Saturday, November 28, 2009

Facebook - Over The Years

The Facebook portal is not even ten years old! It was founded in 2004 by Harvard graduate Mark Zuckerberg. It catered primarily to high school and college students. In a short span of nearly six years, this social media site is now accessed not just by these two groups, but also moms and dads, grand parents, recruiting agents, teachers and others.
In random and not-so-random conversations with different people, I came to know of different reasons that people would join Facebook. "I get to see photographs of students I had taught several years back," said one of my teachers, who is now a 'Friend' on Facebook. A grandmother was once telling me that she joined Facebook so she could see the latest updates from her daughter and granddaughter. She added that, "I can even add comments on those photographs." In the past one year, have seen people in their late fifties or sixties as new entrants to Facebook. After hearing stories of how their children connected to some long-lost friends or acquaintances, they too joined Facebook to meet their friends with who they attended school about 40 years ago!
One dad was very surprised when his daughter, who was going to the dorm in Freshman year showed him the picture of her new room-mates, who she had not even met or contacted virtually at all. In her curiosity to know about them, she found them on this portal.
This portal is also used by those who want to spread awareness about social causes.

Be a little careful as you set yourself up in the virtual world. It is not new now that potential employees will check you on Facebook before they call you for an interview or just after one. This will give them an idea of who the 'real' you is! A word for the wise, as is being told by several people is that keep your 'Internet' image clean. It always helps to Google yourself once in a while!
I had a positive experience myself. Before I went for an interview for an internship, I came to know through Google of a school alumnus who had interned there previously. But didn't give me any contact details of her. Wanting to know her experience at that place, I entered her name in Facebook, and there she was! I got a prompt reply from her after I messaged her through this social media website.

Changing Times

This blog once again talks of the times back then and now. Growing up, I had seen aunties (Indian term of addressing a lady who was about your mother's age, or older or a bit younger), my mom included who were home makers. I remember thinking when I was young that it was not easy for my mom to manage home, cook two square meals, help N and I with homework, be socially active and do a whole host of other things.
My mother was a graduate from one of the well-known colleges of Mumbai. She always missed the opportunity of working professionally. And would tell both of us that wherever you are when you grow up, it is very important to be financially independent. And this was not just for the monetary aspect, she gave us that advice so that we can fend for ourselves, are capable of standing on our own two feet and in the process learn the lessons of life also. When I worked in Mumbai and even after I started working here in the United States, I feel that those words she said all those years back are still so relevant!

I feel so proud when husbands now support their wives to pursue their career opportunities. Again, these are things that a lot of us had not seen when we grew up. I was so happy when R would support M to start applying for jobs and help her create resumes for different jobs she applied for. Now that she has one, R guided M to approach the subject of a salary hike to her bosses.
In another instance, P would take mock interview sessions for H when she applied for admission in school. He would also drive her to and fro from where she had to practice for those entrance exams for admission in the school.

Our close friends P and U also have a similar story. P is very accomodating and would urge U to take a breather once she is home from work than enter the kitchen to make rotis (Indian flatbread, made of wheat flour). "We can eat frozen food tonight," P would say. But U being U, she will go the extra mile to eat healthy!

A himself has been so very supportive and encouraging when I am in a new field altogether and need more time to study, or am tied for time as I juggle work, classes and home. Like several other men, he is absolutely fine with not getting home-made rotis seven days a week or having the house spic and span. I remember he had signed me up to attend a journalism conference even before I came to the United States for the first time as he felt it would be ideal for me to start building contacts in this field. For him, it is much more important that I do something meaningful professionally and achieve something. There have been times when am busy or just don't feel like it, he would cook for the week.

These are signs of how times are changing, how relations, priorities and aspirations are evolving over time. More moms back home would be proud of what their daughters and sons are doing to achieve something they always wanted for themselves and their children also!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Misconceptions Galore

How many times have we seen really bizarre questions being asked about a particular country? Ignorance doesn't seem to be the only reason for this. Over the course of nearly four years in this country, I've seen that people in the United States and people in India have several misconceptions about the other country.
I must have easily been asked more than a dozen times if my writing as a journalist in India was in English or my mother tongue. When they would know that growing up in India, I have been speaking English since I was three or four, it would surprise them to no end. And then questions would come up like, "You learnt English, but did you also write for English newspapers and magazines?" "How is it that people in India would speak and read English and not just their own language?" I would reason with them initially, and then learnt to decipher with who to reason, and who to just smile at when they asked this question.
I have also come across those who say, "But people in China do not speak English. How do you?"
Another extremely common question asked is, "Do you still see camels and elephants on the road everyday?" There are so many people who fail to keep up with current developments and know that India has developed by leaps and bounds in the past decade.
M once told me that when she said that she didn't eat chicken regularly in India, her colleagues remarked, "Did you not eat chicken regularly because India is a poor nation and you wouldn't get it often?"

On the other hand, I've seen people from India have misconceptions about the United States as well. My mother was really happy to see that families here make the effort to spend time with their children. She really liked that parents would take their toddlers to the library on a weekend or take them to a park or that parents and their adolescent children will go together to a restaurant. Like a lot of people in India, she too was under the impression that in this country parents have their own schedule and children are on their own and that a healthy family life was difficult to have here.
I'll again bring up my trip to India. Even when I lived in India, I never really developed a taste for alcohol. When we would go for dinner to family friends' houses, uncles and aunties would offer wine or other alcoholic drinks and I would decline. They wouldn't say anything, but their look said that if she has lived there, then also why doesn't she drink alcohol? Why would they think that just because I live in America, I would enjoy alcohol?

A tells me that we have to tell one person at a time what the ground reality is and that that is the only way people know what the base reality is. Will keep updating this post as I come across more of such discussions

House Help - How helpful?

Coming from India, I was used to seeing house maids or baais (as they are called in India) in and out of my house everyday. I could say that almost every house would have house help to aid with laundry, house cleaning and dishes. For those who have never had maids at home, it could be a little daunting. I would like to say that if you're thinking that having a maid at home to do all the chores will make day-to-day life very smooth and leave you spare time, then please re-consider your thought.
Residents from this southern part of Asia will have very interesting anecdotes to tell about their house help. The first step to having a maid is to find one. And in Baroda where I grew up, this was a steep task. Once you found a maid and the tough task of negotiating the rate was done, then came the training part. Every mom wanted her house chores to be done in a specific manner. It would be at least a couple of months before the maid was set in her routine.
Then comes an interesting twist. Almost everyone faces days when you have become dependent on the help and have set your routine according to theirs. One fine day the maid doesn't turn up, without any notice. All hell breaks loose at this point. The women of the house have already wasted time waiting for the baai to turn up. When he/she doesn't, they nervously think how to finish all those chores of doing the daily laundry, cleaning the house and doing the dishes.
This waiting and then nervously coming up with a plan to do chores on my own is one thing I am glad I don't have to do over here. Having lived with and without a house help now, I am glad to do things on my own now. I don't end up wasting time micromanaging the help, coordinate my schedule with theirs and also supervise their work.
On my trip to India this summer, I saw that several of my friends invest a lot of time just instructing the help what to do for one particular day, come up with work just to keep the maid occupied and managing the one or two house helps that are there at the same time. As V very aptly said, "When you know that there is no one to help you, you just do things on your own. And because of this, I like the routine that people are set in, in the United States. It doesn't go haywire." This is so true. At least you do not get dependent on someone and then have almost a panic attack when the dependent person is not there. And when you do your chores on your own, you are bound to do them nicely.
I saw a whole new dimension of house help in Mumbai. Maids will drop the children to the bus stop and pick them up when they return home from school. When a family relative told some mothers of her daughter's classmates that she will not have a maid to do that job and that she'd rather drop her daughter herself at the bus stop, the mothers didn't like it. It was almost a norm for kids to be dropped by the maids.
Though there are times here when we do miss house help. Like when a child is born and you need sleep and don't really want to spend time in the kitchen, you are bound to do that and do the laundry and run the dishwasher also! Or during parties or family functions when there is immense work load in terms of cleaning the house, getting the silverware out, and more. But then there always will be pros and cons to any situation.

Writing this blog took me back to all those years when there would be house help and then not have them at the most crucial time like N's wedding or an illness or having guests at home. It also reminded me of some of the nicest house help who I will always remember fondly. It brings a smile to my face when I remember of those phone calls my mother would make to neighbors or they would call my mom and say, "My maid is not here today, if yours does turn up, can you send her at my place for some time. I really need help today!" Here's to all those wonderful memories!