Thursday, 19 July 2012

Here's to Yahoo!!!

YAHOO! I felt like shouting as I read the news that Yahoo had appointed Marissa Mayer as its new CEO.
I felt like cheering for Yahoo not just because they appointed Marissa, one of the very few women who have reached the level of the CEO in any industry, not just because she is just 37, much younger than her usual CEO counterparts who are well beyond 50 but because she is 6 months pregnant and is going to give birth to a baby in the next few months even as she takes on the reins at the troubled firm.
Did Yahoo make the right decision? Analysts will write profound articles about her sound engineering and product management background that might help rebuild Yahoo’s fortunes or her lack of strategic vision that might ultimately be limiting for the already shaken company.
The argument will continue and the results will soon be visible.
But for now, I celebrate the decision for a much more personal reason.
By appointing a 6 month pregnant lady as the CEO, Yahoo has brought to light a common discrimination ground for women.
How many companies would take such a decision in India?
Forget about considering for a CEO position, how many companies would even consider a pregnant lady for a promotion or a demanding role?
I have seen cases where women are passed over for plum roles by companies thinking that they cannot give their best after becoming mothers.
Most women end up either leaving their jobs or choosing a less demanding role or changing track completely after being mothers. In fact, they often themselves step away from roles requiring travel or extended hours as they try to prioritize the time they spend with their children.
But the decision to choose to work or not to work and to choose a demanding role or a flexible role should only be the mother’s.
It’s her right and her choice.
Not the companys’.
The company has no right to discriminate against women based on pregnancy.
As for Marissa, is she taking the right decision? Will she miss the bonding with her baby by working through her maternity leave? Well, I believe these decisions are purely personal.
I wish her all the very best as she takes on two huge challenges at the same time.
And I sincerely hope more companies follow Yahoo’s example by at least offering women roles worthy of their merit rather than just discriminating based on potential motherhood issues.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Of snakes and ladders

As children, a lot of us loved playing the game of snakes and ladders. Oh, the thrill of climbing up the ladders and the dread of landing on the mouth of the snake which would pull us back to the starting point. And wasn't it the worst feeling to get caught at the big snake that used to lie in wait at 99 just when we were about to win the game and reach 100 on the scoreboard?
We forget this simple game as we grow up and get busy in our daily lives as adults.
But isn’t the grown up world of jobs and responsibilities a lot like the simple game of snakes and ladders that we played so often and well as children?
We all look for ladders for success, helping hands and opportunities that propel us forward, give us recognition for our efforts and help us grow as individuals.
And most of us are unaware when we are treading on the mouths of the snakes that lay in wait to trap us and pull us down from our heights. And very often the snake pulls us down just before a big triumph, a big win.
How do we deal with such invisible snakes? Well, that’s a lesson our children can teach us. Just as they cheerfully go back to playing the game and start the climb upwards on the playing board all over again, so too must we; even though it may seem more daunting and difficult the second time around.
And with patience, and a smile, hopefully, we’ll find the next ladder just around the corner.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

It all started with Facebook

I remember once as a child, I was once taken to a posh restaurant in Park Street, Kolkata. It was a special family outing and the food was too good to waste. So, I ate and ate and ate. So much that I soon vomited all over the velvet sofa and teakwood table. Of course all traces of the remaining food were quickly snatched away from under my nose.

As if that wasn’t enough embarrassment for my poor parents, I soon started crying.
“Don’t cry, don’t feel ashamed, it’s ok” my mother said with her last ounce of patience.
 “I am not crying because I am ashamed. I am crying because I want to eat more” I shouted.
That was me. A complete foodie then and now. I thought about food when I woke up and when I went to sleep and my dreams were also quite often about food. I was addicted to watching Masterchef Australia, reading gourmet recipes in colourful cookbooks and trying out exotic culinary experiments during the weekends.
Added to my love for food was my fear of exercise. And being a mother only helped pile on the excess kilos.
But I pretended I didn’t care. I couldn’t give up my favourite food for a few less kgs.  And wasn’t I super busy managing home and office and kid and everything else in between? I just needed to eat to keep up my energy.
And well exercise, there was never enough time for that. Swimming, cycling, yoga and the gym were all like enemy alien forces to me. And the covers of the latest bestseller book stared at me too invitingly in my few moments of leisure. Even if I managed to get some time to walk, my feet invariably carried me to the supermarket or the chicken roll shop. So the walk ended in adding more calories than it reduced.
And then one not so fine day, after coming back from a holiday, I sat trying to upload some pictures on Facebook. And then I stared at the picture.
Who was that staring back at me? The fat face, trying to hide the bulging curves behind my kid? Was that how people saw me?
As I tried to search for pictures that didn’t feature me too prominently in it, it finally dawned on me.
I was not being a woman of substance by just adding more weight to my already bloated body. I needed to do something and do something fast before my daughter came and asked me one day in her innocent voice “Why are you so fat, Mummy?.”
At this point in my life, I weighed 73 kg. And all who knew me knew how much I loved food.
But over the last one year, I managed to drop 22 kg. And the best thing is I dropped this weight without even having to resort to any drastic measures. I never exercised for more than 40 minutes, gave up no other food except Coca Cola.
And I am still a foodie and still love watching and trying out Masterchef recipes.
All I did was took advice from a trained nutritionist, began eating at smaller intervals, and started going to the gym for 4-5 days a week.
Nothing happened overnight. It took more than a year for me to drop my years of excess baggage.
There is less of me now definitely more to me. Only someone who has been through this journey can understand the joy of throwing out clothes in XL size and buying clothes in S size (clothes I didn’t even dare to look at earlier).
It’s not difficult to lose weight. If I can, anyone can. And here are my learnings from my journey:
1.It’s not a sprint, it is more like a marathon; instead of having sudden, quick  targets like lose 5 kgs in 2 months or joining some latest new diet like African Mango or Banana diet, it is better to lose weight naturally in a healthy way; though it will obviously take much more time.
2. it’s not a goal which one can achieve and forget about. It is a lifestyle change. I love the gym now and can prepare plenty of yummy salads and healthy yet tasty recipes. Bottom-line: it’s not a punishment; one has to enjoy the journey and make it one’s lifestyle.
3. it’s all in the mind: Despite enjoying the journey, there are days when one would feel like having a brownie or a chicken roll. What I have learnt is it is ok to indulge once in a while rather than obsessing about every kg.  Like all foodies, I believe food is a religion, not just a mathematical count of calories. You see, its all in the mind; once the mind understands the goal, the body automatically follows.
So for every other foodie who might be wondering whether they can still love food and lose weight, I would say:

Go ahead and try; love your food, take it slow and speak to your mind often and long. After all, one has nothing to lose but weight.