Book Review - Writing Tools by Cheryl Sterling

Exactly what I was looking for!

At a stage in my life where I want to step up my writing game, this comes like an answered prayer. I mean who doesn´t want to learn from someone who has been there and done that (writing in this case) for 18 long years!

I do plan to read each and every single ebook listed in this year´s Ebook Carnival by Blogchatter. And, I started with what caught my interest and benefit me the most at this point of time.

Based on that criteria, I picked ´Writing Tools´ by Cheryl Sterling and I am so glad that I started my e-book reading marathon with this one. What a great start it has been, indeed!

The book is extremely informative and educative for new writers like me who are keen to take their writings to the next level. There were so many Á-Ha! Eureka´ moments for me all throughout this book. Tons and tons of tips and recommendations that I really need to start incorporating right away. For a newbie author like me, it really means a lot when you have an established author who is a veteran at the game, handhold you and makes you realize your own shortcomings and all the opportunities that lie in the waiting.

What would I do without you, Cheryl Sterling? I mean really! You just lit a candle in the dark and showed me a path that I thought never existed before. I love you just for that!

Coming to the book, it is written in an informal conversational tone. It´s almost like the author is speaking to you face-to-face in a room. It´s is that intimate and intricate. So, all kudos to the author for making that effort to get upfront and personal with her readers.

I personally love this book and would rate it higher than 5 because I loved it that much. Why? Both for its noble and honest intent as well as its personal style. Apart from being highly informative and practical, the book has a huge personal touch and that´s what makes this one endearingly special to me.

A Letter to Her - Hurry! Get in the driver´s seat NOW

My Dearest Fellow Woman,

How are you? You have been too quiet of late, and I thought I would write in to ask if everything was okay.

I know that you will reply that everything is just perfectly fine. You will find excuses in work and family that has kept you so busy of late.

But, You and I both know that there is something amiss.

I recognise that blankness in your eyes. I know too well that pain in your voice even when your words seem to suggest otherwise. I can hear the loud outcries of your heart even though you cry silently in the solitary corner of your home, hidden away from anyone in plain sight. I can easily trace the lines of sorrow along the curve of your brightest smile. I can see clearly those emotional wounds that is hurting your soul. I know your untold story that you try to desperately brush under the carpet.

And, this is exactly why I am writing to you. I hope this letter strikes a chord with you and gives you much hope, strength and courage to open up and make some really tough but right decisions.

So, I am asking you again. Is this You, my friend?

A burden to her own parents and denied all rights to education, proper nutrition and sanitation in the confines of your own home.

The sister who has to make all the sacrifices for her brothers, owing to male privilege.

The girl who was trained right from the beginning of her existence on how to be a ´good´ girl - How to behave with men, how to have her head covered and gaze down in front of elders, how to talk in a low tone, how to sit properly (not crosslegged or with legs wide open), not to wear short skirts or show any skin before elders and how to always respect and please your future husband and in-laws. 

The girl who was told that her voice didn´t matter to anyone and her beauty lied in her silence. 

The child who was the mute witness to her father´s misdemeanour towards her mother and hated herself for being helpless in the situation. 

The daughter who was pimped by her own family to get rid of their poverty 

You had to pay a fatal price for loving a boy from another caste, religion or country - either leading to forced marriage or something even more deadly, the family´s honour traded in exchange for your death.

Your parents finally heaved a huge sigh of relief as they were done with your burdensome responsibility by packing you off to an equally highly cultured family. 

You quickly learn that Divorce is simply not an option when you are sent away to your husband´s home, with this everlasting oath that you undertake - ´Teri doli jaa rahi hain, ab wahan se teri arthi hi uthegi´ (Your palanquin is going from our home to your husband´s, now only your coffin frame must leave your 
inlaws´ and husband´s home)

You were kicked out of the house by your husband and in-laws in the dead of the night for raising her voice and having an opinion that was against the norms and rules of ´their´ home.

You are considered ´Parayi´ by your own parents after marriage.

You are treated very sweetly by your  in-laws in front of your husband, their son but have to bear their tauts, threats, hurting words or given the silent treatment by the same in-laws in the absence of your husband, their son.

Raped or groped by her own family - father, brother, cousin, uncles, husband, father-in-law, brother-in-law. But couldn´t talk openly about it or take any legal action because well,  family´s honour always comes before your own.

You are body shamed by your family for being - Too dark, too skinny, too fat, too ugly, too hairy or too scary !

You are shamed. Period. Too stupid, too dumb, too uncultured, too modern, too behenji, badly brought up by your parents, badly behaved, too bold, constantly ridiculed for not bringing any or enough dowry as your parents are too cheap and more such insensitive abuses!

You have no legal property in your name or financial freedom. You are not entitled to your husband´s pocket money or any of his earnings, must give an accountability of all your earnings and spendings to your husband and in-laws, hand over all your earnings to them to decide how they choose to manage it and not permitted to financially help your parents.

You have no freedom of choice when it comes to work - Forced to work or forced to be a  housewife for life!

You are constantly reminded of your only real purpose and place in life, which is the family and kitchen irrespective of your work status.

You enjoy no freedom of expression. The woman who is curtailed from dressing as she pleases. The woman who is curtailed for revealing too much on social media or banned from it altogether. The woman who is banned from putting her pictures anywhere online after marriage.

You cannot venture out on your own without a family escort or have male friends.

You have to eternally seek the final approval from either your parents, brothers, husband or in-laws.

You have contemplated and even attempted suicide many times owing to the emotional blows that you have been succumbed to, for not being the perfect homely wife, DIL, mother or woman.

A baby-making machine for your husband and in-laws in their vain hope of begetting a male heir, At times, against your own will and at the cost of your health and putting your life to risk.

The lucky woman who has the most charming, rich and successful husband but only you know and endure helplessly his passive-aggressive behaviour towards you behind that dubious mask of Prince Charming.

You are coerced into obeying every command of His Highness and your Master, your husband. Be it as seemingly trivial as submitting all your passwords and informing him of every whereabout while you have no access to any of his passwords or whereabouts. You are emotionally controlled, manipulated and gagged.

You are torn between the upholding of the family´s honour and well-being and your heart´s outpourings.

You are always forced to settle for a life that is simply not your choice. 

You are a roaring tigress outside home but a meek pussycat who is shown her true place within the stifling confines of your home by your husband and in-laws.

The woman who would rather prefer to be in an abusive relationship because it scares her to face and fight lone against the world. 

I have news for you, my dearest friend!

We are all scarred and broken! I know, I understand and I empathise because I have been exactly in your spot.

It does not matter if we are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, employed or unemployed. We have all been hit by people we call our own within the four domestic walls of ´home horror home´.

We are all victims of some form of domestic violence or the other. Physical or emotional!

While physical scars and wounds can be easily seen and draw attention, sympathy and even justice, what about the emotional hits that leave us all broken and scarred in the deepest cores of our hearts?

Every time that we are told that ´You cannot´ by our own family, remember to hit them back saying ´Oh Yes! I can!´.

But any kind of change begins with the acceptance of reality. We cannot sugarcoat our lives anymore. There is no shame in letting the world know that our lives are far from perfect and we are prisoners in our homes.

You owe it to not just yourself as an individual. But, also to millions of women around the world to shatter this myth of leading a perfectly happy life. When you choose to remain silent about your woes, you are not only letting yourself be hit by one man, but taking down several women along with you in the process as well. Silence is not golden but fatal.

I fully understand all your apprehensions and fears about getting out of your abusive relationship and facing the world all alone by yourself. But, you have to ultimately let go off these same fears and doubts which chain and imprison you far more than all of the abuses that are inflicted on you by your husband and in-law´s. Remember that a bully gets empowered and thrives on the victim´s fears.

Whenever your husband or family tries to pull you down, hold your head high and your resolve even higher. Don´t be naive and mistake slurs, rants or jealousy pangs for love. Seek hard and find that reservoir of huge courage that lies latent within yourself. You are the Shakti, the force. You are incredibly powerful. Don´t let anyone tell you otherwise! Harness that power and positive energy. Strong women intimidate men…and women. Your strength and confidence terrifies them and reminds them of their own weakness. And they will do anything to tear you down. With menacing looks,plotting schemes, snarky remarks, physical blows and stabs.  Don´t let them win and get away with it. Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Don´t give them that kind of power or hold upon you. Your victory is important not just for you but the greater cause of truth and justice for humanity. Be that change you want to see around in the world!

If you are still scared to face them alone, remember there are several women and men like me whom you can confide and get support from.

But at the end of the day, only you can answer this question - ´Do you want to save your marriage or yourself?´

Let´s just say - If you had fallen off a boat in the midst of a mighty, turbulent ocean, would you rescue the boat or save your life first? The boat is like your rocky marriage. When both your marriage and you are drowning to death, which one would you reach out to save first?

It is upto you to make that important decision. No one can make it for you. You have to find the strength somehow to do the right thing for yourself. Sometimes, you can save both yourself and the rocky boat in the process. Sometimes, you can just rescue only one while sacrificing the other. In the latter case, please do not end up being the sacrificial goat at the cost of that rocky boat of a marriage. And if you still believe that you can find that elusive balance and maintain your sanity in that rocky boat, good luck with that!

There are so many alternative solutions. Sometimes, leaving is not the only option left and the marriage can indeed be saved by a change of heart and actions by both partners. Sometimes, it is the only option left. If open, respectful and sensible discussions don´t work out with your partners or inmates of your home, then maybe it is time to move on.

We, women are not weak, my friend. We have just let our guard down and given away the remote control of our life to another person.

If your life is a motorcar, would you give it to another person to drive it in the reverse gear, steer altogether in the wrong direction, stay stationed at one spot all your life or worse still, lead you to a fatal car crash?

You do not need anyone´s permission to drive your own car and run your own life. You owe no one any explanation about your past, present or future. Your choices are your own. And so is your life!

Remember always - It is your car, your life, your destiny, rules and choices. The car keys ought to be in your hands and the car in your control.  You steer your life in the direction that you want to take. You are no one´s puppet to pulled up constantly by hurting, nagging strings and you do not have to let your life fly by before your own eyes like a dramatic puppet show. 

As for the world, let me tell you that this world is as much yours as any man´s. No, it is not a man´s world alone! You are just as much its rightful inhabitant. Own it!

You are strong, beautiful and incredibly talented. Always believe that! Each one of us is blessed with abundant gifts and talents of our own. Let your light shine and spark up the whole world. This world is your stage and you, its star performer. Yes, the hero lies in You!

So, Run, Sing, Dance and Play, my Love!

What are you waiting for? Get in the driver´s seat..NOW!

Have a wonderful, fun-filled and memorable journey ahead!

Yours Lovingly,
Tina Sequeira


Why I would like to read a copy of Meena Kandasamy’s new book, When I Hit You

I would love to receive a copy of this highly rated and critically acclaimed book because it is based on a burning topic that I feel so strongly and passionate about. The fact that this is a real-life story written by the domestic abuse victim herself has my interest all perked up. Usually, we get to read only fictional stories or nonfictional accounts of domestic violence.

 I firmly believe that broken hearts tell the most beautiful and authentic stories. And that is why, personal stories excite and inspire me. I am curious to learn what Meena, the author and protagonist went through in her marriage, at what point did she realize that she had to draw a line, how did she pick up all the broken pieces of herself and glue them back together to become this amazingly strong and inspiring figure for so many women around the world, including me.

Ever since I read the book´s rave reviews and various interviews given by the author, I cannot wait to get started reading about this courageous woman´s story. The little excerpts from the book that I have read so far look extremely promising and written with so much novelty, heart and soul. The words are stitched together beautifully and has a fluid, soul stirring poetry-like style.

Well, these are some of the many reasons why I would love to receive a copy of ´When I Hit You´ by Meena Kandasamy.

I am writing #ALettertoHer as part of the Blogathon run by Women’s Web based on the theme ´Domestic Violence´.

Keep Calm And Mommy On – A Sparkling Debut Of India’s Parenting Bible! [#BookReview]

Look no further! This might just be THE answer to all your parenting pleas, cries and problems. If you ask me, this is India’s parenting bible. Period.

Little did I realize how bloody good this book would turn out to be when I first laid my hands on it! The author, Dr Tanu Shree Singh has a knack of enticing her readers right away with her intelligent wit, creative bent of mind, endearing humility and a wildly free-spirited attitude. As soon as Ms. Singh got me all hooked with her fascinating introduction titled ‘Confessions of a Not-so-super Mom’, I flipped to the back page of the book earnestly looking forward to reading the author bio and seeing the face behind this highly evolved brain. Boy! Was I pleased to see a gloriously beaming face with salt and pepper hair and a ‘devil may care’ attitude, which I personally think is the best kind of attitude to sport in this thickly populated ‘Log Kya Kehenge’ society!

Summing it up

In a nutshell, Keep Calm and Mommy On makes a valiant effort to crack this tough nut job called Parenting.

“That is exactly what motherhood seems like sometimes – velvet bugs scattering from a broken jar.”

The book is a clever, cheeky pun on this whole halo surrounding parenthood, more so, motherhood in particular. This book comes straight from a brave, young mother who’s been there, done that and got her hands dirty, burnt and bitten but not shy. And coming out unscathed! Hallelujah!  She has a lot of clever parenting tips and tricks under her sleeve along with tons of parenting advice and wisdom to get around even the most trickiest child.

To read my full book review on Women´s Web, please click on the following link -

Dads and Daughters make one rocking pair!

One of the greatest influences and blessings in a child's life comes in the form of a father. And I am no exception!

From the time, he held my hand to take my first steps to walking me down the aisle to my beloved husband to being the most fun grandpa and every moment in between, much memories have been made to last a lifetime!

As a society, the spotlight has always been on the mothers and their undisputed supremacy in the area of parenting. And rightly so! But often unfairly at the critical cost of the father’s role in parenting.

There is a largely prevalent misconception that the role of a father is a non-issue and his absence from his children’s life is completely justified. Especially for daughters!

Fathers contribute way more than just giving our children their genetic and social identities and financial security.

At the same time, it is also true that today’s Dads are more ‘hands-on’ than ever before in their daughter’s lives. Be it changing her diapers, brushing her hair into pigtails, pushing her in the pram, teaching her to swim or playing sports!

However, once his daughter attains puberty, it is Mom’s territory now. Many fathers make the crucial mistake of backing off from their daughter´s life after puberty. Failing to realise that it is NOW that they are most needed in their teenage girl´s life than ever.

Why, you ask? Because scientific research studies have proven that

Fathers have the greatest impact on their teenage daughters’ self-esteem.

So, don´t stop being an active force in your daughter´s life ever. Whether she is a baby, a confused teenager or a self-assured woman, she always needs You!

The best gift any father can give his daughter is his time. So, start early and raise her when she is young. Even if you haven´t, better late than never! Parenting is not just Mommy´s job alone. It is equally Daddy´s job. And no, working and earning money doesn´t count as Parenthood.

Here are some perfectly ‘doable’ and fun action steps for fathers to bond and raise strong daughters.

I can only speak from my perspective on how crucial the father´s role is in the overall well-being of his daughter´s life as I share some personal experiences that are the closest to my heart.

1. Love her mother and model a loving relationship

The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.

The father is the alpha point when it comes to learning about love. It is through him, the daughter envisions her lifetime soul-mate and the son learns all the fine nuances of spearheading and managing family relationships and its roles and responsibilities. Like any daughter I guess, when I'd see Mum and Dad blissfully happy and contended in each other's company, I'd make a silent wish for a husband just like my Dad.

Also, show your daughter that equality between men and women in a relationship must be the norm and not the exception.

I had absolutely no clue what woman empowerment meant or even that women faced any discrimination at all in the first place. The atmosphere at home was such! Mom and Dad were equals in every sense. They make a wonderful team to this date and its a treat to watch them as couple in action - cooking together, both making a living outside and coming up with mature decisions right from the start. Mum continued studying till her M.Phil despite having me and my twin brothers right after. While I was sent away to a boarding for 2 years while my brothers were taken care of by a nanny, Mum continued to study and work simultaneously while Dad and I were in Kerala. And no matter what, Dad stood by my Mum in whatever career aspirations she had for herself. He is so proud of Mum and her personal accomplishments when it comes to her career. As his daughter, I can vouch for a fact that there was absolutely no discrimination of any sorts between my brothers and me in any manner. In fact, I was and still am the apple of his eyes. I lived a childhood as carefree as my brothers, never ever having to step into the kitchen or do any chore owing to my gender. It was only once I stepped into the big, bad world outside, that reality struck and I could see a stark difference in the way my female peers were brought up. I am so grateful for having being raised by such a good father.

So, model a loving, nurturing and respectful relationship with your wife as your daughter will expect nothing less than to be treated the same way in all her relationships.

2. Show Up

Yes, it is as simple as just showing up. Get involved in your daughter´s life right now. Don’t pass the buck to her Mom. Your daughter needs to see that you are there as a witness to all her little big achievements – school performances, sport matches, award ceremonies etc.

What more can I say about the bond fathers and daughters share! As far and long as I can remember, those days of pining and yearning to see my dad during my days in the boarding school are still afresh in my memory. My Dad came much like a colourful rainbow at the end of a spell of rain. Once or twice a month, he would make it a point to drop all his work and travel all the way to meet me. I would wait endlessly for weeks prior to his coming. And every time, the attendant would come in to announce his arrival, my heart would skip many a beat while I ran down the stairs to meet him. And Yes! I felt truly special. He truly did make me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. Even today, as a grown up married woman, I missed and longed to see my Dad while my stay in the US. Those pangs of love and separation were and are just as real.

Make your daughter´s day special by just showing up for her. Your presence is all that it takes to light up her world.

3. Bring out the child in you

No matter how old we grow, the child in us never really dies. It might be latent and parenthood is the perfect opportunity to bring out our inner child. Both my father and husband can be quite a big kid and clown together, which makes them great dads automatically.

It is such a comic relief and stress buster when fathers intervene in a difficult parenting situation and defuse it entirely. Last night, I told my husband how my daughter was quite nervous for her speech today at school. I told him that she speaks so well in front of me but gets very self-conscious in front of others. And, the more I tell her, the more she clams up. Apart from her getting nervous, I was getting all stressed as well. This morning before going to school, my husband casually took our daughter aside and played his usual clown self and both of them were gurgling over some lame jokes as usual. After preparing her lunch, I got down to hearing her speech one last time before she headed for school. She amazed me with her natural ease and confidence which was back so quickly. The body language, the eye contact, the voice modulation, the delivery style - Everything was bang on! Just like that! That´s the kind of super-power effect that fathers have over their daughters and their self-esteem.

Similarly, with my Dad, he would always lighten things up with a spontaneous joke or two. He is the God of jokes in our family and that's why there is never ever a dull moment around him. He's also taught me to never take life or yourself too seriously...have a couple of laughs, both in the good and bad times, and tide along joyfully.

Let me share an amusing incident about my father on that note! He is eternally stuck at the 'I am 65 going on 16' age. I have two handsome brothers. And the following incident happened a couple of years ago when my brothers were in college. One of them had a couple of girls in his group of college friends. And they'd keep calling home to speak to him. Those were the days when cell phones had not yet come into the scene. Whenever my brother was away, my Dad would step in and do the honours. He'd play the the imposter, mimicking my brother´s voice with such finesse and perfection, that the phone conversations  between my brother´s girlfriends and my dad would go endlessly for hours, with more than a couple of sheepish grins and chuckles along the way. So, that´s my extremely mischievous and funny father for you!

So Dads, let down your guard once in a while. You are not obliged to anyone to be oh-so-cool, composed and tough all the time.

4. Be the wise spiritual baba

A large part of one´s faith comes from our parents. My father is a man of immense faith and I could go to him at any point of time with any spiritual or religious doubts and he would try to give me the best answer he could possibly give.

One of my favourite advice (and there are many) from him is - 'You don't owe an explanation to anybody except God’.

It is also this same faith that gives him this monk like philosophical outlook towards life. That certainty that everything will fall into place at the right time and for the right reasons and with the right people. Despite his little fears and rationale outlook, he is an eternal optimist looking largely at the sunny side of life. His eternal advice related to faith and gratitude - 'Keep Praying when things go wrong. Keep praying when they go right’.

5. Being human 

Fathers are a great role model for their daughters.

My father is the proverbial 'a friend in need is a friend indeed' man. He would do anything for his friends. It doesn't matter which economical class they hail from, he is always there like a knight in shining armour when the need arises. Little wonder, that he has a close-knit of true, genuine and fun-loving pals from all age groups, ethnicity, social class and faith. And their bond only grows stronger and thicker with time.

I have learnt from him how to treat people with love, respect and empathy irrespective of their social and economic standing. And, that kindness is not a sign of weakness but in fact, strength.

6. Two to Tango 

Fathers, you don´t have to be all goody-goody. Be your daughter´s sinister 'partner-in-crime'.

My father introduced me to all the vices in my life. He encouraged me to take that first sip of wine, gin, whisky rum and vodka etc. And when I did, he smiled in mischievous delight. He bought me my very first itsy bitsy teeny weeny red and white striped bikini at the age of 3. He bought me my own 2 wheeler vehicle much to my Mum's fears. And, I had the best days of my life, feeling so independent and free, whizzing around the streets of Hyderabad on my very own Scooty. I literally felt like Super Woman maneuvering through those chaotic roads zipping adeptly and finding my own way thorough. His heart swelled with pride when he saw me dancing to Zeenat Aman's iconic 'Dum Maro Dum' song on stage, huffing and puffing on an imaginary cigar. Zeenat Aman has always been Dad's hot favourite by the way. His heart couldn´t swell more prouder, I remember!

My husband and daughter are forever conspiring notoriously evil pranks to try on their enemy No.1 and poor, hapless victim, Me!

Dads, find our own special crime activities where your daughter and you can be super fun ´partners-in-crime.´ A la Crime Master Go-Go! Heee-Haww-Haww-Haww!

7. Create special Dad-Daughter traditions

Men usually like to interact by doing things together. This comes in handy when it comes to spending some quality shared time with your daughter. Listen to music and dance together, go on a fun date, hike, swim, cook etc.

This was our magical tradition. My husband is an adventurous man and he loves to take our daughter out for vacations, sight seeings, musuems, parks, fairs, movies, restaurant dates, play video games and swimming. This is their special tradition where I am not welcome. My daughter eagerly looks forward to these exclusive father-daughter dates as she keeps pestering me to call up Daddy to know when he going to come home and sweep her off her feet outdoors all over again.

Create your own special father-daughter tradition.

8. Papa don´t preach

It is very important to practise the art of active listening without voicing out your opinions and judgements. Your daughter needs to feel that she can trust you with her problems and you will understand and empathise with her.

My father still listens to me, a grown up adult, with the most empathetic ear. He never jumps the gun and makes a stark judgement about me. Ever! Because that´s the kind of trust he has in me and I have tried my best to live up to his trust and confidence. Your daughter will too when you believe in her.

Dads, be patient with your little flawsome angels. They will turn out perfectly fine....just lend them a patient ear for now.

9. Word power

Words have power and energy. The words you speak to your daughters have a lasting and powerful impact on them. Use it to make them, not break them. Your words are a reflection of your beliefs about them. What you believe about your daughter shows up in what you say to them and about them. Your daughter internalises everything that you say and starts to believe it.

My husband is always so mindful of his words around my daughter. He is a man of few words but positive, loving and powerful nonetheless. They are like a soothing balm to all my daugter´s fears and apprehensions that she has about herself.

So, always use positive words of love, encouragement and inspiration. Make sure you look into her eyes and mean all those wonderful things you say to her. Remember, your daughter sees her self-worth in your eyes.

10. Find her natural spark 

Let your child explore, experiment and enjoy what she naturally gravitates towards.

So,what is your daughter naturally drawn towards? What is her mojo that keeps her truly happy, passionate and satisfied?

My father saw how magnetically drawn I was to books, like bees to its nectar. He never restricted me from reading any of the taboo books for my age. For that matter, even movies. And so, I read Archie comics at the age of 6 that was filled all the evils of Western culture or watched Sholay that had such blood and gory violence written all over it. And I turned up alright, I guess. He bought me lots and lots of books, of all genres to read and rented all the great and mindless movies alike possible. We read, watched and had our own discussion around them. Books and movies still remain my entertainment. So, today I can write, dance and emote well. That´s my spark, my Mojo! The gift of expression and communication!

Explore avenues to help your daughter utilise her natural gifts. This will tremendously boost her self-esteem and confidence. It is crucial to her that her father acknowledges and supports her natural passion. Else, she might start to doubt her own abilities and strengths.

Let her sparkle like the most twinkling star there ever is!

11. Celebrate her beautiful mind

Let your daughter know that you see her beauty inside out. You see her intelligence, her skills, her talents, her passion, her kindness apart from being just a pretty face or body.

Encourage her to get into the habit of reading. Start with a few minutes a day and gradually increase the time spent in reading. Give her the freedom to choose any book she likes. Take an interest in her academic learning. Have thought provoking conversations and discussions around current world affairs, read up on science and technology, challenge her to solve puzzles and complex math problems, play a game of Chess together.

Today, I write well because my father used to pamper and gift me tons of books. He was the brain behind all those prize-winning elocution and essay-writing competitions I pretty much won easily. All thanks to him and Mom, of course. But in that routine course of winning debates, elocutions, essay writing competitions, I grew up intellectually as well.

Dads, tease her brains and let her mind be at her fertile best!

12. Love her for who she is and not what she does

While it means a lot to your daughter that her father appreciates her hard work and performance! It means a lot more to her, when you focus on the character traits that make up her personality. Praise and love her for her honesty, kindness, congeniality, ethics, courage etc. And, she will surely grow up to be a self-assured and resilient person irrespective of the ‘ups and downs’ in life.

13. Challenge her limits 

Girls’s brains are physiologically different from boys when it comes to risk-taking and fearing making mistakes. Thank the impact of hormones! Dads, you have to consistently challenge your daughter to get out of her comfort zone. Especially through her childhood and teen years because that is when her brain is the most elastic!

My husband is always egging on my daughter to try several things much to her disliking at times. But, I know deep down as a mother, that he is on the right track.

Scientific studies prove that this will completely rewire her brain structure enabling her to take more risks later on in life. Your daughter will confidently take up challenges and risks without the fear of failure.

14. Make her ‘Daddy’s strong girl’

‘Daddy’s little girl’ might sound cutesy. But in reality, overprotecting her and treating her like a delicate flower isn’t helping – rather hurting her. Resist the temptation to be her ‘knight in shining armour’ each time she falls.

Resist your natural manly urge of being the problem solver and let your daughter take charge. Encourage her by asking her how she would resolve her problems, come up with possible solutions, weigh their pros and cons, find the appropriate solution, and face life’s challenges head on.

Teach her to change a car tire, make her financially literate and wise, encourage her to be physically fit and strong, educate her about the dangers of the real world including sex offenders, enrol her in martial arts or any kind of self-defence training.

15. Accept that she can be a very angry young woman 

All girls are not sweet and all boys are not tough. So, let us not try reinforcing these stereotypes in our own homes. It is perfectly okay for girls to be angry, tough and assertive as well. As fathers, you can make a start in breaking these gender stereotypes at home.

No! It is not disrespectful to be angry and stand up your rights. Whenever there is a conflict at home, it is healthy for your daughter to vent out her emotions. Let her learn to assertively fight for a cause that she cares about to you and her family, beginning at home. A girl has to be really comfortable expressing her anger and being assertive. If she can’t do it with her father, she won’t be able to do it with anybody else - male boss, colleague, friend, spouse or any random guy who tried to take liberties with her on the street. A father needs to ‘receive’ her anger and assertiveness rather than punish her for it. He can also compliment her for expressing herself honestly and assertively.

Also, teach your daughter the subtle but vital difference between between being aggressive and assertive.

16. Watch movies, TV shows and Internet together

Several studies have shown how social media causes severe depression, low self esteem and body image issues especially in teen girls. From cyber bullying to revenge porn to lurking of pedophiles, the dangers of social media and technology are far too many. As a father, make sure you control, oversee and have tight restrictions on her social media activity.

The way women are projected in the media doesn’t help in building the self esteem of young girls either. That is why it is so important to make your teenager media literate. You can do this simply by watching TV shows and movies with her, having discussions around them, making her wise – to know the difference between the right and the wrong. Help her to be a good critic in decoding and filtering media messages.

17. Show your vulnerable side

But not everything is sunny about my father or my husband. They have their mood swings and moments of instant irritations,quick temper and gloominess.

According to Santiago Trabolsi, a psychologist, life coach and dad, “When you as a father show your own weakness, it gives permission for your daughter to accept her weaknesses. This emotional connection generates warmth, empathy and honest communication between the two of you.”

I also take great pride in declaring that I am one of the very few who can make my Dad cry like a baby. Whenever I traveled alone in the train to my college hostel, my Dad would break down into tears at the station whenever the train started to move. The night before my wedding, he held my hand and just broke down into tears uncontrollably. I knew it was tough for him to let go of his little big girl while I also knew he was happy for me at the same time. Very rightly said, the father is a daughter's first true love.

18. Shower lots of hugs and kisses

My father still holds my hands, gives me a warm hug and kisses me every time I visit him with my daughter. Somethings don´t change thankfully!

But, I know some of my friends whose fathers shy away from all physical contact with their daughters. Any physical contact is strictly taboo.

Adolescent psychologist Dr. Linda Nielsen weighs in, “Fathers have been told by society that it is inappropriate for them to hug their daughters once they start to mature sexually — past the age of 12 or so. He should ignore this training and give her big bear hugs when he feels like it. It’s important because it’s just one more way of showing her that he is not uncomfortable with her growing up, with her becoming a sexual person or with her maturing body.”

As for us mothers, we can encourage father-daughter time and honour the importance of the father’s role, perspective, wisdom and patience in our children´s lives.

So, to all the wonderful fathers out there, including my father and husband - ´Here’s wishing you a Happy Father´s Day! May you continue to inspire us with your ways. Thank you for making our lives so wonderful and our childhood most memorable. You guys ROCK! Cheers to your good health and happiness always!´

Lots of Love and God Bless!

(This post was originally published on mycity4kids -

Finding Juliet - A modern take on relationships!

´Finding Juliet´ is written by an Indian male author, who goes by the pseudonym ´ Toffee Idiot´. The book is about a young man´s earnest quest to find true love. The pages are generously filled galore with the protagonist Arjun´s umpteen infatuations, crushes, heartaches, disappointments, embarrassing mistakes, wise learnings and a final hard truthful realisation about love.

After more than a couple of goof-ups in the matters of the heart  (heartbreaks) as well as the mind (a suicide attempt), Arjun shifts from Hyderabad to Bangalore. This proves to be a major turning point in Arjun´s life when he meets the uber cool dude and chic magnet, Krish. After Krish´s persuasion, Arjun goes through a whole gamut or 360 degree transformation in himself. Needless to add, Arjun goes from ´geeky´ to ´hot and happening´ in no time.

The book definitely has its own strengths and weaknesses. Let´s talk about them!

What appealed to me most about the book was the honesty in the narrative! The story is a modern take on relationships which have become casual and frivolous in nature. Yet, we see the protagonist subconsciously longing for genuine love as he hops from relationship to another. Despite the world evolving and changing, some things are constant like true love.

Arjun is a regular Joe which makes him highly relatable. His character is flawed yet endearing. As he keep committing one mistake after the other, what makes him loveable is that he learns and gains a little piece of wisdom after every mishap. Like the death of his parents arouses in him a deep guilty realisation that he took them for granted when they were alive. He made several excuses to visit them in order to accommodate his several clandestine affairs.

One striking quality about Arjun is that he is brutally passionate and ambitious. He ardently wants to be seen as cool, popular, good-looking, a ladies´man,  an intellectual, a creative artist or lyricist and so on. He wants it all! The good life, a highly successful professional career, a creative outlet for his talents, an incessant need for fame, the company of beautiful women and last but not the least, finding true love…aka Juliet.

The book is an easy, breezy read with liberal doses of Indian desi masala to spice it up. Another strength of the book is that it will highly appeal to its target audience which is a certain specific age-group ranging from 18-35 yr olds at the maximum. They will simply lap it up and relate to it. I am very sure it will strike a chord with many young single Indian men in particular - the crushes, heartbreaks, the incessant pressure to look hot, sexy and be hugely successful, the yearning for true love and companionship and more. It will also appeal to young Indian women who want to understand the India male mind or Romeo´s perspective.

In terms of its weakness, the book is very predictable and gets pretty repetitive with the introduction of every female character. You know exactly what to expect, the pattern that follows and the eventual outcome of the relationship. After many opportunists and gold-diggers along the way, guessing who Juliet is not exactly rocket science.

Another weakness is that the book might fall short in impressing a more mature individual or age group. Like say philosophical excerpts of wisdom about the female mind, love and life was amusingly amateurish.

Also, it gets tad too stereotypical filmy in terms of the character portrayal, description, references to various movie songs and lyrics. The overall inspiration behind the book seems to be Bollywood driven. So in that context, the book´s appeal is specifically limited to a certain age-group and culture.

Another minor grouse is that there are several portions in the book that offended me as woman and made me cringe. Let´s say, like rating and ranking women purely by their physical attributes totally turned me off. But again to the book´s rescue, I am aware that these things happen in real life, even in the most prestigious institutes like the Stanford University. Repetitive references of the uncomfortable and annoying ´male gaze´ was another put-off. But again, this is common among Indian men, in particular who love to ogle and stare overtly or covertly. A trait I hope Indian men will learn and realise that staring is rude and not proper etiquette.

Throughout the book´s journey, we see that Arjun is trying to understand women, life and most importantly himself. In the final chapter, we see maturity finally dawning upon Arjun as he unites with his Juliet in the end.

Overall, the book delivers on its promise. It packs in quite a punch for its target audience and will appeal to them. As for me, I enjoyed the light fluffy read mainly for its honesty and earnestness, both in its intent and efforts to entertain and inspire through the characters.

'I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.' 

Mothers, We make all things that seem so hard, so beautiful!

It was my last official day at work and I was eagerly looking forward to my pregnancy and the subsequent Motherhood stage. It was on my way back home in the company shuttle, when I received the most powerful Motherhood advice. Ironically, this came from a female colleague - in her early 20´s and unmarried! She had an elder sister, who was a stay-at-home mother of two children. Based on the keen observations of her own sister´s life, she imparted her expert Motherhood golden words of wisdom to me that day -

“Let me tell you, Motherhood is going to be very hard and it will really test your patience. You have to be very …very…patient all along. Ás a mother, the most important quality you need to possess is Patience. Never lose sight of it.”

Little did I realize then, how true and timeless her words are! Back then in time, when I had my newborn baby in tow! Today, when my daughter is almost 8 years old! And, I am pretty certain, her advice will hold water in the coming years as well. Maybe, for the longest period of time. Perhaps, Forever! Because as they say - “Once a Mother, always one.”

To keep me from losing my sanity to Motherhood, I find rescue in my secret weapon of ´Patience´. And girl, trust me, I had to use this insanely powerful tool to get past so many hard stages of Motherhood. Like so many! Here are some of them -

1. A Balloon Body with Leaky, Saggy parts

It starts with the nine months of pregnancy. From morning sickness to the ballooning of your body, your body is not solely yours anymore. It is the shared space for another life ..another being…your child! And as mothers, we take this uncomfortable phase gladly because of the over-whelming joy and excitement, all the more if it´s the first child. But, there is no doubt, Pregnancy is a hard stage, especially for mothers who have kids in quick succession.

When it comes to Labour, it is a very raw, gruelling experience, that takes a toll on your body. Your body does not look the same anymore. From breasts that get saggier with each pregnancy to the increasing rolls of fat layers around the belly, not to forget the cellulite! Pregnancy changes the entire roadmap of your body. Like literally! It took upto a year for my body to regain its original shape. Well almost!

It is especially hard when others body shame new mothers heartlessly, knowing fully well, that it takes far more time for some to lose all that flab.Some of us have a hard time struggling to knock off their pregnancy weight. Some have sleepless nights over the marked loss of hair post pregnancy. It is very hard at times, to face the harsh realities around bodily changes. Some of course, make a conscious effort to get their original bodies and thus, their confidence back. But, the body struggle is just hard!

2. The Great Depression

Ever heard the expression ´Mother of Sorrows´? It refers to the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ from ´The Bible´ and all of mankind. Since she is the mother of all humanity, her heart is never at ease, always concerned…always worried…always sorrowful for her children.

Well, in the life of normal mothers like you and me, who are saddled with the responsibility of looking after maybe 1 or 2 or 3 children, we are no strangers to sadness and depression in some form or the other. Mild, acute or chronic!

For starters, the very first night I brought my baby home, I immediately flash forwarded to 25 years down the line. When my daughter would be either be married in most probability or be far away from me, living in some other town. The mere thought itself brought big, fat, hot tears streaming down my cheeks. The love and attachment was already so powerfully strong.

Again, as much as I loved holding my baby finally in my arms, I was experiencing conflicting emotions. I remember the first week of motherhood was super depressing for me. I was not able to cope up with the sudden, rapid change in lifestyle and responsibility. Those sleepless nights trying to soothe my colic baby! Every night for four long hours, all I did was walk around the bedroom, with my eyes half wide shut open, singing every possible song I ever knew and trying to rock my baby gently to sleep. By the end of the first week, I just broke down into tears uncontrollably, overwhelmed with utter helplessness and loneliness. This despite the fact, that I was living in my mother´s home and I had all her help. Yet, it was hard and the hormones weren't exactly helping my cause either.

But thankfully, the postpartum depression didn´t last for more than a week in my case. But, for those who struggle with this form of depression, I got a glimpse of it in that first week. And all, I can say is that the condition and feeling is very confusing, disorienting, alienating and highly depressing.

Mothers are more prone to worry, anxiety and depression. Even if it does not get out of hand, it is hard to cope.

3. The Juggling Act

No one warned me that being a mother was akin to being a juggler. But a whole lot worse. Be it the circus jugglers or bartender jugglers who have it a lot better! Their juggling act lasts only for a couple of minutes at any given point of time. The juggling act is either stretched to a couple of minutes over the course of the day or is a one-time performance that lasts for an hour, at the max. Not to forget, they get paid for all their jugglery!

But, we poor mothers, as always, get the raw deal. During my time in California, I had a Mexican friend who received the news that she was pregnant for the third time when her second child was only 5 months old. And her first child was 6 years old. She was depressed with the news of her third pregnancy because not only was it unexpected but the responsibility of looking after three kids was daunting, to say the least. She was already having sleepless nights and juggling between the responsibilities of two children. Her husband had a very busy work schedule, leaving her all by herself to take care of the home and the kids. All through her third pregnancy, she was perennially worried about doing the harder level of motherhood jugglery. For those who care to know, the mother- in-question is doing a beautiful job of juggling time between home, kids and herself. But, I am sure, it is hard.

4. Identity Crisis, Purpose of Life and Mommy Guilt

“ Who am I?”

Rather, “ What am I?”

Better still, “ What have I become ?”

I was a stay-at-home mother for six years in the US and for a longest period of time, I questioned my identity and the purpose of my life. “ Was my life revolved only around cooking, cleaning and taking care of my baby and husband?” It was hard to see other working mothers who had family support head straight back to work and who seemed like they had it all figured out.

Young, educated and talented mothers find time slipping by, as the only intellectual work they do anymore is cook, clean, baby-sit. They also feel an extreme sense of guilt, of letting their education and career wither in oblivion.

On the other hand, working mothers are suffused with the ´Mommy guilt´. Whether they are working at office or from home, they feel they are never fully there for their kids. Not to forget, judged for their decision of placing their careers over their babies.

Damn, it´s hard either ways!

5. The Punching Bag

I took my 18 month old baby for her first wedding to my hometown in Kerala. While there, one of the relatives told me,“ Motherhood is such a thankless job.” I refrained from replying back to him that I wasn't looking after my child for appreciation. The nature of a mother´s love, as such, is to ´to give´and not ´to get´.

Anyway, there is some truth in what he said as well. We give so much of ourselves as mothers to our children, right from the time they are babies till they are grown up. Husbands and children can take the mother for granted, many times, without understanding the magnitude of thought, time and effort that goes into most of her actions.

“ Why is the house so messy?”

“ It is all Mommy´s fault”

“ What do you do all day?”

Being a stay-at-home mother seems like the most coziest and loveliest job in the world for many people, including our husbands. Let me tell you, having been in both the boats, being a stay at home mother to an infant or toddler is a lot more exhausting than working in a office outside home.

At home, we are perennially multi-tasking. Cooking with an infant in hand, watching over your baby round the clock etc. Also, work always crawls at a snail pace thanks to constant tantrums and the child´s constant need for love and affection. I remember I did not sleep in peace for a single night for two consecutive years since my baby was born. Constantly changing her cotton diapers in the middle of the night and waking up early in the morning as she is an early riser. Yup, even earlier than Mr.Sunrise himself.

Motherhood is hard when you feel like everyone in the family, is taking you for granted, making you feel misunderstood and unappreciated.

Well, that was just the list of all the hard aspects of Motherhood. But, that´s just one side of the coin. Flip it over and you will see a bright, sunny side UP.

Motherhood is hard…….but beautiful

“ Pretty pretty please! Just stop!

Whoever said motherhood was easy! It is not!

And that´s what makes it so beautiful! And that´s what makes You so beautiful!

To your children! To your husband! To the world around!

You make the home and the world a better place!

You, who were ashamed of your body, has housed, nursed and raised beautiful living bodies.

You, who cried many a tear, many a night, is the wondrous cheerleader that brings a big smile on your children and husband´s face.

You, who were exhausted to the point of dropping on the floor, wondering if you have any more stamina and energy left to carry on, is the inspiration of your children and husband. For your perseverance, tenacity, grit and unmatched supreme sacrifice!

You, who questioned your own identity and purpose in life, gave so many their own identity and purpose for living.

You, who feel time slipping by and you are missing out on Life, you are living ´The Life´ -  smelling the roses and deriving happiness from the little pleasures of life which cannot be bought from any pricey luxury in the world.

You, who question your worth and feel unappreciated, is the rock, the pillar and the strength of the family and the home.

My Beautiful, Always remember that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. ”

So, that just makes us all, the Queens of the world! How powerful and empowering is that!  We should be proud of our beautiful selves and pat our own backs for making things that seem so hard, so beautiful in our own sweet time.

I am reminded of my husband´s words, every time I find the going hard - “ 99.9 percent of what our daughter is,... is because of You!”

And I know instantly, Life is beautiful, Motherhood is beautiful and I am so beautiful and blessed!

Blessed to have been there to witness and participate in all my baby´s little and big milestones. When she turned over the first time or uttered her first word or took her first step, my heart leapt and skipped a beat. All those priceless moments of doing craft together, taking vacations, baking together, theme park hopping and so many more are forever etched in my heart.

Like a tiny plant sproutling that takes years to offshoot into a huge, gigantic tree, I know love and patience will go a long way to see my rewards of motherhood labour come to fruition.

So, at every arduous stage of Motherhood, keep telling yourself - “Yes! It´s hard…but just hold on and hang in there. This too shall pass….”

As for me, I wouldn´t have Motherhood any other easy way. And, I can bet, so wouldn't you!

(This article was published in mycity4kids. You can check the full article here - )

Undress Me?

There in the dark shadows,

lurked a demon slayer

Watching with his daunting eyes,

For the next prey in his commanding sight,

Not to fulfil his lust for sex,

But to ascertain his authority and power.

He got a kick from their shrieks and cries,

A high from the blood gushing out of the virgin´s core,

He knew he could devour anyone and anybody,

The world was at his feet,

And He was its evil Master!

Í  see that girl,

Walking towards me,

With her seductive hips swaying like a mesmerising snake,

She brings out the beast in me,

At the threshold of her puberty.

She needs to know who is the Lord!

A lesson she needs to be taught.

I shall drink from the fountain of her youth,

And devour every air of supremacy in her being.

I will kill her soul,

and leave her scarred and shamed for life,

Death be upon her,

Lest she resists!

Her sexy school uniform will be faulted,

And the gutless Society will not have her back.

Either ways she be damned,

She has no option but to surrender

To the Man!

That woman in her prime,

A mother of two and a free soul, I see!

Didn't anyone tell her the streets are not to explored at night?

She should be caged in her home,

Like good women should be!

Loosely prancing around in her body hugging shirt and a short skirt,

What does she think!

She can get away with this?

The demon slayer is here to the rescue,

This world is mine and everyone succumbs to me.

I will strip her of her pride and arrogance,

And that confidence that is repulsive to me.

She will be left stark naked,

And touched in places where she never has been

Handcuffed, blind folded and gagged,

Iron rods and acid to the quick rescue.

This will teach her a fitting lesson,

To know and be in her proper place,

Before she thinks of venturing out again,

Like a demon that corrupts everyone around her,

With her unholy presence and being.

There she strolled by,

A vision in black

Covered from head to toe,

Her hazel eyes peeking slyly,

From her downward tilted head,

She has been brought up right, I see

What is she like underneath?

I wonder and smile!

An intriguing mystery waiting to be explored....

Yes! She is not asking for it,

But the world is mine,

And she is my slave.

My command is her wish,

The Burkha goes flying out the window,

When she is with me,

My every whim is her calling,

My dark desires is her taking.

For the good woman finds her place

At the Lord´s feet.

All her demons slayed and put to quiet rest forever!

Oh that boy,

So tender, so fine,

His innocence lush and untouched,

The forbidden fruit -

Oh! so inviting and so tempting!

´If I cannot have him, no one will,´

I proudly declared.

´Either he loses his boyhood to me,

Or I, shall slay him for the vultures to feast upon!´

He plays so gleefully,

Hopping on the streets with a little twig,

I see no fear in his eyes,

I see big dreams and hopes,

I see vulnerability that is waiting to be broken and shattered,

I was this boy once upon a time,

And I was touched like he is about to be,

I was never the same again,

And so shall he!

He will stripped off his naivety,

And will cry and beg for me...

To stop.

But I won´t.

I will keep going after him,

Till one day, he begs for more.

That is the day,

He will carry forward my legacy,

He will be the Lord of all Lords,

The righteous demon slayer,

The moral keeper of the prudish society.

For her dress and her being,

is her own doing.

Asking for it from the Lord,

Her eyes begging me,

´Undress Me!

For I am all yours…..

Yours for the taking.

Your slave for tonight and every!


My dress

My being,

None of your business.

I am no one´s  property

for their perverse taking,

Undress Me?

Ha! Really?

No! I am not asking for ít´,

You are!

My dress,

My being,

Is not my fault.´

she cried out loud.


(This dark poem is written through the eyes of a rapist and how he misjudges and devalues a woman who comes in his sight. Please note that this reverse psychology poem was written with an intention to break all misconceptions, prejudices, bias and taboo surrounding the rape victims. Let us look at the unfortunate victims who fell prey to the heinous crime of rape  with love, respect and dignity like all human beings deserve. Let us understand that it is not their fault and anyone can be a potential victim or susceptible to rape irrespective of their age, caste, religion, attire. Let us support the victims in their fight for justice.  As long as we keep judging them for their choice of clothes, character etc, the rapists will get away with rape and murder. So, STOP judging any rape victim for their attire and character. She is NOT asking for it. Stop Judging)

This poem was first published at Women´s Web

And also published at mycity4kids

9 Reasons Why Emma Watson as ´Belle´ Is Such A Great Role Model!

Disney is on a roll and how! After acing in the animated movie series of Classic Fairy tales - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled aka Rapunzel´s tale and more, they have stepped up their game, venturing into live character movies. Be it Disney's 'Cinderella' in 2015 or ´The Jungle Book´in 2016 and now in 2017, ´The Beauty and the Beast´.

´The Beauty and the Beast´(2017) is a breathtaking beauty. Literally! And yet, the ironic message of the movie is that ´Beauty lies within´and not on the exterior. The message goes down pretty smoothly like a delicious grape flavoured cough syrup without making you feel choked and nauseous with this cliched moral of the story. As a movie spectator though, one cannot but help marvel at its external beauty.

The movie is a very simple, straight forward story grandiosely told. I loved the opulent costumes, the 'minutest-to-the-detail' setting, the breathtaking cinematography, the dreamy and lively song and dance sequences and the surreal performances. Emma Watson is the real star of the movie as the protagonist Bella herself. She embodies every virtue of Belle with élan - intelligence, dignity, class, confidence, innocence, grace, courage and kindness, of course beauty. Luke Evans as Gaston is delightful. He plays the cocky most eligible bachelor in the village with sheer finesse. He is strong, masculine and handsome yet off-putting with his cockiness, arrogance, narcissism, double faceted persona and sadistic nature.  Josh Gad plays the interesting and much hyped character of the effeminate LeFou. He plays Gaston´s perfect side-kick with gay abandon. The Beast which has a royal prince trapped inside him is endearing. He is ghastly looking and yet exudes warmth and a heart-touching vulnerability that makes you want to protect him from the harsh judgments of the world. His nobility does not go unnoticed either with his strong bearing, chivalry and righteous character. He becomes every bit, yours ever-so-truly 'Prince Charming’ when he magically transforms back to his princely appearance. And what a handsome looking Prince Luke Evan makes - blue eyes, long blond hair et all! Together, Ella and her Prince make a beautiful, love-struck couple who have you rooting for them at every juncture, for them and their sparkling romance ever so pure, pristine and genuine.

This movie won me over completely. It is not easy to have an often repeated, done-to-death popular children's fairy tale as your cherry-pick offering to hold the viewer's interest. But interest, it sure did manage to retain from the very start to the finale' moment. And How! By staying as true and close as possible to its original classic fairy tale with a lot more interesting layers of depth. It was sheerly delightful and truly magical just like a fairy tale ought to be.

Now that we are done with the brief movie review, I will tell you why Bella from ´The Beauty and the Beast´(2017) is such a fantastic role model for everyone, especially children. It teaches both boys and girls the true meaning of beauty as opposed to the popular notion, the qualities to truly aspire for, seek out and appreciate in fellow human beings and finally, to be their true, genuine selves irrespective of whether they fit in or stand out. Here are the 9 reasons why I think Belle is amazing-
  1. Intelligent : One random day, my daughter comes up to me and says, ´Mummy, Do you know that diamonds are a girl´s best friend?´. And I reply, Absolute rubbish! Can diamonds listen to your feelings and talk to you? It is non-living rock. for God´s sake! Where did you learn this now?´ She replies, ´But Mummy, Barbie says that Diamonds are a girl´s best friends´. And I shoot back, ´Well then, your Barbie is dead wrong. A girl´s best friend is her mother. Period.´ Well, Bella takes it several notches higher. Books are her best friend She sets a great example for young girls in choosing books over diamonds or for that matter, any person as her best friend. She is innovative as she makes her life easier by inventing her own version of the washing machine to do her laundry so that she can utilise that time in reading books instead.
    Make no mistake my friend, Belle is highly intelligent.
  2. Born to stand out and not fit in : In a village full of small-minded people, Belle is a woman far ahead of her time and place. So, quite naturally, she is the ´funny´, ´weird´, ódd one out´ because people don't understand or identify with her. Belle is not afraid to stand out and alone. In fact, she prefers it that way than being someone she is not and trying hard to blend and fit in somehow.
  3. Dignity personified : She has the village´s most eligible bachelor, Gaston literally salivating for her. But, she doesn't throw away her dignity for money, looks, name or fame like the many other beautiful girls in the village. Belle is dignity personified. While she despises him with all her heart, the girl politely tries to shoo him away every single time he makes a desperate attempt at getting her attention and love.
  4. Confidence : The scene where Belle goes right on top of a mountain and declares to the Universe that she is looking for much more than the cliche´ plans and expectations. The girl clearly has the guts to dream big, hailing from a small village and better still, have the confidence in achieving her dreams. This scene for me was highly reminiscent of  ´The Sound of Music´s´ Maria who prances around the peaks of the Swiss alps in a similar fashion singing  Í have confidence in me´.
  5. Fearless : Belle is proof that girls are not just sugar, sweet and spice but also nerves of steel. The girl does not think twice about getting locked in a dingy, dark castle with a hideous Beast. Better still, making valiant plans to escape from the dungeon quickly enough in to the deep dark woods in the night, chased by hungry wolves. She isn't fearful of speaking her mind - loud and clear. She is bold and sassy despite her dainty appearance.
  6. Classy : Belle is a classy woman. Period. It is not difficult to understand why Gaston falls ´head   over heels´in love with her when he can have scores of beautiful women or men (Ahem!) vying for his attention. She doesn't throw herself for any man. She is self-assured, without feeling the incessant need to grab eyeballs or attention. She doesn't play mind games or try to make others feel jealous or inferior. She certainly doesn't put down others to make herself look or seem better. She is articulate and has depth in her thinking process and in her conversations. She is independent and can take care of herself where she goes. And the best part is she will not tolerate disrespect. She will not let any man walk all over her and disrespect her. She expects to be treated with equal respect and dignity in her relationships. And she is no trophy girlfriend or wife. At the same time, the lady is all about etiquette and manners - ´Please´and ´Thank You´s´. Why wouldn´t any one love her?
  7. Heart of gold : What makes Belle strikingly different from the rest of the women is her large heart. She is helpful, kind and her heart melts and feels for the downtrodden. She enjoys helping young girls develop a love for books and reading. Charity begins at home for her. While destiny played dirty and took away her mother, it compensated her with an immensely supportive and loving father. And she doesn't break her father´s confidence and trust. She loves her old father and helps him in every way possible.  She wants to badly help Lumiere, Candelabra, Mrs. Potts and her boy and the Beast come out of the Enchantress´curse.
  8. Wonderful Life Partner : Belle doesn't fall in love for all the wrong reasons - looks, money or fame. She loves for all the right reasons and with both her mind and heart. It is certainly not love at first sight for her when she sees The Beast. She falls in love for his virtues when she slowly gets to know and discover him. She makes an understanding, affectionate, patient and supportive partner to The Beast and vice versa. She is extremely loyal keeping up her promise and returning to The Beast and saving her captive father.
  9. Beauty : She truly personifies the saying that Beauty lies within. She is beautiful Inside-Out and that is what is shining about her. Much like Helen of Troy or Cleopatra! Helen of Troy was not conventionally beautiful with the perfect features and yet she had men waging wars for her beauty. Cleopatra was in the same category. She was dark skinned yet. Like them, Belle is an unconventional beauty. Men fall in love with her inner beauty as much as her outer one. Even though she is the Beauty in the movie, you will find Belle in the most understated clothes. She doesn't sparkle with diamonds, expensive clothes or any of the exterior razzmatazz but with her shining inner beauty. Again, it takes one beautiful person to identify another one. Belle finds Beauty in her Beast and sees the Beast in the externally handsome Gaston. She sees beauty in the flaws. The Beast or the Prince is not perfect. He has a short temper and he is impulsive. But, he is a human after all and not the Beast he is made out to be. Belle sees the heart beyond all the external beastliness and flaws. And finds beauty within. Which the Prince failed to see in the enchantress disguised as a haggard old lady in the beginning of the movie.
´The Beauty and the Beast´ (2017) is a spectacular marvel. We loved it. You must watch it if you haven’t already…it is so good. We were totally in land for 2.5 hrs. Hahaha! Be prepared to answer a barrage of questions about the movie from your kids.My daughter who was glued to pin drop silence all through the movie couldn't stop talking about the movie.

´Mummy, I think the Enchantress was Belle´s mother´.

´No, Beta! I don´think so´.

´Then, she is surely the Prince´s mother.

´Ýeah! Maybe. But, why would she curse her own son?´

´Then Mummy, she must be...blah blah blah´

Disney, here's a big shout-out and thank you for restoring that old classic Disney charm and class in ‘The Beauty and the Beast'. There are so many tales to be retold to this new generation. Bring on some of that old world charm and magic all over again.

Finally, Yes, I do! I believe in fairy tales and happily ever afters!

(Please note the above image may be copyrighted.)

(This post was published at Women´s Web, and mycity4kids,

Parenting Then & Now: Is there a missing link?

"How did our parents raise eight children so effortlessly and also manage to instil the right values in each one of us? How is that even humanly possible when here I am, struggling with a single child?"

Remarked my Aunt and mother of a vivacious twenty year old. Years ago, when her child was a baby, she listed out many areas where her parents failed in their duty. Right from the names given to them to not giving sufficient individual attention to each child to favouring one child over the other and more. Twenty years down the line and many parenting experiences (read fails) and wisdom lessons learnt the hard way, she sings a drastically different tune today. A tune filled with wonder, amazement and admiration for her parents. Similarly, I am amazed at how my parents raised three children alongside their full fledged careers. 

So, what made parenting seem so effortless and effective in the good old days? Let us do some serious interrogation and retrospection. 

Parenting in our Grandparent´s Era 

If there is anyone in the Animal Kingdom my mother could be compared with, she would be the perfect hybrid of án ant meets the elephant´. Admirably hardworking like the ant, she works tirelessly non-stop with a clear-cut focus on delivering the highest quality of output each and every single time. Be it in her home or at her workplace! She is an epitome of gentleness and strength like the mighty and protective elephant. 

But, she did not become like that overnight. It took years and years of practice, much like a seasoned sportsperson who underwent rigorous training right from the childhood years. My mother, one of the eight children started shouldering the responsibilities of the home, alongside her academics right from the age of 7-8 years. Her duties were clearly laid out to her. In those days, parents were the complete authority. 

My grandmother was a very smart woman - a natural  born leader. She was a stay-at-home mother like most women were in those times. But don't let non-professional status fool you. She was the most feared, respected and powerful influence in her home. She was like the royal Queen Bee surrounded by tiny worker bees. As the mother of eight children, she was indeed the best authority on how to run her home and its inmates. 

So, she delegated wisely all her work amongst her eight children and her husband. The elder ones were given the more complex household tasks in addition to looking after and training the younger siblings. My grandfather was the first one to get up early in the morning to milk the cows and buffaloes. He would then, supervise their eight children as each one got ready by themselves to go to school.

My grandmother cooked in the kitchen, with some of her children as her personal assistants. Some given the duty of chopping the vegetables, some in kneading the chapatti dough etc. Everyone had an equal stake in the smooth running and functioning of the home, with my grandmother clearly the undisputed ´commander-in-chief´ of the home. The CEO of Home Sweet Home Inc.!  

My mother and all her siblings were extremely scared of my grandmother. Her voice was enough to send shivers down their spine. She nagged and scolded them, often criticising them. Appreciation was very rare and only given, when a job was done exceptionally well. 

My mother-in-law has similar stories to say. Of a very strict mother who they all feared. So much so, she had to sneak out of the house to watch a Rajesh Khanna movie without her parent´s knowledge as Hindi movies were taboo in their house. 

But, all this was a blessing in disguise. This parenting approach actually instilled in my mother and her siblings a healthy sense of fear and respect for authority, a sense of duty and responsibility, time management, focus, confidence and diligence. Needless to add, the same traits played a major role in her academic, personal and professional success. 

A fascinating conversation comes to my mind during my time in the USA where I used to actively volunteer in my daughter´s school. One day, the school Principal, and father of two boys made a surprising remark that caught my attention. He said he was strongly in favour of the idea of making school children clean up the school bathrooms. But he couldn't do so knowing fully well that there would be a long trail of law suits filed against him and the school. He said that was how his father raised up his siblings and him. That was, in fact the good old fashioned American way of parenting. And, he carries forward that legacy today, making his two sons learn their lessons the hard way. Yes, by scrubbing the bathtub, bathroom floors and walls and the commode squeaky clean! He says they do the wonderful trick of keeping children in their place, teaching them the dignity of labour and respect for parental authority. 

I had a similar experience with another American man in Milwaukee who went on a nostalgic trip down the memory lane, recollecting the good old days of his childhood. When his Mama and Papa didn´t have any care in the world! All they did was breed many children who also served as free labour to them. Mama and Papa enjoyed the good life. And the children? Well, they enjoyed life as well. They went out into the woods, to collect wood for Mama to light up the kitchen stove fires, while she cooked whatever Papa and the kids gathered from the forest. Yes, fresh, free organic food everyday. After helping their Mama and Papa, the children would play gleefully well, into darkest hours of the night. Yes, there were the dangers of snakes, coyotes  and grizzly bears but that didn´t seem to bother their parents or any of them much. They were quite adept at handling these dangers themselves, you see!   

Parenting in our ´Sandwich Generation´ era 

The number of offsprings drastically reduced from the average of 10-15 children to 3-5 children at the max. I was the eldest of the three children. Life was definitely more comfortable than it was for my parents when they were children. We did not have to wake up early and expected to run the home. My mother had a life outside home and family unlike my grandmother. She pursued her higher studies, doing her M.Phil,after my birth. Her career was important to her just as much as we were. My father was extremely supportive of all her career dreams. 

We were slightly more indulged and pampered than my parents were. My mother did not let me enter the kitchen at all asking me to focus my energies on my studies instead. My father bought me tons of English classic literature books to read. Watching movies or television was not taboo. 

Education was extremely important and there were no major distractions and temptations for us except for the Idiot Box. However, it was strictly limited to 30 minutes on weekdays, usually a Chitrahaar on Wednesday nights or a Doordarshan serial, like Byomkesh Bakshi or Udaan and 2-3 hours on a Saturday night, which was usually a much anticipated Hindi movie blockbuster. Once in a month, we would catch the latest movie on the big screen. Burgers, pizzas and thick creamy milk shakes were non-existent during most of our childhood. We only knew of its existence in the colourfully illustrated Archies Comics wondering what it tasted like in reality. 

We were happy playing gilli-danda, hopscotch and cricket in every galli and nukkad of the city. We ran outside carefree and made our own friends, unassisted by our parents. We had our own colourful childhood life, distinct from our parents. We certainly did not have them breathing down our necks, assisting and checking on us via cell phones.

Birthdays were a simple affair compared to the ones celebrated today. We gladly distributed candies to our classmates which were potentially a choking hazard but no one seemed to care those days. This was followed by a simple birthday celebration at home. My mother would recycle and cut old greeting cards into birthday decorative items, make our favourite food and be glad to provide us a special birthday experience compared to the non-existent birthday celebrations she had in her childhood. 

We moved from Doordarshan to the bold and spicy network of Star and Zee channels. Technology invaded our lives towards the later part of our adolescence. And our lives were never the same again. Some of us followed tradition and married according to our parent´s wishes. While some of us fell in love and chose our partners. In many ways, we were the Sandwich generation. 

Parenting in the Millennial Generation era 

I remember pregnancy was a huge and special momentous occasion for me. I had a ball flaunting my big tummy ball to the world in pretty maternity wear and posing excitedly in all different angles for photo shoots. 

Much to the amusement of my father who remarked cheekily to my mother, "For this generation, pregnancy is like the 8th wonder of the world. They think they are the only special creatures to have become pregnant in the entire history of mankind. By the way, how come you did´nt do all this?"

He failed to understand what this big fuss was all about - flaunting the baby bump, maternity fashion, posting week to week tummy updates, maternity photographs and all that jazz. 

Anyway, it is what it is!

Welcome to the world of yummy Mummies, hot Daddies and Kidults! Where the incomes have doubled and the offsprings have dwindled to 1-3 children! 

Peer pressure and being cool and popular has caught on children from a very young age. Children as young as 6 and 7 years demand the latest version of the iPhone. Leisure time is interacting with Talking Tom, watching Barbie in her Dreamhouse or tuning into Netflix after work. Socialising is via Facebook, Watsapp and Twitter. 

Parental over-indulgence has taken an all-time level of high. Parents are wilfully serving their children like never before. From splurging on the most priciest and branded newborn wear to fancy nursery rooms to buying all the latest toy collection and gadgets to enrolling them in the most happening sport or leisure activities, parents today are singularly focussed on giving nothing but the best for their children. 

But the fundamental question to be answered is - At what cost? Many parents today fail to realize that it is often at the cost of their own future as well as their kids who they unconditionally love. With the increasing pervasiveness of Technology, social isolation, economic inequality and poverty, depression and substance abuse amongst young Millenials are at an all time high compared to any other generation in the past. No surprise there, that the Millenials are officially the most stressed and anxious generation in History.

It is indeed time now for us, parents to hit the ´Pause´button and retrospect back into our past and see if we have forgotten an important missing link or two along our path of Parenthood. 

The Dangling Conversation

I did just that. I went in search for the missing link.

I asked my mother  if there was anything she did not like about the way her parents brought her up. She said there was nothing she could think of and that she was only grateful for all that they did for her. 

She recollected how easy parenting was in those days and not considered to be challenging at all. They feared, loved, respected and looked after their parents in their old age. Like there is a good fat and bad fat in the nutritional terminology, there was also a healthy dose of ´good fear´in the children towards their parents in those times. Children were fearful of their parents, extremely obedient, not demanding in any way. They didn't know more than their parents and didn´t need much either in order to be happy or satisfied in life. All this meant that the family and household functioned smoothly like a well-lubricated bicycle wheel. My mother complained that today parents fear their children.

I counter argued with my mother that bringing up one child today is equal to raising up 5 children in the past. I told her that the times are very different today. Our children are born in to technology. We are bombarded with so much information and news about lurking pedophiles or pesticide laden food and more. We have to be cautious and vigilant of our children today, I strongly argued.  

Some marriages survive while some crumble. Divorces are on the rise. The norms are changing and being redefined. Broken families..dysfunctional families..interracial families and more! The traditional definition of a family has drastically changed. A far cry from the olden days, where there were two clear gender types - male and female and only one kind of sexuality, heterosexuality! Today´s generation comes with its own set and baggage of new rules, definitions and changing norms of gender and sexuality. 

Finally, The Missing Link! 

Parenting is challenging than ever before in the history of Mankind. My mother certainly understood the plight and situation of today´s parents. She also agreed that the ´Old must make way for the New´. At the end of the day, every generation knows and does what is best for their children. 

Nonetheless, there are some golden nuggets of parenting wisdom and practices are as timeless as the Universe itself. The forgotten missing link in today´s parenting styles, as I would like to call it. 

1. Stop Parenting out of Fear 

Today´s parenting is largely driven by a sense of fear. Thanks to rise in information and social media news! Whether it is about lurking pedophiles or pesticide laden food, we have become over-proactive of our children, shielding them from every possible danger. The irony of it is that crime rate today is much lower than it was ever before in the history of mankind. In America alone, the crime rate is the lowest in the last 40 years. The older generations were not bombarded with horrifying breaking news and fearful social media updates even though the crime rates were much higher. And so, their parenting style was not driven by paranoia or fear. 

We fear that our kids will be molested. We fear that our kids will have to sacrifice happiness in exchange for a successful career. We fear that they will turn out to be ordinary far more than their failure. We fear that if we are not enrolling them in that expensive international school or tons of sport or music classes, they will be left behind in the rat race. We fear the word ´punishment´leave alone enforcing them. We do not know how to effectively discipline our children fearing it may hurt them more than doing any good. We fear seeing tears in their eyes and them, feeling hurt and disappointment. We fear we are never ever good enough for our own kids. 

Please note that I am not advocating being careless with regard to our children´s safety. We have to be vigilant of our children´s safety online and offline. My point is simply that our parenting approach should not be driven primarily by fear. 

2. Show some ´Tough Love´ to your Children 

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)

“Lalayet panca-varsani, Dasa-varsani tadayet

Prapte tu sodase varse, Putram mitravad acaret” (From Niti Sastra)

The first verse from the Bible is self-explanatory. The second verse in Sanskrit is taken from Neeti Sastra. It tells parents to be gentle with children until they are five years, then be extremely strict until they are 16 years and after 16 years, to be a friend to them.  

Today, parents are afraid of using the term ´punishment´leave alone enforce it, fearing the damaging effects on their delicate children´s psyche and mental well-being. In the previous generations, parents were least concerned about the happiness or mental health of children and if their behaviour or actions were the cause of it. They were more focused on inculcating moral values and ethics in their children. If punishment was one of the ways to set their children back on track, so be it. There was no second guessing on that one. If a slap on the cheek worked for our grandparents, it could work for some of our over-indulged kids as well. They may cry and curse us today but will surely thank us for doing so many years later. 

3. Inculcate in them a Moral Compass 

In a world of degrading moral values and ethics, it really pays to teach our children that things are to be used and not people. Often, in the pursuit of providing material prosperity, comfort and success, parents forget to inculcate moral values in their children. Parents should be firm and not let media and popular culture dictate values to our children. While they should definitely not be judgemental, they should be taught at home, by the parents, the clear difference between the ´right´and ´wrong´ and the ´good´and ´bad´. 

4. Stop Over-Protecting your Child

If you look at the Western world in order to learn from their mistakes, you would be amazed at the shocking rise of kidults who get a kick out of Pokemon Go, Snapchat and the likes. In a recent UK survey, uber cool Brit kidults don't think they are grown up until they are 33 years. So what that means is you have young adults who behave and live like teenagers well into their thirties, still  financially dependent on their parents, unable to keep a job, buy a home or raise a family. Today, it´s cool and smart to be a kidult apparently. According to the American Psychological Association, the Millennials are the most stressed lot than any other generation in the past. 

This is where we can learn parenting from our ancestors. Our grandparents did not give a damn if our parents got hurt and bruised on the playground or even broke a bone or two. They rubbed and kissed their wounds away and got on with Life. Children in the past were responsible and accountable for their actions and its consequences including failure and disappointments. Every one has to undergo the bitter life lessons learnt the hard way and that is the only way to cope and come out stronger. Our children will quickly learn that the life is not fair and will learn to adapt accordingly.  So, do them a favour by letting them cry it out and move on ahead in Life. 

5.  Say ´No´to Over-Indulgence 

The last thing the world needs is over-indulged brats. It is not uncommon to see parents splurge on lavish and unique ´Pinterest inspired´ birthday theme parties. It is equally not uncommon to see children being dissatisfied or annoyed at the quality of birthday gifts received by the guests, expecting each and every gift to match up to the ones given by their parents.

There is a heightened sense of false entitlement and disillusionment with Life itself amongst the young Millenials, when the reality doesn't meet their tall expectations. Children today are bestowed with luxuries and seldom have to earn for them. They don´t know the value of hard work and money. Our children are not unique snowflakes and nor are we. In the age of selfies, social media and oversharing, we have to be mindful that our narcissism does not rub on to our children as well. 

Our ancestors had no time or money to splurge on frivolous extracurricular and sports activities. Most of their children were not going to be professional athletes or famous singers anyway. So, why even bother! Besides, they had to work, drink, eat and be merry in their own lives while saving up some dough for their old age too. The children can fend for themselves when they were adults.

Parents in the past generations were smart not to overspend and wise to plan for their retirement as well. Today´s parents are blinded by their love for their children that they splurge on unnecessary luxuries, save up for their children´s pricey education often at the cost of their retirement savings. Many of the parents today do not expect their children to look after them in their old age, making it all the more vital for them to be smart about their retirement savings and future as well. Lest, they get a raw deal and find themselves at the short end of the stick. Your children may or may not become a famous Soccer player or Olympian or Nobel Prize winner, but you will surely get old. So, enjoy like your ancestors did when they were young and save up some for your retirement years. 

6. Teach Children the Importance of Gratitude 

Finally, teaching children the important lesson of gratitude and seeing the brighter side of life will help them tide through many of the challenges that life flings in their direction. It will help them to count their blessings, be grateful and contended in their lives. 

(This article was published in mycity4kids. You can click here for the article.