Mobility gives you wings. It gives you freedom, independence, and agency to move wherever you want to be and do whatever you want to do. I decided to write this post after driving my scooter for the first time. It was a different feeling altogether. That feeling can’t be expressed in words. It gave me freedom, ownership, and independence. Every woman should own a vehicle and it is very important for women to learn to drive. A general observation in and around you will show that most of the vehicles are owned by men. When your mobility is sorted, no one can control you. It makes you independent and gives you the agency to chart out your life. When you can take care of your mobility, you are not dependent on your spouse, children, or anyone else to move around. Maybe that’s why women are restricted or forbidden from driving in various countries and societies. They want to control women and don’t want to give them agency to live their lives on their own terms.
I also felt less vulnerable while driving than walking on the roads. Being a pedestrian, I suffered harassment on the streets multiple times but when I started driving my scooter, the harassment was less. Whenever you are in a strong position, people will hesitate to bother you.
Mobility has a big role to play in someone’s life and growth as a person. Public places are hostile to women. They face various kinds of challenges and harassment navigating the public place by walking or driving, or using the private and public transportation system. Many studies and anecdotal evidence expose the masculinity of public places. Most women feel unsafe and avoid being in public places to save themselves from sexual harassment and the toxic male gaze.
As per the data released from India’s first Time Use Survey, it was found that more than 53% of women had not stepped outside their homes the previous day. Only 38% of women in this age group reported stepping out of the home, compared to 88% of men. Marriage and children have a huge impact on women’s mobility and absolutely no impact on the mobility of men. Being married or living with a person is associated with reduced mobility for women but increased mobility for men.
I urge all ladies reading this post to learn to drive even if it’s a bicycle. Figure out a way to do that and your life will change. I am grateful that I finally learned to drive. देर आये दुरुस्त आये 🙂
If you liked reading this post or gained something from it, please buy me a coffee.
“The most common way people give their power is by thinking they don’t have any”
“A feminist is someone who believes in social, political and economic equality of the sexes”.
It was easier to understand how discrimination against women exists in society than to realize how we ourselves undermine our own capabilities. Dealing with this self-awareness was more challenging than discrimination in general. I remember when I got my first job, from the first day itself, I was feeling guilty about not having enough time at home and not being able to manage the house better. This feeling was recurring when I moved from one job to another. I remember this one moment when I forced myself to come home early so that I could spend more time taking care of the home which was absurd. I could have spent this time networking with new people at the office or doing something else rather than unnecessarily worrying about my so-called responsibilities to take care of the house. I also skipped many office get-togethers, feeling that it would be a waste of time.
It was quite relatable and engaging to read Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead’. Sheryl Sandberg served as the chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook for more than a decade. She raised her voice against the discriminatory practices at the company. She also founded two organisations called Lean In and Option B to help women achieve their ambitions and help companies build inclusive workplaces where women of all identities are supported and empowered.
Reading this book made me realise that what I used to feel is a universal feeling experienced by all women of the world. Talking to so many women colleagues made me understand that workplace discrimination is pervasive. Almost all the women accepted that they undermine their capabilities and fail to advocate for themselves. I have read many books that show systemic discrimination and stereotypes against women, but not every book discusses solutions to these problems. A majority of books dealt with the external obstacles that created hurdles in the path of women’s careers. However this book focuses on the “internal barriers” faced by women in their journey of career progression. Sheryl adds that these internal barriers hold us, women, back from looking for opportunities and dreaming big.
That’s where the book shows the path through which women can take charge and grow in this discriminatory man dominated world. Many would not agree with it but it made sense to me. We need to come forward and take on the challenge of balancing work and home without feeling guilty about anything. According to the author, Lean Inis a way to address the problem of lack of representation and discrimination against women at the workplace. It is totally acceptable that many institutional, political and policy changes are required to deal with the discrimination problem at a larger level. But we need to take the smaller steps. The author feels that we need to break free from that unknown fear and move forward.
She shows how despite having to face so much discrimination in the internal and external environment, women have to go extra miles to prove their capability and seriousness. Some of them are highlighted in the book:
Women have to prove themselves to a far greater extent than men have to do.
Women hold themselves back. They lower their expectations of what they can achieve. They put themselves down before others can. They consistently underestimate themselves leading to this strong feeling of ‘imposter syndrome’.
Women internalise the message that it’s wrong being outspoken, aggressive and more powerful than men.
Women are discouraged to take risks and advocate for themselves.
Women are disliked for not displaying the so called ‘appropriate behaviour’
Women are judged for doing it all when no one knows what’s going on in their mind and how they are constantly struggling and hustling to do everything imperfectly.
Women suffer not only discrimination and sexual harassment but also everyday blatant & subtle sexism.
Women are also looked down upon for managing everything and also made to feel guilty for not doing it perfectly.
The biggest take away of this book is that it makes the case for leaning in, for being ambitious in any pursuit. Though women are discouraged and disliked for being ambitious and taking risks, the author adds that career growth is mostly dependent upon taking risks and advocating for oneself. Because opportunities are rarely offered, they are seized. Women suffer from ‘tiara syndrome’ where they expect that if they keep doing their job well someone will notice them and place a tiara on their head. However, it doesn’t happen like that in the real world. Women need to advocate for themselves when their efforts are not recognised. Sheryl adds that not only do we need to take risks, prioritise growth, challenge ourselves but also ask for promotions with a smile on our faces. According to her, there are no perfect opportunities, we need to learn the skill to make any opportunities fit for us. To have a successful career plan, she suggests adopting two concurrent goals: a long-term dream and an 18-month plan.
The most insightful fact about this book is the idea of ‘Don’t leave before you leave’. Women don’t leave the workforce making one big decision but they make many small decisions and leave the workforce. One of the best examples she gives is about pregnancy. Generally all women start worrying about pregnancy long before even trying to conceive which hampers their career prospects. Sheryl feels that women should utilise the time to grow and lean in till the moment their child is not out of their womb. It made perfect sense to me. It’s like whatever time you got, you give your best shot, you work hard and achieve whatever you can so that when you come back after your pregnancy break you have a base on which you can restart your professional journey.
No one can have it all and whoever is claiming to have it all, is lying, says the author. The thing is that life is full of imperfections and flaws. It might look perfect to other people but it is never perfect. Women need to embrace the mess and keep going. Having a supportive partner can help in dealing with these things in a better way. It is a must for any working woman if she wants to excel in her professional life. If the partner shares responsibilities at home, it becomes easier for a woman to manage work and home both.
Very rightly she shares this whole idea of ‘fit in’ at the workplace. I can say this from my personal experience that people are appreciated for ‘fitting in’ and not for delivering good work. People were promoted and liked just because they were fitting in and they were sucking up to their bosses. Workplace bias is a reality. People are evaluated based on personal preferences. At the same time, the author feels that one must not inject gender into every conversation which makes people uncomfortable as well as brings a feeling that one is asking for special treatment. Rightly so, she shows how some women are also perpetrators of sexism because of internalised patriarchy and misogyny.
The only thing the book lacks is the idea to bring reform at a larger level through which every woman gets to understand all the biases and barriers they face internally. How can we bring systemic change to it? Until and unless things are not changed at a larger level, it will take years and years of hard work and effort to achieve gender equality and empowerment.
I am grateful that a colleague of mine gifted me this book recently. It’s fascinating to read this book at this point in my life when I am trying to make my career bit by bit and understand it from the perspective of a woman who worked in a male-dominated workplace. It feels so warm when women support each other which is not the general norm. Though it is not their fault because they also come from the same patriarchal environment.
Sheryl Sandberg is a brave woman who not only took various initiatives to change the system for the better but also showed a path to the upcoming generation. Her honest ordeal in the book makes it a must-read for all women out there. It will empower women to sit at the table, understand the myth of doing it all and why we should not leave before we actually leave the workplace.
If you liked reading this post or gained something from it, please buy me a coffee.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers”.- Charles W
Ever counted seconds, minutes, hours, days, or months? I have been doing that for the last few months. My to-do lists became my best friend and companion. There were even details about cleaning the house, eating food, taking a bath, doing office work, and even how much time I spent lying in bed. During this phase, books, plants, and friends filled my life with love, patience, and kindness. Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse is one of them. I felt almost as if the universe conspired to reach out to me through this book.
This beautiful art book was kept on my colleague’s desk. I wanted to see the book but he was not available at his desk. I couldn’t resist asking him to show me this book the following day. I began reading it. I somehow felt a connection to the book. Within a few minutes, I had reached the last page after flipping one page after another. I felt so peaceful reading it. The story touched my heart. It felt like a breath of fresh air. In a moment, it changed the way I was feeling for a few months. Thank you so much to the pure soul who gave this book to my colleague. I borrowed the book even after I finished it so I could keep it close to me for few more hours.
Through illustrations, the book tells the story of friendship, strength, and love. It’s the story of a lonely boy who meets other animals in the countryside. Their walk together is filled with heartfelt conversation about life, friendships, and universal truths.
The book is an example of simplicity and how gently the author has described life and its challenges. You’ll find nuggets of life, friendship, failure, success, love, and kindness in this book. It shows you how far you’ve come. It encourages you to be kind to yourself. It inspires you to keep moving forward, to believe in yourself, and to love yourself. Life is difficult, but you are loved no matter what. One of the most beautiful aspects of this book is that it allows one to scribble on it and write about their feelings.
Here are some of the most beautiful excerpts from these conversations:
If you like reading this post, please buy me a coffee by clicking the below link.
It’s an unconventional book that tells us to change the way we work. This book is filled with timeless wisdom. In spite of the book being written in 2010, whatever is written therein is still relevant and will continue to be useful even in the future. It is written in a straightforward style. This book can be finished in one day or even in three hours if nothing interrupts your reading.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37 signals, wrote this book. 37 Signals is a two-decade-old software company that is now known as Basecamp. The authors have shared practical insights in this book based on their own experiences of starting a company from scratch, operating on their own, hiring employees from all over the world, and handling crises as they arise.
In this book, you will find many inspirational lines that you can use in your life and work. These lines can be written on post-it notes and stuck to your desk, so you can get a little inspiration every day. Here are a few of the best:
Be a starter
Scratch your own itch
No time is no excuse
You need less than you think
Start a business, not a startup
You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy
Be a curator
Interruption is the enemy of productivity
Meetings are toxic
Good enough is fine
Long lists don’t get done
Make tiny decisions
Focus on ‘You’ instead of ‘They’
Say ‘No’ by default
Build an audience
Go behind the scenes
Show your flaws. Be vulnerable
Press releases are spam. Instead, call someone
Everything is marketing
Hire someone who can manage herself
Send people home at 5 PM
Sound like you
ASAP is poison
Please read this book and let me know what you think about it. If you have already read this book, please let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.
If you liked reading this post, please buy me a coffee.
“Jahan Koyi apna Dafn na hua ho woh jagah apni nhi hua karti” [A person does not belong to a place until someone beloved is buried there]
Gabriel Garcia Marquez- One Hundred Years of Solitude
Reading the book, “Bread, Butter, and Cement” by Annie Zaidi, felt like a trip down memory lane. It made me nostalgic. It made me think of my roots, my identity, and my belongingness. The book is beautifully written and expressed. It feels like a slow cold breeze passing below your feet while you read this book but also makes you worry about the things happening in our country as to how our heritage and culture are being devoid of diversity.
Like Zaidi, I always wanted to own a place that I can call mine. Do I belong to a place or Do I want a place of my own? The first one is of course where my dada, dadi, and my ma lived their whole life. It feels so right that where your ancestors have lived, that place belongs to you. If you see this in a larger sense, it’s so difficult to imagine the lives of the people who were uprooted from their homeland because of partition, communal strife, or poverty and have had to move to a different place. The second one is that place that I am going to build/buy that is my own.
The title of the book intrigued me because what story could link three unconnected words: bread, butter, and cactus. It comes from the author’s childhood when she was living in the J K Puram colony. It was a colony for workers of the cement factory of the same name. Her mother was working as a principal in the school run for kids living in the colony. They moved to this unknown place so that her mother could provide ‘bread’ to her children. The author also describes the circumstances and situation prevailing in that colony and how the author wanted to escape the everyday ‘sameness’ of the colony. The only life around was some cactus. There was nothing nearby and it almost felt like she was living on some island.
The book is neatly divided into nine chapters with unique and thoughtful names. Every chapter name has some hidden meaning. The most beautiful thing about this book is that as these chapters flow, the author narrates her personal story reflecting and interlinking the socio-political happenings of the country. For instance, I absolutely loved the chapter named ‘Gur, Imarati and Goons’ telling the story of Azamgarh in particular and eastern UP in general. ‘Listening to mother’ and ‘Place like Home’ are the two other beautiful chapters giving a beautiful perspective on how language is so important to feel the sense of belongingness and how creating your own home or having a home makes a lot of difference in your life. This line from this chapter is so beautifully written: ‘Home is where suffering is shared out, like a bread, and or a three-seat bench shared by four’. The chapter on language is insightful. It shows how much language diversity we have in our country and despite that, there is an imposition of one language on everyone. Hindi itself has around 49 variants.
Just finding out that the author’s hometown was Azamgarh which is also my hometown created a strong urge for me to read this book. Being a woman who belongs to the same district and also migrated to a different place and trying to create my own identity made me relate to the author’s feelings in this book. Just like the author of this book, ‘belonging had always been a fraught question for me’ because I also never lived at one place for long. Especially after my marriage, I moved to South India totally devoid of North Indian roots, culture, food, and the people. I am not sure where I belong.
I remember my first UPSC interview when they asked me about my hometown and I was trying to defend the reputation of my district as it has been stereotyped and demonised as a place linked to terrorism. I can say that even I was suffering from that bias otherwise there would be no need to defend. The author is also anguished about why a place of poetry, textile, and imarati has been stereotyped just because a section of minorities live there. It is sad. Even I agree with the author that this stereotyping isolates the minority community and also prevents the Hindu majority from taking pride in their regional identity. A couplet comes to mind:
“Sabhi ka khoon hai shaamil yahaan ki mitti Mein,Kisi ke baap ka Hindustan thodi hai” [Everybody’s blood is mixed into the earth here, Hindustan does not belong to anybody’s father]
Throughout the book, Zaidi shows concerns towards the marginalisation of minority communities with a special focus on Muslim communities. Being a Muslim and a woman, she has had to face a lot of questions and rejection. The socio-political climate of the country made her conscious of her identity. She was worried about what people will think or how they will behave if she wore a hijab/burqa.
This is the sad reality of this country. The recent findings of a three-year study on discrimination in housing, most cosmopolitan cities and neighborhoods continue to keep Muslims and Dalit out of their homes. Stereotyping and discrimination against Muslims and Dalits are rampant in our country. One of my close Muslim friends (I don’t want to disclose his identity), who is a writer and public policy expert tells me, ” I no more think India is my country and I want to move out from here as soon as I can”. Hearing this, I thought; where we have reached and what we have become as a nation.
“The ache for home lives in all of us.The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned”
The theme of this book is about home, identity, belonging, and most importantly about mitti (soil) of one’s birthplace. How absolutely nothing can replace the feeling of your roots. How this mitti or zameen as we call it, has ‘dual connotations’ that mean land and also a certain psychological feeling. It makes me feel proud when I read in this book that the author traces her roots to eastern Uttar Pradesh. Generally, people from Uttar Pradesh who have relocated would rather not reveal their identity out of fear of being stereotyped.
Note: I created a draft of this blog last month but could not publish it because almost everyone in my family was sick. Finally, when I started feeling a bit better and things got stable at home, I completed this blog today.
If this post resonated with you, please buy me a coffee by clicking the link below:
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen our sense of life: they feed the soul”
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d has three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” – An Iconic passage that gives the book its title
During my childhood days, I was this kid who was always curious about reading things written at unusual places. Catchy sentences from books, inspiring quotes, weird shayaris written on the backside of the truck and things written on walls always amused me. I also had this habit of writing things in my diary or notebook. I never imagined that this is the thing I liked the most and this will give me utmost satisfaction in my life. When I started reading this fascinating book by the author Anne Lamott, I felt as if she is telling me to do the same. She wants writers to observe, appreciate and simply write about everything you see, hear, read, and think. She emphasises that writers should be afraid of not getting the writing done rather being tensed about how it will look and how people will see you.
And I would suggest people to read this book because it is not only about writings but also about life. The best thing about this book is that instructions on writing are intertwined with Lamott’s life that makes it easier to relate.
The book is neatly divided into five parts. The author has shared the instructions step by step in these five parts. The first part is about getting the writing started, the second part speaks about the writing frame of mind, the third part describes small habits that can help in your writing journey, fourth part talks about the ultimate goal of every writer; publication and other reasons you need to start writing and the final part is about the author’s last class on writing where she highlights the role of being a writer and how writers play an important role to show a mirror to the society.
The best advice the author has for the budding writers is the actual act of writing. It has its own rewards. It is one of the best parts of writing as it has so much to give and teach. The author has poured out her heart as a writer in this book. She honestly tells all the writers to start writing as all good writings begin with terrible first effort. We all have to write that shitty first drafts and edit it, again and again, to make it crisp and clear.
Stories are mostly the same but the difference comes when someone shares their own sensibility or especially their own version of the truth. And as the author agrees that the ‘truth’ is the bedrock of life. Whatever experience you had in your life, no one can share better than you in your own voice. Something very unique, I found in the book, as the author says ‘writing’ is like ‘giving’. A writer gives her soul and deepest part of her life into writing. Reading something gives us that feeling of connection, it enriches your soul. A writer soothes the reader’s soul by giving a company and reducing isolation.
The author gave some clear instructions that need to be followed if you want to improve your writing skills or want to continue being a writer:
Sit down to write at approximately same time every day. This is how you can train your unconscious to kick-in for you.
Write at least 300 words every day. Write about anything, about your dreams, aspirations, childhood memories, etc
Keep index cards with you all the time and scribble on it whenever you find something interesting
Observe/ Look around and write about these things
Call people and connect with them to know their perspective
Find someone reliable who can read your draft before you show it to the world
Be part of a writing group that will motivate you to write
Find your voice or write whatever your intuition says
Write about your childhood
Write as if you are dying
Forget about what people will think of your writing rather focus on just writing
I will end with some of the beautiful excerpts from the bookto inspire and motivate you to write without any hesitation because as Anne Lamott reiterates in the book, writing and reading decreases our sense of isolation. They deepen, widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.
“Good writing is about telling the truth”
” We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are”
“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious”
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better”
“Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.”
“Process of writing is pretty much the same for almost everyone I know”
“Becoming a writer can also profoundly change your life as a reader. One reads with a deeper appreciation and concentration, knowing now how hard writing is, especially how hard it is to make it look effortless. You begin to read with a writer’s eyes”
“Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on”
“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they have done it”
“All the good stories are out there waiting to be told in a fresh, wild way.”
BOOKS -“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave”
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us”