Monday, 18 August 2014

(Un)Changing gender roles and general perceptions

Since the time I have started working, my husband and I have made some adjustments to our roles and responsibilities. One of them is cooking - while I prepare the breakfasts and dinners, my husband takes care of the lunches. These changes are made to suit our timings and availabilities. Since he remains at home during mid-morning and early afternoon, it is easier for him to prepare lunches.

But alas, these changes are almost attributed to the man being considerate and extra loving towards the wife, which I won't deny but the vital point is being narrowly missed. The point that cooking and cleaning is the sole domain of the woman and anything that is beyond those parameters is seen as a stroke of luck. WHY? Generations of cooking and cleaning has rendered the act of cooking and cleaning as the woman's work. And if the man assists in the kitchen or doing the laundry, the message sent is that he is being thoughtful and considerate.

Everyday at my workplace, my husband gets admiring phrases and loving vibes when I mention that he prepares the lunch. Women who are fiercely independent with their own salaries and strong opinions also tend to believe that cooking and cleaning is a woman's work and if she gets any help from her husband, then the wife is a lucky person.

Nothing has changed. It will take atleast a 100 years to change the mindset. The actions, roles and responsibilities might have changed but the fact that certain jobs are for certain genders has not changed. And, this is not something in India alone. When I read some posts/articles/essays, the author who is a woman credits her husband for being a darling, sweetheart and understanding husband/boyfriend simply because he takes care of the laundry and does the dishes.

I know that I am writing about something that has been done and dusted atleast a few million times and inspite of that I am confounded by the fact that nothing has changed. Feminism exists and most urban women are aware of it - either through first-hand or second-hand experience AND all these theories of women empowerment has not stopped women from thanking and praising the men to the skies when it comes to doing household work. Women still think that cooking and cleaning is their job and if anyone offers to relieve them from that, then it is an act which deserves praise and glorification.

And only men (some, atleast) can say that cleaning vessels is therapeutic. Ask that to a woman and she would show how actions speak (and cause immense pain) louder than words.

A long way to go . . .

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The temperamental biometric

In the College where I teach, teachers have to do a biometric identification when they come in and again do it while leaving. A teacher has to stay for five hours in College and the only witness of this five-hour stay is the biometric machine. The records are then submitted to the University at the end of each month.

For the past three days or so, the biometric machine is not working. Yay! It seems that the machine is protesting and has violent mood swings and as a result it is celebration time for most of us. It is not everyday that we break the five-hour mandatory stay but the lack of the biometric identification seems to give a strange feeling of freedom.

I can imagine students getting happy and jumpy when they are freed from the shackles of attendance and all that jazz but teachers! Well, sometimes when there are rules which one is forced to bow down to, even if the tyrant is the biometric machine, it is a forced sort of discipline.

The childlike aspects of teachers come to the fore when there is a break in the regular routine - I don't see them hurrying to record their identification and fulfill the five hour jail stay! Of course, we don't rush earlier than before but still the chains of mandatory five hours stay is temporarily suspended.

I wonder about the different shackles of forced discipline that exists in my life and unless they are suspended, we will never know their bearing in our lives.

Inspite of everything, life goes on

What are your shackles (read discipline enforcement) dear reader?

Image: Internet

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Confusing kindness for tolerance

When one is a teacher, there are several nuggets of experience to chew and internalise and one such nugget is the act of being kind and free with the students. When it comes to interacting with students inside and outside the classroom, I make it a point not to be very strict or reprimand them for every single act of theirs. Even while teaching, my examples are drawn from everyday aspects of life that the students can relate and sympathise. And the smile - I almost always have a smile pasted on my face which tends to make the student comfortable while in the class and also during our different interactions.

BUT all the aforementioned attributes of mine are almost always mistaken to be signs of an informal person who has great tolerance towards anything including malpractice. Well, I have now started to wonder about the signals that I am sending across to the naive students.

The smile is always mistaken as a sign of extreme tolerance on my part and also the green signal to flout certain disciplinary boundaries. I understand that I cannot expect my students to observe every single thing that is normally expected of them like sitting quiet in class, fidgeting with mobiles and trying to do their homework when I am teaching. But my friendly behaviour and pleasant demeanour makes them think that they can get away with whatever they are doing.

My angst and dilemma is how I should conduct myself as a teacher. Should I be kind and compassionate and understand that they are after all children who pretend to be adults or should I be rigid and firm and never smile thus forcing them to be like captives of Femme Fatale Susan or should I learn to balance my thoughts and learn to ignore certain aspects of student behaviour.

I have taught before and on many occasions I undergo this sudden rush of meandering thoughts where I question my conduct and role as a teacher. After all these years of teaching, I still struggle to resist finding a middle path and stop myself from complaining as to how how my kindness is mistaken for tolerance by the students.

Friday, 1 August 2014

One aspect of Chennai that I would like to change

This post is part of the blog tag titled, The CBC Tablog - 2, where CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club. About 30 bloggers from Chennai are participating in this blog tag where everyone will write about their favourite city Chennai and what aspect of the city that they would like to change. So here's my post for the CBC tablog - 2 titled, 'What Aspect of Chennai that I Would Like to Change.'

Every city has its own charms and challenges and Chennai (Madras) is not an exception. As much as I like the city, there are many aspects of it that I would like to change. One unchangeable aspect is the weather, of course but in this post, I wouldn't waste me time discussing the unchangeable.

I would like to change the lack of green lungs in the city. As the city is expanding and accommodating a diverse range of people from various states and countries, it is losing out on green spaces which provide a certain calm to the eyes and also a healthier environment to the residents. Summer along with perspiration and fatigue, which is a constant in this part of the world is at its peak between April and August and if the city has parks and garden spread out in different strategic places, the residents will be able to cool off and socialise in the shade of the trees and the space of a park. Chennai does have some parks dotted in some places but that alone isn't enough for the ever-growing population.

The Municipal Corporation should identify many such places where people can gather together and find some fresh air to breathe and space to spend time without having to think of power failures and aircons. People who like reading books should be able to pack some food and park themselves on a bench and enjoy their book along with occasional sights and sounds of the surroundings.

The parks could also have small kiosks selling juices, icecreams. coffee and sandwiches. I'm sure people would flock to buy themselves a small snack while they socialise and enjoy their books or solitude.

The garden/park culture should catch up in the city and become a vital aspect of the city's map. I hope this dream of mine comes to pass in the near future.

This post will be succeeded by Kaushik Govindaswamy's post. Kaushik blogs at Words & Lines and is quite a sensitive and creative young man. The logo for this Tablog was designed by him and one look at his sketches and designs will sure leave you interjecting in appreciation. He recently successfully completed the A-Z challenge in Blogging with a wide range of interesting posts. I wish Kaushik all the best for his blog and his drawing.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Have you smelt fresh bread?

Seeing a picture of freshly baked bread on my friend's page, my first thought was about the smell of fresh bread. It is magic, I say and if you haven't known that smell, then my friend, you haven't been initiated into the fine art of smell and fragrances.

I have always been a sense person with smell dominating the senses. Freshly baked bread is not freshly baked bread alone - It is freshly baked bread and much more if you care to allow the smell to carry you into far away lands where there are dozens of bread episodes which are time-specific. And, no matter how much you have eaten store bought fresh bread, you cannot savour the smell until you have baked a bread and waited till the smell filled the tiny kitchen and then the adjacent room before filling the entire room and finally forces itself into your head through your nose. It lives there for years to come and will come out when you least expect it to raise its head - while having tea with a close friend who remarks on your fine bread or a child who speaks of the bread in passing or a silly song that was playing while baking the bread and is now playing on the radio.

Ah, you will say, the smell still lingers but not time. Those were the days I had time and interest to bake and bask in bread and then you stop. You stop because you have smelt that smell from your memory and you yearn . . . you yearn to smell real fresh bread and you search for dough (the eating kind) and salt and yeast and you work to smell that smell and savour that smell for years to come. Time can never be trusted but memories can sure coerce you to knead and sing along.

Post-script: This post is dedicated to the same friend on whose page I saw the picture of fresh bread. She loves cooking, baking, a hearty conversation and books (smell, feel and everything about books).

Friday, 25 July 2014

Exploring the unexplored in Julie and Julia

While food and blogging are the most obvious and often written about matters while discussing the 2009 film Julie and Julia, I was fascinated by another story which though significant is not given much afterthought. I am referring to the friendship between Julia and Avis as long time pen pals. It touched a chord because writing letters and emails is something that I immensely enjoy and look forward to. I did have a couple of pen pals with whom I shared my everyday life stories and curious incidents. Inspite of not having met, there existed a bond that went beyond faces, touch and smiles. We connected via the medium of letters -- words, words and words. The anticipation was worth the joy received when I held the letter in my hand. A weary day in school would be transformed into bursts of happiness when the long awaited letter arrived. It was indeed undistilled pleasure.

Then email happened.

But the letters still were being exchanged along with long emails. The instant gratification of emails though praised to the high heavens still carried with it an element of anticipation and waiting. The few hours between hitting the 'send' mail icon and seeing a new mail notification is of course similar to the waiting of days in receiving a hand written note. I enjoy both the mediums and exploit them fully. 

When Julia casually mentions at the airport to Linda that she has never met Avis but has only corresponded with her through letters, the look of Linda's face is priceless. That was a moment that I savoured in the entire length of the movie for I know how it feels.

And today, my wait for emails is intense than the wait for snail mail for I am not expecting any snail mails in the present. This also reminds me that I have to write in order to receive and I shall soon do that.
As I grapple with teaching my students how to write formal letters, I am afraid that they will never know the joy of writing hand-written letters. I can lecture them on the pleasures and beauty of sending and receiving a letter but I can never make them understand the warmth and satisfaction of the act of writing letters.

In the meanwhile, I await an email from an interesting person.

How about you, dear reader?


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