Archive for May, 2008

Engineers demystified

I am tired of hearing everywhere I go that engineers are boring people, don’t enjoy life, yada yada yada. In fact, if I ever run into a non-engineering person and she comes to know that I am one, the entire approach and behavior changes. And I am left defending my clan, especially those of women engineers, from the usual stereotypical accusations. So I am here, once and for all to debunk the (women) engineers myths.

1. Engineers, especially women engineers are boring and always talk about technical stuff.
Dearie, I think what you meant to say was that your pretty head is not able to understand whatever I am trying to say. And no, I don’t always talk techie. I do talk about politics, who won the latest NBA game, religion, philosophy, but it guess since it is not about tupperware, it does not interest you. And you know what? Tupperware talk is BORING, and this time it is not because I don’t understand.

2. Engineers just sit in front of computers all day long
It is not like we are zombies sitting and staring at a screen. It may look like all 0s and 1s to you, but I am actually solving a complex issue that gives enough entertainment to my brain. So much so that I sometimes forget to look at the clock. So we don’t “just sit”, we are working, with our brains. A new concept to you I guess!

3. Writing code is like writing English
Really? How do you think I make your iPhone work? By writing “if phone call comes, then ring”? There is a lot more to designing a system than writing code, and there is a lot more to code than a couple of English phrases. Stop trying to pacify yourself that whatever I do is almost idiotic. Do I see sour grapes here?

4. Engineers don’t have “personality”. In other fields, you need “personality” to get hired
Let me translate. You meant to say that my ass licking skills should be pretty good if I have to take your job. No thanks. I prefer to work somewhere where my work speaks for itself. And where people hire me because I can get things done, not because I am oh sooo cute or nice or because I dress well.

5. Engineers dress badly
Just because we don’t have a dress code does not mean that we dress badly. And who would want to be stuck in a business suit when it is 40 degrees ( centigrade, not Fahrenheit ) outside? Again, I like working in a place where I am judged for my work, not how many buttons my suit has. And think of us engineers in our cool shorts when you are wearing that blazer in the hot weather and sweating like a pig. Who has the better deal now?

6. You became an engineer only because it pays well
……and you did not because you could not qualify? Is jealousy rearing its ugly head here?  Some of us actually like math and writing code. And we are sustaining in this industry for this long because of that reason. Deal with it.

7. There are no pretty women in engineering
This is the one that gets me the most! Somehow a woman who likes math and has brains is threatening to so many people. So much that I have many many guys who use this statement. They don’t want to marry “engineering-type” girls. I guess what they mean to say is “there are no pretty women in engineering – who want to go out with me”. This whole thing reeks of lack of self confidence to me.

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May 19, 2008 at 11:50 pm 7 comments

Is religion really relevant – to me?

With all the talk going on about periods, the whole thing has suddenly taken a very religious perspective. One day I was commenting on gender issues, and the next day I was talking about Sabarimalai. When did the shift happen? Why should everything we do be tied to religion in some way or the other?

Lavs said in her blog that she practices segregation because she is following what her religion asks of her. Mad Momma says that she wont eat prasad because it is what her religion specifically asks her not to do ( even though non-prasad ladoos are OK I am guessing). And I am sure there are a whole bunch of illogical things we all do in the name of religion. It is just that some are more offensive or weird than the others. And we all agrue against them because it is hurting someone.But all of them stem from the same roots – religious practice. For me personally, every religious practice that I would do should somehow bring me closer to God. Isn’t that the whole point? Every time I light a diya, it should be because I feel enlightened. Every time I join by hands in a namaskar, it is because I accept the omnipresence of God. And most of the times, I feel that my religious practices (or for that matter, any other religious practices) are not helping me.

I nearly slept through a Satyanarayana pooja after my wedding because I was so physically exhausted. So what was the whole point of doing it? Every time I celebrate Diwali or Ganesha Chaturthi, it is more because I want to hold on to the exhuberance I felt rather than to appease any diety. And I celebrate to remember and rejoice with my family. That makes it more of family tradition rather than a religious practice. When it visit a temple, it is for the familiarity of the surroundings and the emotions it evokes. It is not for increased proximity to God. Each time I pray, it is not the slokas that come to my lips. Infact, I don’t even think a prayer is necessary. God is all knowing. What more can I tell Her? I can only hope that my actions shall speak louder than my prayers. That I can live my life with dignity, celebrate it, and be a decent human being.

Religion is a creation of man. It is a so called man-made highway to heaven. But over the times it has got so much intertwined with God that today, religion and God are no longer seperate. I looked up Wikipedia, and while it defines an atheist, there is no word to describe a person who denounces religion, but accepts God. No one bothered to come up with such a word because they don’t think these entities can exist seperately. But they do, God was there before religion, before humanity, and will be there after all of us are long gone. Agreed that religion helped point us in the right direction. But I can take it from here. I can look into the Gita, Bible , Kuran, or even theory of relativity and derive from all of them. Or I can have my own theories on the cosmic questions that we all seek answers to. Because in the end, we all have to find our own way. Get our own glimpse of heaven. No religion can teach us that, it is not a 5-step assembly line process with guaranteed results. We all have to look into ourselves to find answers, to find peace.

Today, for me, religious practices are something I can no longer relate to. While the spiritual texts offer me some excellent direction, I cannot bring myself to be affiliated to one text. Because I don’t know what I might be missing. I cannot adhere to religion that is used as a political tool, as a discriminatory measure, or one that proclaims that declares that I will be damned in hell. I will not let some self professed gate keepers try and keep me away from my Creator. I will continue to celebrate festivals, as family traditions, as social events, because thats what they truly are.

May 18, 2008 at 5:42 pm 4 comments

Periods of silence

This post is inspired by The Mad Momma’s post on periods and I so totally agree. Instead of letting loose my muddle in her comment space, I decided I will paint it red here on my blog space. (pun definitely intended)

I was in 6th grade when, one day the teacher sent out all the boys to another class and decided to do a “special” class for us girls. It was about periods and how some of us would be getting it soon, and how we could approach the teacher for any help in case of “accidents”. After the end of the class, even at that age, I could not tell my boy classmates what was discussed. Talk of subconcious programming! Soon, one by one, all the girls started hitting puberty and suddenly they were missing their classes for a whole month. And the teachers who were so strict about attendance and did not accept long absences unless you could not positively get out of bed took it very well indeed. The girls would finally make a comeback, with their knee length skirts suddenly hitting the floor and shirts atleast two sizes too big for them. Later I learnt that the girls had to go through a whole elaborate ceremony which included exclusion and seperation. Also, they had been advised not to talk to boys, wear more covering clothes and ofcourse if the red river ran on a festival day, that would mean they missed all of it too. Talking of maturity, it was painfully obvious that some parents were lacking it even after having “matured” quite a while ago.

Finally it was my turn, and I still remember feeling extremely embarassed about the whole thing. There were all aunties who came over and wished me, and even though my mother did not keep me in a seperate room or anything of that sorts, all the attention for the cause made me want to just hide. On the plus side, I got a few gifts ( I was thirteen, and I was easily distracted…with….say, gifts) and all went well. My parents never made a big fuss about it. Infact, my father has bought sanitary napkins for all of us ( me , my mom and my sis). The only restriction was that I was not allowed into the puja room. On days when we had to visit relatives and I had my period, my mom would advise me to keep it to myself, no go near the puja room and generally go about my business for everything else. Hearing what my other classmates had to go through, I did not put up with much of a fight.

Now when I look back and think about it, each time I was denied something because I had my period – it was humiliating. It was humiliating that I was being asked to not attend an event, and it was even more humiliating that so many people would know what was happening and avoid me like the plague. Men also go through puberty. They sprout chest hair, their voice breaks. But no one thought that was impure. No one quarintined boys for having their first facial hair growth. I am sure if men were to start menstruating, they would be proudly showing off who makes the biggest mark on the tampon.

The issue here is definitely not purity. Whatever reasons were given to us – less work, impurity, etc, it still does not explain the stigma attached to menstruation. The vermin treatment that is meted out in the name of holiness. We have been so conditioned to accept this treatment that even my fellow classmates were shocked when, during one of our college trips, they came to know that I had my period and still I was going to go ahead and enter the temple we were visiting. I told them that if God was everywhere, then wherever I am, I would be in His presence. Going into the temple should not make a big difference. A couple of other girls who had their period were not very convinced and stayed back at the entrace, and turned beet red when any of the guys stopped to ask why they were not coming in.

Science and common sense has shown us that none of the reasons given for the quarintine actually hold in today’s world. Yet, we choose not to go into religious places when we have the period. We feel embarassed to mention what must be a normal body function to our family. Us, the same women who has sometimes crossed continents to come to a place and set up a life for ourselves in a strange land, the same women who constantly display superhuman abilities by juggling work, life and kids without dropping the ball…still struggle to let go of this hideous custom. It is so ironic that we still call it the “curse” when it actually helps with new life, the new life that we would call a blessing.

In my home, we do not even have a proper puja room. We have a few ganesha idols scattered around the house. And I certainly do not hesitate to have my chat with the Almighty even when I am in the red zone. It is actually no longer even a concious thought. Maybe it is easier because I am sitting continents away where no one will point a finger. But I certainly plan to keep it this way. And I hope that one day, when (and if) I have a daughter, this will not even be an issue.

Edited to add: I read a comment on MM’s post about a lady going through isolation during her periods on the insistence of her family. Reminded me of someone I knew, who came from a very conservative family. The family rarely ate out, because of the south Indian “madi” system. She was also asked to practice isolation during her periods and her father would not even look at her during those days. She really did not like it forced on her. In all my teenage maturity, I told her that she should get married to someone who does not believe in all these things, so she would not have to do it. And her answer saddened me even more. She said she was sure her parents would select only a family similar to theirs for her to get married into, and that she would never get respite. I wonder what she is doing now.

May 16, 2008 at 9:57 pm 4 comments

Happy Mother’s day

Yesterday, I got a call from my sister. My neighbor and family friend in Bangalore had a massive heart attack. Sheer luck and presence of mind got him into the right hospital at the right time. To tell that this news is a rude shock to me is an understatement. The uncle whom I am always seen as tall, strong and very robust now lies in the ICU recovering from a bypass surgery. The doctors say his sugar levels were so high that he could not even feel the attack. It is a miracle then that he even went to the hospital right away.

An even ruder shock is that the neighbor is my parents’ age.

People my parents’ age should not be having heart attacks. My parents are still young. They still have a lot to see and experience. I want them to see their grand kids graduate college and then go off and have great grand kids. I cannot even imagine the plan changing its course. But yesterday, all my secret fears that I hide in the back of my head and try to forget just exploded all over my mind. Because this time, it is not someone else. This time, it is too close to home.

My Dad is very regular with his health and check-ups, but my mom hates the sight of doctors. She won’t even go see one when she is burning up with fever. And I have been trying to push her to get routine physicals done. Finally, now she did. And everything is OK. And my parents are making a conscious effort to move to healthier meals.

So this Mother’s Day , I want to tell all of you who read this blog ( yeah the whole two of you ) to think about your parents and their health. Ask them to be proactive with their health care and get regular check ups. Ask them to eat healthier and exercise. No, it is not a fad. And they should not care if they look funny doing a brisk walk in sarees and lungis while younglings are running around in the latest sports outfits. It is their lives, and in the process it is a part of your lives that is tied to them. My neighbor was very lucky. But I would rather my parents not get to the point where they have to depend on luck.

Make sure they stick around. Happy Mother’s day mom! ( and Appa )

May 9, 2008 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

It’s a dogs life

I have to say, I owe our entire social life in the neighborhood to Rummy, our poor excuse of a dog. He is like our prop, our icebreaker. When people see us walking him, they dont see strange brown people who smell like curry. They take one look at Rummy and think “They have a dog, at some level they must be normal. I should take them off my serial killers list” and proceed to say hello.

While all them Amreekan folks think we are normal and stop by to say hello, all our desi folks look at us with a mixture of curiosity and awe. Afterall it is not normal for a fellow desi to spend on anything that does not have a resale value. But still, their children point to Rummy and go “Daddy look! Its a Dalmation!” and they reluctantly stop while mentally making a note to dip their kid in disinfectants as soon as they go home. As if reading the dad’s mind, my dog proceeds to lick the kid with a loooooong slurp.

Then there are the ones who are dog pros. They will let their kids pet Rummy, even get a lick or two, be at the receiving end of Rummy’s whiplash of a tail ( yeah, my dog’s wag is his deadliest weapon ) and say their good byes. Nice. A pleasant experience for me and them.

There are the coooing ones. Who flock down on Rummy like mothering hens and smother him with their generous pats while going “Awwwww…what a swwweeeet doggie…”. Each time Rummy desperately tries to escape from their grip and looks across to me like I put him in with a herd of elephants. But good boy…he puts up with all of that so that I can get my taste of the society.

And oh..then mean ones who can be classified into three categories:

1. Mean dog, nice owner: The dog starts barking its head off the minute it sets its eyes on Rummy. Rummy being a pro on walks knows that the dog cant do anything because it is on a leash and pretends to ignore the whole thing. The owner smiles apologetically and yanks his dog away

2. Nice dog, mean owner: This owner does not walk to stop and talk to any of us lesser mortals. The poor dog is screaming for some canine companionship, but the owner trudges on while the dog repeatedly looks back on us with really sad eyes.

3. Mean dog, mean owner: Really bad for neighborhood. Should be banned from walks ( both owner and the dog )

All in all, Rummy gets a nice walk, I get a good whiff of the neighborhood gossip and we are both very very happy.

May 8, 2008 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment


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