Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Women Rising

The challenges and opportunities for Women in a male dominated industry

At a recently concluded leadership engagement I had the opportunity to engage with aspiring high potential women at a leading engineering company.

Interacting with them reminded me of my days as a young sales executive. Almost 2 decades ago, I had joined Schindler, an elevator and escalator company as their first female employee in sales and project management. Needless to say, the entry barriers in an all male territory were very high. There was scepticism and sarcasm of all kinds, leaving me to question my decision on several occasions. In the initial days, I must have looked like a deer in the headlights, with fear and self doubt looming large on my mind. Sensing my plight, an elderly male client of mine, counselled me that sales of an engineering product was not for women and I should actively consider a job change. With no diversity and inclusion initiatives to lean on, the journey was difficult but an equally enriching one. As I look back I can say with certitude that those 6 years were the best part of my professional career.

As I engage with engineering organizations as a leadership coach, its heartening to see the concerted efforts being made by them to attract, retain and grow women leaders as part of gender diversity initiatives. Over the last twenty years, the working climate has definitely become more conducive for women.  However, women in male dominated industries such as engineering companies still continue to face greater hurdles than their counterparts in other sectors such as IT, BPO and BFSI. Some biases may have shifted to more subtler forms but can still be challenging to deal with on a continuous basis.

The challenges, to name a few: 
  •    Women find it difficult to keep long hours and feel their male colleagues are better appreciated for their hard work. “I want to tune off after I leave office but this has an adverse impact. My boss is positively biased towards my colleague because he is always available,” complained a young woman unsure of what she should do.
  • ·  They rarely receive direct and constructive feedback from their managers. Many male managers have never worked with women before and are naturally very awkward in their interactions. A young engineer in one of my sessions, shared her upset when a feedback from her manager came through one of her colleagues.
  • ·   Men are still wary of buying from a woman. Clients often feel the need to validate technical specifications with their male counterparts. I recall how a client, in a techno commercial negotiation meeting; kept looking expectantly over my shoulder in the hope that some ‘knowledgeable’ man had accompanied me since a woman was incapable of having such discussions. A young sales executive from field operations in Bangalore, felt her client was hesitant to engage in a tough negotiation in the fear that she may be brought to tears. She of course refuted it vehemently and continued the protracted negotiation with greater energy.
  • ·   A woman who questions status quo is very often tagged as being aggressive. Being submissive and compliant is a conditioned expectation for most men and any change to this invites critical comments. When women stay true to their stereotype of being agreeable they run the risk of not being seen as a leader. This double bind is more pronounced for women in teams where the gender ratios are skewed.
  • ·    With the rising decibel levels on increasing gender diversity, peers feel they are getting preferential treatment. Upgraded accommodation and travel for reasons of safety; are being seen as unfair privileges; sparking sarcastic comments.
  • ·   A low gender balance creates an unequal environment. Women feel the added pressure to be recognized for their accomplishments and be seen like their male counterparts. Many fear that even a slightest mistake would cast aspersions on their performance owing to their gender. 

The opportunity:

Surviving and thriving in male dominated industries is like a double edged sword- it can be challenging but also presents a tremendous opportunity for learning and growth. With the qualities of diligence, people management, win-win solutions that come naturally to them, they are in an advantageous position to gain a step up. A woman hire in the site installation team received generous compliments for coping with a physically demanding job. She spoke with quiet confidence that demonstrated her readiness to handle its complexity. Having seen her on the job, her manager’s initial apprehension turned to glowing appreciation for her commitment and ability to multitask. The pride in his voice was unmistakable.
I overheard a female engineer speak very proudly about how she had learnt to ignore some comments and carry on with confidence. Several of her colleagues nodded in admiration of her new found winning strategy.
What sets them apart is a certain mental resilience that is needed to go past barriers to prove their mettle. The trying circumstances, if one is able to tackle, accords a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It’s a high that makes the journey worthwhile.
As more women move into roles that are traditionally male oriented; they become exemplary role models, inspiring other women to bite the bullet. With diversity and inclusion initiatives priming the cultural environment; building a gender balanced workforce in such industries is not such a distant possibility.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

An eternal quest

My reflections post reading ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama

 How can you ask a child what will you become when you grow up?” Michelle Obama remarked, on an Oprah Winfrey show. “Life is a journey about who you are becoming, not a destination to get to.” Of all the autobiographies I have read, this one struck a chord with me the most.
Her book speaks to every woman- as an inspiration to find their unique self and flaunt it with style.  “If there is one thing I’ve learnt , it’s the power of using your voice” she remarks with a sincerity that is heart warming. And yet to get to this authentic space of being yourself, of speaking your mind for what you believe in; is fraught with struggle. For a life that may seem like she has it all, her fears and doubts are those that every woman goes through. “ Am I good enough?” ran through like a leitmotif for a large part of her early life. One would imagine that a woman with a double Ivy League degree would not have such thoughts plaguing her and that her career path would be all sorted out. Driven by the desire to pursue something meaningful she gave up her career in law; even without an inkling of what she would do next. She found a job at Public Allies after a relentless search.    
A vulnerable expression of her doubts and dilemmas make her real, relatable and even more charming. She navigates her many roles, with deep seated conviction, remarkable candour and courage that most of us aspire to possess.  A spouse who stood shoulder to shoulder by her man, a mother fiercely protective of her children, a professional determined to contribute to the world meaningfully.
In her childhood, I found many similarities with mine. My parents provided love and care in ample measure but balanced it with discipline. They were directive when they needed to be but also encouraged independent thinking on several matters. Contentment was in the small joys of picnics, a chilled Thumbs Up on a hot summer afternoon, the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls wafting through our home. The invaluable lessons learnt, the love received will always hold me securely in its embrace. Its comfort gives me the strength to push boundaries and experience the joy of uninhibited expression.
The unfolding of  Michelle Obama’s love story had me excited like a teenager. In Barack she found a perfect match-an intelligent , sensitive man, much sought after by law firms and firmly rooted in his values. His impish wide grin only adding to his irresistible charm. The romantic bended knee proposal at a routine dinner date is the kind of stuff that all girls dream of. Its wonderful to see how they make adjustments to accommodate each other at different stages. Barack managed two jobs when Michelle chose meaning in her work over money. When he was campaigning for Presidency, she realigned her work schedule to support him and the kids. And just as every love story is not perfect, dark clouds of despair shroud their relationship too. She makes the effort to seek support to bring harmony and love back into the relationship.
While she reluctantly supported her husband’s decision to join politics, she not for once shrunk in his shadow. Her ability to hold her space as a woman of substance is worthy of deep admiration. With all the demands on her that the run up to Barack’s presidency brought in, she fought to pursue her career. On one occasion she didn’t find childcare but was determined to attend an interview for the job she so wanted. She boldly walked in, placed her 3 month old on the table claiming confidently, that she is best suited for the job and her child came with it.” Now that’s definitely what a woman with a voice would do!
At the time when Trump was campaigning, Michelle didn’t hesitate to speak against his misogynistic comments. “When they go low, you aim high” was a mantra that she and Barack followed not because they looked good while taking a higher moral ground, but because they believed it was the right thing to do.
It’s the underlying thread of optimism that is so palpable in the story of her life. There is no alternative but to have an ‘Audacity of hope’( borrowing the title of Barack Obama’s book).  The faith to keep persisting and trumping fear.  It’s what gives us the power to keep discovering our unique story. In what one does, who am I becoming- is the real question one should be asking.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Transitions- An opportunity for reinvention

A young acquaintance of mine, recently married, kept complaining about persistent headaches and low physical energy. By terming it as hereditary, she sought sympathy as a hapless victim. On further probing she narrated her in-law woes and an unsupportive husband. With her dreams being dashed a feeling of being trapped for life was crushing her completely.  Even though she did vaguely acknowledge the correlation between her anxiety and ill health, her only solution was to keep consulting more doctors.
Having worked for 52 long years, my father hung up his boots last year. At 78, he by no means was willing to slow down but since his company was shutting down, it left him with no option. For someone who has borne the trials and tribulations of life with considerable grit, dealing with retirement has been the toughest - a transition that he is ill prepared for. When an entire life has been defined by the work you do, the absence of it rocks your very core. Time has suddenly stretched to terrifying proportions. Filling up a day with engaging activities is a mighty task. In the absence of a spouse and a dwindling set of relationships, the isolation makes the twilight years even more painful.

Transitions are a reality of life. However not all of them happen smoothly. Marriage, divorce, retirement, illness, single parenting, career change, motherhood, loss of a loved one, change of location can take a toll on us both emotionally and physically. We are living in times when our propensity for anxiety is heightened. We are digging into our reservoir of emotional energy a lot more than we did earlier. Transitions are times for us to stop dead in our tracks and reflect. Its an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, by refuelling our emotional energy.
The rising number of people grappling with their changing circumstances makes on wonder if the act of building our emotional potency is keeping pace with the rate at which it gets depleted. In conversations these days, words such as depression, tension and stress have become the new normal. Last year, the World Health Organization ranked India and China as the most depressed countries in the world. An India Employee Survey by HR tech start up Hush, reported, that as many as 22% respondents felt that their productivity is low due to overwork and stress. For a country that is essentially collectivist in nature where tightly held relationships extend beyond the immediate family; this is a shocking statistic.
Sadly, our education and upbringing have always relegated it to the background, leaving many of us incapable of dealing with emotions that cause discomfort.  We expend our energy in quelling uncomfortable emotions such as hurt ,shame, guilt and jealousy. In a bid to uphold a socially acceptable image these emotions never get fully acknowledged, expressed or resolved. As a child I remember being told by an elder, “Don’t talk about unpleasant stuff, only share what is enjoyable". Coping by suppressing is seen as a sign of courage. I wish to challenge this paradigm in the context of our current times.  Vulnerability has a gentler, more humane power in alleviating the pain, rather than a heroic denial of it. When emotions get masked and not released, it leaves behind a residue that keeps building up till such time as it explodes in the form on bitterness, uncontrolled anger, vindictiveness or depression.
As we make our way through life’s varied experiences; some that have either been consciously chosen and others that we have been thrust into, can we take a pause and contemplate on the multitude thoughts and feelings we experience. Can we find the courage to ask some uncomfortable questions of ourselves?
• “How will my failings show up in my marriage and how will I cope with my partner's eccentricities?"
• "Coming back to work after maternity leave, how am I dealing with the guilt of leaving my child behind?
• "Now that my children have flown the nest, what new purpose do I create for myself?
Emotional literacy doesn’t come naturally, it’s a skill that needs to be developed. As we dig deeper to explore the intertwining of our emotions with that of our thoughts, needs and values; we start building a relationship with them. “I am envious of the way my friend’s husband cares for her’ is a far more accurate description of one’s predicament than a mere “I am not feeling good.” When I am aware and can describe the specific emotion that I am feeling, even when there is social abhorrence towards it; I take a step towards being authentic; leaving me feeling light and spirited.
With the rise of artificial intelligence and the increasing outsourcing of services to bots, the isolation felt by reduced human interaction is going to rise. In a Facebook post I read recently, a woman reeling in agony over her despairing situation wrote out a lengthy post sharing her plight. The sympathy poured in, in ample measure. One can only imagine how intense her pain must be for her to seek solace from strangers, over a digital medium. Moreover, did it really address the cause of her pain?
The pain of life’s whiplashes will not vanish but it can definitely be alleviated. By taking charge of our emotions we are building an arsenal of effective response strategies. 

I suggest 5 steps that we could consciously engage in:
  1.        When in a crisis, seek help: Outpouring oneself to friends and family is cathartic but that’s just a temporary addressal of the issue. A more recommended option would be to get a life coach who will get you to dig deep and de weed the issue from its root.
  2.            Journal your thoughts and feelings. Writing down your feelings in a book or an app, is a great way to ventilate our pent-up thoughts.  Like the whistle of a pressure cooker, this provides the release of pressure from time to time.
  3. .     Invest in self-improvement courses each year. – I echo Socrates’ view that, ‘an unexamined life is not worth living.” Self-discovery courses facilitate the much-needed shedding of some restraining mindsets and a re-cataloguing of our thoughts and feelings. It’s like an Intel Pentium processor upgrade that helps us work more efficiently with our emotions. 
  4. .      Get Curious, go behind the scenes: When you find aberrant behaviour, dip into their life journey. It’s easy to label a person as “Oh he is such an angry man.” A more appropriate question would be "What incidents have made him so angry?" When you understand the triggers and the motivations of another, you build a lens to evaluate yourself too. You may even see a bit of yourself in the other, enabling you to be a little more compassionate rather than judgmental.
  5. .     Seek diverse perspectives- Polarity of perspectives draws defined boundaries allowing little space for a genuine dialogue based on facts. Currently our political affiliations (or even the lack of it!) triggers extremity of reactions; ones that are not just limited to raucous TV debates but even drawing room gatherings. Building an appreciation for an opposite view enables us to hold multiplicity of perspectives. When dissent is welcomed instead of it being feared, extremity of emotions gets levelled out.

Our emotions is a compelling force that determines who we are and what we do. Experiencing and exploring its breadth and depth is the only way we can be better prepared for the transitions that life brings us to. Its about time we gave this part of ourselves far greater attention than it has received till now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A DEEP connection

“Would you like to give back to society?” Sujata enquired one day on our return from an aerobics class. “We could teach our maids’ children here in the neighbourhood.”

 The idea appealed instantly and with not much thought given to a plan or a vision, we had set up DEEP Foundation, our NGO. Development through Education and Empowerment (DEEP Foundation) is what we set out to do and since charity begins at home; Vasant kunj was where we started. We learnt we were not the first to think of teaching children from lesser privileged backgrounds. Col Ramakrishna and Mr Prasad of Srijan Foundation were already doing so. Children from the neighbourhoods of Mehrauli, Kishangarh and Ghitorni flocked to a local park or the community centre for classes. We made an offer of taking classes for 3 days a week while he managed the other days. I’m sure he held our intent of a long term investment with some skepticism; but gave in to our idea.

Our first event with 35 kids of ages varying from 8 to 14 years, was ‘piggy bank painting.’ The kids absolutely loved it and there was no looking back for us. We got our friends excited about our work, inviting them to take sessions too. From non fire cooking, picnics, art and craft classes, story writing master class, story telling sessions, theatre, cultural festivals, debates, quiz competitions, puppet shows, career guidance talks; there has been no dearth of fun and excitement at the school. When the school moved to a space of their own in Mehrauli, the kids very proudly named it the School of Happiness(SOH). The children have been part of our drives with our partner NGOs for distribution of clothes from Benetton, school bags and setting up of the Henny Penny Libraries.  

While the focus has been on inculcating sound values and life skills; we have also helped them with functional literacy in a few subjects. English was a subject they aspired to learn but found it very tough too. What I taught them one week would be forgotten by the next week. The repeated mistakes and the sheer lethargy; had my patience running thin. I questioned whether it was even necessary for them to learn English. Every time I’d be at the point of giving up, there was a flicker of hope. Someone in the class would demonstrate progress or would share their aspiration of becoming an English teacher someday. Its these moments that kept me going; even though my regularity suffered on account of my consultancy work.

As the years progressed, a deep familial bond got developed. Festivals and birthdays were celebrated with much gusto. Their love and warmth reflected in abundance in the homemade cookies, the elaborate birthday cards, the tight hugs, the twinkle in their eyes when they see you. With the ceaseless adulation they shower on you, staying on terra firma was not easy! Challenges pertaining to school and college admissions were addressed collectively.  One of the students had low attendance and was being debarred from taking his final exams at the government school close by. When I met the school principal, she didn’t hesitate to narrate a litany of his shenanigans. I listened in horror, feeling the shame that any parent would. Today when I hear him speak of his responsibilities towards his family and his pursuit of a career, one can only be filled with pride. Sujata helped another boy take music lessons before he could get admission into a college. That support has helped him follow his passion and eke out a living as a music teacher. There are several heart warming stories of how these children have tapped their potential. The shift in their outlook and changed lifestyle demonstrates the big leap that they have taken given their modest background, clearly surpassing their parent’s expectations.

I don’t see them very often these days. The children have flown the nest, ready to take on the ways of the world. As they find their place in the sun, they draw comfort from the fact that there is the emotional safety net of the School of Happiness. Not just from us as teachers but also from each other.
Each time I see them, they continue to amaze me with their confidence, maturity and style. Many only choose to speak in English, even if you try conversing with them in Hindi. When did these kids grow up, I often wonder.

“ Ma’am if you are comfortable, I can teach you Excel”, “ Maam , you sit, we will manage everything”,“ Now that I am a teacher, I know how difficult teaching can be. I now realize what you went through when we were your students” ,  “ You taught us how to speak and pursue our hobbies”, “ If it weren’t for you my life would have been very different.”,  “ You are our guru- who removes darkness for light to enter” “ If you need any help, give me a call” “ This teachers day we would like to honor all our teachers.” They give umpteen occasions of joy and pride to all of us.

It takes a village to raise a child. The School of Happiness has provided them the emotional security of an extended family, the inspiration to dream big and the moral guidance that their school or homes may not have provided. It is a sterling example of community living, a blurring of lines between the haves and have nots, an idea for inclusive growth. It represents a wonderful collaborative effort of like minded people who have responded to a call of their hearts.  I consider my association with these children (I can’t seem to call them adults!) as an immense privilege; for what I have received in terms of love and warmth is immeasurable.

The DEEP foundation motto of “igniting the light within” was a modest effort. The children have held on to their spark and are fanning it to keep it burning bright. As they move ahead in their life journeys, may they pass this light to their children. I for one, am looking forward to reaping the joys of a grandmotheršŸ˜Š

A film made by the kids captures the spirit of the school of happiness

Monday, August 7, 2017

Art Appreciation series 6th August 2017

The 6th of August 2017 will be cherished for a long time to come. What started out as a desire a few years ago saw the light of day yesterday. As lovers of art, Arupa, Radhika and I had been thinking of ways and means in which we could develop more ‘rasikas’ amidst us. With the population of art lovers progressively diminishing, we felt a dire need to do something that would enable people, particularly the youth to imbibe it in their lives. Slowing down to absorb the countless hues of its eternal beauty will provide the ideal way to balance the frenetic pace of a digitized world. Faced with the trials and tribulations of our humdrum daily existence, the only refuge we can seek is in our rich cultural heritage of art and tradition. It is only when we lose ourselves in its splendour can we truly find ourselves.
All great ideas come to fruition in the midst of great company and good food. So over the most delectably sinful tiramisu at our favourite jaunt, Elma’s , we crystallized our idea by commencing an Art appreciation series. Rasa Aparupa ( the name embodies the essence and beauty of art and it also has our names Radhika, Arupa and Aparna in it) endeavours to expose our attendees to different forms of art once a month. The artist will not just demonstrate but also interact with the audience to explain its many facets. Celebrated Bharatanatyam dancer, Ragini Chandrashekhar kickstarted our monthly series with a scintillating performance at the Sangeet Shyamala centre for arts.
Spurred by a noble idea but with minimal experience in event management, we faced many teething troubles. With just two weeks to plan; our biggest worry was to get an audience going. From knocking on the doors of nearby schools to embassies and active facebook promotion, we left no stone unturned. Thankfully there were about 60-70 eager students and parents in the audience. Director general, ICCR Mr Amarendra Khatua was kind enough to grace the occasion. He was constrained to leave early but not before according us glowing compliments for the initiative and the first two presentations by Ragini.
We were keen to start our show on time at 11am. At 930am the open air auditorium was a mess. The floors were dirty and the stage had not been set up as per our request. Clad in our saris Radhika and I were about to pick up the broom; when the lady arrived, flummoxed as to why there was such urgency. Till 10:30am there was no sign of the light and sound technician and we were getting restless as the testing had not been done.  We had assumed that he would be able to manage the stage set up but at 1045am he announced nonchalantly, “ laptop nahin hai CD ke liye”. Once again Radhika and I scurried around looking for one. A parent, waiting in the lobby for his daughter ; was keying in furiously on his Mac. Both of us pleaded with him to lend us his laptop for an hour. Seeing us flustered, he very sweetly consented to giving us his machine. Just when we were heaving a sigh of relief, the technician announced that the aux cable to connect to monitors is missing. With no time to even give him a piece of our mind, we had him racing to the nearby store to buy one. This was at 11am when we were all set to commence. Quite nervously I had to tell Ragini that we might have to do a lecture demonstration without music. Had I been in her place, I would have hurled a host of expletives for poor planning; but she kept her composure. In the sweltering heat the audience was getting impatient. Arupa , charmingly took to the stage with our inaugural address and held their fascination for as much time as she could before inviting Ragini. I must have chewed up all my nails in sheer panic of running the show without music. I had visions of how shame faced we would be among our fraternity of artists and aficionados. I prayed desperately for a miracle.  
Ragini started by explaining her piece. With Janmashtami round the corner, Krishna took centre stage. The children looked at her with such amazement. Her abhinaya of an impish Krishna pleading with his mother, Yashoda to go out and play; reminded them of  disagreements with their parents. 
“ Krishna is actually bhagwaan but also like us na didi" one of my kids remarked on our car ride back. “So if we have to be like him we can be both naughty and God like.” I was quite tickled by this response as also her desire to learn this dance form.
Just as Ragini had finished her introduction and turned to go back stage,  I saw the technician charge into the auditorium, sweating profusely but excitedly flashing the cable in his hand. We had our hearts in our mouth as he plugged in the cable. The monitors came alive and the melodious notes of the pushpanjali filled the auditorium. I sank into my chair now with relief and began to enjoy the performance.
As I reflect on the session yesterday, it gives me goosebumps. The arrival of the cable just in the nick of time was definitely a miracle. It was as if a higher force had supported our endeavour and magically stepped in to save the day. It is no coincidence that both our technician, Radhe Shyam and the helpful parent, Krishnan embodied the spirit of Krishna in times of distress.

The deluge of compliments that followed for the artist as well as us made it all worthwhile. It had left us exhausted but also very pleased at the thought of a new beginning. Planning such events requires a lot of effort and an eye for detail. Krishna may not be there to rescue us each time but I’m sure our learning from yesterday will help us from the next session onwards. Here’s hoping that what we commenced on friendship day will grow from strength to strength in the coming months. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Not veiled anymore

More than ever, the unfolding of events in the last year has left me stumped. Call it naivety or sheer stupidity, the fact is that I have been stunned on several occasions. What I thought lay interred in the subconscious manifested itself with unimaginable intensity.

Among my circle of friends it is not uncommon to hear of splits, divorces and remarriages. In one case, a widower acquaintance of mine, initially devastated after the untimely death of his wife, appeared to be getting restless about his single status. His search for a partner led him to the women in his friends’ circle, many of whom were married. But what started out as a lark turned out to be a successful venture! Not one but two married women in his group responded favourably to      his overtures. Surprisingly, he had a choice and after having a brief affair with both of them he chose one. When he announced his intentions to friends and family he was met with shock and disgust. The bewildered husband of the woman he eventually married had no clue how and why his wife left him. And to think that just a few months before, I had been feeling sorry for my widower acquaintance. Now I was only consumed with disbelief over his audacity of having an affair and getting remarried within 15 months of having lost his wife of 15 years. I was taken aback at the speed with which circumstances changed for him and the woman he married. I questioned my naivety in what I thought was a content relationship for the woman. With two kids in tow and in-laws living in, was it that easy to toss out an alliance, I wondered. Obviously the frustration that lay buried for quite some time had been exposed for her, and was defused by her newfound love. 

In a drawing room conversation with some other friends, I happened to express my disgust at the recent assault on filmmaker Bhansali. The conversation then steered towards the BJP government and its Hindutva mindset. Much to my horror, some of my friends lauded the government’s overt efforts to promote it, displaying a sense of nationalism intertwined with religion. Before I knew it, I was at the receiving end. I never realised I had friends who harboured non-secular sentiments. I was completely overthrown by what had just emerged from the shadows. A sharp sense of disconnect from the very friends who I had been proud of; was palpable.

Last year I was in London during the Brexit campaign. At that time I believed that this was the age for collaboration and inclusivity, and the idea of Britain moving out of the EU was a ludicrous one. Everyone in London seemed to think so too. You can imagine my shock when I woke up one morning to the news of Brexit. This is unthinkable, there must be some mistake was my first reaction. It only gradually emerged that a large proportion of the British public, whose voice had not been captured by popular media, had nurtured xenophobic sentiments all along. What lay nicely tucked away from public view was rising like the proverbial Phoenix to find its place under the sun. 
When the world was recovering from the upset over Brexit, we were in for another one. There has been no leader in modern times who has faced such massive opposition from the world as has Donald Trump. But who are these people who voted for a man like him? Why haven’t they been seen or heard all this time? Why had the world believed and assumed that Hillary would win? In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, it was only natural to believe that inclusiveness, multiculturalism and cooperation was on the rise. But Trump’s victory proved that divisiveness and isolationist tendencies were taking centre stage. Like a bolt from the blue what was unthinkable had surfaced.

I now realise that nothing can be taken for granted. Assumptions need to be questioned from time to time. While I continue to alter my own notions of people and societies, I wonder what will help in minimizing the extreme polarities in views that we see today. Technology and innovation might have made the world a global village but are bonds within societies strengthening to keep pace?

It is becoming apparent that harmony is hanging by a thread, easily blown away by the slightest wind of discontent. Insecurity like a wildfire, stamps out confidence with ease. Narrow-minded perspectives are gathering momentum faster than expansive and more tolerant ones. Frustration brews silently for days on end and then bursts out with ferocity. The fabric of deep connections, meaning, tolerance and an unwavering strength of character is weakening. Somewhere the expression of thoughts and emotions have been repeatedly throttled  leading to deep resentment, anger and insecurity. If people had the opportunity to ventilate these feelings without fear and hesitation, there would be a reduced sense of isolation and anxiety associated with it. From our families to communities and our nation, the time and mind space for having genuine heartfelt conversations is getting limited. The pace of life is restricting the depth of dialogue that we as humans need to have to keep our bearings intact.

Are couples having enough conversations about the fulfillment of their needs and values? Are the voices of the marginalized getting enough air time? Are we allowing people from the lower socio economic strata into our lives to blur the divide? Is our insecurity about ourselves inhibiting us from being tolerant about divergent views? Are we letting go of our fears to allow for possibilities to take its place?

The task of building harmonious families and societies is a slow process, but one that is begging for our collective attention. The unveiling of the psychological distress, is a pointer for me and indeed all of us , to step into action on a war footing. Perhaps facilitating authentic dialogue with oneself and with sections of society may be a foundational step in that direction.

Women Rising

The challenges and opportunities for Women in a male dominated industry At a recently concluded leadership engagement I had the oppo...