BEYOND THE DEFENSE AND BLAME GAME

I am quite afraid of the “we need to talk” kind of situations in my personal life and at work, I am worried to see a meeting invite from the manager with just the subject mentioned as “Connect” and no agenda mentioned. Both represent not-so-happy communication, rather, it’s self-explanatory that it’s gonna be a difficult conversation. As one grows, one witnesses such conversations and there is no escape route.

Listening to negative things about yourself is not easy. Let me put it in better words. Listening to the areas of improvement in your work or behaviour is not easy and the first reaction is the defense. Most of us try to defend ourselves even before truly evaluating what we did. This does no good and then makes the conversation even more complicated. Next comes the blame game. It’s kind of easy to push the blame. Isn’t it? But does that make you clean? Think about it.

Over the years, I have been in such situations many times, and the journey from being a naive individual or professional to a mature and experienced one has given me a lot of learnings. And now, I have learned to look beyond the defense and the blame game. What do I exactly do?

While discussing the negative feedback the first and foremost thing that I do is accept the mistake. It’s hard but it’s the best to do! Then I talk about why it happened and what can I do to improve it. Trust me, this makes the conversation easier and short. Post this discussion, I reflect upon myself and disintegrate the feedback. I pick up what is useful and let go of what is not. Remember that not ALL that you get to hear is right or useful. Make your choice. Negative feedback or areas of improvement are not always a bad discussion if you learn to decide which part to keep and which part to let go of. Thus, you can actually turn these difficult conversations into something good.

But what if there is no mistake done by you and yet you get a mouthful from your boss, spouse, or parents? It happens, right? And what’s the immediate reaction of most of us? Yell back? Or revert in an aggressive way? Does it help? Definitely not! What do I do then?

Again, this didn’t come to me naturally but I have learnt it on my way to growing up! I stay calm! Sometimes so calm that it calms down the other person. We all know that one word leads to another and in no time an argument can flare-up. So, staying calm really works in these situations. The next thing that I do is the person what makes him believe that needless to say, in a very controlled tone. Once you know the source, it’s easy to clear the air. In most such situations, the misunderstanding is cleared but not all situations and people are the same. So, after considerable effort, if I feel that the other person DOESN’T want to understand, I end the discussion by saying “LET’S AGREE TO DISAGREE”.

Now, what I do after that is even more important. I shed off all the inhibitions about how good or bad I am in the eyes of that person. Again, this didn’t come naturally to me but I have learned this over the years. Someone has truly said that don’t let the negative feedback DEFINE YOU. You are much more!

So, take it with a pinch of salt and move ahead. Negative feedback can actually help you only if you learn how to deal with it. How do you cope with negative feedback and difficult conversations? Do you reflect upon them? Does it drive you to do better or do you break down? Do share your experience and tips and tricks!

IT TAKES COURAGE TO GROW UP AND BECOME WHO YOU REALLY ARE

Courage is a necessity to overcome fears and achieve the desired goal. Fear is something that exists in all of us. There is no hero or any particular courageous figure that is without fear. Being fearless is not required to be courageous, one simply has to look past or overcome their fears. Courage does not mean merely physical bravery, it means, also, the moral strength which enables a man to do the right thing. Physical courage is good and useful, as it helps man to overcome difficulties, bear hardships, and do laborious work, but moral courage is a higher form of courage and is much nobler. A moral coward will not do the right thing, because he is afraid to be ridiculed by others. It is easy to say ‘yes’ to everything, but it requires a very strong mind to say ‘no,’ when one is really convinced that the thing is wrong.

For example, many great reformers would not have achieved the success they achieved if they had yielded to the threats of their opponents who were perhaps even more powerful than themselves.

Sacrificing one’s interests for the sake of others requires great courage. A man who risks his own life to save that of another, who rescues another from fire, or saves a drowning man, defines courage. Someone who stands up for what he firmly believes in when thousands follow the wrong path defines courage.

Someone who puts on a smiling facade while they may be crippling defines courage.

To everyone who fights every day mentally or physically, to everyone who fights every day in this pandemic as a doctor or a survivor, to everyone who pretends to be stronger than ever were, YOU are courage.

We start demonstrating courage since childhood itself but the form of courage gets deeper and more intense as we grow up. The situations and circumstances that we face in life also define how courageous one needs to be.

One courageous act that I have done is putting my foot down in the matter of career that I wanted to make. I will tell you a little story about it.

I was pursuing chartered accountancy and had set goals for myself. Unfortunately, I couldn’t clear the 2nd level of the exam in 3 attempts. Then I made up my mind to go for MBA. My mom was strictly against it…! According to her, it didn’t make sense to give up on efforts made for 4 years (3 yrs for the 2nd level and 1 yr for the first level). She was right in a way. Chartered accountancy is a tough exam to clear and it is common to take those number of attempts. But the hidden fear that she had was “log kya kahenge”… she thought our friends and relatives and acquaintances may call me a failure. The result was that she strongly opposed my decision of giving up on chartered accountancy.

However, my mind was clear and I knew what I had to do. I managed to convince her to believe in me. I explained to her why I wanted to make that shift. I told her that I wanted to get married at a decent age, earn x amount by that time and I was in no way going to meet these goals if I continued with my chartered accountancy stint. It wasn’t easy to convince her. There were arguments, emotional blackmailing and tears on both sides but I stayed put. Not sure where I gathered that courage from but I did. It’s never easy to go against your parents, especially if you want them to be with you on your journey.

By God’s grace, everything worked as per my plan. I was able to achieve both goals. Later in life, I was proposed to consider an alternative job versus my corporate job so that I don’t have much tension in life and I could give more time to the household. Someone has rightly said history repeats. But this time it demanded even more courage because it was not my mother but my mother in law against whom I had to put my foot down. Eventually, it worked. But I can’t tell you how much courage a newlywed needs to establish her dreams, aspirations and personal or career goals in a set of new family members. For me, that was the courage I showed, because I had a lot to achieve yet had a limitation on my behaviour and the methods I would use to explain, convince or persuade for that matter because once it was my mom and the second time it was my mother in law. There is always a line that you cannot cross when you are standing against adults.

Like I said above, we all show courage in different forms and magnitude right since we are born but some incidents leave a mark on your heart. What’s your memory of courage?


THE POT OF MUD

Some 15 years ago when I was pursuing my MBA, our college had arranged a Creativity Workshop. The whole campus was filled with booths having many creative activities but one that caught my attention was the pottery booth. It was messy and not too crowded. So, the first impression was that there’s nothing interesting there, not for me though!

Something pulled me towards that booth. I don’t know what, maybe less crowd? Or maybe the fragrance of fresh mud? I stood at the booth watching the potter make beautiful pots of various shapes. I was amazed at how fast and how easily he was creating those pots. He looked calm and happy. I was wondering as to how come he looks so content even though his booth is not pulling any crowd. No crowd means no sales either! Yet, that man looked satisfied. How? My naive mind could not understand that. Little did I know that the potter was a life-lesson personified. Life-lesson # 1 – Look inside you. You will find satisfaction. Look outside, you will misguide yourself.

I stood there for almost 15 mins before I made up my mind to give it a try. I was sceptical. I wanted to try making a pot but I didn’t want to make my hands dirty. Oh wait, was it really called making hands dirty? Uff.. my naive mind again! Popped life-lesson # 2 – A beautiful result calls for the hardship of efforts.

“Bhaiya, I want to make a pot.” finally I had made a decision. “But I have never done it before. Do you think I can still do it?”

“Of course! Anyone can make a pot” he replied. I felt a bit excited.

I pulled up my sleeves and was all set. I sat down on the floor – much contrary to the plus classroom furniture I was already used to! oh boy – sitting on the floor felt so comfortable, so homely! Life Lesson # 3 – Simple things can give you joy too!

The potter set the wheel and placed some mud at the centre.

“Here you go… now cup your hands around this and just tilt your hands a bit… move in the right direction..: he said showing me how to do it…

I carefully extended my hands out and cupped that soggy lifeless dollop of mud.

That first touch of fresh mud felt heavenly. It was silky smooth, aromatic and the steady rhythm it got from the wheel almost felt therapeutic. I was clearly not able to shape the pot but I was liking how my hands felt fully covered with mud. 

“Bhaiya, I am not able to shape it. can you please help me?” Life – Lesson # 4 -Not all things that look simple are actually simple!”

“Why not!” He was eager to help. He cupped his hands outside mine and helped me shape the pot.

A short while later, we had made a soft, asymmetrical pot. A small one. Nowhere close to beautiful. I frowned. 

“What happened?” He asked

“This doesn’t look nice.” I replied immediately.

“Aaare.. This is not done yet. I will bake this pot after it dries.Come back and take it the day after tomorrow. Then tell me how you like it.”

I thanked him for this wonderful experience and left. But the mud stayed with me. The touch, the aroma, the therapy – everything stayed with me.

I went to get my pot two days later. Somehow – I had grown fond of it in these two days. I was excited to see how it looked. 

“Now tell me… isn’t this beautiful?” He said placing the pot on my palms.

I kept looking at that small pot. That soft and mushy pot had hardened now. It had a form, it had a shape! It was still asymmetrical but beautiful. It was MY creation. Something that I created with my bare hands! 

A smile lit up my face. My eyes twinkled. I was so proud of this creation of mine! I thanked him again and went about my day. The whole day I saved that pot from any damage. When I went home, I found a safe corner in my house and placed it there. I showed it to everyone in the house. Just like a small kid who flaunts the first greeting card he makes! Or the first messy painting he does.

That pot was no more ordinary. I had literally placed my heart and soul in it. A few days later my niece visited us. A toddler fond of jumping around and throwing things, she picked up my pot to see and dropped it to the floor! CRASH…! My heart was broken into millions of pieces.

My prized possession was destroyed. I tried putting it back, but no luck. It was broken and couldn’t be mended. Life-lesson # 5 – Sometimes no matter how much you try, you cannot fix broken things – be it heart, relationships or anything else.

I wanted to yell at my niece but something held me back. Something inside me assured me that her action was not intentional. She was a child after all! Life- lesson # 6 – There is a lot more than what meets the eye. Its not always what you see – its about how you look at it!

Cut to present – That pot is gone but it has given me some pearls of wisdom. Some learning that simplifies my life as an adult. A lovely and valuable memory!

BLESSING IN DISGUISE

I got discharged from the hospital last Friday. A week of running around by the whole family with me lying in the hospital bed gasping for breath was a traumatic experience. All of us needed rest. My mom and mom-in-law were on toes all through the week and they deserved to go back home and relax.

So two days after I was discharged, my mom said she was taking Aarnav (my 3 yr old son) with her. The idea was to give me some rest. Obviously, I rejected the idea upfront. The mom in me was not able to approve the distancing of my child, depriving him of mother’s love, making him sleep without those cuddles and kisses and overall other mom duties. However, this decision was forced on me by the whole family. Much against my wishes I had to give in. I waved my son goodbye with a heavy heart and tried to console myself by thinking at least he didn’t cry. It’s a different story that he didn’t know he was supposed to stay without his mom for a week.

The first day was difficult. I missed him terribly. I cried. But I fully trusted my mom’s judgement and believed in the idea that he will be fine without me.

Cut to today:
It’s been 5 days and my little munchkin is happy at nana-nani’s house. He is getting that extra pampering, is not bound by any rules and is having a gala time. He is the apple of their eyes. My mom shares his pictures and videos because I terribly miss him but more because she wants to instil that confidence in me that Aarnav is now ready to take baby steps to come out of my wings and prepare to fly. 

The exact same thing that I was cribbing about as to why a decision is enforced on me is something that I am utterly grateful for today. These 5 days not only gave me much needed rest, but it also ensured full concentration at my office work, no additional breaks for baby duties and thus wrapping up work on time. It also gave me some “ME TIME” which I don’t seem to have got in a long time now. More importantly, it showed me that Aarnav is slowly becoming independent, that my baby is growing up. I do feel the mom guilt but there is very little that can be done for it. Guilt and motherhood go hand in hand I suppose.

Anyway, the bottom line is – Lot of times we question the happening of certain things in life. We hate those times. We feel betrayed, shattered or even breakdown. But that happening could be a blessing in disguise. If we are able to manage the breakdown and negative emotions we may experience the blessing in coming time for which we would be ungratefully grateful.

WHEN MY SON EXPLORED MY MOBILE

Kids of this generation are techno savvy. They use electronic gadgets comfortably since quite and early age and my son is no exception to this.

He discovered the YouTube world when he was an year old. And slowly he learnt to scroll the screen up and down, swipe to left and right. The next progression was choosing the song of his choice, mostly driven by how attractive the coverpage is. Whether I like it or not, I was okay with it.

One fine day, he was fiddling with my phone while watching YouTube. I took the phone after the screen time allotted to my son was over. I wanted to check WhatsApp messages. Just when I was ignoring the forward messages, one message caught my attention. It was from my driver. I read

“Madam, why have you sent me your picture?”

It didn’t take too long for me to decipher what must have happened. My son accidentally managed to share my picture to the driver while he was enjoying his play with my phone. And why driver, because his was the most recent chat as I had asked for confirmation of pickup scheduled for the next morning.

I didn’t know what to reply. The driver must have received “blue ticks” which means he will know that I have seen his message. I was so so so so embarrassed. I got a thought that the earth should crack open and eat me up but …!

I messaged the driver apologising and telling him that it was my son who did that and that he should delete the pic. The driver cordially said it’s alright.

There was an awkward silence the next morning when he came for the pickup. I broke the ice and apologized again. Again he said it’s alright very calmly.

Fortunately, I never met the same driver again. I dont know if his shift was changed or he was assigned a different route. And I just hope I never have to message him again for the pickup!

I still feel very awkward thinking what he must have felt about me sharing the picture , but it is what it is, and I had told him the truth 😁

Kids I tell you! They will land you in a soup more often than you can imagine.

IT DOESN’T TAKE TOO MUCH TO CHEER UP!

Past 7 months of pandemic have been really rough for all. We have been surrounded by gloom, demise news and too much work load. How can one cheer up in such cases?


Well, I couldn’t. I thought I was braving the situation well but a point came when I realised that I am not able to handle this anymore. The monotonous routine of too much of household chores, ever piling and very demanding office work and a hyperactive toddler was all getting more and more difficult to handle with every passing day. I knew I had reached the limit when I couldn’t control my anger and tears at petty things. I was reaching the breaking point.


I knew I had to do the damage control because If I remained upset for a long time, my family was going to suffer, my child would see my wrath, my husband would not feel loved and my MIL would miss my usual chit chatting self. Yes, if you are unhappy, your ENTIRE family suffers. The food you cook doesn’t come out tasty, how much ever you dress up, you don’t feel beautiful and how much ever you sleep, you always feel tired.


So what did I do? I packed my bags and headed straight to my mom’s place. 15 days spent with my mom made a big difference. Aarnav got to meet his other set of grand parents, I got to meet my parents after a very long time! The change in air, the change in environment and the change in routine made wonders.
My mom dished out one of my favourites every single day! My dad got so many new toys for Aarnav. Late night talks with mom which we had long forgotten about ever since I got married, no household chores – I was only a helping hand to the mom. It felt nice to be able to lean on my mom for support because I was tired being a support to my family all these months. Being devoid of any responsibilities and expectations for good15 days helped me cheer up. It transformed me to a happy human being that usually I am. 


It took nothing out of the box to cheer up myself. Good company, lessened responsibilities and good food did the trick. And if you see, these three things will do the trick most of the time. 
Lot of times, we expect a lot – from others as well as from ourself! We must learn to cut the slack. Take time off. Relish good food. Binge eat sometimes. Give in to your cravings once in a while. Hug your kids tight. Cuddle them while sleeping. Steal a kiss from your spouse, watch the sunset together. Chat over a coffee. These are the most sasta and tikau (tried and tested) remedies for a cheerful mood.


I understand, it may not always be possible. We cant fit every single thing in our routine and if you make a routine out of this, it won’t be fun any more! Just know that when you want to do this, go ahead and do it.
Be happy and cheerful!

WE ARE IN IT TOGETHER!

They say you respect your parents more when you become one yourself. How true is it. I would trade anything in this world to be like my parents and raise Aarnav (my 2 yrs old boy) just the way my parents raised me. But alas, that’s not how it’s going to be.

Just like how computers changed to laptops and iPads, landlines changed to smartphones, schooling changed to online schooling in just a matter of few years, parenting needs an upgrade too.

Honestly, I do not have a parenting plan for Aarnav. We live in a dynamic world and every day is different than the other. Parents in this age need to be on toes. 24/7. But if you ask me what is my parenting goal, I have an answer to it. My parenting goal is that, I want to raise Aarnav in such a way that he is comfortable to talk to me about anything under the sun. Just anything. And I want to build that trust in him that no matter what, we are in it together. That doesn’t mean that I shall coverup when he makes mistakes, it simply means that my behavior towards him should be such that he finds me approachable even when he wants to confess his mistakes.  Easy? Not at all…!!

The parent in me is naive, I cannot comment on what and how other parents are doing right now. But all I know is that, I want to raise Aarnav the way I mentioned above. This naive parent in me often worries about how I would handle a situation when hormones of my son would start tricking on him, whether he would love me as much as he does now, whether he will share things with me? And I dont have any solutions to this fear. But broadly, I do know what I must do to have it my way. Parenting in today’s age is tricky. You can’t be controlling but you are accountable!

There are some basic directions I have given myself to be a good parent. Only time will tell how a good parent I turn out to be but I trust this may work! Trying to share a few directions here

1. Values: The foundation of the character that we want to build is values. Above everything,  I emote to Aarnav the values like Respect and Gratitude. Respecting everyone around, be it peers or Elders is what makes you empathetic and if you grow to be empathetic you will never ever want to hurt anyone. Neither physically nor verbally. At the same time, being grateful for what you have is also very very important because it brings along other values like, being appreciative and humble and keeps negatives like jealousy at bay.

2. Being approachable: I think this is the golden direction! We as parents must make our children feel loved and trusted that they feel confident that they can come to us and talk about anything and everything. Just anything, like their first crush, their first date, their desires. Now this is more actionable for parents rather than the children I would say because the onus of giving them that comfort lies on to us. This is one of the biggest responsibilities of the parents I would say! Because it’s not easy to do what it takes to be good in the books of your child and still manage to do the right and just thing! The key here is communication. “Me time v/s We time” like Charlie mentioned in his post but mind you kids of this generation need their own space. Its tricky as a parent to make a place for ourself without invading their space.

3. Accept the change: We must accept the change the generation brings in. Like I am prepared for the time when I may need to allow Aarnav to use his personal smartphone while he is still schooling. This is a sober example. Let’s face it guys, there are many other changes that we need to accept like, hitting puberty earlier, normalising relationships, the desire for independence. It is very important that we dont let these changes overwhelm us and get upset with our children for the choices they make.

Like Kalpana said at the beginning of this week, parenting doesnt come with an instruction manual, it’s a tough job. I would like to add that It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about the choice and effect relationship. It’s about what we and our children choose that leads us to the effect. And it’s not the job of only parents or only children. We are in it together!

In the end, all that we must focus on as parents is eternal love for children, raising them to be a gentle and loving human being, raising them to respect all the genders equally and teaching them to make the right choices. How we do it is up to us really!

I would like to conclude this topic by a reminder to myself (and other parents too) to be with my child in thick and thin, each and every time he needs me, sometimes directly and some times indirectly, sometimes in face and sometimes anonymously.

The following quote summarizes my write up and my parenting goal:

“I can’t promise to fix all your problems, but I promise that you will not have to face them alone. – A loving parent.”