Love is boundless and timeless, and the best thing is that it can happen to anyone. What does Love mean to us women? At different ages love holds a different meaning for each of us. As a newborn we first gaze into the warm and loving eyes of our mother and immediately fall in love with her calming presence. As toddlers we go through a phase where we display nonchalance to love. The focus is more on discovering new sights and sounds and loving all the things around us. Then comes the tempestuous teenage years when some of us actually have our first brush with love. It could be bitter sweet and often a memory cherished into our golden years. But I find the love that we discover in our middle years of life is the one that is rock steady and one that we need to treasure. It feels like having our best friend with us at all times. Just a look can convey more than what a thousand words cannot. This Love gives us the space to grow and realize our true potential. Living in tune with each other makes us feel close, connected, and loved, creating an atmosphere of mutual cooperation. Lastly it is a love that would leave no stone unturned to make your happiness feel like their happiness.
We are often asked our opinion about, “What we want/think/feel?” speaking for myself I can say I am not always truthful with my answer. I have wondered why I hesitate, play it safe and end up giving answers that are politically correct or one that is easier on the ears. “Taking a stand or voicing my opinion makes me uncomfortable”, is what I reason with myself and silence the little voice inside.
These are not heavy weight questions like “ Should we home school our kids?” or “Should we buy a house?” but rather simple questions that family members tend to ask, “ Are you alright?” “Is there something on your mind?” “Did you like it?".
Many women suffer from this common disability that prevents us from voicing our opinions. Is it that we are hesitant to give the right answer or are we reluctant to bare our true sentiments? Constantly suppressing natural emotions creates internal pressure and relationships lack depth and fail to thrive. We humans are a complex vehicle of unique thoughts and emotions. If we ourselves are unsure about what makes us tick, it will be very difficult to convince the rest of the world.
Women are capable of achieving almost anything that they dream of and as super women we owe it to ourselves to keep it real and stop being superficial. Different people like different things and there is no right answer that can please everyone. Being true and honest in thought action and deed can make life simple and straightforward. A major step in that direction is figuring out what things and people actually make us happy. In this group of trusted and loved ones we can make a start and learn to let our hair down and be ourselves.
Have you ever heard kids talk to one another? They say what they feel very honestly and it takes them very little time to do that. How I wish we adults could be so uncomplicated.
Vibhishita would like to introduce Kalpana Ramesh, an interior designer, architect, turned water conservation champion driving the ‘Live the Lakes’ a SAHE initiative in Hyderabad. She is a woman of many talents and we would all benefit to hear her motivating and heart warming story.
As part of “Live the Lakes” program, Kalpana and her team hope to create awareness about the importance of lakes, increase civic responsibility and return the lakes to their former glory. She got involved with spreading awareness of water conservation and rainwater harvesting in schools, residential complexes, and the community at large. Between the months of May 2016 to July 2016 alone, right before the start of the monsoons, she got more than 200 families to revive their defunct bore wells through a simple DIY schematic.
The Save10KBores initiative led by Kalpana helped in realizing the importance of water conservation. Hyderabad is a city that is blessed with lakes, several of which are dying a slow death due to pollution and contamination. While working on the bore wells, Kalpana realized the importance of the water bodies and made up her mind to revive them. She went about speaking, cajoling, educating people and her initiative soon took shape in the form of the 'Live the Lakes' initiative. With the support of NGOs, Government offices, conservationists, architects, students, volunteers, professors and the general public, Kalpana hopes to revive 62 lakes around Serilingampally. She and her team talk to the community near the lake and urge them to adopt it. Sessions on awareness, long term sustainability and inclusiveness are conducted frequently.
1. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? I am a 47 yr old, Interior and Furniture Designer with an Architectural background. I live and work in Hyderabad. I have always been interested in colors, spaces and nature and designing has been my strength. I am a spontaneous person and don’t plan anything ahead. I rise up to challenges and strive to grow organically. I am known for my sincerity, perseverance and a never give up attitude. I am always positive even in a very dead end situation. I imbibe this from my mother. I am an avid Terrace gardener and organic vegetable grower, Vedanta student, and a hardcore water conservationist. I am an activist for Live the Lakes. I am constantly on the lookout for learning something new and challenge myself to doing something I have never done before. 2. How did you get started with your activism?
I have always tried to be mindful of the environment, but the TEDx Hyderabad Salon event on Civic Responsibility in April 2016 was a turning point. The session on water conservation hit a cord and I got involved with the Save10KBores – an initiative to revive defunct bore wells across the city of Hyderabad. Our effort is to not only to conduct clean-up, awareness and plantation drives, but also have engaged a group of planners and architect researchers to come up with a holistic development plan for the lakes, including cheaper and efficient methods of sewage treatment through natural and organic methods and send this treated water to the lake. 3. How much time and effort do you devote?
I devote on an average at least of 2 hrs everyday in the mornings and evenings to various activities related to Live the Lakes. Sometimes we need to prepare for a lake clean up drive and at times I also need to get people together for tree planting drives. As part of this initiative I need to meet a number of people for planning and executing various programs. 4. What are the personal benefits or enrichment you have experienced through the work you do?
I derive immense satisfaction from pure service. I believe, pure service is pure Joy. I am just evolving more meaningfully, as a person. Instead of leading a selfish life, absorbed in my own world, volunteering and being rooted to a cause makes me feel like I am thinking and working towards larger responsibilities. 5. As a woman what are some of the biggest challenges you have faced? I never really faced any instances of bias because I am a woman. I am generally very positive, so I don’t focus on gender and discrimination. 6. Is there any advice you would like to give women who would be interested in making a difference to the society around them? I would say as women we tend to focus on our home and family duties, and do what permits in our spare time, till our kids are grown up. In my case, only after my kids were in college, I got actively involved in Social work. But once you take up any social work, persevere and be true to the cause, don’t give up. Always keep on learning something new and spread your wings, it helps you get out of a fixed mindset. It is good to challenge yourself, you will be surprised by what your true potential is.
The finance industry is a notoriously male-dominated field and it takes a lot of hard work and determination for a woman to succeed. It is common for women to be intimidated and ignorant about finances. However, female entrepreneurs’ and finance experts like Aparna Ramachandra have made great strides in this field and helped educate women about finances.
Vibhushita would like to introduce Aparna Ramachandra, the Founder Director of Rectify Credit, and India’s first Credit Repair Company. She is an Equity research analyst focusing on the US stock market, specializing in consumer durables, industrials and the technical sector. Aparna is a columnist and her articles have often appeared in the Mint and Femina magazines in India. Aparna is also an avid cyclist, marathoner and loves to travel. She will talk to us today about finances, her experiences in the industry and why understanding our finances is so important.
1) Aparna could you tell us a little bit about yourself I am a certified financial planner and am currently based in Mumbai. I am the founder and Director of Rectify Credit. I have been in this business for the last 10 years. I am a South Indian and can fluently speak and translate nine languages. 2) What motivated you to become a financial planner? One day as I was browsing the Internet I happened to come across the CFP program and I felt I wanted to pursue further studies in this field. But what really motivated me to become a certified financial planner were my life experiences. After going through a personal crisis, I realized there was a systematic way out of problems. Creating, building and preserving wealth is a fascinating journey. I wanted to work with people to build a healthy working relationship with their money. So, I completed the CFP program and began to make holistic financial plans for individuals. My intention was not just to sell financial products and gain commission, I really wanted to help people. I have been really interested in retirement and tax planning. I have found that these are two very touchy topics that people want to avoid. People always want to believe that no bad can happen to them and that they are immortal!! That’s how I decided to become a CFP in India. 3) Have you faced any bias in this field? No. Women are inherently perceived as trustworthy and tend to take fewer risks. But I find that women clients need lot of pep talk and cajoling to believe in themselves. The conditioning that women are not good with numbers is sadly a deeply rooted feeling. Men are taught to “be the know-alls”, and resist asking for help.They rarely accept that they don’t know something or they have goofed up the investments!! 4) Do you feel that women need to learn more about their financial situation? Yes. I would like to put it this way, all of us, men and women need to know their real financial situation. I am a firm believer and I repeat it at every platform, “Finance can never be outsourced”. You have to be involved and aware of what is going on. 5) What are you doing about increasing awareness? I work with individuals and corporates in creating awareness about finance. I conduct financial literacy programs and do financial counseling. 6) Why should people hire a financial planner? I don’t think everyone needs a financial planner. If someone is diligent and already knows why they are doing what they are doing and is clear on money matters, then he or she doesn’t need a financial planner. Moreover, someone who wants to risk it all and blow up all their wealth also does not need a financial planner. So, the two extremes on that scale do not need a financial advisor. Having said that a planner sees the situation objectively, analyses and offers professional advice. 7) Are you involved in any community programs for women’s empowerment? Could you give us an example. I have been associated with NGO’s that work with women self help groups in Mumbai. I would like to share a success story. I had a lady client who was a young, single, pediatrician. Her father and brothers would take care of her investments. In one of my workshops she sought my advice. We figured out that there were lots of impractical and incorrect investments done on her behalf. It took her 6 months to stand up for herself and tell her family that she will manage her own finances. Today I am glad to share that she decides her investments and is an aware spender. 8) Any other thoughts? I would like to see more financially literate and aware customers. People with fancy degrees and fat pay check come with risky investments gone awry or credit card defaults I feel sorry for them. These days when there is an information overload I don’t see why people choose to be ignorant. To me laziness and ignorance are a fatal combination. Thank You!
Do you work? Are you just a housewife? It must be hard for the kid’s right! These are just some of the questions all of us women have been asked at least once in our life and most often by another woman. Choosing to stay at home or go to work is a personal choice. It is imperative to understand that each person is free to choose what works best for them. As women we need to support and respect each other instead of being critical and judgmental.
While some women are adept at balancing demanding careers with obligations at home other women choose to exclusively care for their families. Both work equally hard to keep their family members happy and satisfied and expect very little in return.
As home managers women have a full-time job with deadlines emerging constantly. A warm, delicious and healthy meal, clean, crisp sheets on a bed, and a smooth functioning household are just a few routine responsibilities almost all women are involved in. A working woman handles both fronts, the home and the outside world. She brings balance to the family by becoming an equal partner in meeting the financial needs of the family. Through hard work and dedication she can also realize her own dreams and ambitions.
Whether the woman of the house goes out to earn a livelihood, or stays at home to manage everything we need to respect this conscious decision. Life cannot be tailored to please the world and nobody but ourselves can decide what makes us happy. The more we acknowledge the tremendous importance of the choice a woman makes, the more we are able to empower her and feel proud of her accomplishments. Effort whether in or out of the house should never be considered insignificant or inconsequential.
"Somebody's Hero" is a song written by Jamie O’Neal, Shaye Smith and Ed Hill, and recorded by Australian country music artist O'Neal. This song is a tribute to women and the various roles we play in life.
She's never pulled anyone from a burning building She's never rocked Central Park to a half a million fans, screaming out her name She's never hit a shot to win the game She's never left her footprints on the moon She's never made a solo hot air balloon ride, around the world, No, she's just your everyday average girl (but) She's somebody's hero A hero to her baby with a skinned up knee A little kiss is all she needs The keeper of the cheerios The voice that brings Snow White to life Bedtime stories every night And that smile lets her know She's somebody's hero She didn't get a check every week like a nine-to fiver But she's been a waiter, and a cook and a taxi driver For twenty years, there at home, until the day her girl was grown Giving all her love to her was her life's ambition But now her baby's movin' on, and she'll soon be missin' her But not today, those are tears of joy runnin' down her face She's somebody's hero A hero to her daughter in her wedding dress She gave her wings to leave the nest It hurts to let her baby go down the aisle she walks right by Looks back into her mother's eyes And that smile lets her know She's somebody's hero Thirty years have flown right past Her daughters' starin' at all the photographs Of her mother, and she wishes she could be like that Oh, but she already is She's somebody's hero A hero to her mother in a rockin' chair She runs a brush through her silver hair The envy of the nursing home She drops by every afternoon Feeds her mama with a spoon And that smile lets her know Her mother's smile lets her know She's somebody's hero
Vibhushita would like to introduce Vasudha Ramanarasiah, as our first "Everyday Superstar". Through this new series, each month we would love to share the story of a woman who has made a difference to the world around us.
To be a volunteer, it takes...
- Generosity; a willingness to give your time to others
- Understanding; because their lives might be very different from your own
- Empathy; an ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and feel what they feel
- Compassion; to truly care about making someone else's life better
- Patience; because the process doesn't always go as smoothly as it might
- Dedication; to stick with the project and see it through
Vasudha, you have shown these qualities and so much more.
I have known Vasudha as a good friend and over the last few years have seen her grow into a tenacious and committed social worker. She is the mother of two and has been a passionate advocate for volunteerism. She cares deeply about education and has spent many hours mentoring students in her local middle school. She has been honored by the Moreland school district and the Junior League of Women - San Jose, for the exemplary service she has put in. Finally, she is not only a determined and patient person, but we will learn how through volunteering, she has found a new purpose in her life.
Tell us a little bit about yourself My name is Vasudha and I am a full time volunteer and mom to two wonderful teenagers. I have a computer application degree and have worked both in India and in the US. I quit my job 17 years ago when my son was born. My daughter was born 3 years later and I became a full time mom who did not stay home but decided to volunteer at every chance I got.
When did you start volunteering? I started volunteering when my son entered kindergarten and I really did not know it was an option until his teacher mentioned it. I started in a small way in the classroom and as years went by I got involved more deeply in school level activities and went on to become a board member in the Moreland Education Foundation.
What is the time commitment required? The wonderful thing about volunteering is you can determine how much or how little you would like to do. Initially when my daughter was young I could not do much but I tried many ways like trading day care with my friend and used that time to volunteer. As she got older and went to preschool I had more time and could devote more time to volunteering and I sometimes used the weekend as my husband would be home. When the kids got a bit older they used to accompany me when I volunteered and I am happy to say that both of them love to volunteer for any opportunity they get.
What have you gained from pursuing volunteering?
A deep sense of contentment that I am able to help and make a difference.
To make time to use my skills and education to fund raise, expose children other than my own to new skills or just be a caring adult who can help kids become advocates for themselves.
To learn and grow as a person by pursuing projects that I might not otherwise have done and learn new skills.
I have had the luxury of having enjoyed my children’s childhood and adolescence, supported them and also done meaningful work in my community.
Been a role model to my children and showed them by actions that giving back to the community you live in is very important.
I am a better parent and spouse because of having a purpose in my life other than just kids, husband and familial duties.
On a lighter note made so many wonderful friends from very diverse backgrounds and cultures. These are relationships I will treasure all my life.
What would you advise someone who is new to volunteering?
Take some time to think what it is that excites you the most or an area where you feel the time you invest with no tangible results will not frustrate you.The second one is more important because volunteering is work which will not give you tangible benefits like money, bonus or instant gratification but with time, patience and perseverance it will fill you with gratitude and contentment. I can give some examples of how I did it which will explain what I mean – I volunteered in activities which involved technology because that is where I was trained.
I was not a very voracious reader in my younger days but I made sure my kids inculcated the love of reading and when I got a chance to do that at school to other kids I snagged the opportunity and put on many Scholastic Book Fairs which gave access to books to many school children.During one such events I realized that there are schools in my very neighborhood that have fewer resources than the ones my children had, so I stepped up and joined the Education Foundation to make a difference at a wider level.
I am very passionate about food and I believe that anything we can do to get good fresh food to people is worth my time. Of late I volunteer a lot in the Second Harvest food bank.
I wanted to give the same opportunities of support and mentoring that my children have to other students who for some reason or the other do not get it at home. I mentored students who were in their 7th and 8th grades for 2 years.
The biggest advantage of volunteering where your passion or expertise lies is that you will never face ‘burn out’ and will bring the same level of enthusiasm and zeal every day. The most important thing when you volunteer is commitment and a deep sense of responsibility because someone at the other end is depending on your help and support.
This quote urges us to action to end procrastination. Closet shelves are notorious for getting overloaded and many of us are dealing with a burgeoning problem of clutter in our closet. I recently read somewhere that most women wear only 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. It would then be logical to de-clutter and get rid of some of the excess stuff, right? However, despite all our good intentions, we procrastinate and put off the de-cluttering. Just ‘wishing’ things around us were more organized does not help. It wastes our time and pulls us away from organizing and getting things done. As the saying goes, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Don’t we all remember Monica Geller from the hit sitcom “ Friends”. A "neat freak", Monica is obsessed about cleaning (she considers the dry cleaner as her Disneyland). In one episode it was revealed that she categorizes her towels into 11 sections, with examples being "Everyday use," "Fancy," "Guest," and "Fancy Guest." While most of us don’t really have to get so obsessive, it would certainly be helpful to begin with a well-organized closet.
Good housekeepers have an excellent habit of going through their wardrobe at least once a year and clearing out every closet and drawer. This reduces clutter and makes it easier to find the clothes we want. The decision to re-organize the closet is therapeutic and can make one feel empowered. Here are some of the things that will help us organize our closet.
Become a closet custodian
Become your own personal stylist and curate your wardrobe. Look closely into your closet and spot clothes that are old, that need small repairs, and that don’t fit. Cull the clothes that have run their purpose. It is very helpful if you categorize the clothes. First create a pile of old clothes (old, torn or unusable clothes) which should be disposed. The second pile would be the clothes you love (organize these in your closet) and lastly the undecided pile (clothes that have no room, and are still good, you will need to decide whether you want to keep them or give them away). You should strongly consider donating this third pile of clothes.
Increase closet space
Sometimes there is just not enough space for all our clothes. Creating a new space by investing in a new closet will help reduce the crowding in the existing one. Closet organization is a billion dollar industry and there are a large group of professionals who are thinking obsessively about how to make organizing a closet easier. Make use of handy storage units that maximize storage and look attractive. One could think of organizing certain types of clothes in this new space making it visually appealing.
Have matching hangars
Hangers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, types, and materials. Buying hangars that are of the same color and size keeps the closet looking neat and organized
Accumulating clothes has become de-rigueur. Minimizing our wardrobe brings with it simplicity and a lightness of being. Take pride in your organized closet and let it become a conversation starter.
In-laws (n): Members of a family traditionally given to a bride on her wedding day who provide a lifetime supply of love and support.
We hear endless bytes on mothers and daughter, sisters and friends sharing unconditional love between each other. However there are times when we move away from our favorite cheerleaders. Marriage and setting up a new home brings with it a need to forge friendships with the female members of the new family. Sisters-in-law, aunts, and many other new familial relationships are added into our lives. It is common to resist these forced relationship with women who aren’t chosen as our friends through mutual interests or common experiences.
But I think these new women in our lives are the ones that become our greatest allies. They are our safety net. They have the ability to support us and make our life easier in the new home.We need to resist being pigeonholed into conventional reactions and set aside our qualms about building robust relationships within our family.
Television serials always portray the “bhabhi”, “the mother-in-law”, or the husband’s little sister to be fire-breathing dragons. What they don’t show us is that, the new entrant into the family might look like the dragon slayer too! Mutual fear and trepidation is common when we embark on any new relationship. However, it is very important to not get swayed by these stereotypes. Relationships with our mother-in-law or sister-in-law are very critical to the family system. A strong and loving bond between the womenfolk in the family can help create a peaceful environment where members of the family are free to express themselves.
I see a number of benefits in having in-house cheerleaders rooting for us. The men in our lives will never understand the little things that vex us. Only another woman from the same family can understand our daily struggles and frustrations. All relationships have their highs and lows, and even these new relations will take time and effort to build. Raising kids, running the household, cooking and shopping can bring us closer. A lot of give and take, maturity, empathy, and changes in behavior are perhaps mandatory behavioral adjustments required to establish cordial and filial relationships with the women in the family.
Any new beginning brings with it a myriad of emotions. If we are able to overlook the initial hiccups and allow love to dictate the relationship, it can help discount the differences and bind us together.
I read somewhere “Volcanoes are built by the accumulation of their own eruptive product, namely lava, ash and dust”. I feel we women are always carrying the burden of unexpressed emotions inside us. In society, women are assumed to wear our emotions on our sleeve, however the world does not see our struggle to express our true emotions. Societal norms and pressures dictate the way we behave. Appropriate emotional expression is crucial to leading a happy and fulfilling life. We are not born this way, then why do we build this façade of normalcy around us? How do we quieten the volcano of emotions inside us?
Right from childhood, our family, friends and society exert a force on us to conform and behave in a certain manner. Any honest expression is suppressed and redirected to one that is more socially acceptable. As we grow older repressing undesirable emotions becomes the norm. Expressing an opinion, preference, or choice is debated several times in the mind before it is communicated. Over thinking and analyzing every reaction leads to increased stress levels in our body. To cope with the stress we develop defense mechanisms like anxiety, denial, anger and hostility. Difficulty in expressing emotions, whether it is due to the way we have been raised to behave or a coping mechanism, can unleash anxiety and dysfunction in our life.
It is difficult to build normal and healthy relationships in a choppy and turbulent emotional environment. Volunteerism and pressing ourselves to service is one way to find our emotional bearings.
Women are extremely capable and perceptive, making us a force to reckon with. We can contribute enormously to the world around us. Each of us has the potential of playing a supportive and complementary role in another person’s life. On a personal note, a few years back I lost my mother to a rare lung disease. I experienced the different stages of grief and it took me a year to come to terms with this loss. During this time, I got involved in community service that required me to interact with people and work towards a goal. Immersing myself in a cause helped me overcome my grief and find peace.
Research has proven that volunteerism can make an immeasurable difference in the lives of others and our own too. Besides providing health benefits volunteering can dispel negativity and increase our self worth. Making new friends, learning new skills and actually seeing the results of our service helps us open-up. We begin to care less about ourselves and get engaged in a cause. Serving without any ulterior motive, obligation, or expectations helps us drop the facade and quell the volcano inside.