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Saturday, October 05, 2013

And the journey continues..

Moving out brings feelings of mixed emotions - 

Special memories of the place that served us well, of wellness and of gratitude.

While not having family around to share this joy is certainly a major downside, such occasions allow us to dream new dreams and to work to make those dreams come true.

As we look forward to making our own place our 'new' home, it feels special to celebrate this magic! Magic because it is not something that can easily come by on a Sunday afternoon; that it is a privilege to live in a place where no one else has lived; that it took a year to get to this day and hence it makes me feel humble not because of where we are but what it took to get us here. Yes there were arguments and differences and lots of anxiety till the very end. 

And thus, together these are the thoughts worth cherishing and making them worthwhile.

And as the journey continues,

to pause and reflect.

And feel blessed indeed!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Off You Go Dear K...

...into a new beginning and a new milestone!

A little smile and a butterfly kiss
That's all it took to say good bye;
But we both knew that it meant more than just that
as you venture into a new horizon!

As you began full-time from Montessori today, it fills me with mixed emotions of apprehension and excitement. 
Apprehension because of how you (and I) will respond to the change in our routines as you move out of your existing comfort zone. 
Excitement because of a new beginning to a never-ending journey of learning!

This next step means a whole new world for you to navigate and enjoy; 
That you allow yourself to shine; 
that you live each day with gratitude; and 
that it teaches you to follow your heart.

Through this, do know that you are blessed in this journey and that 
I will be beside you each day; 
Cheering you and watching you as you discover all that it means to be you.
That with this beginning I can understand what it truly means 
to have my heart beating outside of me.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Embracing Differences....Celebrating the Freedom!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend, as a visitor, a Naturalization Ceremony here in the DC area - an oath taking ceremony for approved individuals to become US citizens. I thought it would be a routine procedure, formal yet quite to the point. Candidates take the oath, there is the anthem, the pledge of allegiance, some paper work and thus, citizenship. 

Yes there was all of that but much more. 

I was pleasantly surprised at the approach of the event and the overall enthusiasm expressed NOT by those to-be Americans as much as by the organizers. The feelings were that of excitement, celebration, honor, and most importantly, the warmth in welcoming the 'opportunity'. The lead speaker presiding over the 'ceremony' expressed how excited she was to be present today, almost as a promise to her nation to build a better country - a country of immigrants coming together as a melting pot of diversity, cultures, circumstances and now joined together to be part of one nation. She called out the list of all the countries that were being represented in this location - 62 nations, 250 participants. 

Many of them must come from countries that have disowned them, the land to which they can no longer go to, the land that does not acknowledge them, the land that would take away their freedom and their liberty. Thus, for many of those 250 individuals who from today on, have a new identity, this to me represents a defining moment in their lives and that of their loved ones and how fate must have had a larger role to play.

Today, as I do my little bit to celebrate the Independent India, I look back at yesterday and feel thankful and privileged that I can still feel ‘belonged’ to my birthplace, that the thought of settling down there still exists, that a stronger part of me wants to see a better India and that the word ‘opportunity’ has significant meaning there too! Here’s to the country I was born to as it celebrates its 'freedom' and to the country that continues to embrace diversity.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Mumma I did not eat Chicken" - The Veg Dialogue

I wonder what is a good age when toddlers begin to understand the kind of food they eat/are offered to them by their outside world. I would assume that they realize this when they observe food others eat which perhaps may begin in school. I thought it would be a while before my soon-to-be 3-year old would identify chicken or meat as food items. Hence I was pleasantly surprised when K remembered that he did not eat ‘chicken' nuggets that were offered to him at a recent birthday party. (Aside from the fact that he rarely eats anything outside of his 'subzi-roti', I would like to believe he stressed on the 'chicken' part more than the 'not eat' part).

Both A and I were raised vegetarians and hence there is no doubt that we would raise K the same way too. At the same time, the subtlety of handling this issue as K grows up is quite critical vs what we were exposed to as kids. For e.g., it was 'easy' to be raised as a vegetarian in India where majority of our immediate circle was of the same belief. But in America I am often asked how we would handle vegetarianism with K as he grows up. What if he was the only one with 'special meal' plan in his school or that others considered him the 'weird kid' if he wouldn't eat those nuggets? While I know this is the time to explain the concept to him, I want to be careful in the way we communicate it to him.

Since he is an animal-lover, it would be easy to tell him that eating non-vegetarian means killing/hurting animals. At the same time, that just sounds too judgmental especially considering he might have his close friends who are meat-eaters.

For A and me, there was a strong religious connotation to our upbringing but to pass down that conviction is also something that might be out of character for us. Nevertheless, my role as a parent would be to guide K in the direction that we 'believe' would be right for him and us; that I may have to inculcate values in the upbringing in a way that he would still be able to make his own choices, be it spiritual or otherwise; that each family eats differently hence it is important to embrace different cultures but not to an extent that you compromise on your own.

How have you explained such concepts to your child? What has your experience been in having conversations about meat/no-meat to them especially in ways they have responded?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Corporate Social Responsibility

Recently I was helping someone with my thoughts on the role of the government in corporate social responsibility. This resulted in an interesting discussion on the issues surrounding a new company bill introduced by the Indian Government. This bill requires companies above a 'certain' size to ensure that they spend at least 2 percent of their annual profits on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. While the 'certain' size of these companies remain to be answered, what got us talking about on a tangent was what would constitute as actual spending on CSR focused activities vs the so-called administrative support aka the 'overheads'. 

Now I have been in the development/non-profit sector for as long as I can recall and to me the word 'overhead' itself remains a highly undervalued term within my field. When I develop budgets for my work, more often than not, the question of administrative costs are reviewed a lot more closely than the work that we actually deliver. Yes the current economic scenario demands that in order to win programs, we ensure a competitive economies of scale. The flip side, in that however, is that most often measurable impact gets lost because then it becomes a matter of number game as opposed to the real return on that investment. I disagree with the notion that for nonprofits to run a successful activity, their overheads should be at minimum - that this should be equated per the ratio of what goes into an organization's 'overhead' vs the direct benefit of the activity. 

It is thus exciting to learn about the recent initiative by Guidestar, Charity Navigator and Giving Alliance wherein they mention that "the percentage of charity expenses that go to administrative and fundraising costs—commonly referred to as overhead —is a poor measure of a charity’s performance". Or more importantly the simple clarification on what these 'overheads' could include - that "they are important investments charities make to improve their work: investments in training, planning, evaluation, and internal systems".
This campaign that they propose is long overdue for the sector and I would be extremely keen to see how it unfolds in responses mainly from those outside of the nonprofit sector. In the meantime, if there is a specific charity that you are supporting - take a moment to review their work, their accountability, the risk factors - and then assess the real return on your investment.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Take a Pause

Every morning, my daily commute is a mix of rush hour traffic to the metro, delayed schedules and overcrowded trains. While the body is fighting the morning blues and attempting every bit to stand/sit amidst the commuters, the mind is always rushing through those thousand and one things pending on the 'to-do' list outside work and at work. Hence no surprise that the moment you get off at the metro, it is all about getting on with those tasks asap. 

However there are some mornings, when there ought to be a slight detour. Like one of these marked by a group of musicians – with their instruments tuned to hit the soul at the right spot. It was more meaningful – a unique vibe, an uplifting sound, the kind of music to spring up the morning vibrantly. 

They were there to welcome us morning commuters with their tune - a tune that connected us by their chords. When leaving some cash in their case, a sense of joy was felt; it gave a different perspective to this morning; and a feeling of gratitude prevailed. 

I call it - Take a Pause.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It has been a while...

...since I last blogged and I wonder why I could not stay committed to writing. This makes me realise that the most dangerous thing a blogger can do is stop writing! It wasn't that I had nothing to blog about but this disconnect turned days to weeks and that into months and before I knew it,  I had hit rock bottom in playing catch-up.

There are times when bloggers like me get interrupted for reasons, more than one, and before we realize it is too late to get back to that rhythm. When I started my photo-a-day commitment, I was skeptical of making it through considering my past record. At that point, I had big plans of covering a specific theme a week/month and while that clearly did not happen, what did continue was a way to seize the day in one picture. It turned out to be a feat for me and I was thoroughly satisfied that I did it!

Just like taking a break from the routine gives you a different perspective, an opportunity for introspection, reflection and clarity, I consider this break from blogging a similar experience. And now as I reflect on the moments that I missed writing about or sharing about, I make another comeback, another attempt with renewed perspectives and to ensure that this long break does not destroy the blogger in me.

And while I gather some of these moments to write about, I do wonder how other writers get back after a break from the writing rhythm? 

If you or someone you know has experiences to share, feel free to mention them.

Till then more to follow soon.