Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Of egg hunts, emergency room visits, "Raya"ingo and a new year...

This past weekend ended up being quite eventful...it started with an easter egg hunt with Raya and her buds on a gorgeous afternoon, followed by the usual family dinner and soaking in the sun time, Bihu celebrations and a BBQ at home with some friends visiting from out of town. The weekend was almost perfect, yes I say almost perfect because there was an unforeseen trip to the emergency room on Sunday afternoon. So this is what happened. While cutting chicken in preparation for the BBQ we were hosting, I almost chopped off the tip of my ring finger , yes literally half the tip in the front and the back of the finger was hanging off.  As gross as it sounds, it was painful and a bloody sight ! A trip to the emergency room, a heavy dose of painkillers, antibiotics, wedding/engagement rings that had to be cut off and 4 stitches later, I was back home and was glad to be distracted by the great company of friends.

However life was hunky dory only till the effect of painkillers lasted !! The pain kicked back in soon enough Sunday late night and didn't go away whole of yesterday:(,so much so that I was beginning to get afraid that I will never be able to make full use of my ring finger. However this morning I woke up feeling much better!! So all's well, for now. The stitches come off in another 10 days and the optimist in me tells me, all will be well ! Let's hope so! Plus since Sunday, DD has been pampering me and has mentioned a couple of times how much he appreciated me being a good sport and for handling this without being a nag ! Let me tell you that doesn't happen often after  8 years of marriage and 16 years of knowing each other LOL!!

This was my first visit to any emergency room in the US, and I must say the folks at the Reston Hospital emergency center did their very best to make me comfortable. Everyone was warm and affectionate and kept me animated to distract me from wincing in pain.

So that's that! Fingers crossed for an uneventful recovery!

Other than that, Raya has been on a roll these past few weeks with her chatter. I was just going through some of my earlier "Raya" blogs and
was thrilled to realise that the blogs have succeeded in capturing some day to day moments that I am sure would have been long forgotten.

Sharing a few more moments, that I remember, from the past couple of weeks.

A week back, Raya insisted that she wanted to talk to her "Ash mamu" (my brother) at 9:00 in the evening EST, which meant I had to put in a call and wake up my dear sleepy head brother at 6:30 am IST on a Sunday morning, so that Raya could ask just one question, "What u doing, Ash mamu?"

She told her class teacher the other day, "I am going shopping to India!" When her teacher told her, "That's a long way to go for shopping". She apparently took her toy purse and walked towards the door,"No Ms Gina! but I go shopping only to India!"

Every time Raya sees an aeroplane, she thinks it is going to India. She insists she is going to take the next plane to India to meet her grandparents
and then just in time remembers to ask me, "You want to come with me to India, mamma?" Oh well, of course...next India trip we all know who will be guiding whom! LOL

Since Friday, every time you ask Raya, how many eggs she collected at the easter egg hunt, she will show you all 5 fingers on her right hand, while claiming in words that it amounts to 6 eggs.

Any question you ask Raya  now has an emphatic "because" in the response!

Yours truly: "Why do you want to go the playground, Raya?"
Raya: I want to go to the playground 'because' I want to, mamma!

Yours truly: "Why do you have to wear these shoes, Raya?"
Raya: I have to wear these shoes 'because' I have to, mamma!!

Everytime, I raise my voice at her for doing something inappropriate, Raya has a standard reponse, "It's not nice ,mamma. I not play with you anymore. I play only with Baba!". When DD reprimands her about something, "It's not nice, baba! I not play with you anymore. I play only with Mamma!".

Then of course, anything that we do in a way that she doesn't approve of results in a, "It's not a good habit, mamma!" or "It's not good manners, mamma!"

You get the gist! It's almost as if 'D' and I get a dose of our own medicine from Raya sometimes! Needless to say, it does fill our home and life with laughter and life seems so much more meaningful!!

On that note, Happy Bihu, Vishu, Nobo borsho and Baisakhi to one and all!!

May your year be filled with love, luck, happiness and contentment!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Swasth India...Health for all

This past weekend, we had one of 'D's childhood buddies, Sundeep Kapila, visiting us. 'D' and Sundeep go back a long way  and while I have heard a lot of tales about the wonderful childhood memories the boys share, I remember meeting him with 'D' just once when we were in our 9th/10th grade, in one of the school events called "Style 95". I am sure everyone from our batch has quite some memories from that event! You know the kind of memories, that 16 years later, you wish no one tells your spouse about, specially if he/she was not a part of the "Style 95 madness" LOL!!

Jokes apart, Sundeep went on to get the 4th rank in the IIT JEE entrance exam in our batch, joined the Computer Science department in IIT Mumbai, rose through the ranks of McKinsey consulting after he got out of college, and then with the entire world at his feet, he left everything to work for a cause he passionately believed in.

He started a social business/entrepreneurial venture called "Swasth India" with the mission of making primary healthcare accessible and affordable to the urban and rural Indian masses.

Ankur Pegu, another good friend of 'D' and I , from our Cotton College days, and Sundeep's IIT classmate, also left a plum corporate career and joined Sundeep in this noble venture.

In their own words:
"Swasth India is a social business working towards improving the health of low-income segments in urban and rural India and their mission is to
to ensure access to affordable and quality health services to 10 million low-income people by 2018”.

In summary, what Sundeep and Ankur,  identified as the health care problem, they were aiming to solve is this. Every year 32 million Indian people go from above to below poverty line due to a health shock aka getting into huge debts, selling assets, losing jobs caused by unforeseen and often preventable healthcare expenses. Even at times when India boasts of high GDPs and great prosperity, this shift from above to below poverty line doesn't change. The single most important cause for such inadvertent health shocks was identified as lack of accessible/affordable primary health care for the poor.

Their proposed solution:
Accessible/affordable primary health care for the poor in terms of small clinics that have a primary care physician, a dentist, a nurse, pharmacy , a receptionist, all basic test equipment for blood tests, ECGs etc in a small space optimized 250 sq ft facility, in an area densely populated with low income families. As of now, all their health care centres are in the slums of Mumbai.

To get a better idea of the operational model and the logistics involved, please visit their website: http://www.swasthindia.in/ and watch following video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM9u_A2_Pck and the ones in their YouTube channel mentioned at the end of this post.

People often do not understand the difference between an NGO and a social business. While an NGO is almost always externally funded and it's sustenance, more often than not perenially depends on the availability of external funds, the main purpose of a social entrepreneurial venture is to meet a social need, while working towards attaining self sustenance within a specified period of time. While a social entrepreneurial venture requires it's fair share of funding in the initial stages, it's business model facilitates sustainability within a specific period of time. This inherently  facilitates scalability and continuance of meeting the social need without being dependent on external funds, once a steady state is reached. Not only that, it has the ability to add jobs to the economy, train individuals to become skilled in specific areas of work(who otherwise would not have access to career promoting training), promote gender equality, women empowerment ...so on and so forth, all of which Swasth India is doing and will continue to do. Optimizing the operations ( IT infrastructure/social infrastructure/medical infrastructure) of such ventures to meet the social need efficiently and effectively , while reaching out to millions of people who need access to the service , is a challenge and makes such ventures really exciting along with being fulfilling for the people involved

Sundeep Kapila and Ankur Pegu are among the smartest of the smart and the brightest of the bright. But not  just that, they are also among the bravest of the brave and the humblest of the humble. And that's what makes all the difference.

More importantly, they are doing more than their fair share to make this world a better place.

I am sure you and I can start doing  a bit of our fair share, in small ways and big, by showing our support for this noble cause and by spreading the word.

Reach out to them, visit one of their centers in Mumbai when you are there next and extend your support in whatever ways you can!

On the web, you can visit Swasth India at:
Their You Tube channel is:
Their Facebook page is:

Keep up the good work guys!


Friday, April 4, 2014

"Handsfree pandonia"...

Being a very typical Libran, I tend to be quite laid back about life...good or bad, that aspect of my personality extends itself to my parenting style too, more often than not.

Last evening, an urge to check out if my parenting style lends itself to anything out there in the big internet universe, made me do a quick google search on "parenting types". The search came back with some pretty
fascinating results.

Exotic classification of parenting techniques, the most fascinating of which were:"tiger moms", "wolf dads", "panda moms/dads", "helicopter parent", "landmower parent", "free range parent", "attachment parent", "dragon mom", "handsfree parents" and believe it or not the "pinterest perfect parent". The last one literally made me ROFL.

Well where do 'D' and I fit in! Hard to say but let's look at the above 10 types and see if we fit in, if at all.

1. Tiger mom/parents:
This is what urban dictionary has to say about tiger moms, "A mother who is overly strict with her child in order to foster an academically competitive spirit. This form of upbringing is intended to direct a child towards financially successful careers at the potential risk of feeling emotionally unfulfilled and/or socially inept."

As much as we would like our child/children to have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, I think "D" and "I" are probably on the same page on this...no "tiger" parenting please.

2. Wolf parenting:
Apparently this requires even more stringent disciplining than tiger parenting and not just that , disciplining extends to corporal punishment...really.!!!

So this goes off our list immediately.

3.Panda mom/dad/parent :
This sounds really cute. Who doesn't love pandas, after all . According to cafe mom's definition, this category of parents is "Happy to parent with cuddliness, but not afraid to show some claw" . Essentially parents who are fun and loving but no pushover.

'D' falls into this category for sure.

Good one to be in myself, but let me go through the entire list before trying to fit myself into any specific category.

4. Helicopter parents:
The type of parent that hovers around the child all the time, not allowing the child too much independence and space to do anything on their own!

5.Landmower parents:
This type of parent removes an obstacle from in front of the child, even before that obstacle gets time to settle in. Mom or dad has already mowed the obstacle down, before the child gets to know what it was. Again Cafe Mom says,"Think the dad who does his kid's homework for him or the mom who wouldn't dream of letting her little snowflake having to clean his own room. These parents insist on making everything easy peasy for their kids".

Having been taught to be adaptable and learning to find our way through life's obstacles pretty much independently, this doesn't sound like 'D' and my cup of tea!

6. Free range parent:
Now as much as this sounds like the organic buys at the neighborhood grocery store, in layman's terms, this is hands off parenting. Now what does "hands off" parenting exactly imply? There are varying degrees of this kind of parenting, but essentially this parenting style is the polar opposite of helicopter parenting...in the very extreme, it would mean letting an independent 7 year old take a subway by himself, taking your kids to the park and leaving them all alone there . If this sounds alright to you and you feel it shouldn't  require a call to the  state social services , well then you are a free range parent.

7. Attachment parent:
Parents who are obsessed about co sleeping, breast feeding, baby wearing so on and so forth. They feel that physical attachment is the only thing that has the ability to nurture long term child-parent attachment.

So let me tell you my story in this context. Before and after Raya was born, I time and again read about and was told about the benefits of breast milk.
The benefits of breast milk made complete sense to me , pre and post Raya's birth. Now after Raya was born, she had issues latching on for the purpose of nursing. She would cry and cry out of hunger and the lactation specialist, a firm proponent of attachment parenting, would insist that I should still keep trying to nurse her directly, instead of pumping out the little breast milk I was making. I kept asking the lactation specialist just one thing, "As long as Raya gets breast milk, what difference does it make whether she gets it through direct nusrsing or through pumped milk". She did not have any logical reasoning to provide me with other than giving me the kind of look that made be feel how horrible a mother I was even to be asking that question. But of course, I  being I, made the call, with the moral support of dear and dear ones . Instead of speding hours trying to help Raya latch on, I pumped breast milk 4-5 times a day, fed Raya the pumped milk and supplemented with infant formula when needed.

Result: I had a happy, well fed smiling baby to cuddle! And no lack of attachment, at least for the past 2.5 years! While huddling/cuddling my baby and physical closeness is what I really look forward, attachment parenting philosophies like forced breast feeding , when it's not yielding results is definitely not my cup of tea!

Who knows maybe my detachment from certain aspects of attachment parenting techniques will show not so good results in the future! Only time will tell though!

8.Dragon mom:
I love this one!!

It's about being fierce and loyal and loving as hell, as a parent. It's also about living in the moment with your kids and loving them for who they are right now, not for the Ivy league education you dream they'll get or the grandchildren they could one day give you.

Goes into the styles I want to nurture in myself along with 'Panda' parenting.

9. Handsfree parenting:
Letting go of internal and external distractions to concentrate on building a relationship with your child by talking to them/listening to them and channelizing your own and the child's energies to help build meaningful lives and to become socially conscious . As abstract as this sounds initially, I think I understand absolutely what this style entails. Distractions to be let go off include  stressful work, big "to do" lists, lofty ambitions requiring
time away from children, and other petty day to day matters. More about this in a blog I closely follow:http://www.handsfreemama.com/about-me/

10.Pinterest perfect parenting: This one's here for the big laughs :)

So well, what's my parenting style or rather what parenting style do I aspire to nurture!!

For lack of creativity, let's call it "Handsfree Pandonian"(Handsfree + Panda + Dragonian ) !! Or maybe you can help me put together a better term for this. It's however, not by chance, that the second word sounds like "pandemonium". A mixture of too many parenting  principles is bound to be a cause of some level of pandemonium.

But who knows, maybe I can actually make it work miracles! Only time will tell!

So  a "Handsfree Pandonian" parent with a my own personal twist, it is, I am aiming to be for now !!

Happy parenting!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Life and times...

While trying to keep life simple, every once in a while I like looking back and doing a check on how meaningful my life really is! Sometimes I like seeing what I see, sometimes I don't...but either way it gives me a chance to revisit my priorities and lead a more meaningful life!

Work...Family...Friends...Giving back to the society in care and kind, given what we are fortunate enough to have at different phases of life...I feel it's always worthwhile to  periodically go  back and do a check of what our life is all about!

Human nature fascinates me! Being a keen observer of human nature, while trying  not to be judgemental, I would like to believe , enables me to nurture human traits in myself that give me peace of mind and also helps me draw the line in relationships with others, so that life,in general, is easier.

I don't know about you, but time and again, I have come across people who can easily be put in one of the following , shall I call "buckets" of traits. Each bucket of traits comes with it's set of pros and cons. and needless to say, there may be overlap.But always easier to figure out where you are or where you want to be, if  it's 'bucketed' out , right?!

Sometimes these traits are inherent in people,(borne out of securities/insecurities, confidence/lack thereof, environment)
and sometimes it's acquired over a period of time. But they are what they are! Social relationships constitute a primary component of our lives. Given the dynamics of social relationships, we are constantly acquiring new habits and to a certain extent changing our ways. I find it really useful to look at these buckets of traits and figure out which bucket I fall into at a specific point of time, which bucket I want to be in and where I need to draw the line in relationships with people so that there is peace of mind !

As captivating as  Kevin Spacey and "House of cards" has been, you cannot deny it that it does leave you with a depressed feeling, at the thought of there being no redemption for goodness for I am sure most of us seek peace of mind more than any other form of success!!

Leaving loners aside, here are the buckets I find folks will generally fall into in social circles.

Bucket 1:
This bucket of traits is the toughest bucket to be in and the toughest to find .

Authenticity, genuineness, empathy, security, confidence,patience are the trademark traits of this bucket.

People with these traits do not need overwhelming validation from others to go about their life! While being amicable, cordial and good hearted, they are not the quintessential people pleasers nor are they attention seekers.They are not afraid to say it like it is, without feeling the need to suck up to anyone. They are capable of standing up for a cause and person. They are good hearted, but don't feel the need to shout out how good hearted they are from the rooftop .More often that not, such folks are content and happy with how they look and what they do and if they are not, they find ways to
do what they love and look how they want to look, without whining and depending on others. They always find time to spend with near and dear ones and for good causes. They know how to be cordial, yet keep a distance from folks when interests don't align. They love having conversations on different topics.They prefer to live and let live!

'Live and let live' is not the most appreciated quality in this world after all nor is the lack of the ability to suck up to others or inability to follow the herd!! So often times, people with this bucket of traits tend to be taken for granted and go unappreciated. Their confidence is misinterpreted for snobbery. And their 'live and let live' policy and no demand for
attention is considered detachment! Oh well! Such is life.

It may be tough to get to completely know such a person. But once you do,
you always know where you stand in such a person's life. There are no mixed signals and dilly dallying!

Bucket  2:
This bucket of traits is the most prevalent.
Social, harmless people pleasers, good hearted, empathetic, reasonably secure and intelligent.

Fun to be around. Seem to be always surrounded  friends. Reliable for the most part. Confident and secure while they have validation from a sub set of people. Not mean. Do not expect undivided attention from anyone. Can be good listeners. Love having conversations on different topics, even if not aligned to their likes and dislikes.

People pleasing is not an easy task. For the most part, unable to take a stand when it matters. Trying to please all people all the time can be tough and lead to unnecessarily complicated relations.

May be tough to figure out where you stand in such a person's life! As long as you know that, good to have them around.

Bucket 3:
Social, people pleasers, good hearted, seekers, insecure

Fun to be around. Seem to be always surrounded by friends, but unfortunately feel no number of friends is enough. Essentially good hearted but insecurities make a mean streak surface intermittently and the demand for attention can be draining. Can be good listeners and conversationalists, if the topic interests them.

Always seeking more in terms of quality of life and relationships. Lack confidence and require constant validation from people around.  Expect undivided attention from everyone they know, without being able to reciprocate. Can be intermittently insensitive when insecurities take hold. Unable to sustain attention in topics that do not interest them.
Impossible to figure out where you stand in such a person's life because of dilly dallying and flakiness!

Good to be around them as long as it's fun and the whining doesn't get annoying!

Bucket 4:
I prefer to call this "the all about me" bucket.

Such folks need a lot of attention and control. They do what works for them at a specific point of time, as long as they get the attention and control they seek. Sometimes reliable, sometimes not. Sometimes mean, sometimes not. Sometimes friendly , sometimes not. They do what it takes as long as it's about them getting the attention they need to survive!

Pros: Probably get transient kicks and highs when one gets the attention they seek.

Cons: Life in general can be tough with a lot of need for attention.

Keep them at a distance?

Bucket 5:
Then of course there are some overall mean spirited people! The only time they get a kick is when they get a good  laugh at someone else's expense or one upmanship on another person.

Pros: Can't see any

Cons: Spread of negativity

Better keep them at a super, super distance?

I think I know which bucket I want to/should aim to be in and which buckets of traits I want to be surrounded by!

Do you?