N for No means No

Growing up, I used to be a kid with chubby weeks (actually a chubby kid!). Random uncles and aunties would feel that they had every right to pull my cheeks while blurting out “Aww, so sweet!” or plant sloppy kisses on them. If my parents, especially Ma was anywhere in the vicinity, she would politely but sternly ask them not to do that because it hurt my cheeks. Well, consent and children were completely unrelated words at that time.  But eventually, I turned out to be quite a gundi and very soon learned how to keep such people at bay.

Child molestation is the sad reality of every generation. There has been a steep rise in the number of such cases over the years with the level of violence becoming horrific, to say the least. I personally feel that even earlier, most of such cases were brushed under the carpet because the perpetrator, in most of these cases was someone close to the family.

The concept of consent was introduced to me quite early on in my family. My parents would often say that I had every right to stay away from doing anything that made me uncomfortable. Even at my in-laws, my husband grew up with a strong sense of seeking consent.  So, it was but natural that after Tuneer was born, the same idea of consent would be passed on to him. 

It started with me stopping people from pulling his cheeks. While a few understood the reason, others judged me as an overprotective mother. Once he started preschool, I taught him how it was perfectly okay for him not to give anyone a hug or kiss, if he didn’t wish to. Sr. T thought it was too early to teach him these things. But I was an anxious mother trying to give a blanket of security and a cushion of trust around my little boy. 

No, I won't pose for a picture
No, I won’t pose for a picture

Continue reading “N for No means No”

M for Men

My posts in the A2Z challenge started out as a fun-filled narration on my experiences related to school admissions. With time, I realized how my thoughts were peeling off layers of issues hidden under the security blanket of education. The moment a child is born, a doctor announces its gender to the parents first. And there begins the first step of discrimination because the birth of a baby girl is considered as a burden in a lot of families while a baby boy is a reason to celebrate even today. And from there on begins the set expectations from each gender. 

I grew up in a household where equality was the norm. I have seen my father take care of the kitchen as and when required with the same expertise in which he handled his teaching job. Nothing was assigned to be a job based on gender in my home. But the world outside is never so kind. Glass ceilings are a harsh reality for women and I have faced such biases at various places of education and work. But if there was something that I had decided for my son, it was to raise him sans any gender discrimination. But the ‘well-wishers’ can obviously not let me have my way with the child without garnishing our lives with their opinion in generous doses.

As Tuneer learned to play, the first thing that he was drawn to was a kitchen set that I had purchased for him. It used to be his favorite set until recently when the love swayed towards a newly purchased supermarket set. But weren’t kitchens supposed to be a girl’s domain? To those ‘well-meaning souls’, it didn’t matter that the mother hardly entered the kitchen because what was important was to let the child know that he was expected to play with toys befitting a boy. Some went a step ahead and commented on how I was raising him as a girl. With a smile on my face, I would often reply as to how I was so proud of my MasterChef who already knew how to keep his foodie mother happy. 

Breaking gender stereotypes
A MasterChef in the making at his 1.5 years

Continue reading “M for Men”

D for Do you also work?

At the cost of sounding like a nerd, I must confess that I have always loved academics. After completing my second post-graduation, I started working as a Branch Head with ICICI Bank in Mysore. In 2015, when Tuneer was born, I was working as a Senior Manager / Branch Head with HDFC Bank in Bangalore. I took a sabbatical in 2016 only to return as a writer in 2017. For me, writing had become a profession for me, not just a passion anymore. This was the time when I had also started toying with the idea of my third post graduation in creative writing (certified nerd now!).

It took very little time for this bubble to burst. In our country, creative fields are great as hobbies but never as career choices. One of the primary reasons for such an attitude is also because of the lack of support and financial prospects in this profession. A Banker can gain accolades as a writer but if one decides to become a writer only’, it is often met with caustic or sarcastic comments.

I realized how much Bollywood had affected my thinking when I went around proclaiming that I was going to change this perception by proving how writers could make it big. But man or rather woman proposes, God disposes. I had a few life-changing experiences that got me thinking if it was time for me to update the CV and start applying for ‘real’ jobs. 

Just to prove that I have a home-office set up
Just to prove that I have a home-office working set up

Continue reading “D for Do you also work?”

C for Chatterjee (or should I write Banerjee?)

Long before Sr. T and I were married, I had made up my mind about retaining my maiden surname for life. Education and work experience in different cultures supported my opinions by giving me a voice. Also, I must confess that I loved my full name. Sr. T was more interested in building a life together than my thoughts related to surname change. A situation of conflict never arose.

Because of our postings in Mysore followed by Bangalore, this never really became an issue. Residents of these cities often had initials as a surname. And people were generally the non-interfering type. So it hardly mattered to them whether I was Sonia C or Sonia B as long as they knew my name was Sonia and I was heading the branch of a Private sector Bank.

At times, individuals develop such tender love and affection towards their partner that they start swaying away from the original decisions. In my case, I took fancy to adding Banerjee to my full name after a year of getting married. Facebook let me do it without any hassles but when I wanted to get this changed in my bank account, I had to provide documents as proof. In about a couple of weeks time, reality had dawned on me in a harsh way. The paperwork involved in getting Banerjee added to my Pan card, passport, bank accounts, and other documents involved time, effort and non-transparent rules. Eventually, my practical brain gave a sane voice to my love-struck heart.

I must also mention a certain colleague who had kindly pointed out that the number of characters in Sonia Chatterjee Banerjee exceeded the number of boxes against the name section in almost all application forms. That sealed the end of any remote possibility of a name change.

Wedding - biye
Evidence of being married to Sr. T (though I have strategically cut his face out of the snap)

Continue reading “C for Chatterjee (or should I write Banerjee?)”

Beauty lies in the grey matter of my brain


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

‘Hey Fatso, how much do you eat every day?’

‘Fatso, if you dance, the stage will break down’

‘So fatty, do you purchase two tickets while taking a flight because I am sure you don’t fit into a single seat?’

‘Why is your son so thin? Do you eat away all the food in the house?”

Ah, aren’t these the usual taunts that every girl on the heavier side of the weighing scale has heard at least once in life? Our society has set such ridiculous standards in terms of what gets labeled as beautiful and what goes washed down as ugly that women have been pressurized to follow the norms to perfection since eternity. If one is on the left side of the scale measuring the perfect hourglass figure and the right kind of fair skin, one is believed to be too thin and too dark. However, if one is on the right side of this perfect scale, she is marked as too fat and too pale skinned. To add fuel to the fire, there are corporate houses whose money-making strategy seem to revolve around making young girls believe that the biggest achievement in their lives is to be fair and beautiful or have a skin without acne, pimple, and marks. And some celebrities validate such irrational expectations by being part of such endorsements. There are exceptions though like the handful of celebrities who refuse to be associated with such products or organizations like Naturals Salon who emphasize the true beauty of a woman and also help them become financially independent through employment.

I have always wanted to write about my experiences related to body shaming. After all, it is never a smooth ride for a fat girl in our society.  From my experiences, I have understood that most of the times, the general perception is to be judged based on how one looks. So I might have earned two post-graduate degrees or have a proven track record of leadership skills, but people will still be more interested in or concerned about my growing waistline. Strangely as a toddler, being chubby was considered to be cute. Unfortunately, it also gave people the liberty to pull my cheeks because who believes in taking consent from a child or even her parents! As I grew up, the words kept changing from plump to healthy and then overweight, fat, fatty and obese.

Continue reading “Beauty lies in the grey matter of my brain”

Durga Puja – facilitating social reforms – Berhampore edition #TheBlindList #SayYesToTheWorld


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

I have often written about how my mothers demise changed my approach towards Durga Puja – the biggest festival for any Bengali. But things changed last year after I realized that I need my toddler to enjoy moments of celebration so that he grows up creating memories. This year, our return trip to my home town and also my husband’s native Berhampore was decided months ago because we wanted the toddler to enjoy puja with his grandparents.

Bhattacharya Para Puja
Bhattacharya Para Puja that had 25kgs of gold jewelry

When I decided to go pandal hopping last year, the venue and pandals were predecided evety single day because of my meticulous planning. It wasn’t meant to be any different this year. But like the saying goes, man proposes and God disposes. The toddler who had been unwell for the last one week fell critically ill after reaching Berhampore on Friday. His respiratory infection aggravated so badly that we had to nebulize him. The families were of the opinion that he needed to take rest and might be able to visit pandals only after getting fit which probably meant on the last couple of days of Puja.

It was really difficult to see the disappointment on my son’s face. With new clothes meant to be worn on days designated to be enjoyed, it was so painful to see him sit at home. Day before yesterday when his condition improved slightly, I decided to take him on an impromptu visit to few pandals. Some were the famous ones like the Puja at Bhattacharya Para which came into limelight for the 25kgs gold jewelry  gifted by Senco Jewellrs but some took my heart away through the minimalist approach and some impressed my toddler with innovative Asuras (he calls Asura his friend even today) . We ended up covering six pujas before heading back home.

Abhyudyay Sangha had an interesting theme on Kedarnath
Abhyudyay Sangha had an interesting theme on Kedarnath

Continue reading “Durga Puja – facilitating social reforms – Berhampore edition #TheBlindList #SayYesToTheWorld”

The circle of kindness to keep humanity alive

wowbadge
WOW Post badge

Last week onwards, I have started an initiative called the detox day. On a predecided day of the week, I stay away from mobile, laptop, and all social media apps. For these two weeks, it has been Saturday. I spend all my time with my family. Now, I’m the kind of person who promptly responds to a phone message, a DM or a WhatsApp message but I am a little lazy in making and receiving calls. Most of my family members keep complaining about my non-accessibility over the phone, especially the bad habit of rarely returning the calls.

But this week was different. I’d really been affected by the news of the flood-hit Kerala. Quite a few of my B-school batchmates were from this state. After my detox Saturday, I started my Sunday searching for a Kolkata based NGO who were planning to carry relief items to Kerala the coming week. Three numbers were listed. Finding the first two numbers busy, I called the last number.

“Hello Sonia,” a deep voice answered.

A few years back getting addressed by name by a stranger would get me worried. But these days True Caller made that look plausible.

“Hi. Apologies for unable to address you by name because Facebook only had the numbers mentioned. Actually, I have called to ask about the process for contributing to the relief items. I have clothes that could be of help to someone there”

“That’s a noble thought for a good cause. But you need to call the volunteers for this”

“Oh, aren’t you a volunteer?”

“Well, I am expecting some funny reactions to this but I am God. You can choose to call me anything – Bhagwan, Allah, Wahe Guru, Jesus, Almighty.”

conversation-with-god
conversation-with-god-blogadda WOW prompt

“Oh really! Good to see that at least the names belonging to different religions can co-exist. Here we do have a tussle at intervals to figure out whose God is the greatest.” I said sarcastically. This man was wasting my time.

“You still don’t seem very convinced about talking to God.”

Continue reading “The circle of kindness to keep humanity alive”