Important Life Lessons Learned in the Past Month

As mentioned in my last post, I had a whirlwind of a month. It was emotionally stressful, and I was in an overthinking mode. But all’s well that ends well. Thankful to the universe for every little blessing.

With each unchartered experience, you learn something new. Lessons that overshadow the learnings of the past. Here are some things I realized in the past month alone.

Indian managers often act like robots when there is a personal crisis.

The bigwigs did not share any emotion when I gave my reasons for a leave request. No “hope your mother feels better soon” or “hope everything goes well.” What was I expecting? Humanity in the Indian corporate world is a myth. We preach on LinkedIn with the most quotable quotes, but actions prove otherwise.

For the top-level, nothing warrants a response unless it is related to work. In fact, I got dumped with more work and some uncalled-for criticisms on the day of my mother’s hospitalization, even if I had notified my issue well in advance. On that day, I must have thought about quitting at least 10 times. But keeping the robotic virtues aside, the company is quite good. And, of course, you have bills to pay. So you carry on.

After my mom’s heart procedure, a few colleagues asked how my mother was doing. The number of people from top-level management who enquired about her health? Zero. My stress was there for them to see. Yet, none cared.

People often tell you to keep your professional and personal lives apart. I follow and believe this to a large extent. Still, when someone is going through a tough time, I make it a point to provide some motivation, whether a junior or senior. My conscience does not let me rest otherwise.

It was alarming to see the level of indifference from senior managers. Is this what professionalism is all about? Killing your empathy? Another point to add to my An Ode to People Who Are Not CEOs post.

We are giving importance to the wrong things.

For most of our lives, we stress over trivial things – relationships, work disputes, earning more money, materialistic gains, etc. But all it takes is one medical emergency to see the true light – that nothing comes above health.

The last month was a major eye-opener for me. I learned that I should be thankful for each day for all the miracles it offers, no matter how small and no matter how insignificant it may seem to be. It also showed how important it is to keep our physical and mental health happy and stress-free. If I had to choose between peace and more money now, I would undoubtedly choose peace.

Most people will be unavailable.

The people you know will primarily be available only through words, phone calls, and social media messages. But very few will physically show up when you need support, including your siblings. Ultimately, you will have to deal with most of the things yourself. It doesn’t matter if you have a big family or a huge friendship circle; there will be a lot of routes you will have to navigate by yourself. It will be overwhelming and frustrating, but that’s just how life is. You live. You learn.

Regular medical checkups and second opinions are important.

In India, we do not prioritize our health. Many do not have health insurance, especially older people, because it is expensive. We do not get annual health checkups done. This needs to change.

It was during my mother’s regular health checkup that we spotted a variation in her ECG. The doctor did not take it seriously. He declared it as anxiety and aging and told us to let it go. Big mistake. We should have asked for a second opinion.

Always treat minor variations in your tests with great seriousness, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or genetic disorders. Always get a second opinion.

Social media can be deceptive.

In the past month, I did not reveal anywhere online that I was stressed (except for this blog which is unknown to many). I posted memes as usual because it was a form of escapism for me. It might be the same for many others. Things might just be an act. Never take social media too seriously. There might be a lot happening behind the scenes.

Korean drama is like medicine.

When you are having a stressful day, there is nothing like a good Korean drama to melt your worries away. This is important because it made me realize how feel-good entertainment is sorely lacking nowadays. Stuff that people like me can relax to and feel a bit better at the end of the day, even if the emotion is superficial.

Almost all movies and tv shows are dark and serious, with the focus being on realism. Why aren’t there more light-hearted, feel-good, clean, romantic stuff? Looking at you, Indian cinema. Enough of reality. Bring back the escapism.


Photo by Pixabay on

An Ode to Not Checking Work Emails on Weekends and Holidays

Photo by Ivan Samkov

We bring work to home and home to work.

We find it challenging to keep our professional and personal lives separate.

People say you should never talk about your personal problems at work; that your coworkers can use that info to bring you down. You never know who is plotting against you to climb that corporate ladder.

When it comes to bringing work home, though, things are a bit more relaxed. Many workers are guilty of committing this sin of not switching off post work-hours. We take it for granted that our loved ones would understand. No one is going to plot against you. There is no ladder to climb, except when the ceiling fan needs cleaning up, we need to fix a bulb or pull out something from a top storage unit.

The number one red flag that you are a workaholic is that you check your work emails during post-work hours and holidays. There is no urgency at work. There are no production issues. But there you are, checking your email like you are checking your fridge for something new.

I was guilty of this too.

I used to check my email after work hours. I wanted to know if my bosses replied. Sometimes the replies to my emails were neutral, sometimes positive, and sometimes negative. As expected, the negative responses were joy killers. Imagine facing anxiety during your day off. It is more than enough to ruin the rest of your day.

This is why I stopped checking work emails outside work hours.

Armed with the new understanding that checking emails would wreck my breaks, I consciously started staying away from work emails after the scheduled hours, on weekends and holidays. I would pull myself back from checking them. It was never easy, especially when you are anticipating a reply to an important email. But I would tell myself that enjoying the moment is of prime importance. If I were to find out I had tons of work for the next working day, I would spend my breaks coming out with an action plan. Breaks are not for making work plans! It is meant for rejuvenation.

Switching off from work made my holidays more enjoyable and relaxing. I was able to pursue my hobbies and also spend quality time with family.

I find many people around me committing this sin of checking emails post-work hours now.

A friend, during his vacation, worked almost every single day. He couldn’t stop checking his emails. Many like him tend to forget to create boundaries at work. It sends a message to your organization. That you, as a worker, are ready to work anytime, even if it is your vacation.

It is not the company’s responsibility to look after your well-being. They will never beg you to look after your own mental or physical health. They will never stop you from working after the scheduled hours or on holidays. That onus is on you!

I know many in their late 20s and early 30s who complain of backache. Each one of them works 10+ hours every day, and they have wrecked their health in the process. We overwork ourselves because we are brimming with energy, and we want to do impressive work. It is only over the years that the side effects start to show. People in their 30s and 40s are increasingly facing heart attacks. Stress is a significant contributor. There is no time to sit back and enjoy the pleasures of life. A fast-paced life only contributes to more stress.

The easiest way to kickstart your journey towards physical and mental well-being is by separating your personal and professional lives. Learn to switch off from work after the scheduled hours. If you cannot complete your work on time, learn proper time management, or better yet, ask for more time. Extra time for a project submission means improved deliverables.

The first step to post-work wellness is to sign out from your work emails.

Please do it for yourself. You highly deserve it!

An Ode to Saying No to Dowry

Photo by Baljit Johal on Pexels

Yet another day in Kerala. Yet another dowry death.

Vismaya, a 23 year old, who died days after sharing her pics of abuse with a relative, has yet again prompted many to chant “A divorced daughter is better than a dead daughter.” Her parents were very much aware of the abuse she was going through, so was her brother and cousin, but unfortunately, not one of them could save her. There is no single person to blame here. Almost everyone is at fault, including the society.

I am a divorcee. Fortunately, my parents were super supportive, and gave my safety the utmost priority when I chose to leave my husband’s place after yet another episode of abuse. The day I left home was the day my parents came to know that I was facing physical and emotional trauma over many months. I did not want to worry them. Maybe Vismaya felt the same. The difference was, my parents did not tell me to compromise.

Mine was an arranged marriage. My parents and I were, are and always will be strictly against dowry. We always had made it clear when a proposal came by that no dowry would be given. My in-laws and husband said they had no demands, though traditionally their family practiced it.

On our wedding day, amidst all the flurry of activity, it felt odd when my husband quipped happily “(So and so) told me you are wearing a lot of jewelry; that I am a very lucky guy.” It was a hint of what was to come.

The emotional blackmail began on the first day of marriage. My ex-husband’s old relative, with a full authoritative tone, told me to put my jewelry in a locker at their chosen bank. When I naively told him that we usually put our jewelry in our own lockers, he was adamant that I keep it in a new one at the current location. This was odd to me, because I have never heard of such a thing happening in my family before. The women of the family always kept their jewelry in existing lockers. There was no question of transferring or shifting it to the husband’s place. Plus, it is so redundant – why open another locker when you already have one? There can only be one answer.

I consulted my mother, who panicked and told me not to do anything till they arrived. So I kept stalling their attempts to put my assets in their locker. My mother came to visit soon and took away the jewelry. This angered my ex-husband, and things (predictably) went downhill from then on. I remember asking him “Did you marry me for my money?

Physical abuse soon began. Not enough to get me hospitalized, but enough to give me bruises. “There are so many women getting hospitalized, that’s what real physical abuse is!” – he justified his actions to me. I forgave, but could never forget because he would keep repeating it. At the end, I ended the relationship and walked out. I realized my tears did not matter to him, nor my well being or happiness. I was married for just one year.

To all the unmarried women who are reading this, this is something you should note. You will hardly see anyone talk about this anywhere online – how dowry nowadays is rarely mentioned before marriage, camouflaged and hidden, all ready to make a move on its prey when the time is right. Many predators, cunning to the core, have realized that this right time to get what they are eyeing, is not before marriage but after it – when the woman is the most vulnerable, getting accustomed to a new place, confused and dazed. No one is explicitly going to use the word “dowry” but you will get to know from their actions.

Please remember, your current assets are yours alone. This needs to be strictly mentioned before marriage. You need to underline your deal breakers, so that there is no room for confusion. If after marriage, you decide to mutually hold future assets together, that is entirely up to you. But do not let anyone emotionally manipulate you into gaining access to your safety and security. Once you lose control of that, you lose control of your life.

I survived the worst phase of my life because I had solid support. Whenever I see a death or abuse case, it feels overwhelming. A lot of “if only” phrases come to mind.

  • If only, the family had supported her enough. Instead of telling her to compromise, they had told her to come home or “We are coming to pick you up” instead.
  • If only, the victim realized her life is not meant for suffering, to endure everything in silence. That staying married, even if toxic, is not the ultimate goal in life. Happiness is.
  • If only, the society made it easier for women to call it quits when her relationship with her partner becomes irreparable. Instead, mostly, we are told to compromise and adjust more.
  • If only, all men had the guts to strictly say no to dowry, go against tradition.
  • If only, a man’s parents did not put social status on such a high pedestal.

If only…

Many women, like Vismaya, would then still be alive.

An Ode to Unknowingly Being Productive

By Squarecomics

I often wonder why people complain, “I haven’t done anything productive today.”

It is practically impossible.

Why? Let me explain.

What is productivity? By definition, it means, causing or providing a good result.

Anything and everything you do is productive because unconsciously, we are all learning and evolving from even the smallest tasks that we do.

Yes, we are always learning. And learning is productive. I’m not talking only about creative classes or actively honing new skills for work. Those are the things we take up consciously. The visibles.

I am talking about learning from things around you. The invisibles.

  • Learning a different perspective, a different way of looking at things. This could be from books, even a show you randomly watched, or some random post on the internet including a meme!
  • Learning how peaceful it can be to sit and stare at nature for a while
  • Learning to forgive and/or forget
  • Learning to solve your issues
  • Learning your family’s needs
  • Learning how to interact better
  • Learning to step back a bit and breathe
  • Learning new ideas

The list goes on.

Jennifer Aniston had famously quoted “No regrets, only lessons” indicating we learn even from our mistakes, if not today then tomorrow.

But the point is, to many of us, these little things don’t count. Probably because these changes are not happening aggressively, screaming for our attention. These changes are very silent. And peaceful. But the thing I find most astonishing is that over time, they compound. Each little change is like a building block, contributing towards forming the person that we will eventually become.

It is only years from now, when you look back, do you realize how much you have changed in this process of learning from everyday things.

You have evolved. That I think, is a beautiful thing to reflect on.