Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The state of affairs

Waking up, going through the motions of the day and sleeping at the end of a relentlessly tiring day has been the new normal in my life for the past few months. 
There has always been a flurry of activity, some that happens, some self created which keeps me on my toes. I have always been the one day batsman. Try as I want, I can plan, but the doing mostly comes in the last minute. I have always been like that and I now accept that things will fall into place without a compromise on quality only on the last leg of anything. The acceptance has made me calmer and a better person. I do not remain in an agitated state and do not keep constantly comparing the current state of affairs with a supposed set of ideal timelines and accomplishments.

That doesn't mean I don't panic, I do. Sometimes the panic is because I have lost track of time and date (yes, happens all the time) or the panic is induced because someone else is panicking and this has happened several times over the last few weeks. 

The IFBM as we are calling it is a first ever Indian Food Bloggers Meet, which is happening in Bangalore on the 1-2 of August, could not have come at a time when I was busier! When we planned it in March, I thought it would be one of those soirees that will include a few other like minded people and it would be hectic, but pleasurable and I would come away from it, getting to know a few bloggers well. Turned out to be one circus, and it could not have come at any other time in my life!

I have been unable to sleep, because of a Damocles sword hanging over my head, I have woken up with heart palpitations because I imagined  we were already on a Friday when it was just a Tuesday. At other times, I have been unable to prep for my classes till the morning of the class because I have been busy with something to do with the IFBM or that Sage has had another seizure episode and I have spent all my time with him. 

When I embarked on this IFBM journey, the first naysayer was K. He told me it will completely take over my life and I cannot afford that because I have just started the studio. Either I put it down to his general naysayer nature, or I really didn't estimate the cluster chaos that  I was to encounter. If I am honest, it is the second one. 

Not one day did I think that this would take every ounce of my energy, my mental bandwidth and my spirit. This has been one of the most stressful projects that I have undertaken. Not just because of the nature of the work itself, which is demanding, but the people I am working with. Passive aggression is no good, it accomplishes nothing positive, but drains you physically, mentally and emotionally and that is just something I could have done without. 

There are lists and things to do and deadlines to meet. This whole event, which started as a meeting of a few like minded bloggers has snowballed into an event much larger than any of us expected. With the organic growth came the list of things to do for the sponsors and partners and participants came work and lots of it. Some of it got sorted, some of it didn't. I've tried as best as I possibly could to get stuff organised and done. Working from different cities has also meant that we need to rely completely on what everyone else is doing. Coordinating schedules, fitting in sessions, dealing with multiple sponsors and 

For my bit there are days when I feel exhausted with just the talking and somedays when I am so energized that I dont care if I haven't eaten, slept or bathed either. 

Things are falling into place slowly.While I've never doubted that I could pull this off, I didn't honestly think it would grow this big. I started off with the least clout and contacts in this group and I am happy that I didn't give up and pulled my weight and brains behind stuff that mattered. 

A few days ago, we had on hand what I can only term as a 'cluster#uck' some quick consultations with a partner later, I pulled off something that I have been too afraid to do - sell an idea to someone.

All my life I have been so afraid of sales. Many times in my career in a 'regular job' I shied away from any people facing work because I felt I didn't have the skill or the temperament to do it. Life is a full circle. I am realising that more and more. It comes back to tell you that nothing that is impossible is actually that and every belief you held close to heart like the gospel truth will be shattered.

Firstly in my training career and later as a teacher of cooking and baking, there are only people I meet everyday. And I figured that the success of my venture has been only because people are buying a part of me over and over again, which means I don't suck at sales!

With the IFBM, every ounce of my skill set is being used and I am glad it is getting aired out and sharpened. This has been as much a humbling exercise as it has been confidence building.

I have been writing this posts over a week. and each day it gets better and bigger. I currently just want friday to be here and see what's in store....

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The women in my family, and the lessons I learnt

I wrote an emotionally charged post a few days ago on Escapades. I wrote because I was overwhelmed with what was happening around me. I wrote because I was worried like never before about Amma's impending surgery for her eye. I wrote because sometimes I have no where else to go and no one else to talk to. I wrote because a lot of times, when I am quivering with fear or anxiety or uncertainty over a decision I have made, no one bothers to ask me if I am ok or need anything because it is assumed that I will handle things. 

The post is about Amma mostly and how I see her as a different person today. I wrote this post where I said I never thought of her as a professional and would always wonder why her students thought the world of her. She was not overtly ambitious (a trait I have inherited completely) but whatever ambition was there was thwarted by so many familial responsibilities that I doubt she had time to think of what she wanted in life. She went from day to day, executing her duties and trying to stay sane on tough days. 

Amma was the second daughter and one of four siblings. Her older sister and she were less than 2 years apart and almost like twins. They were chalk and cheese, but stuck together till my aunt passed away in 2002. Amma was the talkative, gregarious one. The one who would win any argument and fight for the sake of the fight. She was the only one of her siblings to move away from the family and study and subsequently work in a different state for many years. The friends she made in college are still her friends almost 55 years later. This woman, gave up a Ford foundation scholarship to study abroad because she had to come home and complete her familial responsibilities. This was perhaps one of the defining decisions of her life. That she would continuously and compulsively put the needs of others before her own. There are several instances of this through her journey.

My Aunt, mother's older sister was an unmarried lady. She lived with us. I could not make out as a child who my biological mother was. Parenting was shared. The house, chores and clothes split and even now, one large part of Amma is missing because of the loss of her sister. She was a librarian, she encouraged us to read, enforced table manners (no chewing with mouth open, no elbows on the table, and definitely no talking with a full mouth). She never married because she was the oldest of four siblings and had a huge financial debt to pay when her father passed away. She decided to sacrifice her life so that her two able siblings (the fourth sibling was blind) could marry and enjoy family life. The one she intended to marry remained her life long friend until his death.

I look around and realise that she is not alone. Being single was not uncommon in their family. On both her paternal and maternal side, there were/ are several ladies of the family who were single. Some never married because the one they wanted was not approved of by the family, some had responsibilities to fulfil, some reasons are unknown. What is remarkable is that no one ever made a big deal out of it. We were never sort of prepared to shed all of ourselves, our personalities, our families for the sole purpose of being someone's wife. I cannot remember a single utterance to me as a child or as a growing girl which implied - do this, else you will be useless for marriage.

The children in the family are encouraged to study. It doesn't matter what your gender is. Most of my grand aunts, aunts, cousins are all post graduates at least, if not more. The chosen professions were medicine or teaching. We are a whole family of women in the medical field, mostly as doctors and so many kinds of teachers, my own mother being a professor and yours truly is definitely a teacher of some sort. The emphasis on education begins early, but is not drilled into a competitive sort of place. Rather, we are very subtly told repeatedly that there is no question about being financially independent, which is where education will help.

The women have lived their lives on their terms. Made decisions that were bold and benefited either themselves and / or the family. In most cases, they have supported the men and women of the family. I have aunts who went abroad for higher studies in the 60's, adopted children without being married, changed cities, jobs, had companions they lived with who they never married, had non traditional families with extended families and sometimes friends being living companions and walked out of abusive marriages twice over. I have never once heard anyone in the family tell their children - male or female to stay in a relationship that was not respectful.

There is no dearth of women role models from within the family. Everywhere I look, there are strong independent fearless women I see. Women for whom, no job or responsibility came with a gender qualification. These are not bra burning feminists. These are quietly effective role models. These are people that an impressionable 6-8 year old would look at and know that unconventional life choices were fine as long as your self respect was not threatened. These were role models who lead by quiet example and showed everyone around, including their children, how one can be independent, strong and responsible, without being abrasive. I never once questioned my abilities or my self worth based on my gender. Infact, my paternal family which was diametrically opposite of my maternal, with most of the women being minimally educated and stay at home wives. At each interaction, at each instance, gender profiling was brought up. In my case, I was always told silly things which now I feel could have seriously dented my self esteem especially as a child. Stuff like I needed to grow my hair, talk less, wear feminine clothes, study less (where to find a groom that was more qualified than you?) so that I would be a suitable wife.

My mother ran her house and managed her family with what she thought was suitable to her and for the convenience of the family and never by what standards were set out by society. I am glad for such an upbringing. I am glad that we were taught by example and not lecture. We were never coerced into decisions, but rather everything was reasoned and then the decision was left to the individual  to make, and then the choice was respected.

So when I am tempted to play damsel in distress, these are the strengths that I draw from. I am putting down one more life defining part of my upbringing and giving gratitude for it.