Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A meeting in Delhi

from which I came away confused and a little sad. It wasn't so much the results of the meeting that made me react this way. It was the composition of the attendees. You see, back in 1999- when I attended my first work meeting, I was the only woman present. And my primary role there was to take minutes and hand my boss the appropriate files. But that was the construction industry, and that was the last century.

When I joined the NGO sector, I reasoned that things could only become better. And on the face of it, they were. There were more women present, but the great majority (myself included) were there to assist their bosses. They- and I- were the ones who did the implementation, but when it came to strategy, our male bosses handled it. Still, atleast 30% of the attendees were women, and I looked forward to all of us growing up and taking a greater part in strategy and planning.

Last week, I was the only woman at the meeting. Or so I thought till I looked behind me and saw a cluster of women sitting behind- away from the table despite there being plenty of vacant seats. They were research students, and had done the work that was being presented- by someone else. And it is ok, they were students, they were learning.

But why was I the only woman at the table? Where are my colleagues? I heartily support women's decision to work from home, to opt out of the rat race altogether. Mian and I too, have made a similar decision. And that is good..I strongly believe in shaping our lives to yield the highest amount of happiness possible- atleast till someone gives me concrete proof of reincarnation.

But I wonder about the role models these women- future scientists- have. The male students were at the table..why were the women not? Is this decision- the one most women of my generation made- responsible? But is it worthwhile to sacrifice my quality of life for some nebulous role-setting?

 I don't know. I wish I did.

On a different, but maybe related note, here is a picture I clicked of a toilet in Mussoorie. Stereotyping at its finest.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The house at Chatola

This is a long story that begins with a couple of other stories.

 One of my favourite school memories is that of my mum going into the garden at dawn to pick roses so I could take them to a teacher I had a crush on. These were no ordinary roses either; the Prince Edward is my favourite rose. Its short flowering season and leggy appearance mean that it is largely used these days as a stock rose, if it is planted at all. However, for sheer rose-ish-ness, it is difficult to beat. A voluptuous shape, deep pink colour, and a concentrated ittar aroma mean it has all that defines ‘rose’. I love this, and my mum and I have tried with varying success to grow this wherever we have lived.

And persimmons. The first time I ate one was in Seattle. After I learned the hard way that they are supposed to be eaten when squishy, I fell in love with the silky honeyed flesh. A year after I moved to Dun, I found and ate them again. Then I missed the next season. So yes, I have eaten them twice. I was excited to move to the hills because we have friends here who have a persimmon tree, and I might maybe, perhaps, hopefully, be able to beg a couple off them.

And now the main story.

A couple of days back, Mian and I arranged to meet at a house that we could possibly rent. We were sold on the fact that it is a traditional-style house(!) in an apple orchard (!), but there were a lot of things to be considered before we could allow our hopes to rise. I went there then, and not knowing where the entrance was, left the path and climbed up the hill once I saw the house. 30 seconds of scrambling, and as I came on to flat land, I found myself eye to eye with a stunning Edward Rose. ‘Home’ I thought, but did not dare to voice it.

Mian came along, and with increasing excitement we checked out the internet connectivity (it works!), the bathroom (the most modern thing in the valley), and the kitchen( adequate with a wee bit of work). Then we noted the more important things: a patio which gets the sun (soon to have raised herb beds , pots of lavender, a solar cooker, and comfy seating), a fireplace in every room (calling out for a rug and scrabble and glasses of amber liquid), wooden flooring, a singing stream, a wee view of the high Himalaya, a room for the goats and mushrooms we hope to have.

And then we discovered the four heavily-laden persimmon trees.