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After having followed the classic given-up-work-then-returned-to-it trajectory, what I've learned is that there's no magic formula. There are many, many factors that determine a woman's career arc. Sheryl Sandberg believes it is the man you marry. I believe it's your mother's ability to live near you. Either way, a woman must prepare for the fork in the road long before she reaches it.
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Summers for me meant endless days at my grandfather's house, which was the enchanted land of do-what-you-want. We would arrive at his gates the moment our vacations began and leave, kicking and screaming, when July sprung upon us, all-too-soon and without warning. Our mother, to our unimaginable delight, was not only barred entry, but was also made to renounce all parental control.
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In his brilliant essay titled "Imaginary Homelands", Salman Rushdie quotes from the opening lines of one of L P Hartley's most memorable books, <em>The Go-Between</em>. "The past is a foreign country" goes the line, "they do things differently there." As you grow older these words ring true, every so often, especially in moments of nostalgia.I had one such moment a few days after this year began, when I received a "Season's Greetings" card from an old friend.
Cruising swiftly down the highway in a car that could not have been more different than my father's, I started thinking about how much things had changed since we took road trips with our parents as children. There was no air conditioning, of course, and somehow we didn't seem to mind. When (not if) the car broke down, almost always because of a broken fan-belt, we would get out and run into the wilderness...
I am not saying that things are not better than before, or that women don't have options. They are and they do, but we're still a long, long way from a culture where a woman is taken more for her ability than her assumed availability.
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Come to think of it, hieroglyphic writing was the Egyptians' emoticon-like language and the Rosetta Stone, their tablet. There was a message there that we totally misread. Thankfully, however, we seem to have redeemed ourselves. Unwittingly or otherwise, we have finally realised the immense importance of the symbolic over verbose gobbledygook.
I offered my services to clean up my father's garage. Not that he had asked me. In fact, quite the contrary - he wanted me nowhere near it. However, I was convinced that he would appreciate my supremely altruistic act in hindsight. What better time, I said to him, than now when the merits of 'Swachh Bharat' were being rubbed in our noses. It was time, I declared, wielding a broom in one hand and a duster in the other, to start the drive in our own homes.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that behind every ache and pain, lies a deficiency. Well, mostly. If you've been waking up tired, have knees that creak, have unexplained aches or mood swings,...
We the affluent are ever ready, sitting on our well-padded mantles, to tell the lesser fortunate how they should spend their money. Given half a chance, we delight in taking to the pulpit to preach the merits of austerity, though we may not practice those in our own lives.
Just before the children's summer vacations began, a friend called me to her house for an emergency meet. She wanted to discuss what she called a contingency plan. We hadn't, she declared ominously, made any arrangements for the holidays, and doomsday was almost upon us. When I told her that I didn't see reason for panic, she wondered if I was in denial, or if I had some delusions about the fact that the children were going to be home, all day, for two straight months.