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What working women can learn from productivity in ants?

A few days back I came across an infographic titled 7 Productivity Lessons from Ants. Packed with wisdom and insights, I loved reading it. Refer below to the details.

7 Productivity Lessons from Ants

7 Productivity Lessons from Ants

Source: http://visual.ly/7-productivity-lessons-ants

As a working mother, I’m always looking for ways and means to improve and enhance my productivity. After all, we are trying to do things as quickly and efficiently as we can every single day. And honestly, whenever I see or read or think about ants, I almost always go back with a lesson. They are small, hard-working, focused and do what they have to do!

So based on the wisdom from ants, and my own experiences, I am sharing a few points in this post. These are not about how to excel at the workplace, but really about how to maintain a balance between the expectations and demands of your professional life and the expectations and demands of your personal life. I’m not an expert in this department and I’ve not figured it all out. It is work-in-progress for me, but I do have more than a decade of experience of things that work and make a difference. I only strive to share what has helped in my journey this far with a hope that it may help you – sometime, somewhere

So without any further ado.

Focus – on the things that matter

Look around you at anyone who achieved anything in life – and you will see one defining characteristic. That is FOCUS. Focus is important for anyone in life, but more critical if you are a working woman.

a. Be focused on what you need to accomplish at work for a day, week, month, quarter, year. Keep your eyes on the end goal and objective. In between, even if you deviate, that’s OK! But make sure you come back on track as soon as you can. The best way to do this is to write down what you need to accomplish for a specific time horizon, and look at it at the start of every single day. That will ensure you are on track, at least as you start each day!

b. Be crystal clear on what all you need to do as a part of your personal life (in terms of things to do at home) and for yourself. Identify what is absolutely essential, and let go of everything else. Either outsource or delegate or just let it be. In the long run, many trivial things that you are stuck up about (in terms of your thoughts, time and energies) are really not worth it. For example, I used to be a stickler for a clean, well-organized house every single day, and anything below my expectations was not acceptable. Over time, I realized that this was taking up a lot of my time and energy, taking me away from what I really wanted to do and it really did not matter to others .With time, I relaxed my own benchmarks and go easy on myself. And when I do embark on a house cleaning exercise, it is usually time-boxed.

c. Give undivided time and attention to the task at hand and make sure you complete it. Say NO if and when you have to say NO – To people, friends, distractions, phone calls, TV, Social Media, the spouse, the boss, mummy, spouse, kids et al. The sooner you learn to say NO, the better for you.

Most importantly, as they ants do – focus on one small thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a working woman’s boon, but for things which need to be done really well – Do it one at a time.

Build your team and collaborate

As a working woman professional, you will realize that the sooner you put together a good team to help/enable you at home, the more effective and productive you will be at work. What I really mean by this is to build and nurture a team within the 4-walls so you can be the best possible you at work. From experience, I can say the following are critical members in your core team:

Your maid/helper/cook – will always be on the No. 1 spot. Trust me, you really cannot be a working woman and have this wrong!
Your spouse – needs to be highlighted because he plays a critical role in what you can do at home and work. This usually determines how far your career will go! It is for a very good reason that Sheryl Sandberg says, “The most important career choice a woman makes is who she marries“
Your family – especially your mom, your mother-in-law and your kids
Your friends
Your neighbors

Most importantly, as the ants do – recognize that you will go farther if you collaborate as a team.

Develop a routine that works for you

I can’t emphasize this enough. Suffice to say, create a routine that works for you. Stick with it. And see the magic unfold. It seems very simple and logical. But for many working women, it takes years of experience, many, many failures and serious introspection to come up with the right routine. And once you do, everything falls in line.

As a working woman, you should have the following routines planned out – a daily routine, a weekly routine and a monthly routine. Among other things make sure your daily routine has time for eating right and healthy, catching up on the news and general reading. Make sure your weekly routine has time for exercise, doing something you love (‘ME’ time) and speaking to one/two people in your friends and family network. Networking is critical in the long run, and many working woman lose out here. Ensure your monthly routine has some time to learn something new. Constantly learning, re-skilling, cross-skilling and up-skilling is the need of the day. This can/should include professional learning.

Most importantly, as the ants do – follow a routine to become more efficient and effective.

Communication

Make sure you communicate things that need to be said in a clear and concise fashion – at least to those who play a critical role in your life. Be sure to express clearly what you really want and expect from them – especially your core team at home. Be real and reasonable on expectations from others. And most importantly, say it, and listen to what they have to say.

As a working woman, I’ve burnt my fingers many times by assuming they know. They DON’T! Be it your maid/domestic helper, your spouse, your kids, your boss, your team – assume they don’t know till you clearly call things out for them – in terms of what you will do, and what they will do. And what is non-negotiable! Many times I assume they are OK; many times, they are not OK. So make sure you listen and pay attention to what they have to say. It makes all the difference.

Lastly, to communicate clearly you need to be clear in your head. That clarity usually takes time to get, but it is well worth your time. Be clear in your mind. Be clear in your words.

Most importantly, as the ants do – focus on communicating right and to the right people. And yes! Listen. Communication is two-way.

Stay Positive

Being a working woman is not easy. Being a working mother is tough. I speak from experience here. As working professionals, many women face gender discrimination, workplace bullying, harassment, slow-paced career progression, questionable compensation, unsupportive workplace environment and outdated policies. They are the realities of the environment and ecosystem one is a part of. And there is no easy way to survive, and no magic mantra to thrive.

And yet, every single working woman I’ve met or known has to be positive if she is to have a fair shot in her career. So stay positive and be positive. Read positive messages/books/blogs, speak to positive people and think positive.

Most importantly, as the ants do – Look ahead into a great future.

Set Deadlines

The beauty of a deadline is that there is a line drawn, and the bane is that the line dies somewhere before we get there! So the universal truth is that most deadlines are really not deadlines – they end up just as moving line! As a working professional, it becomes critical to define what a deadline means to you and then set some deadlines – for your own well-being. For e.g., at work, it is important to set deadlines around how long you will stay at work on most days (critical for your personal safety), how soon you will complete tasks assigned to you, how fast will you be able to demonstrate your value, etc.

Similarly, at home it becomes critical to put deadlines around phone conversations and general chit-chat/gossip, TV time, bed time, social media/FaceBook time, etc. Each of these deadlines if consciously defined, and judiciously worked towards will ensure success in the long run.

Most importantly, as the ants do – bring on board your advocates, your allies and your brownies before the storms.

Division of Work

Does this need explanation? Especially for things at home – identify what all needs to be done to keep your house going: cleaning, shopping, home maintenance, cooking, paying bills, etc etc. And then, divide the work or delegate the work – to family, friends or anyone else who can help you. The sooner you figure out the art and craft of division and delegation, the more productive and successful you will be at the workplace and in life!

Most importantly, as they ants do – clearly define the roles and responsibilities. Share it. The sooner people know what they have to do, chances are they will do it sooner than later.

These are some of the points that worked for me. What has worked for you? Leave a comment to let me know.

 

Originally published here

I BELIEVE in you, do you?

There are few topics of genuine interest for people from the Indian male fraternity. Cricket, Bollywood (with special emphasis on the Katrina Kaif!), Politics, General Affairs (including the US, Japan, China, Pakistan et al), Cars, Gadgets and Technology (mobile and tablets included because I used this word fairly loosely and broadly!) and Women. Under the topic of women, a few sub categories get more interest than other’s. One of them is the topic of “a woman driving a car”. “They don’t know driving”, “They can’t drive”, “I bet it’s a girl driving that car”, “She can never get the parking right”, “Reverse parking and she? Pray for the owner of the other cars”. I heard all of these words (& more) for a large part of my growing up years (and continue to hear them even today!).  Somehow somewhere, I believed it to be true.  Consequently, I could not get myself to drive a car for several years.

One fine day, I decided I had to learn car driving. I can’t recall why, but this one burning desire consumed every waking moment of my life. And so I enrolled to a driving school. Unfortunately for me, during one of those learning sessions, I had a ‘head-on’ collision with a private bus. Fortunately for me, the car and I survived. Almost all the boys / men I knew said “I told you so! This is not meant for you.”. I listened to them and believed it. As a result, I stopped the lessons and driving.

After a few years, I mustered the courage to again enroll into a driving school. I completed the course and got my driving license. But the lack of confidence and fears persisted. So I rarely drove. After a few years, I got fed-up being dependent on others for ferrying me around. But I still lacked confidence, so I decided to refresh my driving lessons. Thanks to a friend who offered to risk putting his life at stake with my amateur driving, I lay my hands on the steering wheel.  I drove like an amateur. If I saw vehicles come near me, I’d steer away. If it was a big vehicle, I’d freeze and give way. If there was a junction in sight, I’d pray for it to be clear (along with a list of bribes to the Almighty!). If there appeared to be traffic ahead, I’d wish all the vehicles disappeared by the time I reached.

After a few patient days, my friend had THAT talk with me. He said “Why are you so scared? Rather, what are you so scared of? I’m the one who should be scared since you are driving. But I’m sitting here – happily next to you in spite / despite your driving skills. If you do drive, drive like a king. The road is yours to take. I BELIEVE in you, do you?”. That was the moment it all changed for me, and driving a car has never been the same again.

As I look back to connect the dots of my life, I have been fortunate that I’ve had people who believed in me at the most vulnerable and decisive moments of my life.  From my family, friends, teachers, colleagues and managers at work – they all had their way of saying this to me “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”.  6 simple words, but truly powerful and truly transformational. I speak from experience here!

Coming to women at the workplace, it is no different. Almost every working woman I’ve come across (irrespective of age, irrespective of ethnicity, irrespective of seniority, irrespective of past successes) has a lot these moments in her career. Moments of self-doubt, uncertainty, questions and fears around her capability, competency and value. Not once, not twice, but very many times. And to help her cross the chasm during these moments, many times all she needs to hear is “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”. Trust me, it can shape, influence and steer her career in unimaginable ways.

Pause and Reflect

When did someone last tell you ““I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell someone “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell a woman “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

When did you tell a working woman “I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

You have a chance today..

“I BELIEVE in you, do you?”

 

Originally published here

The Forbes India 30 Under 30 List: 20% Women. Good, Great or What?

So the first ever Forbes India 30 Under 30 list is out. It is there everywhere I go. On Facebook, Twitter, on the magazine and in the news. If you’ve not read it, click here.

When I first saw the title, I was super-excited to read the list. One, I love lists. Two, this was by Forbes. Three, it was about young achievers in India. So reading this list was bound to be a treasure and a pleasure.

As I went on to read the list, I was truly impressed by what these achievers have done. As the post says, ”Showcasing an enterprising new generation that dreams big and refuses to say die“. As I read further, these words from the article caught my attention “This isn’t just a celebration of capitalism and profit; it is also in recognition of social value. Do-gooders, geeks, greens, musicians, sportspersons, creative-types and biz kids: The net was thrown wide to catch the best and the brightest.“ 

As I scrolled through the list, the sheer diversity impressed me! In terms of age (from 18 years to 29 years), in terms of the categories and in terms of their achievements itself. After I read the post, I also spent significant time in reading more about each of them and their achievements, and I was bowled over. Where did my 20s go? – I wondered!

Well endowed talent, passion, confidence, the genius of their ideas, focus, discipline, the will to succeed, the spirit to go the full mile in spite / despite everything and most importantly their supporting ecosystem (in terms of parents, friends, family, institutes, organizations, technology and capital) have all played a role in their names featuring on this list. For that, my deepest respect, a big bow and a Tiara crown to all of them. I don’t know any of them personally, but I was proud to see such a list recognizing young talent in India.

As I mulled over the list, one thought continued to linger on. Why were there so few women? Among the list of 30, only 6 women featured. 80% were boys and 20% were girls.

For full reading, click here

How can women handle workplace bullying?

Women in the workplace have always been a topic of much debate and discussion. The Why? The What? The How? The How Not to? The Where? The When? – Questions galore! From him, from her, from them.

Part of the reason is this – If you look at history and evolution, the role of the women has typically been confined to the four walls of the house with her shouldering almost all the domestic responsibilities. With changing times, women are entering the workforce, swanky offices, hi-tech conference rooms and even board-rooms. More often than not, a woman’s journey from the house to the office is a bumpy one – with gender discrimination, workplace bullying, harassment, slow-paced career progression, questionable compensation, unsupportive workplace environment and outdated policies.

In this post, I will share a few scenarios of workplace bullying encountered by working women in India, and offer suggestions on how to deal with them.

But before that, a few factors that catalyse and contribute to the workforce bullying:

- The workplace environment in terms of the nature of work, the working hours, the overall gender (male: female) ratio

- The organisation policies, processes and systems to deal with such issues

Based on my own experiences and others’, a few scenarios that trigger workplace bullying for women:

(1) New on the block

(2) Being silent amongst peers

(3) Inability to stretch beyond work-hours

(4) Lack of knowledge

For full reading along with tips on how to deal with these issues, read the article here

Have you seen women experiencing workplace bullying? How did she handle it? How do you think women should handle such situations? Leave a comment below.

Mentors for working women – Essential, but do they EXIST?

A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” BY Bob Proctor

When I became a first-time mother my career gears shifted. Having been on top gear for about a decade, I quickly recognized that as a working mother “I have to switch gears for some time.” First, I was on maternity leave. Personally, this in itself was a big change to deal with because my professional identity was a big part of “Who” or “What?” I was, and “How” my every day was organized. Second, when I resumed work, my priority was the “elusive work life balance” which most working mothers “aspires or strives for”. These two factors drove a lot of the career choices and decisions I made at that phase of my life. And these choices and decisions did come with their own pros and cons; which affected both my professional and personal life.

Today, as I look back to connect the dots – I can say that I am happy with the choices and decisions I made. And thankfully, they were possible due to the role played by a few “trusted mentors” who provided the much need ear and advise when I was going through phases of change, dealing with uncertainty, or just unsure about myself / things! I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of mentors as a part of my career journey – They primarily included my father, my husband, ex-managers at work and a couple of close well-wishers / advisors.

So here is the first fact | From my own career journey, I can say that having a “real mentor” can make an ocean of difference in the life and career of women.

And here’s the second fact | The sad reality is that many women leaders have never really had mentors ; and so they don’t know what it means to have one or what difference a mentor can make in your life

At the outset, let’s try to define who exactly is a “Mentor”?

Someone who:

  • Is a listener; and a good one
  • Is non-judgmental
  • Has your best long term interests in mind
  • Who truly understands a personal context / situation
  • Is experienced to handle a diverse set of “real-life” issues
  • Is neutral and balanced in views, outlook and perspective
  • Has the maturity to act as a trusted guide, confidant, counselor, adviser
  • Does not have any personal motives / gains from the interaction / mentorship
  • And specifically in the case of women, has some insights / understanding / appreciation of the “unique challenges” that women could possibly undergo in their career journey

Agreed that the above list may not be exhaustive, but if you can find someone who qualifies in the above, he / she can potentially be your mentor.

And how can a mentor make a difference in your life?

  • By listening – to your thoughts, emotions, questions and the dilemma at hand
  • By helping you acknowledge and recognize that phases of change / transition are only “temporary” (For e.g.: As a new mother tending 24 X 7 to the needs of your baby, it is so easy to wonder if that’s how your life is going to be – forever! During one such phase, what made a difference was when one of my mentors told me that “Children will not remain babies forever”. Logically, I knew this! But when you a first-time mother, it is almost impossible to look beyond your little world!)
  • By enabling you to accept what is in your control, and what is beyond your control
  • By compelling you to think about possibilities, choices and alternatives
  • By suggesting options / alternatives in a logical and balanced view taking a holistic and long term view of the issue
  • By helping you reach a decision; and take responsibility for the decision
  • By extending support, as applicable/ feasible to execute and live the decision

Looking back at my own career journey and in interactions with other women leaders, I can definitely say that there are few milestones which impact / influence the career choices a woman makes. And during these phases, having a “mentor” can truly make all the difference:

  • Career Role Transitions: Taking up a new role which is very different from her current / past line of work (for e.g.: A move from Project Management to Marketing, A move from a customer facing project to internal support project, etc.) either due to personal choice / personal circumstance
  • Career Breaks due to personal priorities and commitments. For e.g.: Marriage, Raising children, Spouse transfer / re-location, Tending to ailing parents, Personal health issues, Personal emergencies, etc.
  • Career Shifts : Moving from an IT job to becoming an entrepreneur
  • Career Exits : Decisions to not pursue an active career for a finite / infinite time duration – either by choice or lack of choice

Call for Action – Here’s what you can do here and now?

  • If you’re a women and at a crucial point in your career, try to find a mentor who can help / guide / advice you. Sometimes, we fail to recognize that people around us can be very good mentors (For e.g. Parents / spouse / friends / family). If only we speak up, share and listen – It can really make a difference
  • If you’re a leader in a position of influence, play the role of an active mentor – It can change someone’s career and life!

 In conclusion, some food for thought

  • Are enough leaders playing the role of mentors – especially for women?
  • Are mentor’s more important / significant in a women’s career?
  • Are successful women leaders mentoring other women – either within the organization or as part of the industry ecosystem?

Would like to hear your views on the subject. Leave a comment to let me know

Published here

Working Mothers – Is there a Magic Mantra?

Being a working mother is no easy task… Every day comes with its share of endless round-the- clock expectations, ups and downs, challenges, surprises, joys and sorrows, good bad and ugly, unanticipated / unexpected events / activities, challenges, exhaustion, moments of self-doubt, wonder, awe, guilt, etc. etc. etc.

Simply because every working mother has to deal with several “mini-projects” as I call it on a daily basis
Project 1 : Kids (A to Z)
Project 2 : Work / Career
Project 3 : Food and Cooking
Project 4 : Husband (Yes! A full time project)
Project 5 : Friends
Project 6 : Home Maintenance
Project 7 : Family
Project 8 : Self
Project 9 : Miscellaneous / Others
Just listing it down exhausted me! Then imagine how exhausting it would be for anyone to manage every single one of them, every single day!

The bottom-line is really this:

  • You are primarily accountable and responsible for all / most of the above (In most cases)
  • You can plan all that you want. But a lot of things are beyond planning – In fact, beyond your control (For e.g.: Kids not well, You fall sick, A last minute deadline at work, An extremely urgent official “life-and-death” call which the spouse has to take!, A natural calamity, etc etc etc.)
  • You can really take it one day at a time in terms of execution! At least till your children are somewhat independent!

And ever since I became a working mother myself, I have often wondered if there was a magic mantra to aid any working mother. Something which

  • Gives you that extra energy
  • Gives you “Me Time”
  • Makes you more productive
  • Makes you “clear-headed”; no matter what situation you are in
  • Keeps you emotionally balanced
  • Gives you those much needed extra-hours
  • Makes you look good / younger despite your age / stress-level

And the good news is this – From personal experience, I’ve found one “MAGIC MANTRA” which can truly make a DIFFERENCE for a working mother; at least in addressing all the points listed above..

And that is regular practice of Yoga and Meditation.

Everyday practice of yoga and meditation for 30 – 40 minutes has enormous benefits from all dimensions – physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual.

Here’s what I realized as the key benefits of the practice of yoga and meditation:

  • You get that extra energy simply because of the improved blood flow and oxygen circulation in your body
  • You get a few minutes of “Me Time” ; just for yourself and to yourself – Time of calm, peace and quiet
  • You end up being more productive. Personally, I’ve found that my productivity almost doubles on days I practice yoga / meditate ; and hence you can actually “gain time”
  • Your head is a lot clearer; and you can handle high-stress / pressure situations at home and work; and make decisions better. After all, stressful / pressure situations are a routine part of everyday parenting!
  • You are more in control of your own emotions; and this is extremely important for a working mother. Else you can go on an emotional roller-coaster ride every single day!
  • Last but not least, you get a wonderful body tone, agility and glow on your face / skin – which every women / mother truly loves

If you’re interested in learning more on how yoga can make a difference in your life, hop over to my post on 12 Most Promising Outcomes of the regular practice of yoga

In conclusion.. Looking back at my own life – Ever since I became a mother myself, I have a new found respect and admiration for all working mothers.
No matter what you do
No matter where you live
No matter what else you do
If you’re a working mother
Hats off to you

What is the magic mantra that has worked for you? Would love to hear your views… Leave a comment to let me know

Originally published here

Working Mothers – The “REAL” Dilemmas

Today (8 March) is International Women’s Day. A day dedicated and celebrated in honor of women. On this occasion, I wanted a write a special post on my blog, and was wondering what I should focus on. As I looked at women all around me, I couldn’t help but observe the striking issues of “Working MOTHERS” – After all, being a mother is an important identity for many women. And working MOTHERS are a reality in the modern economy!

They manage their home, their kids, their careers, their husband [Yes! Needs special mention ;) ], their friends / families / other relationships, themselves and a zillion other things. For all that they do, my DEEPEST APPRECIATION and RESPECT!

But more importantly, what is the “REAL Dilemma” that Working Mothers face. As I reflect more on this, here’s my response:

(1) Getting the PRIORITIES Right

The challenge for most women is getting the priorities right – First in their head, and then in day-to-day action. If you are confused about your priority list, you will have challenges almost every single day.  And this becomes all the more complicated because of the intricate nature of the dependencies and inter-dependencies based on your actions.

Take-Away : You should be able to identify the Top 5 priorities for the day, for the week, for the month, etc. And align your actions in line with these priorities.

(2) Managing EXPECTATIONS

Simply put, a working mother plays so many different roles – That of a mother, working professional, wife, daughter, sister, extended family, friend, home manager, cook, employer (in case you leverage support services within the 4 walls, etc.). And with each of these roles are several responsibilities – Both implicit and explicit! And expectations. The reality is that there are 24 hours in a day, and the world expects output worth 50 hours a day from a working mother. Somehow the math does not add up!

Take-Away : Setting and Managing expectations can alleviate a great majority of everyday challenges which most working mothers deal with. And clear communication is the key!

(3) Bridging the DICHOTOMY between the “Corporate World” and the “Other World”

The “Corporate World” expects results – Be it from a “man” or a “woman”. And to achieve results, one needs to be focused, objective, goal-oriented and to go for the kill. On the other hand, the “Other World” expects women to be flexible, accommodating, giving, sacrificing, soft-spoken, caring, nurturing. There is a “real dichotomy” between these two worlds. And it is really tough for most working mothers to transition between these two worlds on a daily basis – between morning to night!

Take-Away: I don’t know if there is any realistic solution for it, but just be aware and acknowledge that these are two different worlds and each expect different things from you

(4) Dealing with personal EMOTIONS

As a working mother, one goes through highs and lows of emotions frequently – Emotions of guilt, satisfaction, sadness, joy, self-rationalization, self-interrogation, etc. etc. At the end of the day, every women has to make personal choices. And with each choice, there are trade-offs. There is no RIGHT or WRONG! Just that every choice has a consequence which will impact your life. So once you make a choice, take responsibility for it! Emotions are a part of life. And they are integral in your personal journey.

Take-Away: Acknowledge and Accept your emotions. And find ways to deal with them!

(5) Finding it hard to say “NO”

Most of us find it hard to say “NO” to things which come our way. However the fact is that as a working mother, TIME is your most valuable resources. So you should value it and treasure it. And be judicious in how you invest it. No point in doing things which are not aligned with your priorities. If something comes you way that does not fit into your scheme of things, learn to say a loud and re-sounding “NO”

Take-Away: Start Saying “NO” to things which are not on your priority list. It is truly liberating!

(6) Aiming to make EVERYONE HAPPY ALL THE TIME

Take-Away: Accept it! You CANNOT make EVERYONE happy all the time. And that’s OK

Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with NUPUR BASU

Nupur Basu is the featured STAR in my Blog-o-Rendezvous Series.

ABOUT NUPUR BASU
Nupur Basu is an independent journalist, award winning documentary film maker and media educator from India.

For the last three decades Nupur has worked in both print and television journalism and reported and filmed extensively from different regions in the world like India, UK, Uganda, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal ,Bangladesh and Afghanistan . She reported extensively on politics, development, gender, child rights, issues of livelihood, hunger, health and environment in print, television and documentary films. Her longest stints in print was with India’s leading national daily Indian Express (1982 to 1991) and in television, with New Delhi Television (NDTV) (from 1994 to 2006) where she was Senior Editor.

In 2010 Nupur was visiting faculty for the spring term at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley teaching a course on ‘International Reporting: India”. She is an Associate Fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) at Bangalore and also on the executive committee of the Delhi based Media Foundation. She is also on the Board of Panos, London.

Nupur has also made five independent documentary films between 1995 to 2008:
 “No Country for Young Girls?” (2008- produced by TVE ,UK and telecast on BBC World)
 “Lost Generations” (2000 – produced by TVE,UK and telecast on BBC World)
 “Michael Jackson Comes to Manikganj” (2000 - supported by Media South Asia and IDS, Sussex and Ford Foundation.)
 “Mothers of Malappuram” ( 1997 – produced by TVE, UK and telecast on BBC World)
 “Dry Days in Dobbagunta” (1995 – produced by TVE, UK and telecast on BBC World)- award for Excellence in Television at IAWRT Festival at Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997.)

Nischala: Hi Nupur. Firstly, thank you so much for your time. It’s indeed a pleasure and honour to talk to you.
Nupur:  Hello, Nischala. I am impressed with your patience and perseverance. You would have made a very good journalist – it is the hallmark of a good reporter to chase their story, till they get it.

Nischala: Thank you, for your kind words … So let me start this rendezvous with a subject and topic dear to your heart – Empowerment of Women. What does empowerment really mean?
Nupur: Empowerment of women is simply about giving girls equal opportunities in life to learn, grow and evolve. It is about instilling self-confidence and belief in their own strengths and capabilities.

Nischala: That’s an interesting response. So can you please elaborate on these?
Nupur: All of the above really start with making a daughter feel wanted and special from the time she is born. It’s about how you condition her to perceive a role for herself in life. In a fundamental sense, in our country, it’s linked to survival itself. As you are aware in India we have the shameful sex- ratio distortion due to a son- loving society. As per published data, 70 lakh girls (seven million) have been aborted in India in the last ten years alone through sex-selective abortions.

The situation has got worse year upon year. In the 1991 census, there were 945 girls in India to 1000 boys. Ten years later, in the 2001 census it was 928 girls. In the 2011 census, it is down to 914. Only in the state of Kerala the sex ratio is in favour of women. The Prime Minister of our country has described it as a ‘national shame’ but there is no political will to do anything to stop this genocide. The PNDT (Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique) Act which makes sex selective abortions illegal was passed in 1994. After 18 years, the number of convictions for pre-natal sex determination is abysmally low- only 80 cases have so far resulted in conviction.

Aamir Khan’s recent episode of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ brought this into national focus. Let’s hope it helps our society break the silence on this national crime. I have editorially described it as a very positive effort and a missed opportunity for the national media. Here is the link for that article in the media watch website-The Hoot

Nischala: You have also made a film on this for BBC World on this subject- Tell us about it.
Nupur:  Yes, I made a documentary on this subject in 2008 titled: No Country for Young Girls? . In the film, the protagonist is 27 year- old Vaijanti , a young married women with two young daughters. Like lakhs of women in India, this young married woman too has been rejected by her husband and in-laws for giving birth only to girls. Ironically, Vaijanti lives in Agra just one kilometre from the Taj Mahal , the monument that symbolises eternal love for the world. When we started filming her story, she had returned to her mother’s house and was in a legal battle with the husband. The film begins with petite Vaijanti sitting alone on that lover’s bench in from of the magnificent Taj Mahal saying: “I grew up in the land of Rani of Jhansi and I wanted to give birth to my daughters… my husband threw me out of the house for that but I will fight for my girls till the very end” .  Princess Diana had sat alone on the same bench at the Taj and it had symbolised the end of her marriage with Prince Charles.

Vaijanti then leaves Agra with us and travels across the country meeting women from different economic backgrounds to find out whether she is alone in her suffering. From women ministers, to women construction workers to IT women CEOs- she meets them all and finds that she not alone in her suffering. One woman who particularly inspires her is Jasbir, a nurse in Ganganagar who was rejected by her husband and in-laws because she had triplets- all girls. She had resolved to work and bring up the girls and today they are three lovely 13 year-olds who are studying in school and who adore their mother. No Country for Young Girls? is a story of deep despair and utmost hope.

Nischala: Was the film well received?
Nupur: It was on BBC World as part of series called Living on the Edge and it had a worldwide telecast to good reviews. The very first day it was on the BBC website it had 87,000 hits. There is enormous interest in the subject as people cannot understand why a country like India which is supposed to have a vibrant democracy and wants to project itself as an economic powerhouse, should be eliminating its daughters in the 21st century. It is really mind boggling.  In the film an expert on Gandhi pointed out to us that “Gandhi would most definitely have fasted unto death if he had known Indian daughters were being killed in this manner“. Unfortunately there are no Gandhis in our country today who find this practice morally abhorrent. It’s really crazy that as a society we worship women goddesses – but we abuse women in real life.

Nischala: Has it always been this way ?
Nupur: Not really..thanks again to Gandhi, Indian women took part in large numbers in the Indian freedom struggle. By coming out of their homes onto their streets in thousands, to take part in a national political movement, they made a huge statement .  If this was the case in 1946-47, you would have imagined a rising graph of emancipation of women in free India in 2012. Sadly, as you and I know it, that’s not been the case. Although India had a woman Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi for double digit years, and although women are in power at the helm of politics in India even as we talk today – the President is a woman, the Speaker of Lok Sabha is a woman, the head of the Congress party is a women, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha is a woman, we have three women Chief Ministers-  yet, ironically, our elected MPs in the lower House of Lok Sabha refuse to pass the 33 per cent reservation Bill for women in Parliament .In January this year it was once again turned down in the lower house. These are the dichotomies we are grappling with as a society/nation.

The truth is that in 21 st century India, both in rural and urban India, many women are not safe in their homes, on the streets or at their workplace. Everywhere there are instances of abuse of women. Honour killings, dowry deaths, rapes of women and minor girls…the list is long and depressing. This is not restricted to specific communities or any particular economic segment. It is endemic, cutting across class, caste. It is as if the whole eco-system is conspiring to keep women down. And the political class and the judiciary is looking the other way. The nation’s capital, Delhi, has a skewed sex-ratio. When we had filmed in 2008 it was 821 girls to 1000 boys. If elimination of daughters through sex selection can happen in Delhi, where the Parliament and Supreme Court are located, it can surely happen anywhere in the country.

Nischala: So, what in your opinion is the cause of this abuse?
Nupur:  We still live in a feudal and patriarchal society in the 21st century. Having shiny metros and IT parks and glitzy cars does not make us modern. In No Country for Young Girls , women IT professionals (who comprise 33 per cent of the workforce- at least you all have breached the figure that Indian Parliament will not allow women Parliamentarians to reach) tell us that they too are still subjected to harassment for dowry and also harassed by their in-laws to part with their own income etc. A woman IT Manager told us on camera how the men in her section openly asked for placements to Dubai and the US, saying it will increase their dowry. The Burns Ward at the Victoria hospital in India’s IT city, Bangalore, used to have an admission rate of 90 women a month. Three a day.  As a journalist I have covered this and I can tell you that some of the cases are simply heart-breaking. Several women are burnt in dowry harassment cases. Another woman was set on fire by her husband ostensibly because she could not conceive after marriage – she had been married only for three months. The list of horror stories could just go on…

One huge problem in our system is that daughters are brought up believing that marriage is the be all and end all of their existence. Marriage should be one thing you do among various things in life. Not the only thing you do. It is this age-old- ‘ladki to paraya ghar ki hoti hain’ (the daughter is reared for someone else) which is the genesis of the problem. It is this conditioning that instils the feeling of inferiority and lack of self-confidence in girls. Adding insult to injury, this message is accentuated by the mass media. The gender stereotypes of a patriarchal society that we see in television serials, makes matters worse. And women are the largest consumers of these TV serials which are reinforcing stereotypes about themselves and it has an adverse impact on them.

Nischala: So any specific observations that you’d like to highlight based on your research as a journalist over the past several decades?
Nupur:  While urban India has benefitted from liberalisation, it is the poor – both urban and rural poor who have been hit badly. Just look at the canvas that we celebrate as India Shining – 840 million people live on less than 20 Rs a day .Ninety three per cent of India’s workfoce works in the unorganised sector and is not paid minimum wages, a large number of whom are women. Thirty-three per cent (one in three) of children in India are born low birth weight (less than2.5 kgs). In the year 2000 I had made a documentary again for BBC World titled- Lost Generations- in which I showed that the cycle of malnourishment of underweight mothers (some of them actually girls of 15 who had been married off) giving birth to underweight children. Research showed that malnourishment at birth leads to diseases like diabetes in later life among other problems. While looking at these children filming in rural Maharashtra, the title of the film came to us. We felt that these malnourished children, many of them girl children, have no future unless there are policies in place that help them – And these have to be proactive.

Nischala: OK.. These are interesting insights and perspectives.. Thanks for sharing.. Moving ahead, you’ve spoken a little about “financial independence” for a woman. Why do you think this is important?
Nupur: Financial independence is absolutely crucial. Lakhs of women are forced to endure abusive marriages because they have no financial independence. When I talk in colleges in India, I literally plead with women students not to see university education just as a ticket to a acquiring a husband. Instead think and focus only on your career ahead. Marriage should take place when they are ready for it and on their own terms. Marriage needs to climb down the priority list for women in India. A career and financial independence can ensure that to a large extent.

The flip side is that many a times when women do become financially independent, the irony is that many of them do not have control over their money. Their salaries are taken away by their husband or in-laws. This may sound really crazy, but it’s true. A multi-metro research conducted in India recently showed that working women in Delhi had the least control over their finances. Other metros too revealed this shocking trend. Kolkata was the only exception. Women there had control over their earnings.

Nischala: That’s a very interesting response.. And very profound advice.. So What are the three skills that women of today need to build?
Nupur : Well, left to a man a skilled woman is one who brings a huge dowry when she marries, obeys him and his parents, produces his sons, cooks and maintains the house well , entertains, works and hands over her salary to him at the beginning of the month. First of all we need the skill to reject this role for ourselves. Instead we need to build our confidence in ourselves, have the courage to walk down a different path and learn to negotiate life on our own terms.

Nischala: So any specific woman / women who is an inspiration for you personally?
Nupur: Women who have inspired me the most in my 30 -year journalistic career are poor women from rural India. The courage of these women in the face of such gruelling poverty, deprivation and an indifferent government is truly inspiring. Examples that come to mind are women like 60 year old Rosamma who led the struggle against liquor shops in the village of Dobbagunta in Nellore District in Andhra Pradesh . It was one of the most amazing grass-roots women’s struggle in India against the government’s cynical policy on liquor (reflected in a documentary I made in 1995- Dry Days in Dobbagunta). Women like Jasbir from Ganganagar who dared to go ahead and give birth to triplets-all girls- and bring them up as a single mother. The widows of dozens of farmers who had committed suicide as they could not pay back their debts. Even as we speak these women have to struggle for a livelihood so that their children do not go to bed hungry. Their resilience has left a deep impression on me and also left me feeling frustrated with myself, the government and the society I live in, for leaving them out in the cold.

Nischala: That’s really touching Nupur.. So if you had a look into a crystal ball and predict what will make a difference in India 50 years from now with respect to women in modern India… What would be your response?
Nupur: Crystal ball gazing is not my forte. But as a journalist since 1982, I have documented many trends in this country and I think you may not have to wait for another 50 years to feel the impact. To be honest- the dreams in the eyes of girls from towns like Ganganagar, Salem, Kanpur, Aligarh, Pondicherry– will provide the trigger for change in India in the next twenty-five years. Do you know that the rank holders in some of these places are girls from the government schools? They want to study. They have dreams in their eyes and are willing to work hard to make them come true. These girls will source the strength that lies within.

Nischala: Great to hear Nupur.. That’s really promising! Looking back at your own life, what do you think really made the difference to where you’ve come today?
Nupur: First I think it is how my parents raised me and my two sisters.  They made us feel loved and wanted and gave us the best education and opportunities. The one thing that my father drilled into us three girls was :  “Whether you marry an emperor or a beggar- you must be independent and stand on your own feet”. That shaped us to what we are today. Today, in the twilight of their lives, we three sisters try and do everything we can to nurture our parents. Choices of marriage were also on one’s own terms. I have been married for the last 31 years (it was a love marriage) and also have the most wonderful relations with my in-laws, despite all the feminist lectures I have given them over the years.

In one’s professional career, one always pushed the boundaries, innovated, never-took-short-cuts and believed in the old school of journalism that ‘good journalism can change the world’.

I believe that the personal is the political and have lived my life that way.

Nischala: Nupur, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts through your rendezvous.
Nupur: It was good to talk to you Nischala. All the best with your passion for blogging and your career in IT.

Women on Twitter

As I did my research for the Women’s Day Series, I was surprised to find the number of lists on Women on Twitter… I am yet to create my own list and it will take some time since I have just become active on Twitter. Nevertheless, I have compiled all the useful and interesting links I found about Women on Twitter…

Hope you find this compilation useful!

The Nifty Top 50 Women on Twitter @ http://webbiquity.com/social-media-marketing/the-nifty-50-top-women-of-twitter-for-2011/

Twitters Top 75 Badass Women @ http://www.bitrebels.com/social/twitter%E2%80%99s-top-75-badass-women/ Top

Business Women to Follow on Twitter @ http://www.mba-online-program.com/top-women-to-follow-on-twitter 8/

 Extraordinary Women to Follow on Twitter @ http://www.8womendream.com/27075/more-8-women-dreamers-on-twitter/ 

18 Funny Women you should be following on Twitter @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/18-funny-women-on-twitter_n_1224751.html &  http://holykaw.alltop.com/18-funny-women-to-follow-on-twitter  

20 Inspiring Young Female Founders to Follow on Twitter @ http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/02/10/20-inspiring-young-female-founders-to-follow-on-twitter/

 8 Women to Follow on Twitter @ http://businessontwitter.co.uk/twitter/2011/03/international-womens-day-8-women-to-follow-on-twitter/

Top 20 Business Women to Follow on Twitter @ http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2010/10/06/womanzworld-top-20-business-women-to-follow-on-twitter/

 ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

People you should follow on Twitter @ http://www.cosmopolitan.com/advice/people-you-should-follow-on-twitter

 The Listorious 140 Twitterers : The Most Listed People on Twitter @ http://listorious.com/top/listed

The Most Powerful Twitter Users @ http://tweet.grader.com/top/users

The First 99 People to Follow on Twitter @ http://technmarketing.com/2010/08/the-first-99-people-to-follow-on-twitter/

The 9 Women Bloggers I’ve Learnt From

As a blogger, I’ve read zillions of blogs from several bloggers across the globe. And I have learnt from some blogs, been inspired by some blogs, laughed at some blogs, gone back wiser after reading some blogs and of course, vowed never again to visit some blogs..

On the occasion of Women’s Day, I wanted to dedicate a post to The 9 Women Bloggers who I’ve learnt from. Since my personal interests are diverse, the list below is a reflection of this diversity. Each of these bloggers has a unique style of writing, different focus and niche, different brand image and different follower base. However, personally every time I visit their blogs – I learn, I am inspired, I get new ideas or I get answers to questions.

And just wanted to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU ALL! Keep Blogging! Happy Blogging!

So without any further ado, let me list them below in alphabetical order:
Amy Oscar
Blog @ http://amyoscar.com/
Focus: Life, Inspiration

Ann Tran
Blog @ http://ann-tran.com/
Focus: Social Media, Inspiration

Aparna
Blog @ http://www.mydiversekitchen.com/
Focus: Cooking (Indian)

Heidi Cohen
Blog @ http://heidicohen.com
Focus: Social Media, Marketing

Kristie Heins
Blog @ www.kikolani.com
Focus: Blogging, Social Media

Lisa Petrilli
Blog @ http://www.lisapetrilli.com/
Focus: Visionary Leadership

Margie Clayman
Blog @ www.margieclayman.com
Focus: Social Media, Marketing, Advertising

Paula Pant
Blog @ http://afford-anything.com
Focus: Freedom, Wealth, Personal Finance

Sree
Blog @ http://sree-firststeps.blogspot.in/
Focus: Parenting (India)

ADDITIONAL READINGS
As I did my research on Women’s Day, I discovered that there were so many lists on Women’s blogs and exposed me to several new women bloggers.. While I have not yet read all of them, felt it would be worthwhile to share the links that I found interesting…

100 Must Read Blogs… By Women

Top 100 Female Bloggers
Top 10 Female Bloggers in the World
Women in Blogging : 125 Fearless Female Bloggers
Top 100 Women Bloggers you should be reading
This List of Top 10 Blogs by Women Might Change Your Life.
50 Best Blogs by Women

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