#MeToo: The wave. The movement.

Impact: awareness. Hopefully, with an added sense of boldness and a diminishing sense of blame and shame…

When it started, #MeToo was about sexual harassment at work. Whether you were a secretary, a struggling actor, a pop star, a teacher or a colleague, many seemed to have ‘been-there’, ‘seen-it’, averted-it’. Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse across generations of women then – quite suddenly – struck a chord among the common woman.

With a blink of an eye – the hashtag generated a wave of declaring/coming out/stating/sharing/empathising sexual harassment per say – not just at work, but within families, among strangers, in private spaces and public places. It all seemed shocking at first, and then just familiar and a matter-of-fact global issue that could be shoved under the carpet or overlooked as it wasn’t of ‘much consequence’.

And then, within a matter of moments, #MeToo took a life of its own. The wave turned into a stormy sea of emotions – disbelief, frustration, guilt, and anger; perhaps relief and a feeling of liberation of having let it all out- including the baggage of ‘self-blame’ that many are socially tuned into.

Through it all, I first thought: Yep, the celebrity world is known for its murkiness. I tut-tutted and without so much as raising an eyebrow went on with my life. I had only read the Weinstein news then.

Then, the likes of Jane Fonda, Gwenyth Paltrow and more were being mentioned… The twitter-handle became the centre stage of revelations. Twitter drew my attention – and I thought: What’s the bru-hu-hu about? Lewd comments, sexual overtures, it’s common; but you can’t take every barking dog seriously – can you? End of story.

Facebook threw up #MeToo from far and wide – as well as from the near-n-dear ones. Cousins, friends, men and women of all ages and races across the globe were hashtagging their status lines! Curiously I read – not just the hashtags, but the comments that followed. Everyone I knew had had encounters. Many, including yours truly, had not even paid heed to them as they were “common uncouth behaviour”. So what if someone on the bus rubbed against you – it was a crowded bus after all – it might have been an accident… So what if you male teacher repeatedly dropped his pen in front of you and waited for you to bend down and give it back to him. It was just an accidental drop of an object. Despite having parental support and security, and my mother’s insistence that any untoward act be told; I didn’t think of that odd touch, the sickening look, the filmy whistle-blowing roadside Romeo as being something to be reported! It was normal to be nudged and pushed back then – but like I said, to my own shock – I had been labelling it “normal”, “no big deal” as long as no harm was done. But harm had been done!

I was ashamed.

Standards of socially acceptable behaviour had fallen. Acceptance of a disgusting act, considered ever so small – be it a real touch, a feeling of being stripped naked under the dirty gaze of a passer-by, a wolf-whistle, or lewd remarks in the garb of ‘beauty appreciated’ and eyes following you – had become a norm. So much so, that unless you were molested or raped, you hardly took notice of “smaller, less devastating acts”. And men had been through it as well. So it wasn’t just gender-based – it was a sickness growing without any limits, without any real notice – plaguing and tainting society as we knew it.

Twitter and Facebook were flooded with stories of assault. This was an unkind, brutal, horrific reality and the extent of this sickness had been ‘allowed to grow’ over the years. Globally. Across genders and generations. Allowed to grow by choosing to ignore. Allowed to grow by not reacting (read: subtle acceptance). Allowed to grow by me and you! It suddenly felt that someone had punched me hard in the lungs and expelled every last ounce of air out of me. Was it real? Was I really a part of what lead to #MeToo? I felt devastated. Not alone; yet not part of the hashtag. Not guilty, yet guilty of allowing this to go on without taking note of it…

What next?

To prepare the next generation. Correctly. With zero tolerance towards sexual overtures – however mundane and harmless they sounded to me through my awkward years of growing up. Instilling belief that the kids can tell their parent with anything seemingly not correct – with the complete trust that the children will not be judged, shamed, blamed, ridiculed or exposed. To ensure the next generation is trained to respect – self and others, and to equip to self-defend fearlessly.

And a strong message to those who have felt that ever so slight hint of sick behaviour: Fight it back if it ever-ever-ever happens again! Go mad – kick, hit, yell – make a noise and beat the creature to pulp. Then, give yourself a pat on the back for simply saying ‘NO’ – and report the incident to an authority that will act!

 

 

 

 

 

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THERE, I said it out loud!

I have many local and international friends – all interested in the Indian culture and food. I remembiser, at one point,  I thought to myself, “I am an ambassador of India in my own way. I have the power to make an impact and influence what others think of India”. Then, I officially turned Swiss.  Not just because I changed citizenship, but because I felt at home here – with all my heart. The India within me continued to reside as part of me. I realized I will never be white or a native speaker of Swiss languages. I accepted it. But when asked if I am Indian or Swiss – my natural response was and continues to be “Indo-Swiss”.

Over the years, I was often asked whether I have any “non-Indian friends”. Whether I felt comfortable in Switzerland. Whether I felt homesick. My answers have puzzled many. For, I have mainly non-Indian friends. I feel completely comfortable here. And how can I feel homesick in my own home-country – the one I have adapted and adopted by choice?

But, I admit,  there is one point in time every year when I feel slightly nostalgic.  Every year, October and November bring along the festive season, reminding me of the constant chatter of mums and daughters, aunts and cousins, the ritualist ‘rangoli’ and ‘mehendi’, gleaming bangles, intricate jewellery, traditional bright coloured Indian outfits that change with fashions and trends, yet hold on to the sophistication and charm of timelessness.  While whatsapp messages, pictures, videos and Facebook and Instagram updates and photos keep my spirits high – my emotions often sit on a see-saw. The updates cheer me up, at the same time, they make me feel a touch left out, slightly out of place during the festivities of Navaratri, Dussehra, Karvachauth and Diwali.

I go on autopilot where I turn more Indian – the house smells of rich Indian food, sweets and masala chai. Indian food, colour, jubilance, meeting and greeting with love and laughter and some extra weight creep into my Indo-Swiss being.

I have few – not a few, but few – Indian friends; and ‘now’ is the time to catch up with them and grasp the moments of ‘desi-fun’. But when it comes to mingling with a larger group of Indians at organized festivals – there is a huge amount of uncertainty and hesitation that comes to the forefront. The basis is a very real and strange history linked to the early years of moving abroad. I have often mentioned this to a selective few twho I feel will understand my point of view in a non-judgemental way (although my own view is obviously judgemental).

With not many sides to flaunt – people see me for who I am, but they don’t seem to be satisfied with my inability to politick. I am also slowly turning into a ‘slightly private individual’, too. So, this time, when I found myself – strangely enough – not upset about not going for one of my favourite cultural events, I began facing my true feelings.

With no offence whatsoever to anyone, what I found was rather ‘amusing’ to say the least (and my Indian friends who understand me well enough will laugh out loud… My international friends will be amused). So here are just some of the things that come to mind:

* A different alignment of mindsets. I have been called “not Indian enough” because: I don’t constantly miss India; I don’t go for 3-6-month long holidays alone to visit the country of my birth and upbringing; and because I don’t crib about the country where I live in and share a sense of belonging with… Yes, complete integration into the system raises questioning looks. Honestly, I don’t understand what’s wrong in embracing certain practical and likeable Swiss traits? Isn’t that all about integration in the true sense of the word? ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ – so what’s wrong with integrating? No one has forced any of us in this country to stay here against our wishes. Occasional bouts of homesickness and nostalgia are part of the package, but they can be dealt with. If not, dear friend, it may be time to stop moping and move back to where your heart belongs…

* We (my husband and I) don’t fit into a pre-existing type. I noticed that people love to slot others into neatly pre-arranged drawers in their heads. And when you don’t fit the spaces available, you’re confusing or not worth interacting with. In our case, we don’t fit into the usual scheme of things, for neither are we bankers and nor are we IT professionals. Neither of us is “typically Indian” in our food and cultural habits, nor are we entrenched in religious beliefs. But is this not a form of ‘diversity’? Remember that good old the concept of ‘unity in diversity’ being India’s core strength? If India can be culturally diverse and yet the Indians there can be accepting of differences, why is that trait wanting here?

* Pseudo warmth and a ‘hi-bye-out-of-sight-out-of-mind’ scenario. There is an unexplainable,  typical open-hearted warmth and acceptance that we all crave. A sense of belonging or ‘apnapan’ – and many of us get at these events from known and relatively unknown people. However, it’s clearly short-lived. Long-term friendships cannot be expected here. The person who claims to know you inside out will be the one who probably is most confused about you!

* Too much bitching, too many comparisons…. Seriously, does it matter if my child is a karate champion or a football bystander? Does it impact you if I don’t wear Cartier and choose to wear something more label-free? How does it make any difference to you if I cook chappatis or not? Is that single criterion a reflection my home-making abilities? How does it matter if my child learns Kathak, Bollywood twists or classical ballet? It’s a matter of choice – free choice! Does my lack of knowledge of the latest Hindi movie blockbuster or gossip on the new face of Tinseltown make me a lesser mortal?

* You have pay for more than you get. Everything in Switzerland is exorbitant – but quality matters. However, we as Indian suppliers, sellers and organizers end up cutting corners, thus negatively impacting quality. We as Indians consumers and buyers have worked hard in sometimes-difficult environments to earn our ‘moolah’ and want to squeeze the last droplet of value from each cent spent.

Groups within groups: we are certainly not Indians living in Switzerland.

We seem to divide ourselves consciously or unconsciously – I really don’t know. So, we could be:

– Rich bankers wives or bankers

– DINKs (double-income, no kids)

– Stuck-up individuals who judge everyone and everything – from hobbies to professions, personal styles to cultural preferences…

– Well established in making Switzerland home – but not truly from the heart. So, yes, torn yet established – quite in a perpetual state of dilemma

– Self-appointed critics of everything and everyone not conforming to our ideas

– Telugus, Gujjus, Punjus and more – but not Indo-Swiss. Not even Indo – for that matter

– Show-offs and aggressive, with that desire to “throw up” all our knowledge (even if half-baked) all at once – right here, right now, because we know it all

-Regular moms or trendy international school moms. This automatically divides our time schedules and approaches to life in the Alps

– And a few of the Indians are normal – just normal and nice (with perhaps some overlaps from the above categories).

So there! I’ve had my ‘vent-it-out moment’.Without casting aspersions on anyone I have simply conveyed my experiences – mainly the bad and the ugly ones.

Normal is nice. But as they say, normal is boring so why dedicate a blog on it (though I dont’ quite agree…)?

The good ones are too personal and, once again, pretty much known to all my friends – close and upfront.

Phew – all of a sudden – there is a sense of peace in my being. I have openly stated what I have concealed over years. Said it out loud, with no concern about being impacted by the “judgements” of many of the readers. Just as you all are free to express your opinions – I am too. And it feels good. I feel light.

I feel right about being simple and simply, ME.

My ‘post-Dussehra-pre-Diwali devi roop’ is certainly that of open and uninhibited expression.

 

Stop blaming your kids… Face facts!

A_frustrated_mom-1Once again, I feel sick as I hear the constant, incessant set of complaints:

  1. Oh God, it’s the kids again!
  2. There’s always so much to do with children!
  3. When will they grow up?
  4. Me-time? Haah!
  5. Couple-time? What’s that again?

Yes, women are often told to not be harsh of themselves. To not judge themselves. To not think they are superwoman and not try to be one either.

But over the years, after rattling off the above statement to many – and even making those my personal mantra, I decided to taka a closer look at the ‘poor-mum-syndrome’. The flip side of trying to take it easy, being non-judgmental of self, and being ‘only human’.  And what I saw was not pleasant.

A blame-game under a garb of lethargy.

This is true not just of some of the mothers, but also many of the dads…

Hear me out – honest to the core of my heart – I totally understand that there can be moments of frustrations, moments of anger – but these are just ‘moments’ – not your entire life with your children! Why let these moments weigh you down?

Why have kids if you don’t want them? For the society? For your family? For yourself? If it’s for the latter – why complain? If for the former – blame yourself! You made a decision that wasn’t right for you. That done – you can’t turn the clock back! The fun of making a baby is short-lived, the fun of bringing up a child can be made into a joyful event for atleast a decade-and-a-half! So, get on with parenting… now you are one – by fluke or for whatever reasons – look at parenthood as a boon and fall in line with trying to make your life livable and lovable around your kids – however irritating you may find them… Once you get to doing that – you will see a positive effect and your ‘normally difficult’ kid will change with you and your attitude.

Nothing in life is predictable, or as per your exact defined design. Then, why the frustration when it comes to your children?

And if frustration is a pretence – for what? To show that you have your hands full? We all do. For whom? The society. Well, it’s an ugly form of pretence – one to loathe actually. Why? To cover up your inadequacies and give a reason to your own shortcomings. Easy blame-game here. Ugly to the core! Face your reality.

Of course, there’s tonnes to do with kids. Enjoy it! Why don the serious ‘grown-up’ garb and make life boring just because you’re the mum or dad. Lighten up!

Blossom with your babies. Trust me – you will never ever have been happier…

Before you know it, they would have grown up and grown into lovely individuals or angry ones – depending on how you’ve shaped them – depending enormously on how your attitude has been towards them – advertently or inadvertently. They are – but a reflection of the way you bring them up.

Couple-time and me-time is something you need to make – with and without kids. So shed that lazy mantel of yours, face facts – do yourself a favour. Accept. Enjoy. And make that positive change within and around you.

Stop blaming your kids for your incompetence to handle your own life!

 

 

 

Humility reflects glory!

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Ms. Smita Purushottam – the Indian Ambassador to Switzerland.
I must admit, I have interviewed ambassador’s of different countries in the past. Most of them say pretty much the same things. So, I was obviously expecting an interview on similar lines.
But things were different! For one, she was prompt to respond, warm and open, and very encouraging. Read the article that was published in the launch issue of ‘Namaste Switzerland’ at http://www.namasteswitzerland.ch.
Meeting Ms. Purushottam was refreshing change as the lady radiates positivity and enthusiasm and is clearly motivated to make things happen – and happen now!
Take a look at her Facebook post. Humbling, indeed!

Interview with Mrs Aradhna Sethi, who just launched Namaste Switzerland. Congratulations and thanks for promoting Indo-Swiss ties!

Ms. Smita Purushottam: down-to-earth, motivated, realistic – and a true Indian at heart. Her disarming smile and caring manner add charm to her persona. Read on to find out more.
NAMASTESWITZERLAND.CH

Holi Hai!

Whatever the festival – it always brings back the fragrance of the pooja-thali, the mouth-watering that leads me to crave  those delicious sweetmeats and special foods, all those special moments of decorating and cleaning the house inside and out.
This Holi – I think back about the various destinations I’ve called home – and embraced their cultural styles of celebrating Holi.
Share the nostalgia. Read more at: http://namasteswitzerland.ch/2017/02/27/holi-hai/myHoli

Launching another book!

This time, it’s a children book. Available as an EBook for Kindle on Amazon.

cover-final-2It’s all about magic, love, values and trust.

Three children find a swan who is being treated badly.

But did they really find a swan? Or was she someone special.

Read more to find out…

Created for kids, my own children who are 10 and 12 have brought this book to life with their talent for illustrations. Not just that, they have read the story and confirmed that this book is for children aged 3-10. In addition, they took the initiative of marking out words that they had trouble reading or understanding. So I changed them.

I am a proud mum and a happy writer at the moment 🙂

Order your EBook on Amazon right away! And don’t forget to pick up “The Entrepreneur’s Wife – A Survival Guide” for yourself or your loved one!

final changes

 

Catching up with me

It’s been a while now since I blogged. No one to be blamed here, expect I, me and myself. But there have been reasons ranging from busy guest and holiday schedules, to cricked neck, pulled arm, nerve-wrecked leg and more.

However, since I’m back on track now – let me begin with where I left. No – not my book; for you have either read it, or read interviews that I have proudly and humbly included in my blog; or perhaps are not interested. Either way, I’m back in my element at what I love doing – writing. Simply writing: for my pleasure – and hopefully yours.

Living up to my challenge

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-14-09-53Let me start with my 10 days of silence in the attempt to find what lies beyond the realm of interaction, within and perhaps in another realm. 10 days of life as a ‘Grihastha Sanyasini’.

10 days of Vipassana. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could live in isolation – just with myself. I wanted to find out where the mind without any external stimulus would go. I wanted to see if I had the guts to simply be. I was curious.So, off I went…

Day one: anticipation of what lay ahead. I understood the rules: no reading, no writing, no eye contact, no talking, no gestures, no contact of any kind with anyone within or outside of the ‘ashram’ confines. And I’ve been a stickler for rules.

What worried me most – more than being non-interactive and communicative for 10 days was – the wake-up gong at 4am. Not an early bird and a deep sleeper, I was petrified should I miss something. After all, the goal was to gain from this lifestyle to the maximum.

So after my registration on arrival and a soup and bread dinner, I locked my belongings (mobile, notebook, papers and pens, money, train pass, jewellery including the wedding ring and ‘mangalsutra’) in the locker and gave the key to the organisers, who were instructed to not give the key back right till the end of the course and day of departure.

I asked the organiser if I could get a low-tone alarm clock. She refused. I asked if I could be woken up. She said I’d hear the gong. I said, “What if…” She said, “Don’t worry.” I asked if my roommates or the gong lady could please shake me awake. She said, “We can’t allow contact, physical or verbal”. I was desperate and asked if she could drop a glass of water on me every morning. She said, “You’ll wake up. Don’t worry. You have 5 minutes to meet your three roommates. You’re on bed number 24D with one cupboard for your clothes. The silence bell rings in 4 minutes and then you will reach the meditation hall for sitting order allocation.”

I ran to my room, which was on the second floor. A brief hello to everyone was followed with an exchange of names. A quick question from an older roommate: “Would it be okay to have the window open for airing in the early mornings?” (The temperature outside was minus 23). A democratic decision from all roommates: “Yes, but if someone is freezing, the person should walk up and close the window by herself.

Gong! And the ‘Silence’ had begun. The gong would be our instructor and friend for the next 10 days telling us to wake-up, proceed to the meditation hall, head for our meals, proceed for the multiple language pre-recorded sermons, and go to bed.

The only writing that would be visible would be the timetable for the day.

The only interaction: breathing.

The only time to talk (with the meditation in charge) – 5 minutes reserved for those who volunteered to sought advice or ask questions regarding technique.

The only time to walk: anytime other than the 14 hours of meditation each day and the 7 hours of rest phase at night.

The only time to eat: meal times, in the common dining area.

I was sure I’d lose weight – and I did! 3 kilos in 10 days (joy-oh-joy). What do you expect on a breakfast of hot chocolate or tea with fruit or a slice of whole meal bread with peanut butter? I started off with ‘dalia’ – but the gooey mass was too unappetising at 6am – two hours after the morning meditation session.

Lunch was served at 12. Delicious vegetarian food and salads. But with no exercise, you barely have an appetite. Plus you don’t want to stuff yourself and go for a prolonged noon snooze. After a light meal, I’d go out for a walk in a confined area and then snooze for 30 minutes before the next meditation session. After meditation, a dinner of fruits and tea was put out at 5 pm. I couldn’t go beyond a tea and ½ a banana and ½ an apple. Shortly after an hour-long dinner break, we would head into the next slot of meditation until 9; followed by an hour-long recorded sermon. Then it was time to clarify technique or get questions answered and lights off at 9:30pm.

Day two: I thought I’d die of boredom. I mean… how much of the same kind of focused breathing could you deal with? My head hurt. The newness had already ebbed. I wasn’t sure of the number of times I had brought my mind back from nothingness (read snoozing) to thoughts of my life at present and day dreams. I was breathing in a focused way but I had to get myself back every now and then. The headache was killing me already! Migraine. In my 5-minute talk, I asked for medication, only to be refused. This was perhaps a way of cleansing… I was told. A painful way, I thought. I was sick. No eye contact. No interaction. I was shrinking into myself. Into sadness. Into a cold emptiness that I didn’t like.

I had begun to reject the concept of birth and death, of detachment. I was a mother and a wife. I could not come to terms with believing that “nothing was mine. There was no ‘me’. And hence my kids and husband were not mine either… I wanted out!

I contemplated running away. But no – I wasn’t a quitter. I would not be able to face myself in the mirror, in the knowledge that I gave up! That I gave up something I wanted to experience so bad. (Later, I learned that 2 of the 13 women had left without a whisper and 3 had thought of running away.)

No… I told myself. I can’t quit. It was just a matter of a few more days. But how many? I had lost track of time. The days and nights, noon naps and nighttime sleep, breakfasts and dinners, meditative sessions and sermons – all merged into one ritual with no beginning and no end!

I kept sinking into hollowness. My thoughts were disturbing. I couldn’t control anything. The mind was like a monkey that grabbed on to one branch of thought without really leaving the other that seemed to be still  lurking in the head.

Thoughts sneaked in and out of the mind without any indication. It was like intruders trespassing your person!

Past, present, future, reality, dreams, fears, reality, imagination and the surreal – everything merged into one big chaos in my head. There was no focus. Meditation, sleep – it all one big state of stupor – a negative feeling of despair. There were no boundaries – and if there were, I never knew when and why I crossed from one into the other. At times unaware of the crossing over myself! I was tormented. My mind would explode, I thought.

My eyelids turned into a screen. I saw it all. Tom and Jerry cartoons from my childhood to Star-Trek. My grandparents and great grand mother talking to me on one side of the screen and my family coming over to pick me up on another part of the same screen. Yes, it was a very disturbing phase that seemed never-ending.

Finally, the breathing techniques had been developed further. While listening to the sermon, I realised it was day 4. What!

Just day 4. It had seemed like a lifetime! There seemed a little change in the routine. After a while (it may have been a day or, may be,  two) my ‘aha’ moment came along. I felt that my life was beautiful. Everything I questioned in my past unfolded. It seemed like I was living my life from my earliest memories of when I was barely two, to now. Things that I was not aware of, but had questioned came to light. I saw my life like an open book – and realised that every moment was meant to be the way it had been. For, there was no other way. It was destined by my ‘karmas’. I was at peace. No regrets. No questions. My inhibitions, my fears had fallen away or I had seen the reason as to why I had felt the way I did.

I smiled. I felt cheerful and lighter. After what seemed like days, I looked beyond my toes and noticed other life around me – some dragging there feet for they were perhaps fighting there own ghosts and challenges; others sprightly, for they had, perhaps, reached their ‘aha-moment’.

One thing was certain – these days of silence were impacting everyone in some way or the other. From being bored stiff, to combating sedentary stiffness and discomfort, to having a blast – there was a wave of experiences in all attendees.

I now had a spring in my step and looked forward to every next day – as it would be a day closer to getting home to my family. A day completed successfully at the ‘ashram’. I started to meditate better; wake up happier; enjoy my meal and savour the simple flavours; go for my walks, forgoing the 30-minute afternoon nap and sleep deeper.

Finally, it was time to go home.

Talking seemed an effort. Everyone sounded hoarse but eager to share their experiences. The barrier between men and women was removed. I had forgotten in these 10 days that another gender of the human species existed! We could open our lockers and call our loved ones.

Yes. I had successfully gone through 10 days of complete rejection of concepts to partial acceptance of some and complete acceptance of some others. 10 days of fighting off the monotonous depressive sermons, coming to terms with what seemed sensible but far-away concepts and realigning life and thoughts within were now behind me. 10 days of going crazy with my mind monkeying around and groping at memories, imagination, reality and the surreal were a story of the past. This was in February 2016.

My takeaway in one line: This too shall pass

My learning: Be aware and live in the moment to maximise on every experience in life

My perception of Vipassana: Like any other meditation or self-development exercise, this too has its ideology. I don’t think I can accept everything. But what I do choose to accept has certainly added a calmer dimension to my life.

Please feel free to add comments and remarks – but do remember – my views are mine – and in no way do I intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments.

Danke vielmals!

For featuring me on the front page – and inside!

Being a journalist provides ample excitement. True. But being on the other side of journalism… being covered ‘by’ the media instead of covering ‘for’ the media is a different ball game altogether. It gives you the thrill of accomplishment – however big or small. It leaves you with profound humbleness and gratitude. It gives you an understated gleam of confidence and pride. And it makes you want to scream out “thank you world” off rooftops!

Yes, Aradhna is on a high. Blessed. Humbled.

Have a look :

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Read on!

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