I’ve tried to recruit people to scale the business further, but it hasn’t materialised for various reasons.

Through my corporate career, I’ve always been in roles that involved a lot of people management or extensive cross-functional engagement. So, to be on my own is quite new. Thankfully, I am managing okay because I am pretty hands on, and fairly comfortable zooming in and out. I run end to end operations of my business with little to no external support.

What I like best about my current situation is the agility that comes with operating as a one-person army. I’ve launched quite a few new initiatives and brands over the last year, and it’s been great learning and acting so swiftly when things go wrong. I’ve learnt so many new skills – marketing, customer acquisition, client relationship management, product/ service design, pricing and negotiation.

This experience has been really helpful in rounding up my business knowledge through direct customer exposure which complements my prior experience of internal operations strategy and product management.

This isn’t necessarily very intuitive when you look at what I do at face value – not even to me. I really had to sit down and list out everything I’d done in the last one year to acknowledge the richness of this entrepreneurial experience (for instance, customer acquisition has gone up 6x since last year).

Sometimes relatives laugh at my face when I tell them what I do, mostly because they don’t really understand it. Some people wonder if I even work, and a few others feel a lot of pity for me and my family due to my perceived poor life choices. For the lay person – I am just a smart (or stupid) person who abandoned a great corporate career to matchmake. A lot of my friends and family are hoping I will come to terms with my stupidity, and make amends soon.

Let me tell you that quitting a well-paying respectable corporate job that most people would kill to get, wasn’t an easy one. But surely this is a risk most people wouldn’t take either. There were a lot of factors that went into making this decision – some professional and a few others personal. But one that I have never regretted, or ever will.

Do I have my weak moments?

Yes, I do.

Have things gone according to plan?

No. But that’s life.

You make a plan, try to forge ahead, but also build resilience to deal with life when plans crumble. For a long time, I kept telling myself that I would quit my job only when I had concrete plans for my business, so I can catapult into execution mode as soon as I quit. I can only speak for myself, but this was easier said than done.

I had too much going on in my personal and professional lives to build a launchpad for my business at the same time. So, I do realise this is going to take a lot longer than I would’ve liked. But it’s okay.

I strongly believe in the need for a revolution in the domain of finding love, hence, the last one year has been a year of experimentation, and finding a way forward for M.B.A.

There are a lot of times when I feel unsure of the path ahead. I try not to think how this might fail, and I just focus on getting things done in the hope that someday I will have a breakthrough. It is not easy to not have a salary, or deal with fluctuating revenues or a pandemic. It is not easy to deal with not having a stable income in the household. But thanks to covid, we don’t have any grand expenses, which means we’re not reminded of our penury as often. But occasionally, we do miss the money. It is only natural.

But that doesn’t mean I want to stop doing what I’m doing. At least not yet. This was meant to be a 3-year sabbatical to pursue a passion project, and I will try my very best to give this the time and commitment it deserves.

I am immensely grateful for the support I have from my family, closest friends and my mentor. They don’t let me give up as easily, and that to me means the world. Anybody who has ever taken a risk in life knows what this is like, and I am only beginning to understand what this feels like myself.

P.S. – If you’re an entrepreneur, I’d love to read your self-doubt essay. 🙂

Letters to my Berry#32

Happy 4th Birthday sweetheart!

Time flies, can’t believe you are 4 years old already. It would’ve been lovely for you to go to school, meet your friends and learn new things. Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much since the onset of the pandemic. While schools have started in other countries, schools in India are yet to re-open for this academic year. Of course, this hasn’t stopped you from learning anything – you continue to find ways to learn things on your own.

And you know what you want to become. You want to be an astronaut, a musician (or “musiker” as you call it), a doctor, a “makeup teacher”, a chef, an artist and a lawyer. In fact, you think you are already a lawyer, since you think a lawyer is someone who resoles fights.

You claim that you represent me whenever I fight with appa. The other day, Appa happened to raise his voice and you immediately physically stepped in to push him back so that he stopped shouting. 

Oh, and you talk endlessly. Appa or I will be working, and you just never stop talking, and when we ask you if we can have some “quiet time”, you utter an emphatic no, and continue with your conversations. When we try really hard to get you to stop talking, you put on a sad face and say that you “want to talk about your feelings”.

Then you proceed to ask us what makes us happy, what makes us sad, what makes us anxious, what we are grateful for, and more such deep questions. You have learnt about all these from one of the books that I got you, about empathy.

Speaking of books, you can read properly now. In the mornings, when Appa reads his newspapers, you sit with him, and read out some of the headlines. When he asks you to read the full text, though, you stop, saying that you can only read “big text”. You especially love the comic strip page in the Times of India. And wherever else you see a cartoon in the paper, you bug appa to “tell you the story”. 

You like some routines. Every day you want “pancake” (french toast, basically) for breakfast, and only Appa has to make it for you. Whenever you go to stay over at ajji-thatha’s house, you invariably call Appa and tell him that you miss his pancakes. On some days, though, you want idli-vade-sambar for breakfast, and go with Appa in the car to SN to bring home the breakfast. You like to “dunk” the idli and vade in sambar and eat it all by yourself.

During the last three months, we have rearranged the furniture in the house a fair bit, a process that you immensely enjoy. On some random weekend, we were happily chilling when you said that you wanted us to rearrange. A few of these rearrangements have resulted in our attempt to make you sleep in your own room. However, these attempts have failed spectacularly as your room in this house is rather far from our room, and so you’ve invariably come crying to us in the middle of the night. We hope that by the time you are five, you would have started sleeping in your own room. 

Interesting fact: Did you know you slept on your own when you were two? Your room in London was right next to ours, and we’d make you sleep there on your own so you slept soundly for longer because any movement by us would wake you up while you slept with us on the same bed.

Two months into the pandemic, your school started organising weekly meetups with your friends. You went to the first few enthusiastically but then started getting bored. You would run away from the computer and sometimes press the mute button when too many others would start talking simultaneously. The last straw was when your school invited you for a “pyjama party”. “I’m not letting my school friends see me in my jammies”, you declared and soon stopped going for the sessions. 

However, we did try online music lessons for you. We arranged for a week’s trial during which you ate the teacher’s head so much that it might have possibly come as a relief for him when we decided to not proceed with the classes. During that week, you did manage to learn to play a couple of lines of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16 in C Major. 

You really enjoy music, which is very clear. You recognise pitch perfectly, well you could do that at least six months ago. You catch onto melodies pretty quickly, and sometimes you can guess the composers too, especially when you are pretty familiar with them. You are crazy about watching random music videos with Appa. You are fascinated by musical instruments. Thanks to Khan academy kids, you know can recognise quite a few instruments by picture and sound. I learnt about kazoo and maraca from you. You really enjoy learning, whether its on your own, or when someone else teaches.

You are also hyper competitive. You don’t like not knowing something or being told you can’t do something – you find a way to try it on your own, unless of course it is something that doesn’t interest you at all. For instance, it takes a lot of effort to motivate you to do things like brushing your teeth or having your lunch/ dinner. We nag you for hours everyday, makes me wonder what I’ll do with all the time left once you can do everything on your own. May be get a job?

You want Appa to get a job so he can go to office, and you and I can be home everyday. You said you want to be able to buy more things for yourself. You told me that you will go to an office when you grow up so you can buy everything for your children. I am amazed by the things you think about. You told me that you miss the whole world so much and you would like to go to at least one party. You are such a social person that it makes me feel so bad that just when you started developing social skills this pandemic happened.

You have inherited your social skills from Avva, your great grandmother. You talk like her, you roll your eyes like her, smile like her and behave exactly like her in the presence of your friends. It’s funny how those genes skipped Ajji, me and went straight to you. But you know what, that’s a great thing. She has more friends than anyone I know. You both get along so well, it’s very cute. I am glad you got to meet her and spend time with her through this pandemic.

For your birthday this year, we had a piano cake, a little party with Ajji and thatha in the morning. You got lots of love and presents from Inna ajji, Vimla ajji, kanti thatha, Rashmi and Sanath (your new big people friends). In the evening your cousins Sammu and Mannu came over, and brought you such lovely presents. You guys had a great time hanging out together. You also got a present from your godparents, Sheila and Krishna. You got a present from Nikhil mama. You got money from Avva.

You got presents from your friend, Bhargav whose mummy Thejaswi had baked you a nice cake that we cut together on our forest holiday with them. Oh yes, we went to Kabini to celebrate your birthday amongst animals as per our annual tradition. We didn’t see as many animals, but it was a pretty fun holiday. You got to hang out lots with your best friend Bhargav, with whom you’ve had multiple play dates over this quarter. You guys get along so well, it’s very cute. I hope this is a friendship you’ll cherish for many many years to come.

I am so excited to watch you grow baby. I haven’t been the best mum over the last 6 months, but hey, I’ll try to do better ok?

I love you. Happy 4th birthday again! 🙂

P.S. – Did I say you draw very cutely? You made a card for thatha’s birthday, and he loved it. 😀

Happy 60th Birthday, Amma!

Amma, you turn 60 today. On this momentous occasion, I want to wish you a very happy birthday. Any other time, we would’ve had a grand celebration but as the world stands today, we just have to settle for a virtual wish, despite being in the same city. So, to make it extra special, I am writing this letter to tell you how awesome a person you are.

You are my best friend, someone who knows me better than I know myself. You’re always watching ten steps ahead of me, for which I am so grateful. I know that I don’t always let you know how I feel, but I bet you’ve felt the love through our daily arguments 😉 I am your project child, who first taught you how to be a mum, and you taught me how to be a daughter. So our bond is too special for ordinary praises.

You’ve always been such a wonderful mum – always putting our interests ahead of yours. I am truly blessed to be your daughter. In fact, the one thing I’ve always admired about you is how you’ve done your very best to live up to every role – daughter, sibling, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, colleague, friend and every other role you’ve ever had.

I bet it wasn’t easy being the oldest one among 4 kids, being robbed of exclusive attention from parents pretty early on. Barbie and I definitely saw you compensating for what you missed by being a 100 times the mum we deserved. I can’t even begin to imagine how you managed your work, your household responsibilities, ferried us to all sorts of extra curricular classes, helped us study and still have the patience to tell us stories as you fed us every single day. You used to feed me breakfast before work even when I was 25, and married!!! haha.

You know, my most powerful moment with you was being able to talk about my relationships and heart-breaks during college. You constantly encouraged me to do my best in everything I did (although it felt like nagging then!), I don’t think anyone pushes me this hard. It’s probably your voice in my head that makes me constantly want to outdo myself now. The fighting spirit you inculcated in me and Barbie is what has made both of us strong and independent women.

Growing up, you provided us with everything beyond your means. You and Appa have always treated us kids so respectfully, and never yelled at us or hit us growing up. This is precisely why I remember the two times you actually hit me. You know something? I’ve never once held that against you, and I only share that story in jest. I probably didn’t understand what you were going through back then, but in retrospect, you handled yourself so well despite all the pressures you dealt with.

It was definitely not easy balancing demanding in-laws and your yearning to stay connected to your parents and siblings, and play the role of the eldest child. I know you tried your best despite your circumstances, and if it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough. You tried, and that’s all matters to everyone.

You may not be as close to all your siblings today as you would’ve liked, but time does that to us sometimes. You may not meet them together as often. It’s nobody’s fault. You’ve great memories with your brother and sisters growing up together, and sometimes memories serve us better than reality. If the universe is willing, we may all meet again, without the need for an occasion, sit down together and share some honest laughter. I’ll look forward to that day with you.

While you couldn’t continue to be a full-time daughter after marriage, you were the best daughter-in-law ajji thatha could’ve ever had, despite them never having had an opportunity to acknowledge that. When you’d nag Barbie and me to go downstairs every night so Ajji doesn’t sleep alone, I’d get so bugged, but now I can see how you prioritised her needs over yours, always. You are so selfless that it bugs me. I really wish you could think about yourself for once and not give a shit about anyone, including us. But I guess that is who you are.

May be that’s how you pampered and spoilt Appa to the point where he gets bugged when you don’t cook meals on time now. Obviously you were a great wife too. So much so that the feminist in me would never admit that you were a good wife. You took on more than you should’ve as a partner. You got so caught up in managing household responsibilities, you forgot to have fun.

It’s only after Barbie and I moved away did you and Appa actually have a chance to live with each other on your own. So, that sort of makes you guys a young couple who’ve started living independently only in the last 4-5 years, which means you should now focus on having some fun. The sink will be full of vessels, the kitchen will be a mess, the front yard will be full of leaves, Barbie and I will almost never “settle down” but so what? This time that you and Appa are sharing is precious, so cherish it.

Once this pandemic is over, make new friends and laugh a bit more. I love it when you laugh especially hysterically. It makes me laugh. I probably picked up wordplay and a sense of humour because of you. I definitely picked up journaling from you. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be writing you this note, or have this blog. I’d love to spend several days with you listening to you read out all your old diaries because I don’t think I’ll be able to read so much Kannada on my own. 😉

In fact, Karthik once tried to get you to move your writing to a blog, where he diligently sat and typed as you dictated, but I suppose we’ll have to try one more time to get you started. While Karthik and you have orthogonal views on many things, you guys share a special bond based on desserts. Thanks to you, he’s discovered a whole range of south indian dishes he never had access to growing up. He sees a lot of you in me.

In so many ways I look at you to see what life will be like when I grow up because I am like you in many ways, although I may not look like. You didn’t teach me to be this way, I think I just am. I wish I’ll read as much as you do at your age. When I look at your Facebook posts, I think it’s crazy that so many people talk to you there. I wish I were as social as you are, and be able to talk to anyone with such ease. You have so many friends, and know so many people, it’s impossible to walk in our area without you stopping to chat with a few people on the way. It is definitely inspiring.

May be that part of your personality skipped me and went straight to Berry. She loves to socialise as much as you. She looks up to her Gramma so much. She feels so safe and comfortable with you. I try to parent her in my way, which is quite different from yours, but guess what, all she ever wants is Uppu thuppa anna and saranna. haha. She’s so sad that we aren’t celebrating your birthday today, and can’t wait for corona to be shot so she can have a party for you. 🙂

Party or not, remember that today is your day. You’ll be 60 only once, so enjoy your day. May the rest of your year, and all the years to come be blessed with a lot of good health, peace and happiness. We all love you very very much. Muahhh!!!

P.S. – I haven’t written about how you were always an asset to your employer in every branch that you worked, and how everyone, including all your customers had nothing but praises for you. It always made us so proud of you. If I could’ve have 10% of my customers talk about me like yours do, I would be amazed!

Is it me, or is recruiting really this hard?

For a while now, I’ve been trying to recruit someone to support me with M.B.A. I believe two people can help grow this much more than just one person. Some days I feel like I need help with tech to help improve the current systems in place so I can spend more time with people and less time dealing with the logistics. On some other days I feel like having a human to support me with these tasks can help open up other possibilities, thanks to the agility and diversity a human being brings.

I’ve tried to recruit a few times, but I haven’t been successful. I tried several different job titles – Business development manager, Operations Manager, Founder Staff, Executive Assistant, etc. None of them worked.

I’ve hired and managed people during my corporate career. It was easier taking risks on behalf of a large organisation. Having a big brand also helped attract people with an ability to fake the right amount of interest. But without any of this, it’s been harder than I imagined.

But hey, I also realise that I can afford to be “picky” because you will be the first person to join the team, not the 1000th and so the bar is very high. At the very least, you will need to know, and articulate very clearly as to why you want to do this particular job and how you can help grow this business. This is as much about the skills you bring as it is about the particular gaps you want to fill.

Like most things in life, I’ve decided to think out loud about this by blogging in the hope that someone who reads this might resonate with it and we may have a chance to talk.

ABOUT ME:

Here’s my LinkedIn Profile – as you will see I am someone who challenges myself constantly, but I also give things enough time before moving on. I value persistence and relentless pursuit of growth. I am supremely ambitious, but also equally lazy. I am constantly ideating to do things more easily, so I enjoy the company of people who can tell me exactly how they can help rather than giving me more work. I can be the best or the worst person to work with depending on who you are.

WHAT WORKING TOGETHER WOULD LOOK LIKE:

Who you are matters to me

This isn’t a mass recruitment drive where your individual skills or values mean little to me. You are not a resource or a commodity. I will not train you to do the things I can do by myself. You will bring unique value to this, which is for you to define from day 1. If you choose to lead the social media marketing piece, then I expect you to be the expert. If you lead operations, I expect you to tell me how we need to run the show better. You are going to be both my strength and my weakness too. Our communication will be open, we will be vulnerable and relentless with each other. Now, I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing. But I just know it’s a thing.

Your values matter

My work involves working with deeply personal issues of my customers. Confidentiality is paramount here. Your integrity, your ability to be empathetic and build trust matters more than anything. Of course, respect for time and people goes without saying. So, if these values are part of your DNA, sky is the limit for what you can learn or do with this job.

Skills can be learnt

Your education, pedigree or certificates have no bearing on how well you can do this job. You need to:

  • Be street smart
  • Have an analytical and a logical bent of mind
  • Have sharp communication skills (spoken and written) in English (knowing Indian languages is a bonus)
  • Have an interest in learning
  • Be persistent

Everything else can be learnt on the job. You will learn about sales, marketing, operations, finance, technology, products, human behaviour, customer experience and everything there is to learn about starting and running a business.

You learn on the job

You will contribute from day 1. I will hover over you only until we are aligned on values and the mission to be accomplished. I give and expect autonomy as long as we’re faithful to the mission. It has taken me years (7+) to get where I am with M.B.A. and I haven’t even scratched the surface. So, I don’t expect you to learn everything in a few months but I am willing to share my learnings and experiences with you so we contextualise your contributions to growing this business.

Meaning or fulfillment is not on offer

I can promise you money, I can promise you learnings and I can promise you an experience that you may have never had. But I cannot promise you meaning or fulfillment in this job. It is for you to find or create. Watching your efforts yield results might help bring meaning into what you do, but it’ll be a while before that happens. Your patience is key in finding a sense of fulfillment. So, if you ever give up, I would understand because I know how long it’s taken me to trade money for meaning.

I cannot help you with your baggage

You are my first real partner in a professional context, and I’d love for you to not bring any baggage either. If you are a fresh college grad looking to gain some work experience, this would be a perfect first job for you. Openness to the possibilities of what this job has to offer will be sufficiently compensated. But if you’re coming here because you can’t find any other job or you couldn’t find meaning in your previous job or that you hated your previous manager, I may not be able to help you deal with your baggage.

It’s just a job

There are no perks, but there may be coffee and snacks when we can physically work together. There’s no health insurance. There are no frills that you would get at a large organisation that needs to pretend to treat their employees well. This is just a regular job that pays (pittance) and provides for some sort of an identity and purpose in life. You contribute, and you get compensated for your contributions. You can go tell your family and friends that you help people define and realise their relationship aspirations. That’s it really. Everything else is a massive bonus.

You start as an intern for 3 months

Although this is a proper full-time job, you start as an intern for three months. This will allow you the chance to learn everything you need to before you start leading one or several pieces of this business. This will also allow both you and me to understand each other, and assess if our values are aligned, and we can work with each other. As an intern, your responsibilities will include all non-client facing work such as social media marketing, content writing, internal operations, etc. There will be little to no client interaction during the internship period.

P.S. – This job is remote for now, but someday, I hope to work together from the same physical space which means if you’re based in Bangalore as well, that’s great.

Letters to my Berry#31

Happy three and three-fourth boo boo.

This is by far the strangest quarter of your life. Actually it’s the strangest quarter of anyone’s life, who’s lived the last three months. The entire world was hit by a pandemic, and almost all our lives came to a grinding halt right after you turned 3.5 years. The novel corona virus or covid-19 has affected so many lives, but I can’t imagine how little ones like you are feeling right now.

Sometimes you stop responding. Sometimes you say that you need me to stop telling you what to do always, and let you be. Sometimes you tell me you are either frustrated or depressed. Sometimes, you want to talk to nobody, and just always be with me. You keep screaming how much you love me, and that you want me to always be with you. While it’s nice that we get to spend so much time together but I always worry about the separation anxiety you will face going back to school.

Your school has been shut since 9th March 2020, and you’ve had an extended summer vacation. We still don’t know when your school will re-open. You can’t seem to wrap your head around what’s happening. We explained the story of the pandemic, and how you need to be careful about not shaking hands with anyone and so on. Every time you see someone in a movie shake hands or kiss, you wonder if they’ll get corona. 😦

You have to wear a mask everywhere you go, you have to wash your hands every time you go out somewhere and come home. You’ve been mostly playing along, but there are days when you’re so sick of all this, you want to just go back to school or go back to Maldives for a “beach holiday”.

To be honest, this break has been quite hard on all of us. Sometimes when Appa and I are a little frustrated and end up arguing about something, you feel very worried. We try our best not to lose it in front of you but it’s not always possible. You get scared when appa has a hard time managing his anger. For the most bit, you don’t like being with him when he behaves like that.

I’ve been trying to talk to you about it and assure you that it’s okay to feel frustrated sometimes but talking is more helpful than shouting. Being able to talk about your own feelings has been very helpful for you. I may not always be in control of the environment you are exposed to, but being able to express your emotions constructively through conversation is something I am trying to help you with, and it’s been working well so far.

Your school has a weekly connect so you guys don’t forget each other, and also have a chance to share what you’ve been up to with each other. You eagerly wait for the session every week, but are equally disappointed most days because you don’t get to talk much. There is so much pent up energy that has no release what so ever.

Sometimes, we set up 1:1 video calls with your friends but one of you gets bored midway and runs away. I worry about regression of social skills. I can’t imagine spending a 10th of my life in almost complete social isolation especially when I am beginning to develop social skills. I feel so helpless, because I can’t take you anywhere to meet anyone. It’s simply not safe for people to visit each other now. I just hope and pray that this passes soon.

But the freedom to what you want with your time has enabled you to learn several things.

GEOGRAPHY: You can comfortably complete your world map and India map jigsaw puzzles. While you are yet to identify all Indian states, you can identify 160-170 countries by location and shape. You can identify a few flags and a few capital cities. I was using this as a way for you to open up and bond with your cousin Vidyut. He challenged you to identify all the oceans, but you hadn’t learnt to do that yet. That afternoon, you came home and demanded me to teach you all the oceans and you learnt it in no time. So, I suppose you’ve more grit than Appa or I do. 😉

GAMES: You love playing Zingo and cards game. You can play all day everyday without ever getting bored. You can play chowka barah and monopoly (well, sort of), thanks to thatha who patiently plays with you. You’ve learnt all the moves in chess, can play a complete game and even win sometimes, thanks to Appa.

We got you a pool during the lockdown to keep you entertained, and you love hanging out in it, pretending to be at the beach. You keep remembering your trip to Maldives off late, and it’s so sad that we can’t go back there any time soon. So we let you pretend with your toy pool and your blue yoga mat.

You’ve invented some new games with pillows. You keep building houses in all the rooms with your pillows and creating massive havoc in the house on a daily basis. Appa and I spend every evening restoring order in the house. We’ve given up on trying to get you to see the benefit of keeping the house tidy as you firmly believe that one needs to make a mess if they want to play.

Barbie sent you a toy make up set that you love to play with. It’s quite cute to see you stand in front of your dressing mirror, brush your hair, dress up everyday after your bath. When you are all decked up, you need both Appa and me to compliment you, till which time you walk up and down in front of us strutting your face into ours.

LANGUAGE: You have been able to read in Kannada for a while although you can’t speak very much. We’ve been practising speaking a little bit this quarter as you seem to shut off and not interact when all conversation around you is in Kannada. You definitely try very hard to speak, but you don’t have a lot of exposure because unfortunately no one ever talks to you in Kannada.

READING: You can read all phonetic words on your own. You need a little bit of help when they’re not phonetic. You still lack the confidence to comfortably read a book on your own. We’ve just started playing this game called “Alternate reading” everyday where you read one line and I read another and so on. We’ve read 4 books so far, and you’ve been so excited to be able to do that. You told me that you had no idea you could read all the sounds, which is so cute. Believe me, once you can read books on your own, you will discover a whole new world. Appa and I spend a lot of time reading, and hopefully that will have some positive influence on you.

You’ve started learning to play a bit of scrabble, but can’t play a full game yet. Rather, we haven’t had the patience to guide you through an entire game. When Appa and I play, you hang around reading all the words. You are always on my team and get very upset when I lose. You take your plastic bat and beat appa for “beating” me.

WRITING: We’ve tried to get you to practice writing a bit, but haven’t really followed through. However, you can type on a phone and a computer quite peacefully, so we’ve taken it easy. I am sure not having enough hand control/ coordination might set you back in school and we should be spending more time trying to improve your grip, but hey, this lockdown has been quite challenging for us too.

LIFE GOALS: For the first time ever, you’ve life goals this quarter. There are a bunch of things you want to do in life. You want to be a doctor, make up teacher, musician, writer, chef, artist and an astronaut. All at once, that too. Apparently when someone comes to your clinic, and they look dull, you plan to treat them by doing make up and turning them into a fairy. You also plan to play a song and write them a story to cheer them up. While it all sounds so cute and funny, who knows..you might be all of this all at once when you grow up.

You want to be a doctor in America just like Barbie. You are apparently fine to leave mum and dad here in India and live in America with Barbie. As a doctor, you want to shoot corona virus and kill it. You are quite disappointed that Modiji (our PM) hasn’t been able to shoot corona yet. But then again, sometimes you just want to go back to England. May be it’s the extended stay-at-home that’s talking, I don’t know.

OTHER SKILLS: You’ve been a bit helpful around the house with cooking, cleaning once in a while when we ask you to and taking care of the plants. Sometimes you don’t feel like being bothered at all. You are happy to have us slave away. You are quite lazy or cheeky sometimes, I can’t figure out which one. But soon, we’ll have to start making you more responsible for your own work.

For instance, you’ve learnt to go to the bathroom yourself, finish business, flush, wash your hands and come out. We only need to find a way to reduce the pre-bathroom trip announcements. 🙂

You can independently operate the TV remote. This is a bit later than most kids, but hey, until this pandemic hit us, you weren’t a big TV watcher. But now, unfortunately, Appa and I rely on TV a lot to keep you entertained when we both need to get work done. In fact, you don’t like it that I work.

You prefer that only Appa works and I spend all my time playing with you. You keep making selfie videos on the phone saying things like nobody loves you and nobody plays with you, which really breaks my heart.

You love music. You keep learning to play new bits on your piano. You can sing a few metal songs, recognise a few bands based on the music. You can also recognise several instruments based on visual appearance and sound. You clearly have an interest in music, that we most definitely want to nurture. But unfortunately, due to covid, we’ve had to patiently wait to let you continue your music lessons.

You do a lot of physical activities like jumping, head stands, and so on. Although, I wish we could go outdoors and run around like we used to be able to in parks in London. But for now, we’ve got to make do with running around indoors playing running and catching the badman and things like that.

Overall, you’re growing up suddenly and I can see that through the various things you say, the questions you ask and the remarks you unexpectedly make. Sigh, can’t believe time flies this quickly. I’ve loved you at every age, and I will continue to love you always, babe. Yes, babe. Not bro, or dude. Ok?

Muah.

Breaking the Parenting cycle.

When Berry was born, I would aimlessly scroll through Instagram while feeding her. I was exposed to several different types of parenting gyaan. Quite frankly it was scary, especially to someone who’d just become a mom and didn’t quite understand the extent of the responsibility besides generally keeping the child fed and groomed.

Now, 3-4 years into the gig, I’ve started to make peace with the fact that everyone carries their own baggages as parents, and most of the time people are focussed on providing opportunities they didn’t have as children themselves. Now, this is not very different from what our parents did. Every generation is battling with their own set of issues, which get overcompensated for by the next generation.

Achieving a certain level of wealth was challenging given the opportunities that were available to our previous generation, and hence, it became a worthy goal to pursue. Naturally, this also became their parenting mantra as they didn’t manage to achieve it during their own time as young adults. Thanks to their grit, we are well-educated, financially comfortable and free to worry about newer problems.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs | Simply Psychology

We grew up believing that our sense of belonging and self-esteem was a result of good marks and high salaries. They were never considered independent entities. We’ve learnt that this is not the case. Belonging or self-esteem are elusive, which makes them irresistible and worthy goals to chase.

Quite frankly, we are ill-equipped to chase them, or even realise that they don’t require chasing anymore. This means, we’re going to expect our children to have much more self-esteem than we ever did, and we will focus all our efforts on building that.

Given that this comes from a place of overcompensation, will we ever do it right? Or, will our succeeding generation still be an unhappy lot chasing self-actualization? What would this look like?

As parents, we are focussing on virtues like freedom, seeking and cherishing small joys in order to build respect and self-esteem for one self. However, this also means that we may not equip them to push the limits. They might feel unsatisfied for not having explored their full-potential because they were happy enjoying everything within their reach. This might result in a deep sense of lack of fulfillment.

Is there a way to address this while trying to endorse freedom, and building their self-esteem? What if we didn’t do this from a place of overcompensation because of what we missed out, and instead did it from a place of setting the stage to help them achieve their full potential? Would that result in a different outcome? What does that even look like from a parenting perspective?

It’s not trivial to break the parenting cycle of overcompensating for opportunities we never had. To start with a clean slate means dealing with our own baggage first even before we begin parenting. When we start focussing on the setup that enabled each generation to out-do the previous, rather than why that wasn’t good enough, we might have more insight.

History, herstory and everyone’s story.

I don’t think I liked history very much through school. In fact, I remember not studying for my 10th boards social studies exam until the day before because that’s how boring I found history. It’s not until recently that I realised that it was probably the way history was taught at school that made history boring for me.

The teacher had summarised notes of every history lesson that she would dictate every class and we were expected to take notes. I never understood the point of it. To make matters worse, my parents suggested that short hand would help me takes notes faster, weirdly reinforcing the teaching methodology adopted by my school. I wish they’d said screw the notes, read stories of people from the past if you find them interesting.

Now, I find myself reading stories, albeit in the form of fiction. Over the last month, I’ve read quite a few stories of wars across the world and I can’t believe I didn’t know about any of them. I may not remember the details of the war itself, but I think how people in these stories experienced war will stay with me forever.

I wish we’d learnt history in school like this where the stories belonged to someone and not an average of so many people that you could hardly relate to them or take them at face value like they were black and white facts. I get that when I read stories, especially fiction, not everything is true, and that every story has many storytellers or sides to it. But at least I don’t read the stories under any illusions like we did back in school.

Every time I discover that I didn’t learn something as much as I would’ve liked, I keep wondering what would’ve been a better way to learn. While telling the daughter stories, I wonder how I can tell her a story and also make sure she knows its one story from one person’s perspective and that the way to learn about anything is through many voices and then be able discern which ones fit where.

Open to ideas if any of you’ve got any.

Lunchclub

Lunchclub is a new facilitator of introductions. Their official pitch is “Lunchclub is an AI superconnector that makes introductions for 1:1 video meetings to advance your career. But as far as I am concerned, they help setup professional “blind dates”. It’s discovery-tech (if that’s even a thing!).

They enable you to either meet interesting people, find people to do projects with/ partner with, etc. I absolutely love the idea. I am a huge fan of intent based connections. Given that I am a “solopreneur”, I have fewer opportunities these days to meet new and interesting people. So, being able to outsource this task of facilitating introductions is much appreciated.

Anyway, I signed up a couple of weeks ago, thanks to an invite from a friend. I filled out some basic info, put in available slots and forgot about it until I got an email followed by an invite from my new match. I could’ve gone and looked them up on the internet prior to our call but I decided to take it chill and go with the flow.

It was finally time for my call, and I realised it was a 45-min call. Now, I’d budgeted 30min for it. To be fair, 30min is the ideal length of time for a call with a stranger. You see, it helps limit the downside. Call begins, I decide to break the ice by cracking an inappropriate joke about how I am so glad to not see a naked man on the other side. I confess my noob-ness, and turned out it was my match’s first call too.

I suggested we start with a round of introductions, and figure it out from there. My match vaguely told me a bit about what he does. We never got to the bit about me because we mostly spent the next 30 min talking about him. By then I was exhausted from interviewing him, so I called it a night, and we cordially ended the conversation. This definitely re-enforced my theory on asking questions on a date and how it helps you figure out if you ever want to talk to that person again. I contemplated if I should ever use Lunchclub again, but I decided to sleep on it.

Next day, Lunchclub sent me an email asking for my feedback regarding how relevant the introduction was. Then I figured I must give this machine some time. Now, all ideas are generally fabulous in theory. In reality, they take ages to take reasonable shape. Lunchclub doesn’t seem to have a fancy recommendation algorithm like Netflix or a massive user base like Facebook to make the most relevant introductions just as yet. But given that they have an “ai” in their name, I’m hoping their recommendations become more relevant over time.

To be fair, I’ve tried it just once, so I unfortunately do not have a verdict on whether I would recommend it or not, at least not yet. I decided to give the machine more data by booking in two more meetings for the week. So, fingers crossed, hopefully I’ve earned myself a conversation and not yet another interview.

P.S. – If you want an invite to Lunch Club, let me know.

My evolution as an aspiring reader

I’ve never been much of a reader. Books were a luxury when we were kids. We were a middle-class family with 6 people in the house on two incomes. We were sent to one of the best schools in the city although my parents could barely afford it. We always got what we asked for. We celebrated all the south indian hindu festivals at home with the entire family on my dad’s side since we lived with our paternal grandparents. My grandmother was a great cook and she loved making tasty snacks and condiments for her family, which meant that besides our tuition, all of the household income went into funding high household expenses.

So naturally, my parents couldn’t afford to buy us as many books. They only ever invested in “reference books” with a high ROI. You know, like a dictionary, Wren & Martin, etc. Most of the “story books” we had were hand me downs from cousins. I remember I used to love reading Tinkle as a kid, but it was 8 bucks(!!!) for an edition and my dad wouldn’t buy it for me because it was a terrible waste of money for something that would get over in 15mins. Instead, my parents got me a library membership where I could borrow a Tinkle for 50p a day. Given that I didn’t read a lot of books, I was a slow reader. So I was afraid to borrow books that would take me a long time to read because then I’d have to spend more money on them.

So, I only ever read Enid Blyton when I could borrow the book from our school library. We used to have one library period a week when you could read books but I think by 6th standard that became the time when “hardworking kids” started finishing off their homework so they’d get more time to study at home. Obviously this was a great strategy worth copying, so goodbye reading. Hello, brownie points from parents.

Summer holidays could’ve been a great time to read, but you see, my mum had spent all her holidays “preparing for the next academic year” as a kid. But I had friends to play with, so I didn’t need to occupy myself with anything else. Although my parents would’ve loved for us to be readers, I didn’t spend a lot of my time reading. On the contrary, I ended up running a library when I was 9 years old and made over a 100 bucks one summer. So you see, I was always meant to run a business. 😀

So you see, it was only when I didn’t have friends in life that I actually started reading. In 2007, I had drifted away from most friendships since I was deeply involved in a relationship. When this relationship ended, I was friendless. I tried to re-build some friendships, but it was really hard. So, I found my escape in books. I read the Harry Potter series from start to finish that summer (all borrowed, of course!) I couldn’t believe I’d read so much at a stretch. I absolutely loved it. These books helped me get through one of the worst times of my life. I knew that I could always escape into another world through books.

Then there was a massive period of lull for about 10 years. I was too pre-occupied with all the new relationships I was building in mu life. When we moved to London in 2017, I saw a lot of people on the tube reading all the time. That’s when I started reading again. May be it was peer pressure again, but beneficial to reading this time. It definitely made my commute a lot more interesting.

Given that I’d never discovered the joy of reading as a kid, I wanted Berry to experience it. You know, being a typical parent and all. I always bought her books that she asked for. They cost nothing in comparison to my income. Its an expense that’s never been a burden, unlike to my parents’, so why not. In fact, I buy books for Berry very regularly whether she asks for it or not because I want her to have a chance to experience the joy of reading. Now, if she doesn’t become a reader, it’s fine. It’s her loss really, but at least, I’ll know I tried.

Once I started buying books for Berry, I started becoming less afraid to buy books for myself. My husband has been great that way in showering me with books all the time whether I read them or not. Whenever I want to read something, he’ll be the first to buy it. In fact, he bought me a stack of books last week from Blossoms and I am binge reading them now.

Thanks to COVID, and all the isolation, I am reading again after a brief period of quiet since we moved back from London last year. Once again, I cannot believe I am on my 7th book of the month, but I am loving it so very much and making up for all the lost time in my life. To keep things interesting, I am trying to read books from different countries now. Having a friend or two from a lot of these countries helps in not building stereotypes in my head about these countries based on just one voice.

I might write a post about some of the books I’ve read recently at some point, but for now, I’ll be spending most of my time reading 😀